dick saha, you were an amazing man and a lot of us will miss you.

Mt. Airy Lavendar today.

Today life got a little too real. Someone very special, whom I truly admired, has died. Dick Saha of Wagontown/Coatesville.

I am trying to gather my thoughts cohesively, but if I am honest, right now tears are getting in the way.

I met Dick and Nancy Saha in the early 2000s. It was back in the days of eminent domain for private gain. They were fighting to save their family farm from Coatesville which decided his gorgeous property would make a great golf course. (Read about it here on the Castle Coalition/Institute for Justice.) We were trying to save Ardmore’s historic business district from a similar eminent domain for private gain fate.

Dick Saha May 2005

As a member of the Save Ardmore Coalition (see “success stories” on Castle Coaltion website) , we spent a fair amount of time with the Sahas. We all went to Washington DC together and other places. And the thing about Dick is he supported all of our efforts in Ardmore. He and Nancy came to community events.

Dick and Nancy visiting us in 2006 in Ardmore, PA

Dick Saha lived by the courage of his convictions. He was like a lion defending his farm, but I am telling you that man did it in the most pleasant no-nonsense way. One of my favorite memories of him was when he and his friends went to Radnor Township years ago to make sure the old Coatesville manager who was part of the eminent domain game was NOT hired by Radnor as an interim township manager. The Radnor Commissioners were nervous that these people from Coatesville were there. It was hysterical. And all Dick Saha did was stand at the back of the boardroom. And smile. It was his John Wayne moment for sure.

One thing I also adored about Dick Saha was his devotion to his wife and family. The love was so real and you could see it. Magnificent and steady not gushy. You never saw Dick without Nancy, generally speaking.

Dick and Nancy Saha in Washington when we were all at an Institute for Justice conference. They are speaking with my friend Scott

The years passed and we all went on with our lives. I thought of Dick and Nancy here and there, especially when I moved to Chester County. Then as fate and luck would have it last year I learned about a lavender farm called Mt. Airy Lavender, otherwise known as the Saha farm. I was so excited about it, and went out to an open farm day. ( I wrote about it HERE. ) At that time I wrote:

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hands off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)


I wrote another post about my first Mt. Airy visit and also about an event I attended on the farm that was a wine tasting. One granddaughter, Gretchen Voelcker, is a very talented vintner (Luna Hart wines.). These were the last two times I saw Dick Saha. He had aged, and he looked frail to me. And now heaven has another angel. Dick Saha was 90.

Dick Saha, summer 2019

Dick Saha wasn’t a close friend or a family member, but I am feeling this as if he was. He and Nancy made an impression on me. They are good people (I can’t even really think if Dick in the past tense yet), and I am lucky to know people like this in my life even for a little while. Dick Saha is one of those people who made the world a better place.

Here we are in COVID19 land so how do families mourn their loved ones? This breaks my heart. I am sorry this post is not more eloquent. I am just sad.

Dick, it was an honor to have known you. Fly with the angels. (His funeral home has information here.)

May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face.

And rains fall soft upon your fields.
And until we meet again,
May God hold you in
the hollow of His hand.

Dick and Nancy, summer 2019

do YOU want signs like this in your community?

A friend of mine sent me this today because they were up in Quakertown, PA.

This is the company that Haverford Township goes to court with this week after many years of no activity. This is the billboard company that Lower Merion Township has gone to court with and Tredyffrin Township is currently in court with as well. This is the billboard company that has been to West Whiteland, Phoenixville borough, Charlestown Township, and now is beginning a journey with East Whiteland Township.

I think this is like the best of tacky Vegas and that’s not where we live is it? I think it’s even worse than I 95. But that’s just my opinion.

What is your opinion on the signs out there in blog reader land? I am honestly interested in your opinions. Feel free to leave a comment.

Billboards = Blight

#NoBillboards #NoBillboardsInTheBurbs

no billboards for christmas please, east whiteland

Just when you think more headaches can’t possibly arise for East Whiteland residents, along comes the possibility of…..BILLBOARDS…BIG ELECTRONIC ones.

So riddle me this East Whiteland— why did you spend ridiculous amounts of taxpayer money on a Route 30 Corridor Study only to allow further deterioration via billboards? I mean What The ever loving F ? is Lancaster Ave / Route 30 / Lincoln Highway supposed to improve by being turned into I-95 in Philadelphia by GIANT television screens that are on 24/7/365? You haven’t even addressed the smaller one that blinds people near Lincoln Court!

Way to sneak in the holiday surprise, right? (Here is the link to the Planning Commission Agenda but the links to each of the items on billboard, but those links go absolutely nowhere right now .)

And about the E. Whiteland Outdoor, LLC?

So does that mean East Whiteland now has a lot in common with other townships like Tredyffrin, Haverford, Coatesville, and even more? (See the Community Matters Blog in Tredyffrin.)

And hey East Whiteland all those apartment dwellers you want on Route 30? Townhouses, etc? Do you really think these people and future residents want to have to buy blackout shades to avoid the glare of I-95 in Chester County? Because that is what people already face driving by that small non-related overly bright TV in front of part of Lincoln Court, right?

And it looks like East Whiteland zoning for off premises signs doesn’t exactly match the supposed spirit of what they supposedly wish to accomplish with the Route 30 Corridor Study?

I just can’t EVEN with this township. Sign me disgusted. If YOU are disgusted too please go to the Christmas Surprise Planning Commission Meeting. Wednesday December 18th at 7 PM. East Whiteland Township is located at 209 Conestoga Road, Frazer, PA 19355

coatesville

I rarely go through Coatesville. I know people in Wagontown, Modena, and other places around Coatesville, but not the City of Coatesville.

We were out in Wagontown and went through Coatesville to get gas on the way home and ended up on regular Route 30 so I snapped some photos.

There are some really cool houses in Coatesville. It is a kaleidoscope of architecture. And there are lots of churches too, which I never knew.

when good conquers evil eminent domain you get lavender fields

Long ago is what feels to be now another lifetime, I was part of the original Save Ardmore Coalition. We were ordinary people who banded together to save friends’ and neighbors’ businesses from eminent domain for private gain in Ardmore PA.

Along our journey the wonderful people at the Institute for Justice helped us and taught us and encouraged us. Through IJ we also met some amazing and inspirational people.  (and if your community is facing eminent domain check out the Castle Coalition part of the IJ website.)

Here straight from IJ (Institute for Justice’s website success stories):

Pennsylvania
Ardmore
Through the grassroots and political processes, a citizens group called the Save Ardmore Coalition (SAC) successfully defeated Lower Merion Township’s attempt to seize and bulldoze 10 thriving businesses in Ardmore’s charming historic district. When it comes to grassroots activism, the SAC did it all — rallies, protests, publicity campaigns and coordinated efforts to unseat local officials who supported eminent domain abuse. Its members testified before state and local bodies urging the reform of eminent domain laws, attended the Castle Coalition’s national and regional conferences, and worked with the media to bring attention to their battle. In March 2006, the Township took its condemnation threats off the table — no doubt in response to the public outcry generated by the SAC.

Valley Township
It cost Nancy and Dick Saha $300,000 of their retirement savings and six hard years, but they prevailed in their bout with the City of Coatesville. The couple bought their Pennsylvania farmhouse in 1971, making lifelong dreams of owning a small horse farm a reality. With their five children, the Sahas moved to Chester County and restored their charming 250-year-old residence. Truly a family farm, two of their daughters married and built their family homes on the land, giving Nancy and Dick the chance to see their five grandchildren grow up next door.

When Coatesville threatened to take their property by eminent domain to build a golf course—plans for which didn’t even include their farm in the first place—the Sahas remained fully committed to a grassroots battle. They submitted three petitions, protested at local meetings and took their fight to court. Ultimately, the city council backed off when the Sahas pushed to elect new representatives, agreeing to purchase five acres that the Sahas had offered to give the government for free at the beginning of the dispute.

It was a crazy time. What we all went through was hard. It was a brutal battle.  We went to Washington alongside the Sahas, Susett Kelo (think Little Pink House), people from Long Branch NJ, and many many more.  It was the time of the US Supreme Court case Kelo vs. New London.

Dick and Nancy Saha were inspirational.  They created a hand off my farm movement. (You can read about it here on the Institute for Justice website in more detail.) They had a great deal of local, regional, and national news attention.  We all did. It was kind of crazy.

It cost the Sahas hundreds of thousands of dollars and pure grit and hard work and they saved their farm.

I used to love seeing Dick and Nancy Saha.  They are the nicest people and they would make the drive from the Wagontown area to even visit us in Ardmore when we were hosting events.

But time and life move on and we all got on with our lives after eminent domain.  I moved to Chester County.  And since I moved to Chester County  I have thought about the Sahas once in a while.  I thought about reaching out, but then I thought well the battle was over so maybe it would seem weird.  But I always wondered what happened to the Saha family after.

So this morning an article from Main Line Today popped up in a social media feed. About two sisters named Joanne Voelcker and wait for it….Amy Saha! Dick and Nancy Saha’s daughters and their lavender farm! (Lavender farm? Wait what?? How awesome!!)

Two Sisters Transformed Their Family’s Chester County Farm Into a 42-Acre Lavender Oasis
Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker, the owners of Wagontown’s Mt Airy Lavender, have dedicated themselves to growing and harvesting seven different varieties of the plant.
BY LISA DUKART

In the heart of Chester County, there’s a little piece of Provençe, France, thanks to sisters Amy Saha and Joanne Voelcker. On their 42-acre Wagontown farm, some 1,200 lavender plants flourish. In the warm months, those fields are abuzz with bees and butterflies. They flit from plant to plant, drunk on the heady scent the flowers release as they sway in the breeze.

Creating and maintaining such an idyll has been no small feat. Saha and Voelcker’s Mt Airy Lavender has required years of dedication and hard work. Their parents bought the farm in 1971, moving their family from Media to the homestead just outside Coatesville. With love and care, its rundown 48 acres began to thrive.

Years later, in 1991, the city of Coatesville tried to build on the property, claiming eminent domain. After a six-year legal battle, the family won, losing just six acres in the process. As their parents aged, preserving the land they fought so hard to protect became more and more important to the sisters. They couldn’t bear to see it sold.

Over the years, Saha and Voelcker built their own homes on the farm to be near their parents. The houses sit on either side of a long, shaded driveway that wends by pastures where horses can be seen cropping the grass. One lavender field is right behind Voelcker’s home. She began planting it in 2012, a year after she and her husband returned from a five-year stay in Brussels. “I worked and lived over there,” says Voelcker, the former head of client insight and marketing technology at Vanguard. “I got a chance to visit the South of France, and I just fell in love with the lavender.”

Please take the time to read the entire article. It’s so wonderful. I am so happy for the Sahas and this new success I am am all choked up with emotion.  It is so awesome to hear about nice things happening to nice people in a world that some days is truly nuts.

I can’t wait to visit the farm on open farm days.  Via their Facebook page for Mt. Airy Lavender I found their website.

They have great products they make that you can order online and they hose all sorts of events .

Events that interest me are the upcoming open farm days and I hope my husband will want to check it out:

Visit us when the lavender is expected to be in bloom – Mt Airy Lavender Open Houses – Sat. June 22, Sun. June 23, Sat. June 29, Sun. June 30
Come visit Mt Airy Lavender these weekends when we expect the lavender to be in bloom. Shop our products, bring your cameras and a picnic lunch. Fresh cut lavender and a variety of lavender products will be available for purchase. We aren’t normally open to the public, so this is a great opportunity to enjoy the farm. Please note – we lost quite a bit of lavender due to all the rain and lack of sun. We are in the process of replanting. The farm is still quite beautiful so we hope to see you at our Open Houses.

We will be open 11 am to 4pm on:

Saturday, June 22 & Sunday, June 23

Saturday, June 29 & Sunday, June 30

Note: Bees love lavender, please be aware that bees will be attending the Open House as well. If you are allergic to them, please take special precautions!

Click here for directions to their slice of heaven.

What else makes me happy? Not just that this is still a farm and was saved, but how farmers in Chester County get creative to exist in today’s world.  See? We don’t need fields of plastic mushroom houses, we can have things like fields of lavender instead!

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Another view of the Saha Farm today courtesy of Mt. Airy Lavender 

church farms school latest to deal with touchy-feely adults

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Sign me disgusted on this one. The news has broken with yet another teacher/guidance counselor/coach/school employee having inappropriate relationships with students. What is wrong with people? And what is wrong with the education system and both public and private schools that they can’t screen out potential problems?

The news broke last night about Sarah O’Neill of Coatesville, previously employed by the august Church Farms School right on Route 30 in Exton. This elite boys boarding school says on their website “inspiring boys, fulfilling dreams”. Somehow a touchy feely past female employee charged with having a full blown affair with an underage male student is not exactly what they had in mind, don’t you think?

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I do not get what motivates these purported “adults” basically every single time one of these stories hits the media. This story, like the others, totally grosses me out and skeeves me. A couple of years ago my alma mater Shipley went through this. Within the past few years there was also that incident at Bayard Rustin high school in West Chester with the swim coach.

Of course the Shipley story/issue/perversion made the news again last summer when authorities discovered that the guy who was the former coach had been living with the student he was never supposed to have contact with again. Mind you when I read that article I wondered what the hell was wrong with the girl’s parents in addition to this creepy guy?

And then there was the Valley Forge Military Academy and College guidance counselor who also got caught in a “compromising position” around 2012. The list seems somewhat endless over the past few years and I don’t get it. With all the background checks that are supposed to be done for people who want to be in the education field and so on I don’t understand how these people fall through the cracks? These things just happen magically? Or have they been happening all along and it’s just because the world we live in that the issues are finally coming to light?

I guess I just don’t get people that are entrusted with the lives and minds of our children doing these things. I don’t understand the motivation. I am sure there is a litany of excuses but surely these adults know the difference between right and wrong? How do they betray the trust of the students and the parents?

So this developing case shows again why people should support non-profits dedicated to fighting sexual abuse and exploitation of children. One is local to Chester County. It’s a wonderful organization called Justice4PAkids. You can click on hyperlink to view their website and find them on Facebook.

Anyway, here’s the early media coverage on this so made for a ridiculous Lifetime TV movie linked below.

Add Sarah O’Neill 35 of Coatesville to the touchy-feely wall of shame in Pennsylvania.

NBC10 Philadelphia : Chester County Teacher Accused of Having Sex, Relationship With Student

A Chester County teacher is accused of having sex with one of her students during a relationship that lasted nearly a year.

“The thought that I could love so deeply and so wrongly pervaded before you and I even officially began,” Sarah O’Neill allegedly wrote the teen. “It was quite a long winter break before my lips even attempted yours and I wondered if you were as affected as I.”

O’Neill, 35, of Coatesville, Pennsylvania, was a teacher at Church Farm School, an all-boys private school in Exton, Pennsylvania. The teen, who is now 17, told police he began a relationship with O’Neill in January, 2014, when he was 16 and she was his teacher. The two expressed their love for one another and began a relationship that lasted 10 months, according to investigators.

Daily Local : Church Farm School teacher arrested for alleged sexual relationship with student

…..Sarah O’Neill, of Coatesville, was arrested on four counts of corruption of minors on Tuesday for allegedly having an inappropriate relationship with a 16-year-old student. Police said the relationship began in January 2014 and lasted for about 10 months.

Police said O’Neill was charged for four separate incidents that allegedly occurred in her car and at area hotels