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Senate passes bill to expand Black Hills National Cemetery

A bill that would more than double the size of the Black Hills National Cemetery has cleared the U.S. Senate. 

The Black Hills National Cemetery Boundary Expansion Act will facilitate the permanent transfer of around 200 acres of land to the 107-acre burial ground. The land is currently held by the Bureau of Land Management 

“I’m glad the Senate unanimously approved this commonsense legislation that will allow the Black Hills National Cemetery to continue being a place for military families to remember and honor loved ones who have served,” U.S. Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said in a news release on Dec. 22. “By expanding the cemetery’s boundary, we can ensure that our military heroes will have a place to rest in peace for generations to come.

"We still have some work ahead us, and I’m hopeful we’ll be able to get this bill to the president as soon as possible.”

The land is located northwest of the cemetery, which sits off Interstate 90 Exit 34 just southeast of Sturgis. "It's pretty much barren," said Jerome Smith, assistant director of the cemetery.

The cemetery opened in 1948 and is the final resting place for around 28,600 veterans and their loved ones. They range from soldiers who fought in current conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq to the Spanish-American War of 1898. 

A total of 903 people were buried in the cemetery in fiscal 2017, Smith said. In addition to South Dakota natives, military veterans from states such as Wyoming, Nebraska and Montana are also buried at the cemetery. 

“Since Wyoming is one of the few states that does not have a VA National Cemetery, it is important that surrounding states have the capacity to ensure an honorable resting place for Wyoming’s veterans for years to come," U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, R-Wyo., said in the release. "That is why it is critical that Black Hills National Cemetery can continue to serve the region for decades as a place for military families to honor their loved ones.”

A companion version of the cemetery expansion act, which was introduced by Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., passed the House of Representatives last year. 

Rapid City Journal's people to watch in 2018

Editor's note: As we turn the page on 2017 and start 2018, the Rapid City Journal profiles three people who are set make an big impact on the area in the next year. 

Charity Doyle, Rapid City Collective Impact

Rapid City Collective Impact has a lot of work to do in 2018 as it attempts to move its proposed four-acre transformation center in downtown Rapid City from conception to reality.

Charity Doyle will lead that effort.

The concept of the center is a place where homeless and near-homeless people will receive services to potentially include transitional housing, addiction treatment, counseling and job training. Community organizations that provide those services will be invited to relocate to the campus or have a presence there.

As project manager for RCCI, Doyle and plans for the transformation center have already made headlines in 2017.

In November, the preferred site for the center was identified as a nearly 4-acre stretch of land and buildings that span much of the 100 to 300 blocks along the south side of Kansas City Street, near the county courthouse complex on the edge of downtown Rapid City. RCCI hopes to include transitional housing, addiction treatment, counseling and job training assistance in the buildings on the lot.

In 2018, Doyle and the group will have more big questions to answer on the project. 

The plan now, according to Doyle, is to invite community organizations that currently provide those services to relocate to the campus or have a presence there. Getting them to commit to such a move is perhaps the biggest challenge in the new year.

“One of the big announcements in 2018 will be who the providers [are] and what that will look like,” she said in a Journal interview. “We cannot do this without the providers. That’s going to be one of the biggest pieces.”

While citizens, business owners and community leaders voiced concern about the lack of details surrounding the project at a Dec. 19 Pennington County Board of Commissioners meeting, Doyle said she was busy work shopping with some of the providers and giving them a tour of the space inside the Archaeological Research Center of the South Dakota State Historical Society at 217 Kansas City St. That building, she said, would be the future home of the providers.

“They were excited,” Doyle said of the tour and discussion between organizations about the potential for collaboration. “They were animated.”

Reiterating that the project was still very early in the process, Doyle acknowledged the challenges she and her colleagues at RCCI will face in 2018 and beyond, including convincing the public of the center’s location, necessity, and trying to change the way people perceive the homeless population in Rapid City.

“What is going on right now is not sustainable,” she said, citing high recidivism rates. “This whole project is a shift on so many levels. We want to elevate the community, not bring it down. It’s a pretty tall task. We know that.”

Jim Rankin, South Dakota School of Mines & Technology

When Jim Rankin is inaugurated as the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology's 19th president, he should feel right at home. Rankin earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from the school in 1978 and is eager to help move the school forward.

Rankin was announced by the South Dakota Board of Regents on Nov. 7 to succeed interim Mines president Jan A. Puszynski. Puszynski led the university since Heather Wilson left to become United States Air Force Secretary. Puszynski remains Mines’ vice-president of research.

In picking Rankin, Regents cited his leadership as vice-provost for research and economic development at the University of Arkansas, generating more than 50 start-up companies and increased annual external research funding of more than $100 million.

Rankin sees much of the same potential for research-generated economic development at Mines.

“I think there’s some real opportunities at the School of Mines in that area. There will be some additional opportunities in externally funded research. I think that research will help drive the development of intellectual property,” he said.

Rankin cited the more than two dozen business executives working through the school’s Entrepreneurs-in-Residence program to develop marketable business opportunities from Mines’ researchers.

“Rapid City and the Black Hills region are very interested to see more start-up companies and more jobs,” Rankin said. “I think it’s going to be important for the region to keep moving that way.”

Rankin also hopes to continue enrollment growth at the nationally and internationally known science and engineering school.

Rankin grew up in the Draper and Ft. Pierre area. When he was an incoming freshman in 1974, the school had a total enrollment of about 1,600. Now that number is about 2,400.

Rankin hopes to see those numbers continue to climb with the campus’ continued expansion to the west, toward downtown Rapid City.

He also hopes to increase available scholarship opportunities for all students attending Mines, linking emphasis with job creation to give students more career opportunities in Rapid City and the Black Hills

“We have to figure out how to make it affordable for our students,” he said. "There are students that want to stay and work here, and they need to have that opportunity.”

Kelvin Torve, Post 22 baseball

It has been a year of tumult for the usually steady Post 22 Legion baseball program in Rapid City. Mitch Messer stepped down after six year at the helm for the storied team; beloved coach Dave Ploof also died this year, and despite a 51-9 record this season, they failed to take the state title for the first time in five years.

The organization hopes new head coach Kelvin Torve will be a steadying force in 2018.

The former Post 22 player, college star and Major Leaguer came home two years ago to help with the program, first as the coach of the Cadets (14-under) and then with the Bullets, the third level of the program.

In a November interview, Torve said coaching the Hardhats is an honor beyond measure and imagination. 

“Rapid City is a baseball town and Post 22 is the premiere baseball program in this town,” Torve said. “There are expectations in this program that I embrace and my players embrace. The legacy goes back 50-plus years. I tell my guys that they are standing on the shoulders of giants. What I encourage them to do is be the player that the next generation behind them will be standing on their shoulder.”

Torve said that with the high expectations, there is a price to pay to stay at the top. He said they expect their players to pay the price as far as discipline, sacrifice, hard work and putting others first.

“When I first started my professional career, (MLB Hall of Famer) Frank Robinson told me that getting to the big leagues is the easy part; staying is the hard part,” he said. “It’s the same thing here. This program has gotten to the point that winning a state title is an expectation, and that is the easy part. Staying there is the hard part. That is one thing that we will keep in front of our players. I know Mitch did it, and definitely Coach Ploof did it prior to that. “

Pierre man finds century-old wallet at yard sale

Back in 1917, Ray Heston bought a year's subscription to the Kennebec Sun for $1.

Heston apparently had been receiving a copy of the newspaper for a while, before the $1 was paid. According to the receipt, dated Feb. 24, the subscription ran from May 15, 1916, to May 15, 1917. The editor of the paper at the time was Chester Rosencrance. He signed the receipt.

That peek into the past comes courtesy of Pierre resident James Pospisil.

But Pospisil is not an archivist or any kind of historian. He just likes yard sales.

And six months ago, in mid-June, Pospisil was at a yard sale in Kimball, about 50 miles east of Kennebec. That's where he spotted a kind of wallet. He and his family were in Kimball for a family reunion, held at the Red Barn Inn.

"I knew it was special. At first glance, I could tell it was old. It had a bunch of papers." Pospisil determined that the wallet needed to be "rescued" — returned to the family of the owner indicated in the papers.

So at the yard sale, Pospisil purchased the wallet — really a pocket-sized leather filing system of sorts. He paid an amount that would have bought a year's worth of copies of the Kennebec Sun back in 1917 — $1. The papers pointed to a Ray Heston as the likely owner.

The legwork to track down the descendants of Ray Heston was started by Lynn Fredericksen, Pospisil's grandmother. She began with a call to the courthouse in Lyman County, of which Kennebec is a part. And County Deputy Auditor Deb Halverson put her in touch with Gloria Johnson, who is a board member of the Lyman County Historical Society.

Johnson told the Capital Journal that her first step was to look in the old settlers books. Ray Heston's name appears in one of them, along with some of his descendants. With the names of family in hand, Johnson contacted Bev Johnson (no relation) who Gloria Johnson described as her "go to" when it comes to piecing together old family connections.

Bev Johnson pointed Gloria Johnson and Fredericksen to Lorri Wagner. Wagner is the daughter of Betty Jean Martens. And Martens is the daughter of Jean Moore. Moore is Ray Heston's granddaughter, who lives in Kennebec. And the rest, as they say, is history.

For an already-scheduled trip to Pierre, Moore added an extra stop — so that Pospisil could present Moore with her grandfather's 100-year-old wallet, the Pierre Capital Journal reported.

The handoff of the wallet, and the documents it contained, took place in the Capital Journal building this week. The gathering included Fredericksen, Pospisil, Kathy Kleaveland (Pospisil's mother), Moore and her husband, Ray Moore, and Mertens.

Moore said she was not sure how her grandfather's wallet wound up at the yard sale in Kimball. But she said she would likely contact the Lyman County Historical Museum in Presho so the museum could add the wallet to its collection — along with the several papers it contains. Gloria Johnson told the Capital Journal that it's the kind of donation the museum is well-equipped to handle.

Johnson said the museum's collection already includes a wedding dress from the Heston family.

Besides the receipt for the Kennebec Sun subscription, the papers in the wallet include a promissory note to John Newell for payment for a buggy for $41.50. The date on the note is March 4, 1905, and it's marked "PAID" — but it's not clear when the account was settled.

Based on a Sept. 2, 1907, letter contained in the wallet — which was typed out by an attorney, J.F. Kreycik, and sent to Heston — there was some question about the payment of the note. The letter states: "Newell claims that he has made a mistake as to the calculation when he last settled your account and that that sum is still due to him." The sum still owed was $23.01, according to the letter.

Piecing together more of the history connected to all the papers in Heston's wallet would require some additional effort, starting with the cast of characters whose names are recorded somewhere among them — like newspaper editor Chester Rosencrance.

And old newspapers are a likely source for at least some of the work. Based on an account in the Sept 22, 1915, edition of The Daily Deadwood Pioneer-Times — two years before Rosencrance sold Ray Heston a subscription to the Kennebec Sun — Rosencrance was honeymooning in the western part of South Dakota.

According to the Pioneer Times: "Mr. and Mrs. Chester Rosencrance of Kennebec, S.D. were arrivals on the Northwestern. They are on their wedding trip, and will tour the Hills. Mrs. Rosencrance's name was Miss Ethel Holmes. Mr. Rosencrance is manager of the Kennebec Sun."

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No time to exercise? YMCA introduces Night Owl membership

The New Year's parties are over, and today's the day many adults will start tackling their New Year's resolutions to get in shape. Thanks to the YMCA of Rapid City and its new Night Owl membership, finding time to exercise just got easier. 

The YMCA launches its Night Owl membership today. It allows members to use the Randy Travis Wellness Center during the hours when the YMCA's main facility is closed. Night Owl hours are 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Friday overnight to Saturday, 6 p.m. to midnight Saturday overnight to Sunday, and 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. Sunday overnight to Monday.

"We're always getting requests to stay open later or open earlier," said Keiz Shultz, chief development officer for the YMCA. "In our community, we do have people who work different shifts, and our regular operating hours were not meeting our members' needs."

"We are a community gathering place that tries to fill all of the different needs of our community for our youth, kids and adults. For us, it's really helping our community with what their needs are," Shultz said.

The Night Owl membership is a new type of membership Shultz hopes will attract more people to use the YMCA. The membership costs $15 per month, plus a $25 joiners fee that includes an electronic key fob for building access. Those who are already YMCA members will have Night Owl hours included in their existing membership. The only additional cost for them is a $10 charge for an electronic key fob.

"Night Owl membership is very economical, so for people who've never had a Y membership but (Night Owl) access fits their needs, we're hoping they can become part of our community. We want to make sure we're providing every opportunity for people to stay healthy," Shultz said. 

How to start and keep New Year's fitness resolutions

Making time to exercise is one step toward becoming healthier in the new year. Setting SMART goals — specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time-bound — can help you determine exactly what you want to achieve, and how you'll do it. Nicole Craig, wellness director at the YMCA of Rapid City, offered practical tips for successfully accomplishing exercise and weight loss goals.

Specific. Define what you want to accomplish. Being specific about your goal gives you something to clearly focus on, Craig said. "If you say your goal is to lose weight and get in shape ... do you have a certain amount of weight you want to lift, or a certain distance you want to run?" she said.  

Measurable. Log your progress in a fitness journal or an app on your phone. "I absolutely love my FitBit. If I set a goal of 10,000 steps a day, I like to see (whether) I hit that goal," Craig said. "If you're gadget oriented, get a gadget. Track everything; it makes it more fun when you hit that goal."

Achievable. Trying to do too much too fast, or setting impractical goals, will leave you frustrated. "If you're not hitting your goal, maybe the goal is not realistic," Craig said. "Realize that success is not going to happen overnight. It is impossible to lose 20 pounds in two weeks for your sister's wedding." 

Relevant. Set positive fitness goals, as opposed to starting an exercise program because you hate the way you look. Positive goals — and positive people around you who will encourage you — will motivate you to keep going. "Find a buddy, or tell someone (your goal), whether it's a person on social media, or you tell your best friend," Craig said. "If you say it or write it down and have it in some place you'll see it, that's going to hold you accountable."

Posting a fitness goal on social media might seem daunting but could have a big impact. "If you post (your goal) on social media, then you're not telling one person; you're telling (hundreds). Somebody else could be looking at your goal and you could be a motivator," Craig said.

Time-bound. The timeline toward reaching your goal should be realistic. Give yourself enough time, such as two months to lose five pounds. Make note of smaller goals you achieve, such as consistently exercising twice a week. "Baby steps, baby steps, baby steps," Craig said. "It's not going to be easy, but it's not going to be as hard as you think, either."

Anticipate setbacks, but don't get discouraged. "Realize that nobody's perfect. There are going to be some fall-backs and slip-ups. Accept those and continue to move forward," Craig said. "If you have a burger one day because you're out and about, don't let that turn into pizza for dinner. Accept it and get right back on track."