In memoriam The Madison Press remembers those we lost in 2013
Rob Treynor and Staff Reports
WENDY COMBS BOWER
On the morning of Monday, Dec. 30, 2013, John Combs wrote the following on the “Helping Wendy” Facebook page:
“(Wow, it’s hard to type these words) … In lieu of flowers, please donate in memory of Wendy Bower to the American Brain Tumor Association (ABTA). For those unfamiliar with ABTA, they provide “… comprehensive resources that support the complex needs of brain tumor patients and caregivers, as well as the critical funding of research in the pursuit of breakthroughs in brain tumor diagnosis, treatment and care.”
Wendy Bower had left her teaching position at St. Patrick School on April 5 of this year to combat her brain cancer full-time. She lost the battle last Friday, Dec. 27, surrounded by family. She was 39.
Bower, who grew up in London, had been hired in 2000 by Dr. Jake Froning as an instrumental and vocal music teacher. She also taught social studies.
Her brain tumor was discovered nearly 10 years ago. She had undergone three surgeries, radiation and chemotherapy prior to leaving St. Patrick’s in April. This spring, she traveled to Houston’s Burzynski Clinic where she hoped to receive new, cutting-edge treatment, but the clinic had stopped the treatment for new patients because the clinical trial had ended.
Music was a passion for Wendy Bower, according to Brandee Ball, a friend from their days at Muskingum College.
“One fall, after returning from summer break, Wendy mentioned that she bought and taught herself to play a French horn,” Ball said. “When my mouth dropped open in surprise, she said modestly ‘Yeah. It was difficult at first. But then I got the hang of it.’”
“Throughout all of our ups and downs we shared throughout the years, we only ever disagreed on one thing,” Ball said. “Who was the better Phantom (from Andrew Lloyd Weber’s musical “Phantom of the Opera”)? She proclaimed it was Michael Crawford. I loved Colm Wilkinson and never let her forget it. We had long discussions and would play tracks back to back to prove our points.
“I didn’t know it at the time, but Wendy was helping further my musical education even then.”
Wendy is the daughter of Ed and Diane Combs, formerly of London. They originated the London Cobra Show under the name of the Double Venom Spring Fling.
Wendy Bower’s funeral service is planned for 11 a.m., Friday, Jan. 3 at London’s First Presbyterian Church, 211 Garfield Ave. Calling hours begin at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 2, at Eberle-Fisher Funeral Home and Crematory.
Hailey Petee, a fifth-grader at London Elementary School, took her own life by hanging last January. More than one noose was found in her basement bedroom by London police.
“There is evidence in Hailey’s room that she was experimenting with hanging herself,” Officer John Goubeaux reported back in February.
Upon discovery of her death, Hailey’s parents went immediately on television to blame the death on bullying at the school and on the bus Hailey rode to school. Investigation into the matter concluded that she had been bullied early in the school year, but it had been addressed and taken care of by October of 2012.
Suicides of girls younger than 14 are extremely rare in the United States, said Julie Cerel, a psychologist and suicide bereavement expert with the University of Kentucky.
Cerel said bullying alone will not lead a child to commit suicide. Family problems and mental illness are contributing factors. Add a stressor such as a family death or interaction with the juvenile court system and a child may act impulsively.
“Child suicides involve impulsivity most of the time,” Cerel said. “They don’t think it through at the moment.”
Still, Hailey’s become an unwitting poster child in the fight against bullying. Just this month, her face was used in TV promos for NBC 4 Columbus’ “Battle Against Bullying” campaign.
Chief Warrant Officer Matthew Ruffner, a 1997 London High School graduate, died April 9, in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. He was 34.
Ruffner was was one of two men piloting an AH-64 Apache helicopter that crashed during a reconnaissance mission in Nangarhar Province.
Ruffner joined the Army Reserves in Dayton as a mechanic the same year he graduated. High school buddies remember him as an athlete and music-lover with a down-to-earth personality and devotion to country.
Despite a move to his native state of Pennsylvania, Ruffner maintained his London ties, classmate Pete Robinson said.
Bernice was a hardworking, reliable reporter for The Madison Press. She kept an ear on the police scanner. In the days of film cameras, she could be seen on a traffic site with her double reflex 120 format (large) camera and notebook. Her training was obtained on the job.
Sheriff Jim Sabin described Bernice as “one hell of a reporter.” He and others got to know Bernice as she responded to calls on the ever-present scanner.
She developed a working rapport with law enforcement, firefighters and paramedics, said Don Hartley, former publisher of The Madison Press.
“They nicknamed her Scoop,” Hartley said.
Hartley called her one of the best employees he ever had. She had been hired by his father, C.C. Hartley, to staff the then satellite office of the Plain City Advocate. When that office was closed, she took her spot in the Oak Street office.
“You couldn’t ask for a better person,” Hartley said. “She was a real gift to Madison County in the journalism field.”
Bernice died in January — just a day shy of her 94th birthday.
Coach Jeff Spradlin, 51, died suddenly on Nov. 8, of a heart attack shortly after a Golden Eagles basketball practice. The coach concluded the practice with an impassioned speech about how excited he was to get the upcoming season started. He collapsed in the Madison-Plains High School hallway where he was discovered by custodial staff.
“Jeff was a life-long coach,” Madison-Plains High School director of athletics Matt Mason said. “His passion was coaching. He coached for well over 20 years here. He just loved being around the kids.”
“Out of everything, he was always there,” senior guard Dylan Voltz said. “We could always go to him if we had a problem. He would take time out of his schedule and talk to us. He was so much more than a coach, he was a friend.”
Mabel “Betty” Scott, who served on the London City Council and many other ways around London, passed away in July at the age of 81.
Mayor David Eades said as a 12-year member of London City Council, Scott was “a really nice, dedicated person who worked hard at what she believed was best for the community.”
Scott was a familiar face at the London Kmart where she worked for 20 years. She retired in 2010.
She served with Habitat for Humanity and is a former grand marshal of the London Strawberry Festival parade.
Jack “Tubby” Winters, passed away Oct. 9 at his residence in London. He was 87.
Winters was the recipient of an American Red Cross Hometown Heroes award this year due to his lifetime commitment to donating blood.
Winters became aware of the need to donate blood during his two-year hitch in the Army Air Corps from 1944- 1946. The tail gunner of a B-24 knew many of his comrades sustained wounds in combat and thus needed blood. He knew of the need and stepped up to help his fellow comrades in arms. He extended an arm, and a pint was drawn.
From that point on, it was pint after pint Winters allowed to be drawn from his arm. He donated to the max, five times a year.
“That’s all they’ll let me do,” Winters said.
Robin Smith-Jones was building her future when she was struck from behind by an semi on I-70 on May 8. Smith-Jones was en route to Nationwide Beauty Academy on Hilliard-Rome Road at the time. She was 48.
Smith-Jones was six months from graduating with her certificate to add hair styling to her nail salon business in The Creamery in London. Described as a woman with excellent business savvy, Smith-Jones and her husband, Jay Jones, were transforming her shop for the time when she could style hair.
She resided in London with her husband Jay and their three daughters.
A former long-time mainstay of The Madison Press, Midge DeWitt Hartley died in July at the age of 89.
Hartley, widow of C. Carlton Hartley, former publisher of The Madison Press, worked for The Press as editor and corporate secretary.
Stepson and former Press publisher, Don Hartley, described her as a very gentle, caring person who loved nature and cared for all her creatures.
Mary Brown, 83, died Nov. 30, in Milford, following a multi-year battle with breast cancer. The former London High School cheerleader was the widow of Cincinnati Bengals founder and NFL legend Paul E. Brown.
Mary Taylor Rightsell was a 43-year-old widow with two teenage daughters when she married Paul E. Brown in 1973.
Coach Brown was a widower at the time. His first wife, Katie, the mother of his three sons, died in 1968.
The late Dr. Bill Hackett, another London resident behind the Bengals franchise, introduced the former London High School homecoming queen to the charismatic and much-older Brown.
State Rep. Bob Hackett recalled Mary Brown as a “great friend” to his father and mother.
“She was a classy lady and a super (Bengals) fan,” Hackett said.
Ray Butz farmed for many years in Pleasant Township and was active in the Mt. Sterling community. He died on April 6, just a few months short of his 100th birthday.
As a young man, Butz and a friend, Robert Speakman, tried their luck as hobos. Boarding a westbound freight out of Dayton in 1933, they rode in apparent search of the romance of the rails. The romance fell short of expectations after a few nights of sleeping in box cars.
Butz abandoned the hobo lifestyle and took work as a farm hand jockeying teams of horses in the fields for 75 cents per day.
Eventually, Butz bought farmland in Madison County, married Annabelle Fisher and raised two sons.
He also became an accomplished equestrian and showed his horse, Champ, with success.
Butz involved himself in the local community by serving for 16 years on the local school board and for 30 years on the county ag society board.
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