Top stories of 2010

It is hard to find a picture of Earl Johnson because he was never sitting still. He was always doing something.

With this being the last issue of the Lime Springs Herald for 2010, it is a good time to reflect on what happened in our area over the past year. It has been emotional in many ways.
We have lost friends and relatives but have gained new friends and neighbors. The sixth grade moved out of Lime Springs to Cresco, but the elementary is still strong and the students are learning in new and improved ways. We lost some teachers but gained new teachers with a different perspective.
Going through the archives, staff came up with some of the top stories that made the hugest impact on our lives.
Army Specialist Christopher Opat was welcomed home after he paid the ultimate sacrifice for defending his country, state and county. He was killed while serving on active duty in the U.S. Army in Baqubah, Iraq on June 15, 2010. He landed at the Rochester Airport on June 22. The entire route down Highway 63 to Highway 9 and Cresco was lined with people waving flags and saluting as the hearse passed them.
He was escorted the entire way by the Patriot Guard and from the Iowa state line, he was escorted by Howard County sheriff, ambulance and fire departments.
Opat was the first local life lost at war since Vietnam and his death brought the war home to Lime Springs and area.
Since his return home, Opat has been honored with trees being planted in his memory, and his name was added to the war memorial at the Courthouse on July 31.
Another shocking loss for Lime Springs came when a businessman, friend and major supporter of the town died unexpectedly. If anything needed done, Earl Johnson was always at the ready to help fix it up, tear it down, paint it or make it better. Basically he was the man to “Git  ‘R Done.”
Earl always had that little smile on his face and, when he was talking to someone, they were the most important person to him at the moment. He was instrumental in getting Echo Valley in good working order for the Lime Springs Saddle Club as a charter member.
He was a staunch supporter of the area youth. He loved softball and baseball and watched many a game in Lime Springs and coached the Chester Fast Pitch Softball Team for years.
He tirelessly volunteered for many projects around town including keeping the pool and ball field operational, getting the directional signs put up last year and painting the streets for Safe Routes to School. He was also seen in the kitchen at town functions serving food or cleaning up.
He was a well-known and greatly liked man in Lime Springs which was shown as the Methodist Church (where he also donated much time and love) was overflowing with those showing their respects to him and his family. His values and ideals will live on in all who knew him.
It was a sad day in Chester when the “For Sale” sign went up in front of St. Stephen’s Church. The church had been an oratory for a few years but finally had to close its doors forever. The building is still for sale.
Another big loss for the area was when it was learned the Ridgeway Learning Center was to be closed at Howard-Winneshiek Community School District.
The school board had to make some hard decisions to cut the budget. Several school board meetings were held in the Cresco Elementary lunch room to hold those concerned about the budget cuts. It was with heavy hearts the board decided to close Ridgeway and send all the sixth graders from Lime Springs-Chester and Elma to Cresco, leaving the door open to the possibility of more closing in the future.
Lots of changes occurred at LS-C Elementary in the past year because of budget concerns. Teachers were given a retirement incentive and five core teachers at the local school accepted the package. Those retiring were Elaine Gasset (kindergarten), Kathy Tesmer (first), Mrs. Morgan (third), Mrs. Goodner (fifth) and Mr. Richard (art).
In the fall, LS-C joined Elma as a multi-age learning center, which was a concern for local families. After one semester down, it is the general concensus that multi-age learning is just as effective as the traditional one grade, one teacher way of teaching.
Also, the four-year-old preschool was taken over by the district. The three-year-old preschool is also being held in the elementary building.
As it stands, grades include preschool, kindergarten, first and second grades together and two classes of third, fourth and fifth grades.
Some major changes also happened with the City of Lime Springs as the Forest City Trustees relinquished control and sold the fire trucks to the City. Fundraisers were held and it didn’t take long to pay for the trucks through donations. It is still a learning process between the Fire Department, City and Fire Board, but progress is being made.
The Fire Department was able to purchase desperately needed Jaws of Life with the support of the community and City.
The City and friends of the Lime Springs Pool and Parks worked tirelessly this spring to get the pool and ball field in good condition. Lime Springs native and New Hampton resident Steve Timmerman gave up many weekends and vacation days to save the town money with his expertise.
The bottom of the pool needed to be smoothed out and leaks sealed. The estimated cost was $30,000 or more to replace the rough cement. Timmerman and other volunteers stepped up to do as much of the work themselves as they cold and the result is a nice smooth warm pool. The water water was warmer this year because without leaks less cold water was added daily.
The ballfield also got a face lift as the family of Sue Morgan donated money and labor for new fencing.
Also at the ballfield, the Lime Springs Junior Community Club made the play area safer for youth by taking out the large poles and adding a few new pieces of equipment.
Even with losses to the community, all in all, the year was a good one for Lime Springs and area. Hopefully 2011 will be bigger and better than ever!

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