Bob Mitchell: Is now the time for Cassville to act?

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

I’m not sure what the waiting is for! Is it because Cassville is just one of those communities slow to give recognition when achievement is realized? Or is it just because people here don’t understand what Janet Kavandi has achieved. Her involvement in the space and science industry has been at the top of the class.

Those who have any age on them might shake the cobwebs out and remember she is a daughter of the late Bill and Ruth Sellers, of Cassville. Bill was the second county sanitarian to be employed by the Barry County Health Unit. Ruth was a member of my high school graduation class back in 1947. Their eldest daughter has accomplished more in the space activities than any other woman. She was inducted into the United States Astronaut Hall of Fame in 2019.

She retired from NASA in September 2019, and is living back in Carthage, but now serves as president of Sierra Space in Joplin.

Prior to her retirement she served as NASA Deputy Chief of the Astronaut Office and was the Center Director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio.

She’s made three trips in space, those trips to the International Space Station. Since those jaunts into outer regions, she has been nothing but prominent in the industry.

Space seminar

Just recently, in Colorado Springs, there was an industry-sponsored gathering, which Bruce had a part in due to his job. He was impressed with the displays and information gathered and presented at the event.

However, his prime interest was a possible opportunity to meet a fellow, one-time Cassville resident. No news from that spot at present but there should be soon.

Janet left Cassville with the Englands almost immediately after the accident and finished school at Carthage.

Bill and Ruth

Janet’s parents were killed in an airplane collision over Oklahoma as were passengers Mr. and Mrs. Paul Land, when another pilot attending a rodeo there with them came up under their aircraft. They were a popular couple. Bill, an Air Force veteran was shot down over Germany late in WW II and spent a short time as a prisoner of war.

At the time, Ruth was deputy county clerk to the late George England. She also was a member of our high school graduating class and helpful to athletes in the clerical classes with her skills.

Raised in Carthage

Janet, and a younger sister who now resides in Springfield, were raised in Carthage by their aunt, Mrs. Edward England and her husband. Neither of the Sellers’ children were born in Cassville, primarily due to some uncertain factors of doctors and hospitalization here at the time.

To commemorate her achievements, Carthage long ago proclaimed in a sign at all entrances, Home of Astronaut Janet Kavandi.

Time for Cassville to act

In my opinion, now is the time for Cassville to act to recognize this family for what their daughter has achieved. While Kavandi wasn’t born inside the Cassville city limits, this was her home, out on Washburn Prairie, at the time she arrived on the scene. Thus, it would be appropriate for Cassville to prominently state, on a sign at all entrances to town, Birthplace of Astronaut and NASA Director Janet Kavandi.

The organization, or government entity that steps up to make this project happen will be an achievement for the community and end a long delay in giving a great American woman the due credit for what she has achieved in her lifetime which began as a resident of Cassville.

The recognition is long overdue!

An old sign

A sure sign of the Easter season was once a “first of the year swim in Flat Creek.” It seldom mattered what the temperature of the water or the air might be, the call would go out to meet at the creek’s edge.

A favorite spot was near where the gate entrance is today. For those with long memories, the spot is just downstream from where the bridge was constructed and the Old Soldiers and Settlers’ Reunion north access was located. This permitted Sim Pearce to operate a parking lot in his harvested cornfield.

The late Glen Rowland was leader of the event, with word of mouth used to gather the swimmers. Most went off the mud bank at least partially clothed, some pure skinny-dipped to have clothes to cover themselves when exiting the water. I think there was an injury involved at some point that brought to a close the “pre-Easter swim in Flat Creek.”

Deep water

In this era, the hole of water was deep enough that the late dentist Gene “Speedy” Blankenship ran an outboard-driven float boat, for a fee, in that part of the creek. His father, Dr. E.L. Blankenship had given him the rig as a toy.

He turned his toy into a money-maker, charging a few cents for a short ride down the creek and back up to the bridge, which was too low for the boat to pass under.

This was about the first outboard to appear in these parts, opening the way for today’s engine-propelling craft on area lakes.

Bob Mitchell is the former editor and publisher of the Cassville Democrat. He is a 2017 inductee to both the Missouri Press Association Hall of Fame and Missouri Southern State University’s Regional Media Hall of Fame.

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