Tag Archives: commitment

Never stop running

inthedugoutbybrucestambaugh

Erik Kratz, right, when he played for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2013.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Erik Kratz is a catcher for the Toronto Blue Jays. My wife and I like to watch him play whenever we can.

We cheer for the Cleveland Indians of course. We follow Erik for a selfish reason. He and his family are friends with our daughter and her family. Our grandson and Erik’s son were in preschool together, and they played on the same baseball team.

We have spoken with Erik a few times while visiting our grandkids in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, where both families live. Like our daughter and son-in-law, Erik is a graduate of Eastern Mennonite University.

warmingupbybrucestambaugh

The only time we got to see Erik in action was when he came out to warm up the pitcher between innings.

It would be a stretch for me to say that I know Erik. We know who he is, and watched his son and our grandson play. But because of the close connection to our daughter and her family, we like to watch when the Blue Jays are on television and Erik is playing, which isn’t all that often. It’s the price of being a backup player.

Recently, a game between the Blue Jays and the Twins was broadcast nationally. Erik got to start the game. On his first at bat, he popped the ball high in the air behind second base.

Both the shortstop and second baseman sprinted to catch the ball while the centerfielder, who was playing deep, ran in, too. The infielders arrived at the ball at the same time, and collided. The ball dropped, and Erik was safe at second, credited with a double.

Before the game with the Indians, Erik spoke with a friend of mine who just happened to go to high school with Erik's father.

Before the game with the Indians, Erik spoke with a friend of mine who just happened to go to high school with Erik’s father.

My wife, who really knows the game of baseball, said enthusiastically, “That just goes to show that you never give up running.” Neva was right on.

Too many times I’ve seen Major League players hit a sure double-play grounder, or a pop-up like Erik’s, and the batter assumes the fielder will cleanly make the play. He gives up running hard, only to discover that the ball was bobbled or thrown away or, like in Erik’s case, dropped.

But because the runner assumed the ball would be caught, the fielders had a second chance. Many times the batter was thrown out despite the miscue because he had quit running.

I thought a lot about what Neva said. Never quit running, not in baseball, not in any sport, not in a business, not in relationships, not in life. Regardless of the odds, keep on running.

My brother-in-law, who is my age, has gone through some traumatic physical issues in his lifetime, some even life threatening. But Bob has never given up. He always, always has kept a positive attitude no matter how serious the situation.

His determination, along with excellent medical care and a strong support group of wife, family and friends, have kept him running, metaphorically speaking. If he had given up, he likely wouldn’t still be with us. But he is.

erikkratzbybrucestambaugh

Erik Kratz.

I admire that in people. No matter the odds, they keep plugging on. Determination, goals, grit, desire, love, moxie, patience, encouragement all are ingredients in living a fulfilling, meaningful, useful life.

I’m glad my brother-in-law has survived another medical episode. His faith and determination surely helped him through, and will continue to do so during his rehab sessions.

I’m glad Erik kept running, too. As it turned out, he didn’t score a run. But that really wasn’t the point. He put himself in position to score. It was up to his teammates to bring him home.

So keep on running, just like Bob and Erik. Isn’t that what life is really all about anyhow?

A game-winning hit by Erik Kratz

(June 23, 2014 update: The Blue Jays sent Erik Kratz to their AAA-minor league team, Buffalo, today.)

© Bruce Stambaugh 2014.

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A commitment to community

fullyinvolvedbybrucestambaugh

Fire fully involved the barn in minutes.

By Bruce Stambaugh

The middle-aged man sat in the van watching what he really wanted to do. His physically weak condition didn’t allow him to help rebuild the barn that had burned a month earlier.

I knew this man, and knew his heart was with these good people, people from across the community who came together to help resurrect the barn. My friend’s presence moved me as much as the corporate act of mutual aid that we witnessed.

Though he couldn’t help, my friend wanted to be there for support, for community, to keep the connection with his people. His presence was his help. Everyone knew about the fire that had destroyed the old bank barn. There was nothing firefighters could do that night other than to protect the adjacent buildings, which they did successfully.

Only three days before the barn raising, the clarion call went out, one phone message to another, for help. The result was a swarm of activity that began at sunrise and lasted until the job was nearly completed. This was not only how the community worked. It was the community.

barnraisingbybrucestambaugh

Three hours after the work had begun the barn was fully framed.

My friend knew this. He viewed his vicarious participation as imperative.

He didn’t need to tell me this of course. In our decades of living here in this place, we knew the unwritten, modest code of conduct. When your neighbors need help, help them.

It is the way this community operates, has operated, will operate. It is who we are and how we survive. Without one another, we are nothing. No man is an island indeed.

Old Order and New Order Amish worked side-by-side, hammer by hammer, board by board, with one another. Conservative Mennonites, Mennonites, and probably a few Baptists and Presbyterians were in the mix, too. All hands were on deck, no membership cards needed.

One man served as the coordinator for constructing the structure back into a barn. One body, estimated at about 300 men, women and children, made it happen. The process was beautiful to behold, a community in action.

With the foundation and floor previously completed, the framing of the barn began before sunup. By 8 a.m., the trusses were already being set. No orders needed to be barked. Spontaneous crews simply flowed in precision without cue, and the building arose. It was mind-boggling, astounding and inspiring.

Bearded men, clean-shaven men and teenage boys, proving themselves worthy, massed over the 50 by 60 foot frame. Seated on church benches, youngsters and women, their bonnets bleached whiter by the day’s brightness, watched and waited their turn.

By noon, the siding and roof were nearly completed. Hearty meals of homemade meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, and plenty of side dishes and luscious desserts refueled the crews for the afternoon.

Even the weather cooperated for stepping casually across the peek of the roof. Clear blue sky, no wind to sway the balance, no humidity to dehydrate efficient work all made for perfect construction conditions.

In practicality, such a coordinated effort helped cut the cost of rebuilding for the owner. In a broader sense, such a coordinated effort reaffirmed that in a cooperative community no tragedy is too great to overcome.

Though he couldn’t help lift a board, my friend participated in this most sacred and iconic act. To the passersby who stopped to take photographs, it was a special treat to behold.

For those who knew what really transpired, like my friend, it was much more than a delight. It was communion.

newbarnbybrucestambaugh

By evening work on the main barn had been completed.

© Bruce Stambaugh 2013

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The ins and outs of a sustained marriage

Puffy clouds by Bruce Stambaugh

The beauty around us helps create a lasting, loving relationship.


By Bruce Stambaugh

Soon my wife and I will have been married for 41 years. How have we made it this far? Well, this may sound funny, but the answer to that question in part is because we manage to avoid each other.

I think I better explain. My wife and I both believe in being community activists. That is a fancy way of saying we get involved in local activities, many of them on a volunteer basis.

Over those 41 years of marriage, Neva and I have recognized a familiar pattern. She goes out the drive just as I am coming in or vice versa. When we first noticed this routine, we laughed about the happenstance. The phenomenon has continued with amazing regularity.

When Neva comes in the drive as I am leaving, we just roll our eyes in common acceptance and acknowledgment of the many paths our busy lives have taken us. We recognize the importance of accepting and encouraging our individual interests and areas of service as important ingredients of any successful marriage.

Our house by Bruce Stambaugh

Where our driveway moments occur.


With us, this is pretty much how it goes. Neva has a 10 a.m. meeting scheduled in Millersburg with the thrift store where she volunteers. I have the morning free to tinker around the house or write. After lunch, Neva arrives home, and I need to leave for a rendezvous with a local resident regarding a township issue. I’m a township trustee.

We haven’t necessarily planned these driveway moments. It’s just the way it has panned out time and again over our 41-year marriage. I come in the drive, Neva goes out. It’s like clockwork.

If anything, it’s more about trusting each other and commitment to community than intentional evasion. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons our marriage has not only grown in years, it’s thrived.

We respect each other and each other’s interests. We also give each other the freedom and space to exercise those interests. The fact that those activities often coincide with a community event is possibly the glue that has helped hold our loving relationship together.

Bruce and Neva by Bruce StambaughNeither of us would begin to pretend to be perfect or that ours is a model marriage. That innate trust, however, allows us to do our own thing while actually reinforcing our husband and wife relationship.

I’m not bragging when I say that we feel blessed to have lasted this long as a couple. Marital bliss for our generation has turned out to be a 50/50 proposition. I feel for those who have tried to hold their marriage together, giving their all to no avail. I am ever so thankful that we have hung in there, even during difficult times.

With the varying schedules and comings and goings, having a supporting community around us has certainly enhanced our chances for success. We fully and humbly recognize that we have not been on this long journey alone. We have many people to thank for being there for us through thick and thin.

Friends, neighbors, church members, and especially family have all played important roles in the success and longevity of our marriage. Our son once asked me what the secret to our longevity of marriage was. I didn’t hesitate in answering, “There are no secrets between us.”

That includes where Neva is going again when I pull into the driveway.

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For this marriage, the key to success is no secret

Bruce and Neva Stambaugh

Bruce and Neva Stambaugh

By Bruce Stambaugh

Where do you begin to share about being married to the same person for four decades? After all, my wife and I have been through a lot together during those 40 years.

Perhaps the best place to start is at the beginning. And what a beginning it was.

Crazy as it sounds, nine days after we met we were engaged, although we did wait a month to make it public. We didn’t want people to think we were totally nuts. We were married nine months later. When our two children were old enough to understand, we advised them against using our expeditious courtship as a model to matrimony.

I can remember our wedding day as if it were yesterday. I was so scared that I didn’t even notice that the farm field next to the church had been sprayed with liquid manure that afternoon.

Before the receiving line had formed, I got a taste of what married life really would be like. I accidentally stepped on the train of my wife’s wedding dress, and immediately had her finger in my face. I think that’s when I started to smell the manure.

Our son once asked me what was the secret to the success of our marriage. I simply told him that his mother and I have had no secrets between us. What happens happens. Good or bad, helpful or harmful, “for richer or for poorer,” it’s all out there.

Like most marriages, it hasn’t always been pretty or blissful. No marriage is perfect, including ours. Sure, we air things out, but in so doing try to always maintain our love, respect and admiration for one another. We may have raised our voices to one another from time to time, but never a hand.

We haven’t come this far together on our own either. Family and friends have graciously helped us along the way. Our parents were excellent models of wedded commitment.

From them we learned not only to serve others, but to also enjoy each opportunity that would come along. We try our best to humbly help wherever and whenever we can.

Another plus for us is that Neva and I have a lot in common. We love to travel, enjoy quietness, sunsets, nature, and sharing a meal with guests. Hospitality is one of Neva’s greatest gifts.

Of course, we each do our own things, too. She reads. I write. She quilts. I bird.

That might be another element that cemented our marital longevity. We wisely allow each other our own space and time, without a hint of jealousy or suspicion. If you truly love someone, trust is everything. Break it, and you find yourself back at square one or worse.

For me, the best part of being married for 40 years is just that. We have been married for 40 years. Our marriage has been an investment in one another, our wonderful children and their spouses, our grandchildren, our families, the community, friends, and our church family. We have been blessed by their contributions to us, too.

Where do you end sharing about being married to the same person for 40 years? For that answer, it’s probably best to go back to the beginning, again: “Until death do us part.”

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Gloria Yoder embodies the spirit of community

By Bruce Stambaugh

Gloria Yoder, 61, never ventured far from where her ancestors settled in Holmes County in the early 19th century. That’s just fine by her.

Based on what she has done and continues to do, the community is the better for it, too. In this case, the residents in and around the little town of Mt. Hope are the beneficiaries.

Yoder grew up on the family homestead on McClure Hill just west of Mt. Hope. McClure was her maiden name. Eli, her husband, was raised on a neighboring farm. They have been married 42 years.

The Yoder’s operate two popular area businesses. Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen in Mt. Hope is noted for its hardy breakfast, lunch and dinner buffets. Yoder’s Amish Home near Trail, where they live, is a noted destination for tourists. She also operates the restaurant at the Mt. Hope Auction March through October.

Gloria Yoder by Bruce Stambaugh

As she normally does, Gloria Yoder bought several animals at the Holmes County Junior Livestock Auction.

Gloria has a keen sense of combining business with community service. She sees a commitment to community at the Holmes County Fair. She annually purchases prized and award winning animals at the fair’s Junior Livestock Auction.

“I like to help out the kids who work so hard with their animals,” she said while waiting to bid at this year’s fair sale. Of course, Gloria has a personal stake in the event. She was a 4-H’er herself and served 20 years as the advisor for two different 4-H clubs.

This year Gloria purchased the grand champion pen of three hens, the grand champion market turkey, a lamb, three hogs and several rabbits. That alone helped a number of 4-H participants. But Yoder doesn’t stop there.

Each year, Mrs. Yoder’s Kitchen offers a special fair buffet featuring the animals she has purchased. The buffet will be this Wednesday, September 29 from 3 to 8 p.m.

“We have people who come from as far as Cincinnati for our buffets,” Yoder said. She also calls a list of people who live out of town, and some out of state, to tell them when the buffet will be offered.

This year’s fair buffet will feature barbecued rabbit, roasted leg of lamb, smoked turkey, pan-fried chicken and beef tenderloin. Yoder said she expects about 500 customers for the buffet.

But Gloria’s life ranges far beyond the confines of her restaurant. She spends much of her time assisting with and organizing for community activities.

Besides supporting the 4-H program, she faithfully serves in the small United Methodist congregation in Mt. Hope. That includes organizing and recruiting help for the annual pancake and sausage meal held each April.

Gloria helps with the egg hunt each spring, and orchestrates the parade and live nativity scene each Christmas season. Local school children enjoy playing the different parts of the sacred story. Over the years, she said group singing was added, and last year the community held a special fundraiser for a local family in need.

“Our young people are our future,” she said plainly but sincerely. “Whatever little bit I can do to help, I will.”

As a leader in the Mt. Hope Merchants Association, she also helps make the annual July Sundown Sale successful and purposeful. This year, for example, a dollar from every meal sold along with money from the volleyball teams were donated to needy families in the Mt. Hope area.

Gloria has some very personal reasons for being so involved in the community. Only months after her only child, Trent, was born in 1972, Gloria spent three months in the hospital in Columbus.

In 1983, she had a serious car accident in Berlin, and just two years ago Gloria was diagnosed with blood clots in both lungs. She hasn’t forgotten how the community responded to her needs and those of her family.

“I feel very fortunate to be alive,” she said. “God has been watching over me, and evidently still has some purpose for me in life.”

“Once you face death,” Gloria continued, “everything takes on a new meaning. I have felt the community of caring.”

In spite of her busyness, Gloria does find time for herself. She enjoys gardening, and trying new recipes. It’s no wonder, given the fact that she has a collection of 250 cookbooks.

“I enjoy reading them,” she said. “You can tell a lot about a church or community by what they include in their cookbook.” Gloria said that if a recipe includes “a pinch” of a certain ingredient, “You know it’s from an old cook.”

Gloria said she remembers when Mt. Hope resembled a ghost town. But in recent years, thanks to the success of area businesses, the little town is booming. And that is just the way Gloria likes it.

This story first appeared in the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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A life of public service achieved

Lt. Richard Haun by Bruce Stambaugh

Lt. Richard Haun spends much of his time documenting cases on the computer.

By Bruce Stambaugh

Simply put, Richard Haun is living his dream.

As a teenager, Haun knew exactly what he wanted to do. With timely guidance and self-determination, he has more than achieved his goal. Not bad for someone yet to turn 40 years old.

Haun is actually Lieutenant Richard Haun of the Holmes County Sheriff’s Office. He has been with the sheriff’s office for 24 years. Do the math and the answer becomes apparent. Haun began his law enforcement career at that tender age of 15.

It really all began with some public service modeling by his mother and encouragement from a friend that got Haun thinking about life in law enforcement.

His mother served as an emergency medical technician, and a friend encouraged him to join the Boy Scouts of America troop that served as Explorers with the sheriff’s department.

“I always wanted to be a deputy,” Haun said. “That’s why I joined the Boy Scouts law enforcement Explorers Club. That’s how I got started and I’ve been here ever since.”

One assignment of the Explorers was to be a presence at the Holmes County Fair. He began making his rounds there in 1986 and hasn’t missed a fair since then.

“Once I got into the Explorers,” Haun related, “that’s when it clicked for me.”

Born in Millersburg, Haun grew up in Killbuck and graduated West Holmes High School in 1989. With his sights set on a career in law enforcement, Haun didn’t have much social life as a teen.

“I would go to school during the day,” Haun said, “then attend the police academy in Coshocton in the evening.” Haun said those classes ran from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.

“We even had some classes on Saturday,” Haun said. “I couldn’t even attend my senior prom because I had to qualify on the firearms range.”

Haun lives in Millersburg with his wife, Susan, and two sons. The Hauns have been married for 17 years.

Haun started as a reserve officer in 1988. He went full-time in 1989 as a dispatcher in the communications division and has worked his way up the law enforcement ladder one rung at a time.

Haun has been a road patrol deputy, the supervisor of road patrol, a court bailiff and a detective. Now he is supervisor of both the civil division and the child support division.

“When I started, we didn’t even have a computer,” Haun said. “We wrote everything down on a legal pad. Now everything is done with computers and legal pads are used as scratch pads.”

Haun spends much of his day doing electronic paper work on the computer. He has to stay up on changing laws and attorney general rulings and relay that information to the rest of the sheriff’s office staff.

“That’s the toughest part of my job,” Haun said. “Keeping track of all the necessary paper work is demanding.”

During his years with the sheriff’s office, Haun has seen first-hand how crime has changed. He said the sheriff’s office deals more and more with identity theft and computer theft.

“We sock a lot of man hours into online crime,” Haun said. “Sexual predators and embezzlement are increasing.”

Haun coordinates prisoner transports, court appearances, and monitors all of Children’s Services needs when it comes to background checks for employment and those seeking employment.

The various positions he has held have required him to train in all divisions. Haun said his experience and training, including online training, enables him to be flexible in his work.

“I’ve gone where I’m needed,” Haun said. “It’s all a part of the educational process.”

“I do regret not going to college,” he shared. “But if I were to count all the hours of training I’ve done, I probably would have some kind of degree.” He said he would encourage his sons to go to college.

Still, Haun has no regrets about the career path he has chosen.

“It’s a pleasure to be of service to the public,” Haun said.

This story first appeared the Holmes Bargain Hunter.

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