Dutchman cares for overseas grave of Iowa WWII soldier

Dutchman cares for overseas grave of Iowa WWII soldier

Gazette Column
Local genealogists connect European caretaker with soldier's descendant Just when a prolonged and extreme political season seemed to signal an end of civility, an unassuming man in the Netherlands has renewed my faith in humanity. Pat Wilkinson, head of research for the Genealogical Society of Linn County, received an odd message from Western Europe about a year ago. “At our research library, we are frequently called upon to track backward in time — from a person living today to their ancestors,” Wilkinson explained. “But it is not often we are called track someone forward in time, and find living descendants.” [caption id="attachment_781" align="alignright" width="300"] Netherlands resident Robby Prinsen decorates the grave of Cedar Rapids native and World War II veteran Robert A. Hasley at Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial in…
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Calling all CR Transit riders

Calling all CR Transit riders

Gazette Column
When was the last time you took a ride on a city bus? If you are like the city council and school board candidates I’ve asked, the answer is “not lately,” “ahhh,” or “can’t remember.” Regular riders often fall into two categories: those who are most passionate and those who are most needy. About five years ago, with a wrecked vehicle and no steady job, I had a toe in each bucket, and decided our family could manage with only one car. My husband would drive to work, and I’d ride the bus. The plan was nearly ditched the first day when I needed to visit Linn County offices, then located at Westdale Mall. After seeing the children off to school, I walked to the closest bus stop from our…
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Consider multi-generational county space

Consider multi-generational county space

Gazette Column
Planning for a potential new public health building, Linn County has an opportunity to turn a good idea into a great one. If approved, the new facility would be located at 1019 Seventh St SE, the former Options site, and would probably require a levy, currently estimated at 6 cents per $1,000 evaluation. Area seniors, displaced and scattered since the 2008 flood claimed the Witwer Center, advocated Wednesday for the inclusion of a permanent centralized senior center. Since Cedar Rapids is the largest city in Iowa without such a hub and more than a third of all county residents are over the age of 50, the proposal and investment make sense. Supervisors also appear receptive to the idea, requesting more specific space needs as quickly as possible. Those who spoke…
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Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Learning from our history of finding scapegoats

Gazette Column
Sadness, fear and confusion. Those are the three emotions woven throughout conversations I had in the wake of a 2008 immigration raid in Postville. For nearly the same reasons, these emotions also surrounded the Muslim residents taking part in a community demonstration last weekend. The alignment is understandable, if regrettable. [caption id="attachment_913" align="aligncenter" width="640"] People of many faiths gathered on May's Island on Saturday, Dec. 19, in a show of support for Muslims and other immigrants, who have recently been targeted in political rhetoric. The solidarity demonstration was organized by the Inter-Religious Council of Linn County. (Lynda Waddington/The Gazette)[/caption] Some Postville Hispanics were spared the felonious identity theft convictions faced by 389 male workers — a prosecution strategy that the U.S. Supreme Court later found lacking. Instead of being bustled…
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DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

DNR: How do we reduce booze issues?

Gazette Column
As Johnson County residents hoping to visit the Lake Macbride beach area learned this past July, it takes only a few to ruin things for everyone. After two large fights resulted in arrests for public intoxication and assault, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources chose to close the beach area early — 6 p.m. instead of 10:30 p.m. — effectively preventing many working families from enjoying the water during one of the hottest stretches of the summer. Park Ranger Gwen Prentice pointed to several incidents of rowdy activity at the time that she suspected were fueled by alcohol consumption. Although no news-making fights happened at Palo beach in Linn County, it also was closed early to curtail problems involving alcohol. Across the state — despite awareness campaigns and a beverage…
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Time for some more ‘real talk’

Time for some more ‘real talk’

Gazette Column
Suicide rates for young black children have nearly doubled over the last two decades, even as rates for white children in the same age group have declined. That statistic is more disturbing with understanding that, historically, suicide rates in the black community have been significantly lower. In other words, this marks the first time that suicide rates among blacks of any age group have exceeded those of white counterparts. The realization was an exceptionally bitter pill for Linda Topinka, a Cedar Rapids licensed social worker who also is a founding member of the African American Family Preservation and Resource Committee. The group formed in 2006, primarily to address racial disparities in social welfare organizations and foster care, but has since expanded its focus in Linn County. She serves as the…
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Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Paranormal investigation at Abbe Center? Why not?

Gazette Column
Supervisors approved use of doomed facility with little fanfare The shuttered Linn County facility that formerly housed Abbe Center for Community Mental Health has remained useful as a training site. Last year it was used by multiple law enforcement and first responder agencies to stage an active shooter situation. Last night, a much quieter training took place. Coralville resident Greg Reisner has been a part of the Johnson County Paranormal Team since its inception in 2007. The organization is comprised of volunteers who provide their services without charge to residents and business owners throughout the Midwest. They’ve served as advocates for such activities, providing presentations about their investigation methods and the equipment they use at Eastern Iowa public libraries. Reisner also hosts an educational and entertainment show on Iowa City…
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21-only ordinances should remain local issue

21-only ordinances should remain local issue

Gazette Column
Ask people in Iowa City whether or not the 21-only ordinance is working, and the answers will be a mixed bag. Nearly five years and two ballot referendums later, the issue of whether adults under the age of 21 should be allowed in most drinking establishments after 10 p.m. remains hotly contested. Those who support the ordinance point to statistics comparing the three years before and after the ordinance went into effect. There were drops in the number of citations for underage people caught in possession of alcohol and arrests for driving under the influence. But there also has been a significant increase in disorderly house citations, which skeptics hold as evidence that the root problem (underage drinking) still is thriving behind closed doors. Medical calls related to heavy alcohol consumption have…
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