Editor’s note: The following is the second installment of the Times-Press Top 10 stories of the year for 2012
SCHARA’S TOP HONORS CONTINUE
5. For a 14-year-old girl who wanted to come up with a way to contribute to the community, Jordyn Schara has since been showered with state, national and international attention.
And the prestigious recognition continued over and over during 2012, all because of Schara’s Wisconsin P2D2, a community-based prescription drug disposal program in which people can drop old and unwanted medications into a safe receptacle, from which they can be safely destroyed.
In June, Schara made headlines as she represented the United States as one of 10 American teenagers chosen to run as a torch bearer in the 2012 Olympics.
Wisconsin’s First Lady Tonette Walker just popped into Schara’s classroom in September to name Schara a Wisconsin Hero for the work she’s done.
She won third place in November in the 2012 Kids Who Give contest, sponsored by Farm Rich, and was one of 20 winners of Finding Fearless, a nationwide campaign to recognize, reward and inspire fearless change-makers as part of the Case Foundation’s Be Fearless initiative.
In May, she met Eli Manning when she was named one of Wisconsin’s top two youth volunteers for 2012 by The Prudential Spirit of Community Awards.
Around the same time, she started Foundation HOPE, Helping Our Peers Excel. This nonprofit organization launched Project READ, Reading Equipment for America’s Defenders, in which she organized her community to send more than 1,800 pounds of reading material to troops overseas.
During the last three years. Schara has been recognized for the success of her program by presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. She has been invited to the White House to meet Vice President Joe Biden. She was honored with an award from former First Lady Laura Bush. And she has received at least a dozen additional awards from international and national organizations.
4. It’s unusual that our Top 10 news stories of the year overlaps with our sports Top 10, but this one merits recognition in both categories.
Times-Press sports editor Art Kabelowski rated the Reedsburg Area High School WIAA Division 2 state girls basketball tournament as his number one pick of the biggest sports stories of 2012.
It comes in as the No. 4 pick of the Top Ten news stories of the year.
As Kabelowski put it in November, coach Mark Simon’s Reedsburg Area High School girls basketball team “turned a good season into a great one — and, ultimately, into the best season in school history” when the Beavers earned their first-ever trip to the WIAA Division 2 state tournament.
The Beavers played before a statewide television audience on the floor of the Kohl Center in Madison.
But Reedsburg lost to New Berlin Eisenhower, 47-28, in a state semifinal.
Reedsburg Area High School girls basketball standout Sophie Lichte was named at Reedsburg’s MVP for the year, and was later selected for the Division 2 South team in the 2012 Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association All-Star Classic last June.
Lichte is now playing NCAA Division II basketball at Lewis University in Romeoville, Ill., and another member of that team, Beth Maenpaa, is a senior on the current Beavers roster who has signed to play next year at Division II Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo.
YOUTH HOCKEY THEFT
3. The shock from the embezzlement of a whopping $144,000 in May from the Reedsburg Area Youth Hockey Association transcended much of the community along with the athletes and their parents.
Daniel Lehman, 54, of Reedsburg was accused of theft in a business setting following the discovery that the remaining amount on a loan was $100,000 more than it should have been.
Debbie Rosholt, the association’s president, said a few months ago, the group’s insurance provider is expected to reimburse only $49,000 of the loss.
“We want to assure our members that we’re going to be OK and hockey will go on this winter as before,” Deb Rosholt, president of RYHA this summer.
Lehman had been a member of RYHA for more than a decade. He became involved 13 years ago when his son played hockey with the organization and had remained on the board ever since.
He was the sole financial officer for the organization and Rosholt said she’d had no reason to suspect that something was amiss in the finances before the discovery in May.
Joe Koziel of Koenecke Ford chose the RYHA as the recipient of funds raised in the “Drive for your Community” program in cooperation with Ford Motor Company. Koenecke Ford matched the money the RYHA earned on food and beverage sales and also paid $20 per test drive.
Lehman is scheduled for trial in March.
2. Nothing but questions surrounded a murder-suicide on a quiet neighborhood street in Reedsburg in late July. And those same questions continue.
Police believe that in the early morning hours of Friday, July 27, 24-year old George Reuben Snake shot and killed his girlfriend, 23-year-old Cheyenne T. Fiddler, and then turned the gun on himself, committing suicide.
It was difficult for the community and neighbors to believe that such a horrendous event would happen in a very normal-looking, split level home on Maple Street.
It is believed the two were involved in an argument and that alcohol was involved that morning, Reedsburg police chief Tim Becker said.
Becker said police questioned neighbors, none of whom heard anything unusual. No one even claimed to know the two very well.
Neighbor Bill McKenzie, who was at home that Friday morning, said he and his wife heard no sounds coming from the house. He said his neighbor, who lives directly next door, reported hearing nothing Friday morning.
“The night before this happened, I was in my backyard,” McKenzie said. “There was a teenage boy and a little girl about 4 years old with (the couple), and they were laughing and looking like a really happy family.”
Fiddler reportedly had a young daughter who was not in the home at the time of the shooting.
Becker said he believed Snake and Fiddler were dating, and that she had recently moved into the residence from her home in Red Wing, Minn.
Fiddler was a champion Native American dancer who had won first place in the 2012 Gathering of Nations Pow Wow in the Northern Cloth division.
1. This past year was a year of several milestones for Reedsburg’s city leaders.
Almost a year ago to the day (Dec. 31), Reedsburg’s Common Council voted to fire its former city administrator John Dougherty based on his three-year history of unsatisfactory performance reviews.
City clerk-treasurer Anna Meister stepped in as interim city administrator until July when Ken Witt came on the job as Dougherty’s replacement.
The Common Council liked Witt’s financial management successes. For instance, in his time as city administrator in the Monroe County city of Sparta, he was instrumental in achieving the city’s lowest tax rate in 25 years.
But Meister’s retirement this month along with the retirements of Reedsburg police Lt. Gary Zellmer and Reedsburg Utility Commission general manager Dave Mikonowicz, represent a combined passing of almost 90 years of public service.
With the most years on the job (37), Meister not only acted as interim city administrator twice, but saw the city’s population double, rolled with some enormous changes in the use of technology, and lived through the devastation of the flood of 2008.
While technically, Meister answered to a Common Council of nine members and the mayor, she said she viewed her bosses as the taxpayers.
It will be several months before Meister is replaced. In the meantime, Witt is acting as the city’s clerk-treasurer.
Under Mikonowicz’s 22-year watch, the RUC held up and rebounded after the devastating floods of 2008, and since then has worked to bring in a state-of-the-art fiber optic network, rare to smaller municipal utility commissions.
Even with small town policing, Zellmer’s 30-year career included the worst of crimes, like murder investigations, drug busts, child abductions and child abuse.
As one child abuse survivor’s mother said, “He will always know how special he is in my daughter’s life.”
Zellmer started the K-9 officer program with his dog Kit in 1994. That program continues to this day.