January 26, 2021

Top 20 stories of 2020

Surrounded by support by Larry Peterson

Published January 30

Nov. 7, 2019, was a fateful day for Simpson College’s Jenna Taylor. It had already been a brutal week for her and her family, as her father, Bill Taylor, was in hospice care with a rapidly developing case of pancreatic cancer. On that evening, just hours after doctors told her she would have to shut down her basketball passion, her father lost his battle with cancer.

The shadow cast as her lifelong basketball mentor was enormous, not to mention his role as a loving and devoted father. Bill Taylor was a well-known figure in the community for helping basketball players after retiring as Southwestern Community College’s men’s coach, as he moved into administrative roles at the college.

But, nobody received more attention and care in development of their games as Jenna and her older brother, Colby, who himself starred at Central College before a brief professional career overseas. The discussions after games, the phone calls, the text messages with tips. All of those things were suddenly gone after Bill’s life ended just three weeks after his October 2019 diagnosis.


Love that lasts by Regina Smith

Published February 14

Seventy-five years ago, Franklin D. Roosevelt was president, the battle of Iwo Jima was about to happen, Tom Selleck and Mia Farrow had just been born, milk cost 63 cents a gallon, gas cost 15 to 21 cents a gallon, Percy Spencer accidentally discovered that microwaves can heat food, and Marge Naven was waiting for Ed to come home from the war.

In “Love that lasts,” the Navens share a glimpse into their 75 year marriage: their early days of courting , sharing what they love most about each other, how they survived war and economic depression, and some their greatest accomplishments as a couple.


Crestonians scoop the Loop by Tyler Hetu

Published March 30

After weeks of social-distancing due to COVID-19, Crestonians take part in a forgotten tradition of Creston’s yesteryear as they “scoop the loop” uptown in an effort to recapture a bit of normalcy and see their friends and neighbors.


The kindness of strangers by Sarah Scull

Published April 1

Just days before Spain went on a government-ordered lock-down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, international traveller, Leticia Fountain of Torre del Mar, Spain, found herself stranded after her Amtrak departure was delayed, making her ability to catch a flight out of Chicago nearly impossible. However, a chance encounter with two good Samaritans – sisters Alizabeth and Anna Jean Gates of Creston – Fountain was driven from Osceola to Des Moines, where she was able to catch a connecting flight in time to make it home.


Carroll cleared by Regina Smith

Published April 3

After a citizen complaint alleged that 2019 mayoral write-in candidate Gabe Carroll promised to appoint a specific person to his vacant city council seat if elected, he was investigated by special prosecutor, Ringgold County Attorney Clint Spurrier, who cleared Carroll of any wrong-doing.

Carroll was elected after private citizens organized a grassroots campaign via social media to write in his name.

“There is no evidence that Mr. Carroll posted these messages, or otherwise connecting Mr. Carroll to these social media posts,” Spurrier said.


First confirmed case of COVID-19 reported in Union County by Regina Smith

Published April 9

Greater Regional Health confirmed Union County’s first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in a press release.

“While this is Union County’s first case, it may not be the last, and that’s why we encourage all residents to continue to make prevention a priority,” said Union County Public Health Nurse Robin Sevier.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the first case of 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States on January 21 in the state of Washington. The patient recently returned from Wuhan, China, where an outbreak of pneumonia caused by the virus has been ongoing since December 2019.

On March 8, the first three “presumptive positive” cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in Iowa. The three individuals, from Johnson County, had recently traveled on a cruise ship in Egypt.


No ‘I’ in ‘Creston’ by Dustin Maeder

Published April 20

As the new coronavirus pandemic persisted, communities across the nation are experienced shortages of personal protective equipment such as face masks, hospital gowns and face shields.

With shortages set to intensify, members of the community – such as staff and students at Creston Community High School and members of Patches and Pieces Quilt Guild – took efforts into their own hands.


Remembering ‘Magic’ McCann by Larry Peterson

Published April 24

In December 2015, Steve “Magic” McCann was diagnosed with colon cancer. He underwent surgery for both colon cancer and thyroid cancer in 2016. Despite regiments of “maintenance” chemotherapy in recent years, the sports officiating icon continued to work in a scaled-down schedule of his earlier officiating schedule.

In this story, McCann’s colleagues and friends remember him for his role on and off the field, on campus and in the community.

“Steve could talk to a stranger like he was talking to his best friend,” Somers said. “They trusted Steve. He’s genuine. Magic was one of the best, and he loved being out there.”


‘Little did I know what kind of year this would be’ by Caleb Nelson

Published June 10

Ryan Bakerink moved from Fontanelle to Chicago 20 years ago. In January, he set out on a yearlong project to photograph all of his city’s 77 boroughs. What he wasn’t anticipating was a global pandemic and protests as his backdrop. Despite events such as COVID-19 and protests triggered by the death of George Floyd, Bakerink continued to highlight the more positive side of humanity in his work.

Bakerink’s positive perspective garnered the attention of many, including a producers at CBS. His images were shared on the CBS Sunday Morning program.

“This project I had ended up partially being about the pandemic. It was still the same project but it was incorporating the pandemic. [CBS got ahold of it] and told me nobody had been covering it in this positive sort of way … ,” Bakerink said.

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Seed planted at Creston Farmers Market by Sarah Scull

Published June 24

During a trip to the Creston Farmers Market this summer, Karter James Allen, 7, of Creston, picked up more than the tomatoes he and his grandfather had set out for. Allen, who is autistic, discovered his love and gift of playing music.

Upon giving Allen a pick, Bryan Spencer said he noticed Allen’s gift immediately as he let him strum on his electric guitar as the band continued to play. Allen has continued to jam weekly with the farmers’ market band, Beards of a Feather, as he plays a make-shift drum set made from a suitcase and bass drum pedal.

Despite being the youngest musician at Creston Farmers Market, Allen’s appreciation for music is not limited. Without hesitation, he said his favorite songs to play to are “Worried Man Blues” by the Carter Family, “Midnight Special” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and “See See Rider,” first recorded by Gertrude “Ma” Rainey in 1924.


Beatty still smiling by Regina Smith

Published September 9

After a grain bin accident in March that took both of his legs, Creston Community School District Transportation Director Bob Beatty is back at work, going strong and spreading positivity. Beatty said he’s “never been better.”

Beatty said his “selfish” attitude is what keeps him going.

“I have too many things that I want to do so the faster I get back, I’m going to be back to doing what I want to get done,” he said. “That’s what I like to tell people, I’m selfish. I’m thinking about myself ... I’m not done living. This was a setback but it’s not going to stop me.”


Summer of murals by Sarah Scull

Published September 14

When Bailey Fry-Schnormeier, Creston Community High School art teacher, and her student Tatelyn Schultz first approached the Creston City Council March 3 for permission to paint city property, Fry-Schnormeier said the goal was to paint one or two murals.

But as residents saw the artwork span some of the city’s most unsightly walls, interest for the project continued to grow and continues to attract the attention of muralists from across Iowa and the nation.

As of this morning, Fry-Schnormeier and her students are working on No. 19 and 20 along side Miami-based artists Nicole Salgar and Chuck Berrett at 114 N. Maple St., owned by Larry Williams.

As of the publication of this story, Fry-Schnormeier said murals No. 19 and 20 were wrapping up the summer mural program.


A ‘time capsule’ adored by Keri Anderson

Published October 9

The doors to a Creston residence are opened for the first time since the 1960s after its owner Patricia Fils passed away June 29. After auctioneer Todd Crill opened its doors to draw interest for an upcoming estate sale, social media buzzed when a number of Crestonians walked through its doors for the first time in more than 50 years. The antiquities within spawned memories of childhood, the town’s history and soothed general curiosity for architectural aficionados.


‘I know he’s OK’ by Regina Smith

Published October 15

Two years after the loss of her husband, Amy Kiburz of Arispe continues to advocate for male breast cancer awareness.

Kurt Kiburz’s breast cancer diagnosis claimed his life, but it saved the life of two of his sisters. Anita Williams and Sheryl DeLoach both decided to get further testing after Kurt was diagnosed. Although they had mammograms that came back “normal,” they weren’t comfortable with the results. Within 90 days, they had both been diagnosed with breast cancer, as well. Their tumors were larger than Kurt’s but in an earlier stage and treatable.

“They both said the same thing, ... they both said that Kurt saved their lives ... by his diagnosis and being open about it,” Amy said.


Probable burial site found in rural Taylor County by Keri Anderson

Published October 21

Steve Basler, a 48-year farmer, had farmed a portion of the 120 acres near his home for approximately three decades, but after learning of rumored Indian burials, the Baslers had never farmed or disturbed the area in question.

As a cure to their curiosity, Steve and Sue Basler had archaeological imaging and a geophysical survey performed, which confirmed nine possible graves located on their family farm in rural Taylor County.


Shepherd: Union County’s Sheriff-elect by Sarah Scull

Published November 4

During the June primary, Republican sheriff candidate Brian Burkhalter had the most support from voters with 572 votes (29%), followed by Chad Woods 475 votes (24.71%), Mark Shepherd 467 votes (24.3%) and Daniel McNeill 404 votes (21.02%). Despite his 4% lead, it was not enough support for Burkhalter to secure the nomination, as he did not meet the threshold of having 35% of the votes.

The name of the sheriff candidate to appear on November’s general election was then up to county’s 19 Republican delegates to select June 29 during an anonymous paper vote during their county convention.

To secure the nomination, a candidate needed to secure 10 votes of the 17 delegates present. It took the Republican delegates six times to vote before Shepherd narrowly secured the nomination with 11 of the 17 votes.

Shepherd, who will be sworn in 11 a.m. today, begins duty as Union County Sheriff Jan. 4.


‘Coming to Creston saved me’ by Sarah Scull

Published November 9

He said he hadn’t planned on staying in Creston for more than two days. He arrived to Creston in December 2019 to pick up a car that had been impounded. He brought just enough clothing to last the trip – a pair of sweat pants, two sweaters, a pair of socks, a change of underwear and the shoes on his feet. However, when Jonathan Graham’s car wouldn’t start to make the journey back to Nebraska, he became homeless.

Now that he has secured shelter, Graham reached out to the Creston News Advertiser to help him thank those who helped him – particularly a child on a red bike – later identified as 8-year-old Tucker Weaver – who brought him food and clothing.


A place to congregate by Sarah Scull

Published November 17

Nearly two and a half months after United Church of Christ Congregational held its final service, the doors have been reopened to the community under new ownership bearing a new name – Uptown Brick and Bell.

The church is said to be Creston’s oldest. It’s closing spurred stories of growth, devastation and a community coming together to rebuild and worship.


A final wish fulfilled by Sarah Scull

Published Nov. 21

An Afton couple gained their wings – both figuratively and literally – as a cast aluminum Eagle statue was erected in their memory Nov. 14 at the East Union Softball Field where they once watched their grandchildren play.

The statue was installed to carry out the final wish of Judy Chastain, who died Aug. 9 of COVID-19. Her husband Joe, who was also hospitalized with her for nearly three weeks, also died of COVID-19 the day prior.

As their children – Jeff Chastain of Hebron, Kentucky, Jim Chastain of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, and Jill McKnight of Afton – were delivered the news Aug. 4 that their mother would not make it, Judy told her children, “Well, I guess I get my eagle.”

The Chastains are remembered as “Forever Eagles fans.”


Former CCHS teacher recounts meaningful winter experience by Keri Anderson

Published December 18

Solitude. The light scraping of metal against concrete in the otherwise pristinely, silent scene. The white backdrop of a city covered in snow. These are the memories that come to mind for Randy Hughes in regard to one of his favorite moments from childhood.


Sarah Scull is a San Diego transplant now living in Creston, Iowa. Sarah joined the Creston News Advertiser editorial staff as a reporter in in 2012 and was promoted to editor in November 2018.