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Halstead, KS 67056
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September 14, 2017
Harvey County IndependentSeptember 14, 2017 Harvey County Independent

Halstead Florist Closes Newton Shop

Posted 9/14/2017

JOHN Back of Halstead closed his Designs by John shop in Newton last weekend. Over his 40-year career, Back has run flower shops in Halstead and several locations in Newton.JOHN Back of Halstead closed his Designs by John shop in Newton last weekend. Over his 40-year career, Back has run flower shops in Halstead and several locations in Newton.By Pilar Martin

NEWTON—Designs by John has closed its doors in Newton. Owner John Back of Halstead said he has been thinking about closing for a while and made the decision last week. His last day was Saturday, Sept. 9.

Back has been a florist in the area for 40 years.

Back grew up on a farm outside of Mount Hope and developed an interest in flowers and plants early on.

“I always liked flowers, plants, and gardening,” he said. “I would sell flowers, vegetables, and plants from a truck. I sold bushels of stuff from the back of that truck.” Back was active in Future Farmers of America during high school.

After graduating from Haven High School, Back went to Hutchinson Community College, where he majored in business. He was also active in DECA, which is an organization for marketing, entrepreneurs, finance and managers.

Back got a job at Hutchinson Floral while at HCC.  He worked his way up to a designer within a few months of starting and got his own bench where he worked on his floral skills.

After HCC, he went to the Cliff Man School of Floral Design in Denver.

“They taught us everything about flowers and how to work with them from the very first step,” Back said.

After he graduated from that school, he worked for Moore’s and Swenson’s floral shops in Wichita. He continued his education at Kansas State University and was also in the Air Force Guard.

In 1976, he bought his store in Halstead from Maude and John Allison on Third Street. Two years after that purchase, he built a greenhouse onto the shop where he grew hundreds of plants.

In 1982, Back expanded his business to Newton. He first located at 212 Main. He started carrying tuxedoes for proms and weddings and outgrew that location. He moved the Newton shop to 610 Main and was there for 28 years. Back operated both the shops in Newton and Halstead during all of that time.

In 2012, Back closed the Halstead store and moved his Newton operation to 115 W. 5th.

Back continued to serve the community, providing arrangements for all occasions.

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New Mennonite Pastor Feels Community's Love And Support

Posted 9/14/2017

STEPHEN Wilcox is the new pastor at First Mennonite Church. He and his family moved here from Virginia.STEPHEN Wilcox is the new pastor at First Mennonite Church. He and his family moved here from Virginia.BY Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—First Mennonite Church’s new pastor followed God’s call to move here all the way from Virginia. Stephen Wilcox took over as lead pastor at the church on Aug. 1.

He said his early impressions of First Mennonite are that it’s a very loving and supportive congregation.

“They’re very much like family,” he said. “They seem to really deeply care about each other and care about finding ways to connect to serving God and community.”

Before moving here, Wilcox and his family lived in Virginia. He had never been to Kansas before learning about the job opportunity, but he said he felt this was where God called his family.

“We had kind of said, ‘God, we’re willing to move,’ but we had kind of drawn a line in the middle of the country and said we’re not going to go further than here, and we were looking for something much (closer),” Wilcox said. “And we had options other places, but it just really felt like God was calling us here, and this was right on that line.”

Wilcox got connected to First Mennonite by putting his name on a national registry, and after visiting in April, the church offered him the position.

“This one felt very loving and supportive and felt like it would be a great place for a first-time pastor,” he said.

He and his wife, Raquel, have two sons who are now in second and fifth grades in the Halstead-Bentley school district. The family is living in Halstead, and Raquel teaches kindergarten in Newton.

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Anonymous Letter Honoring Veteran Found At Pine Park

Posted 9/14/2017

By Jared Janzen

HALSTEAD—Scrawled on a sheet of notebook paper and tucked beneath a rock at the Pine Park Memorial is a touching letter to a WWII veteran. The writer of the anonymous note praises the veteran as one of his or her biggest heroes and says his stories “will always fill a gap in my soul.”

The unsigned letter is apparently addressed to “Scabs.”

Betty Burbrink found the letter last Thursday while dead-heading flowers at the memorial, which she does regularly for the American Legion.

“It brought tears to my eyes,” Burbrink said about reading the letter.

The full letter reads, “Rest in peace Scabs. I’ll never forget you. The stories you told me helped me more than you ever know. From Normandy to Okinawa you fought for your country. Your stories will always fill a gap in my soul. You will always be one of my biggest heros (sic). Thank you old man. Thanks for your time. Thanks for your courage. Thanks for your fight. You fought the good fight Scabs. Rest in peace old friend. Friend hero legend WWII Vet.”

Burbrink thought the letter was placed there sometime earlier last week since it was not there when she tended the flowers Sunday. She planned to leave the letter where she found it.

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