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The Versailles Republican

December 25, 2014 • Headlines

Reserve Deputy Officer Matthew Wright helps Caden, 7, during the William Rayner FOP Cops and Kids program at Walmart Dec. 13.

Reserve Deputy Stephen Sieverding gets a receipt for the toys chosen by one of the 85 children during the William Rayner FOP Cops and Kids program at Walmart Dec. 13. MARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
St. Anthony Church in Morris held their 28th Live Nativity Dec. 12 and 13. Marissa Eckstein, a fourth grader at St. Nicholas School, was one of the children who played Mary during the weekend. Pastor Sean Whittington said it’s their Christmas gift to the community. MARY MATTINGLY PHOTO
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They work while we celebrate
No rest for those who keep us safe and healthy during the holiday season

While many of us enjoy being with our family on Dec. 25, there are others who have to work. Some businesses, and it’s mostly the service ones, don’t shut down because of a holiday. With this in mind, Ripley Publishing talked to some individuals in health care, police and communications/dispatch who work Christmas Day.

E911 dispatcher
Most of us take for granted that the one day of the year that we will not have to work is Christmas Day. But, that’s not been the case for Leah Hildebrand.
Leah Hildebrand


Pictured left, Leah Hildebrand, E911 dispatcher, makes the most of working on Dec. 25. She says she’s with family, her work family that is!

For the past 20 years she has worked her 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. shift every Christmas. Leah is the Deputy Dispatcher for E911. “You make the best of it when you are a working mom. We just had Christmas when I got home from work.” Her husband Paul is also in law enforcement and has had to work on Christmas too. Their three children, Zebulon, Abe and Jessica are all grown up now, but were young when she started working on Christmas Day. “The children were good with the schedule. They adjusted. We always tried to have a nice big meal together sometime during the holidays.” As a dispatcher she never likes to see anyone get arrested on Christmas. But, sometimes when families get together, there are arguments. There is also a lot of drinking.

“I’ll never forget one Christmas. Bill Davison (former Ripley County Sheriff) was working. He found a man passed out in a vehicle. It was so sad.” She adds, “After 20 years of 911 dispatching for police, fire, EMS, medics, conservation officers as well as contacting electric companies, gas and water companies for emergencies I can honestly say there is never a dull day.”  Hildebrand comments,, “Christmas is not just one day, it is a season. It’s special because the family all gets together whenever they can. I take life just one day at a time.” Hildebrand takes her job seriously, no matter the day. “The most important thing working on Christmas Day in dispatch, is for everyone to make it home safely to their families.”

Health care, ward clerk
Pam Deaton is not home on Christmas. But, she is never alone. She is surrounded by the 60 residents and 25 staff members at Manderley Health Care in Osgood.
Pam Deaton
Pictured right, Pam Deaton enjoys her work as a clerk at Manderley Health Care. Sickness and poor health don’t take off for holidays, and health care facilities operate 24/7.

Pam is a ward clerk. She does the ordering and scheduling for Manderley and works with the doctors. She has worked there since 1987. “Working here is so rewarding. I just love the residents. It is just like a big family.”

Pam hails from North Vernon and moved to Hopewell Road after she and her husband of almost 30 years Charles got married. They have two children, a son Dustin, age 25 and daughter Kelsea, age 21. “We just always have our Christmas as a family on Christmas Eve.” “I come from a large family. My dad had nine brothers and sisters and my mother had eight brothers and sisters. Most of my siblings still live in North Vernon. But since my father died in 2007, Christmas has just not been the same. He loved Christmas so.”

“I love being with the residents on Christmas Day. Lots of families come in for a visit. For those who don’t have family come, the staff tries to lift their spirits. My husband Charles fixes breakfast and brings it for the 20 to 25 staff members who are working on Christmas.” The most difficult part of her job is when one of the residents passes away. Because of that, she has learned to “cherish every moment.”— Cathy May

It comes with the job, so Sgt. Corky Houseworth doesn’t mind much that he’s responding to domestic calls or accidents instead of sitting home and unwrapping presents.
Sgt Corky Houseworth


Pictured left, Sgt. Corky Houseworth has worked the past 17 Christmas holidays at the sheriff’s office. His family accepts his odd hours and celebrates another time. He says you’d be surprised at the activity they often respond to on the holidays. He worked this past Thanksgiving too.

As a sergeant with the Ripley County Sheriff’s Office, he’s worked Christmas Day for 17 years, and this year is no different. You might think it is slow or dull, but far from it. “You’d be surprised! Families get together and maybe they shouldn’t be, or there are kid disputes with visitations, and add alcohol to that and extended days off, it can cause a strain!”

There are usually two officers on shift, but administrative staff, detectives, chief deputy and the sheriff are off, so the office is quieter than usual.
His own family works around his schedule, and it might mean Christmas traditions are conducted a day later or day earlier. “It’s all part of the job. We make sacrifices and our families do too, but it’s for the good of the public.” Sometimes he dons a Santa hat on Dec. 25, but it all depends on the call if it’s appropriate to keep it on. He doesn’t wish for a white Christmas as that makes his public safety job harder, and more cause for road accidents. His wish is parents would not put fear in their kids about police. “Not a day goes by that I walk by and hear a parent telling their child look ‘you better be good or that cop will get you’… I want them to not run away from us when needing help but to run to us. That’s what we are there for.”— Mary Mattingly

Jim Corbin has not had Christmas Day off in 26 years. It’s the nature of the business he is in; he’s a registered paramedic and chief of Ripley County EMS. The unit is always staffed with two paramedics and one EMT 365 days a year because sickness or accidents don’t stop because it’s a holiday

Jim Corbin
Pictured right, Jim Corbin, chief of Ripley County EMS, hopes the weather is good on the holidays as it helps reduce road accidents. Nonetheless, the rescue units are available.

“This year was the first Thanksgiving I have been off in over 20 years,” he said. He’s missed many school plays, little league games, etc., due to his job. “We allow the families of our on-duty crews to come visit them at the station while they are working holidays.”  Corbin added, “We are not usually busy on holidays but we do see the normal variety of calls. Unfortunately over the years we have seen some pretty serious illnesses and injuries. “

The one that stands out, which he thinks could be a “Christmas miracle,” was when he was in Ohio working on Christmas Day and he responded to a head-on collision, which trapped a victim in a minivan, and two people in a pickup truck. “We were extricating the guy in the minivan and I found a handgun under the front seat and a shotgun in the rear cargo area. We began to question him, and he admitted he was on the way to his ex-wife’s house to shoot and kill her and then kill himself, in front of their young children.” The odd part, he adds, was that there was no reason for him to lose control of the van. “Witnesses said it just suddenly swerved into the pickup truck. The people in the pickup were unharmed. The guy in the van was very seriously hurt and was airlifted to UC. He was arrested for threatening the ex wife. I truly believe God caused that accident to save the ex-wife and save the kids from the horror of watching him shoot her.” Corbin said, “The best Christmas present we can hope for, is for our citizens to stay safe and healthy over the holiday season.”— Mary Mattingly

Besides these services, there are a few other businesses that remain open Dec. 25. For example, hotels would be one. Most restaurants in this area are closed on Dec. 25, but you might be able to find one open in Cincinnati. And, gas or convenience stations often stay open. Paul, the day clerk at Marathon station in Versailles said he would prefer to be home to celebrate the holiday, but he needs his 40 hours and if he’s scheduled to work that’s what he does.

Meggie and Perry Parmarwill not even be working together on Dec. 25, since they recently bought the Holton Food Mart. He’ll be there, and she’ll man the P & P station in Versailles. They are Hindu and don’t celebrate Christmas, “We don’t mind since we don’t have family here,” she said. They expect to have some business on Dec. 25 as many people forget things they may need for the day. While you enjoy your family today, say thanks for those who aren’t at the holiday dinner table but instead on the job.

Christmas past...
Remembering what it was like years ago

Sandy Day Howard

Each of us remembers our past Christmases in our own way. Our dreams are all different, fond remembrances of a most spectacular time in our lives; a beautiful season of celebration, fun, and magic. Ripley Publishing wanted to know what this most holy time of the year was like for others, and asked people what they remember about their own ‘Christmas Past.’

Damon Webster of the Cross Plains area thought back on his family’s Christmas dinner each year and how his mother worked to prepare their holiday feast. Damon recalls how he helped his dad in the time before the holidays to butcher and cure a hog in preparation for their family’s holiday meal. Webster lived on a farm with his parents and siblings in the 1930’s when times were lean and money was scarce. But Christmas dinner was a bountiful time on the farm home of the Websters.

Millie (Meisberger) Webster also remembers Christmas from the days of the Great Depression. Her Christmases were filled with anticipation as well. Millie (Mildred) was only a small child when dreams of Santa consumed her early December. ‘If you’re good,” promised her parents,” Santa will come!” And he did.

Millie and her sister, Opal Meisberger (Day) and brothers Howard and Romuald (Rom) Meisberger just KNEW on Christmas Eve, that Santa was on his way! Their father and the boys had cut their cedar tree from their farm. They had decorated it with popcorn they had strung with thread and used pieces of foil carefully crafted into triangles and balls for ornaments. They placed a foil star on the top of the tree, also crafted from leftover foil and other bits of materials they collected from here and there.

They had been good girls and boys and their mother and father, Charles and Julia Elizabeth (or ‘Peggy’ as she was known to some) promised that Santa would visit on Christmas Eve! Millie remembers hanging socks that their mother had cut off and darned time and again on their mantle for Santa to fill. Then, she and her sister Opal would drag chairs over to the door to their humble home in Benham and plop up on them to wait. Their brothers, Romuald “Rom” and Howard placed their chairs on the other side of the door in anticipation of Santa’s big arrival. They usually fell asleep sitting on those wooden chairs long before the big man came, but they awoke to find Santa hadn’t forgotten them. They emptied their ‘stockings’ to find an orange, an apple that looked amazing like the apples they had picked up from their fruit tree, peanuts and a few pieces of candy each. There were usually hickory nuts the kids had helped gather in the fall, and often a banana for each.

When times were good, the Meisberger children might also be fortunate enough to receive a toy, but not always. Millie remembers that her older sister Florence, who worked as a housekeeper for an attorney in town, bought each of the younger girls a buggy and small doll one year. The buggies were made of cardboard, one pink and one yellow. The little dolls were bought at Ferguson’s store located on the Versailles town square. Florence bought them out of her earnings. Millie remembers that Florence made $3 per week in those days, plus room and board.

Most families have favorite holiday shows or movies that they watch year after year. The Mohr family from Osgood is no exception. Troy Mohr, son of Mr. and Mrs. Phil Mohr of Osgood spent many nights with his family watching Christmas programs on TV. Some of his favorites from year to year were” I Love Lucy,” “Beverly Hillbillies” and “The Honeymooners” Christmas specials. Troy and family also loved watching “An American Christmas” with Henry Winkler. Some of the old favorites have been shown annually for nearly 50 years.

Zelpha Naylor of Holton remembers decorating the family Christmas tree as a child. Her mother taught her how to string cotton on the tree so it would appear to be snow. Zelpha also recalls the best present she ever got being a huge doll she named Lizzie. She was 5 the year she got Lizzie. Considering Zelpha just turned 103, that must have been one pretty great doll!

Patty Westmeier Reece of Milan grew up on 450 South in Correct. Pat was several years younger than her brother Bill and sister Linda, so she was almost like an only child at times . When it came time to put up the family Christmas tree, it was Patty who went out into the woods with her dad, Aaron in the quest to select just the right tree.

The two would plod through the field and across into the woods of their family farm where they picked a perfect cedar. The tree was usually too tall for their living room ceiling when they got it home, so Aaron would cut a couple of feet off before returning it to its place of honor in the Westmeier home. Pat helped her mother place strings of large multicolored bulbs and lots of ornaments on the family tree, and sometimes added long foil icicles that were popular in the 60s and 70s. Lawrence Welk would sometimes be leading his orchestra on TV or Geneva may have put a Christmas album on the stereo so holiday music would waft through their country home. Those were precious, special times down on 450 South. Geneva’s brother Art Kieffer decided one year to surprise little Patty (and his sister) by paying an unannounced visit one year at Christmastime. The surprise was even more effective since he dressed up like Santa and peered in a dark window, nearly scaring his unsuspecting sister and niece to death!

On Christmas Eve, the family would bundle up and ride over to ‘Grandma Westmeier’s’ house for the evening. Later, they went together to midnight mass in celebration of the birth of our savior. Most of us have special holiday memories that we keep close, stored in our mind’s memory box. We take them out from time to time, smile a little, and put them back to save for the next Christmas.

Pick up this week's edition of The Versailles Republican for the stories below and more local news. Subscribe by clicking the subscribe link or call 812-689-6364.

• Council hears about taxes, savings with 11th deputy (front page)
• Commissioners meeting: Rescue unit contract changes discussed (page 3)
• On The Record From the Ripley County Courthouse (page 8)

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