Remembering Memorial Day

Memorial Day exists to honor and remember those who died in service to our country. I find it odd to be wished a Happy Memorial Day and frustrating that for many the day is about cookouts, sales and summer.

While life is for the living, it wouldn’t hurt us to contemplate the sacrifices made by so many who came before us. Last night, when I was considering what to write today, I found these images on my phone. They’re from Mound Cemetery in Marietta and I couldn’t resist googling the young man to learn his story.

Lance Corporal Joshua Taylor was just 21 when he was killed during a training exercise at Nevada’s Hawthorne Army Depot. That was March 18, 2013.

He left behind family including his parents, siblings, grandparents and a fiancé. They were supposed to be married on May 11 of that year. They were high school sweethearts and had been planning their wedding together.

He knew from a young age he wanted to serve his country and entered the Marine Corps just after high school to serve tours in Afghanistan and Kuwait.

It sounds like he embraced life fully, spending time with family and friends, on hobbies and on giving his best to his country.

They called him “a true young gentleman” who knew what mattered. He never hesitated to approach a veteran, shake their hand and thank them for their service.

The day he died, I was on the other side of the country, going about my business and starting a new job at the bank where I work. I vaguely recall his death making the news. Six other Marines died in this accident. Undoubtedly all of them had with similar stories of loved ones left behind.

Lance Corporal Taylor’s story is just one of millions in our nation’s history. But I can promise they were all just as important, all deserving of being remembered.

Yesterday, CBS Sunday Morning featured the story of another man from another war. He’s the last surviving Medal of Honor recipient from World War II, an honor received for his actions at Iwo Jima. He insists this medal belongs to others, to those who didn’t make it home and he has devoted a lifetime to veterans issues and to Gold Star families. He’s in his nineties now, still pushing to do more and to work hard for those who didn’t make it home.

Please, if you do nothing else today, take a few minutes and watch his interview. His story is incredible and it should be remembered.

Back here in Ohio, there’s a young woman who should have celebrated her wedding anniversary this month. Her sweetheart wasn’t so lucky to see old age and deserves to be remembered as well.

This Memorial Day, celebrate time with loved ones. Take advantage of the long weekend and the bargains but remember one thing. These freedoms we enjoy were paid for by the men and women who serve our nation- those who come home safely as well as those who gave their lives for the country they love.

Hammond Hardware Store

Occasionally you find a place that feels as much like a time machine as it does a store. That’s the case with Hammond Hardware in Hamden, Ohio.

The building dates to 1902 and has the original tin ceiling, hardwood floors and antique fixtures to prove it. It even smells old. Not musty or bad but aged and like there’s some wisdom to be found here if you are willing to listen.

The store sells all manner of things in addition to the tools, seeds, paints, and animal feed you might expect to find at a hardware.

They try to stock local and regionally made items first. For example, you’ll find handmade candles by my friend Susan at Zaleski Candleworks, Silver Bridge Coffee and handmade soaps from West Virginia. They have Mosser Glass from Cambridge, Ohio, locally made crafts and lots of old fashioned candy.

They have preserved many old fixtures and added some additional ones like an antique nail bin from a store in nearby Oak Hill. It serves as the candy counter.

For sixty years, the building was home to Souders’ Hardware. It sat empty for some time before local residents Steve and Melissa Hammond bought it with dreams of giving it new life.

When I was there yesterday, Steve enthusiastically gave me the nickel tour while I browsed. Old pictures helped them find reproduction lighting as they are working hard to be true to the integrity of the building.

I didn’t think to take a picture but there are still holes in the floor where the previous owners once threaded rope through the floor from barrels in the basement. I had never noticed such a thing in other old hardwares and was impressed by the notion. Now I’ll be on the lookout!

It really is a wonderful store and a valuable gift to the community. Our county doesn’t have a lot of places to shop and it’s a service to folks who need a quick gift, livestock feed or some traditional hardware items. Honestly, they have a little bit of everything and I’m so excited to see them grow.

They sold Christmas trees and holiday home decor last year even before the store celebrated their grand opening this spring. It was so successful that Steve says they’re already planning to do that again. He plans to maybe sell some bulk candy and to organize a community event with horse drawn wagon rides this year too.

They are eagerly looking for merchandise and ideas and clearly are over the moon to be fulfilling this dream of owning an old fashioned hardware.

One more thing – check out this mid century Coca Cola cooler! Steve said that kids come in after school for cold drinks and old fashioned candy.

This place has terrific character and great variety. I hope you’ll go visit! Find them on Facebook for hours and updates on new products. Their selection changes seasonally and they’re constantly adding new things so pay attention for new products!

Honoring The 297 Who Died

One of the most significant war memorials that I have seen is in downtown Zanesville, Ohio on the Muskingum County Courthouse lawn. It’s dedicated to the 297 men from this county who died in World War II and Korea.

Those casualties are represented by 297 empty helmets, haphazardly piled atop an earthen mound. Each helmet is inscribed with a name.

Behind the helmets, there are two larger than life soldiers – one comforting the other who grieves their fallen comrades. At the front of the pile there’s another young man. I like the way the plaque describes this soldier. “We have a strapping young man striding forward with a purposeful gaze into the future.”

The memorial was sculpted by Alan Cottrill in 2012. He is an Army veteran and artist whose studio and gallery in downtown Zanesville welcomes visitors.

According to his website, Cottrill has arguably the largest body of work by any living sculptor with commissioned monuments throughout the country. You can learn more about the artist at his website by clicking here.

You can pay your respects on the Courthouse lawn at the corner of Main and Fifth streets. There’s a nice garden with benches and other monuments here too.

It really is an extraordinary sculpture and worth a detour into downtown if you’re in the area.

Valley Gem Sightseeing Tour

There’s no better way to enjoy a Saturday in Marietta than to kick back and float by the world on the Valley Gem Sternwheeler. I took their ninety minute sightseeing tour last weekend and had a terrific experience.

The tour begins on the Muskingum River in Marietta and heads up the Ohio River before turning and heading back down.

The narration doesn’t last the entire time. Instead, the Captain talks for the first 15 or 20 minutes, providing some tidbits about local history and landmarks along the way.

This house has been owned by the same family for twelve generations.

We learned about how NASA once built equipment in Steubenville and moved it downriver by barge. We even got a great view of this old railroad bridge I told you about once.

We saw lots of kayaks, barges and speedboats and even spotted a Bald Eagle.

We also got a good look at Buckley Island which was once home to a prolific potato farm. Prior to that it was an amusement park built by the Buckeye and Eureka Pipeline Company. It’s now gone back to nature and it’s hard to imagine that it could accommodate the masses of people who were once drawn here.

It’s now part of the Ohio River Islands National Wildlife Refuge. We saw kayakers hanging out there.

It’s a peaceful and picturesque ride. It’s a little like going back in time to a slower pace of life when paddle boats ruled the river.

Captain Jason told us about how he and his family built this boat in 1989. He is one of the youngest people to earn his pilots license when he was just 18 years old. It’s very much a family business and I felt like they took good care to keep everyone happy and safe.

For ten bucks you can add a box lunch to your ticket. It was quite good but you can also buy light refreshments at their concessions stand.

They do a number of tours including some longer history tours and celebratory dinner cruises for holidays. You can even book it for weddings and parties.

Want to book a tour or learn more? Click here to visit their website.

Quick Trip To Marietta

Marietta, Ohio is a great day trip from my home. Dating to 1788, it’s the oldest city in Ohio and the official first American settlement in the Northwest Territory.

There’s a ton of history here and a well developed tourism economy that has produced all sorts of ways to spend your time in museums, tours and a quaint downtown. There are plenty of restaurants to choose from here and shops to spend your money. Venture beyond Marietta to surrounding towns or to the countryside and you’ll find even more.

While I’ve seen and done a lot there is to do here, there’s much that I’ve never gotten around to. When you have history related to the American Indian, the founding of a new territory, river travel, the Underground Railroad and large immigrant communities, well, it’s hard to cover it all.

So, last weekend I headed over to Marietta for a day of some new to me fun.

I visited a large old cemetery built around an Indian mound, walked around the Ohio River Museum, shopped the antique mall and took a cruise on the Ohio River on a sternwheeler.

It was a full day and I had a great time. I came home tired and a little sunburned with lots to think about along the way. Tomorrow I’ll tell you about that boat ride!

Heritage Harvesters Mural

If you ever drive down Main Street through downtown Wilmington, you would be hard pressed to miss the Heritage Harvesters mural. It’s 63’x50′ and is a tribute to local farmers. Painted by artist Jason Morgan who also created the Community Garden mural, it portrays farmers connected to the Ohio Century Farms in Clinton County.

It’s jaw dropping, partly for its sheer size and partly for the realism of the people. It looks like the Grapes of Wrath come to life.

Find it on the corner of Main and South streets.