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Hello Hillsboro: Emme Stoddard earns 80 candles
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Birthdays really are important and, believe it or not, they also can have an economic impact on small towns like Hillsboro.

More and more folks are sharing their birthday celebrations with local friends and neighbors at places like the Station 2 Pub or, if more space is needed, the Firemen’s Community Center.

Jane and I attended one of these “parties” at Station 2 last Saturday night to help our son-in-law, Jeremy Miller, accept the fact that he has reached the big 40. He had plenty of company to help him adapt to such a devastating fact of life.

Everyone enjoyed the drinks and goodies, and had a good time, especially the firemen every time they heard the register ring! Of course, like all their fund-raisers, any extra cash goes directly to equipment and other department expenses.

The big news, though, is the fact that everyone is invited to another birthday party on Sunday, Feb. 22, this time for Emme Stoddard, who is turning 80, and Jim Shaker, who is looking directly at 86. Nobody will be surprised to learn that the instigator of the party is Emme’s daughter, Robin Haugh, and her husband, Joe, who naturally is a fireman.

Seeing as the celebrated age is doubled that of Jeremy, they are also doubling the space and moving the festivities this Sunday into the Community Center itself.

The excitement and fun begins at noon and continues until 5 p.m. or as long as people are still able to stand up after five hours of polka music supplied by the Little German Band.

No gifts, please.  The best thing you can bring to please Emme and Jim is yourselves and your dancing shoes.

Being somewhat of a local “celebrity,” Emme has loads of friends and each one has a different story to tell...including me.

Back in 1989, Emme became my first friend in Hillsboro, and I’ve never forgotten it. We had rented an apartment above her house where I would stay until Jane and our kids arrived and we found a more permanent home. Then my mother would rent the apartment.

I arrived alone on a weekend late in June, pulling a trailer full of necessities, already homesick, full of “second thoughts”  and scared to death.

Emme was in front of her house and gave me a typical Hillsboro welcome that still lives in the top tier of my memories.

She also called Joe out, and he tossed my mattress over his shoulder and carried it up to the second floor.

I think that was the first time I became totally aware of what a good decision we had made in coming to Hillsboro.

It gets better!

The next morning, Emme showed up at the Sentry-Enterprise office and, as only she could, announced to the staff that she was going to be Jack’s first subscriber …And darned if she didn’t take out her checkbook and, in fact, became my first subscriber.

I can’t think of anything that could make me feel better, and a little more confident, on my first day of fooling people into thinking I knew what I was doing!

In the years to come, I could always count on Emme dealing in only facts while educating me about living in a small town and operating its newspaper.

She also made quite a bit of amusing news herself.

For a while she carried on a “friendly feud” with Gov. Tommy Thompson  over a number of things, but mostly the care of animals in the new age of ultra environmentalism. She attended Thompson’s public forums and committee meetings, always armed with probing questions and personal opinions.

Like most folks around here, she of course balanced her feelings for him between being a neighbor and being a governor. I got the opinion that she considered him a friend outside a meeting room, but definitely a governor inside one.

I also heard that when he entered an environmental meeting he would quickly and quietly scan the room for Emme.

Naturally, it also led to some stinging “letters to the editor.” I thought it was great journalism, she thought it was a lesson in democracy, and I think he thought it was a real pain, but I won’t say where!


Don Haworth called the office to report just how important memories of Hillsboro can be to folks.

He received a phone call from 98-year-old Howard Bass, who reported that he had found one of Don’s old business cards in his home.

Bass had been born and lived in Hillsboro for many years until moving to his present home.  When he found the card with Don’s number on it, he decided to just give him a call and see how things were now in Hillsboro.

Once you live in Hillsboro, part of your heart apparently never leaves!