A bonding that began in the early 1980s has continued through the years. And once again Lamont and I were bounding off to St. Florian Hall in anticipation of a great pictorial presentation, seeing friends, enjoying a nice meal and shooting photos of people who have done outstanding work to promote conservation, agriculture, ag education, water quality development, forestry and economic development.
It was the Jefferson Soil and Water Conservation District's 69th-annual meeting and banquet. And no, I haven't been there for all 69. Let's see, it must be about 30 of those years, though.
I remember Irene Rozsa as president of the JSWCD auxiliary, where they had farm-city tours and tables laden with wonderful food and rides on tractor-pulled wagons to see conservation practices.
The biggest tree award went to Fred Posgai, center. Jeremy Scherf, service forester, made the introduction, and Sherry Finney presented the plaque.
I remember the other Rozsa, Irene Ann Moore, giving demonstrations on erosion with a model farm, showing the water runoff and how topsoil was carried away to streams. I also remember her dad, Gabe Rozsa, who was Farmer Brown on the radio, a wonderful photographer and someone who always helped me with taking pictures and said "Smile away, it's a happy day."
I remember working at the Herald-Star, then located on North Fourth Street, near the post office. That was where the JSWCD office was located, in the basement of the building, I think. Actually, Joann Cybulski refreshed my memory on that. She told me she worked there in the late 1960s into the 1970s. Also, I would see Mary Francis Phillipson walking past the office window, where I sat as the switchboard operator, going to work at the soil, water and conservation office.
I went on bus trips with the soil people and learned about landfills and heavy-use area protection. I think that was the term used when areas of grazing are rotated. Don't test me on this though, Irene.
I went on bus trips to Yellow Creek to see sediment seined from creeks to see how many critters lived in the stream; went to a landfill; visited various farms to see their conservation practices; and learned about starting a business in tree farming.
I'm sure the gang from JSWCD saw many "Daaah" moments from me, but I really did enjoy those assignments.
Now back to the present. I always have to catch myself when writing or talking about JSWCD board Chairman Jodee Verhovec. I want to call her Jodee Straus, a name she hasn't used in more than 30 years. She made reference to the fact that she did not want Laura Meeks, past board supervisor, standing by her in a picture. Jodee is like me - she is deficient in height.
Of course, Lamont had to yell out, "Hey, shorty" when we were in line for the buffet. She said that as a middle school teacher, she spends lots of time gazing up at 12-year-olds.
Irene had us seated with Dick and Mary Catherine Franckhauser and Charles and Wanda Cleaver, board supervisors. It gives us a feeling of importance to be seated up front with the important people. Of course, if I set further back I am constantly dashing up to take a photo ... and I am known for tripping.
I heard lots of gaiety, short for laughter, coming from a table and looked over to see the Rozsa sisters and mom having a great time. When I arrived, there was a man seated by Irene Rozsa, and I asked if they were related. There was snickering, and I got this look on my face that always sneaks up when I don't know why people are laughing. It was explained that he was Dale Moore, highly esteemed husband of Irene Ann. Helen Rozsa Grimm laughed and said, "Don't you know that he is related to you?" So I promptly called him Cuz. After taking down names, I walked off and left my camera at their table. In going back, I said to Dale, "Now aren't you glad that you aren't related to me?"
Jeremy Scherf, who works with the division of forestry, announced the "biggest tree contest" winners, who were Fred Posgai, first; Gary and Paula Bush, second; and Monsignor Kurt Kemo, third. In making comparisons as to how the national championship sycamore tree sized up, he had children and adults make a circle of cord to demonstrate the local biggest tree and then the national champion, that was quite huge. I snapped a shot of an adorable, little girl doing a good job of holding up her end of the cord and then found out that she is Taylor Nemett, daughter of Brent and Shawna Nemett, our neighbors.
Virginia Glenn came up to talk for a bit before getting back to her table with husband, Kurt, and it seemed to be a magnet for dignitaries.
There were Rich Fender; Bill and Sherry Gorby; John and Rebecca Black of the Black Sheep Vineyard, who provided a bottle of wine for each table; Tom Perrin, former district conservationist and state conservationist in Kentucky; and Tom Sewell, assistant state conservationist.
Virginia baked some really great cookies for me, called "MeMa's Sugar Cookies," and they were just like the ones my mother-in-law made. That really took me back to memories of Bessie's puffy sugar cookies with pink frosting. All the grandkids really adored them, too. And I am sure that Virginia's grandkiddies enjoy hers.
Tom Gentile purchased the framed print by Dave Barnhouse, painted to depict a time of the past, with older cars, trucks and John Deere tractors. Ken Perkins, auctioneer, got the bidding up to $250, with the money going to JSWCD school projects.
The JSWCD had a partnership with Eastern Gateway Community College for a summer farmers' market and continues to promote them at the dinner. There were beet slices, as big in circumference as a large tomato and the same with squash. Evans Dairy was one of the groups providing food for the dinner, also the Organic Fanatic, Piergallini Farms, Spring Valley Farm, Black Sheep Vineyard and sisters Linda Freed and Debra Latynski, who make the fantastic Dolce Pizzelles, in either chocolate with a hazelnut filling or peanut butter cream. Yummy.
Stella Puskarich was seated at the table next to us, and I did not notice her until I got up to take pictures. I think we belong to a mutual admiration society because we keep telling each other how great we are. Actually, Stella wins. She has sent me many "Caring cards" since Larry's death, and they have each meant so much to me.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist with the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at email@example.com.)