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Hearts join for Jake Wilson in La Porte City

LA PORTE CITY — As the sun set Monday night, hundreds of candles held by hundreds of people cast a glow over Wolf Creek Landing.

“If you guys could only see what I can see from up here — it’s absolutely amazing,” speaker and organizer Anthony Gasco said, standing on a trailer to address the large crowd.

Wolf Creek is where Jake Wilson, 16, of La Porte City told his family he was headed before he disappeared the night of April 7.

Monday marked one month since the teenager vanished without a trace. La Porte City residents didn’t let the anniversary go by unmarked, showing up en masse in blue shirts and decorating the park with blue balloons and ribbons, Jake’s favorite color.

“The family asked us to thank every one of you for coming out tonight and just showing support for a missing piece in their life — their son,” Gasco told the crowd.

Speakers during the hour-long vigil included everyone from law enforcement to Family and Children’s Council executive director Amanda Goodman, who implored the crowd to continue to share Jake’s information far and wide.

“We keep sharing his picture; we demand people see it,” Goodman said. “He’s not just some kid from La Porte City who’s missing. He’s Jake Wilson. Say his name; say it every day until he’s been found.”

Nearly every inch of Wolf Creek has been searched in the last 30 days, said Black Hawk County Sheriff Tony Thompson. Yet, he said, all of the good information investigators get still points there.

“We’re continuing to remain open to the possibility that he’s not in the water,” Thompson said. “As hard as we hope for better information, it’s just not there yet.”

Over the past month, searchers have dealt with the full spectrum of Iowa spring weather: two snowstorms, hail and sleet as well as flooding and temperatures up to 80 degrees in recent days. La Porte City Police Chief Chris Brecher said floodwaters receding may mean they’ll be asking for volunteer searchers again in the next week or two.

He also noted operations to find Jake have been straining resources — it cost $10,000 just to clear Wolf Creek — and those who want to donate may call La Porte City Hall to donate to the La Porte City Fire Association to help with costs.

“Events like this kind of help keep things in the forefront,” Brecher said. “There’s still a lot of people here that care, and they’re willing to keep spreading Jake’s name and picture around. ... Lord willing, hopefully we find Jake.”

Speaker and organizer Danielle Gasco spoke to the resilience of those in the community who volunteered their time and money in the past month.

“Life is a gift; the people standing next to you are gifts,” she said. “I encourage you to keep strong, to rise up and be bold. Learn to love life every day.”

And there was one more thing people could do to help, Anthony Gasco told the crowd.

“You plaster his face all over the nation,” he said. “Let’s just bring him home.”

8-over-80 honoree Marv Walston, long-time Waverly booster, has died

WAVERLY – British statesman Winston Churchill once said, “We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Marv Walston lived by that simple creed every day of his adult life.

“I said ‘yes’ to just about anything I thought was uplifting for Waverly and the (Wartburg) college. … When people needed help, I wanted to be there,” he said in an interview that will be published in the July Business Monthly magazine.

Walston, 88, was chosen as one of the Courier’s Eight Over 80 honorees. The retired businessman and Waverly booster died early Monday morning in hospice care at Bartels Lutheran Retirement Community.

Services are being arranged by Kaiser-Corson Funeral Home and will be announced at a later date.

Walston, one of nine siblings, grew up on an Iowa farm and served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War. He graduated from Drake University in Des Moines. He worked as an insurance adjuster in Cedar Rapids before joining the Leslie Young Insurance Agency in Waverly in 1975.

Eventually, the agency was renamed Young-Walston, then Walston-Dandy and later Walston, Davis, Bly. When Walston retired, the firm became First Insurance Services from 2000-2010.

The agency has evolved into the Accel Group, one of the largest Iowa-based insurance companies.

Walston and wife Mary were the parents of two sons, Michael of Kewaunee, Wis., and Dave of Waverly. Mary died in 2011.

The retired businessman received countless accolades through the years, including the Community Service Award in 1994 and the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2002 from the Waverly Chamber of Commerce. He was instrumental in raising funds for Wartburg College’s football stadium, along with his nephew, Gary Hoover, and the stadium is named in their honor. Walston received the Wartburg Medal of Honor in 2008.

Kathy Olson, one of several individuals who nominated Walston for the Courier award, said of her friend: “It is character that manifests itself in everything Marv takes on — spirited, passionate and generous — always lifting others up.”

Waterloo keeps fireworks ban

WATERLOO — A move to lift the city’s fireworks ban failed to launch.

Waterloo City Council members voted 4-3 Monday to maintain the current ban on any consumer fireworks use in the city limits.

Council members Bruce Jacobs, Pat Morrissey, Margaret Klein and Sharon Juon voted to maintain the ban adopted last December.

Councilmen Jerome Amos Jr., Steve Schmitt and Chris Shimp voted in favor of a proposal Amos put forth which would have allowed fireworks to be used from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. each year on the Fourth of July.

Jacobs led the push to keep the fireworks off limits, suggesting they violated the privacy of neighbors, littered the community, increased public safety costs and were unfair to veterans with post traumatic stress disorder and others with health issues related to loud noises.

“This wasn’t anything the city did wrong,” Jacobs said. “This is something the state pushed down onto us so they could make some revenue. We were supposed to pick up the pieces and deal with it, police it, which does cost us a lot of money.”

The Iowa Legislature in 2017 lifted an 80-year ban on the sale and use of consumer fireworks in the state, allowing them to be sold and used from June 1 through July 8 and again from Dec. 10 through Jan. 3. But cities were allowed to set more restrictive use periods.

Waterloo allowed five days of use around the Fourth of July in 2017, but joined neighboring Cedar Falls and many other large Iowa cities in banning the use going forward.

Schmitt said arguments about policing costs “don’t hold water” because people still will shoot off fireworks, which remain legal to buy and sell.

“People are still going to violate the law,” he said. “They always have; they always will.”

Matt Reisetter, co-owner of Crossroads Fireworks, lobbied for more than one day of fireworks use. He cited a recent poll showing a majority of Iowans favor fireworks and said some large cities, including Davenport, Sioux City, Council Bluffs and Ankeny, allow fireworks.

Reisetter noted there were no injuries or fires related to fireworks in Waterloo during the five-day window last year. He suggested police calls would decrease with a longer usage period.

Two residents spoke in opposition to the change, including Myke Goings, a PTSD sufferer, who said professional fireworks displays should be enough for residents and were easier for him and others to schedule their lives around.

Jeri Thornsberry also spoke against lifting the ban.

“All citizens have a right to peace and tranquility in their homes and on their property,” she said. “Those who choose to buy and fire essentially a missile loaded with a variation of gun power … even for one day infringes on those rights.”

Accelerant used in fatal Waterloo fire

WATERLOO – Investigators believe a flammable substance was used in an April 22 house fire that killed a Waterloo woman and her young son.

The blaze at 536 Dawson St. killed Ashley Smith, 32, and 9-year-old Jaykwon Sallis, and sent two others to the hospital for smoke inhalation.

Photos: Dawson St. fire

As part of the investigation, the city fire marshal worked with Radar, the fire department’s K-9, who alerted to at least one location. Authorities collected samples, which were sent to the Iowa Division of Criminal Investigation lab in Ankeny. Waterloo police are also involved in the investigation.

On Monday, fire department officials said tests determined an accelerant was used in the fire.

No arrests have been made in the fire, and the investigation is continuing.

The fire was discovered at about 6:30 a.m. April 22. Residents Willie Phillips, 36, Teryn Netz, 31, and a 12 year old escaped through a second-story window. Firefighters found Smith and Jaykwon in an upstairs bedroom.