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Barren County sailor identified from Pearl Harbor attack

After almost 80 years, the remains of a sailor from Barren County who died during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor have been identified.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency announced Monday that Navy Seaman 2nd Class Howard S. Magers of Merry Oaks was accounted for on Dec. 17.

A military funeral has been scheduled May 29 for Magers in Barren County.

The DPAA said Magers, 18, was assigned Dec. 7, 1941, to the battleship USS Oklahoma, which was moored at Pearl Harbor when the ship was attacked by Japanese aircraft. The USS Oklahoma sustained multiple torpedo hits and quickly sank, resulting in the deaths of 429 crew members, including Magers.

The surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, which left more than 2,300 Americans dead, prompted the U.S. to enter World War II.

From December 1941 to June 1944, Navy personnel recovered the remains of the crew, which were subsequently interred in the Halawa and Nu’uanu cemeteries in Hawaii.

In 1947, tasked with recovering and identifying fallen U.S. personnel in the Pacific Theater, members of the American Graves Registration Service disinterred the remains of U.S. casualties from the two cemeteries and transferred them to the Central Identification Laboratory at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

The laboratory staff was only able to confirm the identifications of 35 men from the USS Oklahoma at that time. The AGRS subsequently buried the unidentified remains in 46 plots at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu.

In October 1949, a military board classified those who could not be identified as non-recoverable, including Magers.

But in 2015, DPAA personnel exhumed the USS Oklahoma unknowns from the cemetery for analysis. To identify Magers’ remains, scientists from DPAA used dental and anthropological and DNA analysis.

Magers will be buried May 29 at Merry Oaks United Methodist Church Cemetery at 130 Merry Oaks Payne Road in Smiths Grove.

Family spokeswoman Paula Ratliff Pedigo said Magers will be given a hero’s burial during Memorial Day weekend.

“We really wanted to give him a nice homecoming,” Pedigo said. “He will be given full military honors with a 21-gun salute. It will be a really special day. I’m honored to be working with the family.”

The burial service is slated to begin at 2 p.m. at the cemetery in Barren County, and the public is invited to join the funeral procession or to line the 20-mile route starting from Hardy & Son Funeral Home at 3098 Louisville Road in Bowling Green starting about 1:30 p.m.

Pedigo said the public is welcome to adorn U.S. 68 with American flags and yellow ribbons for the occasion.

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Barren meeting will gather input on new judicial center

GLASGOW – The Barren County Judicial Center Project Development Board will hold a public hearing to discuss the possible acquisition of land for a new Barren County Judicial Center.

The in-person hearing will be at 6 p.m. May 6 in the circuit court room at the Barren County Courthouse. The board anticipates having land proposals for consideration before the hearing.

The date for the hearing was set last week during the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting.

The board discussed advertising for land proposals but didn’t discuss any specific piece of property. A general location, however, was mentioned.

“We want to try to keep it, if possible, close to downtown,” said Ronnie McFall of the Kentucky Office of the Administrative Courts.

The new judicial center is expected to be a 56,500-square-foot building that will house circuit and district courts, as well as the circuit clerk’s office.

The Kentucky General Assembly allocated funds in 2020 for the project.

The board also decided last week to go with a construction manager over a general contractor for the project.

Board member Rich Alexander asked McFall for a breakdown of current judicial center construction projects that are using construction managers as opposed to general contractors.

“We’ve actually only got four projects going right now, and two are under construction. They are all four CMs, but there’s pros and cons to either,” McFall said. “Either one will give you a good building. It’s just however you all want to go.”

Barren County Judge-Executive Michael Hale said his gut reaction would be to go with a construction manager.

“To me, when you just hire a general contractor, they are just going to sub it out and they are kind of the middle man. I don’t really look at the construction manager as the middle guy. That’s just me,” he said. “A lot of times I feel like if we get the right construction manager and they’ve got really good communicating skills, and I mean we have those folks here locally, I think that will work in our advantage.”

The board agreed to advertise for construction managers for the project with plans to grade the proposals during the board’s regularly scheduled monthly meeting in May. It will then interview construction managers for the project at a subsequent meeting.

SKYCTC art students add splash of color with Thoroughbred Square mural

A psychedelic stampede of horses took shape Thursday as visual art students from Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College worked to complete a mural on the back wall of Cocomo Confections just across from Corner Bakery Cafe.

For David Jones’ art students, it was a rare opportunity to collaborate after a year of social distancing and online learning amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“They’re doing great. This is the most they’ve talked all semester. They’re finally getting to be outside, getting to be more social,” Jones said, relishing the opportunity to get outside and work with his students on an art project for the community.

“I wish there was a ton of more murals” in Bowling Green, Jones said. “I hope they keep coming. ... I would love to see more color around town.”

The project was made possible by Harvey Johnson and the Ellis Walker Gallery, and a donation was made to a SKYCTC fund that supports art scholarships.

“It’ll be a $500 scholarship donated from Ellis Walker, which is a gallery here in Thoroughbred Square,” said Jones, an assistant professor of art at SKYCTC.

At the behest of Johnson, the Ellis Walker Gallery owner, Jones started the project by sketching the multi-colored horses, with students adding shapes in their wake to give the work a sense of movement.

For art student Skylar Stewart, the project was a chance to reconnect with friends.

“Most of my classes are actually online, so my art classes are the ones that are in person,” Stewart said. “We get to interact a lot more than we do. ... It’s a more relaxed setting, and it’s something that we all enjoy doing.”

“I think this is a great opportunity, and I’m really grateful for Mr. Jones inviting us out to do this. I’ve never been a part of something like this,” said Miriam Srour, another student. “It’s nice. We finally get to talk to each other.”

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Alvaton's Westbrook Farms latest to exit dairy business

It’s a trend Millie Westbrook would have liked to avoid, but it finally caught up with the dairy farm she and her husband, Landon Westbrook, have managed in recent years.

Last week, the Westbrooks sold their 84 dairy cows and some equipment to Allen County farmers Charlie Fisher and Ronnie Taylor, adding Westbrook Farm to a growing list of local and national dairy operations caught up in the contraction of the milk business.

“It’s not that we had to sell,” Millie Westbrook said. “But milk prices are not that good. If you sit down and look at the big picture, it takes so much work to make so little money.

“There’s good and bad to it, but I definitely think we made the right decision.”

It’s a decision that has become all too common for dairy farmers as declining demand for milk and other market forces have made it increasingly difficult to justify the early mornings and late nights required in dairy farming.

Farm Bureau statistics show the number of licensed dairy operations in the U.S. dropped from 70,375 in 2003 to 34,187 in 2019.

That downward spiral is maybe even more dramatic in Kentucky, where the number of dairy farms has fallen from 2,100 in 2000 to 435 today. In Warren County, the number of cow-milking operations has plummeted from 50 to 12 in the same period.

The rise of plant-based alternatives to cow’s milk, coupled with more-efficient dairy operations that squeeze out more milk per cow, has put downward pressure on prices.

A graph of wholesale milk prices looks a bit like a roller coaster, but the trend is still southward. As high as $21.10 per 100 pounds less than two years ago, milk at the end of February was going for $17.10.

It’s the kind of trend that will keep you up at night, even if you don’t have a date with a milking machine.

“With prices like they are, it’s hard to make yourself get up at 2:30 in the morning to milk,” Millie Westbrook said. “It was pretty sad to sell the herd, but it’s a relief too.”

When a family has been in the dairy business for decades, sadness is the prevailing emotion.

“This will be the first time in my lifetime that we haven’t milked cows,” said Tim Westbrook, patriarch of Westbrook Farm. “When they (the cows) left, I kinda had tears in my eyes.”

But the elder Westbrook understands the market forces that led to the decision.

“The demand just isn’t there,” he said. “With milk prices where they are and the difficulty in finding help, it’s tough to make it.”

Bigger operations like Elkins Dairy in Smiths Grove, which has converted much of its operation to robotic milking, and those that innovate like Chaney’s Dairy in southern Warren County appear to be the survivors so far.

“It’s really sad,” said Dore Hunt, who oversees the 60-head Chaney’s dairy operation. “You devote so much time taking care of those animals and there’s no monetary reward.”

Hunt’s uncle Carl Chaney, whose farm has been in the family since 1942, has been a leader in the type of innovation necessary to make it in today’s milk business.

Chaney established Chaney’s Dairy Barn in 2003, selling ice cream and sandwiches and cashing in on the agritourism trend.

Chaney has since made the transition to robotic milking and to processing much of his own milk. Today, Chaney’s-branded milk is sold at some three dozen locations throughout southcentral Kentucky, and Chaney’s Dairy Barn on Nashville Road is selling ice cream made from its own milk and cream.

“We’re tickled to death with the sales of our milk and chocolate milk,” Chaney said. “Now we’re making strawberry milk.

“If it wasn’t for tourism and processing our own milk, I don’t know if we’d still be milking cows.”

Chaney can empathize with those who have left the dairy business, saying: “When you work with these animals every day, they become like family.”

Millie Westbrook acknowledges that attachment to the cows, but she said selling them to another dairy operation eased the pain.

“It’s easier seeing them go to another (dairy) farm,” she said. “That makes things better.”

Although there is now a void on the family farm, Millie Westbrook believes she and her husband can find ways to utilize the acreage devoted to the dairy herd.

“Landon has row crops (corn, wheat and soybeans primarily), and we have expanded our goat herd,” she said.

The Westbrooks have even dabbled in the emerging business of hemp farming, and they have started renting out a barn for parties and other events.

“There are a lot of other areas we could expand into,” Millie Westbrook said. “We have other options, and we’ll have more family time now.”

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.