Good News 1

Jeffboat workers gather Thursday for a ceremony announcing the company will add 1,100 jobs as part of a $17.5 million expansion. Staff photo by C.E. Branham

By LARRY THOMAS

larry.thomas@newsandtribune.com

Editor’s Note: Before we get to the most important stories of the year (look for coverage this weekend) we present the most heartwarming or “good news” stories of the year in our communities. If you’d like to read more about any of these stories, you can find them by searching our Web site www.newsandtribune.com



The headlines of 2006 might have been dominated by nasty political campaigns, David Camm’s second triple-murder trial and public officials bickering on topics ranging from Scribner Place and trash collection to City Hall and the Jeffersonville Town Center, but the news was not all bad.

In September, Scott Woods pulled a man from a burning SUV following a crash in Jeffersonville. He would later learn that the life he saved was that of his cousin, Josh Raney, who had just returned home from the U.S. Navy.

Marion Arnold and Alice Behr Cauble reunited in October, 56 years after his entering the service ended a romance that included burgers at Jeffersonville’s old Trolley Inn and films at a Fourth Street theater in Louisville.

Linda Young — whose pregnant daughter and grandson were murdered by Zachariah Melcher in 2005 — found some solace with a cat tale you’ll have to read to believe. And you — readers of The Evening News and The Tribune — contributed more than $8,000 to help improve the holidays for eight Southern Indiana families through the papers’ expanded Wish Book program.

But perhaps the year’s most welcome news — or at least the topic which will ultimately have positive impacts on the greatest number of people in Clark and Floyd counties — lends itself to echoes of the Clinton-Gore battle cry from 1992: It’s the economy, stupid.

Last month, noted Indiana economist Morton Marcus told a group of more than 325 people at IU Southeast that Indiana is not moving fast enough to upgrade its economy. But locally, there seems to be more than enough economic growth to soften the loss of 500 high-paying jobs when Colgate-Palmolive Co. closes its Clarksville plant before the end of next year.



Prosperity

Since it was formed in July out of multiple business groups, One Southern Indiana has worked seven economic development projects which represent $40 million in capitol investment in Southern Indiana through the expansion of six existing companies and the relocation of another, the organization’s President Michael Dalby said recently.

The year was peppered with good economic news, ranging from the addition of 1,100 jobs at Jeffboat — which will more than double the company’s work force — to Samtec’s announcement that it will add 200 to 300 staff, growing its employment totals by 30 to 50 percent.

Jeffboat’s expansion was announced after the company had surpassed $400 million in back orders for its barges.

During 2006, MedVenture relocated from Louisville to Jeffersonville, next door to the site that will become the home to Heartland Payment Systems’ expanded facility, where it will boost employment from 400 to more than 700.

And New Albany closed on nearly $19 million in bonds and broke ground for the first phase of Scribner Place, a public-private partnership designed to breathe new economic life into the city’s downtown with a state of the art YMCA overlooking the Ohio River next to the Sherman Minton Bridge.

Clarksville bolstered its stranglehold on the area’s retail sector, witnessing the first full year of Bass Pro Shops and the openings of seemingly countless retailers and restaurants.

“I think there’s still opportunities out there,” said Dalby, specifically referring to revitalization efforts in downtown Jeffersonville and New Albany. “We’ve got all the elements.”



Family reunion

Scott Woods, 30, was not seeking the spectacular as he drove home from work on the morning of Sept. 15. But when he came upon a Ford Escape that was ablaze following a crash on 10th Street in Jeffersonville, Woods’ concern for his fellow man got the best of him and he pulled the accident’s victim from the truck.

Several days later, Woods learned that the man whose life he saved was Josh Raney, Woods’ 27-year-old cousin.

The men had not seen one another in 12 years, despite living remarkably parallel lives. Both served in the military, including tours in Iraq, and both had married and fathered sons.

“He saved my life,” Raney said. “Ten minutes longer, and I would have been dead. I mean, this is just crazy.”

“This is Oprah,” Woods said.



Old flames

More than a half century ago, New Albany’s Marion Arnold serenaded Alice Behr with “Anytime.” When he joined the service in 1950, their two-year romance seemed to be out of time.

But this year, Arnold and Behr, whose last name is now Cauble, reunited after he ventured into The Tribune office to place a classified ad.

After all these years, Arnold still owns a lighter Behr gave him shortly after they began dating.

“When I make a friendship, I always try to keep them,” Arnold said.



Comforting cats

Linda Young experienced every parent’s worst nightmare in April 2005 when her pregnant daughter, Christi Melcher, and 11-month-old grandson, Jaiden, were murdered.

Young found justice this year when her son-in-law, Zachariah Melcher, was sentenced to life in prison without parole after pleading guilty to the killings.

She also finds comfort having relocated a pair of cats — one Christi owned when she lived with her mother in Louisville, while the other lived with Christi and Jaiden at the time they were killed.

Young found Grey in Louisville. She found Shadow in Jeffersonville, in the care of a woman who lived near the apartment where her daughter and grandson were killed.

“To have Grey and Shadow, Christi and Jaiden’s cats with me, provides some comfort,” Young said.



Wish Book

Each year around Thanksgiving, Amy Huffman-Branham gets a little nervous and this year she had double the trouble.

An editor with The Evening News and The Tribune, Huffman-Branham coordinates the papers’ Wish Book, which provides families in need with happier holidays. Shortly after Thanksgiving, she puts out the call for help and waits — not always patiently — for your response.

This year, the papers’ readers contributed more than $8,000 to Wish Book and the money was used to brighten Christmas for eight Clark and Floyd county families.

Founded in Clark County in 1997, Wish Book expanded to Floyd County for the first time this year.

“We want to try to reach more people each year, and this year we’ve done that,” said John Tucker, publisher of The Evening News and The Tribune.

Your money helped provide families in need with presents ranging from a washer and dryer to clothing, televisions, bicycles and children’s games.

“I’m proud of the work the staff does to put this on, in particular Amy,” Tucker said. “We would be remiss if we didn’t mention our readers and their graciousness. If [readers] don’t feel good about donating already, they should.”

Huffman-Branham has coordinated the effort for four years.

“It doesn’t seem like four years,” she said Thursday, a few hours before hitting the road to deliver the rest of this year’s gifts.

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