Lake Geneva native named pastor

Downtown Whitewater chooses new board members

Delavan manufacturer closing

Better e-mail address for Dan Plutchak

Swope conviction upheld

Lake Geneva home prices drop

Delavan woman pleads not guilty to embezzlement

Mystery place, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008

Boyfriend sentenced

MPC plans Prairie du Chien layoffs

Oct. 2008 stories

Sept. 2008 stories

Aug. 2008 stories

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Swope conviction upheld

DELAVAN - Craig A. Swope, who was convicted in 2006 of killing his mother and stepfather, stealing their money and leaving their bodies in their Delavan Township house, will not get a new trial.

The Wisconsin Second District Court of Appeals upheld his conviction. He is serving a sentence of life in prison without parole.

A Walworth County jury determined Swope killed his mother and stepfather, Carolee and Duane Recob, before taking nearly $43,000 from the couple's checking account.

Read story HERE.

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Lake Geneva home prices drop

LAKE GENEVA - The average price for a home sold in Lake Geneva dropped 20 percent to $589,700 in the last quarter, according to a report from the Metro Multiple Listing Service.

County wide, 238 homes were sold, two more than the previous quarter. The average price of homes sold dropped, however, to $258,800 from $337,300.

There were 1,273 homes on the market as of Sept. 30, down from 1,704 in the first quarter of

Download the full report HERE (778k pdf).

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Delavan woman pleads not guilty to embezzlement

Kari Sue Clark-Branton, 39, the Delavan woman accused of embezzling $800,000 from Home Design Manufacturing in Walworth Township pleaded not guilty Tuesday to two felony charges of business theft and 30 misdemeanor charges of forgery.

Story HERE.

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Mystery place, Sunday, Nov. 30, 2008

Click HERE to for Ginny Hall's mystery place.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Boyfriend sentenced

ELKHORN - Devis K. Osinski of Pell Lake was sentenced to 11 years in prison and 13 years probation for helping provide the heroin that killed his girlfriend, 37-year-old Rebecca Monroe of Elkhorn, in April 2006.

Osinski pleaded guilty to two felony charges of delivering heroin, felony bail jumping and misdemeanor failure to aid a victim.

Osinski was charged under the state's Len Bias law, which allows prosecutors to file a charge of homicide against people suspected of providing drugs that cause death by overdose.

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Monday, November 24, 2008

MPC plans Prairie du Chien layoffs

WALWORTH - Miniature Precision Components Inc. of Walworth has informed state officials of its intention to lay off 94 employees from its plant in Prairie du Chien.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development, the layoffs will occur in January.

Miniature Precision Components is a Walworth-based manufacturer of injection-molded and extruded components that has plants in Walworth, Prairie du Chien and Richland Center in Wisconsin and one in Mexico.

The company also has operations in Delavan, and in Arizona and Michigan.

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Comet commitment

DELAVAN - Delavan-Darien High School's Lisa Parlich has signed a national letter of intent to play volleyball at Colorado State University.

A 6-foot-2 middle blocker, Parlich was a three-year varsity player and letter winner while also a member of Fusion Volleyball Club.

She has been named first-team all-conference and team MVP in each of the past two seasons and was the team's captain this past season.

Parlich, a member of National Honor Society and the National Society of High School Scholars, has been on the high honor roll since her freshman year. Her parents are Bonnie and Matt Parlich.

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Friday, November 21, 2008

Catholic Central D7 champs, Big Foot falls short

LinkCatholic Central's Reese Hartlage, escapes the grasp of Hilbert's Kyle Kees. Photo by Terry Mayer/staff

The Burlington Catholic Central Hilltoppers won the WIAA Division 7 football championship Thursday with a 37-14 victory over Hilbert at Camp Randall Stadium in Madison. Story HERE.

The Big Foot Chiefs, however, weren't as fortunate.

The Chiefs lost to Wautoma/Faith Christian, 20-0, in the WIAA Division 4 state championship.
Story HERE.

Look for more photos and coverage in the Dec. 30 Walworth County Sunday.

Bigfoot's Michael Walker runs for extra yards during Thursday's WIAA Division 4 championship game. Terry Mayer/staff

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Send us your photos and mementos of Pearl Harbor

I have a photograph of my father that reveals little about the world in which he lived. Dressed in his Navy uniform, he's standing with his buddies, smiling, seemingly without a worry in the world.

The truth is, the world at that time had many worries. He was in that uniform because of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Like nearly everyone of his generation, he rushed to do the only thing he could think of. He enlisted.

My memories of him remain vivid, but it seems that our nation's collective memory of the world after Pearl Harbor continues to dim.

Because Dec. 7 falls on a Sunday this year, we'd like to bring back some of those memories.

We're looking for photographs or memories that illustrate how the world changed on Dec. 7, 1941.

They can be anything from life on the home front, to life on the the frontlines up until the end of the war.

My collection includes the things that my father thought were important enough to save, like his dog tags (at right) and a pocket prayer book.

The attack on Pearl Harbor defined his generation in much the same way Sept. 11, 2001 defined mine.

Pearl Harbor happened during perhaps the most difficult time our nation has faced.

Even though we're once again in perilous times - fighting two wars and struggling to keep the economy afloat - life isn't as dire as it was in the '30s and '40s.

Like most of his generation, my father talked little about his time in uniform.

He was in Pensacola, Fla., early in his service when he was injured while training for an assignment on an aircraft carrier.

He was attempting to attach a tie-down to a plane, when it snapped and struck him in the eye, nearly blinding him.

He spent most of the final year of the war in a military hospital, far away from his friends on the battlefield.

How much that time serving defined his life is hard to tell. I do know that it was the simple things in life that brought him the most joy.

He didn't strive so much to make sure that things went well in his life as he did to make sure things didn't go wrong.

I also suspect his experiences are not unlike so many others who were compelled to served their country after Pearl Harbor.

If you have a photograph, or anecdote to share, you can e-mail, mail or drop them off.

We can scan photographs and return them right away, if you let us know you'll be stopping by.

The deadline is Dec. 1.


Dan Plutchak
(262) 728-3424
120 Wright St.
Delavan, WI 53115

Dan Plutchak is an associate editor for CSI Media LLC, publisher of Walworth County Sunday.

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A home in shambles, help on the way

An East Troy family taken advantage of by a contractor while helping their daughter battle cancer has a newly remodeled home thanks to the Lakeland Builders Association.

The project was recently completed. Read Donna Lenz Wright's story from August after the jump.

VIDEO from Fox News is HERE.

Builders group volunteers to help East Troy family

By Donna Lenz Wright Walworth County Sunday, Aug. 17, 2008

EAST_TROY - Molly Ebbers only was trying to help when she hired a contractor to install a basement in her sister's East Troy home.

But shortly after work began on Kate and Ken Rath's home, Ebbers said, the house collapsed. She said the contractor hung tarps over the exposed areas and never returned.

About the same time, the Raths' 9-year-old daughter, Meaghan, was diagnosed with a relapse of the leukemia the family thought they had successfully battled two years earlier.

Now, thanks to volunteers from the Lakeland Builders Association, who also sponsored a fundraiser Saturday (Aug. 16), the Raths' future is beginning to look brighter.

That's a far cry from where the family found themselves last fall.

The condition of their home was terrible. Half of it had collapsed. The walls were cracked and the doors wouldn't shut. Large holes in the front of the house exposed the inside to the weather like a three-sided lean-to.

Ebbers couldn't stand to see her sister's family in such trouble while Kate and Ken worked full-time and fought for their daughter's life.

The contractor has a history of legal trouble, according to online court records, but legal action wouldn't solve the family's immediate problems.

"They really didn't say much about it," Ebbers said. "That's the kind of people they are - they're there to help out anyone else, but won't ask for a thing when they need it.

So they jacked up that side of their house and lived in it while the floors iced over and the heating bills went through the roof, she said.

Through it all, the family stayed focused on Meaghan's health.

Ebbers contacted everyone from Oprah Winfrey and Martha Stewart to "Extreme Home Makeover" for help, but to no avail.

Then she contacted the Lakeland Builders Association's Builders Help Foundation. The group helps local families in crisis, making much-needed home improvements due to illness, handicap and injuries.

"Within three hours, Jean called back," Ebbers said of Jean Kruzan, who owns and operates Kruzan Construction in Genoa City with her husband, Kent.

"How could we turn them down?" Kruzan says. "What happened to them is just terrible.

While work on their home continues, the Raths are living in an apartment donated by Beilinski Homes.

By mid-August, a new basement was already in place, and interior framing was well under way.

Every item and hour has been donated by LBA members and local businesses.

And there's good news with Meaghan's health, too. Doctors have found a matching bone-marrow donor and optimistic.

"But there are so many kids just in Milwaukee who don't have matches," Ebbers said. "And just like Kate - she's working very hard to find matches for them."

For more information on how to help Meaghan, visit

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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Video of Lyons robbery suspect

The Walworth County Sheriff's Department released surveillance video today of the suspect in Monday's bank robbery in Lyons. CLICK HERE to view.

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Monday, November 17, 2008

Police seek suspect in Lyons robbery

Police are continuing their manhunt for a suspect, in photo above, who they believe robbed the First Banking Center in Lyons just before 10:30 a.m. Monday.

Contact Deputy Rahn Smith,

According to a Walworth County Sheriff's Department news release, a male subject entered the bank, displayed a black handgun and demanded money. The subject then left the bank with an undisclosed amount of money.

The suspect is described as a white male, 20-30 years of age, 5-foot-6 to 5-foot-8 with a medium build.

The subject was wearing a black knit cap, grey zipper jacket, jeans, dark sunglasses, and black gloves.

Any person with information as to the identity of the subject is asked to contact the Walworth County Sheriff's Department at (262) 741-4400 or the Milwaukee office of the FBI at (414) 276-4684.

A Crime Stoppers reward is possible for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons involved.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

After sentencing, man arrested again

GENOA CITY - A Genoa City man was arrested following his sentencing for drunken-driving after the bailiff smelled alcohol on his breath.

Joel A. Drehmel, 41, was being sentenced Oct. 30 for a sixth drunken-driving offense when the bailiff noticed the smell of alcohol, according to the criminal complaint.

Drehmel had been ordered not to consume any alcohol as a condition of his bond.

A blood test taken indicated a blood alcohol content of .07, according to the complaint. Drehmel was booked into the Walworth County Jail on a felony bail-jumping charge.

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Thursday, November 13, 2008

Teacher accused of possessing heroin

A State Crime Lab report indicates the second grade teacher arrested outside Walworth Elementary School was in possession of both cocaine and heroin.

Katie M. Luessenhop, 26, of Darien pleaded not guilty Oct. 3 to misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance on or near certain places, but the Walworth County District Attorney's office dropped that charge Nov. 5.

She now faces a misdemeanor count of possession of cocaine on or near a school and a felony count of possession of narcotic drugs on or near a school.

According to a criminal complaint, police were called to Walworth Elementary School around 8:15 p.m. Sept. 18.

The complaint states Luessenhop gave officers a small, wrapped container that she said contained cocaine, as well as a folder containing powder. A search of her handbag turned up another small bag of powder.

The complaint states the samples were sent to the State Crime Lab, which found one sample tested positive for cocaine; the other two tested positive for heroin.

Luessenhop is scheduled to appear in Walworth County Circuit Court for a preliminary hearing Dec. 10. She is on a leave of absence from her job.

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TDS buys SLD

ELKHORN - State Long Distance of Elkhorn has agreed to be purchased by TDS Telecommunica-tions.

State Long Distance currently serves 9,300 phone lines and 2,200 high-speed DSL Internet lines through one telephone exchange, according to a TDS news release.

The deal still requires regulatory approval, and is expected to be finalized in the fourth quarter of 2008.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Mystery place answer: A temple to temperance

Click HERE for this week's mystery place answer.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Ryan won't seek leadership role

Rep. Paul Ryan says his first priority is his family, so he won't be a candidate for House minority leader, despite being urged by colleagues to lead Republicans in the next Congress.

Ryan issued this statement late last week:

“I have been honored and humbled by the outpouring of support from my colleagues who have asked me to lead our party in the 111th Congress.

"I share their hunger for reform and will work tirelessly as a policy leader for the Republican Party.

"My first priority in life will always be my wife and my three young children.

"As I reflect upon the strains that this position would place on my young family, I have decided not to enter my name as a candidate for House Minority Leader.”

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

This Week's mystery place

Know where this week's mystery place is from the photo on page A20 of Walworth County Sunday? Submit your guess HERE.

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When schools are the safety net

Unemployment figures out Friday confirm a grim trend: The national jobless rate grew to 6.5 percent, the highest it's been in 14 years.

The ripples of the economic collapse have spread quickly, and the downturn affects children in unique ways.

Schools are the first to see the growing hardships, and educators are looking for new ways to grapple with this growing problem.

Contributing writer Charlotte Huntley spent an afternoon at The Delavan-Darien School District's Turtle Creek Elementary School recently to see what teachers are doing to soften the blow.

Her story after the break:

School help as children suffer as economy struggles

By Charlotte Huntley/Contributor

DELAVAN -- While the current economy is making it difficult on adults struggling to keep their jobs and pay their bills, children increasingly are shouldering their share of the burden.

"It's really sad," said Principal Janet Green of the Delavan-Darien School District's Turtle Creek Elementary School. "You hope that it doesn't affect your kids, but it really does."

A year ago, 1,257 students received free or reduced meals, according to Green. Now, the number is 1,426.

In the entire Delavan-Darien School District, 58 percent of students qualify for free and reduced meals.

"The free or reduced meals for 2007-'08 at this time was 50 percent for this building, and now they are 69 percent, up almost 20 percent," Green said. Meals include breakfasts and lunches.

In addition, some families cannot afford student fees or field trips.

Green has a fund for those students. For example, one class was scheduled to go to a pumpkin farm. Several students couldn't pay for their pumpkin, so money from the fund was used.

Although there have been some cutbacks in the number of field trips because of the cost of gas, Green explained that "I'm a big believer in letting the teachers make those decisions."

She shows them how much money is available for field trips and lets the teachers determine what is going to be the most meaningful use of those dollars.

Some businesses have programs to help schools with costs. For example, Green said that if you shop at Target and use their credit card, you can earmark a percentage of what you spend to be sent to your school. "Probably once or twice a year I get a little check, but all the little pieces add up," she said.

Turtle Creek Secretary Kim Jedlicka is in charge of supplies, which were collected and donated by Blackhawk Credit Union. Salvation Army vouchers also helped purchase supplies

This year, 19 students received help with supplies, compared to five last year.

"As new families come in, I put together things for them," Jedlicka said. Backpacks are always needed; by the middle of the year, they are breaking.

Sometimes families can only afford one set of clothes for their children.

Steve Deering is the interim school psychologist, and has gotten to know kids through his work.

"I kind of have a soft spot for the kids in need, and I know how kids can tease," he said.

When he discovered that some needed a helping hand, he said, "I put the good word into my wife."

His wife, Brianna Deering, is the children's ministry director at Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Lake Geneva, and has nurtured a variety of sources for children's clothing. "I had the kids and parents write sizes down on cards, so I knew what to ask for," she said.

Said Green, "(Steve Deering) has been really generous with some of our families," Green said, "to provide things that the kids need."

Nurse Jackie Belkin-Pecor and Health Aide Susan Lehmkuhl distribute clothes that Steve Deering brings in for emergency use; he also donates some of his own children's items.

Children from homeless families are difficult to identify Green said. A federal law, known as the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, sets out the responsibilities that school have regarding such families.

"Truthfully, it's very hard to get families to admit that they are in that status. It breaks my heart," Green said. "If they tell you they are homeless, they qualify for free meals."

In addition, the school networks with the community to try to get the family what they need.

"Our guidance counselors work closely with those families," she said.

Green says school officials don't judge these families.

She sees the kids suffer, and knows it doesn't have to be that way.

"As a principal, that's probably what's changed the most - working with my staff, to get them to understand that in the life of a child who is homeless or dealing with poverty, homework is not the priority. It's really out of their control."

Counselors Anne Landis and Katie Kopp are alert to any child who might be homeless; meanwhile, they do what they can to help needy kids. They accept donations for clothes and make them available to the children. Landis said that sometimes people will donate, but want to remain anonymous.

Recently, a Delavan resident offered to "adopt" a family for the year.

"The hard part for me is," Landis said, "which family?"

And as always, with winter coming on, teachers quietly dig into their own pockets to buy mittens, shoes, scarves and hats for kids in their classrooms.

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Friday, November 07, 2008

Election: a look back, a look ahead

I was ready for the election long before the polls opened a week ago Tuesday.

Those like me, who were not undecided most likely had their choices nailed down many months ago.

Those who remained undecided up until Election Day however, most likely weren't helped by the extra time anyway.

Just as the Christmas shopping season seams to get longer and longer, so does the race for president.

This, the longest election campaign in history, took two full years. That means we're already less than two years away from the beginning of campaign 2012 -- if candidates can wait that long.

While the campaign for president topped the national conversation, the local conversation on Election Day provided poignant reminders of the unique character of our Democracy.

Here are a few highlights:

--First to vote
As voters waited in line for the polls to open at the La Grange town hall the morning of Nov. 4, a man arrived with an urgent plea.

He had brought his wife, who had just gone into labor that morning, and she wanted to vote before heading to the hospital.

He asked if they could jump ahead in line, and those waiting enthusiastically agreed, according to Eric Graff, who spent the day at the polls as an observer for the Republican Party.

The couple moved to the head of the line, and was the first in the door as the polls opened at 7 a.m.

They voted, then were back in their car and reportedly on their way to the hospital in West Allis.

No word yet if it was a boy or girl.

--Democracy is built on stages both large and small.
Voting went smoothly throughout Walworth County, including the polls in the University of Wisconsin-Whitewaters' Conner University Center,

The chief election inspector is responsible for overseeing the operation of the polling location, and has wide discretion on how to do his job, according to the Wisconsin Government Accountability Board.

The election inspector at this polling place had selected a spot away from the voting booths for media to shoot photos.

When I arrived however, I asked about shooting from a different location, which sparked a discussion on the potential conflict between free access of the press and freedom of citizens to vote uninhibited.

We eventually agreed on a location where I could get the photograph that best told the story of that day, without disrupting the voting process.

I hope he didn't think I was bent on being difficult, but these are the battles on which or democracy remains strong.

Use or lose it, they say.

--Early voting
Every four years, the Walworth County Home and Community Education holds a mock election at the log cabin on the fairgrounds.

Typically the outcome is a pretty good indictor of where the election may be headed. Keep in mind that this year, the vote came before the economic meltdown of October.

This year, the vote totals were:

348 for McCain
174 for Obama
4 for Clinton
1 for God

--Our changing electorate
Every incumbent that ran in Walworth County was reelected, which is no surprise. A politician has to work pretty hard lose their job in Walworth County. It happens, but rarely.

John McCain was Walworth County's preference for president. That's no surprise either in this historically Republican County. But over the years, the gap between Republicans and Democrats has narrowed.

In fact, all four cities in the county -- Delavan, Elkhorn, Lake Geneva and Whitewater -- voted for Obama.

A lot will happen in the next four years, but rather than looking back, I think I'll get a jump on things and file this column under "Election 2012."

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Badger play: Who's looking out for the Whos?

From left, Chad Davidson, Jay Hawk, Keith Marriner, Stephanie Johnson, Bethany Christner and Claire Kinder rehearse a scene from Badger's "Seussical the Musical." Cecilia Cook/photo

Contributing writer Charlotte Huntley previews this weekend's Badger High performance of "Seussical the Musical."

Show times are 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13-15, with an extra 2:30 p.m. show Saturday.

Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students and seniors.

Read the preview after the jump...

Badger High presents "Seussical the Musical"

By Charlotte Huntley/Contributor

Remember Dr. Seuss and his fantastic, imaginative and memorable characters Cat in the Hat, Mayzie, the Grinch and Yertle the Turtle?

And what about Horton and the Whos?

Horton, the beloved elephant who is the main character in "Horton Hears a Who," takes it upon himself to carefully protect the Whos, even though they are as small as a speck of dust.

Horton, along with the rest of these beloved Seuss characters, will come to life at Badger High School in the stage production of "Seussical the Musical" which will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 13-15 with an additional 2 p.m. performance Saturday afternoon.

Directed by Matt Roemer, choir instructor at Badger High School, the cast and musicians include Badger students as well as a group of six elementary children who play the Cadets.

"Seussical the Musical" incorporates several Seuss characters and expands on the story of "Horton Hears a Who."

Horton, played by Jay Hawk, has a very kind heart; he personally takes responsibility for the survival of the little Whos in the Jungle of Nool, despite facing trickery and lack of support from those around him.

One of the Whos, Jojo, played by Katy Williams, has been ridiculed for thinking, and is ostracized from Whoville.

Jojo is an imaginative person and later becomes part of the story as the son of Mr. and Mrs. Mayors, played by Dan Andrus and Daegan Ross.

Jojo and Horton both want to do the right thing, and they find themselves swimming upstream against popular opinion, expressed in their duet, "Alone in the Universe".

Nathan Kidder plays the Cat in the Hat, and sings "Oh, The Thinks You Can Think", "How Lucky You Are" and "Havin' A Hunch" with Jojo. His character narrates the story as it goes through a series of twists and turns involving the military and General Genghis Kahn Schmitz, played by Rex Jacobs. Jacobs sings "The Military", while in Florida with Mayzie, played by Kathryn Hausman, who sings "Mayzie in Palm Beach" with the Cat and Horton.

Among all his troubles and assertions that "a person's a person, no matter how small," Horton is sold to the Circus McGurkus and eventually must stand trial before Judge Yertle the Turtle, played by Phil Huff, Badger's business education instructor.

Jenna Wetherbee, a sophomore who plays one of the Whos, said that the Whos have a vibrant life, even though no one can see them. They sing "Here on Who," "Chasing the Whos," and "The Whos' Christmas Pageant."

They show up at the end during "Finale/Oh, the Thinks You Can Think" and "Green Eggs and Ham," to declare, "We are here! We are here! We are here!" to the unconvinced outside world.

Choreography instructor Rebecca Larson-Reyes taught the actors various dances, including Russian, salsa and go-go dancing, as well as acrobatic flips, cartwheels, wheelbarrows and marching.

"It's really fun," said Katie Nagel, who plays a Bird Girl, along with Cecilia Cook, Brooke Pankau, and Riley Mikrut.

Other cast members:

Gertrude McFuzz is played by Bethany Christner, who sings in several songs including "The One Feather Tail of Miss Gertrude McFuzz" and "All for You."

Sour Kangaroo is played by Claire Kinder, who sings in "Biggest Blame Fool", Egg, Nest and Tree" and "Solla Sollew".

Other characters are Wickersham 1, Keith Marriner; Wickersham 2, Chad Davidson, Wickersham 3, Stephanie Johnson, and Grinch, Jacob Mason.

The Whos include Shelby Peteler, Brieanna Winger, Courtney Stotter, Brittany Trent, Tiffany Lewandowski and Brandy Wiedmer.

Jungle Creatures are played by Diana Ruzga, Leah Mailloux, (Vlad) Erin Evans, Lia Halpin, Amanda Newcomb and Alexis Luempert.

Who children are Haily Friemoth, Adrienne Somerville, Steph Duel, Elizabeth Carroll and Brienna Havens.

Cadets, played by elementary students, are Rosie McCormack, Alec Williams, Mackenzie Dvorak, Sydney Petrie, Emily Woodside and Carly Bakken.

Badger's Seussical includes all the original music by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.

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Teen pleads guilty to homicide by drunken driving

Krystal Hart, the 17-year-old charged with killing a man in a November 2007 drunken-driving crash, pleaded guilty Wednesday to homicide by drunken driving.

Hart, of Genoa City, also pleaded guilty to charges of felony bail jumping and obstructing an officer.

The judge Wednesday revoked Hart's bond, and she was returned to the Walworth County Jail.

Hart will face a maximum of 31 years and nine months in prison when she is sentenced Jan. 30.

Hart was first arrested following the fatal crash Nov. 3, 2007, that killed Chimal Lopez, a 54-year-old landscaper from Delavan.

She also told police she had used marijuana hours before the crash, between 5 p.m. and 6 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2.

The criminal complaint indicates Hart was possibly northbound in the southbound lane of the highway.

While out on bond, Hart was twice arrested at parties, violating conditions ordered by the judge.

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Monday, November 03, 2008

Walworth County election results

Kevin Alvarado receives his ballot from poll worker Shirley Taylor at the La Grange Town Hall Tuesday. Dan Plutchak/photo

Click HERE for the Walworth County election page.

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National election results

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Building the American Dream

Dezaray Micklevitz and her son clear rocks from the backyard of their new home in Delavan. Micklevitz is participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, which promotes affordable housing for low-income workers. Dan Plutchak/photos

By Dan Plutchak/Associate editor

DELAVAN -- Dezaray Micklevitz spent a recent Wednesday afternoon doing yard work. There's no grass yet in her backyard, but there is plenty of optimism.

That's because she's growing more than a simple lawn; she's growing a piece of the American dream.

Micklevitz is nearly finished building her new home, a home made possible by a little-known federal program that helps people with a job and good credit trade sweat equity for a mortgage and a new life.

She is one of dozens of Walworth County homeowners participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Mutual Self-Help Housing Program, where participants contribute roughly a third of the labor required to build their home.

They also qualify for USDA mortgages, often with 33-year fixed-rate terms and low interest rates.

While the real estate market nationwide has come to a halt and the credit that kept it moving has dried up, this program operates without those handicaps, according to Art Gonzalez, executive director of Southeastern Wisconsin Housing Corp., a nonprofit agency that administers the program for the USDA.

Gonzalez has been at this for 38 years, and has helped more than 1,500 homeowners.

The success of this government program comes from its narrow focus on applicants who are working and have good credit.

"This isn't a handout," Gonzalez is quick to point out.

Gonzalez says he's hoping to build on the program's success and is looking for new participants. He says many people don't apply because they think they won't be accepted.

It's true that only about one in 15 applications are approved, but Gonzalez says it's still worth applying.

In some instances, he'll work with applicants to get them to a point where they'll qualify.

"If you don't have good credit, we'll work with you to help, but it may take a couple of years," he says.

Gonzalez is much more than an administrator, however. He is at times a cheerleader, social worker, contractor and encouraging father figure.

For those like Micklevitz, Gonzalez is the one who keeps them going when the going gets tough.

Everyone in the program agrees that building their home has been the hardest thing they've ever done.

"It's hard on your body. You can't do anything else. But it's only for a while," Micklevitz said. And at the end, you have a house.

Micklevitz, a single mother of two, works full time in Delavan, then puts in the required 30 hours each week on her home.

But the benefits far outweigh the demands.

"You're not moving all the time," she said. "That, and the fact that I'll have a home for my kids."

In addition to preparing her backyard for seeding (she hopes to get the lawn in before the snow flies, so it will grow quickly in the spring), Micklevitz has done the framing, hung drywall, installed cabinets, painted and put up siding. Basically, the homeowners are responsible from the foundation up.

Micklevitz' street, in this sprawling new subdivision on Delavan's west side, is lined with homes built by people just like her.

While Micklevitz' home is nearly finished, Kim Feine is in the early stages of building her modest single-story home across the street.

Feine, a 20-year-old single mom with a 2-year-old and another child on the way, works 40 hours a week as a certified nursing assistant. She began work on the home in June, but with her baby due in a few weeks, she's working as hard as she can to keep up with the schedule.

"It's definitely the hardest thing I've ever done," Feine says. "But the reward is what makes it worth it."

A few blocks away, the newest group to enter the program is building three houses.

The first house is going up quickly. The foundation was finished on a weekend, and by the following Wednesday, the outside walls were up and the garage-roof trusses were being moved into place.

The group of homeowners-to-be moves from house to house, helping each other with the major framing work under the direction of Construction Director Lanny Esch. He's an example of the unintended benefits of the program. He was a participant 26 years ago, when he built his own home.

More than building a home, he's watched as participants build confidence and self-esteem.

"I've seen grown men cry when their house is finished and the see what they've done," he said.

He shares the same pride. "I never would have had a house without this program," he said.

After building his own home, Esch stayed with Gonzalez to direct construction for each new group of prospective homeowners.

Gonzalez admits that homeownership is no guarantee of a wealthier life.

"I've had some third-generation families go through the program," he said.

But he does guarantee that with lots of hard work, a piece of the American dream is the reward.

Post continued HERE

Saturday, November 01, 2008

WIAA: Saturday results

Results Saturday

Soccer Sectional final
Division 1
Milton defeats Badger, 2-0

Volleyball Sectional final
Division 1
Kenosha Tremper defeats Burlington, 3-1
Division 4
Burlington Catholic Central defeats Sheboygan Christian, 3-0

Division 3
Delavan-Darien loses to Reedsburg, 70-49
Division 4
Big Foot defeated Winnebago Lutheran, 21-7

Post continued HERE

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