Friday, March 25, 2016

The Legacy of the Daffodils

The first time I saw the daffodils blooming by the side of the road was well over 25 years ago. My mother-in-law and I were heading home after a day of shopping when she suddenly veered off the main highway to show me something I’d never seen before.

We traveled about a mile down a one-lane gravel road before turning to the south. And there, in full abundance, was a riot of sunny yellow daffodils, blooming along both sides of the road, as far as the eye could see. She didn’t know the story of who had planted them or why, but she’d come across them years ago and thought I’d enjoy seeing them.

I hadn’t been back that way for years, but I did think of those amazing roadways every spring. Then, last week, as I noticed the bulbs beginning to bloom in my garden, I decided to see if those dancing daffodils were still there, and there was only one way to find out.

Armed with my camera, I headed off, hoping I’d remember where to turn. In fact, I did recognize one of the routes, and there at the intersection of two country roads were the daffys; bright yellow, swaying and bobbing in the breeze, a happy harbinger of spring.

Once again a riot of yellow blooms spread along the road, ending down by a house to the south, but heading off toward a church and more roads to the north. Beautiful and uplifting!

I did some digging and finally discovered the story behind the daffodils from Jo Gardner. Jo’s parents, Ed and Lois Whittaker decided back in the 1940s that they wanted to make the countryside look pretty during these wet, muddy spring months, so they began a two-person campaign to beautify their country neighborhood. They began planting daffodil bulbs.

Each year, they planted more bulbs, and each year the back country roadways heralded in spring with the uplifting glow of yellow daffodils.

Jo said that her dad, Ed would take a spade and make a hole, then her mom would drop in the bulb, and Ed would step on it to cover it up.

Jo isn’t sure where all of the bulbs came from. People began donating them, some bulbs were divided, and sometimes the plants just spread themselves across the countryside.

Pleasant Ridge Church
Once the Whittaker’s had planted their roadside, they branched off to the north and south, lining the roads that led to the Pleasant Ridge Church. Word spread of the spectacular flowers and people drove the roads to see the beauty.

Jo doesn’t know why daffodils were her parent’s flower of choice, but folklore may shed some light on that.

In Victorian times, flowers had meanings – there were actual flower dictionaries with the meaning explained.

According to one description, the bright yellow daffy indicated love, regard and respect. It was also a symbol of hope, joy and new beginnings; the perfect flower for spring, which brings us a new beginning each year.

The daffodil is also a symbol of rebirth, and associated with the spring festivals of Lent and Easter. While we in the U.S. call them Easter Lilies, in Germany they are known as Easter Bells, and in England as the Lenten Lily.

Jo said that her father planted the last of the daffodils in 1989, at the age of 94.

The Whittaker’s life-long dedication to making their ”little corner of the world” more beautiful is a lesson for all of us. Regardless of how busy we are, there’s always time to brighten a little piece of our world, and that, in turn, may give joy to others.

Thanks to the Whittaker’s, the feelings of happiness and joy bubble forth over 70 years later at the sight of those golden daffodils dancing in the prairie breeze each spring, along the gravel roads of Lawrence County, Illinois.

What a beautiful legacy to be remembered for!

~ Joy

"Daffodils" (1804)
I wander’d lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the Milky Way,
They stretch'd in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed -- and gazed -- but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

~ William Wordsworth (1770 – 1850)

Friday, March 18, 2016

Johnny Appleseed Remembered

John Chapman
He was born John Chapman on September 26, 1774, but he became a folk hero who was called "Johnny Appleseed."

Tending the Orchard
Chapman grew up in Longmeadow, Massachusetts, the son of a farmer. During his teens, he apprenticed as an orchardist and nurseryman, thus beginning his life-long interest in apple orchards.

While the legend has Chapman spreading apple seeds on the ground as he walked, he actually planted nurseries. He would fence the trees and leave a local farmer in charge of tending them, coming back every couple of years to check on them. 

Chapman’s first nursery was planted south of Warren, Pennsylvania. At the beginning of the 19th century, he moved west into Ohio, taking with him apple seeds he had gathered from cider presses throughout Pennsylvania.

Those seeds grew into trees, and many times the fruit was not picked for tasty apples to be made into pies, but to be fermented into hard cider and applejack. Chapman sold his two-year-old apple trees to settlers throughout the region for six cents a tree. When a family could not pay, many times Chapman would give them the seedlings. His kind nature earned him the moniker, “Johnny Appleseed.”

Johnny Appleseed
Chapman traveled throughout Ontario, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois, for more than 40 years, planting orchards and selling apple trees. He also took time to educate local farmers on how to plant nurseries, and how to tend the orchards.

Chapman was also a member of the Church of New Jerusalem, a pacifist sect that believed in simple living. He preached that God and nature were entwined. It was said that he dressed in sacks he had fashioned into clothing, and wore a metal pot as a hat, which he could also use for cooking. Chapman advocated that animals should be respected, and was one of the first known vegetarians.

Harper's Weekly
Native Americans believed that the Great Spirit guided Chapman, and he was welcomed into many tee pees to share his knowledge, and preach his Gospel.

The legend of "Johnny Appleseed" came about when W.D. Haley wrote in colorful prose about Chapman’s life, spreading apple seeds across Ohio for “Harper’s Weekly” in 1871.

John Chapman died of pneumonia on March 18, 1845 – 171 years ago, at the home of a friend. On his death, “Johnny Appleseed” left over 1,200 acres of nurseries to his sister, including 15,000 trees located in Allen County, Indiana.

Johnny Appleseed - Spring Grove Cemetery
John Chapman's Grave
John Chapman aka “Johnny Appleseed” was buried near Fort Wayne, Indiana, but numerous markers and monuments have been erected throughout the Midwest in celebration of the man, and his life’s work.

~ Joy

Friday, March 11, 2016

Book Review: Of Statues and Effigies by Adonis Stergiou

Cemetery sculpture is something I never tire of looking at, in person while wandering a cemetery, or in book form on an inclement day at home.

Of Statues and Effigies is such a book. Author Adonis Stergiou concentrates on the faces of the sculptures found in the cemetery of Xiriotissa, Greece. During the Greek War, from 1945 – 1949, this cemetery was also used as an execution site, and for mass burials.

Stergiou tells us “the effigies are representations of people not always well known… It's usually far harder to learn of the person represented by them since they were not “historically” significant. Of most of the subjects I had spotted, those seemed the most neglected.”

But the neglect seems to add another layer of depth to this art. Many appear as though the sculptors caught their subjects amid a “life” moment.

Photo of Actor Thanos Leivaditis
Thanos Leivaditis, a Greek actor and prolific screenwriter who penned thirty screenplays during his lifetime, was sculpted to look every bit the unhurried businessman on his way to an important meeting, sporting a suit and tie with every hair in place.

 Military figures, with uniforms and caps in perfect order, are plentiful here. But look closer and each face will capture your attention. It's almost as if a bit of each individual's personality has been been captured in the likeness.

Two soldiers stand close together, gazing out into infinity, but the elements have left marks. It appears as if each man is sporting long sideburns instead of the rain tracks and erosion that marks each face. The sculptor, Nikos Perantinos, was known for his simplicity and classical form, to which the elements have only add enhancement.

Another face has been weathered in such a way it appears at first glance as if a tear is escaping from the man's eye.

Older statues sport the heavy mustaches and wavy hair of the late Victorian era along with pocking from the elements and a slight cast of mold.

The statue of Anastasia Hatzimitala is amazing. The only woman featured in the book, she wears a covering on her head; what appears to be veil like a nun, or a peasant. Her eyes are lifelike and she looks directly at you, into your soul without reproach.

Drawing of Athanasios Diakos
Stergiou ends his book with a photo at a tilted angle that has us looking up at the statue of Athanasios Diakos, a Greek military commander and national hero. Diakos fought against the Ottoman army in 1821 (and lost). He is remembered as a martyr for the Greek cause.

Adonis Stergiou tells us “This project was about neglected memories which are still visible and present among us.” After reviewing this book, I see those weathered and time-worn faces of cemetery statues in a more artistic light.

~ Joy

Author Adonis Stergiou
Book Details:
Of Statues and Effigies by Adonis Stergiou
Available for purchase at Amazon by clicking this link:

Friday, March 4, 2016

The 5 Deadliest Tornados of the 20th Century

March marks the beginning of tornado season in the United States, and it continues through June. The majority of tornados tend to occur during the months of May and June, but a tornado can happen during any month of the year if conditions are right.

The study of early tornados began with John Park Finley, an officer of the Army Signal Office. Finley joined the Army’s weather forecasting office in 1877 with an interest in learning how to predict tornados. He believed that many lives could be saved if some type of warning system could be devised for area communities to use. 

Unfortunately, Army supervisors did not share Finley’s vision. Fearing that the term “tornado” would cause panic among the public, Finley was barred from using the word in his forecasts. In fact, no one reporting weather conditions was allowed to use “tornado” when reporting on these violent storm systems. Instead, an approaching twister was called a “severe local storm.”  The ban on using tornado was in place from 1888 to 1950! 

Since there were no alarms raised before the storms struck, people did not know the storm included a funnel cloud, so they didn't seek shelter. This could explain why so many died and were injured by tornados during the first half of the 20th century. 

Finley’s book, Tornados, What They Are and How to Escape Them was published in 1888. In it, he explained what a tornado was and how it developed.  Although a valued resource at the time, many of his safety guidelines are now considered dangerous.

And calling them what they are - here are the five deadliest tornados of the 20th century.

The Dixie Tornado Outbreak                               April 23 – 25, 1908
This destructive outbreak of tornados swept across 13 states during April 23, 24 and 25, 1908. At least 29 tornados were produced from this supercell thunderstorm outbreak, which affected parts of the Great Plains, Midwest and South. At least 324 deaths were recorded, most in rural areas, and 1,652 people were injured.

Three tornados were responsible for the wide-spread damage which occurred along a path at least 265 miles long with the worst destruction from Louisiana to Mississippi to Alabama. The town of Purvis was one of the hardest hit; 143 of the town’s 150 homes were destroyed. Today, these tornados would be classified as F-4 with wind speeds estimated from 207 to 260 mph, creating devastating damage. *F-4 tornados occur about 1.1% of the time.

The Tri-State Tornados                                          March 18, 1925
This is the deadliest tornado outbreak recorded in U.S. history. According to NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), this was actually one very wide and swiftly moving tornado, which resembled a rolling, boiling cloud on the ground. The tornado cut a path of 219 miles; the longest ever recorded in the world, across southeastern Missouri through southern Illinois and into southwestern Indiana.

For 3.5 hours that Wednesday afternoon, the storm devastated nineteen communities in Missouri, Illinois and Indiana. At least 695 people died and 2,027 were injured, the majority of them in southern Illinois where several towns were demolished. At least nine schools were destroyed and 72 students killed, more than any other tornado in U.S. history. Today, this storm would be classified as an F-5 with winds from 261 -318 mph and a damage swath of 3,600 ft. The likelihood of an *F-5 storm is less than 0.1%.

The Tupelo - Gainesville Tornado Outbreak           April 5 – 6, 1936
At least twelve tornados swept through the southeastern U.S. on Sunday, April 5 and Monday, April 6, 1936. The town of Tupelo, Mississippi was struck by the fourth-deadliest tornado in U.S. history about 8:30 p.m. Reports indicated that 48 city blocks were leveled by the storm and numerous homes were swept into Gum Pond. At least 216 people were killed, another 700 injured. This storm would have been classified as an *F-5 tornado with wind speeds up to 318 mph; homes were lifted off foundations and carried considerable distances, trees debarked and residents reported pine needles stuck in the sides of tree trunks.

The storm rolled through Alabama overnight, and a double tornado hit Gainesville, Georgia about 8:30 a.m. The downtown area was demolished. The Cooper Pants Factory was filled with 550 female employees who had just arrived to work when the tornado struck. The building collapsed and caught fire, killing 70 workers – the worst tornado-related death toll to occur from a single building in the U.S. It was estimated that 203 died, but the exact number was not known since numerous buildings simply collapsed and caught fire without any accurate numbers as to how many were inside. The Gainesville tornado was the 5th deadliest in the country’s history. Today, the tornado would be classified as an *F-4 with winds up to 260 mph, buildings and homes leveled, and vehicles thrown through the air.

The Palm Sunday Tornados                                  April 11 – 12, 1965
There have been three Palm Sunday tornado events during the 20th century, but the storms of April 11 and 12, 1965 were, by far, the most deadly. Forty-seven tornados – the second biggest outbreak of the century - swept through the Midwesten states of Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin. At least 256 people were killed and 3,402 were injured over the two-day event. The outbreak was the second most violent ever recorded with 17 F-4 tornados reported. The Hoosier State was the hardest hit with 138 deaths and more than 1,200 injured.

Reports indicated one tornado tore across lower Michigan’s Steuben and Monroe Counties, killing 44 and injuring another 612. In Indiana, a double tornado hit Goshen, Indiana leveling nearly 100 house trailers. South Bend, Laporte, Lafayette, Kokomo, Russiaville, and Lebanon, Indiana suffered enormous damage. For the first time in the U.S. Weather Bureau’s history, all nine northern counties in the state were under a tornado warning at the same time! Entire blocks were leveled in Toledo, Ohio, and more than 40 people were killed in Strongsville, southwest of Cleveland. Officials reported the tornados cut a path about 450 miles from Michigan through Indiana.

Many lives were lost due to a warning system that failed. The public didn’t know the difference between a “forecast” and an “alert.” This series of storms led to the implementation of the “watch” and “warning” program that remains in effect today.

1974 Super Outbreak                        April 3 – 4, 1974
This weather event went down in the record books as the largest tornado outbreak for one 24-hour period for the century. From Wednesday, April 3 to Thursday April 4, 1974, 148 confirmed tornados devastated 13 states and the Canadian province of Ontario. Tornados swept through Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia and New York during an 18-hour period. The path length of the twisters measured 2,600 miles. Fatalities numbered 319 with 5,484 injuries.  Of the 148 tornados, 7 were classified as F-5, 23 as F-4, 35 as F-3, 31 as F-2, 37 as F-1 and 15 as F-0.

The storms began in Morris, Illinois early in the afternoon. As the storm system moved to the east, the tornados became more intense. An F-4 tornado hit Monticello, Indiana raking a path 121 miles long – the longest length of any tornado in this system. At one point, the entire state of Indiana was under a tornado warning – the first and only time in history that has occurred.

The first F-5 tornado was clocked at Xenia, Ohio just before 5 p.m. This was the deadliest tornado of the Super Outbreak of 1974. Thirty-four people were killed, another 1,150 were injured, and most of the town was destroyed; homes, businesses, apartment buildings, churches and the high school gone in a moment. Entire subdivisions were wiped off the map, and gravestones were toppled in a local cemetery. President Richard Nixon declared Xenia a disaster area.

2011 Tornado Outbreak
The only tornado outbreak worse than the 1974 outbreak occurred in this century on April 27, 2011. This day marks the deadliest tornado outbreak in the United States with 317 people killed and more than 2,200 injured. This Super Outbreak affected 21 states with the storm system spawning 363 tornados in a 24-hour period.

Let’s hope the coming spring breaks the record for the least number of tornados.

~ Joy

*The Fujita scale was developed in 1971 and is used to rate a tornado’s intensity, path length, width, and wind speeds.