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Silver Lake says farewell to two long-time employees

BLADEN — After working for Silver Lake Public Schools for a combined 63 years, Sue Bradley and Cleo Mousel said farewell to the school Tuesday with a retirement reception at the elementary school here.

Friends, family, and current and former students came out to wish the retirees well. The school board presented each with a rocking chair engraved with their dates of service to the district.

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Christopher Smidt gives his former teacher, Sue Bradley, a hug during her retirement party Tuesday at Silver Lake Elementary School in Bladen.

Bradley came to the school district in 1983 and has been teaching for 40 years.

She said she wanted to be a teacher since high school. Her mother was a teacher, and she enjoyed working with younger children as a high school student.

“I always liked working with little kids,” she said.

Bradley began her teaching career in Naponee, teaching students in kindergarten through third grade. After two years, she got a job at the elementary school in Roseland where she taught first- and second-grade students.

When the Bladen and Roseland schools consolidated in the 1980s, Bradley started teaching second-grade students at the Silver Lake elementary school in Bladen.

In her classroom, she had a carpeted bathtub where students could take turns reading. She said it was a great way to encourage students to love reading, which is one of her hobbies, as well. She would read to students at least once a day.

Anthony Niemeyer, who graduated from Silver Lake High School this year, remembers that bathtub from his days in second grade.

“We used to fight over where we would read,” he said with a chuckle. “Looking back on it, it wasn’t very comfortable.”

Now that Bradley is retiring, the tub also has retired to her backyard, where she plans to use it to plant flowers.

Bradley is sad to leave the school but is looking to spending more time with her 2-year-old granddaughter.

“It’s going to seem weird for me when school starts and I’m not going to be here,” she said.

Duane Arntt, elementary principal, described Bradley as a likable teacher who will be difficult to replace.

“She’s done a great job,” he said. “It will be tough to lose a person with that kind of educational background.”

Superintendent Terry Bauer thanked Bradley for her service as a supportive staff member.

“She’s given a lot of years to the district,” he said. “All the students sing her praises.”

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

Cleo Mousel takes pictures of posters made for her at her retirement party Tuesday at Silver Lake Elementary School in Bladen.

Where Bradley spent her time in the elementary building, Cleo Mousel usually was seen at the high school in Roseland.

Mousel has been a member of the school staff for 29 years.

She became involved in the school as any average mother of two. She served as room mother and went on field trips. She helped decorate for the post-prom party and other celebrations.

Eventually, Mousel was asked to join the school staff to manage concession stands. The following year, she was asked to serve as sponsor for the cheerleading team. For the last 20 years, she also was the high school executive secretary.

Bauer said he has known Mousel for 13 years since he joined the district and described her as a kind and caring person.

“She would do anything for a student,” he said. “She embodies what Silver Lake is all about. She will be missed greatly.”

As the cheerleading sponsor, Mousel helped girls learn about the importance of giving back to the community. Cheerleading squads at Silver Lake have helped organize bloodmobiles, volunteered at Adams County FairFest and organized numerous benefits to help fellow classmates and alumni.

Crystal L’Heureux of Axtell, a former cheerleader who graduated from Silver Lake in 2003, said Mousel was a great influence in her life and even served as personal attendant at L’Heureux’s wedding.

She said Mousel was involved all over the school, as well as the town of Roseland.

“She just did everything,” L’Heureux said. “She was a jack of all trades. When something needed to be done, she was the one who came to the rescue.”

One of the ways Mousel showed appreciation for others was through candy grams — poster boards with messages that include candy bars to replace key words.

Mousel said she saw the idea on social media years ago and started making them for retiring teachers and staff, as well as offering candy grams for weddings and baby showers.

“I wanted to do something different than the norm,” she said.

Natalia Cassell, a junior at Silver Lake, made a candy gram of her own for Mousel as a way to pay her back for all the times she crafted candy grams for others.

Cassell has been on the cheerleading squad for two years. She described Mousel as a positive and uplifting person who went out of her way to help others.

“She put in way more work than she needed to,” Cassell said. “She always made sure the cheerleaders were happy and everybody else was happy.”

Mousel is retiring to be able to spend more time with her husband, who is having health issues.

She said she will miss being around the students and being involved with their lives every day.

“I like getting to know the kids and being a part of their lives,” she said.

Walmart latest retailer to require customers to wear masks

NEW YORK — Walmart will require customers to wear face coverings at all of its namesake and Sam’s Club stores, making it the largest retailer to introduce such a policy that has otherwise proven difficult to enforce without state and federal requirements.

The company said Wednesday that the policy will go into effect on Monday to allow time to inform customers. Currently, about 65% of its more than 5,000 stores and clubs are located in areas where there is already some form of government mandate on face coverings.

Hours after Walmart’s announcement, supermarket chain Kroger, based in Cincinnati, and department store Kohl’s, based in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, followed suit. Kohl’s policy will go into effect on Monday, while Kroger’s mask protocol will go into effect July 22.

Bentonville, Arkansas-based Walmart, Kohl’s and Kroger join a growing but still small list of retailers to require masks at all of its stores, filling the role of states and the federal government that have failed to issue such mandates on an issue that has been highly politicized by President Donald Trump and many of his ardent supporters. Given Walmart’s clout as the largest retailer in the U.S., its decision is expected to push many others to issue similar mandates.

Last week, Starbucks announced that customers who visit its company-owned café locations in the U.S. will be required to wear face coverings. The policies at Starbucks and Best Buy went into effect Wednesday.

Only a handful of major retailers, including teen clothing chain American Eagle Outfitters and Apple, has a mask mandate for customers for all of its stores. Costco Wholesale Club was one of the first major retailers to require face coverings for customers at all of its stores. The policy went into effect in early May.

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, said in a statement that it hopes Walmart’s move will be a “tipping point in this public health debate.”

Retailers had been hesitant to issue chain-wide mandates for fear of angering some customers. They also didn’t want to have their workers play the role of enforcers of the protocols. It was already hard enough to get some customers to comply even in the states that had the mandates. However, the recent surge of new virus cases — particularly in Florida, California, Texas and Arizona — has left them with no choice, retail experts say.

“I think Walmart’s decision will give cover to other retailers to require masks,” said Michael J. Hicks, an economist at Ball State University in Muncie, Indiana. “I applaud Walmart and others for stepping in.”

Bryan Eshelman, a managing director in the retail practice at consultancy AlixPartners, noted that retailers needed to step in to reduce their own health risks and that having a virus case is disruptive.

“It is a business risk that they need to manage for the safety of employees and customers,” he said.

Eshelman added that he believes making shoppers comply with the mask protocols will be easier now that wearing masks are becoming more of the norm.

Marc Perrone, president of the United Food & Commercial Workers International union, which counts 1.3 members who work in grocery stores, food packaging plants and other locations, says he feels “vindicated” after pushing food companies and retailers to require customers to wear masks. But he says that stores need to train employees in how to de-escalate situations with shoppers.

Walmart is taking no chances, making sure to have a new strategy in place to enforce the mask protocols. It said Wednesday that it will create the role of health ambassador at its Walmart stores and will station them near the entrance to remind customers without masks of its new requirements. These workers, who will be wearing black polo shirts, will receive special training to “help make the process as smooth as possible for customers.”

Walmart said that it’s currently working on different options for customers who don’t show up with a face mask.

As for Sam’s Club, employees at the entrance will follow the same process with its members, politely reminding them of its requirements to wear a face covering when shopping. Complimentary masks will be provided if the member doesn’t have one or a member can buy one at the club.

Retailers have been challenged with striking a balance between keeping shoppers safe while making them feel comfortable.

Last week, the Retail Industry Leaders Association, which represents Walmart, Best Buy and other major chains, publicized a letter it sent to state governors to mandate store customers to wear face coverings. It said the hodgepodge of rules around the country have created confusion for shoppers and that has led to conflict between customers and workers trying to enforce store rules.

The National Governors Association said last week that its members are discussing the letter and others like it from different retail groups.

Social media is full of videos capturing clashes between those who are asked to wear masks, and employees who are under orders to make sure people wear them.

About half of U.S. states require masks in public places, according to the RILA. In recent days, Kentucky and Michigan have passed statewide mandates.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been consistent about recommending people cover their mouth and nose when around others to help reduce the spread of the virus that causes COVID-19. But at the beginning of the lockdowns, it had discouraged people who were not sick from buying masks for fear of taking away what was then a limited supply for health care workers.

“We know some people have differing opinions on this topic,” wrote Dacona Smith, chief operating officer at Walmart U.S. and Lance de la Rosa, chief operating officer at Sam’s Club in a blog posted Wednesday. “We also recognize the role we can play to help protect the health and well-being of the communities we serve by following the evolving guidance of health officials like the CDC.”

Kool-Aid Days on hold for 2020

With a seeming inability to safely serve Kool-Aid from the world’s largest Kool-Aid stand, members of the Kool-Aid Days board have decided to postpone the 2020 Kool-Aid Days Festival until 2021.

Kool-Aid Days was scheduled for Aug. 21-23 on the Adams County Fairgrounds. This was supposed to be the first year of a collaboration between Kool-Aid Days and the Oregon Trail Rodeo, with the events happening simultaneously.

The novel coronavirus disease, COVID-19, pandemic disrupted the plan, however, leaving the Oregon Trail Rodeo to go forward on its own if the Adams County Agricultural Society can get an operational safety plan approved by the South Heartland District Health Department.

“We would love to, obviously, be a part of the rodeo weekend,” Kool-Aid Days president Marissa Sitzmore said in an interview Wednesday afternoon. “However, some of the regulations we have to meet are different than for their event.

“One of the biggest hurdles, obviously, is what Kool-Aid Days is based on, and that’s the world’s largest Kool-Aid stand. With not being able to offer refills, it’s just an ugly situation on how that would work. The logistics behind the refills of the Kool-Aid alone are more than we can handle with the state regulations the way they are right now.”

Sanitation of the many inflatables, games and activities at Kool-Aid Days also would be difficult, she said.

“There’s just too many obstacles we could not get around, unfortunately,” Sitzmore said. “I’m literally sick about it because I know it’s one of the biggest events Hastings has to offer. I’ve put my heart and soul into this for 10 years.

“This year, being my first year as president, all of the extra steps and meetings and planning to end up postponing the festival breaks my heart for multiple reasons. On the flip side of that, I couldn’t live with myself, nor could any of the board members or any of the folks at Kraft or any of the previous board members, if we have a festival that knowingly puts someone’s life in jeopardy or potentially causes the spread of any virus.”

Sitzmore said she and other board members spent a lot of time working with different sponsors and health organizations trying to come up with a solution, but with no luck.

“I was super excited about the two boards coming together for a weekend drawing a variety of people to one common place, but it’s going to have to wait until 2021 for that to happen,” she said.

Ag Society moving forward with Oregon Trail Rodeo

The Adams County Agricultural Society is moving forward with plans to hold the Oregon Trail Rodeo in August, provided the plan gets approval from the South Heartland District Health Department.

Board members voted 7-1 during their regular meeting Tuesday to have the rodeo, which is scheduled for Aug. 21-23 at the fairgrounds.

The rodeo was to happen in conjunction with Kool-Aid Days. However, Kool-Aid Days board members determined that event couldn’t take place in a safe manner and decided to postpone until 2021.

When the motion was made to have the rodeo as scheduled, board president Scott Schneider suggested adding an amendment stating “with approval by the health department of the submitted plan.”

Board member Nate Allen, who made the motion, said that amendment was unnecessary.

“We don’t need to say that because (rejection of the plan) is going to stop it automatically,” he said.

Board member Randy Queen said having so few rodeos happening in the Midwest this year could boost attendance at the Oregon Trail Rodeo.

“One thing I’ve been told, if we’re one of the only rodeos in this part of the country that people are going to come see it because they are looking for something to do,” he said. “For years we’ve been working to get butts in the seats. This year they may put their butts in the seats on their own.”

Phase 3 of reopening, which began June 22, allows for 75% of capacity for outdoor activities, which would make holding the rodeo feasible.

“Seventy-five percent would be more tickets than we’ve ever sold before,” board member and Oregon Trail Rodeo chairman Scott Hinrichs said.

Still, Ag Society board members spent most of their hourlong discussion about the rodeo talking through the plan they would submit to the health department, what safety measures need to be taken and what rodeo activities might need to be canceled.

Among changes, the pink buckets that traditionally are passed through the rodeo arena to raise funds for fighting breast cancer will now remain stationary at a few different locations.

Board members expressed a need for more volunteers to help in various aspects of the rodeo.

“We can’t do it with just this board; we can’t do it without volunteers,” board member Julie Ochsner said.

The decision to move forward with the Oregon Trail Rodeo comes as members of the Ag Society board and rodeo committee members had one of their best starts ever to fundraising.

Each year, fairgrounds officials budget for $87,500 of the $125,000 needed to put on the Oregon Trail Rodeo to come from sponsorships.

When the Ag Society met for a special meeting on June 30 to discuss whether the Oregon Trail Rodeo would happen, it was stated then that the amount of sponsorships would be the determining factor whether the rodeo could happen.

Fairgrounds manager Jolene Laux presented an updated sponsor list on Tuesday.

About $72,000 has been pledged so far, which is a substantial percentage of past years pledges.

Hinrichs said that is one of the best starts ever and there was still a lot of untapped potential.

Fairgrounds officials also continue to negotiate with a TV network that might pay to broadcast the rodeo.

Hinrichs said many donors were waiting to hear the Ag Society’s decision before committing to give.

Other board members agreed with that sentiment.

“There’s a lot of potential sponsors we haven’t contacted,” Queen said. “We can’t quit now. If we’re going to do it we’ve got to keep going to make sure we have enough to pay the bills when it comes time.”

Board member Twila Bankson, who was the dissenting voter, expressed doubt about moving forward with the rodeo with some fundraising still left to be done.

“I know we all pray that everybody wants to come and have butts in the seats up to 75%, but there’s still the ones we’re going to worry about that won’t come, and we’ve got to make sure we have that revenue covered,” she said.