Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Biological mom unknowingly lived near son for years

Good Things Happening

Allen Howard

For nearly four decades, Linda Van Winkle lived in Northern Kentucky near the son she gave up for adoption, and she never knew it.

"He may have even walked across my street in Eslmere,'' Van Winkle said. "I had always wondered where he was. What kind of parents he had.''

Those questions were answered in August when Nancy Merse of Crestview Hills, who raised Timothy Merse, started searching for his birth mother.

"We loved Tim so much, but I and my husband, Bob, always felt it was our duty to help him find his birth mother if he wanted to,'' Nancy Merse said. "The miracle of this story is that once I started searching, it only took me two days to find his mother.''

After gathering all the records she could find, Nancy Merse ended up knocking on the door at 817 Garvey St. with a lump in her throat too big swallow, looking for Linda Rosemary Hall - Van Winkle's maiden name.

"I had driven by that house at least 20 times selling real estate. Now here I was, standing at the door scared to death. I remember saying, 'Oh Lord, don't leave me now.' '' Nancy Merse said.

Ricky Hall, Linda's brother, answered the door. From that day, the two families have become one.

Tim Merse, now 38 and an electrical engineer in Louisville, met with both women in Independence, where Van Winkle now lives.

"I have two moms now,'' Tim Merse said. "It still feels strange. I am still trying to sort things out. I feel bad for not looking for her, but I am happy with it now.''

They spent Thanksgiving and Christmas together.

Play discourages litter

Students from Clark Montessori School are taking a message about litter across the city.

Last week the group performed the play based on Don Madden's popular children's book, The Wartville Wizard, at Woodford Paideia Academy in Kennedy Heights. The book encourages children not to litter. The play is to be presented again at 9:45 a.m. Friday at the Academy of Multi-Lingual Immersion Studies in Evanston, and at 12:45 p.m. at Silverton Paideia Elementary School.

"The program is designed to reach young people in town with the vital message about each one's personal responsibility in keeping Cincinnati beautiful,'' said David Tracy, education program manager for Keep Cincinnati Beautiful.

The teenage troupe has visited Sands Montessori, Linwood Fundamental Academy, McKinley School and Oyler Elementary.

"After each performance, the Clark students field questions from the audience and share their own thoughts about the importance of working together to solve our litter problem," Tracy said.

Retired firefighter keeps busy

Retired Lt. William Huffsteder misses the Anderson Township Fire Departemnt, but he doesn't miss firefighting after 29 years on the job.

Huffsteder retired last month and is busy running his Life Safety Risk Management business in Anderson Township. The company sells fire safety equipment.

"Firefighting is a young man's job,'' said Huffsteder, 48. "What I am doing now is still connected with safety, which is my background.''

Huffsteder started in the department as a volunteer and is considered one of its founders.

He led a drive to get a fire levy passed in 1993, organizing Firefighters for Public Safety.

His work with the department went far beyond firefighting. He was named firefighter of the year in 1992 by the Eastern Hills Exchange Club for organizing a food drive for victims of Hurricane Andrew. The drive netted 14 tons of food and more than $1,500 for firefighters in Metro-Dade County, Fla. .

Huffsteder also was president of Local 311 of the firefighters union. In 1993, while he was president, the organization raised $6,500 for the Muscular Dystrophy Association.

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