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Lost Evansville airman's remains return 70 years after plane crash

EVANSVILLE

Airman 2nd Class Edward J. Miller was finally laid to rest Saturday, July 17, at Maple Hill Cemetery in his hometown.

Miller’s sisters Dorothy Wheaton and Nancy Cox were in attendance as were other family members and hundreds of Evansville residents.

Miller died in 1952 after the plane he was in crashed into a glacier in an Alaskan blizzard, killing Miller and the other airmen aboard the craft.

Anthony Wahl 

Members of the United States Air Force Honor Guard carry the casket of U.S. Air Force Airman Second Class Edward J. Miller during a public graveside service with full military honors at Maple Hill Cemetery in Evansville on July 17.

Numerous military service members and Evansville police saluted as Miller’s casket was placed in front of his family during the burial.

The service was supposed to occur in 2020 but was rescheduled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Last year, Miller’s sister Doloris McCutcheon died.

Capt. Christopher Schilling, a chaplain in the Air Force, spoke at the service.

“Today is a day that Dorothy and Nancy and all of you in their family have been waiting for for a long time,” Schilling said. “The loss of their brother almost 70 years ago and the grief that the Miller family has carried in their hearts for all of these years. Today’s service will not release that grief that they carry. As we all know, when we lose someone we love, we feel that absence in our hearts and our lives forever.”

Schilling said now that Miller has finally been returned home to Evansville, the Miller family can take another step toward healing. He then read the Leo Marks poem “The Life That I Have.”

Schilling said he spoke with Wheaton and Cox prior to the Saturday service and asked them more about their brother and the memories they have of him. The sisters told Schilling about their brother’s warm personality, his ability to always have fun and how he would help their father on the family farm. One of the sisters’ most cherished memories with their brother was playing competitive games of Monopoly and musical chairs.

“These memories for Dorothy and Nancy are almost at a standstill in their minds as if it was yesterday, unfading to the passage of time,” Schilling said. “They are a precious connection to a brother, whom they love and lost young.”

Toward the end of the service, Schilling led the crowd in “The Lord’s Prayer,” read the poem “Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep” by Mary Elizabeth Frye and ended with a prayer for Miller’s family and loved ones.

The U.S. flag that was draped over Miller’s casket during the burial service was folded and given to Wheaton by an Air Force technical sergeant.

Lost Evansville airman's remains return home

Bill Hurtley, the director of Ward-Hurtley Funeral Home that led the service, was pleased with how the day went.

“Everything’s gone perfect. Better than we thought it would,” Hurtley said. “Yesterday was really impressive. Today went well and the weather cooperated. The family is really happy. It took a lot of coordination from a lot of different places.”

There was a procession through Evansville on Friday to the funeral home.

Gov. Tony Evers ordered flags to half-staff in honor of Miller on Saturday, July 17.

According to the Rock County Sheriff’s Office, Miller wasn’t the first local servicemember whose remains were returned to the county from the wreckage of that 1952 plane crash.

Airman 1st Class George M. Ingram was returned to Beloit in a similar ceremony in July 2016.


Education
Beloit Turner schools to conduct most instruction in person for 2021-22 school year

TOWN OF BELOIT

The Beloit Turner School District will be delivering mostly face-to-face instruction in the fall with some COVID-19-related health guidelines remaining in place.

A significant change from the prior academic year is that simulcast virtual instruction will be discontinued during the 2021-22 school year, Superintendent Dennis McCarthy said in a letter to district families.

Students with documented medical needs will be eligible to continue with virtual learning. All other students will return to classrooms.

“We will always keep student safety as a major priority. We also have concerns about the social and emotional wellness of our students, especially with the difficult circumstances for many throughout the course of this pandemic,” McCarthy wrote in a letter to families. “The bottom line is we need students at school in an environment where they can learn, interact, and be supported with the type of instruction that is meant to meet every student’s needs.”

One major reason behind this change is related to academic performance data not meeting district standards, McCarthy said.

“This was a hard decision for us to make, but we assure you it is necessary. Our academic performance in the virtual model is simply not good enough as too many students are not engaged at the level they need to be at in order to maximize learning,” McCarthy stated.

Masks will be optional for students and staff inside school buildings. This guidance applies to all four of the district’s schools. Masks are strongly encouraged for those who have not yet been vaccinated.

Social distancing will still take place along with pandemic-related cleaning protocols and increased use of sanitizer and hand-washing. Bottles of sanitizer will be available at numerous locations throughout each school building.

Masks will be required on buses, in line with federal mandates. Assigned seats will likely be observed to allow for social distancing.

At Powers Elementary and Garden Prairie Intermediate schools, students will be in traditional classroom settings for the majority of the day and will travel to art, music or gym classes. Middle and high school students will travel between classrooms.

The district has been installing bipolar ionization air filtration units in the schools this summer. These self-cleaning systems are intended to help maximize airflow and improve overall air quality.

Breakfast and lunch is free for all students. Lunches will be served in the cafeterias with staggered start times to allow for social distancing. Fast food deliveries will not be allowed at school buildings. Students in 4-year-old kindergarten will eat in their classrooms.

The district is also working with the Stateline Family YMCA to expand before- and after-school care options for elementary-school-aged students. Transportation will be provided.

Rapid COVID-19 testing will be available at school buildings during school hours. In cases of infections, those individuals and anyone who is a close contact will be required to quarantine.

Current case data, in line with Rock County Public Health guidance, shows the Turner district falls in the category of “very low” risk.

The district is working to establish an additional school vaccine clinic by the end of July.

Compared to other area districts, Beloit Turner ranks last in terms of vaccination numbers among students age 12 to 18. About 33% of students in that group have received at least one dose of vaccine to date.

Other area districts are between Turner’s rate and Evansville’s vaccination rate of 62%. The Clinton School District is at 38%, the Janesville School District is at 38%, the Parkview School District is at 41%, the Milton School District is at 49% and the Edgerton School District is at 60%.


Obituaries and death notices for July 19, 2021

Peter M. Brewer

Jerry L. Flood

Peggy R. Hanewall

Lillian Hudson-Monrow

Laurie Ann (Root) Lewis

Judy M. Mann

Joseph Gilbert “Joe” Roberts

Lois Welter


Local
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Request to dismiss Schuetz defamation lawsuit against Kvapil denied

Brian Kvapil

JANESVILLE

A Rock County judge Friday denied a motion to dismiss a defamation lawsuit filed against former Milton School Board member Brian Kvapil by former district administrator Jerry Schuetz.

Kvapil’s lawyer, Thomas Cabush, argued in court documents that the lawsuit should be dismissed because Schuetz’s allegations in the lawsuit don’t meet the standards for defamation. Cabush argued that is because Kvapil’s statements were substantially true, were opinions on matters of public concern and were protected by a privilege.

Judge Derrick Grubb said the purpose of the dismissal hearing was not to determine whether the statements in question were true or false. He also said he had to give the “benefit of the doubt” to Schuetz and not dismiss the lawsuit. Grubb said at this stage in the case, there has been no deposition testimony and the only evidence so far is documentary.

Schuetz’s defamation lawsuit stems from an episode in February 2019 when Kvapil learned of and reacted to stipends totaling $30,500 being paid to Schuetz, then-Superintendent Tim Schigur and an IT staff member without school board approval. The suit claims Kvapil made false statements about Schuetz and either knew the statements were false or made them with a “reckless disregard for their truthfulness.”

The statements listed in the lawsuit include:

  • A Feb. 8, 2019, Facebook post in which Kvapil said the district’s procedure to award the stipends was “a gross violation of the public’s trust” and a “possible violation” of district policy and state statutes.
  • A Facebook comment the same day: “You should be more outraged at the people who illegally took the money. That’s stealing.”
  • A Feb. 10, 2019, Facebook post that called the stipends “unauthorized payments.”
  • A statement at a Feb. 11, 2019, board meeting: “We have people that right now it looks—appears—that they do not know how to handle money and actually can steal from the district.”
  • A statement augmenting a report by a third-party lawyer hired to investigate the stipends’ legality in which Kvapil said Schuetz “does not have the training or qualifications to effectively do the business manager’s job.”

Schuetz and his attorneys also say he “was constructively discharged from his position with the district” and lost job opportunities because of the stipend investigation and Kvapil’s statements.

The lawsuit seeks damages for the emotional distress Schuetz endured, but Cabush argued his client’s conduct was “not extreme or outrageous” or meant to cause harm.

In the motion to dismiss, Cabush said Schuetz voluntarily left the district.

“The school district took no adverse action against the plaintiff,” according to the motion. “The plaintiff voluntarily resigned his position. The defendant’s statements were a matter of public concern (and) cannot serve as the basis for an intentional interference with contract claim.”

Cabush argued Kvapil “reasonably believed the stipends paid by the administrators to themselves was not in the budget and were not approved by the school board” and that Kvapil’s statements were “intended to inform the public and cannot form the basis for an intentional infliction of emotional distress claim.”

While none were resolved in Friday’s hearing to dismiss the lawsuit, a tangle of complicated questions have been raised by the case which the court will have to settle, including whether Kvapil’s statements were true and protected by the First Amendment, what Kvapil’s intent was in making the statements, whether Kvapil was speaking in his official capacity or as a private citizen, whether Schuetz was considered a public figure at the time, whether Kvapil’s statements were of legitimate public interest, and whether they interfered with Schuetz’s contractual relationship with the school district.


Brian Kvapil


Jerry Schuetz


Dennis McCarthy


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