Random thoughts

A heartfelt tribute, swimming, signage and an overdue thank you

This past Monday, two teams battled in it out on the basketball court, and while only one team could “win” the game, the real victory that night was how two teams came together during the most difficult of times.

In T-R Assistant Sports Editor Thorn Compton’s article this past week, he shared the story of how the BCLUW and Montezuma girls basketball teams came together following the news that longtime BCLUW fan, Darla Ubben, had passed away.

Ubben, the mother of one of the Comets players, Madison, had been battling cancer for more than a year, and succumbed to the illness earlier in that day.

Thorn captured the heartache, the pain, and at the same time, the beauty of what transpired as both teams came together to honor Ubben.

After the game, the teams stayed on the court together, gathering at half court and joining hands for some encouraging words from Montezuma Head Coach Janel Burgess and her players.

“Our players found out early this morning just like the rest of our program did, and a couple parents got things together so we signed a card that was from all of our programs and the cheerleaders did something,” Burgess told Thorn. “Tragedy can sometimes pull together communities when you don’t even know each other. I mean, we are an hour and 20 minutes south of you guys and to still have this be a great lesson for all of us was something beautiful amongst something very hard.”

BCLUW Head Coach David Lee said the gesture by Montezuma, in a time when the BCLUW needed support the most, was the utmost sign of respect and class.

“I was impressed with the Montezuma coach. They came out there and their girls hugged our girls and their coach just prayed for the situation and the family and the whole thing right there in a circle in the middle of the court,” he said.

“If high school ball can’t be that then it shouldn’t be played,” Lee continued, his voice cracking at the enormity of the moment. “This is a situation that’s bigger than life almost, and if I can do something to help the family and help the kids, not even necessarily the Ubben kids but the other girls that are so close to them, that’s part of what this is all about. That’s part of my job, as much as X’s and O’s, doing what needs to be done with this team, that’s a focus that I have to do, too.”

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On a different note, kudos are in order to the Carol Hibbs and the YMCA-YWCA, Marshalltown High School, Val Ruff and the Marshalltown Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), Tom Deimerly and Marshall Economic Development (MED), the city of Marshalltown and Marshall County.

First, the Iowa Girls High School Athletic Union announced recently a continuation for the girls’ state swimming and diving championships to remain at the Marshalltown Y through 2022.

This is a real success story and a testament to the hard work, countless hours of planning and the dedicated local volunteers who have made this a stand-out event the past 14 years.

And while the IGHSAU sang the praises of all those involved, there were no guarantees that the next five years would allow Marshalltown to keep hold of this important event.

Only three months ago, the Iowa High School Athletic Association announced it was going to move the boys’ event from Marshalltown to the University of Iowa’s Campus Recreation and Wellness Center Natatorium in Iowa City.

“Certainly there were questions that we were aware of that were posed to the girls’ union,” Hibbs said in an interview with T-R Sports Editor Ross Thede, “but we have been in discussions for a few weeks about renewing the contract and we were hopeful we would get it.

“We talk each and every year about what we can do to improve it, what we can do to make the experience better for swimmers and coaches and fans, however this year it was a conversation that had a little bit more importance.”

“There’s so many things Marshalltown does as our host to make the championship experience one the girls will remember,” said IGHSAU Executive Director Jean Berger. “Marshalltown was our choice, as a staff when we talked it over, pros and cons — our partnership and their willingness to work with us in being a partner, we feel like Marshalltown is the right choice.”

Secondly, there’s the good news that directional signage along Interstate 80 at Altoona once again features “Marshalltown.”

As T-R writer Adam Sodders pointed out this week, MED Director Tom Deimerly, along with Ruff and the CVB, the partnership, and the city and county, have been working hard to convince the Iowa Department of Transportation that listing Marshalltown on the signage was important.

“The sign was eliminated about five years ago, and since then we’ve struggled with people from outside the area [not] knowing how to get to town,” Deimerly said. “The only signage we had was at the end of the exit ramp, after you’d already exited.”

Some visitors to Marshalltown, he said, would miss the exit on the way to events like the state swimming meet.

But perseverance and a lot of work has changed that.

“It’s more than just directional signage; it gives people a sense of place,” he said.

Well done everyone!

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Finally, in the 2-1/2 years since Randy Kessler took over as commander of the American Legion Post 46, the Marshalltown post has undergone a metamorphosis.

I’ve been fortunate to witness the positive changes during this time, but it wasn’t until I received a Facebook notice this week reminding me of a story I wrote two years ago updating our readers on what had transpired at the Legion under Kessler’s leadership, that I really took the time to reflect on what has been nothing short of remarkable.

Financial woes, a building in need of remodeling, a golf course seeking new direction and a membership that was anything but energized about the future — that was certainly the case in July of 2015.

But in re-reading that article from December 2015, things had already begun to change and in the time since then, it’s been a whole new Post 46.

Kessler, and a dedicated group of Legion members — too many to name here — have turned things around.

A new look, a new vision, a more engaged membership that has reached out to more veterans and the entire community, showcases just how hard they have worked.

“You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have,” health advocate Cayla Mills once said.

Well, back in 2015, Post 46 only had two choices — fold up shop or move forward with more grit and determination than ever before.

Kessler’s leadership and the shear determination of those veterans who followed his path chose the latter and the results are spectacular.

“Randy has done an amazing job under sometimes difficult circumstances. We’re all very thankful for his leadership,” said veteran and Post 46 member Pat Petit.

“A good leader is all about being able to rise to the occasion under difficult circumstances. [He] most certainly [has] done this at American Legion Post 46,” said another Legion member and veteran, Bob Miller.

So here’s to Randy Kessler — an overdue and much appreciated “Thank you!”

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Contact Jeff Hutton at 641-753-6611 or jhutton@timesrepublican.com