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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, edition of the Press & Journal

Posted 8/15/18

Carrying a torch: Sister disturbed by theft of mementos from cemetery

Jessica Lawson visits her younger brother Robert several times a week.

“I come out. I clean up. Water the flowers. Just …

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From the Vault: News from the Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2011, edition of the Press & Journal


Carrying a torch: Sister disturbed by theft of mementos from cemetery

Jessica Lawson visits her younger brother Robert several times a week.

“I come out. I clean up. Water the flowers. Just visit,” she said.

Lawson, 31, is one several mourners who regularly come to the Middletown Cemetery to mourn, meditate, pay respect, or just to be close to someone.

It brings her peace.

Lawson’s brother, Robert L. Sharp Jr., died of a single stab wound on Nov. 13, 2005, when he was 21. Until a month before he died, he lived with his sister and her husband. He moved in after their parents split up when he was 16, she said. For five years she helped raise her brother.

Then he was taken away in a fight.

At first, Lawson visited her brother’s grave every day, sometimes twice. She is drawn to the grave almost as if not going would be like letting her brother die again.

“I do it to make him proud,” Lawson said, as she stood next to the grave marker. “To make me feel good. So he knows that I’m still thinking of him.”

She lovingly tends his resting place off Spring Street.

But lately, she said, her peace has been disturbed by tiny desecrations. Mementos, some little more than trinkets bought at the Dollar Store, have started disappearing from the grave — a special order American flag, a 6- by-12-inch angel, and a solar-powered infinity light. All of the items were taken within two days, Lawson said. The infinity light, screwed into the ground and encased in a heavy plastic box, was smashed.

“It’s hurtful for us because this is all we have left of him,” she said.

It’s not vandalism, though. Middletown Police Chief Keith Reismiller said they’ve had no complaints of mischief at the cemetery in the last 30 days.

Lee Pickel, caretaker of the cemetery for the last 14 years, said the burial ground has not seen any serious vandalism. But there is no way to keep track of the things people bring to a grave as reminders of the people they’ve lost.

“I tell people, when they are going to put something out at the cemetery, think of its value,” he said. “Middletown is not the little town it used to be when I moved here. You just have to look twice.”

Lawson says she understands that: It’s one of the reasons she never contacted the police.

But she gets angry when the grave is disturbed.

“It’s the only closeness, besides the past memories, that I have left,” she said.

Lawson hopes talking about it will convince cemetery visitors to be on the lookout for mischief. And, that perhaps, whoever is taking things from a grave site will realize how much they’re hurting someone else.

“They may be Dollar Store trinkets, but they represent something between him and us. And that’s what hurts.”

Filmmaker circles back to Middletown on ‘Old Horse’

Max Einhorn’s life is moving in circles.

He’s gone from drifting hesitantly through creative endeavors, like singing in the chorale at Middletown Area High School, to passionately making a film. From taking Middletown for granted to appreciating its charm, now that he’s poised to go to Los Angeles to pursue movie-making.

From grabbing his father’s video camera as a kid and making a scary movie starring his brother to creating a film that will earn him a degree from Temple University. Coaxing boyhood friends to sign contracts to help him make neighborhood movies to seeking financial backers and locations to create a short film that will be his senior project for college.

He’s seeking donations for his film, “My Father, the Old Horse,’’ which he calls a “contemporary Western’’ about a young man dealing with alcoholism and his showdown in the woods with his family during a hunting trip.

Einhorn, 21, who wrote the script, denies it’s autobiographical — “I have a good relationship with my father,’’ he said — but the coming-of-age themes seem inspired by his life. He’s dedicating the film to Stephen Smith, his high school chorale director, who taught him to focus on his creative talent.

Einhorn was nonchalant about learning his music in chorale class. One day, as Einhorn struggled to sing his part correctly during a rehearsal for an out-of-town competition, a frustrated Smith demanded, “Why am I taking you? You don’t even care about this.’’ “I shut up and learned my music,’’ said Einhorn — and he did, in time for the competition. “I could tell he was happy and proud of me,’’ he said.

“He really helped me to realize I had a lot of talents, especially with my voice,’’ said Einhorn. “He taught me to let go and take the risk even though you might fail. He was one of the most important father figures in my life.’’

Einhorn grew from an adolescent filmmaker to a teenage film critic for the Press & Journal to a budding movie director.

He’s now trying to raise about $2,500 to begin filming his senior project.

He’ll film part of it at Kuppy’s Diner, where a Greek chorus of small-town eccentrics will tell the movie’s audience what they need to know about the characters. Filming will begin in mid-October and last about a month.

“My Father, the Old Horse’’ is a comedy-drama that Einhorn describes as a “contemporary Western’’ set in a small town.

Why a Western?

“They really deal with masculinity and the frontiers of our imagination,’’ said Einhorn.

The main character in his film will meet in a Western-style showdown with family members, and Einhorn has watched Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns and John Ford’s “Stagecoach’’ for inspiration, and Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan’’ for its treatment of obsession.

“We delve into the psyche of the alcoholic,’’ Einhorn said of his film.

Making the film is bittersweet for Einhorn, because it moves him closer to leaving Pennsylvania to go to LA and pursue his art. After years of taking Middletown for granted, he realizes how little he knows of it. While studying in Philadelphia, he even yearned for Middletown some days.

“I wished I was in Middletown, getting soup at the Browstone (Cafe) or going to the Elks (Theatre) to see a bad movie at midnight,’’ he admitted. “It’s kind of frozen in time. It’s like nothing there has changed and a lot of things don’t change.’’

He’s recently discovered things about the area he took for granted while growing up in Middletown. Like Hill Island, a large, wooded island in the Susquehanna River near Middletown where residents have built summer cabins.

“I’ve been here, but I really haven’t been here,’’ he said. “It’s kind of come full circle.’’

In a way, “My Father, the Old Horse’’ celebrates Einhorn’s circular trip through life.

“It’s an opportunity to put my foot down and say, ‘This is where I am in my life,’ ‘’ he said.

Campus Heights project to begin

The entrance to Middletown on West Main Street is about to undergo drastic changes.

Construction could begin next month on one of two proposed apartment complexes for Penn State Harrisburg students — and the units could be ready in time for next fall, the developer said.

Lower Swatara Township commissioners approved the final plan for the complex, called Campus Heights Village, at a meeting on Wednesday, Aug. 3, allowing developer KGH Properties to start work on the 264-bed project.

A second 264-bed apartment complex that would be built next to Campus Heights is scheduled for a final vote by the commissioners on Aug. 17. Apartments could be completed by next fall.

The two complexes would be connected to West Main by a rebuilt Lawrence Street, and students would walk to campus on a lighted walkway that would be built.

Across the street, the state Department of Transportation plans to build a new train station at the former AP Green warehouse site, while another developer plans to renovate a strip mall next to the site. The train station is expected to open in 2013.

Commissioners voted 4-0 to approve Campus Heights after KGH Properties tied up a number of the project’s loose ends. The goal is to finish the complex in time for the fall semester of 2012, said Matt Genesio, one of the principals in KGH Properties.

Here’s what to expect in the future as you’re driving into Middletown on Route 230:

• A new intersection at Lawrence and West Main, where an extended West Emaus Street will meet to take drivers into Middletown’s downtown.

• The demolition of two of the three old mansions that line the township side of West Main. A third, the multicolored Coble Mansion, will remain as a living quarters for a manager of Campus Heights.

• College students crossing West Main to the Family Dollar and Hardee’s, the post office and bank.

Headlines from the edition

• Borough population falls 3.7 percent

• Royalton adds one officer, and says goodbye to two

• Twilight baseball: Brewers win, will face Palmyra for league title

Hot buys

• Free accessory sale: Save up to $580 on a new Avalon stove insert. North Forge Home Heating, 1865 Horseshoe Pike, Annville.

• Hearing aid special: Small, digitally programmable, $1,099. Jere Dunkleberger Hearing Aids, 112 E. Main St., Hummelstown.

• Fresh sausage, $2.69 a pound, all flavors. Rib Fest, noon to 4 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 13, $7.50. Groff’s Meats, 33 N. Market St., Elizabethtown.