Irish in America: Successful and forgetful
March 16, 2018

St. Patrick’s Day, it is said everyone is Irish and a sweet sentiment it is, too, but the fact is Irish immigration to America has slowed to a trickle and even the Irish seem to have lost their connection to the old country.

According to, 34.1 million Americans claim Irish heritage – just over 10 percent of the population – second only to the number of Americans who claim German heritage.

But in 2018, we are 175 years past the potato famine that gutted Irish populations and sent them fleeing to America. In some of those early years, 20,000 Irish per month legally immigrated to the U.S. That number is now down to a few thousand per year, according to What this means is that the strong Irish communities with strong ties to Eire have mostly melted into America.

And chances are they don’t remember the old country. About 37 percent of Irish-Americans under 45 have never been to Ireland, according to a recent NYU/IrishCentral/Amarach Research study of 1,388 Irish-Americans. Only 34 percent have joined Irish organizations. About 50 percent have only been to Ireland once. Observers believe that this is the last Irish-American generation with a connection to Ireland in the family.

Valentine lore abounds
February 10, 2018

Superstitions abound about Valentine’s Day and many involve birds.

If the first bird a girl sees on Valentine’s Day is a robin, she will know she is to marry a sailor. If she sees a goldfinch, she will marry a millionaire and if she sees a sparrow, she will be the wife of a poor man. But if she glimpses a woodpecker first, she will never marry.

So go many of the tales that have become part of the lore (though many have been forgotten) of love and Valentine’s Day.

Here are a few others:

The oldest known valentine card still in existence is on display at the British Museum. This valentine is a love poem written by the Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Christian tradition for Valentine’s Day dates back to the third century, when a kindly priest named Valentinus was arrested by emperor Claudius II for crimes that included helping Christian martyrs and marrying young lovers in secret.

Some sources say that, while in jail before his martyrdom, Valentinus wrote a letter to his jailer’s daughter, signing it “From Your Valentine.” If that is true, Valentinus started a powerful tradition.

Today, according to the Greeting Card Association, 1 billion cards are sent for Valentine’s Day, second only to Christmas (2.5 billion).

Flowers are another tradition of Valentine’s Day. Red roses are said to denote true love. A pansy declares loving thoughts, a periwinkle suggests early friendship and a red tulip professes powerful love.

The sleepy groundhog stretches
February 2, 2018

For hundreds of years, on February 2, people have wondered if the groundhog would awake to see his shadow.

The day probably started with the feast of Candlemas, which celebrates the Biblical story of the Presentation of Christ in the Temple. On February 2, exactly 40 days after Christmas, people hoped for the end of the dark days of winter but perhaps were loathe to be too confident. The saying was, “If Candlemas be fair and clear, there will be two winters in the year.”

So, curiously that saying morphed into a groundhog or badger or some other creature who, when awakened on February 2, sees his shadow, and thus predict six more weeks of winter. Or doesn’t see it. Thus we start spring.

The date of February 2 is also thought to correspond to hibernation patterns. German farmers thought that if a badger emerged from his burrow and saw his shadow there would be six more weeks of winter. By 1841, German farmers in Pennsylvania were again marking the day, this time with a groundhog’s shadow.

As it turns out, both the groundhog and the badger have not been very good weather predictors. According to the National Climatic Data Center, groundhog predictions have been correct 39 percent of the time since 1887.

To remember a dream: the importance of non-violence
January 15, 2018

In 1986 it was declared that every third Monday in January would mark Martin Luther King Jr. Day. This federal holiday has since been celebrated as an occasion to promote tolerance and equal rights for all, regardless of background, race or religion. On such a day, it’s important to remember who Dr. King was and what he did for the progress of this country through non-violent activism.

He was an American clergyman and civil-rights leader who played a leading role in the desegregation of the Montgomery bus system in 1956. His civil interests ranged from equal rights to concerns over poverty and even criticism of the Vietnam War. His philosophy of nonviolence sought to teach us that the only way to fight hate is through love, and that you don’t need guns to change the course of human history.

• Is a way of life for courageous people
• Seeks to win friendship and understanding
• Holds that voluntary suffering can educate and transform
• Chooses love over hate

Martin Luther King Jr. believed that the only way to defeat injustice was through education. He believed that people shouldn’t be judged by the color of their skin, but rather by the contents of their character. We celebrate this day to remember the civil injustices our country faced
and to ensure we stay on the path to a brighter, more inclusive future.

Avoid hypothermia and frostbite during frigid January temperatures
January 2, 2018

With temperatures across much of the country predicted to remain south of freezing for at least another week, it is important to take extra precautions to prevent cold-related health issues, such as hypothermia or frostbite, from developing.

Hypothermia, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), is an abnormally low body temperature, and  a dangerous condition that can occur when a person is exposed to extremely cold temperatures. When the body temperature drops too low, it affects the brain, making the victim unable to think clearly or move well.

Stay safe this winter by learning more about Hypothermia, including who is most at risk, signs and symptoms, and what to do if someone develops hypothermia.

Frostbite is a bodily injury caused by freezing that results in loss of feeling and color in affected areas, according to the CDC. Frostbite can permanently damage the body, with severe cases leading to amputation.

Stay safe this winter by learning more about Frostbite, including who is most at risk, signs and symptoms, and what to do if someone develops frostbite.

For more information about winter weather safety, emergency preparedness, healthy living and more, visit the CDC.



Health Seasonal
What BLOOD TYPE are you?
January 1, 2018

Photo by Jody Lane/American Red Cross

January is National Blood Donor Month, and the American Red Cross encourages everyone to contribute to this important work. Knowing your blood type is an important part of donating. There are different blood types because not all blood has the same kinds of red blood cells in it.


You’ve probably heard about blood types from your doctor (or at least your favorite television drama about doctors): A positive, O negative, etc. But what do these labels actually mean? Both the letter and the positive or negative symbol refer to antigens that either are or are not present on the surface of your red blood cells. A-type blood has A antigens, B-type blood has B antigens, AB has both, and O has neither. Whether your blood type is positive or negative depends on the presence or absence of another antigen called the Rh factor.


Antigens are essential to how your body identifies and deals with infections. If a patient is given a blood transfusion of the wrong type, the body’s antigens will identify the donated blood as a harmful invader and activate the body’s immune system to reject it. This is why people with type O, which has neither A nor B antigens, can donate to anyone, but type A can only donate to others with type A. If you don’t know your blood type, ask your doctor for information so you can help those in need by donating blood.

Happy 2018 to everyone
January 1, 2018

A new millennium joke is going around. A fellow is in an existential crisis. He tells his friend: At times like these, I wonder what I have done with my life. His friend answers: You’ve had a great life. It’s just that you were on your phone.

Don’t we all know someone like that? Let’s face it, we have all been that person.

Here it is 2018 and as we begin the new year, let’s resolve to engage in the world around us at least as much as the phone in our hands. Our colleagues, our families, our friends — they all could use the best we have to give.

Thank you for your work this year. We are looking forward to a fantastic New Year.

New Year’s Resolutions: Break out into something new
January 1, 2018

So, everyone resolves to lose weight and stop procrastinating. Why stick with the obvious? Here are some resolutions that will make 2018 a little more interesting.

1.  Master some jokes. Why resolve to be more social if you don’t know what to do when you get to the party? Try to find a selection of one-liners that will work in a variety of situations. Find a longish joke that will be suitable to tell at lunch with a friend. Maybe a spicy joke to tell a really good friend. But always have a sweet joke to tell someone’s mother.

2.  Learn a useful phrase in three languages. Hey, you want to be debonair? Here’s your chance. Go for Arabic and Mandarin if you are adventurous. If you want laughs, learn something silly. With one resolution, you tick off ‘learn something new.’ Done.

3.  Learn to juggle. A good party trick that will get everyone else involved and keep you busy while listening to YouTube videos. Hey, you aren’t wasting time.

4.  Give yourself a big win. The problem with New Year’s resolutions is that only 8 percent of resolvers keep their resolutions. That leaves 92 percent feeling like failures. They are resolving the wrong things. Instead, try something that you have a good chance of accomplishing:
– Always drink beer during a football game. If you break this resolution, you’ve probably quit drinking. Win.
– Spend more money on fun. If you break this resolution, you are saving more money.
– Never buy another organizational basket. So, if you do break down, you are getting organized.
– Never go to a gym. No sweat. But if you find yourself sweating, more’s all the better.
– Never become a circus acrobat. Unless you are one now, this is a resolution you can keep.

Local News Seasonal
A Christmas visit to RSW Jail reminds us of the holiday’s true meaning
December 27, 2017

Inmates in one cell block gather around the trio of Christmas evening visitors after hearing a message of love and redemption. Courtesy Photos/RSW-Russ Gilkison

WARREN COUNTY – Well it wasn’t Santa and reindeer, but it WAS a Christmas evening visit that brought a message of hope and seasonal cheer to inmates of the RSW Regional Jail. And if not a contingent led by a famous red-nosed reindeer, it was led by an almost-equally-famous animal of Hollywood fame – Warren County’s own Grace the performing mule, along with trainer Stevie Foster and musician Kirby Covert.

Grace, whom actor Robert Duvall told this reporter rates “right up there at the top” of all the famous leading ladies he’s worked with over a stellar movie career, was accompanied by Foster and guitarist Covert on a mission of faith, redemption and Christmas joy.

Grace is lit up like a Christmas tree under the watchful eye of handler Stevie Foster.

RSW Superintendent Russ Gilkison explains that Foster and Covert visit the jail weekly and that Foster has included RSW in his Christmas jail visits with a message since its opening.

“Stevie has been visiting inmates on Christmas day for 20 years and has been coming to RSW on Christmas since the opening in 2014. This marks the first year for Grace the mule to accompany Stevie on his annual visit,” Gilkison told Royal Examiner, adding of the visit, “Grace, adorned with garland and lights, performed a few tricks like counting out her age by stomping her hoof and smiling for the crowd, bringing holiday cheer and laughter to the jail on a day that is usually quiet and somber.

“This was followed by Kirby Covert playing his guitar and singing Christmas songs such as ‘Silent Night’ and ‘New Star Shining’. Stevie would then say a few words about his personal story of drug and alcohol addiction, spending Christmases away from his family until he final gave his life to Jesus Christ and turned his life around. Steve then lead them in prayer and let them know this could be their best Christmas, if they would make the choice to let God into their lives to help them.

“I saw many men and women with tears in their eyes and then a smile on their face as Grace would do a final trick waving a handkerchief goodbye as we moved on to the next housing unit.”

Kirby Covert sings a holiday message during visit.

Gilkison shared the thoughts of a father of one of the RSW inmates after speaking to his son following the visit.

“I would like to thank you and all involved for the special Christmas luncheon served, the commissary gifts, as well as the visit by Steve Foster and his Amazing Grace. I spoke with (his son) last evening and he explained all that happed yesterday and it was the first time in months that he had a sound of excitement in his voice.

“I’m sure yesterday’s events had a positive effect for all involved and did give hope to those that could not be home with their families. I also want to thank you personally for taking time from your family to accompany Mr. Foster and Grace during their visit.”

Thanks to Superintendent Gilkison for sharing this story with us; and a special thanks to Steve Foster, Kirby Covert and Grace for reminding us what the true meaning of Christmas is all about.

Local News Seasonal
Rotary Club of Warren County: ‘Letters to Santa’ project a big success its first year
December 26, 2017

FRONT ROYAL – When the Rotary Club of Warren sets out to do a project, they aim high. This year, for the first time, the civic group decided to help Santa Claus out by answering some of the huge stack of letters the old gentleman receives from children each year.

According to Rotary member and organizer, Felicia Hart, the project was even more successful than the Rotarians had imagined. “What a huge hit! The Rotary Club of Warren County definitely helped Santa out this year. For our first-year offering, we produced, personalized and mailed 422 letters – to kids of all ages.”

Ms. Hart said Letters went to “kids” of all ages, ranging from 9-months to 72-years-old. Letters were mailed letters across the Shenandoah Valley, to Front Royal, Strasburg, Winchester, Harrisonburg and as far away as Coral Cables, FL.

Rotary members who helped with the letters noted that there were “so many positive comments from moms, dads and even aunts who wrote the requests and then witnessed the children receiving and opening their letters, which included holiday stickers.

Hart said, “We even got a thank you letter back from the child with the stickers attached.”

Some of the letters were personalized by the Rotary members, by completing a P.S. with information supplied by parents – everything from working on keeping a neat bedroom, to start using the “Big Girl Potty” to being nicer to a sibling.

This was the parent’s opportunity to “leverage” Santa’s advice, Hart said. She reported that club members had a wonderful time not only reading the letters and the kids’ requests of Santa, but hand-writing the P.S. to the recipient.

This project was such a hit, the club has already decided we will definitely be doing it again next year.

The Rotary Club of Warren County meets on Wednesdays at 7 a.m. at the Front Royal Golf Club.

Some of the club’s service projects have included: the community playground in Linden, a van for the Shenandoah Area Agency on Aging, a greenhouse for Blue Ridge Opportunities, renovation of spaces for the Phoenix Project and upgrading the playground for E. Wilson Morrison Elementary School
The Rotary Club of Warren County also supports C-CAP of Warren County, St. Luke Clinic, Samuels Public Library, the United Way and the Humane Society of Warren County.

Additionally, the group grants three annual scholarships to students at Skyline High School and sponsors Interact Clubs at Skyline High School and Randolph-Macon Academy Middle School.