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The RVA On Ice skating rink at the 17th Street Farmers Market, Nov. 30,2019.

We join the Virginia War Memorial in mourning the passing of World War II veteran Russell Scott. Mr. Scott passed away on Nov. 19 at the age of 99. His advanced years were no impediment to Mr. Scott, who volunteered regularly at the War Memorial for more than 20 years. He was there just days before his death for the 2019 Commonwealth’s Veterans Day ceremony on Nov. 11 where he and seven other World War II veterans were recognized by Gov. Ralph Northam and hundreds of other well-wishers. A Richmond native, Mr. Scott joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1943. He served as the tail gunner on a B-25 bomber called “Wabbit Twacks” until his airplane was shot down over Italy on May 25, 1944. He was captured and held by the Germans as a prisoner of war until his release in May 1945. A replica of his plane, “Wabbit Twacks,” hangs in the lobby of the Virginia War Memorial’s Paul and Phyllis Galanti Center in his honor.

“Russell Scott was truly the heart and soul of the Virginia War Memorial. For years, he captivated visitors to the War Memorial, both young and old, with his stories and his charm,” said Dr. Clay Mountcastle, Virginia War Memorial Director. “He was a hero, a treasure, and a true friend. He leaves a legacy that will endure for decades. We will truly miss him, but we will never miss a chance to continue telling his amazing story.”

Russell Scott came from an era of everyday Americans who stepped forward when their country called and accomplished great deeds. And, now, for this old soldier gone home, a prayer of Taps: “Day is done, gone the sun, from the lake, from the hill, from the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.”

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Virginia might not be the smartest state in the Union, but we’re in the top 10. A recent study from SafeHome.org puts Virginia at No. 6 when it comes to brains. The report notes that 65% of Americans think they have above-average intelligence and 2 in 3 people say they are smarter than other people. As the folks at SafeHome.org have observed, not everyone can be correct. To find out where the real wise ones reside, the study used the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the U.S. Department of Education and The College Board to analyze four categories in each state. The formula takes into account college degrees, high school graduation rates, professional or advanced degrees and SAT and ACT test scores to create its smartest states rankings. The 10 smartest states in America are New Jersey, Utah, Massachusetts, North Carolina, Montana, Virginia, Kansas, Wisconsin, Oregon and Minnesota. As for the dumbest states, let’s just say folks in Idaho, Oklahoma and New Mexico might want to crack open a textbook or two.

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Ice skating is one of our favorite traditions of the holiday season. So we were disheartened to learn that two area outdoor ice skating rinks won’t be returning to the Richmond area this year. According to a news story in the RTD by Colleen Curran, neither RVA On Ice, the outdoor skating rink that was installed at the revamped 17th Street Market in Shockoe Bottom last year, or The Rink at West Broad Village in Short Pump will be operating this winter. But if you’re a fan of ice skating, the Children’s Museum of Richmond will debut a 1,344-square-foot outdoor ice skating rink the day after Thanksgiving, and Stony Point Fashion Park also has an outdoor rink that will be open for the season. If you feel like traveling, Kings Dominion’s Winterfest in Doswell also has a large outdoor rink that is open now. Ice skating is great fun and wonderful exercise for the athletically inclined — and for those of us who are no Hans Brinker or Dorothy Hamill, it can be just as entertaining watching other folks twirl about (or wipe out) on the ice.

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Did you know there is a global horseradish shortage? As a result, Burger King’s spicy Zesty Onion horseradish-based sauce is in short supply. A news story from CNN Wire reports that unusually harsh weather this spring and summer in the Midwest has severely impacted the 2019 harvest of the spicy plant that is usually prepared as a condiment. “We are working quickly with our suppliers to maintain continuity and keep offering our guests the zesty experience they love,” a Burger King spokesperson said in a statement. But Eric Rygg, president of Silver Spring Foods, says, “2019 was a double-whammy for U.S. horseradish in terms of the weather. While we’ve planted more horseradish than ever before, we’ve been unable to harvest it all on time due to the huge snow melt, a wet fall and an early frost. And we are hearing the same from other horseradish farmers in the U.S., Canada and Europe.” Silver Spring Foods is the world’s largest grower and processor of horseradish.

Both Burger King and Arby’s — who also serves up a horseradish-based dip — say they’re working closely with suppliers to avoid any disruption in stocks. We wish them luck.

— Robin Beres

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