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September 12, 2013 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Homeless Murder Trial Underway at Story County Courthouse

Glenn Smith, 50, Credit: Story County Jail.

Glenn Smith, 50, Credit: Story County Jail.

(The first in a series of blog posts about a homeless murder trial)

The second murder trial of a homeless drifter accused of killing another man at a homeless camp in south Ames in 2008 is underway today at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada.

Glenn A. Smith, 50, is accused of stabbing Danny McGonigle to death during a fight in May of 2008. Smith and McGonigle got into a fist fight and wrestling match near a wooded area south of the Department of Transportation after spending the day drinking May 19, 2008.

Smith walked away from the fight with a scrape to his knee and cuts on his hand. McGonigle died on the way to the hospital. He had 32 stab wounds to his face, neck and chest area.

Smith was originally found guilty of second-degree murder in April of 2009. However the verdict was set aside in December of 2009 after Smith’s attorneys asked for a new trial saying that the verdict was contrary to the evidence.

Smith admitted to stabbing McGonigle, but has said it was an act of self defense.

The new trial has been delayed until this week because Smith had been diagnosed with a mental disorder while in jail.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.

(Second post in a series of posts on homeless murder trial)

Attorney: If He Dies Roll Him Into the Creek

“If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him into the creek.”

Those were the last words heard by Danny McGonigle before his death, Story County Attorney Tiffany Meredith told the jury in opening statements Thursday in the murder trial of Glenn Smith.

Smith, 50, is accused of stabbing McGonigle to death in May of 2008 after the pair of homeless drifters spent the day drinking and got into an argument.

After the fight, Smith told a third homeless man, Larry Fowler, “If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him into the creek,” Meredith told the jury.

Meredith said Smith arrived in Ames just a few days before the murder and met Larry Fowler, another homeless man, and asked for McGonigle. Meredith told the jury that the men involved in the fight and Fowler, who was in a tent nearby, were all homeless drifters by choice. McGonigle and Fowler chose to live in a wooded area south of the Department of Transportation and Fowler had a job, Meredith said.

Smith and McGonigle came to Fowler’s camp with a 30-pack of beer on the evening of May 18 and Smith asked Fowler to come out and drink, she said.

Fowler will testify that he thought he saw the men get into a fist fight later and saw some swings and saw them rolling on the ground, Meredith said.

Smith had a scrape to his knee and a cut to his thumb and he walked away, she said.

“McGonigle suffered not one stab wound, not two, but 32 stab wounds,” Meredith said.

After the fight was over Smith told Fowler, “You never saw me. If he lives, he lives. If he dies roll him in the creek,” Meredith told the jury.

Meredith said what Fowler saw next was a lot of blood and a seriously injured McGonigle.

Fowler called 911 and waited for help to arrive.

Meredith said there is no question that Smith stabbed McGonigle.

“He stabbed him repeatedly,” Meredith said.

But Meredith said there was no justification, it was not done in self-defense.

“It was murder,” Meredith said.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.

(Third in  a series of posts on a homeless murder trial)

‘Stop Fighting I’ll Get an Ambulance’

Defense Attorney Patrick Peters told a jury Thursday, that a homeless drifter only stabbed another to save himself during a drunken fight in May of 2008.

The second murder trial for Glenn A Smith, 50, began Thursday at the Story County Courthouse in Nevada. Smith is accused of stabbing Danny McGonigle in a homeless camp south of the Iowa Department of Transportation building on May 19, 2008. McGonigle died en route to the hospital. He had 32 stab wounds.

“What do you do in the dark of night, in the woods, when a much larger man without a logical or discernible purpose in a drunken rage, charges you and threatens to kick your head in and threatens to kill you and begins to assault you?” Peters asked the jury. “What do you do, when that man will not stop?”

McGonigle, who stood three inches taller and outweighed Smith by 45 pounds, was the aggressor, Peters said. Smith just wanted to drink beer, he said.

Deadly force is justified when that person believes he is in danger, Peters said. For murder to be proven, Peters said, prosecutors will have to show that there was an evil intent before the act.

“Not during the act, not after,” Peters said.

Peters said Smith arrived in Ames with another man just days before the death.

Smith spent his first night sleeping near the gate of a golf course before befriending a third homeless man named Larry Fowler, Peters said.

When Fowler had to leave for work, Smith ended up meeting McGonigle near Hy-Vee and the pair spent the day drinking before returning to Fowler’s campsite about 11:30 p.m., Peters said.

Smith didn’t know that Fowler and McGonigle had a history and that Fowler had banned McGonigle from his campsite before, Peters said.

The argument began when McGonigle didn’t want to share his beer with Fowler.

Peters said that Smith didn’t argue but that McGonigle punched Smith twice in the face.

Fowler then came out of his tent and saw McGonigle walk to his bike, Peters said. McGonigle then asked Fowler why he was looking at his bike. Fowler said he wasn’t looking at his bike and McGonigle then charged Smith, Peters said.

Peters said McGonigle hit Smith and kicked him and the pair fell to the ground wrestling when the stabbings took place. Once Smith had the upper hand and sat upon McGonigle he didn’t hit or stab McGonigle, Peters said.

“What he says is ‘Stop fighting. I’ll get an ambulance’,” Peters said.

Peters said this is where the stories of the prosecution and defense diverge.

Smith took two beers and left, Peters said. Fowler said Smith walked north to Hy-Vee. Smith said he walked south toward Highway 30. Fowler called 911 and a belligerent McGonigle swore at paramedics who tried to help him and threatened to kill Smith almost a dozen times, Peters said.

Doctors will tell the jury that none of McGonigle’s injuries were debilitating enough to stop an attack, Peters said. Evidence will show that the stab wounds came from different directions indicating that both men’s positions were constantly changing, Peters said.

Smith had no motive to kill McGonigle.

“All Glenn wanted to do is drink,” Peters said.

* This story originally ran Thursday, May 30, 2013.

May 30, 2013 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Colleagues in Disbelief as ‘Fearless’ Barbara Mack, an Iowa Journalism Legend, Passes Away

Aug. 24, 2012 on

Barbara Mack Memorial

Barbara Mack Memorial

News of the death of Barbara Mack, an Iowa State University professor who impacted students and journalists across the state, came as a shock to her former students and colleagues who called her a wonderful mentor and friend.

Professor Tom Beell, who had an office next to Mack’s, found himself in a state of disbelief despite the fact that Mack had, had some scary health episodes over the years.

“Anyone who knew Barbara, knew she was an indestructible person. … It was easy for me to assume that she would outlive us all,” Beell said.

Mack, 59, an attorney and an Iowa State University journalism professor since 1986, was found unresponsive in her home early Thursday. Mack was set to retire in December.

“We expected that she would have a chance to enjoy her retirement with her husband,” Beell said.

Mack thought she was having a heart attack Wednesday and was released from the hospital after a checkup, according to a statement released by the Iowa State University news service. When her husband, Jim Giles, went to check on her at about 5:30 a.m. Thursday, he “found her gone.”

Kathleen Richardson, executive secretary of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and also the director of the Drake School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said Mack was a person of great intelligence and good humor.

“She lived life fearlessly and to the fullest. It’s a great loss for the journalism education community and for the Iowa Freedom of Information community.”

Mack graduated from Iowa State University and earned a law degree from Drake University in 1977. She also worked for the Des Moines Register as a reporter and a corporate attorney, and as an assistant to former President Martin Jischke.

Richardson, who worked with Mack when she was an attorney at the Register and through the Information Council, said that Mack is both a journalism and legal legend in the state.

“I don’t think that is over stating it. She had such a big personality. She was so smart and funny and such a leading figure in media law and journalism education. I frequently run into working journalists who had Barb as their media law professor and say ‘It was the best class I ever took,’” Richardson said.

Mack could command the attention of hundreds of students at a time preventing them from slipping into their own world by talking to an individual student or bumping their chairs, Beell said.

“She had a wonderful sense of humor, and students enjoyed that,” he said.

She didn’t tell jokes, but she talked about things in an entertaining way that appealed to students, he said.

Mack often made light of herself telling students that she raced down Interstate 35 from Des Moines putting on her panty hose as she drove, said Julie Roosa, a DMACC professor of journalism and law and faculty adviser for the Banner News. She is also a former student of Mack at Iowa State.

Mack’s husband Giles had retired from Principal Financial and had been urging Mack to join him. Beell said Mack might have continued teaching not only for financial reasons but also because she had a great love for students who loved her back.

“Her students by and large really love her,” Beell said. “She was tough and she wouldn’t let people slide through. She made people work and some people didn’t like that.”

Roosa said she found herself in awe of Mack as an Iowa State student studying journalism in the early 1990s.

“I wanted her to be proud of me. … I am going to impress Barb Mack because she impresses me,” Roosa said.

“She had a way of engaging with students and helping them,” Beell said. “She could be an extraordinary friend to students who needed help. She was a surrogate mother for some of these people,” Beell said.

Beell said he’s often seen football players waiting outside Mack’s office door. She counseled a lot of athletes and they listened to her, he said. She had the same kind of connection with faculty.

Faculty often sought out Mack for a range of professional and personal advice.

“I did myself,” Beell said.

Beell said she would counsel people through their marriages and help people decide whether they should go to the doctor.

Roosa said with Mack’s retirement nearing, the school was obviously working on a plan to replace her.

“But she is irreplaceable even if it hadn’t (happened in a) tragic way it wouldn’t be the same place without her,” Roosa said.

Beell agrees:

“In the old days you had what you call Renaissance men, guys with a range of wonderful skills they’ve picked up. Barbara Mack was a modern day Renaissance woman, she knew a little about everything and it was wonderful to talk to her about any topic,” Beell said. “She was a wonderful colleague and she will be terribly missed.”

August 24, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

VIDEO: Howard Snider, Ames Police Officer, Remembered Saturday

Hundreds attended a funeral held for Sgt. Howard Snider at Cornerstone Church Saturday, (June 25, 2012)

Family and friends of Ames Police Sgt. said goodbye Saturday to a gruff and tough marine, mentor and police officer who once posed for a photo with blank bullets sticking out of every hole in his face.

Snider, 51, died June 17, after jumping into Lake Geode in an attempt to reach his daughter who had drifted from a ramp in a fishing boat.

His funeral was held Saturday at Cornerstone Church.

A childhood friend and fellow officers made it sound as if Snider was the last person a bad man would want after him and perhaps not the first person wanted at a rescue.

Steve Wilson, who grew up with Snider in the small Iowa town of Fort Madison, said Snider once hung Wilson’s younger brother David out of a moving car and forced him to imitate superman before pulling him back inside. When Wilson crashed his motorcycle into a tree — smashing his left foot, left hand and knocking himself out in the process — he woke up with Snider standing over him.

“There’s Howard kicking me, calling me a few choice words and telling me to get back on my bike, so Howard is a man of great sympathy,” Wilson said filling Cornerstone Church with laughter.

Wilson said some will remember Snider’s death as a great tragedy: dying trying to save his daughter on Father’s Day.

But Wilson said not to think of it that way.

Wilson said Snider’s back wasn’t hurting as much as it had been and he was spending the day fishing with his wife and children. They were the people who meant the most to him, Wilson said.

“He went out the way he wanted to. He was caring for his family,” Wilson said.

June 25, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Ames Woman Heard Locomotive Sound as Storm Passed

May 3, 2012 Ames.Patch.Com


Heather Botine heard the storm coming from her open bedroom window about 2 a.m. Wednesday and fought extreme wind to close it.

“Then I heard the locomotive sound everyone hears about when there is a tornado,” Botine said.

Not having time to make it to her basement she ran to a bathroom.

“It happened so fast. Within five minutes the wind was gone,” she said.

Botine lucked out. The damage to her Northridge Heights home was minor. High winds took out trees and branches across Ames, but the damage seemed concentrated north of 24th Street. Botine lost some shingles and a weighted patio table had blown out of place. Her plants were mashed down and the leaves of her columbines were whipped into a swirl.

But her neighbor, Chunhui Chen, lost his roof. Chen said he woke up to feel his two-story home shaking and swaying back and forth. The sound of rain became louder and when he walked into an unoccupied bedroom he saw the sky.

The wind blew off a section of his roof littering his and his neighbors’ yards with insulation. His garage door caved in during the storm and hit his vehicle, but no one was hurt.

“I think we are really lucky,” Chen said.

Contractors told him that damage to his home surpassed the $25,000 threshold and worked to tarp his home Wednesday morning.

Chen wondered if a small tornado hit his home, not believing winds could do such damage.

And the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for northern Story County north of Highway 30 just before 2 a.m. The warning area included Gilbert, Story City and Roland, but Craig Cogil, a National Weather Service meteorologist said he didn’t believe Ames was included.

Botine thought she heard the sound most people describe during tornadoes, but didn’t look outside. She said the winds sounded like the rumble of a train engine passing.

Cogil said no tornado sightings were reported in Ames or Story County. Winds of 70 to 80 miles an hour make a lot of noise, he said and strong straight line winds can also cause a lot of damage.

A tree fell on a Nixon Circle home and a large green ash fell on 70-year-old Ruth Jensen’s home near the intersection of Bloomington Road and Grand Avenue.

She told her daughter, Kris Jensen, that she believed in guardian angels. Kris Jensen said her mother woke up to see the ceiling coming down. The 50 foot tree hit the roof right above her bedroom.

May 3, 2012 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Ames High School Grad Honored at ISU Veterans Ceremony

Ames Patch Nov. 11, 2011

A photo of Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25.

A photo of Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25.


A lifetime yet to be lived with a daughter and a young wife went unfulfilled when Robert “Bob” Peterson, 25, flew on a night bombing mission over Korea.

The B29 Peterson and his crew were in ran low on fuel, an engine failed, and the pilot attempted an emergency landing. The plane struck a mountain; everyone aboard was killed.

Peterson’s wife, now Mary Jane Clithero, 83, of Ames remembers hearing the news. She worked part time as a ticket-taker for a Des Moines theater so her parents could watch their daughter, Dana. When she came home on a September evening in 1951 her parents handed her a “chilling telegram,” Clithero said.

“It said, ‘We regret to inform you’ just like in the movies,” she said. “I repeated it to my daughter several times.”

Clithero recalled the story before Peterson was honored, along with three other veterans, during Iowa State University’s Gold Star Ceremony Thursday.

“Today’s a tribute to him and none of us have forgotten him, none of us,” Clithero said.

The names of Peterson and the three other men, who had all attended Iowa State University and died while serving in the military in a combat zone, had their names added to the Memorial Union’s Gold Star Hall.

During the ceremony Marc Hardin and Terry Mason, read the veterans’ stories. Korean War veteran Dean Fredericks, 25, of Hampton, a fighter pilot, died in an accident above South Korea. It’s assumed lighting struck his plane.

Korean War veteran Charles Rhinehart, 23, Brooklyn, ejected over the Yalu River after his engine froze. His family thought he was dead, but his name turned up on a POW list in 1993. He was taken by the Soviet Union.

Finally Joseph Hamski, 28, Ottumwa, died in an explosion in Afghanistan in May 2011. He was working to clear a path for other men.

Peterson was in Korea for less than two weeks before his death.

The veteran had first served during World War II. Peterson graduated from Ames High School in 1943 and he and a friend spent the following summer in Hollywood working as messengers. By the end of summer, fun was over and they both joined the Army Air Corps in Des Moines. Peterson became a bombardier for the 56th Fighter Group and remained stateside during World War II; he was honorably discharged in 1945.

He enrolled in Iowa State University and later transferred to the University of Iowa, where he met Mary Jane. After graduating, times were about like they are now, Clithero said, and finding a job was tough. Peterson was encouraged to re-enlist in the Air Force, but the service wasn’t accepting anyone, Clithero said. He eventually found a good job and moved his family to Mason City. Once the Korean War started he was asked to enlist and was called immediately.

Peterson went to Korea that September and wrote daily letters home.

He described long days of work and bombing missions that took more than 10 hours. Peterson seemed to struggle with his position, “Undoubtedly some innocent people suffer,” he wrote.

Another time he said, “It also makes me feel kind of funny and maybe a little guilty to think of the damage and destruction and misery those bombs cause on the ground. … What I’m doing here sitting in a tent, eating bad food and risking my life in such a useless war is beyond me. Maybe it has a purpose that I don’t see.”

The letters home always included a paragraph for Dana, said Kathy Svec, an Iowa State University retiree who researches the veterans’ stories.

“He adored his baby daughter,” Svec said.

Clithero remembers Peterson often wrote about telling Dana not to forget him.

“Hope Dana doesn’t forget her pop,” he wrote.

Both Clithero and Peterson were worried about his possible death, but they tried to focus on a reunion they would have in Japan during a break Peterson would have earned after a number of flights. Clithero said she thinks her husband would have made a career out of the military if he had survived the war.

Clithero said one of her favorite memories is a 1940s song Peterson would sing to Clithero and Dana called “For You.”

“It was just about caring for somebody,” Clithero said.

Clithero, who often attends the Gold Star ceremonies, asked last year if Peterson’s name could be added to the Memorial Union’s wall. She never expected that they would also include him in the ceremony.

“I’m sad to do it, but I am happy to do it for Dana and all the family.”

November 11, 2011 Posted by | Ames Patch | Leave a comment

Jewelry still holds fascination for owner of Beaded Venus

Jewelry still holds fascination for owner of Beaded Venus

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jennifer Lowe’s been bent over beads since she was old enough to break into her mother’s jewelry box.

Lowe, owner of Beaded Venus, a bead and jewelry shop on Chuck Dawley Boulevard, doesn’t remember it, but she got hold of one of her mother’s rings, and an opal vanished. A self-deprecating Lowe holds up her hands to her face and says she assumes it disappeared into an orifice.

True beading came a few years later. She restrung beads and old broken things her family gave her. When she was old enough, she would drive to thrift stores and buy $1 bags of jewelry, an assortment of necklaces, broken chains and old watches.

Lowe says she always thought she’d work for the Foreign Service and graduated with a degree in international studies, but that didn’t work out.

She found herself moving from restaurants to home decor and furniture stores and finally put her hobby to work becoming a manager of a bead shop in Columbia.

She took a workshop with artist Joyce Scott in 1998 where she started “Venus on the Halfshell,” a prize-winning foot-tall peyote-stitched sculpture of the goddess. So when Lowe decided to open a shop of her own in Mount Pleasant in 2002, she already had part of the name. The shop, an old pink house, home to the Beaded Venus, was exactly what she wanted, at least from the outside. It was close enough to downtown Charleston that tourists could find her but still had room for parking.

Lowe spends most days at the shop repairing other people’s jewelry and teaching customers how they can fix or make their own if they don’t already know how.

She makes her own jewelry, artistic pieces that cost hundreds of dollars, at night from her North Charleston home. Necklaces with names such as “Strange Fruit” and “Sea Foam” are for sale in her shop along with $5 reproduction pieces. Beads from the globe can be found along the walls and in counter bins ranging in price from dimes to dollars. One bead behind a glass case called a Venetian chevron goes for $300. Lowe purchased it from an artist at one of her annual Venetian bead trunk sales.

Lowe said balancing artistry with business is one of her greatest challenges. She’s a businesswoman but not so good with numbers.

“I’m an artist. I’m not an accountant,” she says.

She also may be too nice. She gives out free advice, only to learn that her customers have opened their own bead businesses or have begun teaching classes of their own.

She shrugs, “But that’s what I do. I’m a teacher.”

She likes to show people who walk into the shop saying they can’t make anything that they are more creative than they realize. She or an employee tells them to peruse the walls of beads and pick out a few.

“We take you from there,” Lowe said.

Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Students discover South Carolina for Halloween

History event substitutes for trick-or-treat party as Pinckney Elementary pupils learn about state heritage

By Jessica Johnson

The Post and Courier

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charles Pinckney Elementary School’s Taste of South Carolina was a Halloween party in disguise.

Teachers dressed in costumes for Red Ribbon Week to say “Boo” to drugs. Third-grade students wore face paint, fake tattoos and pirate eye patches while making Native American masks, all while learning about South Carolina history.

In the past, some parents kept children at home on Halloween to dodge the celebration in hopes of avoiding candy, games and parties, said third-grade teacher Bridgette Marques.

So rather than having a Halloween celebration, the Taste of South Carolina is held the Friday nearest Halloween and focuses on state heritage, bringing up plenty of old ghosts.

Susan Fitz, a retired principal, dressed as a pirate, told third-graders about the story of Blackbeard. The pirate, Edward Teach, seized the city of Charleston in 1718, demanding supplies to restock ships, Fitz said. The blockade went on for days.

“Without firing a shot, we got everything we wanted,” she said.

Maybe it was the flag. Fitz showed the pirate’s banner, decorated with a skeleton stabbing a heart.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

Third-grader Reed Way raised his hand.

“They will kill anybody,” he said.

Students moved from room to room, where presenters incorporated activities with educational lessons. Marques called it taking six field trips at once.

The day began with Queen Quet, a professional storyteller and spokeswoman for the Gullah-Geechee Nation.

Then children learned about the state’s Catawba Indians and the pottery they made, as well as their pots and masks.

Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center educators taught students about the state’s birds and how their beaks and feet have adapted to help them survive. Then students dressed up like birds.

There were no tricks or treats except maybe the fake $50 Confederate bill presenter Bob Whitley passed out while dressed as a gray-coated infantry soldier at a camp outside the school.

Whitley talked to students about the reasons the war started: taxes and slavery. He also told of the hardships faced by Charleston residents when federal troops bombarded the city for 587 days.

His wool uniform was similar to what a Charleston soldier of the time might have worn. That and his Tower Enfield rifle were so convincing that one third-grader raised her hand to ask, “Were you in the Civil War?”

Whitley intended to wear the uniform as his Halloween costume.

But back indoors, Randy Burbage of the Hunley Commission, created by the state to restore and preserve the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, said his presentation had nothing to do with Halloween.

Teacher Jane Bullard said the Taste of South Carolina really isn’t about the holiday either.

Instead of candy, students sampled Lowcountry food such as collard greens, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, peach cobbler, fried chicken, Carolina rice and sweet tea.

Most students didn’t like all the food, but they tried it all.

“Really it is just a taste and that’s about it,” Marques said.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 937-5921 or at

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Sea veterans from Laffey refurbishing destroyer

Sea veterans from Laffey refurbishing destroyer

By Jessica Johnson

The Post and Courier

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The bunks that former destroyer Laffey seamen sleep on are a little thicker and lined with medicine bottles, but the camaraderie is as strong as they remember.

Twelve guys, most members of the USS Laffey Association, spent their days last week restoring the 65-year-old ship and spent their nights camping out in their former Navy ship sleeping quarters, now updated with air conditioning.

Twice a year, Laffey Association members come from across the country to repair the old ship, part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, situated just east of the aircraft carrier Yorktown. The association provides the food, Patriots Point provides the materials and the former shipmates do the work.

“It’s all a labor of love,” said Charlie Hall Jr., Patriots Point media and public relations manager. “It’s their ship.”

The men’s work helps keep the steel destroyer in shape. They are saving it as they once did in the service.

World War II veteran Ari Phoutrides was serving as a quartermaster on the bridge on April 16, 1945, the day the Laffey got its nickname: “The Ship That Wouldn’t Die.”

During the Battle of Okinawa, Japanese bombers and kamikaze pilots attacked the destroyer and other naval ships. The Laffey took five kamikaze hits and four bombs. A fifth bomb nearly hit the ship, but Phoutrides saw it coming. Men were busy blasting at attacking planes coming from one side. When a plane carrying a bomb came from the other, Phoutrides first saw the speck in the sky.

“It got bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.

When he realized it was a plane carrying a bomb, he struck an officer to get his attention, pounding on his thick vest.

Then by some miracle, Phoutrides said, a gunner swung around and took two shots, striking the plane on its nose just 100 yards from the ship. It was one of nine planes the destroyer hit.

Phoutrides, 83, loves to tell the story. He drew a map of the attack afterward, he served as the official recorder, and he calls the 32 men who died that day heroes.

Phoutrides jokes to Sonny Walker, the Laffey Association’s president, that after the attack, Walker turned the destroyer into a cruise ship. Walker served as a radioman 1960-63, traveling in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Red seas.

Cruises continued until 1975 when the Laffey was decommissioned and spent a brief period waiting for the cutting torch before the association was able to save the ship and bring it to Patriots Point for preservation in 1981.

Former sailors of the Laffey will meet in Charleston on Oct. 8 for the ship’s annual reunion, but a paint-flecked Phoutrides of Portland, Ore., said he prefers the work sessions. During repairs, tourists stop to listen to the men as they talk about their days on the ship.

“They learn about the ship. They know it has a story,” Walker said. “It’s not just a piece of steel sitting there.”

Just 30 association members are left. The remaining men bring sons and grandchildren and pass on the paintbrush, their stories and the desire to keep the ship in shape, Walker said.

Phoutrides’ son, Stephen Phoutrides, came to the work session for a second time, and said he enjoys the friendships formed between the former sailors most.

“The bonds are so close … because they cared about something bigger than themselves,” Stephen Phoutrides said.

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Artisan teaches students to sew sweetgrass baskets

Artisan teaches students to sew sweetgrass baskets
By     jessica      johnson

Thursday,June 26, 2008
“Who’s next?” Harriet Bailem Brown calls out to a line of children circled around

A dozen children ages 7-12 stand around a table in the G.M. Darby Building
waiting for Brown, their sweetgrass basket instructor, to show them what to
do next.

It’s the fourth day of a five-day sweetgrass basketry camp, and some of the
baskets are almost finished.

Brown was much younger than most kids in the room when she first coiled
sweetgrass, stitching it together with palmetto strips. She learned to weave at
age 4, 68 years ago.

“It wasn’t a pleasure for me, it was a must,” Brown said.
Making the baskets has been Brown’s livelihood for almost as     long as she can
remember. She continued to sew baskets even while she worked as a fabric presser
in New York City, ironing clothes for Macy’s Department Store windows. She sent
her works back home to her mother, who sold them at a family basket stand on
Long Point Road.

She came back to the Lowcountry in 1968 and has been a teacher for almost as

“Try not to snap a stitch,” Brown says to the children.

She shows students one at a time how to weave, and still keeps track of the
fidgeting kids behind her.

“I      know that was Jack,” she says, trying to get them to behave. A few
minutes later, the boys are restless again. Brown hears a soft thud, and then

“Billy? What happened, Billy?” Brown says.

The boy answers, “Nothing,” then climbs back into his chair.

“Oh, something happened, Billy,” she says.

She doesn’t look back but adds in new grass to a waiting student’s basket,
pushing it through pale palmetto loops and tightening the grass into place with
another palmetto strip.

Brown makes the baskets’ first coils, which she calls starters, for young students.

“The beginning is the hardest part,” Brown said.

The first knots are too complicated for a child to master in just five days.

At the end of each two-hour class, students take their basket homes to sew a few
more rows. Some days, they make a lot of headway, but not always.

“Some days,      you are just not always up to it,” said Rebecca Forry, 10, of
North Carolina, who was visiting her grandparents in Mount Pleasant.

Rebecca wanted to take the five-day class after she saw a basket hanging at
Charleston’s downtown Market.

“I thought they looked neat, and I wanted to make some,” Rebecca said.

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co..

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment