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Trinity man writes and publishes seven books

By Jordan Likens 

John Konior, a Trinity County resident, was born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y. Konior eventually graduated from the City College of New York and married his first wife shortly after in 1960. A year later, Konior joined the Air Force. During the four years Konior was in the Air Force, he and his wife had a child. After returning from the service, Konior went to work at the Chase Manhattan Bank.

“I worked for them for 16 years, became a Vice President, and it was during that time I took an interest in writing,” Konior said.

After discovering that he loved to write, Konior was presented an opportunity that allowed him to write about one of his biggest passions:  fishing. “I have a passion for fishing--it’s my sport. I started to write articles for a fishing magazine off Long Island. I was a freelance writer for them. It was called the Long Island Fisherman,” Konior said.
 
Konior retired from the Chase Manhattan Bank after 16 years of employment and decided to move to Florida. During this time, Konior’s writing career came to a halt.
 
In 1988, Konior found himself in Denver, where he met his second wife and began writing a fishing newsletter. The newsletter was short-lived, however, due to he and his wife moving across the country.
 
After living in several states, Konior and his wife moved to Trinity in 1993.“
 
My wife and I both really enjoy fishing and traveling a little bit. Trinity gave us an opportunity to relax though,” Konior said.
 
Not too long after settling down in Trinity, Konior’s wife began encouraging him to write again. This motivation convinced Konior to begin writing his first novel, “The Secret of Big Pine Key”, in Jan. 2003.“
 
It took the better part of three years to get published, and that was self-publishing,” Konior said.As an independent author, Konior published six books through Amazon and CreateSpace. CreateSpace is an outlet that authors can utilize to create, publish, and distribute their work on Amazon.
 
“CreateSpace allows authors to create books essentially for free,” Konior said.
 
Through his experience with independent publishing, Konior has learned many things about the publication process, one of which is how tedious the editing process can be.
 
“No matter what kind of perfect paper you’ve submitted, you’re going to find lots of errors. You’ll edit it a hundred times over,” Konior said.One of Konior’s many publications is “How’s it by You?”, a novel that tells the story of two mismatched fishing buddies. One thing that makes “How’s it by You?” a good read is that it is based on a true story.
 
“Although all of my books are fiction, there is a great amount of non-fiction involved in many of the stories. ‘How’s it by You?’ was written for my friend who is dearly departed. [He] was one of the most interesting and funniest people I’ve known,” Konior said.
 
Konior’s latest novel, “Mystery of Somber Bay Island”, was written as a collaboration piece with another author after Konior began experiencing issues writing a conclusion for the novel. He contributed to this novel under the pseudonym of Victor J. Knight.
 
“I met this gal on an authors website and she was a very accomplished author. I asked if she would not mind taking a look at it. I had some reservations about how the book ended, but she picked up from the same point I had issues with and we then collaborated to finish it,” Konior said.
 
After writing seven novels, Konior is not ready to give up his writing career yet. Not only does he intend to write another novel, but he predicts he might even shift genres.
 
“Christian writing appeals to me. It’s so rich in terms of material,” Konior said.Konior has remained active in the community of Trinity, as he is the president of the Westward Shores Anglers for Conservation club.
 
“We are concerned about conservation efforts, aside from just fishing,” Konior said. Konior has donated a copy of each of his novels to the local library of Trinity and also donates his novels for fundraising purposes.
 
To stay up to date with Konior’s work or to inquire on fundraising opportunities, he can be found on Facebook and Twitter. You can learn more about Konior and his publications at http://joneau2.wix.com/joneau2-book-page.
 

Trinity Co. native, WWII hero dies at 92

By Chris Edwards

Trinity County native Jap C. Lott died at his home in Pearland at the age of 92 last Thursday.

Lott was born April 21, 1923 in Groveton to Howard and Ila Lott. He graduated Groveton High School in 1940, and was a lifetime member (L-041) of the Groveton Alumni Association.

A highly decorated combat veteran, Lott loved his country and served in the Army Air Corps. He reached the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. He enlisted in the service in 1942 and was a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Among the missions he flew, he took part in tactical reconnaissance and bombing missions as part of the 82nd Tacical Reconnaissance Squadron of the 71st Tactical Recon Group, 5th Airforce.

After returning home and graduating from South Texas College of Law in 1951, Lott launched a career in Houston as a highly respected attorney for over 50 years.

He was married to his wife Louise, whom he is survived by, for 71 years. They spent most of their lives involved with their daughters’ activities, and traveled all over the country in their motor homes, often meeting up with friends they made on their many travels. He loved being outdoors, whether on the bay in Bacliff where they had their bay house, or raising cattle and gardening at the farm in Yoakum. He was an avid fisherman and hunter, gin-rummy player and reader. His favorite thing to do in later years after losing his eyesight was to listen to national news stations on TV to keep his mind active and keep up with politics. He was a wonderful storyteller, had a sharp mind until the end, and constantly amazed people with his ability to remember details and dates of events that had occurred throughout his life.

Lott was a member of many organizations and clubs through his life, including the State Bar of Texas, the Houston Bar Association, the Texas Trial Lawyers’ Association, 50+ year member of Eastern Star Lodge #284 of the Grand Lodge of Texas, Life Member of The Royal Order of Jesters and Scottish Rite of Freemasonry.

 

Local veteran remembers service, asks Trinity to thank a vet

By Jordan Likens

After the conclusion of World War II, the American people faced political and military tension with many other countries. This tension contributed to what would be the Vietnam War, which took place in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. The Vietnam War occurred in the midst of the Cold War-era and was considered to be a proxy war, a type of war that consisted of indirect conflict between two nations. The birth of the Vietnam War occurred on Nov. 1, 1955 and did not cease until April 30, 1975. Over the course of this 20-year war period, approximately 648,500 Americans were drafted into the armed forces to serve.

In the fall of 1970, a young Tom McCrory of Rio Grande City, TX began his enrollment at Sam Houston State University.  Shortly after beginning his college education, McCrory received a draft notice to join the American efforts in the Vietnam War. Upon receiving the draft notice, McCrory was forced to make a decision that he knew would have a major impact on his future. This decision was to join the Air Force, instead of being drafted into the war.

I felt like my chances of being secure in my well-being would be in the Air Force instead of the Army or Marines. I’m not going to lie about it. That is just how I felt about it,” McCrory said.

Upon entry into the Air Force, McCrory found himself stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico at a special weapons center. He then served in the 307th bomb wing as a Sergeant E4, where he was responsible for aircraft maintenance analysis.

After serving in New Mexico, McCrory found himself in U-Tapao, Thailand. His departure from the United States was a tough one.

When I shipped out to Thailand, I had a four-month-old son and had been married for three years, so it was pretty rough,” McCrory said.

Upon arriving in Thailand and beginning his work in arc light, a b52 bomb analysis, it was evident to McCrory that he was far from home.

Thailand is a tropical country and it was kind of a shock—a cultural shock—to be thrown into a position like that. The Thailand people were excellent people though. 

They were all very friendly,” McCrory said.

 After completing his work overseas, McCrory was discharged and began attending school again. In 1975, he returned to Sam Houston State University on the G.I. Bill and after two years transferred to Texas A&M University to complete his education. McCrory graduated in December 1977.

A decade later, McCrory became a founding member of an organization called Veterans of Foreign Wars. This organization had been established on the basis of unionizing veterans and assisting other veterans or members through comradery. McCrory is still a member of this organization. 

In April 2007, McCrory began his work with the Trinity County Veteran’s Wall of Honor Society and has since become its president. This organization strives to assist honorably discharged veterans in a time of need through various acts of kindness.

The way we differ from other organizations is that we can act almost instantaneously. If the veteran needs a hot water heater, air conditioner, or wheelchair ramp, we can provide it almost instantaneously. We also provide a means of transportation or fuel cards for the veterans to go to the V.A. hospital,” McCrory said.

Despite being busy with two organizations, McCrory and his colleagues are aiming to achieve yet another goal for the Trinity County Veteran’s Wall of Honor Society.

We would like to recruit some younger members for our organization. It is open to everyone—you do not have to be a veteran. I would like to see that happen,” McCrory said.

As Veteran’s Day approaches, we are all reminded of the sacrifice and patriotism that our veterans have given and shown over the course of our country’s history.  Because of veterans like McCrory, Americans may rest easy and embrace the freedom that our veterans have fought so hard for.

“Most veterans will tell you that it wasn’t worth a nickel, but they would not take a million dollars for the experience. It stays with you for the rest of your life,” McCrory said.

McCrory asks that everyone thank a veteran this Veteran’s Day.

 

In the spotlight: Steve Brownlee

Dr. Steve Brownlee, Trinity resident of five years, serves as principal at Lansberry Elementary where he works closely with students and staff to encourage and educate.

Brownlee said he tells his students daily, “I do not expect you to be perfect because I am not perfect. I just ask that you give me 100% on everything you do; be the best person that you can be in everything that you do!”

He and his siblings were born and raised in Northeast Harris County where they were raised by their loving parents.

“Our mom and dad raised us from the time we were little until we each grew up, moved off, and got married,” he said. 

After graduating from C.E. King High School in 1977, Brownlee attended Stephen F. Austin State University where he obtained his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and later received his doctorate through Texas A&M University Commerce in 2013.

After earning his bachelor’s, he became a 6th grade math teacher for Northshore Middle School in Galena Park I.S.D. 

“I still love teaching.  I still see my job as principal is to teach,” he said. “The only difference as a principal, I have the opportunity to work with students, teachers, parents, andother administrators on a much larger scale.” 

This wasn’t Brownlee’s first job, however. He started working at only 14 years old at a grocery store where he was a sacker for several years. He has also worked as a cashier for Foley’s Department Store; as laborer at a Diamond Shamrock Plant; as a chemistry lab technician for Baker Rock Bit; as a plumber; and as a minister.   

“…My father was a master plumber and taught me the trade,” said Brownlee. “He opened his own plumbing company in 1981.  For the next six years, I worked as a plumber by day and a music and youth minister by night.” 

Outside of the teaching job at Northshore, he also served as their assistant principal. His other educational positions have included working as an elementary, intermediate, and junior high principal for other districts. 

“…I enjoy getting out of bed every day and coming to work.  I work with a great staff.  I have fantastic kids at school who love me almost as much as I love them,” said Brownlee.   

In addition to his job, he enjoys spending time with his wife, Sherry who he married in Austin on Jan. 2, 1987.  He met her through his sister, who knew her from a church’s Singles Ministry. 

“My sister invited me on this Singles Retreat to hook me up with a different young lady.  Sherry and I met and were married 7 months later.  Twenty-eight years later, we have two wonderful boys, Andrew, 24, and Sean, 22,” he said. “We are very proud of our two young men.  They are both Christians and Eagle Scouts.  This is how I developed my tremendous love for camping.” 

The Brownlees purchased a camper fairly recently so they could “glamp,” which means, camping with amenities. Brownlee said this was a compromise between him and his wife, who also loves the outdoors. The two became very accustomed to spending time outside since their sons were involved with Boy Scouts for years. Outside of camping, they enjoy teaching an adult Sunday school class at University Heights Baptist Church in Huntsville where they also sing in the choir. 

“I am a teacher!  I will go where God calls me but I love to teach.”

If Brownlee could change anything about the education system in the United States, he would change high stakes testing. 

“There are much better ways of measuring student, campus, and district success.  A multiple-choice test is easier to quantify and compare across the state and nation but it tells you very little about the true aptitude and skills of the student as an individual,” he said. 

Brownlee believes the teachers at Lansberry Elementary are some of the best, and strives to impress upon his students that they can make a difference in the world. One of the ways Lansberry tries to accomplish this is through the school’s, “Hero of the Day” recording that’s played during dismall announcements, sponsored by the local McDonald’s. The two-minute recording recounts the adversities in a person’s life that they had to overcome to be famous or make a difference. 

“Here at L.E.S., I want to prepare kids to become great lawyers, farmers, doctors, singers, engineers, welders, chemists, plumbers, teachers, machinists, soldiers, hair stylists, etc,” said Brownlee. “Whatever they are going to be, strive to be the best!”

 

“90 Minutes in Heaven” released, based on Trinity Co. acccident

Last Friday, a movie based on the true story of a Trinity County accident hit theaters. “90 Minutes in Heaven” recounts the events of Pastor Don Piper’s wreck where he was pronounced dead and alleges to have spent 90 minutes in Heaven before returning to Earth. 

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace, Lyle Stubbs, remembers when the 1989 accident happened. 

“It was a miracle, is what it was, “ said Stubbs. “I believe in healing.”

The film is based on a New York Times best-selling book about Piper’s experiences. In the work, the Baptist preacher describes how he was driving home from a minister’s conference when an 18-wheeler hit his vehicle. 

The book reads, “Medical personnel said he died instantly. While his body lay lifeless inside the ruins of his car, Piper experienced the glories of heaven, awed by its beauty and music.”

A preacher who had been at the same conference with Piper came upon the accident and decided to pray at Piper’s side. After 90 minutes, it became evident that Piper was alive. 

The Lord impressed it upon [the preacher’s] heart to do it – told him to go pray for him and he did,” said Stubbs. “That man came back to life. It doesn’t happen everyday, you know?”

According to the book, Piper became an ordained minister in 1985 and faced a long, grueling recovery after the accident. It also states that since that time, he has been invited onto various television shows and radio programs, that he writes a newspaper column, and leads conferences and retreats around the world. 

“It was one of the biggest things I think to ever happen around here, but it wasn’t really publicized that much. I’m not sure that everyone knew about it,” said Stubbs. “It was big and should affect everybody. Especially nonbelievers. It was just a great thing, I think.”

Piper kept the story to himself for years but was eventually persuaded by friends and family to co-write a book with Cecil Murphy, who is associated with the writing of over 90 books.  

The film features Kate Bosworth, Hayden Christensen, and Dwight Yokam, and earned over $2 million for its opening weekend. 

“My whole family is gonna watch [the movie],” said Stubbs. 

To see the film in the theaters, visit the Cinemark 12 in Lufkin or the Cinestar of Huntsville. 

 

In the spotlight: Bennie Schiro

Bennie Schiro has been Trinity’s District Attorney for three years. He was born in Corpus Christi and had a typical boyhood, spending his childhood hunting, fishing, and enjoying the outdoors.

He would later go on to attend Sam Houston State University, where he majored in Criminal Justice and worked full time as a correctional officer in the Texas prison system. After obtaining his bachelor’s degree, Schiro went to Oklahoma City University to pursue law school. It was a decision that forced him to buckle down and work harder than he had before, but one he’s never regretted. “In law school I really learned the value of hard work,” he said. “A trait which has paid dividends ever since.”

While bridging the gap between jobs, Schiro worked for David Weeks, the District Attorney of Walker County. It was there that he realized that becoming a D.A. was his “calling.” From 2009 to 2012, Schiro worked as an assistant District Attorney, before being elected into the position he currently holds.

Although working as Trinity’s District Attorney is exactly what Schiro wants, the job does come with its share of burdens. An almost constant barrage of sexual assaults, murders, limited resources, and other issues keep Schiro on his toes.

According to Schiro, he could hardly imagine ever wanting to working as a defense attorney. “For me to even consider ever becoming a defense attorney, it would have to be a choice of not feeding my family or becoming one,” Schiro said. “I don’t think I could handle trying to help someone escape responsibility for a criminal act I know they committed.  As a district attorney I try not to prosecute cases where I am unsure of guilt.  I have never been unsure of someone’s guilt in my years of prosecuting cases in Walker and Trinity counties. In my experience, all other district attorneys I know operate the same way.”

When Schiro came to work in Trinity County he was told he needed to come down harder on sex offenders. One of his most memorable cases involves a young victim he developed a bond with and fondly remembers the moment he knew he earned her trust. “At one point while preparing for trial with her, me, my staff, workers from the Kalin’s Center and the victim’s mother were crossing the street and with all of them around to choose from, the young girl took my hand to help her cross the street,” said Schiro. “No one noticed it, but it was a moment I will never ever forget.” 

The well being of children is close to Schiro’s heart. Although he also serves as a member of the Lions Club and the Joe Werner Masonic Lodge, he said, “I am most proud of my service on the board of directors for the Kalin’s Center. I am currently the vice president.”

Working as the district attorney and serving various organizations makes for a busy schedule, he also makes time for his wife and son, and for teaching at his Alma Matter, S.H.S.U.

“Another thing I am very proud of is that I returned to Sam Houston in 2008 to become a professor of Criminal Justice,” he said. “I have taught there every semester since.  I teach one to two nights a week (so that it does not interfere with the first priority, District Attorney) depending on the needs of the Criminal Justice Department.”

Schiro would like to see Trinity County gain new sources of tax revenue to help with the school system, charities, and local government. He enjoys the county for, “the sense of home and community,” he said. “Where I grew up, you didn’t know persons outside of your circle, and when I lived in Houston for a short time people would step on you rather than look you in the eye and say hi.  Here you are familiar with most others in the community and you can share in their successes . . . I would not trade Trinity for anything.”