July 25, 2009

Notebook Dump: The Week in Review

While working on stories, reporters come across interesting tidbits that aren't quite full stories - at least not yet. Sometimes they'll add them to the end of stories, which insiders call a "notebook dump." Here's a notebook dump on items collected from the past week:

* NEW CAFE: Ben Lerner from the REC Center in Racine is opening a natural foods cafe in the former Daily Grind coffee shop. Lerner and his brother are set to open Circa Celeste around Aug. 1. They'll have coffee and tea and cafe-style food made from natural ingredients. We're hoping to catch up with Ben next week to learn more about the cafe.

* NEW RESTAURANT: A new seafood restaurant is opening up in Sturtevant. Captain's Cove Seafood Bar and Grill, 904 S. Sylvania Ave., should be serving food around Aug. 1. We've heard there's some interesting interior decorating going on, and hope owner Rodney Woznicki is available for an interview next week.

* RECORDS REQUEST: RacinePost appeared before the City Council Tuesday night seeking the release of former Mayor Gary Becker's email. The city has agreed to grant our records request for the emails - at a cost of $10,274.28. We contend the emails should be released at no cost because it's in the public's interest to uncover Becker's dealings as mayor. Our suggestion is to release the emails and place them at the library for anyone to see. Thanks to Tom at WRJN for reporting on our request.

* ROTARY: RacinePost was also invited to speak at the Downtown Rotary Club last Wednesday. Thanks to the club for having me speak - and for the great lunch!

* ALICANTE: Interviewing Maribel Salo earlier this month she told me about Alicante, Spain - her hometown. She described it as a beautiful city on the Mediterranean Sea with a constantly shining sun and temperatures in the 70s year round. She highly recommended it for any Spain-bound travelers.

* ENVI: Doug Nicholson said work on his next venture, the night club "Envi" on Main Street in the former Racine News building should be done in 9-10 months. Driving past we noticed a new framed structure on top of the building, but didn't get to ask what that's for.

* BIG BAND: This week we'll have a story and photos of a big band that plays every other Tuesday night at McAuliffe's on the south side. The group is off next week, but back the week after.

* LOCKWOOD TENNIS COURTS: The struggle to resurface the tennis courts in Lockwood Park is ongoing. The city has a couple of bids to do the work, but action seems stalled on the item. Just to recap, the courts were resurfaced years ago but the concrete immediately cracked. After a lengthy battle, the contractor redid the concrete, but then the paint chipped off. The courts are supposed to be a deep blue and red. Instead, they're concrete colored with lines painted on top. The city won a case to have the courts redone, but then the company that did the work went out of business (no surprise there, given the quality of their product). Local tennis fans hope to get the courts repainted for next year, but in tough budget times the money may not be there.

Racine Raiders stay undefeated with 17-0 victory

Raiders Rush for 232 Yards; Intercept Six Passes

The Racine Raiders (4-0, 2-0 NAFL) relied heavily on their opportunistic defense in a 17-0 win over the River City Rough Riders (0-5, 0-4 NAFL) Saturday afternoon in North American Football League (NAFL) action in West Salem.

The defense came down with six interceptions, including three inside the Raiders' 20-yard line, en route to the victory. They also recorded three sacks.

Linebacker Nate Harris (Carroll College) and safety Torie Ruffin (Concordia University) each picked off two passes while defensive back Philip Despopolous (Broken Bow HS) and linebacker Zach Pedersen (North Central College) each came down with one interception.

Meanwhile, linebacker Will Caldwell (Grand Valley State University) had 1-1/2 sacks,with Pedersen also recording a sack. Defensive lineman Brandon Rogers (Tennessee State University) also got in on the action with half a sack.

The defense held the Rough Riders to 94 total yards. River City has now been shutout in each of their last three games.

The Raiders, who were the top rushing team in the NAFL entering this week, rushed for 232 yards. Bryan Jennings, Jr. (Vermillion Community College), second in the league in rushing and tied for first in touchdowns scored, rushed for 152 yards on 18 carries, an 8.4 yard per carry average, and one touchdown, a 37-yard scamper with 11:09 to play in the first half that gave Racine a 10-0 lead.

The only other touchdown came less than a minute into the fourth quarter on a two-yard sneak by quarterback Stephen Jackson (Rochester Community College), which was setup by a 34-yard pass to wide receiver Charles Ownes (Eastern Illinois University).

The Raiders still struggled with their passing attack again Saturday. Virgil McNeil (Wisconsin), Ron Ricciardi (Florida State University), and Jackson all took snaps in the game.McNeil completed just 2 of 9 passes for 3 yards and was intercepted once. Jackson was 1-for-3 for 34 yards and Ricciardi went 1-for-4 for just 3 yards.

The Raiders return home next week to play the Gateway (MO) Soul (5-3, 4-2 AFL) of the Alliance Football League (AFL). The Soul are in the midst of a three game winning streak entering tonight's game and lead their division. They are ranked sixth in theAFL, a 23-team league.

The game starts at 7 p.m. at Historic Horlick Field (1648 North Memorial Drive, Racine). The Boy Scouts Drum & Bugle Corps will perform at halftime.

PHOTOS: Racine on the Lake Tennis Tournament

The Racine on the Lake Tennis Tournament is going on this weekend. Here are photos from Saturday's preliminary round actions. The finals are Sunday afternoon at Lockwood Park. Stop by and support some great local players!

Police shoot man who tried to run over officers with van;
Suspect was wanted for sexual assault

The red and silver van driven by a suspect in a sexual assault. The suspect fled police in the van, which came to a stop in the 1500 block of Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Kevin J. Barz

UPDATE, 10:45 p.m.: The Racine Police Department just identified the subject as Chad J. Schuster, 31, who is "currently on parole and has an outstanding felony warrant for a parole violation." They also corrected parts of our report based on witness information. The changes are reflected in the original storybelow.

Here's the police report:
Subject: Sexual Assault Investigation Leads to Officer Involved Shooting

On today's date at approximately 6:32PM, Racine Police Department officers were approaching a suspect vehicle involved in an earlier sexual assault. While making their approach and giving commands and instructions to the occupants of that vehicle, they noticed that the vehicle operator had placed the vehicle in Reverse, and accelerated toward the approach positions of the officers.

The officers felt that they were in danger and having no opportunity to clear the path of the vehicle, an officer fired several rounds into the drivers’ side of the vehicle in an attempt to stop the attack on the officers by the vehicle operator. The officers jumped out of the way to safety, and a short vehicle pursuit began. The vehicle fled out of the area and was eventually pursued to the area of 1700B Main St where after a brief foot chase, the vehicle operator was arrested.

The vehicle operator under arrest was transported to Wheaton Franciscan for treatment related to a single gunshot wound to the back left side area. The suspect in the assault and the vehicle operator that is in custody are believed to be one and the same person. He is Chad J Schuster (10-01-77) of Racine and is currently on Parole. He does have an outstanding felony warrant for a Parole violation.

Witnesses to the sexual assault had called police and provided a detailed vehicle description including license plate that was broadcast to officers on Patrol. In addition to the vehicle description, information was also broadcast that the registered owner was Schuster, and that he had a felony warrant for his arrest. As a result of that radio broadcast, the officers had located the van in the east alley off of 20th and Franklin Sts. It was at this time, that officers attempted the approach to the vehicle resulting in the shots fired.

No officers were injured as a result of the confrontation with the suspect. The Department will be conducting an Internal Review of the circumstances of the shooting incident, while the Major Crimes Unit of the Racine Police Department continues its investigation into the Sexual Assault.

If you have any information related to this incident, you can call the Racine Police Department Investigations Unit at 635-7756, or Crimestoppers at 636-9330, or by texting to CRIMES (274637) and referring to Tipsoft I.D.# TIP417 with your text message.
Original post:

Racine police arrested a suspect Saturday afternoon who allegedly fired shots tried to run over officer's with a van on the city's south side.

The chase occurred near the DeKoven Center and ended in the 1500 block of Wisconsin Ave. 1700 block of S. Main St. Witnesses to the arrest said the suspect's van had a flat tire. A photo of the van shows a flat front driver's side tire.

The driver, 31-year-old Chad Schuster, of Racine, pulled over in the residential neighborhood and fled toward the lake down a hill. Witnesses who saw the suspect coming up the hill said he had a white bandage on his side. He was taken to St. Mary's Medical Center for treatment for non-life-threatening injuries.

The arrest allegedly occurred after police were investigating a sexual assault near the Pershing Park football field around 6 p.m. Police were searching for the suspect, who was driving a black and red van. The van was spotted near 20th and Franklin streets. Witnesses heard shots fired and a short vehicle chase ended on South Main St.

An officer shot Schuster after he shifted his van into reverse during the traffic stop and tried to runover the officers. The officer fired shots into the driver's side door of the van to try and stop the driver's attempt to injure the arresting officers.

No officers were injured in the incident.

Officers in the 1500 block of Wisconsin Ave. Photo by Kevin J. Barz

Festa di Zumba burns off the calories

Somehow, calisthenics in the hot sun take on a different dimension when the Drill Sergeant is replaced by half a dozen attractive and energetic Zumba instructors. And when the grunts Drill Sergeants make are replaced by Latin music ... well, you have the reason hundreds of Racinians were doing calisthenics ... um, dancing? in the hot sun at Festival Park on Saturday.

Racine's first Festa di Zumba helped open Roma Lodge's 31st Italian Festival, which takes place this weekend. Zumba, a dance-based aerobic workshop, set to Latin music, is making a name for itself here. We first noticed it at the Relay for Life a few weeks ago, but actually classes have been available since last summer. Local instructor Victor Nino will lead free Zumba classes on North Beach every Saturday in August, starting at 11 a.m.

As you can see from the pictures, men and women of all shapes and sizes were having a great time. More information about Racine Zumba events and classes is HERE.

Racine hosts national conference on wind energy and migratory birds

The Johnson Foundation recently hosted 30 top wildlife scientists who are committed to study the impact of wind energy on the migratory patterns of birds and bats.

Here's a release from the national conference, which was held at Windspread:
Scientists to Investigate Impacts of Wind Energy on Migratory Wildlife
Industry and conservation representatives set research priorities

Thirty top wildlife scientists have announced agreement on some of the highest research priorities to help America’s rapidly growing wind energy industry produce much-needed alternative energy—while also providing safe passage for birds and bats. This coalition of scientists from industry, government, nongovernmental organizations, and universities met recently in Racine, Wisconsin, to address unanswered questions about how continued wind energy development will affect migrating birds and bats. The meeting was hosted by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the American Bird Conservancy, and The Johnson Foundation at Wingspread.

“We see great potential in wind energy for addressing global climate change and reducing America’s reliance on fossil fuels,” said Dr. Michael Fry of the American Bird Conservancy. “It’s critical we act now to understand the interactions between wind energy installations and birds and bats.”

“Billions of birds migrate annually, taking advantage of the same wind currents that are most beneficial for producing wind energy,” said Dr. Andrew Farnsworth of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “We know that in some locations a small percentage of wind turbines may cause the majority of bird and bat deaths. For example, Altamont Pass, east of Oakland, Calif., is an extreme case: in an area used regularly by migrant and resident raptors, only a fraction of the 5,000 turbines are responsible for most of the raptor deaths annually. As wind power develops further, we need to know more about how placement, design, and operation impact birds and bats as well as how habitat and weather conditions affect potential hazards.”

The scientists addressed some of the critical information that could be collected using cutting-edge tools such as weather surveillance radar, thermal imaging, and microphones directed skyward to map migrations by day and night. New research will build upon monitoring and research studies of birds and bats before and after construction of existing wind energy facilities as well as work done by other researchers. The coalition appointed working groups to move this new research agenda forward. Top research priorities identified by the coalition include:
  • Studying bird and bat behaviors, and more accurately estimating mortality at existing wind turbines
  • Using current and newly-obtained information on bird and bat population numbers and distribution to focus research on critically important migratory routes and timing
  • Documenting how interactions of birds and bats with turbines are affected by factors such as weather, topography, and their distribution within airspace swept by wind turbine blades
  • Establish standardized methods for pre- and post-construction studies for assessing bird and bat behavior at wind facilities
  • Conduct research on best practices for mitigating the impacts of wind energy development on birds and bats
“Conducting this research will help the wind industry make informed, science-based decisions about where future wind energy projects can be built, and how they can be operated to minimize the impact on migrating wildlife, while still providing much-needed alternative energy,” said Dr. John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. “It will also help flesh out specific guidelines for wind farm construction being developed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.”

“Imagine if a similar effort had taken place at the turn of the 20th century with the auto industry and air quality,” said Kraig Butrum, President and CEO of the American Wind Wildlife Institute, an umbrella organization for the wind energy industry and environmental groups.

“We’d probably be in a completely different place when it comes to global climate change and energy dependence, because we considered environmental impact from the start.”

If only they'd build a car that gets 60 miles per gallon...

Three Citroen 2CVs; In foreground, an '84 Club with 52,000 miles

In these days of $3 and $4/gallon gasoline, what would make more sense than a little car that gets more than 60 miles per gallon? Too bad nobody's making them.

Ah, but they usedta! The proof took over Monument Square on Saturday, as some two dozen micro cars, from the '50s to the '80s were on display: shiny, quirky, gas-efficient. And, yes, it must be admitted, mostly small and mostly pretty slow.

Still ... if any had displayed a "For Sale" sign, I'd have gladly taken 'em home! There were lots of interestingl cars -- a '58 Berkley, an original VW Bug, a '65 Trabant, a '42 Crosley -- and a few motorcycles, but without counting on my fingers, three iconic, beautiful makes seemed to dominate:
  • The Isetta, whose front door (yes, it is in front!) opens like a refrigerator -- not surprising, since the company that originally developed the car first made kitchen appliances.
  • The Messerschmitt, whose see-through bubble top is a great middle ground between a hard top and a convertible.
  • The Citroen 2CV, best known by its name in French, the Deux Chevaux, represented here by some stunning convertibles in bright colors -- a far cry from the utilitarian gray examples I remember on the roads of Europe.
Hardest task of the day: filling out DRC's ballot for the People's Choice Award. *Winner below!

Each car, and its owner, had a story to tell. Here are a couple of them.

Messerschmitts: A red '55 KR200 and a white '57 KR201

The red and white Messerschmitts above are owned by Jim Garbo of Franksville. (Yes, he is the husband of the DRC's Jean Garbo.) Garbo got interested in Messerschmitts early: the red one, a 1955 KR200, was bought by his father when Jim was just nine, in 1969. "I've been driving it since I was eleven," he said -- and we had the good grace not to ask where.

Jim's dad took it to Florida, where it remained for 30 years, until Jim bought it and brought it back here. More recently it gained a companion, the white 1957 Kabinenroller KR201, one of only 300 built. It has just 2,700 original miles. (What did it cost? Don't ask; Jim would only say that Messerschmitts range in price today from $20,000 to $60,000.)

What makes the Kabinenroller so special? Jim ticks off its attributes: It's a Roadster with no side windows, just side curtains; it has extra lights; engine port holes for cooling; a chrome shift lever; snakeskin piping around the interior. The engine is 191 cc ... 9.6 horsepower. "My lawn mower has twice as much power," he says. It gets 60 mpg and will do "60 miles an hour downhill, with a tailwind."

Oh, yes, two other things: First, almost all Messerschmitts, like the ones displayed here today, have just three wheels. And they also have a four-speed transmission ... but no reverse! To make the car go backwards, you stop the engine, "then you push the key in and turn it the other way ... and the engine runs backwards." That's what Jim told me, anyway. When I get time, I'll Google it and fully expect to find he's pulling my leg.

'57 BMW Isetta

Jerry Zabin of Skokie, IL, is the proud owner of this '57 BMW Isetta. He can't really explain his affinity for the little cars, but says, "My eyes just go to it. I just love it. I can't believe that one cylinder gets me to work." Jerry is a high school social worker, and loves to give students a ride.

He says the car is a never-ending source of conversation. "I go to gas stations, where people never talk to you, and constantly make new friends. It just brings people together." He's had three different Isettas over the past 20 years, "but this is my keeper," he says. How'd he find it? The owner called him -- having seen his name in a listing of Isetta owners -- and said, "I see you have an Isetta; would you like to buy another?" Actually, Jerry had recently sold his previous Isetta, so he and his wife went to see the car and found it "untouched... it had sat for 50 years in the owner's barn." (Note to anyone with a pristine car, preferably a 356 Porsche, sitting under a tarp in your barn for 50 years: CALL ME!!)

"I couldn't believe my eyes," Jerry said. It was a convertible; it even has the original 1959 and 1960 Wilmette registration stickers on the windshield, as well as the original vehicle break-in instructions from the factory. It even started! Yes, it needed brakes and some engine work, but still...!!

Isettas get 60 mpg from their 300 cc engines, and can reach speeds of 60 mph. Sorta. "You start on Monday and by Thursday it's up to 60 mph," Jerry says. His has a window sticker warning, "Get in, sit down, shut up... and hold on!" Isettas in top condition sell for $14,00 to $16,000.

'68 Velorex 16/350

The information sheet on this car describes its tubular construction, covered by vinyl panels. The car weighs 683 lbs and is powered by a 350 cc engine that develops 17 hp. Owner Glenn Bukac says the car has a maximum s0eed of 53 mph but the "amusement factor is off the charts."

Spec sheet from a '63 D.A.F. Daffodil from the Netherlands

A JZR Morgan reproduction, powered by a Honda motorcycle

Closer look at a '73 Fiat 500L

'55 Messerschmitt KR200

*People's Choice Award winner, "by a large margin," was Dr. Mac Jones' '55 Messerschmitt, KR200, painted an eye-popping Rosebud Pink (or is it Mary Kay pink?). The car hails from Somerville, TN.

For lots more information about microcars, visit -- online or in person -- the Bruce Weiner Microcar Museum in Madison, GA. They even have some cars for sale: mostly marques we never heard of: a 1959 Goggomobil, a 1951 Kover, a 1953 Rovin D4, a 1951 Mochet CM 125 Luxe, a 1955 Kleinschnittger ... we could go on, but you get the picture! Be the first on your block to own a Kleinschnittger! It's a fully restored, pretty red convertible and only $35,000... (and has an engine the size of a weedwhacker -- 125cc).

July 24, 2009

YWCA lays off executive director

Shelley Bobb was laid off as executive director of the YWCA seven months after she took over the nonprofit organization.

Terri Friedrich, who owns the local business Custom Employment Solutions, is taking over the YWCA as volunteer executive director. Friedrich will be unpaid.

"The board tried to keep her (Bobb), but we couldn't afford her," Friedrich said.

Bobb moved to Racine in January from Madison. She had worked for 25 years as a Lutheran pastor.

Along with her business, Friedrich is an adjunct professor at Gateway Technical College. She also sold an earlier business that she'd started.

Friedrich said she hopes to stay on as executive director until the YWCA stabilizes its finances.

"I'm here to help the the Y crawl out of their hole," she said.

The YWCA has gone through major changes in recent years. Once located Downtown, the agency sold its building and split into three programs: Youth Education, the Empowering Women Center and the Riverbend Nature Center. It also replaced former Executive Director Debbi Embry with Bobb.

While Bobb leaving is another major change, there are signs of hope, Friedrich said.

YWCA's Kids Klub recently won a prestigious award, Riverbend turned a profit in recent months and the Empowering Women Center received a contract to work with the state's Department of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Friedrich also noted that canoe and kayak rentals are available daily from 8:30-4:30 p.m. at Riverbend for $5 an hour with a two-hour minimum. You need a driver's license and credit card for the rental.

Community Conversation on Health Care this Sunday from 1-4 p.m.

Community for Change is bringing the national health care debate down to the local level Sunday with a public forum on the controversial issue.

The "Community Conversation on Health Care Reform: Expo and Forum" will take place from 1-4 p.m. at Racine’s Masonic Center, 1012 S. Main St.

The event will feature an expo in the main ballroom of approximately 40 health care organizations and businesses that will have displays and representatives highlighting their services. Some of the organizations who will be in attendance include:
  • Lincoln Lutheran Home
  • Health Care Network
  • Racine Community Health Center
  • Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) of Racine County
  • Racine Health Department Programs
  • Medical Support Services
The public forum will feature community leaders with presentations from individuals and health care professionals. The forum will take place from 1 to 3pm in the Doric Room, and presenters include:
  • Kenosha Community Health Center
  • Racine County Wisconsin Well Women Program
  • Racine County Birth to 3 Program
  • NAMI
  • Linda Stengel and Arthur Shattuck on Alternative Medical Practices
Community for Change will also host a learning center and action area on the ballroom mezzanine where attendees may get information on legislation in process and write letters to elected officials with their thoughts and ideas as debate on reform continues. Fitness demonstrations of Zoomba, Jazzercise and massage therapy will take place from 1 to 3pm in the Egyptian Room.

The afternoon will conclude with a special presentation at 3pm in the Doric Room by:
  • Wisconsin State Representative Cory Mason
  • Barb Tylenda, Director of Health Care Network
  • Ron Thomas of the United Way and AFL‐CIO
  • Pastor Melvin Hargrove of ZoĆ« Outreach Ministries
The Masonic Center is handicapped accessible with an elevator entrance on the North side of the building. Spanish translators will be available. Limited parking will be available at the Masonic Center, there is on the street parking available on Main and Wisconsin and additional parking at Gateway Technical College at 1001 S. Main.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information please contact Community for Change at www.communityforchange.com or email communityforchange@gmail.com

Community for Change is a comprehensive coalition of grassroots organizations committed to promoting HOPE, ACTION and CHANGE in our world and within our community.

In partnership with Organizing for America, the members of Community for Change work together to coordinate information and resources relevant to issues of public policy, grassroots organizing and electoral politics that directly benefit our community and enhance the lives of its residents.

Health Care Forum: Heading for golden years, dementia shatters couple's dreams

Maribel and Melvin Salo were planning to live in Spain two months out of the year. It's where the Racine couple met and Maribel still had family and friends living in the Mediterranean city Alicante.

"We felt we had it made," Maribel said. "These were the golden years. We had everything planned out. Even if something happened, we thought we were set."

Maribel Salo. Image taken from the video, "Mel's Story" produced for Community
for Change's Health Care Forum
at the Masonic Center, 1012 Main St., 1-4 p.m.

When you hear stories about breakdowns in our health care system, this phrase often comes up: "We did everything right." That's the case with the Salos.

Mel served in the U.S. Air Force for 20 years and left the service as a highly trained electrical engineer. He took a job at Grove Gear in Union Grove and the Salos bought a home in Sturtevant. Maribel worked at day cares and kindergarten classrooms. They had two children and now six grandchildren. They saved money and had good benefits their whole life.

Mel's dementia came on slowly. At first his "rush, rush" personality, as Maribel called it, turned into a more laid back attitude. Then one night they went to a neighbor's house to play dominoes. Mel, an electrical engineer who is brilliant at math, couldn't add the numbers.

A neurologist diagnosed him with frontotemporal dementia. There is no cure or even medicine to slow the disease's effects, and as it progresses, the patient requires heightened levels of medical care.

At first, Mel stayed at home. But Maribel couldn't lift him, then he became violent with her and one night he disappeared for six hours. Mel was found walking along the interstate. Maribel looked into 24-hour nursing care in their home, but it was too expensive. She made the difficult decision to move him to a nursing home, but that still costs $7,000 a month.

Now, just four years after he was diagnosed, the Salos' savings are gone. Mel, now 70, is living in the Becker-Shoop Center nursing home and Maribel is living in their house in Sturtevant. She can't work because she cares for Mel all day, and her money is running out.

"At night I go to sleep thinking, "How am I going to pay for this?'" Maribel said.

She's not alone. A recent study found medical bills accounted for 62 percent of all bankruptcy filings in the U.S. Three-quarters of the people who filed had medical insurance, and the numbers amounted to one medical bankruptcy every 90 seconds.

Maribel and Mel Salo during the recording of "Mel's Story" produced for Community
for Change's
Health Care Forum at the Masonic Center, 1012 Main St., 1-4 p.m.

But Maribel's case runs deeper than money. Mel's dementia consumes her life. She'd like to bring him home and have nurses help care for him there, but it's just too expensive. She's found some relief through organizations like Hospice and a local organization that provides respite care, but is concerned the nursing home staff doesn't have the time (or in some cases the interest) to care for Melvin how she'd like to see.

"I don't want them to put him by the window and forget about him," she said.

So Maribel shows up daily at breakfast, lunch and dinner to feed him and to try and stimulate his brain. She gets a few hours in the evening to herself, otherwise it's back and forth to the nursing home. Her family in Spain is hoping she'll come visit in November, but she's reluctant.

"I'm worried he won't get the care he needs," Maribel said.

I interviewed Maribel in the chapel at the Becker-Shoop Center nursing home in Racine. Mel was by her side in a wheelchair, but now, four years after he was diagnosed, he can no longer speak or walk. Only his eyes offer any type of expression. They seem bewildered.

While the Mel she describes as a handsome, outgoing man is gone, Maribel is devoted to her husband of 45 years. She visits three times daily to feed Mel - he struggles to swallow - and try anything to get his mind moving. On this day she'd just bought him a light-up children's toy Mel held in his hand. Maribel said it held his attention.

"I can do it for him because he would do it for me," she said.

But emotionally, Mel's illness is a hardship for Maribel.

"He was the person who I always relied on," she said. "He was a rock to lean on, and now I'm all alone."

She didn't have specific recommendations on how she'd like to change the health care system, she just believes there's a better way. Losing Mel to dementia is pain enough, she said but to lose a lifetime of savings just to keep him in a nursing home simply compounds the difficulty.

Maribel counsels herself she has to be strong. "You have no idea what tomorrow will bring," she said. "There is always hope tomorrow."

But the grief and stress leave their marks. "It's sometimes hard to think this way," she admits. "You think, 'Am I able to continue?'"

What would help is being home with Mel. His condition may not improve, but at least he'd be in a familiar environment with people he knew, she said.

"It would be much, much easier," Maribel said. "It would be more comfortable."

Community for Change's Health Care Forum is Sunday from 1-4 p.m. at the Masonic Center, 1012 Main St. The non-partisan event is free and open to the public.

July 23, 2009

Surprise at Racine's criterium: an American wins!

'Round and 'round they went. Eighty-three of the fastest cyclists in the world sped around Downtown's figure eight course in a tight peloton, competing Thursday evening in the Racine.org Criterium, a stop on the Superweek Pro Tour, a leg of the International Cycling Classic. The race was brought here, for the second year in a row, by the Racine County Convention and Visitors Bureau. RCCVB president Dave Blank said the organization paid about $17,000 to bring the race here and to stage it. "It's a great way to showcase Racine," he said.

Tomorrow, the racers go to Kenosha, and then to Milwaukee and Whitefish Bay.

The race up Main Street, down Wisconsin Avenue, with a brief circle on Lake Avenue, State and Third Streets took slightly more than two hours, as the cyclists marked off 88 laps. And when it was all over there was a big surprise: an American won! Brad Huff of Springfield, MO, who was 15th overall so far on the tour, was one of six cyclists fighting for the lead -- and sprinted to victory on the final lap.

Before today, Huff's best performances on this year's tour had been a 7th in Hales Corners on July 20; 11th in Richton Park, IL, on July 13; 23rd at Arlington Heights on July 14; and 19th in Milwaukee on July 22.

Second place today went to Ricardo Van Der Velde of the Netherlands; third place to Ronnie Strange of Houston.

Jay Thomson of South Africa won the sprint champion's red jacket; the yellow leader's jacket was retained by the overall leader in this year's event, Bernard Solzberger of Australia.

Announcer's leaderboard toward the end of the race
Racine Police Sgt. Rick Toeller aimed radar gun at the leaders; here 23 mph
Racer gets a massage in the parking lot
Dave Blank of the RCCVB, far left, with Racine's winners:
L-R, Van Der Velde, Huff, Strange, Thomson and Solzberger