Elders in Residence ‘Pay It Forward’

“If in doubt … ” the speaker called. “Rip it out!” the people answered. This traditional call–and–

response echoed throughout the night as octogenarian knitter and crocheter June Metcalf was honored as the first Elder in Residence at the Ashland, Ohio, Ray and Joan Kroc Corps Community Center.

June’s love of her craft had been a foundation of the center since its doors opened in April 2009. The “knit one, purl two” rhythm and her patient instruction drew a wide range of people to the knitting circle in the center’s lobby. Knitter Shirley Blankenship said a second oft–repeated statement of June’s was: “You can do it!”

When June died on Christmas Day 2012, staff members agreed that the Elder in Residence award should become the June Metcalf Elder in Residence award.

Lincoln aficianado

The second recipient was Bernice Wachtel, an Abraham Lincoln aficionado. A sampling from her collection of memorabilia—including cookie cutters, scrapbooks, and a Lincoln penny collection—was displayed at her reception. As Bernice, affectionately known as “Grandma Bunny,” shared her vast knowledge with the Kroc Center community, she especially helped young audiences connect with Lincoln by telling of his family and interests outside the White House.


Pete Twitchell, the third honoree, has hauled topsoil and compost to the Kroc Center gardens; toys and coats, blankets and beans to poverty–stricken Cranks Creek, Ky.; and medical supplies upriver in a canoe to the most remote reaches of Honduras’ Mosquito Coast.

As a stonemason, Pete has created handsome patios and walls across Ohio and coordinated the artistic development of a mosaic–like stone wall along the exit drive of the Kroc Center that depicts the wide–reaching ministry of The Salvation Army in Ashland. Pete also serves as the corps sergeant–major (lay leader) of the Ashland congregation.

Said former Kroc Center leader Major Larry Shade, “Pete Twitchell’s the real deal. What he talks, he walks. Up close and personal—to know him is to love him.”

WW2 Resistance Fighter

The most recent honoree is Josianne Stone, who was part of the resistance to the Nazis in Belgium during World War 2. Like many survivors, Josianne had seldom talked about her experiences, saying, “When the war was over, it was over.” Yet when her grandson Lucas asked her to tell his class about her experiences, she recounted the deprivation and fear of the people of Belgium. Her powerful words now have been recorded on a YouTube video, “The Josianne Stone Story.”

Dr. Judy McLaughlin mentioned to Josianne that her own father had lost his life during World War 2. Josianne expressed her personal thanks for the sacrifices that Americans like her father had made to defeat the Nazis.

Telling of this conversation at the award reception, Judy told Josianne that it had been a watershed moment for her: “Your expressed gratitude moved me from a lifelong sadness to an understanding of what my loss meant to you.”

A gifted artist, Josianne didn’t take her first art class until 1984. But her instructor’s challenge to “be prolific” stuck, and she describes her art as “humbly reproducing God’s creation.”

As a young girl, Josianne had a chance meeting with Salvation Army members in Belgium. “The seed was planted then, and over time, the roots started to form,” she said. In July 1972, she found the Lord for herself. “Now,” she says, “I owe it all to Him (Jesus).”

Ashland’s consummate knitter, its Lincoln expert, a mission–hearted stone mason, and a Belgian–born artist have much in common: love for family, commitment to community, and a desire to “pay it forward.” Their joy of living life to the full has been contagious as they freely offer their influence and experience to enrich the Ashland community—and the world beyond.


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