Sunday, Feb. 14, 1999
Not much stress in tiny Berlin
by Torie Knight
BERLIN- Blame it on her roots. Liz Freda grew up
in New York in what started as a rural area but soon became a metropolitan
lifestyle. For a while it wasn't bad. Then she started thinking about her
childhood and the memories and opportunities she wanted for her two children,
now 13 and 11.
She and her husband traveled several states to find
the type of life her family has made in the Lewis County town of Berlin.
They moved in a few years ago to a home on Laurel Lick Road without knowing
The stay-at-home mom quickly became a welcomed member
of the community. She serves as a 4-H leader for the Green and White Winners
4-H Club, an organization that spends much of its time making crafts and
centerpieces for a nursing home in nearby Jane Lew. "God just put us here,"
Freda joins a couple hundred other folks in the
farming community who want to live away from the city rush. They choose
the fresh air and the country roads instead of smog and potholes. They
prefer to see a goat standing high on a hill beside a barn, instead of
a barking dog lashing through a fence. And instead of the scent of hot
asphalt, they like nature's potpourri the smell of cut grass or a hint
of rain in the air.
You won't find a post office or a restaurant, not
even a gas pump within the limits of Berlin. There are no factories, no
companies. The people come from all walks of life carpenters, welders,
utility workers, teachers, FBI employees and homemakers Ñ to find
a common thread in their community. They like the quiet life and the low
crime rate. Mostly they like the escape from the city.
Dovie King, another 4-H leader, has lived in Berlin
for years. She works in home health care and at a craft shop in a nearby
city. Although she enjoys working outside her home, her real desire is
to be at home in Berlin in the outdoors.
She likes hiking, picnics and planting in her garden - all of which
exist right outside her back door. "It's the freedom to come home and go
to the garden," she said. "It's like a release of burning up your energy
from the mental stress of your job."
Stress isn't something many people in this community tend to have.
If they do, they find ways to bond together and overcome it.
Bonding is part of what makes the community special.
King said she knows everyone in town. And most folks like to come to monthly
covered-dish dinners, she said. "It's a very friendly community. Everyone
works together Ñ with no backstabbing," King said. She doesn't care
if little industry exists in her hometown. She really doesn't want it there.
"In a 20-mile radius there are plenty of good jobs," she said.
Sunday, Feb. 14, 1999
Cardiac patients find love in unexpected places
by Paul Leakan
After losing his wife of 47 years, Donald Leggett
hadn't really thought about the possibility of new love.
Love found him anyway. Big time. The 71-year-old joined United Hospital
Center's Cardiac Rehabilitation Program in an effort to improve his health.
He wasn't looking to solve his loneliness in the
outpatient program. He just wanted to strengthen his heart.
Something unexpected would change his attitude. Peggy Hill, 72, entered
his life. The two were introduced by a fellow patient in the rehabilitation
At first they just talked. Then, talk became breakfast
or lunch or dinner. Then it became breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Soon enough, the two began going to the program together. "After a
couple of months, we decided we needed each other," Leggett said, spreading
a smile across his face. "We decided that love could come around the bend
again." The two wed on Dec. 24, 1998.
"The strange thing is that neither one of us were
looking for anyone," he said. "It kind of just fell at our feet." The Leggetts
are not the only ones to find love and companionship at UHC's Cardiac Rehab
Center, a monitored exercise program that meets three times a week. Patients
say the program creates lasting friendships, strengthening their hearts
physically and emotionally.
Tom Elder, 73, and Nancy Vecchio, 59, also found
that true love does come around more than once.
The two met in the program and began their relationship by a twist
of fate. One day Tom Elder was looking for a date to go with him to a classical
music concert. Elder's first date had called off.
Elder, talking to Vecchio on the treadmill, asked
if she would like to go. And, after she agreed, "It was all uphill from
there," Vecchio said. Their relationship blossomed inside and outside the
program. They went to concerts, plays and talked on the phone. They even
endured the playful ribbing from their fellow friends in the program.
"This class is bad about that," Elder said. "They'll
rib you about everything." Ray Hurley, a fellow rehab patient, said the
teasing was warranted. "You couldn't talk to them," he said. "They were
just like robins in the tree." The two "robins" married in July 1998.
Collectively, they now have five children and nine
grandchildren. One more grandchild is on the way. The two are enjoying
their new life, Vecchio-Elder said. "I think I've died and gone to heaven,"
she said, "because he's such a special person."
And they are just thankful to make so many friends
in the program. "The advantage to coming here is the fellowship," Elder
said. "The fellowship is what keeps you coming back." Donald Leggett agrees.
"While the exercise and fellowship are equally important to healing, the
program adds something that doctors and exercise couldn't: someone to be
Sunday, Feb. 14, 1999
Old Man Winter is
banished in Helvetia
by Paul Leakan
HELVETIA - Old Man Winter probably should have seen
it coming. A pack of revelers donning papier-mache masks converged at the
city's community hall Saturday night, then tossed Old Man Winter into a
raging bonfire. The event was nothing new to participants of the annual
Fasnacht celebration in Helvetia.
Old Man Winter, merely a paper-stuffed dummy adorned
in jeans, a hunting jacket and small tree branches, suffers the same fate
every year in the Randolph County town. The event is a Swiss tradition
that symbolizes the banishment of winter.
"You see, we burn him tonight," said Eleanor Fahrner
Mailloux, "and tomorrow the sun is going to shine." Call it outrageous.
Call it silly. Whatever you call it, Fasnacht is a great way to celebrate
cultural heritage, get together with friends and relatives and simply let
loose, according to several participants. "They kind of wreck the place,"
said Louise Malcomb, a Helvetia resident and community hall director. "But
that's what it's all about."
Fasnacht is always held on the Saturday before Ash
Wednesday. In Helvetia, a town of about 25 people, the event combines the
two Swiss traditions of burning Old Man Winter and a pre-Lenten, Mardi
Gras-style costume ball.
The community's population is so small that the town decided to combine
the two celebrations on one day, Mailloux said.
People come to the event by the dozens each year. Some participants
this year came from as far as California, North Carolina, Texas, South
Carolina, Texas and Florida. The popularity seems to be growing each year,
But about 35 years ago, the event's popularity had
been diminishing, Mailloux said. Mailloux, proprietor of a popular Swiss
eatery and Fasnacht gathering place called the Hutte Restaurant, said that
some of the older residents in town started to lose the spirit.
The traditions of the early Swiss and German immigrants
who settled the land in 1869 had slowly faded with time, she said. One
year Fasnacht was so small that only about 10 people came to Mailloux's
house to celebrate it.
"It was a beginning," she said. "I had quite a time reviving it. But
we revived it, and it took off."
Now, the event virtually keeps the small town booked up. Mailloux has
no problem packing her 70-seat restaurant during Fasnacht. In fact, she
had worried that she wasn't going to have enough bratwurst to feed everybody.
That concern, however, was resolved shortly before Saturday.
For $10 a person, patrons could eat as much bratwurst,
onion pie, sauerkraut, potatoes, green beans, homemade bread, apple sauce
and peach cobbler as they wanted. After the dinner, many participants cloaked
themselves in colorful handmade outfits and masks. The masks can represent
prominent events in time, which essentially means they can be scary or
Perhaps the most important aspect of the event is
to carry the Swiss traditions and have fun while doing it, Mailloux said.
"It's just a night to let go. That's why I think it's so fun." Heidi
Arnett, Maillioux's daughter, agrees. "It's a lot of fun. I guess that's
why people come. It's just a blast."
Sunday, Feb. 14, 1999
Passage of smokeless tobacco tax questionable
by Troy Graham
It was an unexpected request from a governor who
has not been known for being unpredictable or controversial.
Creating a new tax. The exact opposite of what Republicans are supposed
to do. But that's precisely what Gov. Underwood proposed last month in
his State of the State address.
Underwood asked lawmakers to pass a 25 percent excise
tax on smokeless tobacco, in the hopes of driving the cost of snuff and
chew out of the price range of children. Although taxing and attacking
tobacco have been popular political maneuvers in recent years, the passage
of the governor's proposal is anything but certain.
The governor and supporters of the tax say it is
a public health issue. They point out that West Virginia has the highest
rate of smokeless tobacco use in the nation. Only 7.4 percent of Americans
use snuff or chew, while 17.4 percent of West Virginians use smokeless
tobacco. They say children are being hooked on the products, while deaths
attributed to tobacco use continues to climb.
Opponents say it's a tax and a business issue. Neighboring
states do not have a similar tax on smokeless tobacco, so a tax in West
Virginia would kill state retailers in border counties. One lawmaker, Delegate
Mike Caputo, D-Marion, called it a "poor man's tax" because of its high
usage among the working class.
And Senate Republicans, reluctant to raise any taxes,
initially backed away from the issue. Senate Democrats have said that they
won't vote for a tax that isn't supported on the other side of the aisle.
"I've had conversations with Senate Republicans and I will continue to
have those conversations," Underwood said this week, after meeting with
elementary school kids to discuss the dangers of tobacco use.
Halfway through a legislative session, during which
mountaintop removal and gambling were supposed to be some of the hottest
topics, the governor's proposed tax on smokeless tobacco has stolen the
show. The governor held two anti-tobacco rallies last week, during which
he promoted his bill. Two delegates, including Judiciary Chairman Rick
Staton, have made impassioned pleas for the tax on the floor of the House.
And everyone seems to have an opinion.
Delegate Don Perdue, D-Wayne, spoke this week about
a friend of his who died after a lifelong addiction to tobacco.
"The profanity of continuing to ignore the poison that our children
put in their mouths cannot continue," he said. House Minority Leader Charles
Trump, the lead House Republican, says he has supported the tax since day
one. "In the final analysis this is a health issue," he said. "We tax baby
formula. There is no justifiable public policy reason to tax baby formula
and not smokeless tobacco."
Trump, R-Morgan, chewed tobacco and rubbed snuff
for 22 years before quitting two years ago. He points out that using smokeless
tobacco is regrettably part of the state's culture. "Rubbing snuff was
what everyone did," he said. "We played football and wrestled and that's
what we did. I'm well aware of its powers." About half of his fellow House
Republicans support the tax, he said.
One local Republican, James Willison, whose district
includes Doddridge County, said he is undecided on the issue even though
he recognizes the public health aspect. "When they send us down here they
don't expect us to raise taxes," he said.
Opponents point out that, although only seven states have no tax on
smokeless tobacco, four of them border West Virginia. With 30 border counties,
retailers and wholesalers would be crushed by the tax, said tobacco and
wholesaler lobbyist John Hodges. "It's enough to make you want to go across
the border," he said.
Stores along the Kentucky and Virginia borders are
already unable to compete because those states have low cigarette taxes,
he said. Often people bring cigarettes over from those states and sell
them to their friends and co-workers. Hodges estimates retailers and wholesalers
lose $63 million in business that way every year. "We have hardly any business
at all, like in the Huntington area," he said.
Echoing Caputo's concern, Hodges also says it will
punish many working class people who chew or rub snuff in coal mines or
factories where they can't smoke. Trump, however, said it doesn't matter
if you're working class or upper class, you're at the same risk for cancer.
"I practice law for a living, and I spent far too much money on tobacco
for 22 years," he said. ÒI don't feel a bit bad about saving someone