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Not forgotten after 50 years

November 21, 2013

The day was blue, clear and bright.
I was in the U.S. Navy. Stationed at Saufley Field, Pensacola, Fla. I had just finished the second year of a four-year enlistment. Saufley was an auxiliary airfield used to train future Naval Aviators. No Navy pilot ever earned his wings without going through Pensacola.
My first knowledge of John F. Kennedy came at the soda fountain in Amundson & Berg’s drug store in Williams Bay. It was 1956. ...subscribers>>

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Geneva Lake's original residents had no choice

November 21, 2013

Freedom. Abundant food. Ample shelter. Clean air and water. Beauty. Incredible beauty!
The native Potawatomi of Geneva Lake had lived in a veritable “Garden of Eden” for almost 200 years. In the 1830s, this idyllic life was rapidly coming to an end.
The Potawatomi originally came from New York State in the 1600s with their “brother” tribes, the Ojibwa and the Ottawa. Known as the “Three Brothers,” the tribes were given specific tasks by the Great Spirit. The “Older Brother” Ojibwa were “The Keepers of the Faith”, the “Middle Brother” Ottawa, “The Keepers of Trade” and the “Younger Brother” Potawatomi were “The Keepers of the Sacred Fire.” Peaceful people, their move was made after repeated altercations with their more war-like neighbors, the Iroquois.
Moving first to western Michigan, where the Ojibwa remained, the remaining two tribes, in the mid-17th century, migrated to Green Bay, Wisconsin, and then in 1641 southward along the Lake Michigan shore to the mouth of the Chicago River. The Ottawa continued west, eventually settling beyond the Mississippi River while the Potawatomi settled along the shores of a beautiful lake. Here the Potawatomi would remain.
They called the lake “Wind Lake,” and later referred to it as “Big Foot Lake,” after their most famous chief, Big Foot (Mauck Sauk) whose village was situated on the western shore (now Fontana).
Two other villages, one in Williams Bay and a smaller one in Lake Geneva, provided shelter for hunters, trappers and farmers of the tribe. Williams Bay was a second home to Chief Big Foot, being the residence of his second wife and children. A wise man, Chief Big Foot knew better than to have two wives in the same vicinity.
Life was good. Herds of deer and elk, up to 500 at a time, could be found in the area of what is now Kishwauketoe Nature Conservancy. The deer were so prolific that wolves would chase the deer into the lake for sport, drowning them, then leaving the carcasses untouched because they (the wolves) were so well fed. Native hunters frequently found these carcasses and utilized them to supplement their food and shelter stores.
Williams Bay, known as “Ke-Nago-Mak-Nebis” (eel water) was black with freshwater eels, an important winter food source when dried and smoked. Williams Bay was also the farming area for the tribe. On the hillside of the western shore (where the Barrett Memorial Library now stands) were fields of corn, beans, pumpkins and squash, planted and tended by the women of the tribe who lived in the “summer houses” during the planting and growing season in the area that is now Edgewater Park.
Summer houses were used in the Williams Bay and Lake Geneva sites to house the women who farmed and the men who hunted, fished and trapped. Permanent homes, known as “wigwams” were located near Chief Big Foot’s “royal residence” in Fontana.
The Potawatomi village is described by the first white party to view it, Mr. and Mrs. John Kinzie on their honeymoon trip from Fort Dearborn (Chicago) to Fort Winnebago (Portage, Wisconsin) in 1831, as “a collection of neat wigwams formed, with their surrounding gardens, no unpleasant feature in the picture.” It was so lovely that the sight caused an “involuntary shout of delight from the whole party.” Mrs. Kinzie found the whole village “enchanting” as the entire party were treated as guests as they spent the night with the tribe.
Trading trails led tribal trappers from Williams Bay to Fort Dearborn (Chicago), Beloit, Mukwonago and Galena, Ill., trading the pelts of beaver, otters, muskrats, raccoon, wolf, elk and deer, ensuring the purchase of iron pots, weapons and decorative items utilized in everyday life. The ancient burial site of Chief Big Foot’s family in Williams Bay was found to contain over 800 beads, some made from seashells and probably purchased on a trading expedition to one of the above trading posts.
The next five years saw settlers moving into the region. Captain Israel Williams and his sons, recently from Massachusetts, built a small log cabin adjacent to the farming area in Williams Bay, while others began building near the main village in Fontana and along the southern shore of the lake. The native people adjusted to the settlers’ invasion. While clearly not happy that their lands were being taken, Chief Big Foot is said to have been gracious and helpful to the strangers as they struggled to create a living in the new land.
They knew, as did Chief Big Foot, that President Andrew Jackson’s administration, ever mindful of the movement westward by settlers, had sanctioned the Indian Removal Act of 1831, which would force all Native Americans from their lands onto reservations in the west. It was only a matter of time before Chief Big Foot and his people, some 500 strong, would be taken from their paradise to the barren plains of Kansas.
The winter of 1835-36 was harsh. Many native people died from a whooping cough outbreak, including two of Chief Big Foot’s wives and children who were laid to rest in the then ancient burial grounds in Williams Bay.
Life went on as usual until, in late summer 1836, word reached Chief Big Foot that his people were scheduled for removal by the government in the fall. Some of the younger men decided to escape to northern Wisconsin where other members of the Potawatomi had made a home. The majority chose to remain with their chief.
The wagons rolled into the main village in Fontana late in November. Going to Williams Bay along the shore path, Chief Big Foot spent considerable time in prayer at the site of his family’s graves. With tears in his eyes, he requested that Captain Williams tend his family’s graves, which the captain solemnly agreed to do. He then returned to his village and visited Mrs. Van Slyke, a white woman, who, with her husband, had settled south of the native village and had befriended the chief and his family. He requested, in broken English, that she care for the tree coffin of his 14-year-old son.
The boy had spent many hours gazing at the lake and his father had made sure he would continue to view the sight he loved after death. Mrs. Van Slyke promised to do so. Chief Big Foot, his arm around his council pole, gazed silently at the waters of the lake for a long while as his people were loaded by soldiers into open wagons. Finally, with one last, long look, he followed his people up over the hills for the long journey to Kansas, never to see his home again.
The Big Foot Band of Potawatomi made their way, not to Kansas, but after long months of travel, to western Iowa. Settling on the Nishnavotna River, about 50 miles east of Council Bluffs, was where they chose to remain.
Early residents of Williams Bay recall when young Native American men from the tribe would visit the area for years after the removal, either hoping to return to their homes or fleeing ahead of government agents for escaping their reservations. Most would stay a few days before moving on, pausing at the burial site and the holy sites of the tribe around the lake.
In 1929, as a guest of the Geneva Lakes Historical Society, Chief Simon Kahquados, legal head chief of the Potawatomi, visited the Geneva Lakes area with members of his tribe from his home in northern Wisconsin.
He was part of a ceremonial unveiling of a memorial stone marking the ancient Native American burial site in Williams Bay and had ancestral ties to the area.
His grandmother had been born on the shores of Geneva Lake and was taken with her people in the 1836 removal. He hoped to be buried with his people at the ancient site, but fate determined otherwise.
One year later, Chief Kahquados died at the age of 79 and was buried in Peninsula State Park.
So often we forget these tales that bring to life our native forefathers of this area. Their paradise was lost. How are we keeping it alive today?
To discover more about the Potawatomi People of Williams Bay, join the Williams Bay Historical Society or contact Deb Soplanda, society president, for more information at dsoplanda@williamsbayschools.org.

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Judge tells his side of traffic fine issue

November 21, 2013

An explanation letter to the people of the Village of Walworth:
Many of you do not know that the village of Walworth has its own municipal court. The primary function of the court is to adjudicate disputes between the village of Walworth and people who receive citations by the village of Walworth police. Every citation must be adjudicated. Trials are infrequent because most citations are resolved by a guilty or no contest plea, and payment is made. But some are not paid.
In the village of Walworth, about $200,000 remains unpaid. The number changes from day to day depending on citations issued and payments made. Uncollected fines look like a juicy apple to bite into to make a starving budget balance. But it is not as simple as that. The law limits the authority of municipal courts to enforce collection of fines.
Below I explain the law regarding collection. I feel the people of the village of Walworth deserve my time and efforts explaining the law in this area. The people have paid for my judicial seminars. I actually pay attention and learn while at them. So please forgive my detailed explanations, it’s just the lawyer in me.
After a case is adjudicated and a penalty imposed, every person gets 60 days to pay. Most pay. But some do not. After 60 days of nonpayment, and before any additional penalty for failure to pay, every person is entitled by law to a hearing called an indigency hearing. [800.035(2)(d)].
The 14th Amendment, on equal protection grounds bars a court from confining a defendant who is unable to pay due to poverty. State ex rel Pederson v. Blessinger 56 Wis 2d 286 (1972). The courts are required to apply the criteria set out in 814.29 (1)(d) when making poverty determinations. The poverty threshold established by these criteria is very low:
a. Receive any means-tested assistance including but not limited to W-2, SSI, food stamps and veterans benefits
b. Inability to pay due to such circumstances as household size, income, assets and debts
c. Income that is below the Federal Poverty Guidelines
d. Representation by a publicly funded or pro bono attorney
After mailing out a notice of their right to the scheduled indigency hearing, one of four events happen.
First, the person does not show. If they do not show, I can issue a commitment warrant confining them to county jail after the proper findings [800.095(1)(b) 2] for one day for every $50 owed [800.095(1)(b) 1a] so long as proper service has been attained. This is the most common result. $48,593 of the uncollected fines have been issued confinement warrants.
Second, if they do not show, and proper service has not been attained (i.e. mailing of the original citation and no subsequent contact with the court which is rare).
I cannot issue a warrant or suspend drivers privileges. I will issue a service warrant. A service warrant allows a police officer to temporarily detain an individual so a copy of the original citation can be properly served. Then we are back to an initial appearance. None of the uncollected fines have been issued service warrants.
Third, if they do show, I will talk with them about their financial situation. If they have the ability to pay, they pay. Typically they cannot pay all at once, so I will put them on a payment plan. $26,749 of the uncollected fines are on a payment plan.
Fourth, if they do show, I will talk with them about their financial situation. If they don’t have the ability to pay, (see the criteria listed above: W-2, SSI, Food stamps, veterans benefits or receiving any means tested public assistance) I must find them indigent. I must halt any collection practices until their situation changes. So I typically schedule a hearing date in about six months for review. Many people are on public assistance for extended periods of time, sometimes years. $26,102 of the uncollected fines are indigent.
Juveniles have their own set of rules. Juveniles have one year to pay before I can impose any penalty beyond the fine amount, and that is typically limited to a drivers license, hunting license or fishing license suspensions. A juvenile citation never ripens into an adult citation. The Wisconsin Supreme Court, Director of State Courts and Judicial education strongly recommend that juveniles not be incarcerated to a juvenile detention facility for not paying a speeding ticket [938.17(1)(b)] (all other juvenile citations incarceration is strictly prohibited).
I agree with the reasoning and will not issue a warrant for a juvenile for not paying a speeding ticket. $44,841 of the uncollected fines are juvenile fines.
If a citation is less than $99, the maximum I can confine is one day. I often debate if a one day commitment warrant is justified for not paying a municipal fine. I take these case by case. I often issue a warrant, but sometimes I don’t. As of today, $304 of the uncollected fines are less than $99, no warrant but do have a DL suspension.
Citations newer than 90 days have not had their indigency hearing yet.
$32,598.32 of the uncollected fines status is this category.
#3,414 in citations are awaiting trial.
Community Service [800.09(1j)] is often requested as an alternative to payment of a fine. I would like to have a program for these people, but the village of Walworth has not established a program.
The best collection technique for unpaid forfeitures is tax intercept [800.095(6)]. I have a standing order to attempt tax intercept on all fines over $200 and case by case for fines over $20. $16,308 of the uncollected fines status is this category which may duplicate some of the commitment warrants and service warrants as we are gearing up for the 2014 tax intercept.
The village of Walworth could hire a collection agency. [800.095(5)]. I believe the pitfalls far outweigh the benefits. Collection agencies can’t do anything more than what we do except on different letterhead.
The outstanding debt issue exists. The outstanding balance concerns me, too.
All municipal courts face similar collection problems. Some, like ours, face special circumstances that make collecting more difficult, so the percentage of uncollected fines is higher. The number will grow every year.
The court is following all proper collection protocols allowed by the legislature. The law forbids incarcerating a person if they are indigent.
I am hopeful this letter puts to rest the frustrating and complicated issue of uncollected forfeitures.
I invite any concerned citizens to contact me with questions. The municipal court is open to the public, except for juvenile hearings.
If you are interested, please come watch the proceedings. I will be glad to have you with us. Court is usually held at 4:30 p.m. on the second and fourth Thursday of every month at the village hall.


Recent Community columnists
Remembering a cat named Badger
November 14, 2013

Editor’s note: Most residents of Delavan and many who have driven through the city in the last few years, knew Clarence “Badger” W. Richey even if they didn’t know his name. He was a man in a white beard who walked everywhere about town, often towing a sack of cans. I got to know him when he delivered papers for The Week. He was always telling stories and we couldn’t help but wonder if they were true. In the following column, written by Delavan freelancer Lisa Maria Schmelz, we find out that most of those stories were true. Her exhaustively-researched, wonderfully-written, “obituary” reveals a man even more amazing than the stories he told.
— John Halverson, editor

If you were lucky enough to spend time with Badger, it’s possible you heard him say, “You can’t get mad at a cat for being a cat.”
He would frequently insert other animals in this oft-repeated phrase, but I remember him saying it to me mostly with cats as his creature of choice. While trying to piece together the story of his life, I am coming to regard Badger as a bit feline himself. Confidently perched higher than most of us and prone to near-clinical meandering. Trying to write an obituary for Badger is like trying to herd cats — or in this case, one wonderful but earnestly elusive cat.
I met Badger nine years ago, when I was so spiritually lost I didn’t know which way was up much less forward. Badger’s experience, strength and hope helped me find my way home. I am not alone, and there are many others like me who found the compass they needed in this gentle wanderer. When he crossed my path, I am grateful I was willing to look past his unkempt appearance, the tobacco in his beard, the Hefty sack of aluminum cans he was dragging, and do what he did so well: Take the human being in front of me not just as a gift from God but as a guide to God.
So this won’t be a typical obituary, which is fitting given that Badger was as far from typical as a soul can get. Blessedly absent the filter that prevents so many of us from connecting instantly with whomever or whatever is placed before us, Badger was the most nonjudgmental person I’ve ever met. His capacity for knowledge knew no bounds, and in that knowledge, he lived a life of duality. He proclaimed himself a Buddhist, yet attended The River Church. The great works of literature were as familiar to him as the antics of Calvin and Hobbs. He had significant financial resources but got by on very little.
For those who want a traditional obituary for this nontraditional man, I feel your pain. The reality of Badger’s duality, though, means there will be holes. Huge holes. Time isn’t returning our calls, the Internet isn’t as helpful as we would like, and before we bid him a collective so long, the man legally known as Clarence Westley Richey deserves something in print that records he was here, he was special, and he mattered.
The best information available, and with Badger you need to take that with several grains of Kosher salt, indicates he was born on April 7, 1932. Where? We don’t know. To whom? No clue.
What many of us do know comes from Badger himself. He said he spent his childhood in Texas. Recently, some of us who loved him have spent hours scouring online birth records in every county in Texas. Dang, if we could score a definitive hit leading us to Badger’s beginning. It’s possible Badger’s tribe wasn’t big into record keeping or that he was born elsewhere. It’s also possible he was born under a different name since the legal database Lexis Nexis reports that he didn’t obtain a Social Security number until sometime between 1965 and 1967 in New York. Deepening the mystery is a Lexis Nexis’ report that indicates multiple people have the same SSN.
The Great Depression and World War II, Badger said, were difficult years for his family, which seems to have included siblings. His clan, he said, were migrant farm workers, laboring in cotton fields. The only other information Badger shared about his early life was that it was so hard that one day when he was about 13 and fearing his father’s wrath, he left home and never looked back. Riding the rails “with hobos” to “destinations elsewhere,” the libraries of America became his home.
Wall Street, report a number of people who knew Badger well, became an eventual destination sometime in the 1950s. One source indicates that Badger worked in the margins department of a financial firm, tallying stock purchases made on credit. Apparently, Wall Street earnings allowed him to pursue his ultimate dream: higher education.
A Harvard sheepskin is impressive for anyone but especially for someone who likely didn’t have schooling as a child and who left home around puberty. I doubted Badger’s claim to an Ivy League diploma. After he died, I dug around a bit and found he did indeed hold degrees from Harvard: A master’s in English and literature, which he received in 1969 and a Ph.D. in English in 1970.
In the fall of 1970, Badger joined the faculty of the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay, teaching in the English and literature department.

He officially left UW-Green Bay in 1974, after what appears to be a falling out over his unconventional teaching methods.
Badger’s nickname was a self-assigned Native American totem in honor of the animal known for its mental alertness and as a guardian of the South. Badger claimed he had no little badgers running around and said he never married. A vegetarian vagabond, he didn’t stay in one place long.
No one is sure when — or why — he made his way to Walworth County. Once here, he rented from a number of landlords, including Doris Wild, the beloved Delavan Walmart greeter. From 1998 to 2003, he worked as a custodian at Cherry-Burrell in Delavan. He also washed dishes at Millie’s, delivered newspapers, collected cans, and became known by passing motorists as the skinny old guy who walked everywhere. As brilliant as he was, the library’s best patron never got a driver’s license.
When he wasn’t walking, and before congestive heart failure set in, he was running. In 1989, at 57, he set the record for his age group in Boston’s Weston race, covering 438 miles in six days. In 1992, he returned to Weston, running 250 miles in 102 hours, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. There is so much about Badger that remains a mystery.
Many people tried “casually” to get facts and time lines from him. But ever the alert badger and guardian of his Southern past, he deflected questions in a way that ended all further inquiry. Now that he’s gone, some of us who loved him are looking for the answers we couldn’t get while he was here. In some ways, it feels wrong. If he didn’t want to share them when he could, what right do we have to them today? On the other hand, I think if he were here right now, we could possibly persuade him that a human being who so greatly touched the lives of others would naturally illicit this kind of quest.
Badger himself knew the “who, what, when, where and why” of so many figures in history — particularly those he admired. Surely, he would have to allow us the same journey. But sometimes we just have to accept that the best stories never get fully told. They reveal themselves instead in holy vignettes — some little snippet here, a tattered remnant there. They arrive on terms we cannot control, in ways we will never be able to entirely explain, and always leave us wanting to know more. Badger was one of the best stories I’ve ever met.


Where does this kind of hate come from?
November 07, 2013

On Sept. 20, a football game was played at Williams Bay High.
My old alma mater. It was reported in the Regional News that a roar went up from the crowd when a disputed call was made by one of the referees. In the emotionally-charged atmosphere, the people in the stands quickly took on the characteristics of a mob as the level of anger rose to a fever pitch. According to the report, outraged spectators went so far as to scream ”death threats” at the officials. How can this happen, at a high school football game?
Where does this kind of hate come from?
What is it that provokes such a vicious outcry? And the promise of potential violence?
Who are these people, that they would display such crude behavior?
I don’t have the answer to any of these questions. But I do have some observations about the nature of the social landscape we inhabit these days. In the middle of the last century, when I competed as an athlete for the Bulldogs, there could not have been any such outbursts as those reported. That sort of thing simply was not acceptable. It was forestalled by what we used to call sportsmanship. And it applied to player and spectator alike. It was what we though proper conduct ought to be. Apparently this is no longer the case. Why?
I wish I could say for certain, but all I have to offer are a few examples of life as we currently live it in these United States, for whatever insight it may provide. The way people act can often be an indication of how they think, what they believe.
The following are breaking news stories, taken from today’s headlines. They compel us to ask who we are as people and just what it is that we value. To examine what we claim is right or wrong. To take a long, hard look at how we behave and what kind of behavior we tolerate. In the end, readers will have to judge the veracity of these things for themselves.
Miley Cyrus, a.k.a. Hannah Montana, and her “twerking” performance on the MTV Music Video Awards was watched with utter fascination, by millions upon millions. Videos of her appearance were replayed the following day, over and over and over. And over again.
Here is some descriptive language of that event from an article that appeared in the Oct. 4 issued of USA Today. “Crass,” “frenzy,” “sexually charged performance,” “fondling,” “grinding” and “riding a demolition tool naked ...” Her single, “Wrecking Ball,” recorded 1.4 million downloads within just days of its release. Sheri Merman, age 20, described as Miley’s “longtime” fan, announced proudly that her idol ... proves that “it’s OK to act the way you want.”
“Grand Theft Auto V” just hit the retail shelves. Some of the descriptors on the cartridge jacket of precious versions of this game include “corruption,” “ violence,” “ sociopaths,” “the lost and the damned,” “guns-glitz-grime” and “living nightmare,” among others. Keith Stuart, of “The Guardian,” called this game “A monstrous parody of modern life — our bubbling cesspit of celebrity fixation, political apathy and morose self-obsession ...” And Darren Franich, at “Entertainment Weekly,” said ‘Grand Theft Auto V’ is a video game that tries to capture everything about contemporary America.”
Does he mean, then, that America is “monstrous,” a “cesspit,” “apathetic” and “morose?” Nevermind, in their rush to own a copy, Americans purchased more than $1 billion worth of this so-called game during the first three days of its release.
At Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, 20 children, ages 5 to 6, were slaughtered by a deranged gunman. Our response as a society was to increase demand for ammunition and firearms by 70 percent, creating a nationwide shortage of both. Wayne La Pierre, of the NRA, made his position clear, saying that the only thing wrong with what happened to those children was that our schools and classroom teachers did not have enough guns. When Americans had the opportunity to pass legislation to restrict and regulate the ownership of firearms, they turned their backs. Consequently, the question we have to grapple with is whether the Second Amendment is more important than the life of a child.
Christmas has promises of its own to keep. It’s been reported that there is a new trend this year: “disgusting toys that burp, fart and poo.” From now on, apparently, there will be a new “spirit” around the hearth: “gross is good.”
Here are some of the playthings you’ll see little Johnny and Susie ripping the wrapping off of during the upcoming holiday: “Ugglys,” which make about 30 repulsive noises; “Yucky Balls,” that emit shrieking scream sounds; “The Despicable Me 2 Fart Blaster,” “The Icky Science Kit,” wherein kids make things like fake snot; “The Farting Piano” and “Poo-Dough.” It is estimated that these hilarious distractions for kids will add more than $100 million in sales to the bottom line of toy manufacturers (USA Today, Oct. 3).
If you look at this profile of modern America and pay close attention to where we put our energy and treasure, the only real surprise about the frightening reaction of those football fans in Williams Bay is that the officials receiving the death threats actually got out of town alive.


President should pay for vacation
October 31, 2013

The United States recently reached a temporary resolution on its national debt crisis.
We will revisit the same overwhelming problem again, in just a few short weeks.
Which means we can look forward to a New Year without the happy.
Consider this, then: $186,000. Time magazine reported that this is the cost to keep Air Force One aloft. For just one hour.
The president took a “vacation” recently to Hawaii.
This involved two round trips. Cost to the taxpayer?
$10 million.
Just a few weeks later the president took another “vacation” to Cape Cod, Mass., again using Air Force One.
Cost? Nearly $1 million.
When Queen Elizabeth visited the U.S. in 2007, she and Prince Phillip flew round-trip commercial on BOAC.
Suggestion: Mr. Obama can take his vacation anytime he likes and travel however he pleases, so long as he can pay for it.
The stress of being president led a former chief executive to use funds appropriated by Congress to build a retreat for the express purpose of providing a respite from the affairs of state.
He named it after his grandson, David.
This camp is located in western Maryland, just a short helicopter ride from the White House.
If this was good enough for President Eisenhower, it is most certainly good enough for this president.
Or any other, for that matter.
If the Queen and Prince Phillip can fly BOAC, Mr. Obama can surely find a more economical means of transport for his personal travels.
Unless, of course, he is wiling to pay the cost of using Air Force One out of his own pocket.
Since we live in a country that apparently has no idea how it is going to pay its bills, we desperately need to begin shifting our fiscal paradigm from profligacy to parsimony.


Oak Hill Cemetery: A Lake Geneva gem that should not be overlooked
October 31, 2013

Much more has been written about Pioneer Cemetery in Lake Geneva than about Oak Hill Cemetery.
Perhaps this is understandable, given the fact that the Pioneer Cemetery is Lake Geneva’s oldest and historic cemetery, dating back to 1837 when it was first platted by Thomas McKaig, who surveyed and laid out the streets, alleys and lots of the tiny village of Geneva at the behest of Geneva’s seven founders. ...subscribers>>

Interested in running for office?
October 24, 2013

If you have ever considered serving on the Walworth County Board, I encourage you to attend an informational meeting on the subject next month.
It may seem early to be thinking about the spring election now, but those seeking a seat on the 2014-2016 board of supervisors can begin circulating nomination papers in December.
While incumbents have a good idea about what to expect during the next term, the goal of the meeting is to provide basic facts about board service to citizens who may not be as familiar with our organization.
The meeting will be conducted in a workshop format to provide those contemplating a run for the county board with an overview of Walworth County government and a discussion of the time commitment that will likely be required of new supervisors.
The two-hour class is not a “how to” seminar on running for public office but, rather, a preview of what a supervisor might expect to experience if elected to the board. In addition to outlining the wide range of services provided by county government and highlighting some of the legal rules under which supervisors must operate, the workshop will address the relationship between the board and other elected and appointed officials and review the committee structure.
The idea for the workshop originated in 2007 in anticipation of the board’s reduction from twenty-five to eleven members, which took place the following year.
Incumbents, at the time, were concerned that the smaller board would result in a significantly greater workload for each supervisor. They felt it was important to apprise anyone considering service on the next board of the time commitment that would likely be required.
Since no one knew exactly what to expect on the downsized board, it was necessary to estimate the time that would be required. Those estimates, themselves, were controversial at the time.
A point of contention during the debate over downsizing was whether the resulting workload would be manageable. Some felt that opponents of downsizing were overstating the amount of time that would be required.
In hindsight, information presented at the inaugural workshop probably underestimated the time commitment actually required of supervisors. With the benefit of nearly six years of experience, we now have a much clearer picture.
Time commitments of a supervisor include the following:

Board meetings
In addition to special board meetings and public hearings that arise from time to time, the county board typically meets on the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 6 p.m. The length of these meetings varies greatly depending on the number and type of issues on a particular agenda. supervisors have other commitments on “County Board Day,” as the second Tuesday of each month has come to be called.
Every two to three months, the board convenes at 5 p.m. as a committee of the whole to discuss an issue in-depth. To deal with urgent issues that may have come up between meetings, special standing committee meetings are often held that day, as well. Finally, the board uses that day to establish the agendas for its committee meetings, which are held the following week. Given the number of meetings held, it is not unusual for “County Board Day” to begin at 3 p.m.

Committee meetings
Supervisors are also responsible for attending meetings of the board’s standing committees to which they are assigned. Much of the work of the board is addressed in one of eleven committees. To distribute workload and influence in the organization, committee assignments are divided, more or less equally, among supervisors. Most supervisors are assigned to three or four committees, which typically meet monthly. It isn’t unusual for a committee meeting to last two hours.
Preparation
In advance of each board and committee meeting, an informational packet is delivered to each supervisor. The packet contains drafts of the legislation to be discussed at the meeting as well as staff analysis of the issues. The length of time required to read this material varies among supervisors.


Congress should get back to work, too
October 10, 2013

I don’t care if you’re a Republican. I don’t care if you’re a Democrat.
I do not care if you call yourself a conservative or a liberal.
I don’t even care if you are a card-carrying union member or a bootstrapping capitalist.
Here’s what I do care about: work.

Going paperless good, but not be-all
October 10, 2013

Most people focus on announcements of new technology.
The release of the latest iPhone captures headlines and draws crowds of shoppers to wait, in vigil, around the nearest big-box electronics store.

Music to die for: Composing a soundtrack for my exodus
October 03, 2013
Some months ago my musician daughter asked me what music I want played during my last rites. Complex factors go into questions like that, to say nothing about answering them. My children, like their mother, tend to anticipate life’s obstacles and the bends in the road.Another factor of course is my age. After all, I am in my 87th year. The tendency of my children to be realistic about life’s cycle is reasonable enough. As a result I am giving some thought to this matter, though it is not easy.
Richard Soutar: long forgotten Lake Geneva legend
October 03, 2013

All of the kids who grew up in Lake Geneva during the late 1940s and early 1950s were aware of two “crazy houses” in Lake Geneva. One was the former Oakwood Sanitarium, a once-imposing large red brick building located on the north side of east Main Street on “Catholic Hill,” more or less where the Havenwood Apartments are today. The Oakwood Sanitarium had once been a prestigious institution where wealthy Chicagoans housed (perhaps “incarcerated” is a better verb) their “mentally challenged” sons and daughters. Long abandoned, it was in the 1940s and 1950s a derelict building, with all of its windows broken, surrounded by high grass and volunteer trees. Lake Geneva kids visited it frequently, but it was a very scary place, supposedly inhabited by the ghosts of inmates who had been “imprisoned” within its walls.
The second “crazy house” was located on the north side of Geneva Street (1017 Geneva St.) roughly where an apartment building is located today. This building, abandoned since 1943, was in the process of becoming derelict. It looked like a stone Scottish castle, which it had been designed to resemble, with a very high pointed turret looming over its second floor. The yard around it was covered with high grass and volunteer saplings. The building seemed to be surrounded by woods. Much like the Oakwood Sanitarium, the “castle” on Geneva Street was thought by local kids to be haunted. Rumors had it that the reclusive woman who had owned it (she had died in 1949) lived in the “castle” as a ghost. On Halloween nights, local kids dared each other to go near the “castle,” at the risk of their lives.
The “crazy house” castle had been built as the 19th century became the 20th century by Richard Soutar, the subject of this article. His second wife, Laura Soutar, was the reclusive woman who lived in the “castle” until six years before her death in 1949. Few in Lake Geneva today will recognize the name Richard Soutar, which is understandable because he died in 1931, 82 years ago. But in 1931, the year of his death, almost everyone in Lake Geneva knew who he was. He was famous and he had, by the time of his death, already become a legend. Indeed most of the tradesmen in Lake Geneva — carpenters, plumbers, electricians, masons, bricklayers, painters, and laborers — had worked for him at one time or another. To see Soutar’s legacy today, one need only go on the U.S. mailboat, the Walworth, as it delivers mail to piers on Geneva Lake. His legacy is evidenced by many of the large mansions that ring the lake’s shores.
Soutar had been born in Perth, Scotland, on Sept. 1, 1861. As a young man he had studied European architecture and building construction, and became an apprentice architect and builder. At the age of 20, in 1881, he emigrated from Scotland to the United States. After spending a few months in Chicago, he was drawn to Lake Geneva by the challenge of designing and building mansions for wealthy Chicagoans who had purchased land on Geneva Lake’s shore to serve as their summer estates.

The first mansion on Geneva Lake that the young Soutar built was George Sturges’s home. During the ensuing three decades, Soutar would build the summer mansions of J.H. Moore (Loramoor), Tracy Drake, H.M. Byllesby, H.H. Porter, Hubbard Carpenter, Edward Swift, A.C. Bartlett, L.E. Meyer and Homer Stillwell, among many others. He remodeled the mansion of William Wrigley Jr. (the father of Philip Knight Wrigley) and built the conservatory on the Wrigley estate.
Perhaps the three most well-known buildings that Soutar constructed were the Lake Geneva Country Club, the Otto Young mansion (Stone Manor) and the Ceylon Court mansion of Frank Chandler, which Soutar had reassembled after it had been brought by train to Lake Geneva from Chicago, where it had served as the Ceylon exhibit at the 1893 Columbian Exposition (World’s Fair) on Chicago’s Midway Plaisance adjacent to the University of Chicago.
By the beginning of the 20th century, Soutar had become one of the most well-known architects, designers and builders in the United States. When he built his “Scottish castle” on Geneva Street at the turn of the 20th century, Soutar emulated many of the mansions that he had built on Geneva Lake, especially Otto Young’s Stone Manor. He used superb building materials, including beautifully crafted stone masonry, the finest plumbing fixtures and exquisite woodwork, using wood of the highest quality. His “castle” on Geneva Street featured large, ornate fireplaces. Largely self-taught, Soutar drew upon the expertise that he had developed building mansions for wealthy Chicagoans on the shores of Geneva Lake when he designed and built his own personal “castle” on Geneva Street. The “castle” resembled the Sturges home still extant in Sturwood.
Soutar married his first wife, Katherine, in Lawrencekirk, Scotland, on Aug. 14, 1885. She came to the United States and to Lake Geneva in September 1886. Unfortunately, she contracted tuberculosis and died in October 1894 at the young age of 33. She left three small sons, aged 4 ½, 6 ½, and 8, Douglas, Richard and Forest Soutar. Soutar eventually married a second time. His second wife, Laura Cullen, had been born in Linn Township in 1867. She outlived Soutar by 18 years, dying at the age of 82 at Lakeland Hospital in December 1949. An illness had confined her to Lakeland Hospital for the previous six years, during which her “castle” on Geneva Street had become derelict. It was demolished in the 1960s, as was the Oakwood Sanitarium.
Soutar was truly one of Lake Geneva’s most distinguished residents. During the late 1920s, he became increasingly ill with heart problems. On Christmas eve in 1931, at 8:30 p.m., while listening to children serenade him with Christmas carols in front of his Geneva Street castle, he passed away. The last carol that he had requested the children to sing was “O Holy Night,” which appears on his tombstone in Oak Hill Cemetery. His funeral procession to Oak Hill on Sunday, Dec. 27, 1931, was reported to have been the largest funeral procession to Oak Hill that Lake Geneva residents had ever seen. With the passage of time, however, even legends fade into oblivion. But Soutar clearly deserves being rescued from misty obscurity.
(Much appreciation to Muriel Malsch, whose mother Mary Rahn Malsch had cared for Laura Soutar, for sharing her information on Richard Soutar with me.)

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Celebrities in the Bay
September 26, 2013

Morgan Freeman. Albert Einstein. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Need your shingles replaced? Call Harrison Ford. Hard to believe, but all the afore mentioned celebrities have visited, lived or worked in Williams Bay.

Even harder to believe, is that you really COULD call Harrison Ford in the early 1960’s to do handyman work around your home! The REAL Harrison Ford!

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