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July 8, 2010


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Buffalo Soldier,’ 88, keeps combat heroism alive
Staff Sergeant George Washington Howe (retired) is justly proud of his 30 years of service as one of the last remaining Buffalo Soldiers. He is seen here with some of his Buffalo Soldier memorabilia, particularly poignant around the July 4th Independence Day celebration. (Photo by Richard S. Lee)

It was pure happenstance that the one of us who attends theater (while the other watches Turner Classic Movies) was at Stagecrafters’ recent production of “A Soldier’s Play” on the same night that Staff Sergeant George Washington Howe (retired) was in the audience.

We sat one row apart, and the fact that this amiable gentleman was wearing the rarely-seen uniform of Army dress blue, with all medals in place, and sleeve hashmarks attesting to 30 years’ service, was what sparked our conversation. (This theatergoer had also served, from 1945 to 1947.) Sgt. Howe is one of the few remaining Buffalo Soldiers. He kindly gave us a leaflet describing his military career.

Next day, it took the TCM-watcher (who is also our resident bloodhound) only a second to tell her partner, “Maybe there’s a story here!” This truth had not occurred to the partner. Duh! The bloodhound — acting more like a determined terrier — promptly tracked down Sgt. Howe and later arranged an interview, to take place at Belmont Stables (off Martin Luther King Drive near Montgomery Avenue), where he maintains a small museum of Buffalo Soldier memorabilia. He and his wife live in nearby Overbrook.


Local merchant recalls murder of brother by teenager

Jimmy Ranck relaxes after a rough day with his daughters, Jillian, 16 (left), and Jennifer, 18.

In 1991 Ken Ranck, then 41, was unloading his truck early one morning at 5th and Fisher in Olney when a 16-year-old boy approached him with a gun and demanded money. Ken was apparently too shocked or in disbelief, and the young thug proceeded to shoot him. Ken bled to death in the street. “In my heart, I believe I will see my brother someday,” said Jimmy Ranck, a born-again Christian and owner of Ranck’s Lunchmeats, which has been in the Chestnut Hill Farmers Market for 27 years.

Although he was a teenager at the time, the killer, Michael Howard, was tried as an adult, convicted and is currently serving a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. Now 35 years old, he is at Graterford Prison. “I wrote a letter to him last year, but I haven’t mailed it yet,” said Ranck. “I say in the letter that I forgive him. I’m sure he lives with what he did every day. Now that it has come up (in this interview), I’m sure I will mail the letter.



Do you need help with anger management? BAM will fix it

The voters are angry, my friends. You can hear them ranting on radio, preaching in the papers, orating online and tirelessly tweeting on Twitter. New avenues for spleen-venting are emerging every day. We’re inundated with pundits, blundits, bloggers, podders, prodders, poggers, loggers, floggers, whatever. I can’t keep up, and just between you and me, I’m having trouble relating.

I feel as if I’m falling behind the pack in terms of righteous indignation. I want to do my part but, sad to say, I’m just too content. I’ve always had this problem. When the other babies in the maternity ward were all red-faced and colicky, I was whistling Dixie. Unfortunately, no one noticed, and my abnormal behavior went untreated for years.



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