Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To the amazing 114 area couples who were celebrated this week by the Diocese of Youngstown at its annual wedding anniversary Mass, for their very long marriages. Nearly 100 of the 114 couples and their loved ones filled Youngstown’s St. Columba Cathedral for Mass celebrated by Bishop David Bonnar. Combined, their marriages, lasting between 25 and 71 years each, totaled 5,494 years! At a time when it seems marriages increasingly end in divorce — or couples decide to skip the commitment of marriage all together — this group deserves much respect, honor and, of course, blessings.

ORCHID: To the approximately 1,600 graduates who earned degrees from Youngstown State University last week. During graduation ceremonies last Saturday on campus, YSU President Jim Tressel encouraged the grads to set their goals high, strive for excellence in what they do and make a difference in the world. We have every reason to believe they will accomplish all that and more!

ONION: To Sharday L. Bing Dixon, 35, of Youngstown, who was responsible for continued cruel abuse and horrible death of her 2-year-old toddler, Sebali Bing Dixon. After the boy vomited, she struck him repeatedly in the abdomen, crushing his liver and killing him with catastrophic internal injuries. This wasn’t an isolated incident. Bruises and abrasions existed all over the boy’s body from previous beatings. The heart-wrenching story is made worse because a plea deal allowed her to be sentenced to just 20 years in prison — not nearly enough.

ORCHID: To Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens Inc., a nonprofit organization dedicated to the improvement and preservation of the gardens as a cultural and educational center in the community. The group last week hosted the Mill Creek Plant Sale to help raise money to renovate a nearby children’s garden. The recent plant sale was the first of five that will be hosted by Friends of Fellows Riverside Gardens members. The next will be this coming Friday and Saturday featuring vegetables and herbs.

ORCHID: To all the volunteers, donors and organizers who helped make Amina’s Alternatives for Girls program a reality. The center, located at 611 Belmont Ave., Youngstown, is headed by Jiquala Rushton, president and director. It provides a place for homeless or pregnant women facing challenges or obstacles to get back on their feet for meaningful careers and productive lives. The program develops skills, assists with education and offers self-esteem programs. Last year, 173 young women participated. The organization survives on the generosity of others. For information, call 614-747-8857.

ORCHID: To organizers of Jane’s Carousel Day May 7 in New York City. The event honored the 100-year-old carousel located in Brooklyn Bridge Park along that city’s East River. As many know, the carousel first lived in Youngstown’s Idora Park, beginning in 1922. The piece of nostalgia is remembered fondly by so many Valley residents who visit New York and the carousel, lovingly restored by Jane Walentas. Walentas, a New Yorker who died in 2020, deserves a posthumous orchid for her work in preserving the carousel and bringing it back to life.

ORCHID: To McDonald and Weathersfield officials for agreeing to rename a section of McDonald Avenue from Ohltown McDonald Road at West Second Street south to Watson Marshall Road as “Dennis Johnston Memorial Boulevard.” Navy Seaman Johnston died in 1968 at age 20 in action during heavy combat in the Vietnam War. He lived in Weathersfield and graduated in 1966 from McDonald High School. The road will be dedicated during McDonald’s Memorial Day service. Orchid also goes to retired Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond Bishop for suggesting the communities honor Johnston in this way.


Orchids and onions

ORCHID: To all the first responders, area religious leaders, grief counselors and other members of the Lowellville community who came together following Thursday’s tragic events at the Lowellville school complex to provide needed hugs, counseling, support and shoulders to cry on as students, faculty and staff worked to cope and grasp at answers. Indeed, this will not be an easy process, but together the strong support system of this close-knit community will help everyone wade through the coming dark days. Orchid also goes to all the parents and families who came to the campus Thursday in an orderly fashion. Despite the panic they must have felt, most followed established guidelines, waiting with patience to greet their children and take them home.

ORCHID: To sponsors and planners of the Summer Literacy Expo at the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. The event was intended to stress to families and students the importance of reading — especially over summer break. Youngstown City School District, Premier Bank Community Event Series, Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre, JAC Management Group and My Brothers Keeper Youngstown all collaborated on the free expo to encourage families and students to keep reading all summer.

ONION: To sponsors of Senate Bill 256, the law passed last year that will haunt crime victims and their families indefinitely. The bill grants mandatory parole eligibility for teen offenders, even those convicted of the most heinous crimes. Trumbull County Assistant Prosecutor Christopher Becker spent time in Columbus last week arguing against the law. Also opposing the bill is the grandson of Marie Belcastro, an elderly Niles woman brutally murdered in 2015 by her juvenile neighbor. The grandson last week said the emotional damage of SB 256 has been worse than the murder itself, due to mental anguish of facing future parole hearings.

ORCHID: To officials at Universal Stainless & Alloy Products mill, which this week broke ground on a $15 million investment and 13,500-square-foot expansion at the North Jackson specialty steel plant. Company President and CEO Dennis Oats this week spoke about challenges the Pennsylvania-based company overcame to grow the plant and demand for its products. The expansion will accommodate additions of two new arc re-melt furnaces, giving the mill seven. Oats said he is very optimistic about the company’s future. We are,


ORCHID: To Poland Village Councilman Anthony Lattanzio, who will step down after his short stint on council. Lattanzio was the youngest person ever to be elected to the seat — age 21 in 2017. He brought youthful exuberance and enthusiasm to the post. While he will be missed, we praise him for taking this step due to time constraints in his schedule before allowing those limitations to affect his service to constituents. We wish him well as he moves through medical school, and can only assume his future will be bright. Perhaps he will come back to council later in life. If he does, we hope village residents would consider him favorably.

ORCHID: To everyone involved in marking the 150th anniversary of Arbor Day last week by planting hundreds of trees in the Mahoning Valley. Employees of FirstEnergy and its Ohio Edison electric helped plant hundreds of trees in Poland Municipal Forest and Mill Creek MetroParks. Even students at Hilltop Elementary School in Canfield and Canfield officials got into the movement last week. Arbor Day is a national holiday dedicated to planting trees.

ORCHID: To Hubbard High School students Chase Roy and Kennedy Evans, who each recently completed separate mission trips to Central America. Chase, a freshman, spent a week in Honduras installing water filters and community bathrooms, building a house and two libraries and more. Kennedy traveled with her church, Victory Christian Center in Coitsville, to El Salvador, to work with an evangelism team, offering ministry in the streets and schools. She plans to move to Africa this summer to continue her work as a missionary. Bravo to both!



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