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LIFE STORY | An ongoing series of articles about noteworthy people from the News-Press readership area
Chautauqua planners try to give tradition a modern twist

Around the semi-circle of reminiscence, the planners sort through particular memories, echoes of childhood and the annual Chautauqua celebrations.

Kate Chrisman grew up in Gallatin, Missouri, and remembered the festival as a chance to see friends and indulge in the carnival. Ayron Wilson, from nearby Jamesport, recalled the food booths, the cotton candy and the kettle corn.

“We always got to pick out one thing from the vendors, a little toy or something,” Wilson said. “But it was always so much fun as a family activity.”

Lance Rains, born and raised and now the city administrator in Gallatin, cited his days marching with the high school band in the Chautauqua parade and, later, as a member of the town’s Men’s Club, cooking and serving “many thousands of pork chops” for hungry festival goers.

They enjoy now that other vision, the one of experience to go with the one of youth. All have a hand, as do dozens of other volunteers, in putting on the 34th annual Chautauqua in Gallatin, the events beginning Friday and ending on Sunday.

And with both perspectives, they hold close the traditions of the past, the ones they want their children to embrace as they did, while looking for ways to attract folks with streaming services and social media at their fingertips.

Thus, Friday evening will bring the time-honored “Baby Show” (this year’s theme, “Wild Wild West”) and, a couple of hours later, a newer activity, “Glowga,” or glow-in-the-dark yoga.

Not so many years ago, the Chautauqua had gotten ... well, a little stale.

“It was fading away,” said Chrisman, in her fifth year as chair of the event. She and others went about trying to piece together the next generation of the festival.

“What things do we keep that are a tradition, that we want our kids to experience, but what new things do we add for our changing society to continue to draw people?” she said.

In an earlier day, the Chautauqua at Gallatin might not have stirred such introspection.

Part of a rural tradition that began in the late 19th century, its indigenous name coming from the village of its origin in New York state, Chautauquas began solely as a religious program but evolved into a general source of education, recreation and entertainment.

A native son of Gallatin, Alexander Monroe Dockery served in the U.S. House for 16 years and as Missouri’s governor beginning in 1901. Farther down his resume, a listing would note his presidency of the Daviess County Chautauqua Association upon its establishment in 1909.

Those first Chautauqua events, like several throughout the region, would be major draws.

“There wasn’t any other form of entertainment, and people would come from miles around in their buggies,” said Elaine Bohannon.

Bohannon, long a volunteer at the event, serves this year as director of the 150th anniversary reenactment of the James Gang robbery of the Daviess County Savings Association.

Long involved in the Gallatin Theater League, Bohannon, her husband and her 6-year-old son took part during the last such re-enactment in 1991. This time, her son plays Jesse James.

“All the guys who are on horses have grown up with a rope in their hand,” she said. “They’re very comfortable with it.”

The re-enactment takes place at 3 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 21.

Money raised from the festival does not go into some festival account (“It’s almost like starting over every year,” Chrisman said) but gets used throughout the community for various civic and educational purposes.

Volunteers say the real purpose of their months of work resides in perpetuating the Chautauqua, in leaving a legacy.

Marcy Gay, who did not grow up in Gallatin but “married into the town,” said her husband, Wes, remembers fun days at the festival in his youth.

“That was one of our goals, to get it back to where it used to be when they were children,” she said. “I have two little kids, and this is our home. I want (Chautauqua) to still be around when they’re my age. Whatever I have to do to be a part of it, I’ll do it.”

Chrisman values those nights of the festival, the feeling of community that bathes the event. She begins to see her children experience it the way she did as a youngster. Gallatin, its population about 1,800, can not vanish from the wider world, but she can look around the courthouse square and see a safe space.

“It’s not just one parent. It’s a whole community of parents,” Chrisman said of that feeling. “It’s not just a location. It’s home.”

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Local Diocese speaks on list of accused clergy members

On Sept. 6, the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph released the names of 24 clergy members that the organization believes to have substantiated allegations of abuse against children, including a former St. Joseph priest now serving 50 years in prison.

The release of these names follows the example of many dioceses in the United States, as the Catholic Church works to address what has been a decades-old issue in parishes across the country.

According to Carrie Cooper, director of the Office of Children and Youth Protection at the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, the list was compiled with the hopes that healing would occur for those who suffered the abuse and those whose faith was shaken because of the previous lack of transparency.

“The goal really is healing,” Cooper said. “There have been so many families affected by the harm that was done by the church, by church leaders who look the other way in the past, by people that look the other way, when maybe they had a suspicion. And if we can bring some healing, and bring some light to and some normalcy to the conversation, that’s the goal of putting the list out.”

The list includes the names of men who either were ordained by the diocese (19) or worked in the area of the diocese when the alleged abuse occurred (five). Only 10 of the men are still alive with the majority of the alleged offenses believed to have taken place prior to the 1990s.

Of those who are still living, five have been permanently removed from ministry, four have had their title stripped, one was tried by the Vatican and one is currently serving a 50-year sentence in federal prison.

This man who is serving time for his abuse, Shawn Ratigan, was a priest who served in several parishes and schools throughout the Diocese Kansas City-St. Joseph, including St. Joseph Mission in Easton, St. Mary’s in St. Joseph, Bishop LeBlond High School and St. Patrick Catholic Church in Kansas City. The revelation that Ratigan was taking sexual photos of children at his parish that were as young as 2 years old had an effect on both the leaders and followers of the local diocese.

“About the time that Ratigan came out, I had just started my kids on that — made the commitment and the sacrifice to send them to Catholic school,” Cooper said. “So as a parent, and as a parishioner, it was so shocking to me, just reading the newspaper. That’s all I knew, which is what most parishioners knew. It was just so shocking to me how this could continue to happen in our church.”

While Ratigan made the list released by the diocese, another clergy member connected to the case did not. Emeritus Bishop of the Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese Robert Finn, who gave his resignation to Pope Francis in 2015, pleaded guilty to failure to report suspected abuse in the case. Finn was sentenced to seven years probation for this misdemeanor.

“One of the criteria that was met for people to be on the list is if they were charged with sexual abuse of a minor,” Cooper said. “So Bishop Finn was charged with failure to report sexual abuse, but not actually being a perpetrator himself of sexual abuse.”

With the resignation of Finn, a new bishop was assigned to the diocese, James Johnston. During his first year, Johnston worked to create a culture of transparency and healing in the diocese, hosting a service of lament in which sexual assault survivors were able to read about the pain they had suffered at the hand of clergy members as well as a service of healing at St. Mary’s where Ratigan had served.

Along with the release of the names of those with substantiated allegations, the bishop also listed the names of men whom he had found unsuitable for ministry out of concern for youth in the church: Thomas Cronin, Stephen Muth and Michael Rice.

The bishop gave a lengthy statement along with the release of the list in which he encouraged suspected abuse to be reported and parishioners to look to the scriptures during the turbulent time.

“Clergy child sexual abuse has brought a spiritual darkness that has covered not only those personally afflicted, but also all our parishioners and clergy,” Johnston said. “In this darkness, I urge us to look to the Gospel Passion accounts for hope. Christ illuminates all darkness, including the present one which overshadows our Church.”

Inside today's St. Joe Live

❯ It’s ready for its close-up

Southside Fall Festival kicks off this weekend

❯ Scruffy gets spooky

St. Joseph band returns with new single

❯ Plus, Much, Much, More

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New study spotlights city's key demographics

A new study casts an intriguing light on factors that go a long way in determining whether someone is interested in moving to St. Joseph.

The review, published recently by UnitedStatesZipCodes.org, includes such data as median home values, median household incomes, and public/private school enrollments, for six of the city’s eight ZIP codes. The data is derived from the U.S. Postal Service, U.S. Census Bureau, Yahoo, Google, FedEx and UPS.

”When determining where you want to live, there are few factors more important than the average household income of the area,” the study’s authors said. “Higher incomes bring more money for school districts, local government services, and more consumer spending for local businesses.”

In the vast 64506 ZIP code, for example, the median home value was $161,400 and the median household income was $53,908. Total school enrollment, with public and private schools combine, was 3,653.

The information also gives pause to such trends as new housing growth in the city. At the Greystone Subdivision, on St. Joseph’s still burgeoning northeast side, new construction was still ongoing Wednesday afternoon.

”Greystone seems to be doing really great,” said Rick Stoneburner, a job foreman with Superior Construction Design in St. Joseph. Despite the intense heat, he and his crew was busy working to assemble a house in the subdivision.

Stoneburner said he sees no signs that St. Joseph’s housing boom will decline anytime soon. He knows next year’s elections will be closely watched for their impact to the housing market, yet wants to see the good times extend into 2020.

”We hope that continues into winter,” he said of the present activity in local home construction.

Other observers are monitoring additional facets of the city’s housing scene.

”I think our (new) housing stock is low,” said R. Patt Lilly, president and chief executive officer for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. Lilly said he includes those homes considered to be executive-level type of domiciles that are available for purchase.

”I’ve heard that from individuals in the community” and others who are choosing to live elsewhere in the region, he added of that assessment.

A large variety of used homes is also available, Lilly continued, due to improvements that have stabilized some of St. Joseph’s older neighborhoods.

He noted that some business and corporate executives may choose to live in the city for only three to five years and may be on the lookout for a home that will be easy to resell.

”In some respects, it will help the housing market,” he said.

However, a spectre may be looming on the horizon for local housing.

”You’re beginning to find few places to build homes in St. Joseph,” said Lilly.

Bobbi Howe, president-elect of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, said 46 new St. Joseph homes have been listed with the group so far this year. She said that number compares favorably with the pace of 2018.

Howe said the politics that will surface next year could cause some potential home buyers to temporarily hit the pause button. Yet she contends the majority of those involved in the market will continue with their business as usual.

According to Howe, St. Joseph’s average price point for new homes is up by almost $20,000 this year — from $244,000 in 2018 to $263,000.

Clint Thompson, director of planning and development for the city of St. Joseph, told News-Press NOW that 32 new home permits have been issued so far this year. That contrasts with the 42 that were issued for all of 2018.

”I think the dynamic of new construction changed after the recession of 2008,” Thompson said. “More construction was due to new single-family homes built with a buyer in mind and less speculative construction. I think interest rates cause slight fluctuations in the construction numbers and availability of buildable lots in St. Joseph.”

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Law enforcement launch internal investigation into officer-involved shooting

While three local law enforcement officers have been legally cleared after they shot a suspect in August, they still face an internal investigation.

Both Buchanan County Sheriff Bill Puett, and St. Joseph Police Captain Jeff Wilson said internal reviews are typical after officers fire their weapons. They also said that even though the officers involved were found justified in their actions by Buchanan County Prosecuting Attorney Ron Holliday, sometimes internal reviews uncover policy violations and learning opportunities.

The officers who fired were Buchanan County Investigators Erica Tate and Billy Paul Miller, and St. Joseph Police Detective Aaron King, according to Holliday.

In a press release Sept. 9, Holliday idenfitied the suspect who was shot as Roger Ricker Jr.

“Ricker presented a danger to the lives of the officers on the scene. Their decision to use deadly force against Mr. Ricker under those circumstances is authorized by Missouri law and as such, there is no basis to issue criminal charges against either of the officers,” Holliday said.

Puett said his investigators have been restored to full duty because of Holliday’s decision, but that a “use of force” investigation will be conducted once the Missouri State Highway Patrol, which conducted the initial criminal investigation, turns over its reports. Puett said there’s no specific timetable for that process.

“Any use of force there’s going to be a review where we’ll look at whether the level of force was appropriate for the situation,” Puett said.

He said the Sheriff’s Department also conducts other reviews called internal affairs investigations.

“It’s one where we’d look at issues of violation of policy, conduct or performance,” Puett said.

Wilson said he couldn’t comment on specific cases, but explained the different tracks internal reviews can take.

“In an investigation following a complaint on the demeanor of an officer, those types of investigations are handled at the supervisor level,” he said. “Then you have incidents that involve criminal violations.”

While the minor complaints can be handled by lower-ranking officers, other potential violations are handled by a specific department.

“Those are much more serious,” Wilson said. “They rise to the level of an internal investigation that’s actually done through our professional standards office.”