Friday, February 27, 2009

Book Teaches Life of St Patrick

Mother of Good Counsel students listen intently as Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan and principal Regina Shaw, read “The Story of St. Patrick” to them recently. Archbishop Dolan wrote the book’s foreward and encourages people to get to know more about the fifth century saint and also encourages closer ties between Wisconsin and the Saint Patrick Centre in Northern Ireland. (Submitted photo)
Full color illustrations share the life of St. Patrick in “The Story of St. Patrick,” a book for children published with the support of the Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation, the Hibernian Foundation of Milwaukee, William Ryan Drew and Callen Construction. (Submitted illustration courtesy the Friends of Saint Patrick,Inc. – Milwaukee Chapter)

Book teaches life of St. Patrick

Story of faith, forgiveness touches Archbishop Dolan

Karen Mahoney
Special to Parenting

MILWAUKEE - For children with Irish blood, or who wish they had some, the recently published book, "The Story of St. Patrick," brings to light one of the most misunderstood saints among Catholics. While he is one of the most celebrated, he is also one of the least appreciated.

Written by members of the Saint Patrick Centre in Northern Ireland, the original storybook is used in their cross border education program and teaches children the true story of St. Patrick. Revered as the apostle of Ireland, St. Patrick was born in Britain sometime during the fifth century. At 16, he was kidnapped by Irish pirates and brought to Ireland where he lived as a slave.

Six years later, he escaped and returned to his family in Britain. He became a priest and after hearing God's call, returned to Ireland where he spent the rest of his life serving his former captors, preaching the Gospel and instituting many churches.

His story of faith, forgiveness and loyalty touched the heart of Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan on a trip to Ireland in 2006. In the book's foreward, he wrote that he made a special trip to visit St. Patrick's grave and the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick, County Down.

"I was most impressed by the wonderful and unique way in which Patrick's story was told at the Centre and how the saint's message of reconciliation and Christian unity was having an impact on the peace process in Northern Ireland," he wrote. "Since that time, I have encouraged links between Wisconsin and the Centre, and am delighted that an associated Friends of Saint Patrick organization has now become established in Milwaukee, and material which has been so successfully used in Ireland can now benefit children from our own communities."

As a means to teach first through third grade students the meaning of the St. Patrick's Day celebration, the book was distributed to each of the 119 elementary schools in the 10 counties of the archdiocese. The Milwaukee Irish Fest Foundation, the Ancient Order of Hibernians Foundation, Callen Construction and William Ryan Drew sponsored the book's printing. The Friends of St. Patrick-Milwaukee is also contacting area public schools to see if they might be interested in receiving copies of the book.

When Jane Mullaney Anderson, executive director of Milwaukee Irish Fest, saw the book when visiting the Saint Patrick Centre in Downpatrick last March, she thought it would be a wonderful way to convey St. Patrick's message of reconciliation and unity in a simple form that children could understand.

"We celebrate St. Pat-rick's Day in the states, but how many really know the meaning of the day or why we celebrate?" she asked, adding, "We feel it is a positive message for us to send out on St. Patrick's Day."

Distributing the book reinforces the Friends of Saint Patrick Milwaukee Chapter's mission to build positive and ongoing relationships between Milwaukee and the northern part of Ireland and particularly St. Patrick's country in counties Armagh and Down. To learn about and experience the cultures of Northern Ireland and the reconciliation work going on there through the Saint Patrick Centre. Through education, action and celebration, Friends of Saint Patrick-Milwaukee will nurture Patrick's legacy in America and Ireland.

According to Anderson, Archbishop Dolan encouraged the Friends of Saint Patrick-Milwaukee's adaptation of the book, which includes a page describing the American celebration of St. Patrick Day.

"He told me about his experience in Downpatrick and suggested that this was a story that we might want to bring to Milwaukee Irish Fest," she said. "He has remained very supportive of the Friends Chapter and also the storybook."

"The Story of St. Patrick"is available online(under shop) or at the Irish Fest Centre, 1532 Wauwatosa Ave., Milwaukee, or by calling (414) 476-3378. Cost is $10 (plus shipping, if ordered online.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Fun photos

Me at the domes
Ray, Blaise, me, Correne and Elain at Grand Geneva
Elaine and I Grand Geneva
Below-Mahoney Clan reunion 2002

Guess who this handsome young stud is?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Paris seeks taxpayer support to help finance the school district budget

Paris seeks taxpayer support to help finance the school district budget

News Correspondent

The real work now begins for the Paris School Board as it seeks to educate the community about a school referendum before the April election.

The board voted unanimously Thursday night to ask town of Paris taxpayers to help finance the Paris School District budget. Paris has been utilizing its fund balance to make up a running budget deficit. Without financial help, the district faces a $450,000 shortfall, with only enough money left in its fund balance to cover approximately half that amount.

Upon recommendations by Administrator Roger Gahart, the board approved a referendum asking to exceed revenue limits by $600,000 for recurring purposes. With a recurring referendum, the authority afforded by the community continues permanently, as opposed to other referendums that conclude after a period of time.

With several options such as a 3-year non-recurring referendum to balance the budget, a 3-year non-recurring referendum of $600,000 and recurring referendums for $500,00 and $550,00, the $600,000 recurring plan is the best option, Gahart said.

“The benefit of the $600,000 recurring plan is that we will be able to increase the fund balance and the revenue limit is raised,” he said. “Schools are funded with recurring debt so a recurring referendum is the way to go. If we can occur state savings or revenue changes, we won’t have to tax at that amount. It is not a mandated tax like the non-recurring referendums would be; the board can levy lower taxes.”

To help soften the tax impact of the referendum, the school board is working to curb operating costs by collective bargaining to reduce health insurance costs, salaries and retirement liabilities. Employing energy conservation, cooperative purchasing, and community volunteers, building and grounds operating expenses will be minimized.

Although Gahart requested a closed-session meeting with the Town Board, he said Town Chairman Virgil Gentz told him that the board is not willing to meet to discuss plans to relieve the burden on taxpayers.

“Despite that, we still want to work with the Paris Town Board to seek ways in which we can utilize future town income such as the Landfill,” he said. “We also plan to reduce expenditures in supplies and materials and increase student population by open enrollment and develop an Educational Foundation.”

Although a $600,000 recurring referendum would add approximately $440 to the tax bill during bleak financial times, Gahart cautions that if a financial solution is not passed, he would have no choice but to go to the state and file for dissolution as a school district because he would have no funds to continue operating.

“If the full amount of money isn’t needed, we won’t tax for it,” he said, adding, “The revenue limit has not gone up, but our expenses have.”

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Mark Tylinski, a man of faith even in death

Faith and family were priorities for Mark Tylinski. He is pictured with daughters Amy (left) and Alina. (Photo courtesy of Diane Tylinski)
Benefit concert for Tylinski family
A benefit concert for the Tylinski family will be held Friday, Feb. 20 and Sunday, Feb. 22 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 3722 S. 58th St., Milwaukee. The concert will feature music selections from previous drama ministry performances such as "Jesus Christ Superstar," "Feast of Life" and "The Ark." Friday's performance is at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday's at 2 p.m. A silent auction, raffle and wine tasting with Fr. Dom Roscioli will follow in the church hall after the Sunday concert.

Mark Tylinski, a man of faith even in death

Compassionate woodworker faced end gracefully

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MILWAUKEE - He was a simple man - caring and lighthearted - who lived for his wife, children and community in the Town of Vernon and devoted his life to God.

But with thousands of expertly carved cabinets, doors, restored homes and circular staircases to his name, scores of which are spread throughout the world, most people viewed Mark Tylinski as a giant of a man.

"He was a perfectionist - everything had to be perfect," said Geri Reiman, who knew Mark since birth. "He was such a compassionate, fun and loving person - you can't believe how loving he was. Once he made me some little birdhouses with little birds on them - he was into woodworking even when he was a young boy."

Reiman recalled a time when her daughter brought home an abandoned black and white puppy whose sloppy wet kisses would forever touch Mark's heart.

"My daughter was 16 and brought home this little puppy and wanted to keep him," explained Reiman, member of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish. "I said we couldn't keep him because we already had a dog, so we gave him to Mark. He named him Patches and he became Mark's constant companion. In fact, (future wife) Diane had to love the dog to get married to Mark."

Recently, praise from many of the people whose lives Mark touched over his short life started pouring in.

Just 46, Mark died Dec. 9 of pancreatic cancer, a battle he had precious few months to fight.

His death shocked many, according to high school sweetheart Diane, his wife of 20 years, because unlike Mark's mother, who 11 years earlier, died after a nine-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Mark was healthy and strong and showed none of the common symptoms of the disease.

"It all started Aug. 19. I received a phone call from Mark around noon that he was dizzy and nauseous and experiencing double-vision," Diane said. "Our doctor told us to take him to the emergency room. They ran a series of tests, and the next day we found out that he had a genetic defect we never knew of, in which he had several small holes between the minor chambers of his heart."

A common defect, the cardiologist explained that most people live a normal life never suspecting there is anything amiss. A recent leg injury probably caused Mark to develop blood clots and the doctor speculated that a small piece possibly broke off, traveled through his system, through one of the holes in his heart and lodged in the optic nerve, causing the double vision. They were told that corrective heart surgery would be needed, but the diagnosis quickly worsened.

"Mark had been complaining about some stomach issues he had for about a month, so I convinced him to have it checked out while in the hospital," Diane said. "His doctor ordered a CT scan of his torso."

Test results were grim on Aug. 21; Mark was diagnosed with stage IV pancreatic cancer that had metastasized to his liver and spleen.

"The diagnosis even baffled the doctors because he appeared so healthy with no outward signs of the disease, such as fatigue, massive weight-loss, severe pain, etc.," she said. "He was doing incredibly well through Thanksgiving, but was hospitalized again on Dec. 1. His health quickly deteriorated, and on Tuesday, Dec. 9, Mark succumbed to the disease and died peacefully."

His death took many by surprise, Diane said, because Mark spent much of his time, even until recently, serving the needs of others. Since 2005, he served as the Vernon town supervisor. He often helped Diane with the Our Lady of Lourdes drama ministry. She worked backstage and Mark designed and created props and stages. He also made a wooden cover for the baptismal font and made the front stairs going up to the church.

Days of hiking, gardening, swimming, birthday parties, games and laughter, Mark was dedicated to leaving a legacy for his family. While he didn't expect to live long, his goal was simply to see his precious daffodils bloom.

"I was hoping he would," said Diane. "Mid-November he and I planted the daffodils in our front flower garden. He was bound and determined to live to see them bloom, but that was not to happen."

According to Mark's close friend, Fr. Dom Roscioli of Kenosha, who hired him more than 25 years ago to remodel the kitchen of his family home to get his mind off his own cancer diagnosis, Mark was an expert craftsman.

"We had to take down this cherry tree that my grandpa planted and he made cherry wood cabinets in my kitchen, and a cherry mantel in the fireplace. He hand carved my front door and carved grape vines into it," said Fr. Roscioli. "I always kept in contact with him and had his wedding 20 years ago. Whenever I needed him, I hired him for things. He even made a gazebo for my yard and gave it to me as a gift."

Whenever Mark would travel to Chicago on business, he would call Fr. Roscioli and visit with his life-long friend. Lately, he saw Mark and Diane each week as he was assisting at Our Lady of Lourdes and he helped lead a fund-raiser to cover Mark's medical expenses.

"He was such a great kid," said Fr. Roscioli. "He was one of those old time artists trapped in a young body. He was a phenomenal woodworker."

Most important to Mark was Diane and their two daughters Alina, 12, and Amy, 6, and his faith as a cradle Catholic. He rarely missed Sunday Mass as he felt a recharge of his soul each time he attended.

"It was very important to him, throughout all his life, to do what was right, even if it was unpopular," bragged Diane. "Several years ago he had a falling out with his long-time friend from high school, and he was doing a little journaling when he was in the hospital in August. It was really important to him to make amends with this friend that he wrote about it. Not only did he reconcile with him, but also his former boss."

Rather than fight the inevitable prognosis with anger or rebellion, Mark seemed to accept his death sentence with grace, peace and the way he lived every day of his 46 years, with great faith.

His parish priest, Fr. Mick Savio, arrived a few days before Mark died to give him the sacrament of anointing of the sick and surprised Diane and several others who were in the room with words meant to comfort them.

"Mark was telling Fr. Mick about how he was at peace with dying and about how he was looking forward to the 'adventure' ahead and that he knew things were going to be OK," said Diane. "My sister and her kids were there and heard what Mark had to say and the next day I got an e-mail from her thanking Mark for what he said and stating how much that impressed the kids and filled her heart with hope."

Part of her sister's e-mail to Mark included the following passage, "While we are so very sad to see you go, because we know how much we will all struggle without you in our lives, you have left us with those few simple words that speak about what love, God and life are really all about."

"He really did die with grace and a wisdom beyond his 46 years," said Diane. "My hope was that he would die peacefully, with little suffering, and God did grant him that."

Valentines Day with Linzy and Erin

We had such a great day with Linzy on Valentines Day--a little candy, a little lunch and a whole lot of sumo wrestling with Erin. Quite a tomboy we have on our hands.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


This classifies as one of those days. I guess no one every said that having children, especially grown children was easy. I just never imagined in my whole life that it could be this painful.

Friday, February 13, 2009

From hospice patient to hospice volunteer

Dennis Pierce of Muskego has great empathy for the dying after being close to death himself more than seven years ago. After recovering from hospice care, Dennis and his wife, Marjorie, gave thanks for his recovery by volunteering. They were recently honored with the Aurora Visiting Nurse Association Volunteer of the Year award. (Catholic Herald photo by Juan C. Medina)

From hospice patient to hospice volunteer

Couple gives thanks by helping others

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

MUSKEGO - Compassion often comes on the heels of an intense trial.

Dennis Pierce of Muskego knows what it is like to be near death, and he has great empathy for the dying. He hopes they are afforded the dignity to do so in comfortable surroundings with love and spiritual support.

He and his wife Marjorie, both 77, consider it a blessing to help the dying by serving as volunteers for the hospice program of the Aurora Visiting Nurse Association. This work included providing respite care in patients' homes as well as working at the Zilber Family Hospice in Wauwatosa, an Aurora facility. They were awarded the Aurora Visiting Nurse Association Volunteer of the Year award in October.

Volunteers for the terminally ill are difficult to find, but the Pierces' consider it a privilege to do whatever they can to make the last days less burdensome for the patient and their family. Health issues of their own have forced Dennis and Marjorie to put their volunteering on hold until spring, but they plan to return to their volunteer schedule.

"We enjoyed assembling baskets of hope that we fill with about 20 items and give them to new patients," said Marjorie. "We put in lotions, soaps, hand sanitizer, tea, lap robes, gloves - all kinds of things for both the patient and the caregiver."

In addition to giving the gift of presence and offering family members respite, both assisted the chaplain by helping with mailings, and putting together a large binder of material and forms for each new patient.

"I would spend a lot of time at hospice headquarters preparing the binders," Dennis said. "It was something I needed to do almost every week in order to keep up with the demand for these items."

Whether it is a kind word, silent prayer, or a compassionate touch, it is important for the hospice patient and the family to know that someone cares about them. After all, it was a shining moment in a very dark time for Dennis and Marjorie.

When the end was seemingly near for Dennis, his wife Marjorie insisted he come home to die in the arms of his loving family.

In December 2001, after being diagnosed with Stage 3 Melanoma, the couple was told the disease had spread; and reactions to the medication left him in an extremely weakened state after nine days in the hospital's intensive care unit. Doctors determined that further treatment could not save him. Marjorie was told her husband would not be lucid for very long.

Paralyzed, incontinent, and unable to feed himself or sit up, Dennis was on round-the-clock oxygen and medications. Marjorie knew she would have to quickly transition between her role as a wife and that of a nurse. Fortunately, she learned about hospice.

"I wasn't familiar with the hospice program," she admitted. "I know though without all the doctors, nurses, friends and prayers that I could not have brought him home. They were just wonderful and helped so much - they were wonderful."

Determined not to isolate her husband in his last weeks of life, Marjorie had her two sons-in-law clear out the dining room and moved a hospital bed into the middle of the room. While Dennis appreciated seeing all the activity of the household, he knew his days were limited.

"It was strange. Marjorie had the family over one day and they brought a TV set in the dining room," explained Dennis. "We watched videos from the past and sometime during those videos, I just put myself in the hands of the Lord. I said, 'Jesus, I can't do this alone, whatever needs to be done - if it can be, so be it.'"

During that call for help, Dennis knew that God heard his prayers.

"It's hard to say this easily, but I knew that there was a presence in the room although no one spoke to me or touched me," he said. "I knew he was there."

Instead of dying, Dennis began to heal. He progressed enough to be removed from the hospice program Feb. 8, 2002. He transitioned from a wheelchair to a walker to a cane and by fall, 2002, walked unaided.

"My recovery is complete as far as we know," said Dennis. "Every six months I see my oncologist and there is still no change; I am doing great. The oncologist is amazed, too. We are so blessed."

While his recovery is deemed miraculous, doctors remained cautious as to the extent of Dennis' recovery, and explained the limitations to Marjorie.

"They said he would be on oxygen for the rest of his life," she said. "He is on no oxygen treatment, and he has been walking since he threw the cane away and has also been involved in an exercise program."

Emerging from death as he did, Dennis was eager to give back to others, to share a message of hope, love and compassion.

"I realized how valuable their ministry was, when those volunteers came to sit with me," he said. "I just knew I wanted to help, too, and brought Marjorie along when I signed up ... and she signed up, too."

The couple has modeled their marriage around Jesus and living a holy life, but Dennis believes his life was forever changed after his experience.

"I know I had an encounter with the Supreme Being and although we have been faithful, it strengthened our faith even more," he said. "I enjoy volunteering and while I know that so few patients make it out of hospice, I would like to believe I am giving back, just by being there for them."

Model finds beauty in God's gifts

As a senior model for Ford Modeling Agency, Irene Humphrey, a member of St. Francis de Sales Parish, Lake Geneva, began modeling in her 60s for companies such as Walgreens, Honeywell, and Boston Store. She believes that the use of older models “is a good sign that society is recognizing that the senior has value” something she called “so important in a youth-obsessed society.” (Submitted photos courtesy Gary Hannabarger Photography)

Model finds beauty in God's gifts

Nearly 70, retired teacher embraces second career

By Karen Mahoney
Special to your Catholic Herald

LAKE GENEVA - It's an industry dominated by teenage girls with waif-like figures and gaunt looks. Now, however, good times have arrived in the modeling world for the more mature woman.

Hundreds of women have started modeling for the first time in their 30s, 40s and 50s as the demand for attractive, middle-aged women with character and curves has reached record levels.

New modeling agencies have opened with older models on their books in response to the growing demand for "real" faces and rounder figures in the fashion photos used in clothes catalogs and advertisements.

One look at Irene Humphrey might cause any woman to shed a few tears. She can't possibly be nearly 70; she is gorgeous, thin, perfect, with nary a hair out of place.

As a senior model for Ford Modeling Agency, Humphrey, of Lake Geneva, began modeling in her 60s for companies such as Walgreens, Honeywell and Boston Store.

"I had retired from teaching elementary school in Williams Bay after 33 years and was wondering what I was going to do after that," she said. "A friend of mine, a minister's wife, sent in my pictures for modeling and I got represented."

Humphrey was concerned that the modeling would last just a couple of years, but agency officials scoffed at her fears and recently had her pose for a new set of composite photos to send to potential clients.

"I knew the business is very competitive and maybe they wouldn't need me much longer," she said. "But they told me that they want me until I am 90. I think that is a good sign that society is recognizing that the senior has value and it is so important in a youth obsessed society."

At 5'8" tall, Humphrey is reveling in her newfound career and has included acting courses in her repertoire. After taking a theater class at the Milwaukee Repertory Theater last fall, Ford Agency sent her to St. Louis for a class in commercial acting.

While excited about the intense personal instruction, Humphrey feels her years in front of a classroom paved the way for her current success.

"When I was teaching, I was always on stage in front of the children, smiling - even on the days I didn't feel like it," she admitted. "It is like pretending, acting or having your imagination go wild."

Humphrey enjoys the attention and the modeling world, but insists that it is all in fun; she isn't concerned with becoming a star or maintaining a perfect image. She is happy to be herself, wrinkles, gray hair and all.

"Really, I am just a simple farm girl and am blessed to do what I want to do and have fun," she said. "People have asked me if I have had Botox or any type of plastic surgery. I tell them, 'Oh no! When I die, I want the Lord to recognize me.' I don't care how gray I am, if I sag and wave like the Queen Mum, I want the Lord to recognize me. It's too bad society tells us we don't look good enough compared to all the young women; they tell us that men only want to look at 20 year olds."

Maintaining a pure image is something that Humphrey prays all models will embrace. She refuses to watch television because she cannot tolerate violence and reads few magazines because she is sickened at seeing the way young girls are portrayed.

"I can't stand the way the young girls dress, and I am against any type of those soft porn magazines that exploit young girls," she said. "God didn't create us for that."

The chance to branch out from teaching and ease gracefully into retirement is testament to other seniors that age does not mean you are no longer valuable, viable or productive. The acting and modeling are a couple of Humphrey's methods to reach out to the older and wiser members of society, letting them know that there are plenty of things for them to do.

"There is a lot of stuff out there for people in their 50s, 60s and beyond," she insists. "I have done a lot of things in my life, taken piano lessons at 50, skiing lessons at 60, water color lessons last year. You just can't give up but keep going and stay inspired."

Although Budd, her husband of 48 years, is accustomed to his wife's high energy, he often jokes that instead of a wife, he married a vitamin pill.

"He is very supportive of whatever it is that I want to do," said Humphrey. "He is proud of what I do and sometimes gets a little jealous, but that's OK."

Growing up in a family of eight children, Humphrey recalls an almost idyllic childhood where friends were always welcome at the dinner table and where faith came first.

"I came from a happy family and learned to trust in God and try not to lean on my own understanding," she said. "People need to let life lead them, and let the Lord lead them to an easier life. I found that out early on because I had a good Catholic foundation. I went through trials to find where I was going, and the Lord pruned me and shaped me and finally I realized that I was not in control. Those are important lessons I learned; I always felt God in my life even as a young child - even to the point of removing people from my life who were not good for me."

If Humphrey, mother to one son, Todd, and grandmother of two, isn't busy enough with modeling and acting, she also finds time for kickboxing, spin class, tennis, Pilates and bicycling. She has participated in two, 26-mile cycling fundraisers around Lake Geneva.

"I just concentrate on what makes me happy and maybe I am an exception because I am physically fit and not in any pain," she said. "I don't have any health problems - just tennis elbow and wrinkles and I can't complain about that."

In addition to attending daily Mass at her parish, St. Francis de Sales, she co-leads a weekly Bible study, writes poetry and children's books, and serves on several committees and gives God all the credit for her accomplishments.

"Everyone seems to be so negative about old age, but for me, it's like I have so little time left that I don't want to spend it fighting with my husband or sitting around," she explained. "I love people, enjoy life and want to be fun to be around. When I die, I want the Lord to meet a happy person and not a bitter old lady."

As a daily exercise, Humphrey imagines a little wicker basket that she fills with positive memories that she collects during the day. At the end of the day, she goes over the contents with God.

"When I say my prayers, I meet the Lord and bring him things like the bird I saw sitting on my bird feeder, cards from my sisters, friendly e-mails and talk to God and go through all the items in that basket," she said. "I sit with him with my head in his lap and go over the day with him. I thank him for the little things because that is what is most important." During her daily rosary, which she often prays at two in the morning, she offers her prayers for others and often reflects on Mother Teresa's humbleness and uses her as an example for her own life.

"Trusting God gives me peace, joy and happiness knowing that he directs me. I say prayers of gratitude over and over and get up each day being happy," Humphrey said. "The little things in life inspire me. I search for the beauty in every moment that God has given me ... be it the smile of a child, the kinship of a friend, or the incredible beauty in nature."

Quick to encourage others, no matter their age or physical ability, Humphrey reminds them that the first step is developing a deep, spiritual relationship with God. "A friend of mine, Fr. Jack, said that you have to start by getting closer to God. He will inspire you to become the person you long to be, knowing that you are loved and accepted by him - you can start each day with hope," she said.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Winter carving Fun

Team Nebraska's entry depicts a plane flying through an obstacle course. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY Karen Mahoney )

Winter sun and carving fun

Teams battle balmy weather at snow sculpting competition

LAKE GENEVA — While most Wisconsinites were basking in balmy weather Saturday, Matt and Thane Seeley of Omaha, Neb., were hoping for a colder, cloudier weekend for the National Snow Sculpting Championship in Lake Geneva.

The father-son team worked against unusually warm temperatures, sunny skies and brisk winds to create ‘Tight Squeeze.” It was their interpretation of the Red Bull Air Races, where daredevil pilots navigate lightweight planes between air-filled pylons that create a slalom course in the sky.

“We had to modify our original design to embed the plane wings into the pylons instead of making whisper-thin connections between them,” Matt said. “We wanted to push the design to the limit and utilize more open spaces, but the weather was just too warm.”

As the only two-person team in the fierce competition among the 15 sculptures, Matt admitted that the day was challenging but rewarding as the design earned them third place overall.

“This was exhausting, as you have to be in good physical shape. There is a lot of cutting, shoveling and carving,” he said, “but this group of contestants is the best ever. All are willing to help lend tools and give encouragement. It’s a lot of fun and a great bonding experience with my son.”

While an award did not go to “Lazy Horse” created by Neal Vogt, Christ Vogt and Jon Dietz of North Lake, Wis., Elaine Haydock of Twin Lakes thought it was the clear winner.

“It was just carved so perfectly,” she said, pointing out the life-sized horse lounging in an overstuffed chair with a bucket of oat chips by his side. “The design had character, was comical and so complete. Some of the designs were drastically unusual, but this one really stood out. Those guys really knew what they were doing.”

Creating the structure was more difficult than usual and required several design modifications, admitted Jon Dietz, who has entered competitions for the past five years.

“We had to change the plans several times to make the design more solid, and even with that, we had five to six pieces collapse this morning,” he said. “We were finished (Friday), but were literally patching just before the judging started.”

Despite Mother Nature turning all of the sculptures into piles of slush, one team seemed to retain a sense of humor.

Originally slated to create “Holding the World,” a kneeling man hoisting the world on his shoulders, Team Minnesota 2, consisting of Jon Baller, Curtis Cook and Joseph Hauwiller, ended up with an enormous pile of mush, which they appropriately renamed “Global Warming.”

First place and the People’s Choice Award went to Team Michigan’s Luke and Max Dehtia and Ryan Olszowy. Their intricate sculpture of a fire-breathing dragon emerging from a rocky cavern seemed to withstand nature’s fury until the judging was final.

Second place went to Kelley Casey, Paul Diekoff Jr. and David White of Team Minnesota for “Turtle Treasure Trove.” The design featured a turtle at the bottom of the sea, discovering golden coins among a shipwreck.

Despite the heavy competition, no cash prizes are awarded at the events. Artists work solely for the bragging rights and the challenge, although Dietz admitted that the contest this year took a bit more ingenuity than in other years.

“It was like trying to keep an ice cream cone solid with high winds and a space heater next to it,” he said. “Very difficult.”

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Emerald Knights Travel to Italy

Members of the Catholic Youth Organization Emerald Knights Band and Guard of Kenosha and Racine parade to St. Peter\'s Square on New Year\'s Day. They performed in the Square between the New Year\'s Day Mass and the papal blessing. ( KENOSHA NEWS PHOTO BY SUBMIITED PHOTO )

Emerald Knights in Italy

CYO band tours country, performs for pope in Vatican City
Kenosha News correspondent

While many of their classmates were sleeping late and hanging out with family over Christmas break, 31 members of the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) Emerald Knights Band and Guard of Kenosha and Racine and 23 chaperones gathered a lifetime of memories when they traveled to Italy.

In Italy from Dec. 26 through Jan. 5, the group first spent three nights in the Tuscany region, visiting jaw-dropping sites in Florence, Pisa and Lucca. Then they headed south to Rome, arriving there for New Year’s Eve and celebrating the birth of 2009 at the historic Roman Coliseum. After only a few hours of sleep, the musicians were up early to perform in St. Peter’s Square.

“We performed for the pope right before the annual New Year’s papal blessing,” said Matt Garza, CYO band director. “It was a very big deal and an awesome experience for all of us.”

Students in grade four through age 21 performed alongside talented bands from the United States and throughout the world.

n his fifth year as director of the CYO band, Garza said the group typically travels each year to locations throughout the United States. Past trips took the students to Disney World in Florida, Texas, Wyoming and Colorado, but the excursion to Italy was their first one overseas.

The journey was a musical workout, a cultural exchange and a celebration of the band’s 70-year history. CYO Emerald Knights Band is the oldest marching band of its kind in the United States. The organization originally formed from 10 Kenosha parishes: Holy Rosary, Mount Carmel, St. Anthony, St. Casimir, St. George, St. James, St. Mark, St. Mary, St. Peter and St. Thomas.

Garza received a letter roughly two years ago inviting the group to perform in the New Year’s Day event in Vatican City, and he brought the idea to the board of directors, which primarily consists of band members’ parents.

With encouragement from the board, the group began to undertake a fundraising effort that extended over two school years and made it possible for each student to pay his or her own way for the trip.

Their efforts were rewarded when they stepped off the bus in Vatican City on a rainy and overcast New Year’s Day morning.

“We were worried because it was raining so much,” Garza said. “We kept the students on the bus while we waited for the parade and tried to figure out what to do. The moment they stepped off the bus, the rain stopped, and (it) stopped long enough for them to march to St. Peter’s Square.”

After the band marched, the rain poured down again as members waited under giant archways to perform between the New Year’s Day mass and the papal blessing. After what seemed to be divine intervention for the second time, the rain stopped just in time for the band to perform.

“It (the rain) started again after they finished,” Garza said, adding, “We couldn’t have planned it any better.”

For one student, the trip took an exciting, albeit nerve-wracking turn. St. Joseph High School graduate Ben Hughes, 19, was in the right place at the right time when approached to do a scripture reading during the first Sunday Mass of the new year.

“I was sitting in the last pew at (St. Peter’s Basilica) with my friends. A security guard was asking us where we were from, they said Wisconsin, and I said Illinois, as I live in Wadsworth,” said Hughes, now a freshman at University of Illinois. “He asked me if I wanted to do the second reading, and I was just speechless — my heart literally skipped a beat.”

After a little prodding by his friends, Hughes followed the security guard to the front of the church where he received a few lessons on where to stand, how to walk to the altar and when to bow.

“I got to sit in the front by the choir,” he said. “My reading was the only English part in the all-Latin Mass. What I didn’t know until later was that my reading was broadcast all through St. Peter’s Square on large television monitors in front of thousands of people. I’m glad I didn’t know that until afterward because I would have been too nervous that I would make a mistake.”

Garza hopes to return to Italy one day, but this first CYO band trip always will be a beautiful memory. Despite the long hours traveling and performing, the students and chaperones were pleasant and considerate.

“It was absolutely one of the coolest things, we had smiles all along the whole trip from everyone,” he said.