Washington Evening Journal
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Fairfield voters approve new fire station
Fairfield voters approved a bond measure on March 1 to build a new fire station in town.
Of the 704 votes cast, three-quarters were a “yes” vote in favor of allowing the city to bond up to $5 million for a fire station that the city plans to build at the corner of West Briggs Avenue and North Fourth Street.
The yes votes totaled 529 (75.14 percent) and the no votes totaled 175 (24.86 percent).
Fairfield Fire Chief Scott Vaughan said he was humbled by the community’s support for the project. He said he is looking forward to the three-story training tower that will be built as part of the construction of a new fire station, which will give firefighters the chance to train for real life scenarios.
“We’re looking forward to having a safer building where we’re not spreading carcinogens around like we were before,” Vaughan said.
Vaughan was alluding to how the new station will separate the offices from the truck bays, changing areas and shower areas, which will have special ventilation. Vaughan has said the current building is not ideal because its sleeping quarters open to the truck bay, so firefighters are exposed to fumes and the contaminants brought back from a fire.
Vaughan said he is proud of all the work put into this project by Fairfield City Engineer Melanie Carlson and the members of the Fire Station Task Force who studied where to put the new station.
Fairfield City Administrator Aaron Kooiker said the city is thankful for the vote of confidence from the town’s residents.
“The new fire station will be a cornerstone for the future in public safety, service and economic growth within the community,” Kooiker said.
FHS renames gym after Dan Breen
The renaming of Fairfield High School’s gymnasium was made official Friday, Dec. 2, 2022 night during a ceremony to honor longtime girls’ basketball coach Dan Breen.
Breen has the distinction of being Fairfield’s first girls’ basketball coach, its winningest, and the only one to coach the team during the six-on-six era. That’s why it was an easy decision for the Fairfield school board to vote to rename FHS’s gym the “Dan Breen Gymnasium” earlier this summer, after a letter-writing campaign led by Breen’s former players.
On Friday night, Breen was honored between the varsity girls’ and boys’ basketball games against Washington. Breen was joined at center court by his wife Tina, his children, dozens of former players and assistant coaches, and his good friend Ron Hunerdosse, who gave a speech to mark the renaming of the gym.
Fairfield Activities Director Jeff Courtright presented Breen with a plaque that includes a photo of Breen celebrating the Trojanettes’ state title in 1983, along with a list of Breen’s accomplishments during his 16-year tenure as head coach: an overall record of 334-60, 94 consecutive home victories, 13 conference championships, five consecutive appearances in the state Final 4 (1982-1986), and the 1983 state championship.
When Breen had his turn at the microphone Friday night, he told the packed gym that he couldn’t take credit for all the wins his players amassed over the years.
“It’s almost a little embarrassing to get all this recognition all these years later,” Breen told The Union. “I just see this as the Trojanette gym. When I see [my name] above the entrance, it reminds me of all the Trojanettes who played there. This was a showcase for their talents. My job as a coach was to highlight their God-given abilities.”
Fairfield’s Stutzman world champ in archery
Fairfield’s Matt Stutzman is a world champion.
Stutzman captured the gold crown at the World Para Archery Championship in February in the city of Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Stutzman described the games as the “next biggest thing” after the Paralympics, which he has competed in three times.
Stutzman was born with no arms and has adopted the moniker “The Armless Archer.” At these archery contests, he normally competes against people who have full use of their arms. But in the finals of this competition, he faced a fellow archer who also had no arms, a man named Aleksandr Gombozhapov of Russia.
This match was the first final in history where two archers without arms competed against each other. Earlier in these same games, Stutzman had fulfilled a dream of competing against another armless archer, Belgium’s Piotr Van Montagu.
The match between Stutzman and Gombozhapov was a classic case of a challenger meeting their idol. Stutzman has been competing in archery for more than a decade, and has made a name for himself with his inspirational life story of overcoming obstacles, not to mention his incredible accuracy as an archer, which earned him a silver medal at the London 2012 Paralympic Games.
Stutzman wears a special harness that allows him to draw the arrow back with his shoulder and release it with his mouth. He steadies the bow with his leg. The only difference with Gombozhapov is that Stutzman uses his right leg and Gombozhapov uses his left leg.
In the finals, Stutzman was flawless. He needed to shoot a perfect score — all bull's-eyes — to grab the gold, and that’s exactly what he did. After the final shots that solidified Stutzman as the champion, his first act was to congratulate Gombozhapov and to give him a hat, which Stutzman signed.
Fair Field Productions releases fourth film in Fairfield History Series
Fair Field Productions debuted its fourth documentary in the Fairfield History Series at the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center in May. The film is called “Ahead of Their Time” and covered 15 short but “unforgettable local history stories” from award-winning documentarian Dick DeAngelis, producer and director of the series that he has now half finished, since he is planning to do eight films in all.
Viewers were treated to vignettes featuring Fairfield’s earliest entrepreneurs such as John Huff, Joel Turney, William Louden, and Dr. Mrs. Rebecca Keck, who helped Fairfield survive the wild 1800s.
“Using rarely seen pictures and clips, expert interviews, and even a hand-drawn animation short, this film reveals Fairfield’s groundbreaking inventors and entrepreneurs, as well as people who crossed the cultural stereotypes of the time,” DeAngelis said.
The film was shown using the Fairfield Arts & Convention Center’s new cinema-grade projection system.
This fourth film in the series was a labor of love whose release date was pushed back because the pandemic interrupted filming. Fair Field Productions released its first three films in the series in three consecutive years from 2017-19, beginning with “Life Before Fairfield” about the area’s prehistoric and Native American history, then “Heroes of Fairfield” featuring abolitionists, war veterans and other local residents who’ve done great things, and most recently “A Place to Grow” about the history of agriculture in Jefferson County.
Maharishi School welcomes 4 Ukrainian students
Maharishi School welcomed four Ukrainian high school students in the summer of 2022, all of whom are staying in the school’s boarding house while the rest of the families remain in Europe.
The four are Mariia, Helena, Sonya and Sviatoslav (who goes by Sviat). Their lives were turned upside down when Russia invaded Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022. Their families fled, with some of them going to Western Ukraine and some to Turkey.
These brave youngsters were determined to continue their studies somehow, even if it meant going to a new country. They began searching for schools in the United States through the website niche.com, and discovered that the site rated Maharishi School in Fairfield as the top private school in Iowa. They liked that the school practiced yoga and meditation. They got in touch with the school to see if they could come.
Carol Chesnutt, former enrollment director at Maharishi School, was one of the key drivers in raising funds for the students to come to Fairfield. She started a GoFundMe account for the students. They would need to raise a little over $20,000 per student per year.
Initially, Chesnutt thought she was raising money for three Ukrainian students, but a fourth, Sonya, contacted the school to say she wanted to come, too. Ellen Jones and Janet Nichols stepped up to help raise another $20,000.
Chesnutt said the fundraising drive was so successful that they raised more than enough to cover the four Ukrainians, and are using the extra money to sponsor a fifth student at Maharishi School.
Chesnutt said she received donations from all over the country, including a group of women from Atlanta who were enthusiastic about helping young girls, and two foundations that have committed to help two of the students for the next two years.
“They all lost their housing, education opportunities, and their parents lost their jobs,” Chesnutt said. “For two of the students, their banks were bombed so they had no access to their savings.”
Fairfield High’s new principal grateful for Iowans’ generosity
No one has felt the love and warmth of “Iowa nice” as much as Fairfield High School’s new principal Aiddy Phomvisay, who took on the role this school year after former FHS principal Brian Stone stepped down at the end of last school year.
Phomvisay and his family moved to the state when he was 7 years old, after they had lived for three years in a refugee camp in Thailand. A church in the small town of Alta, in northwest Iowa, took in Phomvisay, his parents and five siblings.
When Phomvisay enrolled in first grade, he didn’t speak a word of English. His father wrote a message on a piece of paper and put it in Phomvisay’s pocket, and told him to show it to the teachers when he had to use the bathroom.
Phomvisay and his family are from Laos. His father served in the Royal Lao Army, and trained in the United States with the 101st Airborne. He went to armor school and Ranger school, and was a member of the Central Intelligence Agency’s “Secret Army” that fought in Laos during the Vietnam War.
When the Communists took control of Laos in 1975, they arrested Phomvisay’s father and put him in a prison where he was tortured. Fortunately, he was able to escape, but it was not safe for him and his family to remain in Laos, so they fled to Thailand when Phomvisay was just 4 years old.
The family spent three years in a Thai refugee camp, and Phomvisay’s youngest sister was even born in the camp. They were so grateful when they learned that the Methodist Church in Alta would sponsor them to come to Iowa in 1979. It was part of then Iowa Gov. Robert Ray’s refugee resettlement program.
“We were the first Laotian family in Alta,” Phomvisay said. “It was all because of Gov. Ray’s leadership, and the kindness of churches and communities that sponsored Southeast Asians to come to Iowa. I’m the product of that generosity and kindness, so I feel extremely grateful. When we do this for every child, where all are welcome, we can achieve anything.”
Members of the church and local teachers fixed up a house for the Phomvisay family. The church paid for the family’s flight to America, but Phomvisay’s father was so proud that he insisted on paying it back, which he did. Phomvisay’s mother and father worked at a local turkey processing plant called Bil-Mar, and his father worked a side job as a night custodian at a bowling alley.
The care and attention that Phomvisay’s teachers gave to him and his siblings inspired him to go into teaching. Since they spoke no English, teachers and volunteers immersed them in the language. They met in a tiny room where the siblings worked on reading and writing.
“That set us on a course for success,” Phomvisay said. “We quickly became proficient in English as a result of these teachers and volunteers, and that’s why I went into education.”
Pekin has new administration
Students in the Pekin Community School District saw a number of new faces when they returned to the classroom from their summer break.
Pekin not only has 10 new teachers in the district in 2022-23, but also four new administrators. Each of these administrators are also in their first year in their role, and they all hope to bring a fresh perspective to the job.
All four are either from Southeast Iowa or previously taught at a neighboring school district, so they feel right at home at Pekin.
Derek Philips, a graduate of Van Buren High School, is the school’s new superintendent. Joining him in the central office is the new dean of students and activities director Alex Rebling, who previously taught at Pekin for four years before his most recent assignment with the Fairfield School District, where he also coached junior high baseball.
The district has two new principals as well. Shawn Dorman will be in charge of grades 7-12. Before taking this job, Dorman taught in the Fairfield High School from 2014-2022.
Jenny Bell will be in charge of grades preschool through sixth. She grew up in Sigourney, and taught in the Sigourney School District for 17 years.
Fairfield’s Flanagan, Hannes to state doubles
FAIRFIELD — As the semifinal round came to a close at the May 9 district tennis meet in Fairfield, Cedar Rapids Xavier had already locked up three of the four state tournament spots up for grabs. Fairfield’s Garrett Flanagan and Jace Hannes refused to give the Saints the fourth.
Flanagan and Hannes battled tooth and nail with Xavier’s Trenton Link and Ryan Schmit. The Trojans grinded out a three-set win (7-5, 2-6, 12-10) to earn their first trip ever to the state tournament.
“They don’t expect Fairfield to win,” said Flanagan. “Xavier has been winning state for the past few years, so everybody started cheering for us.”
It was the Trojans’ second tiebreaker win of the day. Flanagan and Hannes nipped Maharishi’s Dominic Dupoux and Jay Wegman 3-6, 6-4, 10-7 in the opening round before sweeping Luke Thomas and Brendon Worster 6-0, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
“We were taking it like the 10-point tiebreaker earlier today,” Flanagan said. “Just one point at a time.”
After rallying back to take a 9-8 lead, the Trojans failed on two-straight attempts to end the game on match-point, but Flanagan and Hannes kept each other calm for the all important last two points.
“The second you realize your partner is starting to lose track of what’s the bigger picture, that’s when you’ve got to be like, ‘it happens.’” Hannes said.
Pekin girls 4X800 team makes history
DES MOINES — History didn’t wait to show it’s face at the 2022 state track meet in Des Moines.
As fans were still pouring in to Drake Stadium, Pekin’s quartet of Audrey Farris, Lauren Derscheid, Makenzie Dahlsrtom and Sarah Eubanks were celebrating the school’s first 4X800 championship ever.
The Panthers crossed the finish line in 9 minutes, 55.02 seconds, just edging South Winneshiek for the title
“This is my last time with these three, so I'm really glad we came across the finish line first,” said sophomore Audrey Fariss. “It's the best feeling I've ever felt.”
The race stayed tight for Fariss’ first leg. Derscheid, one of three seniors in the group, took the second leg right to the front of the race.
“I love having competition to run after,” Derscheid said. “At state, there is obviously a lot of really good competition, so I was really excited for that.”
Dahlstrom and Eubanks did the rest.
“It was so exciting,” Dahlstrom said. “We’re just such a close team. It’s kind of surreal to feel.”
Eubanks held off South Winneshiek’s Eryn Sabelka in a two-horse race to the line.
“It was very, very cool,” Eubanks said. “This is a very special moment.”
Fairfield’s Kelsey Pacha qualifies for five events at Drake Relays
DES MOINES — Fairfield’s Kelsey Pacha has been a standout in track and field for some time now.
Her talents were on display once again in the 2022 Drake Relays.
Pacha led all Union area athletes with four total events in the relays, while qualifying of a total of five.
“Last year, I qualified in four events and this year as a senior my goals was five,” Pacha said. “They threw me in the 400 hurdles, now I wish I had that 4x100 spot back. Being able to meet the five event goal meant a lot just to prove to myself that I could do it.”
Pacha competed in the 100-meter hurdles, 400-meter hurdles, shuttle hurdle relay and long jump. She also qualified in the 4x100.
In the 100-meter hurdles, Pacha came in with the 27th best time in the state. With unfavorable conditions in the event Pacha, along with teammate Anna Dunlap, was unable to earn a spot in the finals.
Pacha was seventh-place finisher at state last year and will be one of the top hurdlers again.
Pacha finished 18th in the long jump finals. She entered the competition with a 12th best leap in the state. After scratching her first two jumps, she bounced back with a 16 feet 2.25 inches jump for 18th.