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UT Band Alumni Honor the Veterans of D-Day


Treasure-hunting “Gypsy” Hits YouTube


Vietnamese Immigrant Reflects on the Beauty of Liberty and Opportunity


Georgetown Filmmaker Brings the Horror, and the Prizes


Fathom Academy Provides Safe Haven for Swift Water Rescuers


Don’t Put Off Taking Care of Pain Because You’re Not “Old Enough”





Private Joel B. Stratton is buried in the Nor-

Making Your Home First Responder-Friendly


Georgetown Eagle Baseball Coach in a Class by Himself

EXPERIENCE GEORGETOWN | 20 Keeping History Alive

mandy American Cemetery in Colleville-serMer, France. He served in the 507th Parachute


Infantry Regiment, assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division. Their D-Day objective was

Tips from Bill Easterly

to help secure the Merderet River crossings. After losing several commanders in the


fighting, his unit was led by Colonel Edson Raff. The 507th later became known as Raff’s

Don’t Even Think of Leaving Me a Message...

Ruffians. The 507th continued to fight in the Battle of Normandy, sustaining heavy casualties, losing almost 200 men in two days


shortly before being withdrawn and returned to England.

Variations on a Summer Classic

Joel was, most likely, one of those 200 men. “What hopes and dreams of Joel’s were lost in the fields of Normandy? Did he recognize that freedom and liberty were in his hands as he walked through the Normandy hedgerows?” ~Judge Betsy Lambeth



Georgetown’s K-9 Companion

Coach Adam Foster: Teaching young people about the game of life.

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PUBLISHER Cathy Payne EDITOR Ann Marie Kennon CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Tracie Jack Greta Bauer CREATIVE Buz21 Media CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Rudy Ximenez David Valdez Reagan Zaragosa Emma Jack PRODUCTION MANAGER Donna Sipion PRE-PRESS Renee Blue MARKETING DIRECTOR Ben Daniel SALES 512-564-0245 512-598-3500 DISTRIBUTION Tom Higgs IT/WEBMASTER Jesse Payne

I am very proud to be the new editor of Georgetown View magazine. When I changed my college major (oh, so long ago), and my tuition-paying parents asked me what I could do with an English degree, I told them my goal was to be a magazine editor. Finally, they are getting their money’s worth! Beginning with this July issue, I hope to deliver, whether printed on glossy stock in a mailbox, or appearing on tablets and computers, beautiful and meaningful packages of ideas, people, and stories for a discerning Georgetown audience. Magazines are about trust and partnership, so we will strive always to keep you engaged; and we hope the readers and patrons who have enjoyed this publication for the past ten years will stay with us... and expect more. I want to thank Bill and Jill Skinner and their colleagues for building a strong foundation and setting the standard for what you, the reader, would like to know about the greatest city on planet Earth. Our staff is pleased and poised to combine our resources with over three decades of experience in media to give it to you. We have every intention of keeping that hometown feel, bearing in mind that our hometown is expanding. The growth that continues in our city— from new arrivals in Sun City to families in Teravista—brings a diversity and richness of its own, and provides an incomparable blend with those who have lived here for many generations. Having been a writer in and around Georgetown for the past six years, I’ve learned a lot about that richness and have always loved being able to say, “Hey, I know who you need to call…,” which I think will serve me well in finding stories that are inviting and satisfying. In the coming months we will add to your favorite pages, ask local experts about things you’d like to know, share life-hacks that will inform and entertain, and highlight things to do in a day or places that are worth the drive. This month you’ll meet Poppy Talks (Pg. 50), who shares observations and commentary on life with a healthy dose of satire. I am excited for what is to come; the Georgetown View staff hopes you are too.

Georgetown View is an Optimus Media Group, LLC publication. Copyright © 2019. All rights reserved. Georgetown View is published monthly and individually mailed, free of charge, to more than 41,000 homes and businesses in the Georgetown zip codes. Mail may be sent to View Magazine, P.O. Box 2281, Georgetown, TX 78627. For advertising rates or editorial correspondence visit

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panorama WELL-BEING

Knee Replacement: Don’t Put Off Adding Life to Your Years O ur patient, “Tim” has always been a runner. At 6’4” and

about 240 lbs, he was still able to run a marathon at 43 years old. But when his knee started bothering him around age 48, he found himself winding down. “I realize a body doesn’t always feel like it did when it was 20, but, over time, just getting out of bed was horrible. It was miserable to be reduced to shuffling around in Crocs, and I realized it wasn’t going to get any better if I left it alone.” As a newlywed at 50, he also couldn’t see missing out on all the travel and adventures he and his wife had planned together. Despite everyone telling him that it was an old person’s surgery, Tim had his knee replaced at the ripe old age of 54. “Surgery can be scary, but I thought it was unreasonable to suffer in pain for years when I didn’t really have to. I didn’t want to be afraid I would fall or trip over something and I didn’t want my wife to have to take care of me.” After doing his homework, and finding some good reviews, he met with Dr. Christopher English at Georgetown Orthopedics. “Dr. English agreed that people my age don’t typically get this done, but it does happen, and since I wanted to remain active, there was no reason to postpone it. My new knee would last longer and be stronger than my original one, so now I can even ski without the worry of breaking a natural bone.” Tim had the surgery, was out of the hospital the next day, and, like any good athlete, pushed through his rehab for the first goal of going to South Africa. “I didn’t want to go on a

safari and not be able to get out of the truck. I don’t regret making the decision one bit.” He describes his surgical experience as positive and upbeat, even when his healthcare providers pushed him in recovery. “It was a lot different than the stories I’ve heard. Perhaps because of my resolve as a younger patient, I was excited about therapy and pumped to get back to normal.” Tim says he doesn’t feel any different these days and even goes to a Crossfit gym three times a week. “The only time I even think about my knee is when I do kneeling exercises, and I don’t do jumping, but there’s plenty else to do!”

THE RESULTS Tim’s South Africa trip was filled with walking, hiking, and a beach full of penguins. “We went on four safaris and I felt for others in my age group whom I noticed had less mobility than I. Some of them weren’t able to see all the sights. I saw elephants and lions and walked all the way around Victoria Falls.” But, he says, you don’t have to see the world to appreciate a pain-free life. “I also enjoy playing and running around with my grandchildren.” His takeaway: “You don’t need to wait until you’re 65 or 70 to get a new knee or shoulder or hip. When I’m 70, that’s not the time I’ll be traveling the world. Now is when I want my knee healthy and working. So when looking back someday, I can say, ‘I did that’. I say, just do it!” 

FYI: Dr. Christopher English is an orthopedic surgeon with Georgetown Orthopedics. He practices at St. David’s Georgetown Hospital.



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panorama HOME & GARDEN

Making your Home First Responder-Friendly

R elief washes over you when you hear the sirens and

see the lights. Here are some things you can do today to make first responders’ jobs easier—help them reach you, provide help, and get you out of the house safely.

ONLINE Our fire department recommends creating an account at and enable “share with 9-1-1 operators.” With this free service, you can add a profile and as much or little detail about your household, medical background and family members. If you don’t have a computer, someone else can create your profile and add their own name as your “assistant”. Your profile will help law enforcement recognize what or who should be in your home and what might be out of place. Data regarding your medical history or special needs will help EMS better prepare to respond. The fire department will know how many people and animals they need to look for in the smoke, or if there is a gate or neighborhood code to avoid delays in access. You can also add garage door codes or notes like spare key is under the frog so dispatch can inform police or EMS performing a welfare check and enable them to enter a residence politely if no one answers the door.

It’s up to the homeowner to decide what to include, but providers recommend including only the most pertinent information. Remember, a first responder is likely to be speed-reading the information for the first time on the way to your home to address an emergency. Keep it clear and brief. Anything that will make a positive difference in the way first responders interact at your home or with your loved one is a good idea: de-escalation techniques, sensory sensitivities, tendency toward aggression, processing speed, if an individual is non-verbal, typical hiding places, etc. There is even a checkbox to indicate if a person is susceptible to domestic abuse, which may trigger an automatic law enforcement response for good measure. Family members can be flagged in the system, so if there is an emergency at school or work, first responders will receive the same information they would if they were coming to your home. It’s also important to consider how your home environment may be unique. Extra or unusual locks on doors or windows may affect how first responders enter your home, for example. The presence of a service animal would also be important to note.



COMMUNICATION Kelly Cruz, Communications Manager at Georgetown PD adds, “Many people have moved to cell phones only, but it is a good idea to maintain a landline in the home. Children or elderly family members can dial 9-1-1 and leave the house, or hide in silence—an open landline will let us know the exact location of the emergency.” The “Ring” doorbell ( has a motion-detection camera and may help police identify people stealing packages or trying to make entry to a residence. Homeowners can call 9-1-1 from anywhere when they get an alert on a smart device.

OLD SCHOOL Georgetown Fire Department Lt. Jonathan Gilliam says, “Even if you don’t sign up on Smart911, it helps us if you have a written medical history available, and a list of the medications you take. Often we find a pill box or a basket of bottles, but we can never be sure of the exact medication or if a patient might be taking additional, or not all of, their prescriptions.” Even without an online profile, citizens can always have their address flagged with police, fire or EMS. Experts say it may take persistence, but if you have a family member with a particular need; e.g., deaf, memory care, epileptic, you can make sure responders are aware of the circumstances ahead of time.

Gilliam also recommends, for EMS response, to put pets outside or in another room to avoid distractions or even aggressive behavior if an animal becomes anxious about strange activity around its human. He also says, while it may be an awkward topic, clutter or hoarding can be problematic for rescuers. “People need to make sure we have clear access to a patient and a path to remove them safely from the home. A home with a lot of clutter creates a hazard for a gurney and, worse, in a fire, it is more things we can become entangled in or that will burn and fall on us.” For the home, Cruz adds, “We’ve long suggested people keep shrubs trimmed to have clear views out of windows. You want to see who is knocking and also to be aware of your surroundings.” She also says citizens should not be afraid to make a call or be concerned with making a fuss. “It is our job to check things out so it helps us to know if you consider something suspicious—call us. You never know if others have already called about the same thing and a police presence is warranted. Get a good look, write down a license plate number; it’s better to call us than to worry about it alone.” 

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panorama PEOPLE

Eagles’ Adam Foster: In a Class by Himself

I t’s no secret that GHS baseball

coach Adam Foster is a great teacher. The 2019 Eagles were state runner-ups and MaxPreps ranked them #22 in the nation. Our hometown boys have been winning trophies and flirting with the state championship title every year since Foster started in 2012; he was even Central Texas Coach of the Year in 2015. But what the rest of Georgetown may not know, what thousands of fans in royal blue and #EFND loyalists know, is just how big this particular coach’s heart really is. Not just for the sport, but for the young people entrusted to his instruction and care. 16

Sadly... well, only sad for Georgetown, Coach Foster’s talent will now be shared at the collegiate level. Having accepted a position at Angelo State, players, former players and families in town are pouring out their thanks online and reminiscing about his time with the Eagles. Among them are the families and friends of the Exceptional Georgetown Alliance (EGA), who have been overwhelmed, some even to tears, watching their own children learn and play baseball with Foster and his players, because some of them may never be able to play any sports at all.


Former Eagle Alex Cornman has been playing baseball since age four and says, “Coach Foster really cares about these kids; we all do. We are privileged to have a facility as great as ours and we are happy to share it with the next generation of players.” Coach Foster was an adaptive physical education teacher earlier in his career and worked with special kids for years, so it was a natural thing for him to pass along to his players.


CHALLENGER BASEBALL Despite the gruelling schedule, late night games, road trips or double headers...for a few weeks every Spring, Foster had all three Eagle teams come out to the field at 9am Saturday mornings to mentor and coach the next generation. EGA provides opportunities for special needs children to learn about and participate in sports year-round; basketball, baseball and swimming. Coach Foster believes in the program, and his players faithfully support and encourage their younger friends because they, and Foster, agree and understand how lucky any person is to be able to play America’s game. The EGA has been managing adaptive sports for special needs children, kids with neurological or physical challenges, since 2008. The “Chal-

lengers” baseball team is outfitted with t-shirts and hats donated by local companies. Once suited up, the coaches and Varsity players adopt younger team members and guide—or literally carry—them through a joy-filled hour of playing catch, running and hitting, and the occasional piggy-back ride. Foster believes this is a wonderful opportunity for the Varsity to become mentors, but that’s not all. His JV and Freshmen players are also in the stands in the early morning as raving and enthusiastic cheerleaders for every (guaranteed) home run. EGA Founder Dede Harper said, “It’s great to see the younger kids light up around the big kids. Some of these older players have grown up playing for Coach Foster, so it’s wonderful to see them out here passing it on.”

All along, Coach Foster has been teaching good boys to be good men. “Baseball is really a game about failure. If you get up ten times and fail seven times, you’re a .300 hitter and a star. Having the perspective that when you strike out, there are those who would give anything just to play the game, you get up and try again.” Even in the last games of his seasons, when things didn’t go Georgetown’s way, up close, his players still seemed to be eight feet tall. They drilled almost effortlessly, sprinted on and off the field in the seventh inning with the same energy they had in the first. They carried gloves and equipment for each other. None hung his head or threw a helmet, or showed even the slightest bit of upset. At game’s end, they never failed to come out of the dugout to show their appreciation to the fans who came to support them. Coaching baseball... lessons for life. Godspeed, Coach Foster... you will be missed and you’ll always be an Eagle to us!  J U LY 2 0 1 9  G E O R G E TO W N VI EW



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History at the County Seat T he Williamson Museum, in the heart

of the downtown Square, is as much a Georgetown visitors’ attraction as it is a repository of our county history and an opportunity for lovers of history to be a part of it all. Mickie Ross is a prime example. In 2005, this former school teacher began setting up education programs, and in 2007 was hired to be the Education Program Coordinator. This month she is celebrating her ninth year as the Executive Director. “This job was never specifically part of my plan,” she says, “but I always dreamed of telling the stories, and I’m so pleased I get to help guide and promote the rich history of Williamson County.” Ross and her staff work diligently to create and prepare something new on a regular basis for all ages and interests. Just this year, they have covered the founding of Williamson County to World War II, as well as traveling exhibits; KKK Trials, Swedish immigration in Texas, and more. “I couldn’t get anything done without Ann Evans, who builds our exhibits and Danelle Houck, who leads our education efforts.” While always inspired and interesting, she says there are some misconceptions about a hometown museum. With so many legacy families in Williamson and Georgetown, Ross receives visitors on a regular basis who ask about their personal roots in town. “We are donation driven so, quite the opposite, we find ourselves asking those legacy folks what they can give to us that we can share with others. The stories we tell are the stories we are told.” Without an Indiana Jones-esque warehouse in the basement, Ross and her staff make good use of official records and databases, historical books, loans from other museums, and stories they can identify from people with whom they come in contact, intentionally or otherwise. 20


It appears, however, to be a labor of love. “Every staff person here now started as volunteer or intern,” Ross says. “They got involved and as positions came open they were the perfect fit. We are always open to new volunteers and interns, and you don’t need any special skills. If you like people, you can be a docent or a living history character. If you aren’t the outgoing type, there are always opportunities to work with our things; cataloguing our 18,000-plus artifacts and the like.” Outside the museum, our history has been shared with 23,000 students just this year. Houck manages 17 cross-curricular Traveling Trunks that teach about everything from cowboys to endangered species. These interactive presentations are for all grade levels and are booked over and over each year. Sometimes the trunks are double and triple booked at the schools, so Mickie gets to get back to her education roots and do the presentations herself. “It’s a great way to make history come to life.”

KEEPING HISTORY ALIVE Mickie and her staff are always on the lookout for volunteers and supporters. “There are so many things people can do and if they don’t have the time, we welcome new members whose contributions can keep our programs alive.” The Museum receives only a portion of its budget from government sources, and most of their programming is free to the public, so they work hard to demonstrate the value and benefits of contributing. “We live in a very giving community and we hope that promoting the legacy of the amazing people who settled our county and laid the foundations for this great city, will inspire new generations to keep it all going.” Supporting the Williamson Museum is as easy as purchasing a ticket to the

Cattleman’s Ball, an annual who’s who event in Georgetown that helps fund their programs. This year the Cattleman’s Ball will be held on October 17, and the museum is honoring Sport Clips owner Gordon Logan, to thank him for all he has brought to our community, and all the ways he and his company give back. 

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Reflections from Omaha Beach

Playing Tribute to the Heroes of Normandy

Local Alumni at the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Landing O n June 6, 1944, Allied Forces commenced the largest

seaborne invasion in history. Code-named Operation Neptune, and referred to as D-Day, more than 300,000 combined personnel began the liberation of German-occupied France and laid the foundations of an Allied victory on the Western Front. Last month, 75 years later, more than 500 active members, alumni, and family of the University of Texas Longhorn Band traveled to Normandy and Brittany to celebrate that victory and honor the 4,414 heroes who gave their lives for it. Among them were local alumni Eric Stratton, Betsy Lambeth and Brad Curlee. Stratton says the LHAB takes a big trip every few years to showcase the UT alumni association and the band. “We are people from all over the country and the world enjoying the trip of a lifetime.” And, while the band has already received broad media coverage, we asked our own local musicians about emotional moments and observations on their historic visit.

by Ann Marie Kennon  Adaptations from Judge Betsy Lambeth. Photos courtesy of Judge Lambeth, Brad Curlee and Jennifer Stratton. 22


Eric Stratton (93-95) and Judge Betsy Lambeth (82) photo courtesy Jennifer Stratton

CULTIVATING A PERSPECTIVE Betsy Lambeth graduated UT in 1982 and is now Judge Lambeth in Texas’ 425 th District Court. She says the trip was moving and unforgettable; something she and [husband] Brad took very seriously. “We read several books, watched The Longest Day, Band of Brothers and Churchill; and took a trip to the D-day museum in New Orleans. “We traveled a few days ahead of the band to visit Dachau—again in preparation. At the D-day museum one of the soldiers who liberated Dachau was quoted, as he trudged through France and Germany—he couldn’t figure out why he was in Europe. When he saw the prisoners at Dachau, who looked like beaten-down animals and couldn’t meet his eyes, he realized, ‘This is why I came.’” After the concert at the Normandy American Cemetery, band members placed small Texas flags on the graves of Texans who lost their lives in the Battle of Normandy. Judge Lambeth prayed over Texas Infantryman Private Joel B. Stratton and said, “I hope, in heaven, Joel gets the message that 75 years later this Texan travelled halfway around the world to Normandy, spoke his name, and said ‘thank you’.” She recalled, “In June 1944, when Joel wrote a letter to his parents, as instructed by the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, did he sense it was his last? Did he write to a sweetheart? How his heart must have been pounding as he jumped from the plane into what was supposed to be Drop Zone T. In the chaos of the low clouds and flak his unit was scattered. I wonder how he found his unit. In those dark nights behind enemy territory. Did he think of home, his mother? “Time reveals the magnitude of our choices. At 20, Joel chose travel to foreign soil not to conquer but to liberate. His choice changed your life, my life, and his life.”

YOUTH TRIBUTES The LHAB was joined by nine high school bands from around the country. Among them was the marching band from Herndon High School in Northern Virginia. The school is named for its town, but it was not lost on the students that one of the destroyers that participated in D-Day was the USS Herndon. Each student adopted a crewmember from the Herndon and learned all about that person’s life and service. Band members adorned their sleeves with photos of their adoptees (top right), including one of the surviving veterans who was present at the ceremony. When he asked if he and his family could take a photo with his Herndon student, the young man, standing 6’2” at 18 years old, wept openly, as did many who were watching. Judge Lambeth shared, “The Herndon students took it very seriously. At the Normandy American Cemetery, three students spoke and were amazing. One was a great grandson of a Dachau prisoner. Another began her speech with the French phrase ‘Les sanglots longs, Des violons De l’automne’ which translates to ‘When a sighing begins / In the violins / Of the autumn-song’; the code words alerting the French resistance that the invasion was imminent. She continued her speech and spoke of the sighing of our world with the loss of this generation of veterans and their violins.”

FAMILY TIES Jennifer Stratton, Eric’s wife, while not a band member, says it was a deeply personal trip for them both. “I called my dad from the beach to tell him I was standing where [my] Grandpa Jack landed. Eric’s mother was a history teacher and it was about everything she had taught us and our own children. All of our family’s stories converged in one emotional trip.” Before leaving, Jennifer gathered sand from Omaha Beach to bring home to her father to be spread over his own father’s grave in Chicago.

LONGHORN ALUMNI Stratton credits Bob Phillips, founder of The Feast, for reaching out to the alumni who played, spent many hours aboard tour buses, and enjoyed “typical vacation moments of awkwardness and joy. It was a bit of insanity but we all shared a wonderful bond because we were doing an incredibly profound thing. We loved being able to see this piece of history through young eyes, we made new friends from among the band members but also got to speak with veterans who had inimitable experiences and who may not be with us in five years.” The LHAB has taken several such trips to represent the school and the alumni association, including a visit to London in 2016 for a New Year’s Eve celebration. The band performed at the American Cemetery in Brittany and Omaha Beach, Sainte-Mère-Église, and in Paris at a public park.

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The alumni band marched in a local parade at the small hamlet of Sainte-Mère-Église. Some buildings in town were on fire on June 6, 1944, which illuminated the sky, making easy targets of descending Allied paratroopers. Some were sucked into the fire; many were shot by the Germans as they hung from trees or utility poles before they could cut loose. Paratrooper John Steele of the 505 th Parachute Infantry Regiment, got hung up on the spire of the town church. He hung there for two hours, pretending to be dead, before the Germans took him prisoner. Steele later escaped from the Germans and rejoined his division when US troops of the 3rd Battalion attacked the village. A parachute still hangs from the steeple in his honor. (photo above) Despite what we hear in popular culture, it would seem at least some French citizens do love, and will never forget, what America did for their country. From Judge Lambeth: “More than 200,000 people attended this parade and they loved it! They were on the streets and in the upstairs of their houses waving and singing. I saw one woman on the parade route... probably in her early 40s. She had tears streaming down her face. I looked at her and motioned ‘Why the tears? ’ In broken English, she said, ‘Liberty. You cannot know what Americans mean to us.’”


From Judge Lambeth... All of our locals agree it was memorable to see history through high school students’ eyes and enjoy the wonder they felt on, for some, their first trip to another country. It was also significant for the young people to see alumni re-living the joys of their school days and still enjoying the music and the fellowship of band friends after being out of school for years or even decades. Jennifer added; “There were so many unique moments to demonstrate the paths that these students might take. They got to see a district judge playing her clarinet in France. They got to know my husband, Eric, who is a nurse and helping me and our children be successful in life.”

THE EYES—AND THE PEOPLE—OF TEXAS We hear a lot about how the people of the world feel about America. But our Georgetown friends were touched by how many people made an effort to speak English simply so they could ask about Texas. They even flashed the two-finger Longhorn salute and expressed their excitement that Americans had come to town. “I never felt any of the animosity that seems to be famous in the media sometimes,” Stratton said. “It may have been just that one week, but for that one week we all came together to remember and celebrate our collective history.” 


We’ll turn out the lights as we leave. But first, as I prepare myself to leave these beautiful lands, I think on what brought us all here. There is no more noble deed than to lay down one’s life for another. I continue to be astounded at the willingness of our boys to travel to unknown lands and liberate. Not conquer. But liberate.... not family....not friends, but perfect strangers. Our boys walked onto another’s homeland. They died, were maimed, and forever changed as they wrestled homelands away from evil to simply hand it back to the rightful owners. Our fallen soldiers all over Europe are the reason we still enjoy the freedom and liberty to travel and see the fruits of their labor. Thanks just seem woefully inadequate. For that generation... it’s probably all they’d want. So, as we leave, we ll also leave a final thank you to the men and women of D-Day.

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by Ann Marie Kennon


photos courtesy of Zero Discrimination

hile Zero Discrimination may sound like the latest new social justice group, it is actually a conflict-free and fascinating YouTube channel that is all about treasure hunting. Michelle “Gypsy” is a local, creative new celebrity who produces and is featured on this channel. She is a hobbyist turned Internet star who uses metal detectors to locate metal on top of and under the ground. “We are not quite treasure hunters, but I do believe we are amateur archaeologists in a sense.” Zero discrimination is the term used when a metal detector is set to alert the user to any kind of metal; i.e., the signals do not rule out any type of metal in range so the hunter or “detectorist” doesn’t miss anything. Michelle says, “The hobby is kind of a misnomer; we use metal detectors, but we are actually metal finders. Nearly everything I dig up is something of historical value, which is why it is there. To me, it is treasure whether it’s an old gold coin, flat button, or a lost watch.” Michelle puts her skills to use in many ways and activities. Most detectorists spend a lifetime hoping to find that lost gold galleon, but she has boxes and trays full of jewelry, coins, and ammunition; some she found on her own property when she took up the hobby. Her friends have even found meteorites and fossils, and other bits and pieces of life gone by. “It started out as an interest and a curiosity, and when I found a turquoise ring near my own driveway I was hooked. On my first trip to the beach, I found jewelry and a handful of coins. Now I find remnants of the past and it’s a thrill.” As a child, she enjoyed spending time with her father, whom she says was a ‘mad scientist.’ He spent time looking for gadgets and parts in junkyards to build new things at home. She learned early on to look down and scan wherever she walked. “I was never really into history before,” she says, “but I find toys, coins, dish-

es and other pieces of the puzzle of a lifestyle that connects a particular place to its own past. It is great to find commonalities with regular people who just happened to live before.” Michelle’s hobby takes on many forms. She goes on personal hunts in public lands, or secures permission to walk on private property; always with an agreement regarding her finds. She is often hired, or simply asked to look over a property for curious landowners, or for specific items that have been lost and, over time, she has developed a sense of just where to look. She also hunts playgrounds for lost items or even to pick up things left behind that kids shouldn’t pick up at all. “When I am at the beach there is a point near the water I know I am most likely to find lost rings and watches. People forget cold water makes their hands and fingers shrink. On land, I have learned, over time, how to recognize an old home site and where to look for items. Depression-era folks were known to bury money, so coin jars are not uncommon.” She also participates in organized hunts; events during which the lands are “seeded” with buttons, bullets, coins and more, and the detectorists spend a weekend digging in the dirt together. She is proud of the detectorist code to leave a place better and cleaner. “If you are good at it, you should not leave a place unrecognizable. We respect the land and the people who lived there before and now. And I’m just as excited to dig up an old horseshoe as silver coins, so I’m almost never disappointed on a site.” Our local Gypsy has created a great brand in this unique space. She is now sponsored by Garrett metal detectors, is a re-seller of metal detectors at, and is hoping to be invited to hunt the historical places in Georgetown and Williamson County. Meanwhile, you can catch her latest episode on YouTube at “Zero Discrimination”. 

I T I S A H O B BY T H AT G I V E S B AC K . I ’ M O U T I N T H E F R E S H A I R G E T T I N G E X E R C I S E , A N D I T ’S A T H R I L L A N Y T I M E I F I N D S O M E T H I N G N E W.








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g n i v o nd l


Living the American DREAM

Vietnamese “boat people” circa 1979. Photo in Public Domain, Courtesy US Navy 34


Christine and Richard with Carolyn Neuwirth. Carolyn has been a happy and loyal customer for seven years.

by Cathy Payne

family photos courtesy of Richard Le

G eorgetown nail salon owner Richard Le is well-known

among his clients for his quick wit, self-deprecating humor, and entertaining stories. Most anyone who has had the opportunity to sit across the manicure table from him has probably heard references to his life in Vietnam peppered between the humorous quips and vignettes, and he seems to remember the date he arrived in America as well as most people know their own birthday; September 27, 1982. In its entirety, the extraordinary story that chronicles his escape from Communist-ruled Vietnam in 1981 reads like a plo-

Richard (right), Christine (center) with family in Vietnam.

tline from an Indiana Jones movie. Le and his wife Christine spent nine months defying death on the open sea; pirates, starvation, dehydration, a jungle and sharks. But for the Les, the pursuit wasn’t about a holy relic; it was for freedom and opportunity. Having been born in the middle of the Vietnam War, Le remembers living under Communist rule for seven years. His opinion of the government was simply this; “My whole family was in the military and I don’t believe or trust Communists.” Knowing that a failed attempt to flee the country would lead to imprisonment, punishment and possible death, Richard says escape plans were never overtly discussed. The best plans were those of opportunity, and Richard’s came one afternoon when his father surreptitiously gave him $20, a watch, a ring, and told him that there were laminated pieces of paper with a U.S. address on them sewn into the hems of his clothing. He and Christine were to leave immediately and quietly lest they draw the attention of the police. Without any forewarning, a plan, or even an idea of where they were headed, the Les and 26 others set off in a boat “the size of a minivan” for the journey across the ocean. Between them they had fewer than two dozen rice cakes wrapped in banana leaves, a bag of lemons, and five containers of water. After two days on the ocean, the boat’s engine died and they began drifting. They had no light source, or any way to control where they were headed. Off the coast of Thailand the boat was boarded by pirates. Le gave them his watch and ring in exchange for two J U LY 2 0 1 9  G E O R G E TO W N VI EW


cans of water and a few bowls of rice, which, once empty, became lifesaving devices to bail water out of the leaking boat. After surviving a harrowing and unplanned layover in the jungles of ominously named “Shark Island,” the beleaguered mariners were eventually rescued by a United Nations ship and were taken immediately to the hospital to recover from dehydration and malnutrition. Only 16 of the original 28 from the “minivan” boat survived the trip. With the offer of asylum in the United States, Richard and Christine made their way around the globe by way of Kuala Lumpur, the Philippines and Tokyo before landing in San Francisco with a single pair of tennis shoes, underwear, jeans, and a shirt. It was September 27, 1982. Richard spent his first years in America learning the language, the culture, and making the most of his hard-earned opportunity and new-found freedom. After finally settling in Wichita, Kansas, he went to school to learn English, worked in a gas station, restaurant, and in the garment district. He went to beauty school, dental tech school, and the Gemology Institute of America. The Les’ first daughter was born that year, and he says he used all his money for diapers and formula. While adjusting to a new baby, a new language, and a new culture, Richard recounts that he and Christine inadvertently ate canned animal food for a year without realizing it. “I cooked it and put it on sandwiches. It tasted good and it didn’t kill me.” In spite of, or perhaps because of his journey here, he says, “Everything that happened feels like God put us here. The good side was too strong for the bad side.” Le also believes in the American dream; “[It] always comes true. That is why there are so many [people from] third world countries coming here. But freedom does not



come easy. You’ve got to fight for it. This country has specific and clear laws. If government doesn’t have laws, there are going to be riots. Even in your house there are laws to follow. “If you pay taxes here, they tell you where your money is going; they fix the roads and they take care of children. There is no such thing as a free lunch or student loans in Vietnam.” Le knows he made the right decision to leave his home and family, and he is confident he knows why so many people come here; “The government protects us. Sometimes people say nasty stuff about America, but everyone still wants to come here.” 

Richard and Christine moved to Georgetown in 2004 after visiting friends in Texas and falling in love with the area. Le owns and operates Nails Spa and Threading at 3010 Williams Drive.

Richard on the beach in Vietnam

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Georgetown Filmmaker Achieving a Lifelong Dream


ghtmar i n s u g n i v i g (by

J.J. Perez has been watching scary movies since he was a

little boy, and, earlier this year, released his very own horror film; written, filmed, and premiered right here in Georgetown. He is completely self-taught and, while he started the day as a gifted writer, he is happy to be learning all the skills of the movie craft as he moves forward in his career. Perez has been making short films since high school and says, “In 2018, I went to see a new film by my favorite indie director and I got to talk to him. It was super inspirational to have a mentor tell me to never give up. A week later I just sat down and wrote the story. We filmed for 23 nights last March, and we were thrilled to have a screening at the Georgetown Film Festival so everyone in Georgetown could enjoy a story created in our own backyard.” Since then, Perez has continued to promote his film, Beneath. He’s been featured in more than a dozen movie festivals in and outside Texas, received 12 nominations among them, and awards for Best Music, Best Horror Film, and Best Actress (beating out Vivica A. Fox!). “The reaction and the touring is more than I ever imagined,” Perez says. “I love promoting my movie, but also seeing others’ works and talking to people I’d like to emulate, seeing audiences being scared and laughing... all of it.”

The movie setting is our very own Inner Space Caverns in Georgetown. Perez is a popular employee and tour guide there, and if you have visited the caverns, you may recognize most of his cast are employees and tour guides. “My cast really nailed it, even the dramatic scenes, because they are natural performers.” Perez says filming in the caves wasn’t scary, although the cast and crew occasionally thought they heard something, but people love to be scared and that was kind of the point. “Working and filming here was a great marriage. The employees already have great respect for the caves, so the management had a lot of trust with us.” Perez says the cast and crew all enjoyed filming, although it wasn’t without challenges and they all learned the hard way. “We had cast members running in near dark. And then there’s me, a camera, light and sound, all running backwards in tandem with a 50-pound battery to capture the action.” Sweaty actors, bumps and cuts... the works. Perez also helped create and modify sound effects himself... cutting wet, sliced bread sounds a lot like a knife cutting a finger.



The story begins with a group of cultists who performed rituals in an underground cavern in the 1960s to summon a demonic force. Years after the cult events, tour guides find out about the curse and decide to have a look for themselves. True to the genre, bloody frights ensue. But to give full credit, the movie includes plenty of terror; i.e., the fear of what is about to happen, horror; the squirmy reaction you have after it happens, and plenty of comic relief throughout. He does emphasize the movie is really for 17-plus audiences (bloody scenes and language), but is just for fun. “There is just one demon that stays in the cave and only awakens for 21 days every ten years unless summoned. There is no back story at all; it is not a real name or based on any mythical characters or historical events. I even made up the language in the ritual scene. I just like scary movies.” Perez is the writer, director, and producer, and, after getting great audience feedback, not to mention the fistful of awards, he is already writing the sequel and planning another festival tour.


“Festivals are how indie films get noticed, and I never would have thought it would be like this; more fun than I ever imagined,” Perez says. More than anything, he is able to do what he loves and flex his creative muscle in a way that brings him joy. And, like many who have jobs to pay the bills, the best thing about his first success is that, okay, he’s not living high in Hollywood, but when you ask him what he does, he can say, “I am a filmmaker.” Fans and potential fans can see the official trailer on Facebook and Instagram (BeneathCaveFilm), and he hopes to have the full feature on Amazon Prime soon. If you want the full ambiance, he is working on a special Halloween showing at the Palace Theater on the Square. You can even be part of this cinematic success and help share Beneath with more audiences. Help J.J. make his (nonscary) dreams come true and get his film across the country at 

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FATHOM ACADEMY Training Heroes in Georgetown

J ust outside historic Georgetown is a

nondescript building that is home to something so tremendous and, literally, one-of-a-kind, Georgetownians should be saving space on Facebook to brag about it. In that building is Fathom Academy, founded and run by Charles Barton Bollfrass. This trailblazing facility provides indoor swift-water rescue training, year round, for law enforce-



ment and emergency management, as well as a set for Hollywood movies. As a former Navy EOD diver, Barton is an expert on "worst possible scenarios" and the dangers they pose to professionals. The mission of Fathom Academy is to prepare rescue teams for what to expect in a flood and, ultimately, reduce the 31 percent swift water rescuer fatality rate nationwide. "We have federal, state, movie producers and other municipalities looking

for a safer and cleaner way to train in the water. We can create a real-world flood environment that is safe, clean and repeatable, so teams can train to fail." Barton explains; training to fail allows a specialist to test and fail without causing harm. Knowing 99 ways that don't work is as important as knowing one that will.

fathom academy “ W H E N WAT E R I S AT F LO O D S TAG E — T H AT I S N OT T H E T I M E TO G O O U T A N D S E I Z E T H E O P P O R T U N I T Y A N D T R A I N . D E B R I S A N D U N P R E D I C TA B L E CO N D I T I O N S M A K E I T TO O D A N G E R O U S .” ~ B R I A N W E AT H E R F O R D, PA R A M E D I C , M A J O R • N O R M A N , O K F I R E D E PA R T M E N T



The value of his indoor facility includes pumps that can simulate three-knot water speed with white caps, but will not sweep a rescuer 'downstream' further than the end of the pool. Chlorinated water means no rainwater—which, in nature, contains flesh-eating bacteria, so even a scratch underwater runs the risk of serious infection. Barton says two rescuers die each year, nationally, from a water-borne infection. His tanks are also heated to allow teams to train longer and focus on maneuvers. Not only do his pumps provide the "swift" water, the room also has wind fans, thunder, sirens, and a spotlight to simulate a helicopter hovering overhead, which can be blinding. He can place objects in the pool to simulate uneven underwater terrain, and accustom rescuers to expecting the unexpected. "If you've only trained in a lake on a sunny day (because it's difficult and dangerous to do otherwise) being asked, then, to execute maneuvers in a raging river, during a night-time storm, with trees and debris coming at you underwater, choppers flying, and a victim clawing at you in a panic... is like being pushed off a building and being asked to fly, but make a cake, and talk on the phone while you're doing it."

His curriculum, developed in collaboration with Dr. Anita Greenberg, has been proven in the field, and in May 2017 they received the best possible review of the course, which Barton says made it all worthwhile. A Director in Georgia reported that for the first time in a flood situation, his entire team came home safely, thanks to Fathom training. Fathom buys automobiles from Facebook or CraigsList, drains them completely to prevent water contamination, and allows teams to tear them up. During the interview, he was supervising a proprietary team using Jaws of Life ® to remove mannequins from vehicles nearly submerged. The biggest challenge Barton faces is getting the word out to the people he believes need this training most. "First responders tend to only listen to each other, so when today's team pushes out their video and photos, they will be helping us get the word out that we are here. We are safe, controlled, and allow people to be in the moment, mentally, so they can acquire automaticity in a crisis. We can't trust the weather in Texas to give us just enough rain at the right time to practice often enough in a tiny little window of time."

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fathom academy FIRST (& ONLY) OF ITS KIND Fathom is the only indoor swift water facility in the world and, to date, they have trained people from Hawaii to Georgia, including the FBI. Courses can be completed in a day, and at the end of the day, they put in a new car, reset the tank, and no matter the weather outside, they can jump "back to 1". You see, Barton also spent ten years as a movie producer; he even won an award at the SXSW festival in 2008; so while he knows a lot about the reality and dangers associated with underwater operations, as a movie-maker, he knows how to re-create it perfectly for the sake and safety of others. And before you start to think this amazing facility doesn't mean much to an average citizen, he is considering, in the future, having open house days during which civilian groups or individuals can get in the car and experience the sensation of being in a flood. Even a few moments of recognition or familiarity, in a panic situation, could be enough to save your own life. 

Before Barton began training lifesavers to save their own lives, he founded successful businesses in film & television, 3D-printing, product development, data analytics for virtual-reality, STEM education, and most recently, commercial astronaut training at Opifex Global, also in Georgetown. When he wasn’t performing as an EOD diver for the Navy, he was a Dolphin/Sea Lion Trainer, having earned four Letters of Commendation. His teams received 1st Place at SXSW in Film (2008) and Education (2016), and he was awarded the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Broadcasting (1986). He holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Screenwriting and an Associate of Science Degree in Mechanical Design. 44


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Cure That Slice

BY BILL EASTERLY With 30 years experience in golfing, Bill Easterly has spent 17 years as a pro player from the United States to Australia, winning the Gulf Coast Invitational twice and three times on the Senior Circuit. Bill has spent ten years helping others enjoy the sport. Here, he gives you priceless tips—free, every month—to improve your game.

I f you have tried everything you can think of to correct your ball flight and stop slicing, here are a few things you may want to check:

 Take a look at your grip and make sure you are not squeezing the club too tightly with your hands.  Make sure you are not actually re-gripping the club as you start your downswing. Maintain a soft grip, from address all the way through the finish of your swing, with no change in grip pressure.  Do not let your upper body start the downswing. Always start the downswing from the ground up and remember to complete your follow-through. Do not stop your swing as soon as you hit the ball. You must follow through to the finish.  You need to control your movement through impact and make sure you do not let your hips slide. You want to make a nice turn through the hitting area—not a hip slide. This will cause you to come through with an open club face if you let your hips slide in front of the shot.  Check and make sure your grips are in good shape. They should not be worn or slick. If they are, this can cause your hands to turn in at impact, which causes the club face to open. Also if they are worn or slick, then you will try to hold the grip too tight to maintain control of the club. I have seen this happen a lot. 

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poppy talks

don’t even THINK about leaving me a message... V

acations. I didn’t always really appreciate the value of them. Could be that I didn’t really need them much in my young years and early adulthood? Life was a lot more carefree and I was technically on a mini-cation every day at 5pm anyway; plus, I got two whole days—every week—to do whatever I wanted. Looking back, it seems like that was just too glorious to believe. And then… there was authentic adulthood, and a spouse, and motherhood; when five minutes in the bathroom or grocery shopping alone felt like a vacation, and going on a trip, turns out, was more exhausting than a week at work. I have discovered there are degrees of Getting Away, starting with the desperate locking the bedroom door and streaming sexy vampire movies without interruptions while eating cookies you hid in the nightstand just for yourself. Then there are business trips, where you’re out of your element and it’s a nice change of scenery, but you’re still working, likely more than eight hours a day. And at the end of the work day, you’re either alone in hotel room not spending money, or spending a ton of it to entertain yourself in a new city. Or worse, left to hang out with co-workers you normally enjoy parting from at 5pm every day. Don’t even get me started on the *joy* of airline travel. Grown-up people act like first graders who can’t make it through the day if they don’t get to be line leader everywhere they go. The plane is not going to leave without you, Precious, so quit toe-stepping in front of me when they still haven’t called your group to board yet. Then there are road trips, where you spend more time in the car than not, seeing things and going places just for the sake of going. The joy of being behind the wheel and knowing you can drive ‘til you’re hungry then eat ‘til you’re tired. It’s a special kind of freedom to not have to be anywhere or do anything. It’s a young person’s adventure in my opinion. The older I get, the more A.D.D. I become and I just can’t sit still that long, even with satellite radio and a million things to listen to, I can’t get over the fact that I’m. Not. Being. Productive. (Are we THERE yet?) What about trips? Those are the times you pack up the car like you’re crossing the Mojave, and go across the state or the country to see… people. Don’t get me wrong, I



love my people, and I enjoy seeing them, but those are *not* vacations. Those are trips. Throw in an amusement or water park and now you’re just exercising. Note to self— Over-40-Water-Park-Rule: You must wait one hour after eating before climbing the eight flights of stairs to this ride. So yes, Memaw’s birthday or little Bucky’s graduation, or seeing Booboo’s newest baby are all must-dos, but you still need a vacation when you get back. Vacations...(sigh) are what you save up for and put on your calendar months in advance and think upon with longing when you are sitting at your desk or a traffic light, and brag about when people ask you about your weekend or summer plans. Let’s review: sleeping on a fold-out-sofa, helping with the dishes, and visiting the local mall = Trip. Laying in the sun on a chaise while people bring you things with a smile = Vacation. At no time in my home life would I lay down $8 on an umbrella drink. But...flip my Vacation switch and I’ll turn my wallet upside down to have two of them delivered to me while my feet are being massaged in a cabana watching HBO and scrolling through my Facebook feed. I will even push aside my coupons and tip you $10 to do it. I am not proud of it, but the older I get the more I really do envy my Friends-With-Money. When I’m on vacation, I get to feel like them for just a brief moment in time. I really enjoy the break from my real life as much as missing five days of work. I get to regress to childhood when all my worldly needs were met by other people. And unlike my FWMs, I also get to ignore my phone because I don’t have the Wall Street responsibilities they have in order to pay for that lifestyle 24/365. If only we could live life in reverse a bit. I could use a little of that Daytona-Beach-Spring-Break hedonism in my middle age. What are all the 19-year-olds really “getting away” from anyway? 

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food The perfect end to a summer meal among friends? An over-the-top, crazy-delicious seasonal dessert... naturally. Fruit Pizzas are as varied as our original, favorite Italian pies, but here are some variations we think are worth a try... just for the sake of scientific study... naturally.

THE BASICS 1 roll (16.5 oz) refr igerated sugar cook ie dough 1 pack age (8 oz) cream cheese, sof tened 1/3 cup confec tioner ’s sugar 1/2 teaspoon vanilla Assor ted fruit (sliced) Heat oven to 375°. Line a 12-inch pizza pan with parchment and butter. Spread cook ie dough over prepared pizza pan into an even layer to completely cover bottom of pan. Bake 13 – 14 minutes. R emove from oven and cool completely on a wire rack . I n a mixing bowl using an elec tr ic hand mixer whip cream cheese with sugar and vanilla until light and fluffy. Spread evenly over cooled crust. Top with fruit. You can ser ve r ight away or chill. Use any fruit you prefer, but make sure to pat the pieces dry so they don’t make your cookie soggy. Feel free to scatter your fruit like a standard pepperoni feast, or add different colored fruits in a concentr ic rainbow master piece.

NOW... TRY THESE!   Cut your cream cheese in half and mix in 4 oz of peanut butter or flavored yogurt for a kick of gusto and color.   Add 8oz of Cool Whip to the cream cheese for a bit of fluff ­— OR— add 8oz marshmallow fluff to really indulge that sweet tooth.   Brush your favorite jelly or preserves over the fruit to give it an extra flavor boost and a lovely sheen —OR— mix 5 teaspoons cornstarch, 1-1/4 cups unsweetened pineapple juice and 1 teaspoon lemon juice for a fancy glaze.   Switch your sugar cookie dough with brownies for a great chocolate fix—OR— Try using chocolate chip, funfetti or double chocolate cookie dough.   Save time with some vanilla, chocolate or strawberry frosting.   Don’t forget the toppings...try a drizzle of chocolate or caramel sauce, or a sprinkling of toffee bits, chocolate chips or rainbow sprinkles.

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parting shot

Puparazzi Portrait “Koda” recently celebrated her second birthday and getting top-of-the-class scores on her registry test as a therapy dog. Since 2017, when Georgetown Fire Department Lt. Jonathan Gilliam introduced her to Georgetown as a Community Engagement ambassador, she has been visiting schools, hospitals, and senior living facilities to help educate, inform, and comfort neighbors who can’t seem to get enough of her. She is also an instrumental part of the well-being and support of our city’s emergency workers. Lt. Gilliam says she is always welcomed by first responders for a bit of nuzzling after a particularly distressing call, or a hard day on the job. Koda will also soon achieve new levels of success and celebrity as she is the main character in Lt. Gilliam’s book, currently in the works, dedicated to teaching children about fire safety. 56


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Georgetown View July 2019  

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