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Uncle George is out of his coma, can’t take 2017

My mother’s much younger brother George was in a terrible accident on Jan. 11, 1992 while working at a construction project. 

When Uncle George was put into the medically induced coma, he never came out of it. Many things have happened in the family since then including marriages, births, and sadly the death of his beloved wife, Gertrude, but we all moved on with our lives as Uncle George lay helpless in the nursing home. 

Then suddenly, a call from my mom. A “miracle” she was screaming. Yes it was true: Uncle George had finally come out of his vegetative state and was becoming cognitive of his surroundings. “Hurry and get here” mom said, so I did. 

I talked to my favorite uncle as soon as I got there. He was a bit slower and much older sounding, but he could comprehend everything I was saying. I told him all about the family and who had come and gone. He was amazed. 

Then I said to Uncle George, “You’ll never believe this, but remember your favorite football player from UCLA and the Buffalo Bills in the NFL, O.J. Simpson?” 

“Well of course,” he said. “O.J. was the greatest running back of all time.”

I told him that O.J. was accused of murdering his wife and male friend by slitting her throat and stabbing the friend to death. He was acquitted, and is now in jail for another crime. 

“No way”! he exclaimed. “That’s not possible. Everybody loved O.J.” 

“Wait it gets better,” I continued. “Joe Paterno from Penn State was brought down in a child sex scandal and died a couple of months later.”

“Saint Joe, with the grand experiment and all of those great seasons at Penn State? How’s that possible?” 

“It’s true, and you’ll never believe this one. America’s favorite dad is on trial as a serial rapist. That’s right, Bill Cosby. Bruce Jenner’s now a woman. You remember him, don’t you Uncle George? His name is Caitlin now. The Wheaties box, the gold medal, the all-American boy, the greatest athlete in the world. Well it’s all true.” My uncle’s monitors started to show some increased levels of what I wasn’t sure. Then I told him that President Donald Trump had just signed 16 executive orders in his first two weeks in office including trying to ban immigrants from seven Muslim countries.

I heard a high-pitched sound from the monitors. Nurses came running. Uncle George had flat-lined.


Larry Kapenstein


Last Updated on Tuesday, 14 February 2017 16:44

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KAPENSTEIN LETTER: Press And Journal article was misleading on police meeting

In recent months, I have not been very active on social media, but I feel that I must address an issue that has greatly upset me in the last few days. First, I will give some background information about the topic at hand.

As many in the borough know, borough council and the mayor are currently holding discussions with neighboring municipalities to explore whether or not there is interest in a shared police services arrangement that could potentially save taxpayers money and provide a satisfactory level of public safety for our residents. These discussions originated with a study that was done by Dauphin County to explore what a shared police services model might look like.

As I have stated publicly on many occasions, it is my firm belief that the investigation of this opportunity is my fiduciary responsibility as your elected representative. To use an analogy, if someone told you that it was possible to get a different television provider and get the exact same channels (possibly even add more) and save money, would you dismiss it or explore further? It may be that the arrangement doesn’t work and each respective municipality decides to keep the same police services they currently have, but we won’t know that until we get the opportunity to dig into the details of any potential deal.

Last week, an article was written by the Press and Journal on the subject of police regionalization. In this article it stated the following about the most recent meeting. “The most recent meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 12, when according to witnesses about 16 people met behind locked doors in the upstairs room in the Municipal Building where borough council typically meets in closed-door executive sessions.”

While I normally feel that the Press And Journal engages in fair reporting, I am not at all pleased with the misrepresentation made in this article. The average person who isn’t that involved in borough affairs but gets the weekly paper reads that sentence and gathers that something mischievous is going on. I have now had more than one person ask me why the Council is holding “secret meetings” relating to police regionalization.

I pride myself on transparency. It’s what I ran on when I was elected to office and I feel we as a council have been extremely transparent with information relating to current borough affairs.

In order to get the story straight, here are the facts about the infamous meeting held Jan. 12. First and foremost, I have been announcing at public council meetings that these discussions are taking place. Second, relating to the Jan. 12 meeting, I specifically mentioned to all council members that if they were interested in attending, they should contact me. In fact, I had one council member contact me and ask if they could come. If I never mentioned the meeting, how would that council member have known to ask? Third, whoever the “witnesses” are in this article obviously aren’t math majors as there were nine people in the meeting and not 16. Lastly, I couldn’t tell you if the door was locked or not, but if it was it most likely occurred because there was another unrelated meeting happening in council chambers at the same time.

One of my main gripes with this article is the question of why I wasn’t contacted and asked directly about what occurred at the meeting. I would have been happy to share. As I’ve stated publicly, it was high-level discussion about shared police services. The meeting was more of a get-to-know-you meeting than anything. There were no numbers discussed and there is no deal on the table. I assure you that when we get to that point, we will be transparent and share with everyone.

As a matter of fact, if we wanted to be secretive, why on Earth would we schedule a public meeting in February to answer questions and discuss with the public? To be completely honest, we are extremely early in the process for a public meeting because we have no specific information to share, but nonetheless council wants to be as open as possible with this process.

I’m not usually a complainer and if you know me, you know that I hate doing things like this. I’m much happier staying focused on borough business and making sure that we are spending your tax dollars in a responsible and productive way. Distractions like this are not good for anyone as they take away from some of the really good things that are happening in town.

I felt compelled to write this and get the story straight so that the public is not misinformed and doesn’t get an image in their head that something mischievous is happening. Again, if you know me you know that I do not hold grudges, so I will move on from this event and focus on the bright future that I see for Middletown.


Benjamin H. Kapenstein


Middletown Borough Council

Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 February 2017 13:06

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READER VIEW: Don’t judge all PSU students by the actions of a few

I was pleased to read the positive picture Susannah Gal portrayed of Middletown’s metamorphosis into a college town in her column on the Viewpoints page Jan. 11.

Though one Sound Off comment chooses to highlight an egregious crime by two students, and another blames students in general for speeding through town and creating disturbances, we should not fall into the trap of judging all students by the actions of a few. 

Indeed, throughout Pennsylvania, college towns, such as Lewisburg, are among the most charming in America. College towns have largely avoided the economic depression of other towns. Parents come to visit and need places to eat and lodge. Students utilize the post office, restaurants and stores. Overseas families note the presence of Harrisburg International Airport and plans for a new train station, plus proximity to the capital, not to mention major world class hubs: Washington, D.C, Philadelphia and New York City. Families then also find out that the cost of living is half of that of most major cities! 

The students I see riding bikes and walking past my house all appear studious and focused on getting their degrees. 

I was also happy to read Larry Smith’s letter in which he praises the entrepreneurial spirit of  Mr. Howard Dong, who has bought the old Schmuller House. Here I would add a note of caution that I hope Mr. Dong proceeds with great care and respect of this prime historic building and garden. 

One of the former residents, Mr. Vreeland, was also a professional landscaper. His hand is evident in the maintenance of the garden and home, as is that of Bonnie Bosley, the most recent owner. It was delightful to have the home on several Middletown Christmas tours. I remember when couples dressed for proms would seek permission to be photographed by the pergola. My in-laws, Ralph and Emma Clouser, were married in the living room when the house was occupied by the Rev. and Mrs. Robert Marsden, minister of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church at the time.

While I am writing about our great town, I would like to add my voice of concern to those citizens impacted by the plans of Mr. Travis Finkenbinder. In speaking to other funeral directors in the area, I have found a consensus that it would be better for Mr. Finkenbinder’s business if he responded to local criticism of a crematory right in the historic district. Surely, Mr. Finkenbinder, who has establishments in Palmyra and Elizabethtown (and perhaps more places) has the resources to move the crematory part of his business outside of the Middletown residential area.  


Hermine Clouser


Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 January 2017 13:58

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Potential sushi restaurant owner should be lauded: Reader View

HowardDongHoward Dong (right) presents his plan for an Asian restaurant in the Smuller House Bed & Breakfast to the audience attending a Dec. 21 meeting of the Middletown Historical Restoration Commission. At left is borough codes and zoning officer Robert Moyer.

In response to the recent article about the potential new Asian restaurant at North Union and High streets, and with particular regard to Ms. Lori Shafaye’s comment in it to the effect that our local university students don’t give a rodent’s behind about the citizens of Middletown: Let’s take care not to paint all of the student body with the same broad brush.

There are several fraternities, sororities and other service organizations on campus who have gone out of their way in the recent past to provide unsolicited, beneficial service to borough residents in a variety of ways. These recent efforts have received favorable coverage in the pages of the Press And Journal, which I hope will continue.  

That said, I am very much in sympathy with Ms. Shafaye’s frustration over student noise, parking issues and rampant disregard for speed limits and stop signs, but we need to be asking for more enforcement diligence in these matters from our local police force in order to resolve them.

With respect to comments about a “need” to keep Mr. Howard Dong from carrying out his plans for a restaurant at the location chosen, I question that necessity. Mr. Dong has said that he wants to preserve the historical integrity of the property, even to the length of preserving the yard and the gazebo as they are to the extent that parking issues can be resolved. 

There are many historic buildings all over Pennsylvania (several in our borough) and in other than downtown areas that have been preserved — not in spite of, but rather as a result of having been turned into restaurants. The fact that this proposal is for a restaurant serving Asian cuisine should not make this situation appreciably different from those other establishments. 

While we all might prefer a location downtown to the one chosen, the fact remains that the property had been for sale for some time with no takers. Better that it should be in the hands of someone willing to maintain it and with a cash flow to support that maintenance than some other situation. 

Mr. Dong should be commended, both for his entrepreneurial spirit and his desire to improve the experience of international students following in his path; there’s something undeniably admirable about his wanting to “do well by doing good.”

Finally, like it or not, Middletown is becoming a “college town,” for better or worse. That presents all sorts of challenges, but also opportunities to revitalize our town in new and different ways. Let’s embrace the change for the opportunities it brings us and work together to promote “better” instead of “worse.”


Larry Smith


Last Updated on Tuesday, 10 January 2017 15:36

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Blue Raiders football was a season to remember

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I want to take this time and thank the Middletown football team on a great season.

What you have accomplished will never be forgotten in our community ... what you showed on the field every Friday night and Saturdays.

You showed the hard work, dedication, discipline, sportsmanship, teamwork that make a great team. 

The way you represented “the town” made us proud. 

As we move into the winter sports, I got the pleasure of meeting some of the young men with the help of my daughter.

I was able to match the faces with the numbers on the jersey and see them without the helmet.

Not only were they great on the field to watch — it was a pleasure meeting these young men and having a conversation. What a great group. 

Thank you, coach Brett Myers and his staff, for building a great foundation and bringing Middletown football back!

I would also like to thank the Blue Wave Marching Band, cheerleaders, boosters, the parents and families of all these students and the community for backing and supporting these young men.

What a ride it was.

A season to remember!

Jake Burger


Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 January 2017 16:48

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