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Local educator up for Missouri Teacher of the Year

Local teacher Mark Korell has the opportunity to become Missouri’s State Teacher of the Year.

The eighth-grade social studies teacher at Robidoux Middle School also coaches boys’ and girls’ golf at Lafayette High School and is entering his ninth year of teaching. In 2018, he was named the 2018-2019 Teacher of the Year by the St. Joseph School District Foundation.

“Winning the St. Joseph School District’s Teacher of the Year was an honor that I never expected to achieve and an honor that probably every educator would like to achieve, and there are hundreds of educators here in the St. Joseph School District who are well-deserving of the award,” he said.

Currently, he is one of three northwest regional teachers up for the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s State Teacher of the Year, along with Denise Henggeler of Northwest Nodaway and Sandra Wood in Maryville. Korell has an interview scheduled for next week to begin the application process for the state award, and he will be graded by a panel from DESE along with several other teachers up for the distinction.

“If I were to win Missouri Teacher of the Year, that would be another exceptional honor,” Korell said. “Again, there’s so many deserving individuals within our area and state.”

As the local Teacher of the Year, Korell has given speeches to students graduating as educators from Missouri Western State University as well as read resumes and applications prior to the St. Joseph School District Foundation’s selection of the current teacher of the year, Corinne Russell.

“My focus is ‘students first,’” Korell said. “Hopefully they can see that their teachers work hard, therefore in return they want to work hard. They know their teachers have their back and will do whatever it takes for their success. That’s the most important thing for me. You can gain awards, but it’s really about what we do upstairs, for Robidoux, for the school district to build up our community.”


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'Jedi Disposal Act' would make Missouri first state to allow outdoor cremation

Cremation has risen in popularity for memorializing a loved one, although funeral directors counsel that the decision shouldn’t be made rashly.

Two St. Joseph funeral homes report the popularity of cremations in the area is currently running about even with traditional burials. And remembering a kinsman in a unique way is becoming broad.

In Missouri, that could soon include the lawful outdoor cremation of human remains. A senate bill known as the Jedi Disposal Act now sits on the desk of Gov. Mike Parson, awaiting his signature.

But making the correct move should involve the input of more than one family member, according to the funeral homes. For instance, staff at Meierhoffer Funeral Home & Crematory indicate some families are opting to cremate the body before a funeral service, while others prefer to wait until afterward. Many times people are uninformed about the process when they arrive to make arrangements.

“They don’t know that choosing cremation isn’t giving up,” said Eric Montegna, Meierhoffer’s general manager. “There are so many options.”

To compensate for lack of knowledge, Montegna said staff is trained to ask a series of open-ended questions as a guide for the final choice of whether to pursue cremation. He said many people only plan for funerals a few times in their lives, so their existing knowledge stems most commonly from word of mouth or from the media.

“The public is becoming more educated,” said Todd Meierhoffer, president of Meierhoffer.

Price is not the primary driver for most decisions to cremate, he said.

Once the process is finished, “people don’t know what to do with the cremated remains,” Meierhoffer said. “There is no urgency with cremation.”

The funeral home already has completed a first phase of 300 cremated interments over five years. Future phases are designed to easily accommodate the expected continuation of cremains by families on the funeral home grounds. That complements the increase of cremation options that have flourished in the past quarter century.

Meierhoffer said there’s presently about a $2,000 difference in the range of cremation costs that undercut the price of traditional burials.

“Our job is not to dictate,” he said of the counseling.

There is a growing trend among families to come to funeral homes armed with research. Montegna said families will be better off arriving with more information.

The tendency for preserving someone in long-term memory through cremains has taken on new proportions. Examples include using the ashes in conjunction with pendants, bracelets or other types of jewelry. Other possibilities include bench estates for placing ashes of succeeding family generations.

J.L. Robertson, owner and general manager of Rupp Funeral Home, said the frequency of cremations in Missouri hovered around 18 percent 25 years ago and is now slightly below half, leveling off roughly at pace with the national trend, and with burials thus still more popular. There are predictions of an 80 percent cremation rate being attained by 2040.

“It’s still relatively new,” Robertson said. “We’re finding more and more people want to memorialize” through cremation, he added, with some families combining it with traditional services.

A family’s care of cremains can become a crucial issue. Families should consider the factors involved with storing the ashes at home. Some have been known to be kept in storage units.

Meierhoffer and Rupp have both handled requests for scattering of ashes at certain locations and can recommend using only a particular percentage for that purpose. Both funeral homes say some of the wishes call for donating a loved one’s body for medical research, with cremation to follow one or two years later.

Meanwhile, the two funeral homes have a low opinion of the outdoor cremation bill. An outdoor facility, properly licensed and permitted, could use an outdoor funeral pyre to perform cremations. Prior written notice must be provided to law enforcement, and a licensed funeral director or designee must supervise the activity.

“We certainly have no plans for it,” Montegna said.

Robertson said supporters have spent much time on the legislation. He has concerns about whether the procedure can be done correctly and if those in charge are appropriately licensed.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate,” he said. “It’s not within the culture of Missouri to do that.”

The bill has been dubbed the “Jedi Disposal Act” and would make Missouri the first state to allow outdoor cremations. Proponents say the act has been performed by some cultures since the dawn of time.


Key highway reopens

U.S. Highway 59 between Atchison, Kansas, and St. Joseph is open to traffic with some restrictions.

Details Page B1


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Council approves multiple sewer projects

Several items pertaining to the upkeep and improvement of St. Joseph’s sewer system have been passed by the St. Joseph City Council.

Six items totaling almost $2.5 million were approved and include the rebuilding of multiple manholes as well as sewer line maintenance.

The most expensive item approved is a $1.5 million work order with SAK Construction to reline a heavy-flow outfall pipe near the Water Protection Facility.

Director of Public Works Andy Clements said the Missouri Avenue outfall pipeline, which was built almost 100 years ago, was found to have structural issues during an inspection done in 2013.

“It has a lot of structural cracks throughout and we think that a lining will be a good way to add 30 to 50 years of life to that pipe,” Clements said. “We line pipes when it’s the right application instead of replacing them because it is pennies on the dollar compared to replacing pipes.”

The section that will be relined with Geokrete geopolymer is located between the St. Joseph Animal Control and Rescue shelter and the Missouri River. It is at a point where multiple stormwater sources meet, and the city says a failure of the pipe would be “catastrophic.”

A budget of $3 million was assigned for the work in the 2018 sewer bond.

Another item approved will involve the cleaning of a large system at the water protection plant.

A $363,000 agreement with Environmental Works, Inc. will see the #2 digester tank at the facility cleaned.

The tank, according to Clements, heats up solid waste in order to promote the growth of microscopic “bugs” that break down the waste into a sludge, which must be removed every five years or so.

“The waste product from those bugs is an inorganic solid, and those build up over time and that material has to be removed from the digester,” Clements said. “On average, you ought to clean out a digester between five to seven years or else they’ll become so full that they’ll just become inefficient.”

The council also approved agreements with contractors to repair manholes, clean sanitary sewer lines and inspect lines with TV cameras.

All the work will be paid for through water protection money funded by sewer user fees.


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Business offers cannabis-growing know-how

A new store hopes to become a resource for prospective cannabis growers in the St. Joseph community as medical marijuana becomes available in the state.

St. Joe Hydro opened in June at 6116 King Hill Ave. The business offers basic and advanced supplies.

Owners Aaron Sarnowski and Chris Nigh have taken trips to Colorado in preparation for opening St. Joe Hydro and have done research online.

“I’m kind of a nerd at heart. I like learning new things,” Sarnowski said. “When I get involved in a topic, I like to learn as much as I can and also be helpful to others that would like to know the same information.”

Sarnowski and Nigh bought out the hydroponic and gardening store Liquid Dirt on the North Belt Highway for its inventory before closing the store and opening St. Joe Hydro.

“They pretty much did the same thing, but not specializing in medical marijuana,” Nigh said. “They were just fruits, vegetables, which is all the same product. And we just have more specialized things here.”

In addition to supplies, Sarnowski and Nigh plan on sharing their know-how by giving classes.

“We’re working with the people out at 20 After 4. They’ve got the room out there,” Nigh said. “We’re going to be getting classes going there.”

Sarnowski said he is excited medical marijuana soon will be available for people suffering from chronic illnesses. He is personally connected to the issue: His 5-year-old son, Aiden, was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer last year and underwent chemotherapy.

“Once my son gets medically diagnosed in remission, he will still be on possibly lifelong, low-dose chemo treatment and will have to have a port in his chest,” Sarnowski said. “With these new cancer treatments from medical marijuana, there’s a possibility that that may not have to happen to 5-year-old little boys, having to deal with that for the rest of their life.”


Let freedom ring

United States wins fourth World Cup with 2-0 victory over Netherlands.

See Page A10