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March 4, 1997

Gene Taylor has been around The Journal long enough to know that nothing lasts forever, but, with a tenure of 50-plus years on the job, he came close. Scoop's retirement last week now becomes the demarcation point for two eras -- Before Taylor and After Taylor. That's how we'll identify things that happen in this community from now on, and he will be an icon of that period. During his long association with this newspaper, he became closely identified with the city council because of the endless number of sessions he attended as a reporter, and the special way, he described those meetings. He outlasted a lot of mayors, councilmen and assorted other elected municipal officials, and he probably could tell a few very interesting sidelights about his experience on the periphery of the council table through the years.

Dozens of well-wishers attended his retirement party in the PDJ newsroom the other day, and all of us wish him well. His cheerful demeanor will be missed by many, but he has earned a respite from the daily deadlines. We thank him for his dedication and service the past half century.

Bill Haynes made a good point the other day when he introduced Phil Albertson as the Rotary club speaker. "We tend to think that all the big ideas in industry come only from 'way out West or back east, or somewhere else," he commented, "but right here in Perry America is where some of them come from, and they have had a major impact not only on this nation but on the international community as well. Ed Malzahn's Ditch Witch is one good example, certainly, but Phil Albertson also is recognized as THE leading authority on geothermal heating and cooling systems."

Phil retired a few years ago from the Ditch Witch company but he maintains an office there as a consultant for the geothermal industry, the people who install underground water storage systems for the most energy-efficient method of heating and cooling buildings. Three of his four children are involved in that business, and it is experiencing widespread growth. Utility companies are among its strongest advocates. Perry-made Ditch Witch equipment is widely selected for installing the lines. A nationally syndicated TV home show demonstrated the geothermal method the other day and a Ditch Witch trencher was very much in evidence.

I recently came across a couple of items in the Stillwater newspaper that are of interest locally because they concern some former Perry folks. Jay Hesser, who has been living in Stillwater since retiring several years ago as Noble county extension agent, was honored by Stillwater's Project Heart as their Volunteer of the Month. Jay still finds excuses to visit friends and former colleagues in this community. His career spanned more than 28 years working with adults and young people in Creek and Washington counties in addition to this county. At Project Heart, his volunteer service is varied. He prepares coffee, assists with cleanup, helps with raffles and fund-raising activities, visits with people and answers the phone. Jay was well known here as a hard worker in anything he undertook. Apparently retirement has not changed that.

The other item reported that Melissa Severe, daughter of John and Karen Severe, was a recent student of the week at Stillwater high school, where she is a senior. Her dad, an attorney, is the son of the late Mr. and Mrs. Otto Severe of Perry, and he grew up here. Melissa was a delegate to Girls State last summer and she was chosen to attend the Stillwater Chamber of Commerce Leadership Tomorrow program. Other feats include listing in the American High School Who's Who, serving as a Hugh O'Brian Leadership ambassador, member of the tennis team and SHS pompon squad, and several others. Congratulations to Jay and Melissa.