Ave Maria Grotto – Cullman, Alabama

In 2011 we thought we were ready to retire but were called to work large commercial  losses caused by the horrific tornado which struck Alabama and other southern states on April 27, 2011. We headquartered in Cullman, AL, for about six weeks and worked a 100-mile radius of there. This tornado was a mile and a half wide and stayed on the ground through the  entire state of Alabama. It then went through Georgia and the Carolinas but we only worked the Alabama claims, traveling over 2,000 miles in those six weeks.
Before leaving Cullman, we visited the Ave Maria Grotto at the Saint Bernard Abbey, a Catholic monastery founded in 1891 to enable the Benedictine monks to minister to the   German-speaking Catholic settlers in Alabama’s northern colonies. The Ave Maria Grotto is the creation of one of the pioneer Benedictine monks, Brother Joseph Zoetti (1878-1961). It is a beautifully landscaped, four-acre park for the Grotto, surrounded by 125 miniature reproductions of biblical scenes and famous buildings of the world.
If you’re ever in the South, be sure to visit the Ave Maria Grotto, located on the grounds of Saint Bernard Abbey, 1600 St. Bernard Drive SE, Cullman, Alabama 35055—Telephone: (256) 734-4110. Or visit their website at http://www.avemariagrotto.com. They have a great You-Tube video which shows more of the beautiful sculptures.






What’s in a Commercial?

I’ll be commenting on tv commercials.

Missing In America Project


I recently joined the Greater Omaha Genealogical Society and they asked me to give a talk about the Pottawattamie County (Iowa) Genealogical Society, of which I’m the new president. Over the years our two societies drifted apart and we knew very little about each other. As a result, we are now both eager to share information and maybe even co-host a large national genealogical seminar in the future. Several GOGS members attended our Danish Workshop in September. At the meeting I attended, one of their members talked about the Missing In America Project. It sounded like a very worth-while project and I visited their website at miap.us and joined. Since then I’ve been working as a genealogist with two extremely dedicated veterans in Omaha, Bill Henry and Larry Schaber. These two guys just don’t quit! They are now helping me as I have taken on Western Iowa as coordinator. After reading below, if you have an interest in doing some research for us, primarily in trying to find next of kin of these forgotten veterans, please contact me at omahabob@cox.net.


The mission of the MIAP project is to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed cremated remains of veterans through the joint efforts of private, state and federal organizations; to provide honor and respect to those who have served this country, by securing a final resting place for these forgotten heroes. If these forgotten veterans have no family to invite us, do we leave them sitting in a storage closet, or do we show our sincere respect for our fallen heroes and work to ensure a dignified resting place to honor the veteran, their family and their community?


During an inventory of a crematorium, two cremation urns were discovered in a closet storage facility. The urns contained the unclaimed remains of Sgt. Trueman, a veteran of the Vietnam conflict and his wife (also a veteran). The year of death for Sgt. Trueman was 1979. For 27 years the resting place for Sgt. and Mrs. Trueman was a storage facility in a crematorium. Other funeral homes and crematoriums were inventoried. Other unclaimed remains of veterans were discovered. In November 2006, the Idaho State Veterans Cemetery interred 21 cremated remains of forgotten veterans, with full military honors and the dignity these fallen heroes so richly deserve. This incident inspired MIAP.


The MIAP project is two-fold. The initial focus of MIAP encompasses a massive, nation-wide effort to locate, identify and inter the unclaimed remains of forgotten veterans. This task will be executed through the combined, cooperative efforts of citizens, volunteer service and veteran  organizations, funeral homes, state funeral commissions, State and National Veterans Administration agencies, and the State and National Veterans Cemetery Administrations. Local, state and national laws must be followed in the identification, claiming process and proper interment of our forgotten veterans. This is strictly a volunteer organization with no salaries, compensation or reimbursement of expenses paid to the board of directors, officers or volunteers. Donations are used for the printing of flyers, burial fees, liability insurance, education of the public, locating next of kin and the purchase of urns.

MIAP is a 501(c)(3) non profit organization.   IRS EIN: 20-84088320.

MIAP website is at http://www.miap.us


Same Price – but less product

I really don’t mind grocery shopping. It’s kind of fun to try to outsmart the grocers . . . or whoever does the pricing. I have my calculator at hand to determine if the economy size is actually less per ounce than the regular. Many times you can buy several of the smaller sizes cheaper than buying the “economy” size.

But I began to notice more air in the bag of potato chips and less chips. Yet the price has not changed . . . or is even higher.

On March 30, 2011, an article credited to the New York Times appeared in the Money section of the Omaha World Herald. I plagiarized the title of that article for this post because I can’t say it any better. More and more companies are leaving the packaging and the price the same but reducing what’s inside. A few examples:

  • A can of Chicken of the Sea albacore tuna is now packed at 5 ounces instead of 6
  • The standard size of Edy’s ice cream went from 2 liters to 1.5 in 2008
  • Many canned vegetables have dropped to 13 or 14 ounces from 16
  • Boxes of baby wipes went to 72 from 80
  • Sugar is in 4-pound bags, not 5

I had never paid attention to how much was in the can or box before, so I’m truly at a disadvantage here. I realize there has been some inflation and prices have gone up. But I don’t appreciate the trickery.

If you have some specific examples of this, please leave a comment . . . and your thoughts about it.

[Read more…]

Highway Horrors!

Wife and I have logged more than 10,000 car miles the last couple of years, traveling around the U.S.,  and we think we’ve seen it all when it comes to other drivers . . . only to see something new each time we get on the road. It’s scary enough to pass someone who is texting on their cell phone, but here’s a few that make you wonder if they made it to their destination . . . or took out someone along the way:

  • A young blonde had her left foot on the steering wheel and was apparently performing a pedicure!
  • An older woman was using her rear-view mirror to apply make-up.
  • A 40-ish fellow was reading the newspaper.
  • A young couple was “making out.” He was driving and his wife/girlfriend/lover/mistress was draped all over him!
  • A burly guy was shaving. What bothered us the most: He was using the rear-view mirror to see which whiskers he had missed!

According to AAA, between 4,000 and 8,000 crashes related to distracted driving occur daily in the United States. In a year, they contribute to as many as one-half of the 6 million U.S. crashes reported annually.

In a Jul 18, 2011 post in wthr.com (WTHR, Channel 13, Indianapolis, IN)  Allstate’s David Kaehr explained, “In 2009 for example, there were 5,500 fatalities in the United States due to distracted driving plus another half million injuries.” The post (http://www.wthr.com/story/15097292/distracted-driving-can-be-a-fatal-mistake) went on to report that 

  • Right now about 25 percent of car crashes reported to police involve driver distraction.
  • Five seconds of texting at 55 miles per hour is equal to driving blind down a football field.
  • Eighty percent of all crashes happen within three seconds of driver distraction.

Here are some other stupid driving tricks reported around the country:

Woman causes crash shaving bikini area while driving

Posted: Mar 09, 2010 7:52 AM CST Updated: Mar 09, 2010 7:56 AM CST
WBBH-TV – Fort Myers, FL

KEY WEST: A woman shaving her bikini area while driving caused a car accident on Cudjoe Key, near Key West, according to a report in keysnews.com.

Troopers told the reporter that 37-year-old Megan Mariah Barnes was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be properly groomed for the visit.

So during the drive, she decided to shave. Her ex-husband, who was in the passenger’s seat, took the wheel while she focused on other areas, according to the report. The site also noted that Barnes was convicted of DUI and driving without a license the day before the crash.

The vehicle she was driving struck another car from behind, causing minor injuries to the occupants. The report says she and her ex-husband drove another half-mile after the crash and switched seats, so it looked like he was driving. But burns on his chest from the passenger-side airbag sank their story – since the site reports the driver’s airbag wasn’t deployed by the impact.

Troopers charged Barnes with driving with a revoked license, reckless driving, leaving the scene of a wreck with injuries and driving with no insurance.

A trooper told keysnews.com he thought another incident in the same general area was the strangest traffic incident he’d ever see – but this topped it.

Out-of-control van strikes car, killing woman

Wednesday, March 23, 2011  03:06 AM


A 19-year-old woman was killed after a driver reaching for a cellphone charger lost control of his van yesterday on I-71 in Delaware County, crossing three lanes of traffic and striking her car, authorities said.

* * * * * * *

So my #1 pet-peeve here is distracted drivers, but here are a few more related to driving (and parking):

  • Halogen headlights – especially on a two-lane road
  • Drivers in the passing lane going less than the speed limit and refusing to pull over
  • Idiots who pass me on the shoulder
  • The jerk who thinks he can get ahead by passing everyone who’s in single-file when a lane is closed ahead
  • The person who parks his prized possession at an angle in a parking lot, taking up at least two spaces