Somehow, this is Thanksgiving week. It seems to arrive earlier every year. In fact, this year Thanksgiving falls on Nov. 22. By my calendar calculations, Nov. 22 is the earliest this special holiday can arrive.

As is customary, here’s my annual friendly “shout out and Happy Thanksgiving wish” to Lynn and Galen Neal. In previous years, Lynn has commented on my old Thanksgiving tome entitled “Giving thanks for a clean stove,” that was first published about 20 years ago.

Lynn will be happy to know that the stove has been cleaned again this year and without incident. The turkey’s in the fridge (23-pounder and field-dressed by Kroger), and I’ll be making sage dressing on Wednesday night.

On Thanksgiving day, there will be potatoes to mash, sweet corn and green beans with new potatoes to prepare, sweet potatoes (that’s a lot of starch, isn’t it?) to cook, and the turkey will be in the oven by 6 a.m. Dinner rolls and gravy will follow. An apple pie or two will be prepared in advance. If the plan comes together, we will say the standard Catholic prayer before meals (Bless us, O Lord, and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from thy bounty, through Christ, our Lord, Amen) sometime close to noon.

My thinking is simple (as it always is): If we eat our first Thanksgiving meal at noon, we ought to be able to eat again at 6 o’clock that evening. That’s the plan, anyway.

President George Washington proclaimed Thanksgiving a national holiday in 1789, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.

From All About History’s website (www.allabouthistory.org): “The first Thanksgiving was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock (with one of my ancestors on board, I’ve recently learned) on Dec. 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians (sic), the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a thanksgiving observance.”

And, according to all accounts, the three days of giving thanks went uninterrupted by cell phone calls, texts and tweets.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. From all of us at The Highland County Press, we wish you a safe, happy and blessed holiday. Please know that we greatly appreciate all readers and advertisers who allow us to be a small part of your lives.

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Willard Parr
reception Dec. 6


For almost 10 years, Willard Parr was my neighbor. He was my parents’ East Walnut Street neighbor even longer. Will was a wonderful neighbor, too. He was always quick to say hello and ask how everyone was doing. When we moved from near Mowrystown to Hillsboro in the late 1970s, I soon learned that Will was going to be our neighbor. As a young man, I thought of Will as a local celebrity – and he was, of course. I wondered if he would even speak to me.

Suffice it to say, he always did.

I remember one cold winter morning, maybe 1978 or ’79, when I shoveled our sidewalks along East Walnut and South East streets, stopping at our property lines. When my dad saw where I’d stopped shoveling snow, he politely “suggested” that it would be a nice gesture if I’d shovel at least one or two neighbors’ sidewalks in both directions.

(Being the wise acre that I was, I thought about asking if Dad meant on both sides of East Walnut and South East streets. But knowing that such an inquiry would probably mean shoveling sidewalks to the city limits in both directions – and on both sides – for the remainder of the winter, I thought it best to just shovel Willard’s sidewalk to the east and Mrs. Cameron’s to the south.)

Willard noticed that I’d gotten up early on that particular winter day and thanked me for shoveling his sidewalk. I thanked him for closing the school.

That may have been the first time that Will Parr and I met. However, it was likely the second time we spoke. As I mentioned last week to John Barney (the Speaker of the House), before my family moved to Hillsboro, we lived just south of the Old Y Restaurant (Susan Hauke’s wonderful restaurant, where the food and service are great and everyone feels at home). This would have been in the memorable winter of 1976 or 1977.

On a cold (minus 0) and snowy January morning, my sisters and I grew tired of waiting for Bright Local School District Superintendent Keith Day to call Willard at WSRW Radio AM 1590 and cancel classes. Every other local district had already closed.

I remember taking a brown paper bag out from below the kitchen sink, as my dad drank his morning coffee. “I’m closing Bright Local,” I announced.

With that, I dialed 393-1590 and spoke to Willard Parr for the first time in my life. You could say I was nervous, and you would be right: Nervous that I might get caught – and even more nervous that my dad would find no humor in this. I did not get caught. And my dad laughed about it because there was almost a foot of snow outside, and he could use me to help split firewood.

To the best of my memory from more than 40 years ago (the statute of limitations is up on this caper), I quickly said to Will through the brown paper bag in what I hoped was a muffled voice: “This is Keith Day. Bright Local Schools are closed.” Then, I hung up.

For some clarification, younger readers – if I have any – must be informed that this was long before the days of instant identification with every call. There were no cell phones. We had a rotary dial telephone attached to the wall in the kitchen. Only J. Edgar Hoover could trace a call from that phone.

Willard Parr has been on WSRW Radio for the past 62 years. Late last month, we spoke at Jerry Haag Motors in Hillsboro for his final live remote broadcast. Will delivered his final live remote broadcast from Jerry Haag Motors on Tuesday, Oct. 23.

Steve Haag, owner of Jerry Haag Motors, said that broadcast was the last of more than 2,500 remotes over the past 40 years.

“Will, if I could put a name on our friendship over the years, it would be ‘memories unlimited,’” Haag said from his dealership showroom on North High Street. “Thanks for the memories. I’ll cherish them for a lifetime. I mean that.”

Willard, who will be 93 on Nov. 25, began working at WSRW Radio in 1956. He also served as station manager until 1999.

“My first time on the air was July 15, 1956, when I was still a Hillsboro police officer,” he told me. “The first commercial I ever sold was to the Peebles Monument Company. And Jerry Haag Motors has been with me the longest.”

Will shared many memorable moments of his broadcasting career, including covering the severe southern Ohio winters in 1977-78. “We had so much snow that the fire departments and EMTs needed snowmobiles to get to some of the folks in need,” he said. “So we went on the air to raise money.

“The first person to call in with a donation was Harold Baxla of Baxla Tractors,” Will said.

In 2009, Will was inducted into the Ohio Associated Press Broadcasters Hall of Fame. He received the honor at the Ohio AP Broadcasters 2009 convention at The Hilton at Easton Town Center in Columbus.

After we reported on Will’s final remote a few weeks ago, Highland County Recorder Chad McConnaughey wrote on The HCP website: “I have heard Mr. Parr’s voice for most all of my life. My parents used to have WSRW playing throughout the day, and even as a younger kid, I can remember that voice. What a radio voice he has! I have spent the last six years doing Highland Highlights interviews with Mr. Parr about the county recorder’s office. Mr. Parr has never forgotten what I do and specifics about why he was interviewing me. He has a gift, and it has served him well. Good luck, Mr. Parr, and I will miss our talks as I am sure many others will as well. God bless.”

Longtime Hillsboro educator and coach and now a radio broadcaster in his own right Dave Hilliard added: “If you grew up in this area, you probably got up at 6 a.m. and waited for Will to play the national anthem and give the school closings on every snowy winter morning. An unforgettable radio voice and an icon in this area.”

Herb Day, another longtime radio personality and local musician, wrote this: “It is said that if you love what you do for a living, you’ll never work a day in your life. I have watched Willard over the years, through ups and downs, and I know he has loved every day of his career. Radio has been Willard’s identity around here for 62 years, and Will has given radio its identity in southern Ohio. He and Tom Archibald really had no prior experience, so the two of them – Tom as owner, and Willard as station manager – just blazed a trail that, at least in their infancy, other stations in this area followed and emulated.”

There will be a reception for Willard Parr from 5-7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 6 at the Southside Praise and Worship Center at 621 S. East St. in Hillsboro. Everyone is welcome to share a few stories and wish Will the best in his retirement.

Like most of you, I know that I will miss Will on the radio as much as I miss Ernie Blankenship. Both men were very good to me as a young man looking for work in Highland County. I know that they gave a lot to the community in return for their respective talents and successes.

Thank you, Will. May peace and happiness be with you always. And as Steve Haag said, thank you for all the great memories.

Rory Ryan is publisher and owner of The Highland County Press.