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January 25, 2000

Our community has been hit extremely hard by the various influenza bugs and respiratory ailment viruses floating abroad this winter season, but it appears the peak now has been reached and the rate of incidence is declining. Our hospital has been put to the test because of the number of cases under treatment. School schedules have not been interrupted but a large number of students in all grade levels fell victim to one or more of the variety of illnesses circulating here. Flu shots administered last fall apparently helped with that particular strain, but several other types made this a bad year for winter ills, even though we truly have had no winter weather -- thus far.

The other day I checked in with a few of our friends who have been through health- related ordeals, and it was good to learn that for the most part all of them are doing better. Frank Ley, normally a familiar figure seen walking briskly around the square, has developed a painful problem that has limited him to moving gingerly about his house with the use of a walker. Dorothy Wood had severe chest pains last week and a heart attack was suspected, but an angiogram in an Oklahoma City hospital showed that something else was the cause of her discomfort. She's now recuperating at home here. Don Stoddard also is doing OK at home after a brief stopover in an Oklahoma City hospital. School superintendent Larry Fry has returned home from an Oklahoma City hospital but is still taking treatment for his illness.

I had a short visit recently with John Skinner after his open-heart surgery in an Oklahoma City hospital to correct a major problem in his cardiovascular system. John is doing better now. He has a brisk business caring for several large lawns in Perry but in light of his heart problem he is scaling back on the number he will handle. John is now 70 years old and he understands the physical limitations that imposes on his activities.

John is no stranger to hospitals. Many of us still remember when he was one of those unfortunate youngsters stricken with polio, the crippling and killing disease that plagued families not long ago. John survived that episode but he still wears a heavy leg brace to get around. Because of his recent heart surgery, that device now makes it doubly difficult to board his pickup truck, the vehicle that takes him from job to job around town. John left his mark a few years ago as a tireless worker and leader in the March of Dimes Polio Fund drives we used to have each year, before the successful vaccine was developed. Though not physically fit for military service, he nonetheless was a sort of honorary member of the local National Guard and frequently went with them to summer camp.

John tells me that his sister, Lou Ann, has retired after more than 30 years of teaching piano in Korea and is now making her home in Seattle, where many of her friends from Korea are located. Brother Gaylord Skinner, who also has spent much time abroad fighting oil field fires, now lives in Houston but expects to return to Indonesia in the near future. John, Lou Ann and Gaylord are the sons and daughter of the late Ralph and Vivian Skinner. The parents also were world class travelers and Ralph spent considerable time in Ethiopia a few years back when Oklahoma State University was assisting that African nation in establishing a program to assist the people of Ethiopia.

The 1999 city police court summary appeared in this paper the other day. I could find only 11 cases which might have been filed for drivers making illegal turns, like in the middle of the block. We all know the incidence of such things is closer to 11 per day, not per year. One day we will have a collision resulting in personal injuries and the number of such things will diminish.