Written by Dan Miller
Kate Hevel would do just about anything for Middletown, and she usually did it with a big smile on her face.
In April 2016, Hevel’s smile greeted dozens of people who flowed into the MCSO Building to start rebuilding their lives after a devastating fire swept through Holly Hall in the Village of Pineford.
Over the next several days after the fire, Hevel was among a small group of dedicated volunteers who worked countless hours keeping the MCSO Building open, so people displaced by the blaze could get clothing, toys, household necessities and other items that Middletown residents and businesses had generously donated within hours of the disaster occurring.
That was typical of Hevel. If something needed done for the good of the community, chances are that Hevel would be there, along with her infectious smile.
The smile masked the pain that Hevel was often going through. On Jan. 5, Hevel passed away from cancer at age 35 at Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
“Katie did a lot for our community even though she was suffering with a lot of pain,” said Dawn Knull, a Middletown councilor and Hevel’s cousin. “She pushed through that pain and helped at any event she could.”
“Katie would show up to everything with a smile on her face and say, ‘I don’t know how much I can do today but I am here,’” said Crystal McGuire, another borough resident who is often involved in community events. “She was always one of the first people to respond, saying she would be there for any volunteering that was going on.”
Middletown has become known throughout the region for its National Night Out in August, which gets bigger each summer. Hevel was one of the reasons why, having worked to help organize the event over the past four years. She wasn’t afraid to get her hands dirty, despite her own physical challenges.
One year, Hevel went to a church to get tables for National Night Out. She even loaded all the tables onto a truck and then unloaded them, Knull said.
Hevel was also among the volunteers who could be counted on to make the town look better by pulling weeds and planting flowers at the square at Main and Union streets.
Her love of community extended to being a dedicated fan of the Middletown Area High School Blue Raiders football team. She attended every football game she could, and if she couldn’t be there, she listened to the game on the radio, Knull said.
Hevel’s giving nature to the community came from growing up in a family with a tradition of service, said her mother, Hope Hevel.
Her father, Ron Hevel, was involved in the former Rescue Hose Fire Company in Middletown from the day that Kate was born. Her uncles also devoted themselves to the fire service.
“She would do anything she could to help the fire service, every event that came up,” Hope Hevel said. “Every fire she was there providing water, towels, whatever was needed, running errands for extra stuff back and forth to the firehouse for food, all sorts of things.”
As Kate got older, this spirit of wanting to help naturally evolved into seeing needs throughout the community, her mother said. “She just picked up and carried on with whatever came up. It was just within her nature.”
Hevel loved children, and could always be counted on to be Santa’s helper when the Big Man made his annual trek from the North Pole to the Middletown Area Historical Society museum.
She was known as “Jingle the Elf,” said Jenny Miller, a historical society trustee who often worked alongside Hevel at the holiday events.
“She loved being Santa’s Elf and she did such an outstanding job ensuring all the kids had a perfect visit with Santa. She will truly be missed at the historical society,” Miller said.
Hevel had “a direct link” to Santa Claus, said Middletown Mayor James H. Curry III. When Curry needed help persuading Santa Claus to take time out of his busy schedule to visit the borough, the mayor turned to Hevel.
Hevel became one of Curry’s closest friends in the borough after Curry moved to Middletown he in 2010. They didn’t always see eye to eye — after Curry was elected mayor in November 2013, Hevel sent him a private message on Facebook saying that she did not vote for him. But she also told Curry how glad she was that she had gotten to know him.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen that woman without a smile on her face,” Curry said. “It could have been a negative situation but we would end up joking about it. She had that ability to see the best in everything, and not everybody has that ability.”
Even toward the end in December, when her illness was getting the best of her, Hevel was sending the mayor messages focused not on herself, but on how things were going in Middletown.
“That shows what kind of person she was. If someone is ill and having severe issues, yet they are still worried about the town and the children of the town, that speaks volumes about their character,” said Curry, who lost his mother to cancer in 2006. “She was the type of person we should all strive to be, who sees the best of everything and who strives to lift up her brothers and sisters. I am privileged to have known Katie Hevel.”
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 16:18
Written by Dan Miller
A $1.4 million project that replaced 100-plus year-old brick sanitary sewer mains and aged water lines under Union Street in downtown Middletown is among projects being recognized by the 2016 Dauphin County Premier Projects Awards program.
The awards program acknowledges professional leadership in creating projects which aid communities as they make planning decisions, promote smart growth, and spark revitalization, according to a news release from the Tri-County Regional Planning Commission.
The replacement project tied for an award in the $500,000 and over infrastructure category with Harrisburg’s project to replace street lights with LED-bulb technology.
The awards were presented by Tri-County and Dauphin County commissioners on Jan. 10 during a luncheon ceremony in Harrisburg.
The project was planned by the borough’s former water and sewer authority, working with the Middletown Industrial and Commercial Development Authority. Work began in May 2014 to replace the water and sewer lines under Union from Spring Street south to Ann Street. The project was completed in December 2014.
The improvements to the sanitary sewer made the system more efficient, resulting in the borough having increased sewer system capacity to offer to growing municipalities such as Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships, borough officials said in a project description that was submitted to the county in September 2015.
The water and sewer line project also led to the $3 million downtown streetscape, a separate project completed in late 2015 that included enhancements such as new sidewalk and pavers and new trees and lighting to spur revitalization along Union from Spring Street south to Ann.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 16:01
Written by Press And Journal Staff
David Barr, the new general assignment reporter at the Press And Journal, is no stranger to journalism.
The Douglassville native last worked at The Public Opinion in Chambersburg. While education was his primary focus, Barr was also a general assignment reporter.
But his interest in writing began long before that. He enjoyed reading and writing as a child and officially became a reporter in 2007, when he joined his high school newspaper during his sophomore year. He spent the final three years of high school writing for the paper.
The summer before his senior year, he began an internship at his hometown weekly newspaper, where he worked for several years.
He graduated from Mansfield University in 2014, earning a bachelor’s degree in mass communications with a dual emphasis in print journalism and television broadcasting.
He served as a reporter, sports editor, and news editor on the campus weekly newspaper and served as a reporter and anchor for the campus television station.
He didn’t leave Mansfield with only a degree. The paper where he had been working during breaks from school asked him to write a weekly column. He began writing about NASCAR in the summer of 2013. In the spring of 2014, weeks before he graduated, he was awarded with a first-place Keystone Press Award for his column “Up to Speed.”
Barr began working for the Reading Eagle’s sports department in August 2014. He collected and recorded statistics, records and notes from the high school athletic events in Berks County and prepared them for publication. He wrote a few stories about local athletes and their accomplishments.
In late summer 2015, he took an education reporter job with The Public Opinion.
“Journalism has been good to me, and I look forward to serving our readers to the best of my ability,” he said.
Barr’s duties at the Press And Journal will focus on Lower Swatara and Londonderry townships.
“We are happy to have an experienced reporter such as David on board,” said Editor Jason Maddux.
In his spare time, Barr enjoys NASCAR, NFL, archery and reading.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 12:23
Written by Dan Miller
We just got done with an election, right? Well hang on, folks. We’re about to get started on another one.
The year 2017 is a municipal election year. The seats of many local officials who impact your daily life more than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton are up for grabs. They decide how much you pay in property taxes, what municipal services you get, how many police officers patrol your streets, and how your property is zoned, to name just a few things.
The list also includes many of the district judges who are the first step in the court system for anyone from an overdue parking offender to a suspected murderer.
Speaking of district judges, the first two people throwing their hat into the re-election ring are David Judy and Michael Smith.
Judy on Jan. 3 announced that he is running for a sixth six-year term as district judge. His office in Royalton presides over cases from throughout Middletown and Royalton boroughs, and Conewago and Londonderry townships.
“As the only level of our judicial system that most citizens will ever see or visit, magisterial district courts represent access to justice for those who reside in the communities that we represent,” Judy, of Middletown, said in a press release accompanying his announcement.
Smith is running for a third six-year term as the district judge who handles cases throughout Lower Swatara, Paxtang Borough, and most of Swatara Township. A retired Swatara Township police officer, Smith lives in Lower Swatara.
Smith and Judy are among eight district judges throughout Dauphin County whose seats are up this year, said Gerald Feaser, director of the county office of elections and voter registration.
Three county judge seats are up this year. Michael Rozman of Steelton has announced that he is running for one of the county judge seats.
Rozman is a prosecutor who has worked in the Dauphin County District Attorney’s Office since 1994. He was the president of Steelton Borough Council in the 1990s.
In addition, incumbent Dauphin County Judge Lori K. Serratelli announced on Jan. 9 that she is running for re-election to a full term on the county bench. Serratelli was appointed a Dauphin County court judge in June by Gov. Tom Wolf.
Other countywide offices up this year include prothonotary and the coroner.
Here’s a look at some of the many seats that voters will decide:
Mayor James H. Curry III, elected in 2013, will be up for a second term.
Three four-year seats are up on borough council — those of President Ben Kapenstein, Anne Einhorn and Ian Reddinger, who was appointed in 2016 to replace Greg Wilsbach, who was elected in 2015 but resigned in 2016. Also up is a two-year seat held by Dawn Knull.
As Feaser pointed out, this will also be the first at-large election since borough council did away with electing councilors by wards in 2016. All four seats up this year will be decided upon by voters from throughout Middletown.
Middletown school board
Six of nine seats are up on Middletown Area School Board — those of Mike Corradi, Melvin Fager, David John, Brian Keating, Darnell Montgomery, and John Ponnett Jr.
Keating, Montgomery, and Ponnett are all new members who have been appointed in the past few months to replace members who had resigned.
Lower Swatara Township
Two seats on the board of commissioners are up. One is currently held by Laddie Springer and the other is held by Benjamin Hall. The board on Dec. 21 appointed Hall to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of Tom Mehaffie, who stepped down on Nov. 30 after Mehaffie was elected to the state House.
Mayor Judy Oxenford is up for re-election, as are two borough council seats from the First Ward and two council seats from the Second Ward.
The seats of two members of the board of supervisors are up — those of Bart Shellenhamer and Michael Geyer — both of whom were elected to six-year terms in 2011.
LD School Board
Four seats on the nine-member board are up in 2017, including the seat from Londonderry Township representing Region 1 of the board. The current holder of the seat, Kerry L. Wolfe, is resigning as of January 2017 so the board will have to appoint someone to replace her.
The three other seats up this year are those now held by Debra J. Macut and Eric M. Samples (both representing Region 2 which includes Hummelstown Borough and part of South Hanover Township), and Kevin J. Busher (who represents Region 3 which includes East Hanover Township and part of South Hanover Township).
Tax collectors and possibly auditors will also be on the ballot in these municipalities. Feaser also reminds voters that judges of elections and inspectors of elections will be chosen by voters in 2017 for every precinct in Dauphin County.
Last Updated on Thursday, 12 January 2017 13:22
Written by Dan Miller
“I don’t believe it!” is how people typically react when Frank Rowe of Hershey mentions that he was in Army basic training with The King — Elvis Presley.
But Rowe has a black-and-white photo of himself and Elvis standing in front of the barracks at Fort Hood, Texas, to prove it — plus another old photo with The King’s signature.
“I’d like to have somebody tell me that it’s fake,” said Rowe, referring to those TV shows where people take something to a pawn shop and it turns out to be bogus.
Elvis Aaron Presley would have turned 82 years old on Sunday, Jan. 8.
‘Good old boy’
Rowe — who in 1973 founded the Frank Rowe & Son Inc. pet supply business, now located in the former Middletown post office on South Union Street — is 81 and took basic training with Elvis in 1958 at Fort Hood.
Presley by then was already an international sensation, having recorded such classics as “Heartbreak Hotel” and having done his famous from-the-waist-up-only appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
Rowe grew up poor in Hawley, a small borough in northeast Pennsylvania. Like Elvis, Rowe was drafted into the Army in 1958.
Presley was one of 174 soldiers in Rowe’s basic training unit.
“He was pretty darn big” in terms of already being famous, by the time Presley arrived at Fort Hood, Rowe remembers.
“Women came by the truckload” to try and see Presley on the post, Rowe said.
“It got so bad that he had to move off post. He’d come to work in the morning in a big Cadillac or Lincoln” that looked like a stretch limo, he said.
But Rowe said he and the other soldiers didn’t resent Presley’s fame. To the other soldiers, he was just one of the guys.
One day at Fort Hood the soldiers got a tag football game going.
“If you ever play tag football, they don’t last as ‘tag’ very long and then they knock you down,” Rowe said. “Presley had the ball, he’s running, and a guy named Shorty and a guy named Abbie came out from each side to block him. He ran through those guys and they went flying down through the field. From that second on, Elvis was a good old boy.”
Rowe recalled a few personal encounters that he had with Presley. The girls coming to the post was so constant that one time Rowe said to Elvis, “Why don’t you take some of the girls out for a date some evening?”
“He said, ‘Frank, you can do it, I can’t. All they want is a baby,’” Rowe recalls Presley telling him.
Presley pulled his weight like any other soldier, but he wasn’t always treated like every other soldier — even by the normally tough-as-nails drill sergeants.
One time Rowe, Presley and the other soldiers were all out on bivouac waiting on the truck to bring chow. The mess truck came in, everybody ate, and Rowe was sitting there with Presley.
“Elvis got up and walked away and left his rifle laying there,” Rowe said. “I picked it up and I was going to give it to him when one of the drill sergeants said, ‘Rowe, I’ll take care of that,’ and he (the drill sergeant) said ‘Elvis, you forgot your rifle.’”
“That doesn’t happen very often,” Rowe said with a laugh. “You’d be doing push-ups and sit-ups and yelled at and cleaning it for a year.”
After basic training, Rowe and Presley were both on the same ship heading for overseas service in Germany.
Rowe said Presley wasn’t allowed to sing in public on the ship, because somebody would try to record him and make money off of it. But one day on the voyage he was playing piano.
“You couldn’t get near (him). The room was packed. You could hear him play, but you couldn’t see him,” Rowe said.
The military is often tight-lipped about troop movements, but when the ship arrived in port with Elvis, the Fräuleins already knew he would be there.
Crowds of them were at the dock waiting with flowers. They descended on the first guy who got off the ship, only to find that he wasn’t Elvis. The solders debarked in alphabetical order, so the girls had to wait until it was Presley’s turn, Rowe said.
Presley went to Friedberg, and Rowe was sent elsewhere in Germany to be a tanker.
Rowe never saw The King again, and they didn’t keep in touch.
After the service
Presley served on active duty until March 1960, and was discharged from the Army Reserve in March 1964.
Rowe made sergeant in two years, but got out of the Army and returned to Hawley. It didn’t take long before he realized that he liked Army life better. He was back in within a month, at the same pay grade.
Rowe made the Army a career, spending 20 years. He did a tour in Vietnam from 1969 to 1970.
In 1973, the Army transferred Rowe to Fort Indiantown Gap, which is how he ended up in Hershey. Rowe started the pet supply business the same year along with his son, Dan Rowe.
The business eventually got too big for the Hershey location. Dan’s wife Debbie went on the Internet and the search led to Frank Rowe acquiring the former post office on Union Street and moving the business there, where it remains today.
Frank is just part of a proud military tradition in the family. Frank’s father fought in France in World War I. Dan is retired from the Air Force, and Debbie spent 10 years in the Air Force.
Changes in Vietnam
In February 2016, Frank and Dan took a cruise to Vietnam, spending time in Saigon and stopping at four other ports in the country.
The changes that Frank saw in the country since he was there amazed him.
“There are 7-Eleven stores all over Saigon,” he said. “The young people are modern as all get out.”
Dan said that his father talks about being in basic training with Elvis “all the time.”
Frank said he likes Elvis’s music, but he never went to see him in concert. He’s never even gone to Graceland, although Frank said he’s traveled to every continent of the globe and set foot in at least 100 countries.
In a rather amazing coincidence, Dan said that his mother — Janice Johnson, who is divorced from Frank — was born on the same day, and in the same year, as — Elvis Presley.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 14:52