Category Archives: feature stories

Can one or two people make a difference in Houston in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey?

Paul Vogel from Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana and Jim Bognar, a Merrillville police officer, in Houston to help families after Hurricane Harvey blasted the Texas with wind and almost unending rainfall.


Mr. Liu with Paul Vogel. Mr. Liu is a Vietnamese homeowner who just moved into his home three weeks before the storm. He liked the river location because it reminded him of home. His family escaped Vietnam after the communist takeover via a boat to the Philippines.



Paul Vogel (left) with his team, working to help families with clean-up in Houston.

There is a story of a man who came upon a small child tossing starfish back into the ocean.  The man asked the boy what he was doing.  The boy picked up another starfish and threw it as far as he could, and told the man he was saving the starfish’s life.  The man looked around and saw hundreds of beached starfish and told the boy he was wasting his time.  “There are hundreds of starfish here so what difference will it make if you save a few?”, he asked.  The boy went about his business as he threw another starfish into the water, turned to the old man and declared, “It made a difference to that one.”

Loading up a truck of all sorts of things that will be needed for the people of Houston.

Items collected from Calumet Park Cemetery and affiliates employees and members of Valley Baptist Church and Bridgepoint Church in Valparaiso.

And so it is with two local men who felt that driving to Houston, hooking up with the Second Baptist Church and Pastor Craig Reynolds (a former Houston Astros shortstop) in Houston, and donating their time and energy to helping where needed.  Their mission is to help in any way possible and to answer the simple question of WWJD. .. What would Jesus do?  Paul and Jim are on a mission to “save some starfish”, and what better way than to get your hands dirty and help families, one at a time.

As difficult to believe it to be possible, looters are going through neighborhoods and stealing from those who have had their lives turned upside down from the storms. There should be a special place in hell for such sinful behavior.

The devastation from Hurricane Harvey is beyond anything that words can describe.  Pictures can show the destruction of homes, cars, businesses and even life.  Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everything you owned was gone.  Include in this the business that you worked at, the paycheck that no longer exists, the lack of food and shelter, and the despair and loss of hope that you would be feeling.  And in every direction you look your friends and family and neighbors by the millions are frightened to their last nerve as you all wonder how you will survive.  There is no electricity, no water, no food, no stores to buy food, no way to get to stores if money were not an issue,  and all the while the threat of another hurricane lurking in the Atlantic.

Storms do bring out the worst in people, but they also bring out the best in so many others.  There are thousands of Paul Vogel’s and Jim Bognar’s descending on Houston and Florida with but the muscle on their bones and a desire to help every family, rich or poor, white or black or Hispanic, and every color in-between, and every faith under God.  Seen nailed over one door was a simple sign:  Grant me patience Lord, but hurry!!  Our TV’s are filled with videos and pictures that try to capture all that is going on in Houston and now, Florida, and all the other countries that were hit so hard by Hurricane Irma.

The simple phrase This Too Shall Pass makes for a nice graphic to place over a sofa in one’s home, but it is hard to believe the message when the sofa and the wall of the house has been blown away.  This is where true faith comes in as there will come a time that all of the houses will be rebuilt.  All the furniture, and clothes and appliances and cars and all that has been lost will be replenished.  Eternity is what ultimately matters, and all of those who have joined in the quest to rebuild Houston and the East Coast and beyond are following their hearts as they seek to be of service to all of the victims as God’s helpers.

So, thanks to Paul, and Jim and the thousands who have donated to the cause of rebuilding lives.  Find a charitable group, from the Red Cross to veterans groups to local churches that are collecting money to help those who cannot help themselves, and give as though you were the one that needed to receive.  Forego the steak and go with a hot dog and send the extra money to help.  Every penny does become a dollar which does become a life savor to those who need your kindness and generosity more now than ever before.  You will feel great when you give more than you think you can afford.

And prayers are always welcomed…for the victims and for those trying to make a difference to every starfish and every child of God.

For information of prearranging for cemetery and funeral needs, call 219-769-8803.

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In memory of Tony Rendina…

Obituary for Anthony S. Rendina Jr.

Anthony S. “Tony” Rendina, Jr.
Merrillville, IN

Anthony S. Rendina, Jr., passed away on Saturday, August 19, 2017, surrounded by his loving family. Tony was preceded in death by his wife, Lee Rendina in 1989. He is survived by his son, Tony (Donna) Rendina III; daughter, Beth (Steve) Hitt; grandchildren: Tony Bill Rendina, Kristin (Chris Holland) Rendina, Mandi (Chad) Bogue, Anni Bartok and Rich Bartok; great grandchildren: Triston Spencer, Jaycie Bogue, Autumn Rendina, Ryan Bogue, Joey Brazeau, Ben “Bengy” Bogue, Izzy Smith and Cooper Holland; brothers: Vince Rendina and Romeo (Dorothy) Rendina; sister-in-law, Mary Lou Rendina; special friend and companion, Barbara Fedorchak. Also survived by and a very large extended family. Also preceded in death by his parents: Antonio and Michelina Rendina; sisters: Angeline Orosz and Rose Truax; and brothers: Joe, Phil and Mike Rendina.
Tony was a well-respected funeral director in Indiana for 62 years. He also retired from EJ&E Railroad. Mr. Rendina proudly owned and operated Rendina Funeral Home in Gary, IN with his brothers for many years. Tony was a Veteran of the U. S. Army and also a member of the Sons of Italy and Gary Lions Clubs. A devout Catholic, Tony was a longtime parishioner of St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church in Merrillville. He also served as former president of the Indiana State Board of Funeral Directors as well as a past Merrillville Police Commissioner.
When Tony wasn’t caring for families at the funeral home, he enjoyed going to the casinos, cruising in his convertible, telling a funny story or joke, giving children Dairy Queen money, praying the rosary…but most importantly he loved spending time with his beloved family. They were his world. He was generous, caring and always willing to help those in need. Tony will be truly missed by all who knew and loved him.
Funeral services will be held on Thursday, August 24, 2017, 10:30 a.m. at St. Stephen the Martyr Catholic Church (5920 Waite St. Merrillville, IN). Rev. Michael Maginot officiating with prayers from Rendina Funeral Home (5100 Cleveland St. Gary, IN) at 9:15 a.m. Interment Calumet Park Cemetery. Friends are invited to visit with the family on Wednesday, August 23, 2017 at Rendina Funeral Home from 2:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. with a Rosary service at 7:00 p.m. and Sons of Italy service at 5:00 p.m.
For information call 219-980-1141

Tony with Kathy Chepela and Dianne Correll on Memorial Day 2017


It has been a privilege to work with Tony and his family over the years.  He was a man of honor, of character, generous to the 10th degree, and kind to all who have had the good fortune to have met him.  Tony was detailed in his work and lived to serve his families.  He had a wonderful sense of humor and was a born story-teller.  He was a friend to many and he seldom met a person that he didn’t like and his outer toughness was but a mask as all could see the great heart that this man had – for families he helped through times of loss to children to vet groups and within his church.  Tony will be missed by all and is in our prayers as he takes his place in heaven.  Goodbye, Tony…the world is a lesser place with your passing.

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Memory challenges – age or Alzheimer’s

Memory challenges – age or Alzheimer’s

by Laura Conant, Calumet Park Correspondent

Have you been forgetting things a lot lately? Can’t find your keys or glasses? Is the worry of Alzheimer’s nagging at the back of your mind?  More than 5 million people in the US are living with Alzheimer’s so it’s in the news a lot.

Let’s put your worries to rest by finding out what are symptoms of normal aging vs. symptoms of Alzheimer’s. Memory problems such as forgetting recent conversations, misplacing items, difficulty in solving problems, can be normal as we age. It may take us longer to do complex tasks but we can do them without a lot of confusion. Signs of Alzheimer’s would be misplacing something and be unable to know how to retrace your steps to find it. Balancing your checkbook may become difficult as numbers no longer make sense. You may start getting lost on familiar routes while either walking or driving. Familiar areas now feel foreign.

Language problems can include not remembering the names of familiar objects like the TV or phone, or suddenly stopping in the middle of a conversation because you can’t remember what you were talking about. It’s not just losing your train of thought-it’s that you don’t remember starting the conversation at all. You may start having trouble reading by not recognizing or understanding the words.

Depression and becoming very easily agitated is another sign. Losing interest in things you previously enjoyed and being in a flat mood, personality changes and the loss of social skills are other symptoms of Alzheimer’s. You, yourself, may not be able to perceive these changes but may experience family members or friends telling you about them.

If you or a loved one are having any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a physician to start treatment to slow the progression of the disease.

Dear Family and friends,

Please try to understand what I am now; not think of me as I was.  I am alone, shut in, with my fears, my frustrations, my forgetfulness.  Forgive me if I strike out at you.  Why do I do that?  What has happened to me?  I cannot cope in this alien world.  I feel threatened.  I am frightened.  Speak softly, approach slowly.  Repeat again and again what you want of me.  Those twisted tangles in my brain have messed up my world.  Be patient, for I do love you.  And I need your help and love so very, very much.  Your Alzheimer Patient.  by Joy Glennner.










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Visit us at the Lake County Fair from August 4th – 13th

983.pngWhen you need a break from the rides, elephant ears, corn dogs etc., come visit us at the Industrial Building.  We will be at booth 101 and will be giving away a free spinner with each short survey that is filled in.  Don’t know what a spinner is?  Ask your kids as it is the hottest craze.   Take advantage of our Fair Special:  35% off graves in new sections at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville and for niches in the Beautiful Veteran Memorial Columbarium.  A columbarium is a bank of niches for permanent placement of a loved one a Calumet Park Cemetery.  Call for more info at 219-769-8803.  See you at the fair.



Veteran Memorial columbarium

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A boo-boo needs a kiss…


For over 10,000 days, I have held the title of father.  For me, every day is Father’s Day.  My girls and my wife fill my heart and soul with love for each day that I am blessed to share with them.  I have tried many things in my life, and succeeded in some and failed in others.  But in my quest to be a good father, I have succeeded far more times than I have failed.

I say this because I have two adult, well adjusted, loving daughters who became that way because of their Mother and me.  We had no guide book on how to parent, although I read a lot of parenting books over the years that never quite gave answers or procedures for unique moments that presented themselves on a regular basis.  There is such a thing as book smart but real life events quite often force a parent into being street-smart on the run.  There is not always time to consult with what all the professionals have to say about challenges faced as a parent.

A simple example might be a toddler falling and scraping a knee.  Their crying gets our attention, soap  water and bandages treat the physical wound, but it is the hugs and kisses that takes away their fear and pain.  All of us with the title of parent understand this.  It did not take Dr. Spock to tell us that a boo-boo needs a kiss.

I believe, and I can only speak for myself, being there in the moment goes a long way to being a good parent.  Being there with patience and willingness to apologize to a child when we are not successful in being patient…being there to listen…being there to guide and to protect and be a home base that kids can return to…all part of good parenting.  I had to learn that my girls (and my wife) are not always looking for answers.  Men seem to think that we have to solve a problem, check it off an imaginary list, and be ready for the next time superman is needed.   Sometimes we just have to shut up and listen.  Very hard for me as I am like an action figure…give me a problem and we will fix it, eliminate it, go around it or through it but I need to act.

I remember being schooled by both of my girls over the years when I show up with the proverbial hammer and saw cause “the fix-it man is in the house” when they would let me know that they did not need a “Tool Time With Tim” dad right then.  What they needed was an understanding male figure who could listen, nod his head up and down, right and left, but mostly to shut up…open my heart, and try to feel their pain or fear.  Going to a new school, or breaking up with a boy friend, or getting a cold shoulder from their BFF’s…they only wanted to think it through, out loud, to a dad, and then get the hug and kiss for their emotional boo-boo’s.

Megan and Colleen taught me to be a good father.  There was never a question of the love part of it.  The first time I held each in my arms I knew.  The smell of a freshly diapered and powdered baby (or even a poopy one for that matter) made my chest swell with pride and unconditional joy.  Looking at their little round faces and their big blue eyes was like looking in the eyes of God.  No man could ever “make a baby”.  No woman could ever will themselves into motherhood.  The power of God took all those eager little swimmers and created Megan, and Colleen and me as a Dad and Teri as a Mom.  And we loved it.

We have loved every blessed minute of being a parent, and continue to enjoy the high of the two wonderful kids that blessed our home.  So, Happy Father’s Day to me.  I may get the greeting cards that utter the sentiments of some Hallmark wordsmith signed by my Meg and my Colleen, but a simple look into the blue eyes of my babies from heaven and I know that it is my day on June 18th,  and on every day that I am allowed to share with my girls.

So, that is a bit of my story.  It is my sincere wish that every father out there realizes the wonder that has been given to them when their children were born.  To you all, I wish a very Happy Father’s Day.  written by Daniel Moran

You are invited to Saturday’s fishing event at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville, Indiana.  This is an annual catch and release program for kids 12 and under and must be with an adult.  Calumet Park will provide bate and snacks.  Come on out on June 10 and build some memories with your kids.  All you need is a fishing pole and a desire to share some quality free time with those little ones in your life.  Call 769-8803 for info or directions.  It is from 11:00 to 1:00 so bring the kids, suntan lotion and a comfortable chair and join in on the fun.

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A prayer…

A Prayer

There are men and women from these great United States serving in the armed forces today who will need to be remembered for having given up their lives when this holiday rolls around again this weekend.  And sadly, as long as there are evil, crazy, power-hungry people habiting the planet, soldiers will die.  How many of our fine young men and women have to be killed before peace can truly erupt around the world?

There was a song out when I was young entitled “Where have all the flowers gone?”  by the Kingston Trio.   It had a very repetitive beat played beneath a poem that I only now realize was probably meant  to be that way as the story is the same today as it was when it first hit the charts.

Where have all the flowers gone, long time passing?
Where have all the flowers gone, long time ago?
Where have all the flowers gone?
Gone to young girls, every one!
When will they ever learn, when will they ever learn?

The next verse changed to young men, then soldiers, then graveyards until the graveyards went back to flowers…”and the beat goes on, and the beat goes on” sang Sonny and Cher.  Vietnam, the Middle East and hopefully never… but looking scarier and scarier…Korea.

In cemeteries across the nation flowers will be planted and placed next to flags on the graves of so many innocent and lost souls.  I believe the fallen soldiers, sailors, marines, airmen and women and reserves who gave their all are all in heaven as they gave their last breath for our freedom.  That is a wonderful thought, and one day we will meet again.

However, in the middle of the night, when a parent or spouse or son or daughter finds they cannot sleep over their loss, heaven is far away.  They need strength now…today…tonight, when they are alone with their thoughts.  All the hopes and dreams and plans and fun, the tears and laughter that can no longer be shared with their guy or gal who died bleeding red, white and blue, they are the truly forgotten ones.

So, in this small space on the internet, I offer my prayers and the prayers of so many for all who have been left behind.  God is good and all-knowing and always present which means some of our prayer energy needs to be offered for understanding and faith.  I pray that a child can move though life with one parent gone forever, while a piece of the remaining parent does their best to do their best in all things.  A wife or husband who hugged their honey goodbye and finds they will never be together again lives a pain that others who did not suffer such a loss will never know.

So, God…in Jesus name, I pray that you will give strength to those who are truly vested in Memorial Day.  I pray that you will shelter them with your love.  I pray that you will help them in their most alone moments as they live in but a shadow of their “coupled” life.  I pray that you help them through this life, and that you accept their pain as their penance and forgive them if they may turn from you a little.  I pray, God that you let them remember all the great times with their lost loves, and to cherish the little moments that brought them together in the first place.  Thank you God, for the beauty that you will bless them with in the days ahead, and let their remaining time here on earth be lived in honor of their fallen soldier.  Finally, I pray that you help mankind find a way to discontinue adding to the rolls of those we salute on Memorial Day.  Amen

Come to our free fireworks show on next Saturday night at around 7:00 (May 27) at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville.  Call 769-8803 for directions and visit our webside for more info at

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Happy Mother’s Day…

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers.  It is one of the most thankless jobs and at the same time, most rewarding.  Being a Mother is one of God’s most loving gifts to the universe.  Dads…while special in their own way…Mothers are the glue that holds all of life together.  Call or visit your Mom today and let her know how much she  means to you.  For many, their Moms are already in heaven.  Offer a prayer of thanks that you were lucky enough to have her as your Mom.  Enjoy this sunny day and praise the Lord for Mother’s everywhere.

The men and women that you see at the entrances to Calumet Park Cemetery on Mothe’rs Day are passing out flowers and a newsletter with the Memorial Weekend activities.  If you are looking for something to do on May 27, bring the family out for a fun evening of free fireworks, hayrides, and horse and buggy rides.  Bring a blanket to sit on or a comfortable beach chair.  You will have a fun evening.  Starts at sevenish.

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Memorial Weekend Events at Calumet Park Cemetery….

We hope to see you all at the cemetery over Memorial Weekend.  Following is a list of scheduled events:

May 27, Saturday at 7:00 p.m. – free fireworks show with free hayrides and horse and buggy rides

May 28, Sunday at 1:00 p.m. – veterans memorial service with the American Legion 1st District, Rep. Visclosky to speak

May 29, Monday at 10:00 there will be a Catholic Service, a St. Sava Serbian Orthodox Service, and a Bethel church in Hobart-Portage service

May 29, Monday at 11:30 there will be a SS Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Service

Sale:  20% off all pre-need graves, 15% off all monuments and markers and 25% off the Veteran Memorial Columbarium niches

The sale runs through May 31 so if you are in need of any of these sales items, stop in and see how much you can save by acting now.  Zero interest payment plans available

For directions or if you have any questions, call 219-769-8803

Hope to see you over the weekend.  Be safe and enjoy the unofficial beginning of summer.

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What the…..


     “What the….?”

I was finishing up a hot, salted pretzel with melted cheese at Subway recently.  My wife was doing some shopping at Walmart, and I was along for the ride.  But the salted, baked dough drew me away from the sock isle, so God bless the little things in life.  That is when he came in.  And that is when I learned a little about prejudging people without knowing anything about them except how they look.

As I dipped my last piece of pretzel in the cheese, a man came into the Subway space.  His hair was not so long as it was frazzled…windblown in a not so attractive way.  His beard appeared to be a blotchy three day growth and his mustache was long and drooping over his mouth.  He had on a camouflage shirt and sweat pants with no-name gym shoes on.   If I had to guess his age, he might have been anywhere between 60 to 70 years old.

In an instant, he pulled a chair right up to the counter and sat down right in front of the register.  He stared at the teenage girl working the counter that evening for what was to me an uncomfortable amount of time.  The first thing that came to my mind was “What the….?”  As in many trips to Walmart, I felt I was going to see something that I never saw before so I cupped my ear to better hear where this was going, if and when he should speak.  I was seated about 10 feet from the action and was ready to rescue the girl if things went bad.

Of course, with my own aged knees, it would have taken me some time to leap into action, but that is another story.  Sixty-eight year old legs do not respond quickly to messages from the brain.  It was then that he bent down, pulled up his left pant leg, and removed his artificial limb.  He rubbed the stump for a minute or two, then put the leg (from the knee down) back on, returned his pant leg back into place, stood up, and pulled a note from his pocket.

I was embarrassed by my quick reaction that trouble just sat down.  He spoke softly, slowly, and almost bashfully as he placed his order for four foot-longs.  Reading from the note, he completed his order.  I was into the moment by this time, and I approached him.  Politely I told him I saw that he lost a limb, and asked if he would mind sharing what happened to him.  Keep in mind that I have never gone up to a stranger and asked such personal questions before, but I was drawn to this man.

His answer hit me in the gut.  I am sure that my face got red as my own emotions regarding his answer brought up some long suppressed memories of my own.  “Lost it in Viet Nam,” he answered simply.  Just then the teen rang up his order and asked how he wanted to pay for it.  I told her that I would get it which opened up a small debate between myself and the stranger.  I said it was the least I could do as he paid so much on the battlefield.  I won the argument as I told him that I spent a couple of tours in Nam myself.  He was a marine and we joked about who needed who the most…the marines needing the Special Forces or vice versa.

After we talked about when, and where and the why’s of how we spent our time so many years ago in a jungle on the other side of the world, I found out that he was my age, was a “region rat”, now lived in Vegas and liked to come back to NW Indiana once a year to go fishing and visit with old friends.  I thanked him for his service and he turned and started to walk away.  I sat back down and finished my cold drink, lost in thought.

It was shortly after that I felt someone standing beside me on my blind side.  I felt a tap on my shoulder and turned to see this walking-wounded veteran looking down at me.  I no longer saw the mismatched clothes, or the straggly hair or the answer to my “what the?” from minutes before.  I saw clarity in his eyes and a smile.  His hand was outstretched waiting for a traditional handshake.  I extended my hand and he spoke softly, slowly and clearly.

“Thanks for the sandwiches.  It has been 45 years since I got home and you are the first person who has ever done anything like this for me.  Just wanted you to know that meeting you was special.”  I could barely hold back my own tears and mumbled  “no problem, sir” as we both felt a little weird, but in a good way.  He turned and walked away, and I spotted my wife at the checkout counter.  She asked who was the guy I was talking with since she knows I am not a talk-to-strangers kind of person.

So, what is the point, Dan?  The point is that Memorial Weekend will soon be upon us.  The point is not a stranger buying a stranger a sandwich.  The point is that there are so many walking wounded men and women that cross all of our paths every day who wore the uniform of the U.S. armed forces.  Much of their pain and injuries are mental.  It is easy to see a man’s artificial limb in one hand while massaging a stump of a leg with the other and think, “Oh, let me buy him a sandwich”.  What about all the survivors who have been in all the wars we have been involved in that walk around each day struggling to just maintain.  There are ghosts that fill the dreams of so many, ghosts of horrors that few can ever comprehend unless you too walked in their shoes.

Memorial Weekend is a time to honor these people.  To realize and appreciate the sacrifices that they and their families made to keep us safe and free.  Whether one’s leg is torn away in a firefight in the jungles of Vietnam, or a soul is twisted and crushed from man’s inhumanity to man during times of combat in the Mideast, men and women come home from war changed.  They need love and patience and understanding and space.  They need to be acknowledged, even if only on Veteran’s Day or Memorial Weekend.  It is in the power of every person that reads this story to buy a sandwich for a vet, or cut the grass for an old timer who helped to secure your rights as a U.S. citizen…and say thanks.

Nobody who has seen the things our military has seen, or been called upon to do the things that they are called upon to do should ever sit alone and wonder what it was all for.  Oh, we will be embarrassed when you say thanks for your service…we will not want you to buy us lunch…we will try to refuse your help even though it may truly be needed.  Extend yourself, and appreciate those brave men and women who have given so much.  A good place to start is visiting Calumet Park cemetery over Memorial Weekend.  Find time to share an hour of your life in showing you care.  The official Memorial Day Service at Calumet Park Cemetery in Merrillville will be May 28 at 1:00 p.m.  Invite your friends and take the opportunity to show you care.

Call 219-769-8803 for information on prearranging for your cemetery and funeral needs



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