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A DIFFERENT KIND OF RAINBOW: Local librarian finds motherhood through adoption, teaching

DuBOIS — Each year, Mother’s Day means something extra special to DuBois Area Middle School Librarian Julie Baun, who considers all of her students to be her kids.

Baun works with young people from sixth to eighth grade, teaching different subjects, and has been a librarian for 11 years.

Although Baun’s story has a happy ending, it starts with a heartbreaking beginning.

Desperate to be parents, she and her husband went through the In Vitro Fertilization process and suffered several miscarriages. Baun even gave birth to triplets, all of whom passed away tragically after birth.

It was then that the couple began to consider adoption. Their daughter, Rheanna, was adopted in 2006 and will turn 12 years old this year. She looks strikingly like Baun, something she hears often from friends.

“Most people don’t know she is adopted until we tell them,” she said.

The adoption of her daughter wouldn’t have been the same without her students, Baun said, who were very supportive and curious about the process. The basketball team she coached at the time even threw her a surprise baby shower.

“It made the experience that much more special,” she said. “It not only made me realize how important it was for me to be a mom, but how excited kids can get for you and how much they can care.”

To this day, former students of Baun’s who have graduated and moved on still ask about Rheanna, and four girls even come back to visit her every year on her birthday.

Baun said becoming Rheanna’s mother has also helped her become a better role model and friend to her students. Many children today may be in foster care or single-parent homes, and it’s great for them to see that love comes in all shapes and situations.

“I think it helps other kids to know I’ve adopted her,” she said. “I love being with kids, and I think it’s important that they know anyone can love them. If you have the capacity to love, you can love anybody’s child.”

The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists estimates that 10 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, but other studies show that number is likely higher. Miscarriage is often a silent struggle, but is more common than most people realize.

Baun chooses to be open about her story and her struggles because other potential mothers might be going through some of the same issues and need to hear from someone who understands, she said. She and her husband even help counsel couples who are going through the In Vitro process as they did.

Baun couldn’t love her daughter more, and is thankful she considered taking in another child when she couldn’t have her own.

“When I was pregnant and we were trying so hard, and then we lost our triplets, I had a doctor say to me, ‘do you want a pregnancy, or do you want a family?’ That really woke me up, because I wanted a family.”

Baun said she is open with her daughter about why her birth mother gave her up for adoption, and feels it is essential she grow up knowing where she came from.

“I tell her what a loving thing it was her mother did for her, that she wanted her to have a better life and a better family,” she said. “I think knowing that helps my daughter feel stronger.”

Each year, Baun and her husband take Rheanna out to dinner on Mother’s Day, along with her grandparents. But it’s every day of the year that Baun is reminded how truly lucky she is to finally have the family she always wanted.

“Rheanna is my miracle girl, and I’m so blessed to have her,” she said.

Having a positive impact on other children’s lives through being a teacher is also something for which Baun is grateful.

“Going through this process has made me a better teacher, too,” she said. “I think I’m a better teacher because of all of it, and I think I’m a better mother because I’m a teacher.”

Submitted photo 

DuBois Area Middle School Librarian Julie Baun, along with her husband and daughter, Rheanna.

Brockway librarian celebrates 25 years at Mengle

BROCKWAY — Darlene Marshall, a librarian at Brockway’s Mengle Memorial Library for 25 years, said it has been a privilege to work in the community.

“On May 3, I was honored to celebrate this special occasion with a visit from one of my original coworkers, Margaret Cochran,” Marshall said. “She was excited to see all of the changes that have improved our library building and now make the library a destination place for families.”

Thankfully, Marshall said she has gained so many friends as everyone comes to use the library in different ways.

“Once again I realized how many children I’ve seen grow up. I barely recognize them now as adults with their own families,” Marshall said.

Each fall, when kindergarten students visit the library for their first field trip, the library workers ask them if they have ever been to the library.

“Years ago the number who had used the library would be around one-third,” Marshall said. “Last fall, I was so pleased to realize that we have reached our goal to increase preschool children’s library usage to almost 90 percent. It was exciting to know so many children have the opportunity to visit our library.”

Marshall expressed appreciation to the community which makes the library such a success.

“We work with so many community leaders and volunteers regularly that I’d never be able to thank everyone individually,” she said. “It has been a blessing all of these years for me to work with great board members, staff, and volunteers.”

Marshall said she enjoys the opportunity to work with the six libraries in the Jefferson County Library System. She said the librarians, staff, and board members of the county work together to ensure great library service county-wide.

“Everyone working together has made our library a community asset,” she said.

Recently, she said, it was brought to her attention how libraries touch the lives in ways that she never realized.

“In just one day, I observed users reading the newspaper, filing online applications, getting new reading material, and others writing resumes to further their career goals,” Marshall said. “It made me realize libraries are important for so many different reasons. Libraries will make a difference for years to come.”

Photo by Chris Wechtenhiser 

Johnsonburg pitcher Lindsey Kocjancic throws to first base four an out during fourth-inning action Tuesday against Brockway. Kocjancic tossed the first 5 1/3 innings to get the win in the circle as the Ramettes knocked off the Lady Rovers, 9-3. She allowed three runs, two earned, on two hits while striking out 10 and walking four.

Local events to offer activities for moms, families

A variety of upcoming events in the DuBois area will offer activities for moms and their families over Mother’s Day weekend.

The Winery at Wilcox, located at the DuBois Mall, is holding a “Moms, Muffins and Mimosas” event Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mothers and friends can come as they please and sip on some tasty drinks while enjoying time with one another.

Manager Stefanie Kear said this is the first time they are offering an event specifically for moms on Mother’s Day weekend.

“This is something different than just taking them out to dinner,” she said. “You’re still spending time together, and whose mom doesn’t like wine?”

The cost is $5 and includes an assortment of muffins from Kookie Creations — a DuBois cafe and bakery — along with the Winery at Wilcox specially-made mimosa. Those who attend can also sign up to win a gift basket for their mom or have a specialized wine label made for her. The store also sells wine accessories and food items.

Kear asks that those who know they are planning to attend RSVP by calling the store at 814-375-6885.

A family-friendly option over the weekend includes “Mother’s Day in the Park” at Bilger’s Rocks, which will be held Sunday from noon-5 p.m. Bilger’s Rocks is located at 1928 Bilger’s Rocks Road in Grampian.

Dennis Biancuzzo, who is the Events Coordinator for the park, said families can enjoy a fun-filled day of food, music and exploring for a cheap cost.

“It’s an interesting way to spend Mother’s Day,” he said. “There aren’t many places you can go and have a picnic and enjoy music. Families can come out to the park and do things on the hiking trails or explore the rocks.”

The chicken or rib BBQ is $7 for adults and $5 for children. A DJ also will be playing music throughout the day and families can sing karaoke.

When Bilger’s Rocks held this event for Father’s Day, around 200 people attended, Biancuzzo said.

Mother’s Day will also be the kickoff event for the Bilger’s Rocks Flea Market season, offering about 10 food and craft vendors Sunday.

Last but not least, what mother doesn’t love flowers or a plant assortment? Bill Hanzely from Hanzely’s Nursery & Garden Center said they always see an increase in the number of customers and sales throughout Mother’s Day week and weekend.

One of their most popular sellers for moms are the hanging baskets, which are arranged in a variety of combinations and colors. Some other mom-popular plants include fuchsias, million bells and petunias.

Hanzely’s has been a family-run business since 1989, and all of their hanging baskets are grown by family, he said. The greenhouse is fully stocked with carefully-crafted items each day.

A Mother’s Day Buffet will also be held at the Lakeview Lodge in Treasure Lake. Reservations can be made by calling 814-371-0100. The menu will include a soup and salad bar, a dinner buffet, and omelet bar and a dessert bar.

Priest accused of abusing boys at Jefferson Co. camp jailed

A Roman Catholic priest was arrested and charged Tuesday with sexually abusing at least two boys during his four decades in the Erie Diocese, and making one of them say confession after the alleged assaults.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro announced the arrest of the 64-year-old Rev. David Poulson of Oil City as part of a statewide grand jury investigation.

Poulson had served locally as faculty at Bradford Central Christian High School from 1979-1982; as a weekend educator at St. Francis of Assisi in Bradford from 1979-1982; an administrator of St. Francis of Assisi in Clearfield from August 1997 – December 1997; a pastor of St. Agnes in Morrisdale from 1997 – 2000; special ministries and Catholic chaplain of Clarion University from 2000-2001; and pastor of St. Michael’s in Fryburg in Clarion County from 2000-2010.

According to court records, Poulson has been charged with one felony count of indecent assault; one felony count of endangering the welfare of children; one felony count of corruption of minors; two misdemeanor counts of indecent assault; and several misdemeanors, for incidents dating to 2002.{div class=”page” title=”Page 1”}{div class=”layoutArea”}{div class=”column”}{span}Poulson was arraigned on the charges in Jefferson County by District Judge Gregory M. Bazylak, and was placed in the Jefferson County Prison on $300,000 bond. {/span}{/div}{/div}{/div}According to the Associated Press, court records did not list an attorney for Poulson, and a phone call to a number listed for him was not answered Tuesday. Poulson was being held Tuesday on $300,000 cash bail. He faces a maximum of 64 years, if convicted, and $135,000 in fines.

Prosecutors said Poulson resigned from the diocese in February after a phone call was received a month earlier from a military chaplain in Fort Hood, Texas, saying a 23-year-old had disclosed he was abused by Poulson starting when he was 8 years old.

Poulson allegedly abused one of his victims in multiple church rectories more than 20 times while he served as an altar boy, according to a release from the Attorney General’s Office. Poulson would then require the boy to make confession to him and confess the sexual assault to receive absolution, it said.

“This was the ultimate betrayal and manipulation by Poulson — he used the tools of the priesthood to further his abuse,” Shapiro wrote in a release about the charges.

The allegations also state Poulson took that victim and another boy at separate times to a secluded hunting camp in Jefferson County without electricity or running water, where he would watch horror movies with them on his laptop, then assault them.

Prosecutors said the Erie Diocese had received complaints about what they say were Poulson’s “sexual predator tendencies” as far back as 2010 but did not report him to law enforcement until the grand jury issued a subpoena in September 2016, according to the AP.

The diocese produced a May 24, 2010, “secret memorandum” that showed leaders had received complaints about Poulson’s inappropriate contact with minors. The Attorney General’s Office release said the memo contained an admission from Poulson that he was “aroused” by a boy and shared sexually suggestive texts with other boys.

The diocese, “did nothing to stop this abuse. They did nothing throughout those years until very recently to alert law enforcement. They did nothing to alert other parishioners, especially parishioners who had young children,” Shapiro said at a news conference Tuesday.

Bishop Lawrence Persico released a statement late Tuesday denying that the diocese knew of these specific allegations until January of this year when the chaplain called. Persico, whose tenure started in 2012, said the 2010 memo mentioned by Shapiro was a third-party report that Poulson had exhibited what are known as grooming tendencies with a boy not related to Tuesday’s charges. The boy named in the memo declined to talk to investigators, Persico said.

The bishop said the diocese promptly reported the January allegations, relieved Poulson of any duties including those related to children and has cooperated with the attorney general’s investigation.

Shapiro said the abuse and cover-up largely occurred under a previous bishop’s tenure.

Last month, the diocese released a list of priests and lay people whoit said it had received credible accusations against over several decades. Poulson’s name was on that list.

Shapiro said nine other possible victims spoke to the grand jury, but a criminal statute of limitations prevented the office from filing charges. He called on the governor and state legislature to abolish the statute of limitations on child sexual assaults.

The statewide investigative grand jury looking into the response to clergy abuse in six of the state’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses began in 2016, shortly after a comprehensive grand jury report on the Altoona-Johnstown diocese was released. That report included a description of canon law dictating that criminal allegations against priests be kept under lock and key accessible to only the bishop.

The statewide grand jury was scheduled to end its term on April 30. Shapiro would not discuss Tuesday when a final report would come out or whether more charges in the other dioceses might be possible.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office released one of the most comprehensive and earliest of such grand jury reports on the Philadelphia diocese in 2005 and revisited concerns about priest abuse in a second grand jury report in 2011.