We should all be inspired by Cisco and be ‘ambassadors of Norristown’

Hank Cisco was not reappointed to his post as Norristown’s Ambassador during Tuesday night’s Council Meeting.

“We tabled that item. We didn’t put it on the agenda,” said Council President Sonya Sanders “The word table would be the correct term to use. However, that’s not to say he is not the ambassador or we are looking for someone else to be the ambassador.”

Councilman Hakim Jones said he was disappointed in how the situation unfolded during the meeting.

“When one person makes a decision for all, it’s only right that the entire body has the opportunity to at least weigh in on the matter,” said Jones. “It’s also a disservice when you tell a lifelong resident the day of the meeting that the decision to renew their position will be tabled until further notice. It’s simply not good governing.”

Sanders commented that Council had further discussions in regard to the evening’s three appointments, including Cisco’s, and it will be discussed at the next Council Meeting, which is scheduled for January 16th at 7:30 p.m.

According to sources close to Cisco, he was informed less than two hours before the Council Meeting that he was not going to be reappointed on Tuesday and the matter had been tabled. Cisco, 94, planned to attend the meeting and arranged a ride service for transportation (he does still drive, though). A friend of Cisco’s who spoke with him on Tuesday night said Cisco didn’t know why the decision to table his reappointment was made and has never been told he has not been serving the town correctly.

“It’s a devastating surprise. He just wants to know why,” said the friend of Cisco.

The position of Norristown Ambassador is unpaid.

On Wednesday, Cisco went to Norristown High School to record an episode of the “The Hank Cisco Show” which he has hosted for nearly thirty years. The episode, like so many of its predecessors, had a familiar Norristown flavor. Cisco interviewed Byron L. Craig, Pastor of Macedonia Baptist Church and President of the Greater Norristown Area Ministerium.

On the show, Cisco has interviewed mayors, police chiefs, recording artists, community activists and newspaper editors. He’s even brought on all the doctors who have treated his various maladies throughout the years, all with the goal of informing the public and assisting the community. The most common thread though is his deep affection and obvious passion for Norristown.

Despite the previous night’s decision to table his reappointment, he continued to promote Norristown, in particular, Pastor Craig’s good work. Cisco also released a statement regarding Council’s decision.

“Anyplace I went to box; it was always Norristown. They told me to say I was from Philadelphia because people would know where that was but I just said, say ‘I’m from Norristown,’ and proud to say it,” said Cisco on Wednesday. “I saw there was a need for spreading the word around town without The Times Herald. I wanted to entertain and educate. I had doctors on the show who treated me for cancer, or my heart operation, or the two hip replacements, so other people would know they could get care in Norristown and what the treatment was like. I am just an eighth-grade graduate who wised up, went to Montco and got educated. I love the people of Norristown.”

Unlike many others in Norristown, I do not know Hank Cisco personally. I appeared on his show in 2008 when I was performing stand up comedy in the area. There has been an outpouring of support on social media for the Cisco, also known as “Rock.” It has come from former police colleagues, friends, current and former Norristown residents, people he has introduced to boxing and many others.

John Doyle, communications department director, has been recording “The Hank Cisco” show for 15 years where Cisco has done a program a week. This year he does two shows a week.

“I and have watched Hank, for all of his personal foible and his personal ideology, offer anyone the chance to talk on the air. He mentions Norristown or markets Norristown in every episode. He brings regional and national personalities into the High School to see how great our kids are,” commented Doyle.

The decision of council to table the reappointment Hank Cisco as ambassador isn’t the most pressing issue. Why is it even coming up for reappointment?

Hank Cisco is 94-years-old and has served Norristown in law enforcement, ascending through the ranks from a beat cop to Montgomery County juvenile detective. His involvement in boxing continued through refereeing, training and starting the Norristown Police Athletic League boxing program. Cisco is a member of the Boxing, Education, Law Enforcement, and Montgomery County Sports Halls of Fame in Pennsylvania.

Make him Ambassador for Life.

It shouldn’t stop there. In the spirit of Cisco’s tireless promotion of Norristown, we should all answer the call to be “Ambassadors of Norristown.” Cisco has spent a majority of his life setting an example of “pride in your hometown,” and I think it would make him proud if we all took responsibility in extolling the virtues of Norristown.

It’s not up for vote or tabling. You decide to be an Ambassador of Norristown today, tomorrow or for life.

Women keep the holidays humming

The familiar Action News theme strikes up its first cord. I’m in bleary shock that it’s 11 p.m. and I am still baking Christmas cookies.

Tom knows I need to hear Jim Gardner’s soothing voice read me my daily news bedtime story so he hits the pause button and yells from the other room, “Are you almost done? I’m tired and want to go to bed soon.”

He’s tired. He’s tired. He’s tired? He’s tired! HE is tired?

My mind briefly wonders to what it would look like if I strung the Christmas lights around his neck.

It’s festively sinister.

He is tired. I have a cookie-making cramp. After the traditional marathon session with my best friend a few days prior, I am finishing up the last few batches. I can’t go to bed until they are bagged and labeled. This year also marks the first time the presents have been wrapped before Christmas Eve. I attribute that more toward my affinity toward cold brew coffee than any type of holiday ambition to get-it-done.

It’s during this time of year where we are reminded of such holiday sayings like – “remember the reason for the season,” and “all hearts go home for Christmas.”

I often think of an old Italian aunt who used to say, “she pulled Christmas out of ass.” She usually said this wearing an apron, right before she served a full course meal in her house that was completely decked with holiday decorations.

I wasn’t sure what she meant when I was a kid…and I was scared to ask.

But now I know.

Women will use any means to make Christmas happen. (For all the men and especially single fathers out there who “do” Christmas, please keep in mind the spirit of the season and the satire in which this article is written.)

None of this should come as a surprise. I’ve written about how women work harder than an elf on Adderall during the holidays. A few days before Thanksgiving I was a guest on “Unsung,” (1180 AM WFY) where host Mark Hopkins and I engaged in a battle-of-the-sexes war of words. I insisted that the holidays wouldn’t happen without the tireless work of women who deck the halls, buy and wrap the presents, bake the cookies, and prepare the holiday meal. Not to mention cleaning the house in preparation for Santa’s visit.

Hopkins retort was that men basically guard the homefront and none of my holidays were ruined by a bear attack. To listen to the show, which features in depth descriptions of relatives who fall asleep after the holiday meal, visit https://soundcloud.com/user-590515469/unsung-11-18-17.

It must be nice to be able to fall asleep after eating Christmas dinner. Women wouldn’t know since we are too busy cleaning up and putting out desert.

So on the night before Christmas, when not a creature will be stirring, not even Jim Gardner (I’m pretty sure he get’s Christmas Eve off), know that there will be women wrapping presents or setting the dining room table.

Those halls don’t deck themselves.


It may the frantic last few hours before Christmas (and I still have things to get done) but this is a good time to pause, reflect and give thanks.

Writing has been a lifelong passion and I love stoking the insatiable desire I have to tell stories. I am truly appreciative of every avenue that allows me to contribute. Thank yous…To Cheryl Rodgers for her longtime leadership at The Times Herald and commitment to local news. Thank you to my mom and dad who built a foundation of courage and strength that I draw on every day. To my husband, Tom. Despite what this column may suggest, his endless love and support are the only gifts I could ever want. Thank you to Grandmother Mary for her constant prayers. To my family for their support and the fact they still send me birthday cards. To Christina, my childhood best friend, for being a source of strength and laughter. To my brother for always pushing me to work harder. To Dave, for getting me to look up from the keyboard and watch Stranger Things. To Budd, for making my hair look amazing and always making me laugh.

And of course, to you, my readers. Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback in the grocery store or via email. I especially value those readers who let me know what they want to read about or things happening in the community. I only have one set of eyes and ears. Yours help! Best wishes for a happy and healthy 2018.

Royersford resident’s new game brews up some fun

During the early days of our marriage and home ownership, Tom and I were always on the hunt for fun low cost activities. And, yes, I am going to keep this column family-friendly.

It was a time before smartphones, Netflix and DVR. We had to actually pick a movie off the shelf and put it in the DVR player. The horror! Board games served as part of our weekend entertainment.

Even though we were just starting ours together we played Life.

Taboo gave us hours fun. During get-togethers with friends, Uno cards always made an appearance.

We took Monopoly seriously and it proved to be more effective than the Newlywed Game to get to know your partner. Landing on Free Parking, and collecting the pot of money made me gloat. I make a “choo-choo” noise as I counted out each space. During some particularly dominating games by Tom, I got frustrated and flipped the board over causing the thimble to ricochet off of his forehead.

But board games got pushed aside, or to the basement, as our entertainment options grew. As much I despised the Uno deck, I began to miss it during social gatherings where we ended up huddled around a laptop or phone to watch YouTube videos.

We stopped looking at each other and started looking at screens.

Royersford’s Jon Cooper has similar feelings. He was coming home from a business trip and he knew he spent too much time on the phone and it drove his wife crazy.

“I’m the type of person if I had to give up my left hand and replace it with my iPhone I might consider it,” he said. “Everyone is looking down all time – at the grocery store, crossing the street. It amazing to have eye contact with someone and actually have a conversation. It’s something that as we raise our kids we want them to do. I’m always looking for more in-depth conversations. I want it to mean as much as I can.”

Copper began to write down questions, which would become the basis for the game Thinking and Drinking. His wife, Nikki, handled the design aspect. It was funded on kickstarter and is available for sale on their website http://thinkingdrinking.beer and on Amazon.

The idea behind Thinking and Drinking is to get people together to have good conversations, put down their phones and talk about anything besides work, weather or politics.

The game features over 320 cards and each one has a picture of a United States craft brewery. There are no winners or losers in the game although Cooper admitted there can be some bad answers. Some of the questions are thought provoking and may give new insight into friends’ psyche.

If you could experience anything without the fear of death what would it be?

If you could have more money or time what would you do?

If giving up cheese would make you immortal would you do it?

If aliens landed here right now what player would you send to meet them?

What superpower would you most want to have?

What it the weirdest sound you can make with a body part?

What’s your secret shame song?

Tell everyone your best tequila story.

“Usually everyone says there is no such thing as a best tequila story and that’s part of the fun,” commented Cooper. “We call it a game of self-discovery or self-destruction. You are going to learn something about yourself or the other players. There’s no board to flip so I guess that’s a good thing for you. We don’t expect the conversation to end with the question on the card.”

As a kid, Cooper loved to play Battleship. He says he always cheated but not by moving his pieces around.

“I built a supership and hid it in the corner. It drove my brother nuts.”

Today, with his children he plays Trouble, Sorry, and Mancala.

“We even use this but we censor some of the questions to get our kids to talk.”

Husband and wife do square off occasionally.

“Modern video games she hates playing but if we play the classics I lose every time,” said Cooper. “When we play Mancala or a card game its’ usually fairly competitive.”

It’s a part of “Life” or “Thinking and Drinking.”



West Norriton Township police officer makes a difference through giving


The First Noel the angel did say
Was to certain poor shepherds
in fields as they lay;
In fields as they lay, keeping their sheep…

The shepherd is one of the oldest professions. Today, very few make a career of tending to actual sheep but the qualities of a shepherd – setting a positive example, trust, and sacrifice – are needed in both professional and personal life.

Bill Sheppard, a seventeen-year veteran of the West Norriton Police Department and a School Resource Officer for ten years, guards the largest flock in West Norriton Township with 1700 people on the Norristown High School campus on a daily basis.

unknown-13“My number one job is obviously for the safety and security of everybody in this building. It’s a job I don’t take lightly,” said Sheppard.

As a School Resource Officer, Sheppard has several different roles. It’s part law enforcement, social worker and mentor.

A modern day shepherd.

A few weeks ago, Sheppard was in a monthly meeting with juvenile probation where it was brought to his attention that a young man, “John,” who Sheppard knew from his time at the high school (he currently does not attend NAHS), lived in a home that he and his three other siblings had no beds and slept on the floor. “John’s” parent is a single father who is raising four children ranging in age from 10 to 16.

Children sleeping on the floor in the winter prompted Sheppard to action.

“That was first and foremost,” said Sheppard thinking about the cold temperatures. “I had no idea that was the case in the home. If I could help I wanted to try to help as much as I could.”

Sheppard mentioned to the people in the meeting that a few years ago, juvenile detective, Mark Wassmer, with his connection to Donna Mengel, who is founder of the North Wales-based Lamb Foundation, was able to get a young man in a similar situation furniture. Sheppard mentioned it to Wassmer after the meeting who put him in touch with Mengel. The Lamb Foundation also operates the Sweet Repeats Family Thrift Shop to generate funds to cover operating expenses. Mengel agreed to help and within less than a week, a delivery of mattresses, beds with frames, dressers, lamps, a kitchenette, utensils and dishes were delivered to the residence.

“We trust the WNPD. They do a lot of good work. We are particularly fond of Det. Wassmer,” said Mengel. She’s known him over thirty years and was his junior high school principal. “We meet needs as we can where we have relationships and for things that have a heart for a our mission.”

Sheppard has known “John’s” father for about three years. He reached out to Sheppard looking for a mentor for his son and Sheppard became familiar with the family. He admits “John” has been in some trouble but calls him a, “respectful young man, a nice kid.”

Instead of traffic stops or a patrol which might involve mostly adults, Sheppard deals with teenagers. Teenagers riddled with hormones and a not-yet-fully-developed-brain.

“One of the things I see kids doing when they interact with law enforcement is making things into an issue that aren’t necessarily an issue. Stop. Think for a minute,” reminds Sheppard.

At a traffic stop if he pulls you over because you have a light out, his intention may be to give you a warning.

“If everything’s good you are on your way with a warning, but it turns into, ‘I’m not giving you my I.D. You stopped me for no reason,” explained Sheppard of certain situations.

Sheppard also serves as a guest speaker in classrooms where he discusses bullying, drugs and alcohol, drinking and driving, and other topics.

When dealing with juveniles, Sheppard tries to keep things in perspective.

“I know I did stupid stuff as a kid. Maybe I didn’t get caught. I try to use diversion programs and maybe give verbal warnings unless I feel kids need the help.”

Sheppard pointed out that the juvenile program is structured to get kids the help they need, especially if they can get community service.

In terms of the heightened security at schools since the tragedy in Sandy Hook, Sheppard says that many security measures were already in place before the Connecticut hooting in 2012.

“This district was already ahead of the game,” he commented.


It’s the first bone-chilling day of the winter and Sheppard sits in his nondescript office at the high school. It’s a Friday, and the students shuffle between classes with an upbeat tenor anticipating the weekend and upcoming winter break.

For Christmas, no one wants to end up on the “Naughty List” and it could be easy for people to deduct that “John” belongs on such a list since he had contact with law enforcement.

“I understand,” said Sheppard. “This is a good family, good kids…the other three siblings never had any contact with law enforcement. Even the older brother is respectful with me and adults, he just finds himself hanging out with the wrong crowd. He’s making a conscious decision to do that but…the way he carries himself versus the way someone else who has had contact with law enforcement is much different.

“A lot of time the reason these kids are in this position is the fact they want for things,” continued Sheppard. His voice is calm and thoughtful. It’s firm but is tinged with obvious care for the members of his flock.

“A lot of times it’s why they have contact with law enforcement. They see kids have things they don’t have and want what other kids have and choose the means of getting it the wrong way. Maybe by donating to these causes, it will prevent these kids from taking these things from somebody else.”

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you news of great joy.”

Sometimes a shepherd needs the help of an angel. None of these items donated by Mengel and the Lamb foundation are items a kid would ask Santa for.

“These are basic essentials and things we take for granted. These are critical for building a nest. Toys are a luxury,” said Mengel. “This was a perfect thing to do this time of the season.”

Holiday gift ideas that are actually thoughtful

There may not be a fight for Furbys or a throwdown for Tickle Me Elmos this holiday season, but the clock is ticking for finding presents that say “thoughtful” more than “just picked this up at Walgreens.”

In a pleasant and welcome twist, this Christmas a large portion of my family decided instead of exchanging gifts to make a donation to a charity. If you are looking for ways to give back, a few weeks ago I wrote a column about local organizations looking for volunteers or donations.

For those still looking for gift ideas, allow me to offer a few mostly local, independently owned suggestions.

The person who will keep their clean eating resolution well past January – A gift card to Gangster Vegan (2454 W Main Street, Norristown) presents an array of vegan options. Even if you aren’t ready to wave bye-bye to Brie, Norristown native Vincent DePaul’s juices are a cold, refreshing option chock full of vitamins that are much more of an energy boost than a Starbucks run.

The elderly aunt who hates everything – Anything from Collegeville Italian Bakery Pizzeria Napoletana (3846 Ridge Pike, Collegeville). Take your choice from cookies, homemade pastas, imported Christmas Struffoli or Stock’s Famous Pound Cake.

Your BFFs – They deserve the Michael Kors bag or something rose gold from Tiffany’s but you gave each other spending limits this year. Instead of racking your brains’ for something to show your appreciation for the ladies who always have your back, plan a night out everyone from the new mom to the single girls can enjoy. Founding Farmers’ (255 Main Street, Upper Merion) farm-to-table menu and comfortable setting will have your squad smiling and toasting with one of the their signature cocktails.

For your uncle who always get a “State Store selection” – A bottle of the small batch award-winning spirits from Five Saints Distilling. Make sure to stop in during an event, tasting or tour. After all, their slogan is “Share The Spirits.”

Your best guy friend – Conshohocken Brewing Company (3 DeKalb Street, Bridgeport and 739 E. Elm Street, Conshohoken) and Capone’s Bottle Shop (224 W. Germantown Pike, Norristown) offer many chances to craft a six-pack (or more) for your main squeeze or platonic guy friends. For a snack food to pair with the suds, King of Prussia-based D’s Nuts (https://buyournuts.com) offers a variety from salty to sweet. Along with the tasty snacks and wink-and-a-smile name and website, it is their mission to promote awareness and ultimately reduce men’s cancer related illnesses through research, education, nutrition and preventive health measures. Ten percent of proceeds go to local men’s health charities.

For the man you will be smooching under the mistletoe – Underwear. Not the kind you get every Christmas with a few pairs of socks. Underwear that Howard Stern raved about then purchased “a case.”

Tommy John (www.tommyjohn.com) underwear has a contour pouch which promises “no adjustment needed,” and a “Stay Put Waistband.” Guys who don’t usually talk about their unmentionables told me it is, “life changing,” “the most comfortable ever,” and “heaven on my nether regions.”

Tommy John opened its first store in the country at the King of Prussia in October.

“Underwear is an after thought for so many guys and rarely a considered purchase. Tommy John is a great gift because once they put them on, they will never think of underwear the same way again,” comented Tom Patterson, Founder and CEO of Tommy John.

“It’s never easy picking out holiday gifts for the guys in our lives,” added Tom’s wife and cofounder Erin Fujimoto. “I always with go with gifts they need, but wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves. Every guy needs underwear, so why not get him the most comfortable underwear he’ll ever wear?”

The Eagles fanatic – They probably already have a Carson Wentz jersey since its required attire for the Wentz wagon. Two recently published books on the beloved home team make great additions to fans’ libraries or Man Cave shelves.

So You Think You’re a Philadelphia Eagles Fan? includes entries about such great players and coaches as Chuck Bednarik, Norm Van Brocklin, Harold Carmichael, Dick Vermeil, Donovan McNabb, and Reggie White. It’s not just a typical trivia book, as readers advance from section to section, the questions become more difficult and answers more detailed.

Tales from the Philadelphia Eagles Sideline includes stories about some of the biggest names in team history.

Your brother who loves to eat everything – Seconds? Your brother goes back for thirds and fourths. A gift card to Zachary’s (1709 Markley St, Norristown) pits man vs. meat (and mac and cheese, collard greens, pecan pie…)

For the grandkids – A family membership to the Elmwood Park Zoo (1661 Harding Blvd, Norristown). There is a reason this jewel of a zoo attracts 650,000 visitors annually. It is perfect for families toting strollers to fussy toddlers. Visit for the day or spend a few hours in the afternoon, but make sure you stop to say hello to the cougar cubs.

The “Magic Bullet Gift” – A rose wouldn’t be just as sweet by any other name if you buy it at the grocery store or…eek…a gas station.

Flowers are a fit for your significant other, mother or a party hostess.

If you are looking for flowers that are centerpiece-worthy and aren’t left on the kitchen counter head to Petals (1170 E Dekalb Pike, King of Prussia).

Petals does things a little differently as proven by their brake-pumping front window display. Owner Tommy Strouse likes to stick with one or two colors (the current front window is all silver). Many of their Christmas arrangements are white and silver or white and gold.

“It matches anyone’s décor,” said Strouse. He also realizes Christmas is about tradition and says there are plenty of arrangement options with red and evergreens. Also, Petals sells the excellent Phoenixville-based Bridge Street Chocolates.

“Flowers are a perfect gift that people won’t buy themselves. You should always bring a pre-made arrangement to a party. No one wants to stop possessing to cut flowers,” said Strouse.

Strouse is celebrating thirty years in business during the busy month of December. He admitted that in the florist business, you are married to the holidays and the weekends.

“I’m proud of myself. I realize what I did wasn’t easy. It’s physical labor and it’s mentally exhausting. It’s not a high profit business,” said Strouse of the milestone. “But I love it. What I do makes people happy and I thrive on that.”

Over the span of thirty years, Strouse has seen a rose remain one of his best sellers. Some trends he is happy to see remain in the trash with the trimmings like silk flowers, wreaths with nests, and fruit baskets.

“A rose is a rose is a rose. It says love. It’s always remained the go-to flower. Roses make a statement.”