Wrapping the City

Boy Scouts from Troop 172 in Montoursville wrap Christmas ribbon around parking meter posts on West Third Street in the city Saturday. Clockwise from the top left are Tony Miller, 16, Andrew Desanto, 12, Bryan Rupert, 14, and Anthony Desanto, 15. The ribbon was provided by JC Floral and tape by Plankenhorn Stationary. The wrapping of all the downtown meters was done in cooperation with the City of Williamsport and the Downtown Merchants Association.

Appeared in the November 29, 2004 Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Working Together

Working together to build core values of leadership and loyalty to one another, Boy Scout Troops 172 and 21 are shown here at a recent outing. The two troops have joined together to teach the youth of the greater Montoursville area the morals of scouting and the values and skills that will follow them for the rest of their lives.

Appeared in Sunday – November 21, 2004 edition of The Sun-Gazette

Salute to Freedom: State National Guard Honors Bosnia Vets, Families

Soldiers from a local Pennsylvania National Guard unit were honored Saturday after spending nearly 11 months of service away from home.

    Their families also were recognized at the Freedom Salute Ceremony hosted by Company B, 109th Mechanized Infantry, at the Grove Street armory.

    The ceremony was part of a nationwide Army National Guard campaign to honor guard members who have served in any of three operations in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, according to information provided by the guard. The campaign was organized by Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Roger C. Schultz and Command Sgt. Maj. A. Frank Lever III.

    “It’s great to know that the families care about us and all the recognition that we got for all of our services,” said Spc. James Calvert of Montoursville.

    Calvert served with 353 other soldiers from the 109th Mechanized Infantry in Bosnia-Hercegovina, said 1st Lt. Chris Roth of Hanover.

    The soldiers who served in Bosnia received encased American flags, commemorative coins, Defender of Freedom lapel insignia, and certificates signed by Schultz and Lever.

    The soldiers left Williamsport May 28, 2002. They received three months of training at Camp Shelby, Miss.; Fort Indiantown Gap; Fort Dix, N.J.; and Hohenfels, Germany, before being deployed Aug. 29 in Bosnia.

    “Our jobs pretty much were just to patrol around Bosnia and keep the peace,” said Pfc. Alan Lusk of Montoursville.

    Soldiers from the 109th infantry sought out war criminals while patrolling more than 2,000 square miles daily, Roth said. They also provided humanitarian support to the Bosnian people by requesting donations from home and providing a drug-awareness program to students in the city of Tuzla.

     The soldiers worked alongside soldiers from other North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations, including France, Turkey, Finland and Denmark.

    They arrived at Fort Dix March 20, 2003, and returned home more than a month later.

    Guard deployments differ greatly from those in past wars, creating a greater need for family support, said Command Sgt. Major Kenneth Hill, guest speaker at the ceremony.

    “Over wars we’ve had in the past, and over the campaigns that we’ve done where we’ve had to deploy the National Guard, the majority of the troops were not married,” Hill said. “It’s not that way anymore.”

    Those left behind are left with the responsibility of handling all of the day-to-day management of the household, as well as the stress of having a loved on in a war zone.

    “It was very stressful,” said Dawn Calvert, wife of James. “You have to stress about everything and worry, ’Is everything going to be OK?’”

    The Calverts have no children. Dawn said it probably would have been harder to cope with her husband’s deployment if they had children.

    “It would have been really hard to explain why he’s not home, when he’ll come back,” she said. “Calling and talking to him is hard enough all on its own for myself. Little kids wouldn’t understand you can only talk for three minutes.”

    Families also were recognized at the ceremony. Soldiers’ spouses received specially designed Defender of Freedom lapel insignia. Their children received Future Soldier footlocker kits, which included games, trading cards and a comic book.

    Melissa Robinson and Anice Ostrom were recognized for their work in organizing the Family Readiness Group, which provided support for soldiers and their families.

    “I’m very appreciative that all the soldiers have high respect and high regard for what we did as a group while they were gone,” said Ostrom, of Liberty.

    The group required a lot of work, she said.

    “I had over 6,000 miles on my car and I averaged 20-plus hours a week working with the unit,” she said.

    They did not act alone. Several others in the community, including students from Liberty and Jersey Shore elementary schools, showed support for the troops.

    “The students prepared care packages for the soldiers on about an every other month basis, where they sent them toothbrushes, letters, shampoo,” she said, “Anything they thought the soldier would like to have.”

    Students and faculty from those schools also were recognized.

As appearing in Sunday – May 16, 2004 edition of The Sun-Gazette

Focusing on Her Future

As the Montoursville Area High School class of 2003 accepts their diplomas earlier this month, 18-year-old Alicia Null looked like a typical graduate.

She wore the same blue cap and gown, received the same piece of matted parchment paper and offered the same ear-to-ear smile as the rest of her graduating peers.

However, there is nothing typical about what she overcame to get where she is today.

Over the last three years, Null has dealt with more tragedy and adversity than most people deal with in a lifetime.

In September of 2000, her father, John Null, died after suffering a heart-attack while on a hunting trip in Canada. Just over a year later her fiance, Matthew Mertes, was killed in a tragic car accident little more than a month after the young couple’s daughter had been born.

In little more than a year, Null had gone from being an average teenager to a single mother trying to raise a child while dealing with two life changing tragedies, all while finishing high school and working a part-time job.

Combining these events might seem difficult for anyone to cope with, let alone a teenager. But, as one can quickly tell, Null is far from average.

“No matter how tough things get you have to suck it up, bite the bullet and move on,” Null said. “You can’t let things get in your way. You need to prioritize your life, and right now my daughter is my priority.”

Null’s 18-month-old daughter, Julia Rose Mertes, is much more than just her priority – she is her motivation for a successful future. She is preparing to pave her way to this successful future by pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at Pennsylvania College of Technology in the fall.

“I need to prepare for what happens down the road, not just for me but for my daughter,” Null said. “I can’t always count on everyone else.”

Even with the responsibilities of motherhood, Null managed to maintain a superb academic standing throughout high school.

She graduated in the top portion of her class with a cumulative academic average of 90 percent.

Prior to graduation, Null received a number of scholarships and awards. Among them were the American Legion Squadron 104 Sons of the American Legion Award for outstanding scholastic achievement and community involvement and the Carl W. Stenberg Jr. Scholarship, given in recognition of all she has overcome in recent years. She also received the President’s Education Award for outstanding academic achievement.

Now that high school is finished, she will work full-time this summer to help pay for college.

Despite all she has overcome, Null admits the support of her family and friends has been the backbone of her ability to move forward.

Both her and her fiance’s families have been “incredibly supportive” throughout everything, she said.

“I don’t know where I’d be without them,” she added.

As her daughter continues to grow, Null has made it a priority for Julia to know everything she can about her father and grandfather.

Because Julia was born after her grandfather died and had little time to spend with her father prior to his accident, Null has collected scrapbooks of pictures so her daughter can learn more about the two men that made such an impact in their lives.

“I collect everything and put it in her memory box so she knows who she is and where she came from,” Null said.

Even now, Julia easily identifies her father and grandfather in pictures with responses of “Daddy” and “Pop-Pop.”

Despite all she has been through, Null refuses to let people take pity on her – a task that may not be as easily done considering the events of the past three years.

“When you have a baby, people look at you different; when you lose your father, people feel sorry for you; and when you lose the love of your life, people really don’t know how to react,” she said. “I don’t like people feeling sorry for me, and I don’t like being treated differently.”

Null will be the first to agree that what she has gone through was not easy, but also said it has helped her become who she is today.

“I’m more independent and more confident with myself than I was before,” she said. “Right now, all I need is my daughter and my family and I am happy.”

Although she admits not a day goes by where she does not think about her father or her fiance, she said it is her responsibility to be strong and move on.

It’s a responsibility that is supported in full by both the Null and Mertes families as they watch proudly.

Appeared in the Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Ad Altare Dei Medal Awarded

The Annual Religious Awards Ceremony is this Thursday, June 5th at 7PM at St. Peter’s Cathedral in Scranton. His Excellency, Most Reverend James C. Timlin, D.D., Bishop of Scranton , will celebrate the Eucharist and present the Awards to young people who, during the past year, have been involved in specific Youth Ministry programs that enable them to grow in their understanding and experience of the Sacraments and of Mary as the Mother or God. Greg Flood of BSA Troop 21 will be receiving the “Pope Pius XII Medal”. The “Ad Altare Dei Medal” will be presented to Troop 21’s Jason Marshalek, Eric Flood, Jake Marshalek. and Troop 172’s Bryan Rupert. By their Christian witness, these young people offer a spirit of encouragement to others to become involved in their parish.

Scout Honored for Bravery

Josh Rine, son of Jeff and Karen Rine, Barbours, member of Boy Scout Troop 172, Farragut, received a certificate of merit at a Court of Honor Ceremony which was held on Nov. 6 at the Farragut schoolhouse.

Harry Seltzer presented the award on behalf of the Susquehanna Council of Boy Scouts. This award was presented in recognition of the meritorious action, due to bravery and courage. Rine came upon an accident along Route 87, who involved his previous Scout leader for Cub and Webelos. He was on his way to a scouting event with his troop. He went above and beyond the call of duty until medical help was summoned.

Rine is serving as a Quartermaster for his troop. He is an eighth-grade student at C.E. McCall Middle School, Montoursville.

Appeared in the December 8, 2002 Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Matt Mertes Memorial Trail

Seth Eshelman, a 2002 graduate of Montoursville Area High School, worked with fellow scouts to blaze and construct a two-mile hiking trail on Blessing Mountain, west of Wallis Run in Gamble Township. The rugged trail begins just before the bridge over Wallis Run along Wallis Run Road and heads upslope, gently at first but then more steeply as it approaches the rocky crest of the ridge.

The yellow and blue-blazed trail passes under the shady canopy of old-growth hemlocks and white pines and ends at a rocky outcrop overlooking Loyalsock Creek. Plans for the future include clearing an vista at the rock outcrop and connecting the trail to the Ryder Park trail system.

The trail is named in honor of Eagle Scout Matt Mertes, who worked on the trail and died tragically on Oct. 17, 2001.

Article appeared in the Nov. 17, 2002 Williamsport Sun-Gazette

In the ‘Zone’

Working frightfully hard, Rachel Kleese of Montoursville prepares scenery for Boy Scout Troop 172’s “Twilight Zone” set – one of the scary attractions to be featured in the annual Haunted Hayride to be held tonight through Saturday along Mill Street in the borough. Kleese is assistant scoutmaster for the troop. Rides will start at 7 each night. Sunday is a rain date.

Article appeared in the 10/2/02 Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Troop 172 Loses a Brother, Son, Friend

Matthew R. Mertes, 16, of Cogan Station, died Wednesday, October 17, 2001, at Williamsport Hospital. Born in Williamsport on January 1, 1985, he was a son of Charles J. I and Christine M. McQuillen Mertes.

He worked with his father in Charles J. Mertes Electrical and Mechanical Contractors. He was a member of the Church of the Annunciation. He was an officer and member of the Technical Students of America as well as the Future Farmers of America. He was a member of the Boy Scouts of America, Troop 172 and has been posthumously awarded Scouting’s highest honor, that of Eagle Scout. He was also a member of the Order of the Arrow and was a recipient of scouting’s Merit of Honor Award. He was a graduate of Loyalsock Valley Elementary School and McCall Middle School. He was a junior at Montoursville High School. He was also a member of D.A.R.E.

He is survived by his parents of Cogan Station; his fiance, Alicia Null of Montoursville; a daughter, Julia Rose Mertes of Montoursville; a brother, Charles J. Mertes II, at home; a sister, Elizabeth C. Mertes, at home; paternal grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Edward Mertes Jr. of Williamsport and maternal grandmother, Mrs. Maxine McQuillen.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Julia Rose Mertes Scholarship Fund, c/o Elizabeth and Ann Mertes, 219 East Church St., Williamsport, PA 17701.

Memorial Being Planned For Tragedy of Yesteryear

By Lisa Deemy

Sun-Gazette Staff

“The GPS says we keep going, ” yells Boy Scout Bryan Makos, his voice crackling over walkie-talkies in two vehicles behind.

     In less than two hours last weekend, members of Boy Scout troops and staffers from Ghost Wings Magazine, using  today’s satellite technology, found what 200-plus military men and civilian searchers could not locate using the best available technology in 1946.

The small group, searching May 13, quickly pinpointed remnants of a P-47 aircraft that crashed on a remote mountaintop in southern Tioga County, 20 miles northwest of Slate Run, in April 1946.

     Some 54 years later, the crash is still shrouded in mystery, innuendo and rumor, having become local legend.

     In response to Makos’ disembodied direction, the lead vehicle in the tiny convoy suddenly pulls to the side of the narrow road.

     Makos leaps from the vehicle.

     “GPS says it’s about a mile that way,” he says exuberantly, pointing across the road and up a steep ravine.  “We hike the rest.”

     “We have coordinates of the crash,” adds Vince Quick, scoutmaster for Troop 93 of Church of the Savior Lutheran in Williamsport.  “We have compasses as backups and maps.  Let’s find it.”

      “And remember, we’re not taking anything from the crash site.  We’re going in to find and protect it, not take things from it,” Adam Makos, Bryan’s older brother, reminds the searchers.

     After a briefing on safety-and-search techniques, scouts and Ghosts Wings staff swarm up the rugged terrain, adults working hard to keep up or trailing behind in the humid heat.  Reaching a logging road at the summit, Bryan and Adam Makos and Quick recheck “GPS,” or Global Positioning System, to see which direction to search.

05_21_00a     GPS is a hand-held computer that, ideally, simultaneously accesses three satellites to triangulate on the entered coordinates and indicate a location.  Using coordinates of the crash site, the GPS gives the scouts direction and distance within 100 feet of the destination – in this case, a 54-year-old P-47 crash site hidden in thickly forested, rugged terrain.

     The group gathers around the GPS operator to study the map.

     “It looks like we can follow this road for awhile.  It should be right over in that area,” Quick says, pointing.

     The state-owned land is being logged, and the group is racing to save the crash site from accidental destruction.  They hope to raise public awareness about the site and arrange for a memorial to the pilot.

     “Dying for freedom isn’t the worst that could happen.  Being forgotten is,” actor Tom Hanks says in an advertisement for the National World War II Memorial.

     Ghost Wings staff agrees wholeheartedly.  Ghost Wings Magazine is dedicated to “preserving the sacrifices of American veterans.”

     The group moves down the road, talking excitedly about the prospect of success in extremely rough terrain now covered with tree tops from the logging.

     Searchers include Eric Quick and Pilar Castro, both of Troop 93.  The Makos brothers, both of Troop 172 at Farragut United Methodist Church; their sister Erica, a Cadet Girl Scout; their father Robert, and Joe and Rob Gohrs, of Ghost Wings Magazine, continue the trek.

     Farther down the road, Quick tells all to “spread out.”

     “Let’s go in,” he says.

     They begin searching through dense woods, staying within sight of the next person in the formation, Bryan Makos checks the GPS again as the group starts losing sight of one another.

     “C’mon, c’mon,” he mutters.

     With only two satellites available, he is unable to get a fix on the crash-site coordinates.  In this terrain, after half a century of erosion and forest growth, the searchers stumble past it.  He sighs in exasperation.

     Hot, sweaty and bug-chewed after combing the woods for 25 minutes, Quick reins in the group.

     “Let’s check this way for awhile,” he suggests, pointing east.  “Bryan just got another reading and it says this way.”

      “We found something here,” someone shouts.  The others crash through tangled branches toward the shout.  There, in the leaves, is a metal object, melted into a glob, barely recognizable as an engine part from the P-47.

    “Your instincts were right, you walked right up on this, Pilar,” Bob Makos says, grinning at the boy.

     Giddy with excitement, their hope of finding rest of the site blossoms.  After roping off the object with orange tape to mark its location, they search farther east.

     Another 20 minutes go by.

     “C’mon guys, we should get going.  The road is right over here,” Quick says, eliciting groans as the group starts to slowly close in in him.

     But then he shouts, “Hey!  I found it.  Waaaahooo!”

     A chorus of “they found it” echoes through the woods.  The group gathers excitedly, but their exhilaration suddenly is replaces by a silence.

     Standing at the edge of the 12 by 6 foot crater, staring at the melted, twisted fragments of the aircraft, “Lest we forget,” Quick says in a hushed husky tone and calls for a moment of silence.

     Silence last longer than that, though, as the searchers consider the fate of the man who died there.  Silently, they begin their work to protect the site, taping off the crater and searching for more pieces of the craft in the woods.  They place two American flags and laminated-paper memorial markers nearby.

     Inspecting the site, they found it less than 200 feet from the logging road, trees surrounding it all marked for cutting.

     “The district forester from Wellsboro, Roy Siefert, told us they would protect it from logging now that we found it.  We got there in the nick of time,” Robert Makos said.  “People who have parts of the plane are calling us, asking if they can return them,” he said incredulously.

     “We feel like this project puts our mission into action,” said Joe Gohrs, production manager for Ghost Wings Magazine.

     “We believe in the old adage, ‘A country defies itself by the quality of the people it chooses to remember,'” added Adam Makos, Ghost Wings’ editor.

     The pair was in Savannah, Ga., last week, making a presentation at the 37th annual reunion of the National P-47 Pilots Association.  They were invited to make the presentation about the magazine, and their efforts to recognize and honor Capt. Lawrence Ritter of Yonkers, NY, the pilot killed in the crash.  The association is interested in the story, and Ghost Wings’ efforts to protect and erect a memorial at the site, tentatively set for June 16-17.

     They also plan to visit the Might 8th Air Force Heritage Museum to see what else can be learned about the pilot who died.

     Ghost Wings Magazine’s fourth issue is due out this summer.  Its web address is www.ghostwings.com.

Scouts Earn Eagle Honors

On Feb. 11 four members of Boy Scout Troop 172 Samuel Budd Blair, James P. Calvert, Jason Miller and Adam Makos, received the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest honor awarded in scouting.

Blair, son of Gary and Kaye Schuman Blair, began his Scouting career in September 1990 as a Tiger Cub Scout under the direction of Karen Makos.

Blair has achieved Arrow of Light. He receiving his Life Scout rank in June 1998.

During his years in Scouting, Blair attended various camps including the National Boy Scout Jamboree in Fort AP Hill, Va.

He also has held various troop positions including senior patrol leader and assistant. For his Eagle Scout project, Blair designed and constructed both a stage and a cabinet for the Church of Our Savior Lutheran, where he is a member.

Blair is a ninth grader at Montoursville Area High School, where he has played football for two years and is a member of the swim team and band. He is a member of the Montoursville Borough swim team for 11 years.

Blair is certified in life-guarding and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation.

Calvert, son of Paul and Leslie Calvert of Trout Run, joined Troop 172 in June 1993.

He served as patrol leader and held various other positions, including junior assistant Scoutmaster.

He had his Life board of review in 1997, which led to his Eagle project. For his project Calvert constructed a new sidewalk, installed fencing and planted shrubbery at Farragut United Methodist Church.

Calvert is a junior at Montoursville Area High School and is a member of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard.

Miller, son of Paul and Susan Miller of Cogan Station, started Cub Scouts in Wolf rank in 1987. He received Arrow of Light and a religious award.

Miller became a Life Scout in 1996. He has been patrol leader, troop assistant, patrol leader, senior patrol leader,scribe, troop guide, bugler, den chief, and received Altari Dei and Order of the Arrow. He is

currently the assistant scoutmaster.

For his Eagle Scout project, Miller painted a concession stand, bleachers, made four picnic tables and cleared weeds for Mill Creek Little League’s Grange field in Warrensville. He graduated from Montoursville Area High School and is employed by Teamwork Graphics. He plays bass guitar in the band “44 Mag.”

Makos began his Scouting career as a Wolf Cub in 1988. He completed the Cub Scout program in 1991, earning the Arrow of Light.

Makos became a Boy Scout in 1992. He has been a member of Shark Patrol and Flaming Arrow Patrol. He also has been trained as a den chief and has served Troop 172 as patrol leader, senior patrol leader, assistant senior patrol leader and assistant scoutmaster.

Makos received his Life board of review in 1998 and his Eagle board of review last February.

For his Eagle project, Makos developed and maintained a peer-mentoring program for third and fourth-graders at Loyalsock Valley Elementary School.

The project, using high school student volunteers, began in November 1998 and continues today.

Makos is a freshman at Lycoming College where he is pursuing a business administration degree.

There he serves the community as a Service Scholar. He is also the editor/publisher of “Ghost Wings” Magazine, a quarterly aviation publication dedicated to honoring American Veterans.

Appeared in the February 20, 2000 Williamsport Sun-Gazette

Lycoming District Family Scouting Award

Chuck and Chris Mertes were presented with the Lycoming District Family Scouting Award during the Susquehanna Council’s annual award dinner.