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Keokuk leaders appeal for help rebuilding road to Civil War-era cemetery


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Iowa’s only national cemetery, created by President Lincoln during the Civil War, is said to be a beautiful, peaceful place, but the street leading to the manicured graveyard is a pot-holed moonscape. Keokuk Mayor Kathie Mahoney is making an appeal for money to replace the eight blocks of road, sidewalks and infrastructure that leads from the town’s Main Street to the federal landmark. “Basically what today is, more than anything, we are trying to create awareness,” Mayor Mahoney says. “We’re asking our government, we’re asking state, federal and our county government, too, and our local government, to help in this project.”

Keokuk National Cemetery (Photo provided by Mayor Mahoney)

The $3.2-million dollar price tag is a small sum to pay, she says, to honor the six-thousand-plus veterans and their family members for whom it’s the final resting place. “In that group of people is one U.S. Supreme Court justice, Samuel L. Miller,” Mahoney says. “There are 600 Civil War veterans buried in our cemetery. There are eight Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery and there are 11 unknowns. And there are five Civil War generals buried there, too.” During the Civil War, the federal government opened five military hospitals in Keokuk. The sick and wounded were transported to them by riverboats on the Mississippi.

The Keokuk National Cemetery is one of 12 original national cemeteries designated by Congress and it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. The white headstones are all uniform and in neat rows, as it was modeled after Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia. “It’s an amazing place. I mean, it takes your breath away,” she says. “We have a ceremony every Memorial Day, Veterans Day, and if you have to speak, it brings you to tears to think about what those people, those soldiers, did for us and how they died for us and then here we are honoring them and the place is just beautiful — and the road is just crappy.”

That road is Keokuk’s South 18th Street, but in a ceremony today, it was renamed “The Road of Honor,” the first step toward renovation.

Eye doctor: Wear safety glasses when setting off fireworks or risk blindness


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Iowans are warned every Fourth of July about the risks of losing fingers or hands to fireworks, but explosives can also do serious damage to eyesight, even causing blindness. Doctor Rao Chundury, an ophthalmologist at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, says last Independence Day they treated dozens of people who came through the emergency room. “We see many different types of injuries from fireworks, from minor injuries to ocular burns and sometimes rather severe injuries,” Chundury says. “Personally and unfortunately, I also took care of several individuals who lost their eye completely because of fireworks.”

Some fireworks, including sparklers, can burn at temperatures up to 22-hundred degrees. Even brief contact with the delicate tissues of the eye can cause devastating burns. The injuries are preventable and he urges Iowans to wear safety glasses to protect the eyes when using fireworks. “If you or your loved one has an ocular injury from fireworks, the most important thing that you can do is seek medical attention,” Chundury says. “We really don’t want individuals to remove the foreign body or the fireworks, apply ointments or rinse it out. That may actually cause more harm than good.”

The Consumer Product Safety Commission reports fireworks are involved in more than 15,000 injuries treated in U.S. emergency rooms every year, with about 15% of those injuries involving the eyes

Iowans are asked to attend funeral for WWII veteran with only one relative


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Iowans are encouraged to attend next week’s funeral for a World War Two veteran who worked as a funeral director more than five decades — and who’s only living relative is on the East Coast. Hugh Bell of Shenandoah died June 2nd at age 98. Staci Shearer, a funeral director with the Hackett Livingston Funeral Home, says Bell shared many stories with her about his time as a civilian mortician for the Army Mortuary Service in the late 1960s. “Kind of the heartache and the tragedy that he had to deal with during that time,” Shearer says, “but he felt it was such an important calling for him to be able to offer his services in order to prepare the casualties of the Vietnam War, to be able to go back to their families and back to their homes.”

Shearer met Bell some 15 years ago when he came into Hackett-Livingston with information regarding his own funeral arrangements, including an obituary he’d written for himself. She says Bell’s personality had a lasting impact on the facility’s caregivers. “As I took him back to the funeral home, there was just a lot of tears shed, and you could definitely tell a piece of an important resident was no longer going to be at the facility,” Shearer says. “He was definitely a very loved guy.” Bell’s only relative is a nephew in Warwick, Rhode Island, so Iowa Funeral Directors Association Communications Manager Taylor Teays wants as many people as possible at Bell’s funeral. Teays says it’s the last chance to honor his military service and 50-plus years as a funeral director.

Hugh Conklin Bell

“It means a lot when people can turn up and show up and just take a half-an-hour of their day to honor someone,” Teays says. “Even though he’s not here to see it, it just as a whole, is really awesome to be able to say that we took the time to honor someone like him.” Born in McCook, Nebraska, Bell was a 1942 Shenandoah High School graduate. He was drafted into the U-S Army in 1943, earned his pilot’s wings and an officer’s commission in 1944, and trained pilots in the A-20 and A-26 light bombers. After the war ended, Bell became a troop carrier pilot visiting 33 countries and flying across 25 others before being released from the Air Force in 1953. After his time in the military, Bell spent 55 years as a licensed funeral director in Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and Arizona.
The graveside service for Bell will be held at the Rose Hill Cemetery at 11 A-M on July 8th and will include military honors conducted by the Shenandoah American Legion Color Guard. Memorial donations are welcome at People for Paws or the American Legion Color Guard.

Feenstra picnic features Nikki Haley


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Fourth District Iowa Congressman, Randy Feenstra, held his second annual family picnic fundraiser Thursday. The Republican from Hull got emotional as he addressed the crowd. “Between us collectively, we have achieved so much In the last year and a half. With your help and your prayers, this kid from Hall Iowa made his way to the U-S Congress to the U-S House of Representatives. And I take that responsibility very seriously. And I cherish every day I’m there, so thank you,” Feenstra says.

Randy Feenstra Twitter feed photo.

Feenstra says he is proud to be a conservative and talked about the recent U-S Supreme Court decision overturning legal abortion. ” I think about generations and decades that, you know, we’ve marched in the parades. We’ve gone to Sioux City and Sioux Falls to march around the abortion clinics,” he says. “We’ve advocated. We’ve put people up and down the ballot, that were pro-life. Last week, we got to celebrate.” Feenstra says it is some they have wanted for the last 50 years. “That is amazing, isn’t it? Something we all wanted,” he says. Feenstra says he wants to remain in Congress to keep fighting for fiscal responsibility, support law enforcement, and continue fighting for agriculture. Feenstra says Republicans are going to win big in Congress and the Senate in November, and says they need to have a plan that will make a difference and make sure that their conservative conservative agenda gets passed.

Former South Carolina Governor and U-N Ambassador, Niki Haley, spoke at the event. She echoed Feenstra — saying it is important to win Republican majorities in the House, Senate, and in the 36 governor races across the country. “If we ever saw the importance of a governor, all you had to do was think about COVID and the right governors and what they did. And as we’re looking at that, there was no way we weren’t going to come here for Randy Feenstra,” Haley says. ” I mean, first of all, the guy is so normal, right? We need normal people in D-C, we really need normal people in D-C.” Haley criticized the Biden Administration policies she says have put a strain on Americans.

“Here you have families, and they’re having to pay more money at the gas pump. And that’s how they get to work. They’re having to pay more money at the grocery store. And that’s how they feed their families. What you’re seeing right now is the average American family is having to spend more than six-thousand dollars a year than they did last year,” Haley says. Haley says the federal government now has to borrow to pay the interest on the national debt. “We now have more debt than we have in our economy. And we haven’t had that since World War Two. You know what? Randy Feenstra sponsored a bill to say we had to stop and that we’re not going to spend more than we make. He’s fighting for a balanced budget. Give him a hand he’s knocking it out of the park,” according to Haley.

Congressman Feenstra will face Democrat Ryan Melton of Nevada in November.

Families fear financial failure as inflation rates rise to record highs


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – With inflation at its highest rate since 1981, financial counselors in Iowa are hearing from more families who are worried about their household budgets. Emily Bezdicek, a HUD-certified financial and housing counselor with Catholic Charities, says to compare how much your family is spending now compared to last year. “Pull those credit card statements, pull those bank statements. See how much you actually spent on things and see what that difference is,” Bezdicek says. “Everyone’s going to feel this inflation a little bit differently.” She suggests the best way to combat inflation is a complete understanding of the family budget and how it compares to spending.

Bezdicek says it can be difficult for some people to step up and admit they need help making ends meet. “We really commend people for reaching out because finances are a really personal thing,” she says, “and for someone to be brave and to reach out, in our eyes, is always great but we always start looking back to those basics: budget, budget, budget, budget.” Food prices are up more than 10-percent from last year, used vehicle prices are up over 15-percent, and energy costs are up 30-percent.

Red Oak Police report, 7/1/22


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Red Oak, Iowa) – Police in Red Oak report a woman was arrested late Thursday night, for Driving While Suspended. Authorities say 27-year-old Aniessa Rae Baylor, of Red Oak, was taken into custody at around 11:03-p.m. and transported to the Montgomery County Jail, where she was being held on $491.24 bond.

Fireworks already generating calls


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Fireworks are legal to buy in Iowa — but most cities have restrictions on their use or outright bans. Locally, fireworks may be used in Atlantic from July 2nd through the 4th, from Noon until 11-p.m. each day. Police have been issuing warnings to violators of the Ordinance for at least the past two weeks.

In Sioux City, Police Sergeant Jeremy McClure says the sounds of bottle rockets and other fireworks are already being heard there, even though they are not yet legal to shoot off. Mcclure says the number of complaints about fireworks is not as high as in previous years. “So far in the month of June here we’ve had about 94 complaints come in and that’s down about 42 percent from the previous year,” he says, ” and it’s down pretty significantly from 2020 where we saw over 600 complaints in about the same timeframe.” He says there have been no citations issued — as officers have to answer other calls first.

“We’re still getting the same number of calls that we get for everything else, whether it’s crimes or accidents and other emergencies,” according to McClure. “We have to prioritize our calls. And we’re going to respond to crimes in progress involving, you know, assaults and thefts and accidents and such. And then try to get to the fireworks when we can. Do the fact that we can’t always respond to fireworks right away. We don’t always catch people in the act. Mcclure says if they do catch you in the act, it could cost you.

“It’s 250-dollar fine if you’re discharging outside of the legal times and then if you discharge in city parks and the such it can be up to 500-dollar fine,” he says. McClure says the department hopes people will follow the law and be respectful of people who may be affected by the loud blasts such as some military combat veterans or pet owners. You can shoot off fireworks in Sioux City from 1 p-m until 11 p-m on Sunday, July 3rd, and from 1 p-m until midnight on Monday, July 4th.

You should check with your local officials to determine when you can legally use fireworks.

Lottery sees big fiscal year, with potential slowdown ahead


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Iowa Lottery C-E-O, Matt Strawn, says the fiscal year is ending Thursday on a very good note. “The Iowa Lottery will post its second-highest gross sales total in history, as well as delivered the second-highest amount of proceeds ever returned to the state of Iowa, trailing of course only last year’s record performance that saw lottery revenues rise 22 percent and lottery proceeds rise 25 percent from the previous fiscal year,” Strawn says.

Strawn told the Lottery Board this completes the most successful two years of sales in the 37-year history of the Iowa Lottery — with only two years in which total lottery sales have surpassed 430 million dollars.  “This positive news does come with a note of caution for the future, as the Iowa Lottery is not immune to the strong economic headwinds generated by higher gas prices and inflationary pressures on Iowa households,” he says. He says things started to slow near the end of the fiscal year.

Iowa Lottery chart showing gas and scratch ticket sales.

“The month of May was the first month this fiscal year and the first month since March 2020, which was the onset of the pandemic, in which actual lottery sales failed to exceed that five-year monthly sales average,” Strawn says. Scratch tickets make up two-thirds of the Lottery’s revenue and May scratch ticket sales were down 17-point-five percent compared to the previous May. Strawn says that closely coincides with rising gas prices.

“May of 2022 was the first time this fiscal year that average fuel prices in Iowa exceeded four-dollars per gallon. And I can share with the board that this downward year over year trend and scratch sales has continued into June as gas prices cleared the four-dollar and 50 cent per gallon threshold,” Strawn says. He showed the Lottery Board a chart comparing gas price increases and the drop in scratch ticket sales.

“This data helps validate what we have been hearing anecdotally, from Iowa retailers regarding reduced store foot traffic as gas prices have increased. You know, essentially fewer folks are coming into the store after they’re filling up. And as you all know, the only way in Iowa can buy a lottery product is by walking into the store. Strawn says a June survey in Convenience Store News shows 53 percent of convenience retailers surveyed expect sales to be lower this summer compared to last summer.

Strawn says this is a note of caution that the Iowa Lottery will continue to face a challenging economic environment in the new fiscal year.

Supreme Court denies Stanley Liggins’ latest appeal


July 1st, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – The Iowa Supreme Court has rejected the appeal in the first-degree murder conviction of a Davenport man in his fourth trial. Stanely Liggins was found guilty in the 1990 death of nine-year-old Jennifer Lewis after her burning body was found in a field near Jefferson Elementary School in Davenport. The Supreme Court denied Liggins’ claims there were jury misconduct, due process violations, and some witness testimony should not have been included in his fourth trial. Scott County Attorney Mike Walton is pleased with the court’s ruling and hopes it might end the case.

“The legal proceedings will probably go on forever, or as long as Mr. Liggins is alive or incarcerated, but this ends the current matter. There are proceedings called post-conviction relief that can pretty much continue forever,” Walton says. He credits the Davenport Police Department for its thorough investigation that made the latest conviction possible, and Thursday’s court decision, 32 years after Lewis’ death.

Liggins’ first two convictions were overturned. A third trial ended with a hung jury, and he was again convicted during a retrial in 2019.

Peak tornado season is ending, but Iowans shouldn’t let down their guard

News, Weather

June 30th, 2022 by Ric Hanson

(Radio Iowa) – Peak tornado season in Iowa usually runs from early April through the end of June, and even though this is the final day of the season, Iowans are warned to stay vigilant. Meteorologist Mike Fowl, at the National Weather Service in Johnston, says it was a busy season, to a degree. “The preliminary statistics that we have across the state, a very active March and April period where we had 28 tornadoes reported in those two months,” Fowl says. “Fifteen of those occurred on March 5th, that was the big outbreak that we had that included the Winterset tornado, the EF-4 that unfortunately resulted in some fatalities.”

Tornado damage near Winterset. (Radio Iowa file photo)

Since April 12th, however, zero twisters have been confirmed touching down anywhere in the state — none during May or June. Still, Fowl says Iowans have to remember that tornadoes can strike at any time of day and on any day of the year. “We can’t let our guard down,” he says. “We’ve seen a number of events that have been in the ‘offseason’ of tornadoes, so we’ve seen tornadoes in July and August, even into the fall as late as December. There really is no offseason for tornadoes in Iowa.” While there’s a long holiday weekend ahead, Fowl urges Iowans to keep an eye on the sky and an ear to the radio.

“Even this Fourth of July weekend, a lot of folks are going to be out and about, camping and outdoor activities,” Fowl says. “We do have at least a threat for some scattered strong, possibly severe storms. Just have a way to get your weather information, whether it be a weather radio, your phone, your favorite media source, just stay up with the weather.”

While tornadoes are rare during the colder months, Iowa reported a total of 61 tornadoes during the “derecho” last year on December 15th.