Barcelona Harbor Lighthouse: A Safe Passage in time

 

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Lakeside Bed and Breakfast in Barcelona Harbor. Photos By Jasmine Willis

By Jasmine Willis

As summer winds down, and fall approaches around the bend it is time to reflect on the beauty around us.

On what was meant to be a simple drive to Barcelona Harbor to take in the sun and fresh lake water became so much more.

I noticed a very old lighthouse resting on the hill.

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Barcelona Harbor Lighthouse. Photos by Jasmine Willis

A nice talk with one of the harbor staff members led me to a brief story of it’s history.
The lighthouse itself was built, along with the lighthouse keepers home in 1828. It was erected by the Federal Government in 1829.
The Lakeside B&B was originally built in 1830 for the Underground Railroad. The home had a secret tunnel in the basement , which emptied out under the lighthouse buried deep under the hill.

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Barcelona Harbor Lighthouse Keeper’s Home. Photo by Jasmine Willis

This allowed slaves to be taken across the 27 mile stretch of Lake Erie to Canada.
Now the home that gave so many people a safe harbor is a lovely B&B, and the lighthouse that offered it’s guiding light across the dark waters is a stone structure of hope. It offers us a glimpse of history and reminds us that in this seemingly dark world light does prevail and freedom continues to ring.
Barcelona Harbor had felt like a special place since the moment I set foot on her shores, and now I understand why. It truly is a safe harbor … a refuge for the lost.
When I look at these pictures or stand by these profound structures I will remember the stories, and I will imagine how those slaves must of felt seeing that beacon of light, and the door opening at the bottom of a hill to offer them shelter in the storm.

A Soldier’s Journey

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Pfc. Donald M Willis WWII US Army

By Jasmine Willis

Before he was a husband, a father, a grandfather,and a carpenter he was part of what is known today as the greatest generation.

Donald M. Willis joined the thousands of other young soldiers in the journey to bring back their countries freedom in the second great war known as World War II.

He was trained in Camp Upton, New York and Camp Eustis, Virginia, before sailing across the choppy ocean waters to Germany, where he feared he would have to fight his own family.

The 18 – year- old from Wellsville, NY came from German lineage. He thought he may still have cousins who lived over there, and told his commander this on the boat ride over. His commander told him ‘Believe me son, when they start shooting at you, you will shoot back.’

This was the story I heard growing up about my grandfather and his war. He had come from a long line of patriots, so maybe he felt it was his duty to be part of the ranks. Although he was drafted like many others in that time period it always seemed like he was proud to be part of this journey with his fellows.

Every year our country honors these men for their sacrifice, along with all those before and after them. I have been wanting to honor my grandpa’s story for a long time now. Recently I got my hands on some of his war letters to his family. In them he talks about the “frozen tundra” of the Upton Camp; the eagerness to be a pilot and the every day routines of training.

Most of these letters are to his mother to ease her mind her oldest son was well and staying out of trouble.

They haven’t made any films about my grandfather, or honored him in any legions, but whenever I see anything to do with World War II I stand proud and call it grandpa’s war. We honor him as his family, and we know the stories. We tell these stories to others in hopes of keeping them alive.

Donald M. Willis didn’t belong to the world, and that is quite alright. He belonged to those who loved him and those who fought beside him; he belonged to those fellows in his barracks who were just as honored as he was to fight for the country they all loved; he belonged to the stories we tell ourselves.

For the sake of his privacy I can’t publicize all 600 pages of his thoughts on the war, family, friends, and my grandma Jean. However, I can give pieces of it to those who wish to know another person of the greatest generation.

While in training to be a radio operator, Don worries about his little brother Fredrick getting a job; his father working very hard at the plant; his aunts and uncles and cousins; he even talks about the pride he takes in the special duties he performs for his platoon.

“Our platoon is always the first one to fall out in the morning,” he writes proudly to his mother. “I wish dad could have come down to see me, but it would have been difficult.”

“I get along fine with the fellows in my barracks,” he continues to write to his mother.” After I get out of here I will make some girl a nice husband.”

That girl was Verna Jean Church. After he was honorably discharged in April 1946 he came home to marry his sweetheart  he lovingly called Jeanie. They had seven beautiful children, and he had two other beautiful girls from his second marriage many years later.

Don was a church goer and a big band player. He loved the heartbeat in music.

“I have a chance to go to church every Sunday, but they are just general services. I don’t like those too well,” he writes. “This morning I was playing my Touette for the fellows, and the sergeant heard me. He asked me to come in his room and play for him. He said he knew some of the fellows in the band and he could get me in OK.”

Willis fought at the Rhineland and East Europe Battles, as well as being stationed in Japan at the end of the war. He received the American Theater Ribbon, two bronze stars, Victory Medal, and Good Conduct Medal.

Grandpa’s story may never be a movie, or spoken out to giant crowds by his fellow comrades on Memorial Day Parades, but that is OK. He passed away on June 4, 2002 and there was a 21 gun salute. There was a flag draped over his coffin and folded by two veterans. This was his ‘thank you for your service’ from his fellow soldiers.

This is my way of honoring his memory and being the keeper of his stories.

From the ashes … we rose again

Image from the film "We Are Marshall"
Image from the film “We Are Marshall”

True stories about sports

By Jasmine Willis

If you notice mostly all sports films are about a true story … they tell us not only the story about how the team won, but also what the team lost.

I often cover stories which involve sports in some way. Every time I hear a student talk about their love for the game, a coach fight to have his team keep their identity, and a school that believes sports are the lifeblood of their community I think of these beautiful films about football, baseball, soccer, basketball, hockey and so forth.

The best sports film ever made is “We Are Marshall.” This film is about so much more than football. It is a heartbreaking story about a town in West Virginia that lost so much on a day none of them have forgotten in the 1970s.

When I think of “We Are Marshall” I think of growing up in various small towns where if this happened to them we would have been just as destroyed.

“In the middle of Hunington, West Virginia there is a river, next to this river there is a steel mill, And next to this steel mill, there is a school… In the middle of this school, there is a fountain. Each year on the exact same day, at the exact same hour … the water to this fountain is turned off. In this moment once every year …throughout the town, throughout the school … time stands still,” Annie~ opening quote.

“Those were not welcome days, we buried sons, brothers, mothers, fathers, fiances… clocks ticked but time did not pass. The sun rose and the sun set, but the shadows remained. When once there was sound … now there was silence. What once was whole… now is shattered,” Annie.

Some of the most beautiful quotes from a sports related film are in this movie. I am not what you call a major sports fan, but that is what makes these films so powerful. You don’t have to love football to love “We Are Marshall.” You don’t have to understand football to understand “We Are Marshall.”

I think about a town, next to a river, in West Virginia, and how once every year they still honor a group of college students, families, friends, pillars of the community, and how they still shout out “We Are Marshall” over 40 years later.

It is stories like this one that make us believe sports are more than just a game. They are about honoring the fallen. They are about rising up from the ashes of a shattered town and grabbing glory. They are about heart.

The town is hurting and a coach from another town picks up the phone and offers to help it heal. Rivals of the team honor them by putting their name on their helmets. This film is a symbol of coming together for those who are in pain, and offering them a helping hand.

The President of Marshall University asks the coach why he called; when it is clear he is not from Marshall.

“When I heard about what happened and your situation, the only thing I could think about was the four of them. I thought about how much they meant to me, about how bad it would hurt if I was to loose them. Then I thought about a team …and a school… and a town … that’s gotta be hurting real bad … and I thought hell… maybe I can help,” Coach Jack.

There are moments in this country when we all come together. We rise up and become heroes. We lend a helping hand. We offer a shoulder to cry on. We feel the pain, love, suffering, defeat, and strength of a community … the community becomes our community. The brothers, fathers, mothers, sisters, sons, and daughters become ours.

I think that is the true power of a film like “We Are Marshall.”

Friends who show us our own true greatness

Friends who motivate us to be ourselves
By Jasmine Willis

~Time is Like a Wheel. Turning and turning never stopping. For some, time passes slowly. An hour can seem like an eternity. For others, there is never enough ~ Tuck Everlasting

~Time takes it all, whether you want it to or not. Time bears it away. And in the end, there is only darkness. Sometimes we find others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again~ The Green Mile

You may ask what started my obsession with time? Why quote two different stories about time?
Time is always lurking about as a constant reminder that at any moment it really could all be taken away. This story focuses on both points…time takes everything away, and there really isn’t enough.
All my life it has been said I never meet a stranger. This is very true. I have always been able to turn a stranger into an instant friend, whether I know them for five minutes or five years it doesn’t matter. I have invited another human being into my life story.
People come and go out of our lives all the time; some of them have made a huge impact on my life. I may only know someone for a brief moment and never see them again, but for a moment they inspired me to see who I am and not be afraid to be the person they know I can be. Pieces of you become pieces of them; your story becomes their story, and in that way I believe none of us are forgotten.
This story is about Alexandra P.  A brave girl who taught me to see the true greatness I have inside me. Alexandra P known to her friends as Alex was in the same Public Speaking class as me. She would only have short part to play in my life, but it would become one of the most important.
She came into class with such life and passion. She had a way about her that would make you feel like you were life long friends who had seen each other again after a very long journey. She was a dark Italian beauty who traveled the world with her mother.
Her passion for life was addicting and I found myself falling into the same passion filled absorption of it myself.
The day came we all had to give a presentation. Her presentation broke my heart … it was about breast cancer. The beautiful Alex P had breast cancer. By the end of the presentation she and all who loved her in the class were in tears.
Immediately after class I offered my help, if there was anything at all I could do for her. I gave her a big hug and didn’t understand she was saying goodbye. Alex P was an inspiring beautiful young 19 year old girl who taught me life was filled with possibilities.
I finished out my college life without my friend. I could never reach her, all lines were down. Time slipped by and there was never enough … never enough time with this amazing friend.
I can live a hundred years and never find another Alex P. Her view of life is rare.
I got to thinking of her one day in class and couldn’t finish the rest of the day. I drove all the way back home in tear soaked sobs. There is not a day that goes by were I don’t miss my friend.
I never got to say goodbye, and I don’t know if she is still out there or not. I hope she is living a beautiful cancer free life, but if she is gone I hope she knew how much she met to so many of us.
Time really does take it all, and if we aren’t careful we might miss our chance to tell someone how much their time on this earth has met to us.
Maybe just maybe I can be an Alex P for someone, because sometimes we meet others in that darkness, and sometimes we lose them there again.

 

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