Three memory benches dedicated at Tri Village


NEW MADISON — Students in the Tri-Village Local School District had the opportunity to witness what happens when they all get together and do a good deed Monday morning during an assembly at the school.

“The Tri-Village students find perfect use for ‘imperfection,’” said Shawn Thomas as she spoke to those seated in the crowded auditorium. “Wow, we are so proud of the Tri-Village students, staff and community in making this memorial bench project a huge success.”

Students have been collecting simple bottle caps and tub lids, which were taken to Green Tree Plastics in Evansville, Indiana. The caps weighed in at 1,2o0 pounds, then made were into three memorial benches; one for the late Susie Midlam, a teacher, the late Mitchel McCabe, a former graduate, and Johnathan Kinnison, a student who would have been a junior this year.

The school, Thomas said, wanted to teach the students two important lessons. First, the lesson of being a good steward to the environment; second, the importance of volunteering and learning that there is nothing too small to make a difference in this world.

“We are so proud of our Tri-Village students in making a difference for our environment,” she reiterated. “Next year, Mr. Sagester [Josh-the superintendent] wants you to collect more than 2,200 pounds of bottle caps to make two picnic tables for the school.”

Thomas extended appreciation to the following people and organizations who made the project possible: TV students, Brian Pohlman, Geneva Price, Emily Brinkman; Band Boosters, Bruce Burk, Debbie Frech, Karen Reier, Dana Heckman, Brenda Miller, JoNell and Roger Rutan; TV News Staff, Bonita Breining; the art classes; Lee Morris; Shawn Thomas; Jason Schondelmyer; Shellie Francis; Angie Harrington; Amanda Magoto; school board; Sagester; Tri-Village community members; Class of 2015; PATS- Parents Assisting Teachers and Students; Adopt-A-Family; Emily Brinkman, Lee Morris, Karen Bietry, Christina Gutierrez and Chris Pearson.

The first bench was dedicated to the memory Kinnison, whose family members, parents Brian and Tiffany, and sister Jazmine, were in attendance. He passed on June 17, 2009.

Thomas read a letter that student Lucas Baker wrote in honor of Johnathan, as follows:

“My remembrance of Johnathan was that he loved semi trucks and his whole life revolved around trucks because his dad was a truck driver. He was always a happy-go-lucky person and never let things bring him down. One thing I remember about him was he was daring and willing to do things others would not. He was a good friend, who will not be forgotten.”

The next bench dedicated was for McCabe, who died at the age of 25 after battling cancer about a year ago. There from his family were his mother, Missy McCabe Pearson, and his grandfather, Carl Pearson.

“Although I was not personally Mitch’s teacher, I know some of you were his teachers and even his classmates,” said Sarah Drew. “I have known his family for quite some time and feel extremely blessed that Mitch became a close friend.”

She said Mitch was a 2008 Tri-Village graduate who earned a degree in bio-medical engineering.

“He was working as a teacher’s assistant, and had an internship when he was diagnosed with a rare type of cancer that had formed around his heart in June 2013,” Drew said. “With a cancer diagnosis, doctor’s appointments and treatments, Mitch continued his education. At a time in his life when he could have chosen to complain, have self-pity or focus on the negative aspects of life, he did not.”

She said McCabe exemplified courage, bravery and inspiration.

“In mid-214 Mitch learned the tumor around his heart was aggressively growing again,” Drew went on. “In the fall, his treatment was moved to the Cancer Treatment Center of America in Chicago, a grueling cycle of aggressive treatments. This stage of Mitch’s journey prompted a few citizens of the Tri-Village community to create ‘Mission for Mitch,’ a fundraiser to assist with the cost of medical expenses. ‘Mission for Mitch’ became so much more than a fundraiser.”

Drew continued, “In April 2015, Mitch gave his last gift of love when his body was donated to further the knowledge of cancer research to help others battling rare cancer. To Mitch’s family, thank you for sharing your son, brother, fiance, grandson, nephew and cousin with our community. He has undoubtedly made us, and our community better. He has taught us not to give up on ourselves and each other, to give without expecting anything in return and to inspire each.”

She challenged the students and staff to live by the words of a poem printed on the inside of the card from Mitch’s Celebration of Life; “Don’t Quit.” Inside the card was this quote by Stewart Scott: “When you die, it does not mean that you lost to cancer. You beat cancer by how you live, why you live and the manner in which you live.”

“Mitch McCabe is the definition of a champion. To our community and myself, MITCH stands for My Inspiring Truly Courageous Hero,” Drew concluded.

Karen Chronister spoke on behalf of former fellow teacher, Susie Midlam, whose niece, Amy Midlam, was in attendance.

“I knew she was not as tough as she wanted people to think,” Chronister said of Midlam. “She was my colleague, but she was much more than that. I was privileged to see a side of Susie that many people did not. We had a lot of fun together over the years. I knew her since we moved to Ohio in June 1984 and saw her just a few days before she left this earth for her heavenly home at the early age of 59 in July 2013.”

She went on, “Miss Midlam was a caring teacher, worked hard to provide the best education possible for her students. She loved kids and sometimes acted like a kid herself. Her laughter was infectious. She could often be heard laughing with her students.”

According to Chronister, Midlam was a gift-giver, giving to both students and colleagues, and she was a true friend.

“Even though we did not always agree with each other, I always knew I could count on her friendship and support,” she said. “As we dedicate this bench in her memory, I ask that you remember her as a dedicated, caring teacher and friend and, as she would say, ‘Have a peachy keen day.’”

A video was also shown before students were dismissed to their classes.

By Linda Moody

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This writer may be reached at 937-569-4315. Follow her on Facebook and join the conversation and get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to

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