With the end of the year approaching, now seems an appropriate time to recount the biggest stories of 2012 on Mentor Patch.
Now, when I say "biggest," I mean that somewhat subjectively.
Yes, I will include many of the most-read stories on the site this year. However, this is also an opportunity to highlight some stories that are important even if people missed them the first time around.
Each day from now until Dec. 31, I will repost two stories that I consider the biggest. (When possible, I will also give you updates on those stories.)
Sadly, the first two stories have become timely due to the recent tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
In February, a fatal school shooting occurred in Chardon -- leaving three dead and two other with serious injuries. It both shocked and united the region.
However, I don't want to recount the tragedy. No, it's still fresh in our minds (even moreso after Friday.)
What I want to highlight is how the kids of Mentor rallied around the Hilltoppers and showed their support.
So the first two stories I'm reposting are:
28. Lake Catholic To Chardon -- 'Forever In Our Hearts'
27. Mentor High's Message to Chardon -- 'We Care'
Both Mentor High and Lake Catholic have given us a plethora of incredible athletes and teams this year.
But two special Mentor athletes accomplished a feat that we may never see repeated.
First, the Cardinals' Justin Fritts was named Mr. Basketball in March. Then, Mitch Trubisky was announced as Mr. Football in November.
Never has any school had a reigning Mr. Basketball and Mr. Football in the same calendar year and it well may never happen again.
In honor of Fritts and Trubisky, our next two reposted stories are:
26. Mentor's Justin Fritts Is Named Mr. Basketball
25. Mentor's Mitch Trubisky Named Mr. Football
There are more than 100 restaurants in Mentor but people always have a big appetite for the next, big thing.
Stories about Maraca's and Frank and Pauly's opening got a lot of attention, but three restaurants received the most interest from readers this year (and, among the three, one stood out.)
Every week I was asked when Brown Derby and Zoup! were opening. (My usual answer was, "I don't know yet.")
But Melt ... people asked me about Melt so often that I jokingly suggested we change the site's name to Melt-or Patch.
When we first wrote that Melt was coming to Mentor, 3,800 people recommended the story on Facebook. That's not how many people read the story. That's how many people recommended it. (That's about 8 percent of Mentor's population.)
So, without further ado, our next three reposted stories are:
24. Brown Derby To Open Diamond Centre Location
23. Zoup! Coming To Points East
22. Melt Coming To Mentor
I will remember 2012 as the year 8-year-old Erin Potter met Justin Bieber.
If you don't know Erin, she's just about the bravest girl in the world. She is fighting her third bout with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia.
She also happens to be a huge fan of Justin Bieber.
So you -- yes, all of you -- threw your mighty clout behind Erin's cause and did everything you could to help her meet her hero.
And you know what? It worked.
21. #Bieber4Potter: An 8-Year-Old Girl Fighting Cancer Wants To Meet Her Hero
20. Local Girl Who Is Fighting Cancer Gets To Meet Her Hero
When Mentor firefighter Antonio "T.J." DiDonato told me what he planned to do earlier this year, I thought he was crazy.
He wanted to complete the Spartan Death Race -- a competition so challenging, so dangerous that it's URL is www.youmaydie.com.
The obstacles are ridiculous -- 50-mile hikes with a kayak hoisted overhead, splitting trees, laps in a cold, filthy retention pond. These are done over a stretch of 57 hours where anyone who falls asleep is eliminated.
But DiDonato did it. More than 300 of the toughest people in the country entered this year's race and fewer than 50 finished the course. Of those who finished, DiDonato had one of the eight best times in the country.
DiDonato's message afterward: "If I can do this stuff, anyone can do it."
19. Mentor Firefighter Taking On Spartan Death Race
18. DiDonato Reflects On Death Race
We recently had an update on this big story earlier this month.
The Cleveland Clinic has started to put its mark on Mentor.
First, it opened a physician's office on Wayside Drive. Now it has purchased 47 acres in the Newell Creek development.
The Clinic has not announced its intentions for that property but, considering the size of the lot, the potential is huge.
17. Cleveland Clinic Is Coming To Mentor
16. Cleveland Clinic Purchases Property In Newell Creek
No single event -- not even the announcement of Melt coming to Mentor -- has blown up my Twitter feed like the police standoff this summer by the intersection of Mansion and Center Street.
More than a hundred people were watching from behind the barricade as police tried to convince Antonio Iaconianni to give up his gun, crawl from underneath a porch on Mansion and surrender himself.
And, after about six hours, Iaconianni did.
He has been charged with carrying a concealed weapon and inducing panic. The case was bound over to Lake County Common Pleas but no judge has been assigned yet.
15. Police Cordone Mansion Street During Standoff
13. Man Involved In Standoff Has Been Identified
One of the first stories published on this site was about the murder of Mentor woman Annie McSween.
For the last two years, her grisly rape and murder hung over this community. And while the arrest and conviction of Joseph Thomas does not guarantee closure for those who knew and loved her, it certainly helps the process.
Before Thomas, Lake County went 20 years without a capital murder trial. I will be happy if another one is not necessary for the rest of my natural life.
12. Joseph Thomas Sentenced To Death For Murder Of Annie McSween
11. The Entire Annie McSween Murder -- From Crime To Sentence
The single most-read story on Mentor Patch this year wasn't about Melt. It didn't involve the Cleveland Clinic, Joseph Thomas or that guy who tried to make meth in Walmart.
It was about Gary Stroud.
Stroud (a former Mentor police officer and Lake County special deputy) admitted to murdering his wife Diane (a former Mentor-on-the-Lake Council President) with a hammer and hiding her body in his garage.
9. Stroud Sentenced To 16 To Life For Murdering Wife
We have two columns on this site.
Sandra Ward writes Pet Pause for animal lovers and Devone Lansing writes Mama Says for anyone who has ever been woken up at 2 a.m. by one of their children. (And then woken up again at 2:30 a.m.)
One of my favorite things about this job is getting to see what these funny, honest and insightful women write each week.
Here are my favorite columns from both of them this year.
8. Dog Shaming Goes Viral
Whether or not you voted for him, I think we can all agree that it was a pretty big deal when President Barack Obama came to town the Saturday before Election Day.
Not only that, he mentioned the Potter family in his acceptance speech.
It seemed like presidential and vice presidential candidates were in Ohio every week from September on. And, though Lake County voted for Romney, it doesn't appear as if the state or region will lose its bellwether status anytime soon.
6. Watch: Obama Rallies In Mentor
5. Obama Mentions Mentor In Acceptance Speech
Forgive me if I cheat a little bit. This next story was actually published in late Dec. 2011, but it deserves to be revisited.
Chris Jacquemain passed away last year from an accidental overdose. In a short span of time, he went from a full college scholarship and playing Div. I college football to an addiction that ultimately killed him.
Sadly, Chris's story is not uncommon. Heroin continues to kill dozens of people in Lake County every year -- many of them are around Chris's age.
What is uncommon is the bravery of the Jacquemain family. They could have grieved and kept their sadness and struggles to themselves, and who could have faulted them?
However, they took the brave step of sharing Chris's story in hopes that it would help others.
4. Chris Jacquemain: From A Life On The Field To A Death By Drugs
From July 2005 to October 2008, five students who went to Mentor Public Schools killed themselves.
The families of two of the teenagers -- Eric Mohat and Sladjana Vidovic -- filed lawsuits against the Mentor Public Schools district. (The Mohat family's suit was dismissed but the Vidovic suit is ongoing.)
The suits claim that bullying contributed to all five students' deaths.
Alix Lambert, a documentary filmmaker, interviewed the Mohat and Vidovic families for a documentary called "Mentor."
After the trailer for "Mentor" was released, the school district replied to it -- saying it only told one side of the story.
Even more importantly, Mentor High Student Government President Sarah Perry wrote a response to it.
For the first time, the students talked about how they felt -- about the tragic deaths, about how their school had been portrayed in the media and about what is being done to combat bullying in Mentor Schools.
3. Student Voices Left Unheard
A pair of military men who made the ultimate sacrifice were honored in Mentor this year.
A section of Route 84 in Mentor was renamed after Marine Sgt. Mark Smykowski.
Mentor native Smykowski died at the age of 23 after the Hummer in which he rode hit a roadside bomb in June 2006 in the Al Anbar province of Iraq.
In recognition of his sacrifice and service, Route 84 from Broadmoor to Chillicothe Road was renamed in his honor.
Twenty-three is too young to die and Army Corp. Pryor Gobble was five years younger than that when he disappeared near Hagaru-ri, North Korea, on Dec. 12, 1950.
For 62 years, the Gobble family was not sure what happened to their brother, their uncle, their son.
However, this year, the remains of Gobble came home and his family buried him -- giving them a piece of closure they were denied for more than half of a century.
2. Watch: Road Renamed For Sgt. Mark Smykowski
1. A Soldier Returns Home After 62 Years