On Monday, September 14, a ship of dreams set sail on the most recent leg of its journey in memory of one human spirit that set an example for us all. That ship is affectionately known as the Glenn Ship <glennship.com> or as christened by its skipper Glenn Mikulak, the K’nector of the Seas.
With the assistance of some Front Royals finest encountered at Skyline Middle School, the K’nector of the Seas most recent port of call, the ship estimated to be assembled from 10,000-odd K’NEX pieces was moved in its massive glass case to the C&C Frozen Treats complex at 413/409 East Main Street, in Front Royal’s Historic Downtown Business District.
“Overseeing” the operation was Glenn’s mother, Glenda Mikulak Roberts, husband William “Billy” Roberts, and C&C proprietor William “Willie” Huck. We asked, first mom Glenda, and then Huck about the relocation to a downtown place of prominence. Ironically, or perhaps magically, the Glennship’s new port lies in the shadow of the Town Gazebo where the K’nector of the Seas laid anchor with several hundred mourners, including Class of 2010 Warren County High School classmates of Glenn’s at his October 24, 2010, Memorial Service.
“It was October 19 when Glenn sailed to his distant shore. And my daughter, Robin Mikulak Dodson, got together with Willy (Huck) at C&C Frozen Treats, and they had a plan to move it down here. So, we executed their plan today, and we’re going to hang up some information on Muscular Dystrophy, Duchenne’s particularly, and remind people how somebody with a disability could really go way and beyond and make a creation like the one with over 10,000 pieces here.”
As some “docking” logistics were being ironed out and Glenn’s K’nector of the Seas already began drawing attention from passing East Main Street foot traffic and perhaps a passing motorists horn honk, we asked Huck about the genesis of the Glennship relocation born of conversations with a C&C Frozen Treats customer, Glenn’s sister Robin.
“She asked me if we could do it, and I was like ‘most certainly’ and (wife) Nina was like, ‘YES, we’d LOVE to!’. There are love and magic in the ice cream shop, connectors, connections all over. And K’nector, connections – it all just fits. It truly is about the connections and it’s an honor to host this in the ice cream shop so the magic can continue to live. This truly represents our community coming together and that’s the most important thing,” Huck observed of Glenn’s K’nector of the Seas sailing C&C Frozen Treats way.
“To have this young man’s legacy live on in our building is a little overwhelming because I never met the man, didn’t know him, wasn’t in Front Royal at the time. But I can see his passion for life. And the ship that he’s done – I’m about love and magic, and this is his love shining to the world to see the magic that he’s created,” Huck said.
“The research behind what he has done with this ship says that it’s passion. And that’s what he lived with. Even to his end, he lived with passion and wanted to touch people. And we’re about memories and about celebrating – and the adventure, there’s always an adventure. And … we can all load on and take an adventure anywhere we want to go, anywhere we want to be.
“Glenn’s adventure continues, and he’s going to continue to touch people even in his passing. And to be a part of his legacy is an honor here at C&C Frozen Treats,” Huck concluded, locking in on the importance of the example Glenn Mikulak gave us all during his 18 years with us. As a footnote to this story, Glenda reminded us that Glenn’s First Mate, his dad Robert Mikulak, aka “The Ratchetman”, rejoined his son’s crew on that far, shining shore in November 2012.
“Interesting in the 10 years since Glenn has been sailing away, they have come up with some really good treatments, and they’ve got some good trials going for Duchenne’s Muscular Dystrophy. So, we’re hoping that something really good will evolve from 2020, maybe. In my lifetime I want to see a successful treatment/cure for Duchenne’s,” Glenda said of the deteriorative muscle disease that took aspiring engineer Glenn’s life.
In addition to its stops at various Warren County Public Schools, Glenda noted a year’s port of call in Winchester’s Shenandoah Valley Discovery Museum; and she asked for a shoutout for the Glennship’s massive protective glass enclosure case, made courtesy of Mark Dick’s MD Construction. And not one to miss perhaps cosmic irony, Glenda pointed to the company owner’s connecting initials to the disease Glenn battled throughout his life.
“At his funeral, we carried it down the street here, 350 people went to the Gazebo where we had a little ceremony. And as we were driving up in the truck today, it reminded me of the emotions as we were bringing it down, and we came in that same direction,” Glenda said, also recalling a certain camera-toting reporter jogging to the front of the procession as the K’nector sailed into this downtown neighborhood the first time.
In 2010 this reporter covered Glenn’s ship being brought into his high school for display under his watchful eye his senior year; and just months later of his passing in a story titled “An Improbable Tale of the High Seas: A captain among men, Glenn Mikulak sails toward a brighter shore”. In reporting on his creation’s latest port of call at C&C Frozen Treats, I will include passages from that latter story, including references to the earlier story:*
Ten years gone
For most people, me included, memories of a nice trip, whether it be on a ship or by another mode of transportation, are generally recorded in our sometimes flawed memory banks or on photographs soon to be curled and yellowing in some forgotten scrapbook.
But for Warren County High senior Glenn Mikulak, the memories of a 2006 trip with his late grandmother, Linda Hogoboom, on a Caribbean cruise were translated into an astonishing reconstruction of a cruise ship. On April 28th Glenn’s ship christened “K’nector of the Seas … was brought for display in the Warren County High lobby. The reactions of classmates, teachers and even Principal Ernestine Jordan mirrored my own.
“Glenn, that’s incredible – did you draw a picture of it first?” “No, I just started building it,” Glenn replied.
“I couldn’t do that if I had my whole life to finish it,” one student exclaimed.
The fact Glenn oversaw the event from his wheelchair underscores perhaps the added awe with which his classmates viewed his achievement. Glenn suffers from a form of Muscular Dystrophy known as Duchenne, an irreversible deterioration of the muscular system. As a consequence of his condition, Glenn has a reduced life expectancy and must face that fact each day …
Glenn’s outlook is an inspiration to all. We asked him how he does it.
“Designing and building is my passion,” he told us. “I try to use all that I have and make the best of it. I anticipate a cure in the future and while it’s getting harder and harder for me every day physically, I am doing all I can. It’s discouraging at times, but I am still creating and building. I hope I’m an inspiration to other people. This ship will be my legacy.”
But Glenn was wrong, at least in part. It isn’t just his ship that is his legacy. Rather, as repeatedly commented on by emotional friends, family, and classmates at his Oct. 24 (2010) Memorial Service, it is Glenn’s spirit that is his most enduring legacy … Glenn’s legacy to all of us is the example of achievement under duress; of hope where hopelessness might seem the answer; of life lived to the fullest under the constant shadow of death.
Glenn was dealt a lousy hand physically – but spiritually he carried a full deck.
His hand played out on his mother’s birthday, Oct. 19, 2010. Captain, permission to leave the bridge of the “Royal K’nibbean Line’s K’nector of the Seas” is granted. Please take your next duty station on the bridge of another ship of dreams, a ship without unwanted anchors, a ship sailing into a port of call on a distant and shining shore.
Back to the present
As the 10th anniversary of his passing approaches, Glenn’s ship has sailed a familiar route into a new port of call his mother called, if not a shining shore, a “shining store” in downtown Front Royal. And in coming months for those of us willing to really look into that perhaps magical C&C Frozen Treats complex storefront window, we will be reminded, not only of who Glenn Mikulak was but of who we can be with a little more focus, a little more effort and a little less complaining about the hand we are dealt in this world.
Check-in with Glenn’s Ship on Facebook where you can share thoughts, photos, and a dream or two can mingle with others touching those afloat in the wake of a visit to the K’nector of the Seas.
Footnote*: Excerpts from stories first published in 2010 in the Warren County Report.
Facts about Glenn’s ship:
- Length: 8 feet 6 inches
- Width: 1 foot
- Height: 2-feet-5-inches
- Build Time: 6 weeks in 2006
- Upgrading Time: 3 weeks in 2010
- Estimated K’NEX pieces used: 10,000
Local ‘Save Our Children’ efforts focus on substantial issues rather than conspiracy theories
On Friday, September 18, “Save Our Children Front Royal” held the first of a series of planned events to bring attention to a perceived gap in the state or U.S. Justice systems that many feel “under-punishes” convicted pedophiles. The late afternoon march assembled at the Warren County Government Center around 5:30 p.m. proceeded down Commerce Avenue and Water Street to the Front Royal Village Commons/Gazebo area and circled back on Chester and Second Streets to the government center.
Organizer Brittany Lewis says the march and coming events are designed “to bring awareness to child abuse and sex trafficking” issues. She stressed that “Save Our Children Front Royal” is not associated with recent efforts of the factually-discredited Q-Anon political conspiracy theory group to latch onto the ‘#saveourchildren’ logo to its own ends, or for that matter to the 1970s origin of the slogan in Florida tied to an anti-gay agenda celebrity Anita Bryant served as the spokesperson for.
“No, when I was starting this up someone asked about that and I had to tell them I wasn’t with those groups. I put ‘Front Royal’ on at end … to try and distance us from that,” Lewis told Royal Examiner.
Rather, “Save Our Children Front Royal” is born of experience closer to home. That experience was her becoming aware of a young child’s abuse locally and deciding that abuse was too close to home. And while the alleged perpetrator has been arrested and is awaiting trial, it is the end result of such prosecutions on pedophile charges that Lewis says is one of the primary reasons she began “Save Our Children Front Royal”.
“The average jail sentence is 3-1/2 years,” she said of pedophile convictions.
And for Lewis, and others rallying to her cause, that is not enough time behind bars for the sexual victimization of her or any of our society’s children.
Upcoming events include a “Paint Night” fundraiser for the Laurel Center for victims of sexual abuse that will be held in the Washington Suite of the Blue Ridge Shadows Holiday Inn on October 11, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and another march on October 24, slated to begin at 10 a.m. at the WCGC parking lot.
For further information see the “Save Our Children Front Royal” Facebook page or contact Brittany Lewis by email at email@example.com or by phone at (540) 692-9893.
VOA reports worldwide from Front Royal on the death of U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ginsburg
A visitor to Front Royal last weekend (September 18-19) could provide a footnote to the history of our town.
A guest of ours, Steve Herman, now living in Alexandria and working out of the White House, is the Voice of America’s (VOA) bureau chief in Washington. After connecting through the AP Retirees online bulletin, Herman brought his wife, Rosyla, specifically to attend the weekly “Yappy Hour” on Main Street Friday evening, September 18.
Rosyla loves dogs!
It was to be a relaxing weekend for the Hermans. Or so the busy journalist had planned. I’d advised him of our weekly Wagner Animal Shelter fundraiser a few weeks ago and it caught the eye of his wife who agreed to, or perhaps proposed, the overnight trip.
We made it a meet and greet with local reporters Roger Bianchini (Royal Examiner) and Josh Gully (late of the NV Daily). Herman, 60, and me, 87, worked at different times for The Associated Press, me in the U.S., Herman in cities throughout Asia.
Events changed quickly for our guest when news of Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s death came up on his phone while we were socializing at ViNoVa’s outdoor “Yappy Hour” seating.
Saturday over lunch Herman told us that after returning to their Remount Road B&B Friday night, “BBC World TV rang him” asking if he could appear live, “preferably from the White House, to discuss how the associate justice’s death would affected the (U.S.) election.”
With no time to return to Washington, Herman said he went on the air via Skype on a slow-speed Internet connection from his Front Royal B&B bedroom to carry his VOA bureau chief report to BBC World’s international audience. Routinely, his VOA broadcasts are translated into 47 languages for 350 million people through a network of more than 2,500 local broadcast affiliates. He said he did his reporting sitting on the floor using a mid-19th century fireplace as a backdrop for his appearance on BBC’s worldwide broadcast.
Is that another first for Front Royal, a town of many firsts recorded since the Civil War? Maybe so. Local historians take note.
We invited Steve and Rosyla back to Warren County for “another relaxing weekend” where Rosyla fell in love – with our dog, the rescue Siberian husky, Diva (hamming it up in accompanying photos).
Virginia Beer Museum marks 4 years of celebrating state’s brewing history
On Saturday, September 19, the Virginia Beer Museum cut the cake on its fourth anniversary of lauding, not only the Commonwealth’s current barley crop of crafted beers, but noted Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson’s contributions to Virginia and the American colonies history of brewing their way right up to independence.
And that’s something worth raising a glass of fine Virginia-brewed beer to – the museum’s fourth and America’s history of a march toward “all men created equal” under the law celebrated every 4th – of July. Keep the faith in that march, kids – someday.
The appropriately named Play the Changes band mixed classic rock covers and original material to an enthusiastic crowd spanning a several generation gap that appeared to agree that BEER was the vote to make, at least for those of age that Saturday evening in Historic Downtown Front Royal, Virginia.
Check the band out on its Facebook page and website.
And check the Virginia Beer Museum out on Facebook and at its website.
Another 5-year wait for essential bridge over Rockland Road railroad crossing in Warren County
A long-awaited overpass needed to help emergency services, fire trucks and ambulances react to urgent 911 calls may become a reality, according to the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) – but not until 2025, if then.
In a presentation to the Rotary Club of Front Royal, September 18, Ed Carter, a VDOT official with an office in Edinburg, estimated a fall construction date starting in 2023 which should see the bridge opening in the spring of 2025 – a date that will be 25 years in the making.
According to Rotarian and former Warren County Administrator Doug Stanley in a telephone exchange last year, it had been 20 years since problems with the railroad companies first surfaced, but then, complaints were scarce. In the past several years, however, rail traffic has increased to the extent that traffic holdups at some crossings have been reported to range to an hour, if not longer.
In addition to emergency service inaccessibility, another effect of increased train traffic for residents of the area is the wait for drivers who need to be downtown or elsewhere to keep doctors and dentists appointments, veterinarian treatments for sick animals, or other scheduled meetings – even shoppers are becoming more irritated by the train crossing barriers coming down.
While describing the noticeable increase in train traffic and the length of many trains, some requiring two and three locomotives to pull and/or push heavier loads, Carter suggested some of the complaints may be overblown – “when sitting waiting, four minutes might seem like an hour.” (see editor’s note at story’s conclusion)
The railroad companies estimate a top waiting time of about 15 minutes. Carter also blamed the current installation of “third rails” for the extra train traffic that have added to the cost of a bridge.
The original estimate for the overpass was $15.5 million, which effectively is in the bank; and pre-construction work has begun. However, the railroad companies’ “third rail” has added almost $6 million to the project, and all that extra money is not yet in hand.
“(Residents) are going to have to put up with train blockages for quite a while longer,” Carter said, adding that a public hearing on the project is slated for the spring of next year.
The estimated 200-foot long bridge, two lanes (24-feet) wide, will “straighten out the two curves on the Rockland Road approach. He also observed that the bridge would be “quite high.”
Answering a question, Carter said trucks will be fed on to the relatively narrow country road, up to and including the size of tractor trailers. A questioner suggested that two trucks coming along the road in separate directions may not be able to pass one another without one pulling over.
Another Rotarian observed that there are already distinctive marks on either side of the road where mostly cars apparently have run off the road in passing from opposite directions.
While announcing that preparations for bridge construction had already begun despite the wait for extra (federal/state) funds, he described initial problems where underground caverns “close to the right of way” had been discovered and were a concern to engineering crews.
Carter, answering another question, said it would help if drivers held up for long periods would call the sheriff’s office for the record, suggesting that “we cannot control the railroads which got the right of way… many years ago” but observing that record-keeping of delays would be helpful in future discussions.
(Editor’s note: While driving to his Rockland home following the Rotary meeting, the writer was held up by a train at the Rockland Road crossing for a measured four minutes. “It seemed like an hour,” he confirmed.)
Statewide teen seat belt challenge launches “Buckle Up” design contest and free traffic safety kits
SALEM, VA — Students, schools, and youth groups across Virginia are kicking off a statewide campaign this week to increase seat belt usage rates among teens and youth.
Through a new, virtual format, the five‐week campaign, Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down will encourage youth and teens to develop a lifelong buckle up habit by reminding them that seat belts are their best defense against injury and death in a crash. In 2019, 65 teens aged 15-20 were killed in crashes in Virginia and of those teens, 56% were not wearing seat belts. According to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), 2020 preliminary data reveals 37 teens have been killed on Virginia’s roadways from January 1 through August 31, 2020 and of those, 19 (59%) were unbelted.
“The simple step of buckling a seat belt saves lives but, sadly, we are seeing an increase in the percentage of unrestrained teens killed in crashes in Virginia this year,” said Mary King, YOVASO Program Manager. “Through the ‘Drive for Change’ campaign, we are challenging our teens to change that statistic by influencing and encouraging each other to always buckle up. We hope every teen in Virginia will join the campaign and use their creativity to help save lives.”
In addition to buckling up, the campaign will also address speed prevention which remains a key factor in all fatal crashes involving a young driver with approximately half of fatal teen crashes being caused by excessive speed.
As part of the campaign, Virginia students ages 11-20 will be encouraged to participate in the #DriveForChange Sticker Design Contest by designing a sticker/decal with a buckle up and/or slow down message that will influence youth and teens to wear their seat belt and follow posted speed limits. The winning design will be selected by popular vote on social media during National Teen Driver Safety Week (October 18-24) and announced on October 23. Prizes will be awarded for the top five designs with first place receiving $100, having their artwork produced as a sticker for YOVASO’s 2021 Arrive Alive campaign, and will also receive 100 stickers to share with his/her friends. The other four finalists will receive $25. Contest Guidelines can be found online at www.yovaso.org/driveforchange.
Students may also participate in the campaign by registering for a #DriveForChange kit that includes driver and passenger safety resources, project ideas, and other fun items! Additional options for schools, youth groups, and parents to get involved can be explored on YOVASO’s website.
Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down is funded by a grant from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles with additional funding from State Farm, which supports prizes and educational incentives and materials.
“State Farm’s primary goal is to keep drivers safe behind the wheel,” said State Farm spokesperson Kate Beadle. “This campaign is a creative reminder to young drivers to always wear seat belts and obey the speed limit. With these actions, the number of accidents, serious injuries and deaths will be reduced.”
For more information or to register for free campaign materials for your school or youth group, contact Casey Taylor, Program Development Coordinator at 540-739-4392 or visit yovaso.org.
Schools and Youth Groups participating in the 2020 Drive for Change: Buckle Up and Slow Down campaign:
- Auburn Middle School, Montgomery Co.
- Bristol’s Promise, Washington Co.
- Central Academy Middle School, Botetourt Co.
- Eastern Montgomery High School, Montgomery Co.
- Fluvanna County High School, Fluvanna Co.
- Forest Middle School, Bedford Co.
- Galileo Magnet High School, Danville City
- George Wythe High School, Richmond City
- Heritage High School, Newport News City
- Hidden Valley High School, Roanoke Co.
- Jefferson Forest High School, Bedford Co.
- L.C. Bird High School, Chesterfield Co.
- Liberty High School, Bedford Co.
- Louisa County High School, Louisa Co.
- Louisa County Middle School, Louisa Co.
- Luray High School, Page Co.
- Mallory’s Movement Against Drunk Driving, Chesterfield Co.
- Narrows High School, Giles co.
- Page County High School, Page Co.
- Randolph-Henry High School, Charlotte Co.
- REACH Homeschool Group, Orange Co.
- Rockbridge County High School, Rockbridge Co.
- Walker-Grant Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Woodrow Wilson High School, Portsmouth City
- William Byrd High School, Roanoke Co.
Students are also participating from the following schools and universities:
- Beverley Manor Middle School, Augusta Co.
- Breckinridge Middle School, Roanoke City
- Bridgeway Academy, Chesapeake City
- Broadwater Academy, Northampton Co.
- Broadway High School, Rockingham Co.
- Brooke Point High School, Stafford Co.
- Centerville High School, Fairfax Co.
- Christiansburg High School
- Christopher Newport University
- Colgan High School, Prince William Co.
- Dinwiddie County High School, Dinwiddie Co.
- Floyd County High school, Floyd Co.
- George Wythe High School, Wythe Co.
- Glenvar High School, Roanoke Co.
- Graham High School, Tazewell Co.
- Hanover County High School, Hanover Co.
- James Madison University
- John I Burton High School, Norton City
- John P. Fishwick Middle School, Roanoke City
- Jouett Elementary School, Louisa Co.
- King George High School, King George Co.
- Lancaster High School, Lancaster Co.
- Menchville High School, Newport News City
- Milboro Elementary School, Bath Co.
- Monacan High School, Chesterfield Co.
- North Stafford High School, Stafford Co.
- Oak Knoll Middle School, Hanover Co.
- Park View High School, Mecklenburg Co.
- Patrick Henry High School, Roanoke City
- Penn Foster High School, King George Co.
- Prices Fork Elementary, Montgomery Co.
- Radford High School, Montgomery Co.
- Rodney Thompson Middle School, Stafford Co.
- Salem High School, Salem City
- South County High School, Fairfax Co.
- Staunton River High School, Bedford Co.
- Stuarts Draft High School, Augusta Co.
- Tabb High School, York Co.
- William Campbell Combined School, Campbell Co.
LFCC launches new podcast series “LFCC Stories”
Just in time for LFCC’s 50th anniversary, the college is launching its first-ever podcast series.
“LFCC Stories” will feature LFCC students, alumni and professors sharing their inspiring and heartwarming real-life stories.
“The podcast gives those who make LFCC such a special place – our students, former students and our faculty – the chance to share their stories in a more in-depth and intimate way than they have ever been able to do before,” says Marketing Director Brandy Boies, who is spearheading the project. “We have had so many amazing people walk through our doors, and this is a great opportunity to share their experiences and successes – and challenges – with a wider audience.”
Janet Michael, an experienced interviewer who hosts The Valley Today on The River 95.3 and owns Java Media, is hosting the podcast for LFCC.
You can find the podcast by searching “LFCC Stories” on Apple Podcast or Spotify, or listen online by clicking on the podcast link at the bottom of the LFCC homepage, lfcc.edu.