The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Snow.2
    FIRST SNOW—Heavy, wet flakes piled deep on tree branches—and windshields—as the area received its first significant snowfall of the season. “Usually it begins with a dusting or two,” said George Isobar, Morenci’s observer for the National Weather Service, “but this time it came with a vengeance.” By the end of the day Saturday, a little over four inches of snow was on the ground. Now comes the thaw with temperatures in the 40s and 50s for three days.
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    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.
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Jerry Miller: Leading an independent life

Written by David Green.


The old saying goes that actions speak louder than words.

That’s especially true in the case of Jerry Miller. Although the vast majority of people in the area have never had an extended conversation with the rural Fayette resident, he is known in the community for being kind-hearted and friendly. He’s also held a steady job for more than 30 years.

The everyday activities most people accomplish with relative ease—such as  cleaning and dressing—take Jerry a lot longer.

jerry.millerJerry is afflicted with cerebral palsy, which is a broad term for the condition that arises when the parts of the brain that control muscle tone—a certain muscle’s resistance to movement—are damaged before, during or shortly after birth.

No two cerebral palsy cases are the same. It barely manifests itself in some people, while others are left wheelchair-bound and require constant care.

Jerry is somewhere in between. He is visibly affected by cerebral palsy. He moves more slowly than most people, lacks flexibility in many joints, and has difficulty speaking and sustaining conversations.

However, he lives very much on his own. He drives his own car. He mows his lawn. He does his laundry. He cleans his house—a task which occupies much of his time since Tucker, his pet dog, is of a breed that sheds.

A common misconception is that people with cerebral palsy also suffer some kind of mental deficiency. While people with the condition may have trouble learning due to their physical handicaps—it may be hard for them to sit at a desk and read, for example—mental handicaps don’t come hand in hand with cerebral palsy.

As a 1975 graduate of Gorham Fayette High School who writes sentences in perfect cursive, who keeps his own financial records, who even raised a pair of lambs that took home the grand champion prize at the county fair, it’s clear that Jerry has plenty going on upstairs.

Normal Memorial Library director Sue Schaffner has known this for nearly two decades. Jerry recently observed his 18th anniversary as a library employee.

“He has a wonderful sense of humor and he’s very intelligent,” she said. “And he has a great memory. It’s hard to see this unless you’ve spent a lot of time around him.”

Jerry works from 10 to 12 hours a week putting away books, magazines and tapes. Before he took the library job, he worked at Quadco Rehabilitation Center in Defiance for 13 and a half years. He didn’t especially like it, but it was hard for someone with his disability to find a new job.

As Jerry’s sister Nancy Figy explained, holding down a full-time job was never much of a possibility.

“He has to start getting ready well ahead of time, and the two or three hours at the library is a lot of work for him. By the time he gets home he’s exhausted,” she said. “He has to take a nap.”

On the other hand, Jerry enjoys a variety of activities. He loves watching his niece, Haley Figy, play basketball with the Fayette varsity squad. He drives downtown to gas up his car. He mows his lawn avidly and exercises his hand by smashing pop cans with a wall-mounted apparatus.

And then, of course, there’s Tucker, the dream dog.

Jerry always wanted a black lab, but there was no way he would ever be able to house train one. With Nancy’s help, he applied for a dog from Dog Assistance of America. Because Jerry can’t speak well, the organization couldn’t give him a certified guide dog, but it was willing to provide a dog that didn’t meet all the guide dog qualifications.

He knew the chances he would get a black lab were slim, but he did get the next best thing—a black lab mix.

“He always tells me he can’t get anything done unless Tucker’s asleep,” said Sue. “That dog won’t leave him alone.”

Nancy and her family live nearby and help Jerry with the few household tasks he isn’t capable of, such as stepping up on a chair to change a light bulb and going grocery shopping. But by and large Jerry goes it alone.

“Basically, we touch base with him by telephone every two or three days,” she said.

Up until seven years ago, he lived with his parents. As they aged, it became evident that he would need a place he could live in and maintain on his own after they were gone. So, a little more than 20 years ago, the Millers began construction on a small house just down the road from their own.

“The goal was to build a home that he could live in on his own for an extended period of time,” Nancy said.

Jerry started living alone in 1999, and things have been going well.

“It was a change, but he has learned to live and cope with it,” said Nancy, adding that Jerry’s job at the library helps him maintain social interaction and keeps him outgoing.

“Being at home all the time would drive him bananas,” she said.

    – Jan. 4, 2007

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