|Dawkins House avoids county tax sale
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
One of Union County's historic houses has been saved from the auction block.
The Dawkins House was on the list of property for the county's delinquent tax sale, a public auction held each year to settle unpaid property taxes. The sale takes place in the law library on the third floor of the courthouse.
The Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation stepped in at the last minute and paid the $460.44 tax bill on Friday.
“We had the money donated to us for the cause,” said Mike Betenbaugh, executive director of the Palmetto Trust. “We found out we couldn't do it on the day of the sale.”
Ted Trantham and Dena Blackwell collected donations from people in the community, which was given to the Palmetto Trust to pay the tax bill, Betenbaugh said.
Located at 117 N. Church St., the Dawkins House became the South Carolina's last capitol as a member of the Confederate States of America in February of 1865. Union Gen. William T. Sherman was closing in on Columbia and soon would set fire to the state capitol. Gov. Andrew Gordon McGrath contacted an old college classmate - legislator and judge Thomas N. Dawkins - in Union and discussions were begun about moving the capitol to Union. Around Feb. 15, the center of government with its records, office holders and supporting workers relocated to Dawkins' home, known as "The Shrubs."
The house is thought to have been built in 1800 and was purchased by Dawkins in 1845. He named it "The Shrubs" after the English estate on which his wife, Mary, grew up.
The house, which had fallen into disrepair, was donated to the Union/Laurens Commission for Higher Education in 1999. USC-Union officials had hoped to restore the house and use it as a campus facility, but budget constraints didn't allow this to happen.
The Progress Club of Union mounted a drive to save the house and brought the commission together with the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation. On Feb. 18, 2009, the commission signed the house over to the trust.
The trust began marketing the house through multiple outlets, including a feature in "This Old House" magazine. Peter Triggiani, who had previously restored the Montgomery House, a Victorian mansion in Reidsville, N.C., read about the Dawkins House on the Internet, came to Union to see it, realized its potential and agreed to restore it. He purchased the house from the Palmetto Trust for $1 and began restoring it.
According to the agreement with Palmetto Trust, Triggiani had three years to restore the house; then he was required to open it four days a year to the public.
Triggiani restored the house to the point where it could be safely inhabited then stopped. He has since left town.
The Palmetto Trust will attempt to contact Triggiani and have the Dawkins House put on the market so it can be sold to an investor, Betenbaugh said. Meanwhile, Blackwell will be available to take donations for an “endangered places fund” that will cover any expenses for the house.
Wreck victims remembered as generous, fun-loving
By ANNA BROWN
Courtney Blitchington Rogers says her brother, Jonathan Daniel Griffin, told her God was going to call him home soon.
“But I never wanted to believe him,” she said.
Griffin, 27, was one of three men from Union County who died Oct. 29 in a one-vehicle wreck on the Jonesville-Lockhart Highway. Family and friends are mourning the loss of the three, all described as generous and fun-loving. Griffin died at the scene of the 1:40 a.m. wreck, which occurred on S.C. 9 near the Black Bottom Road intersection, Union County Coroner William Holcombe said.
Also killed were the driver of the late model Camaro, Michael Lee Crocker, 35, of 210 Long Twelve St., and another passenger Paul Nicholas “Nick” Davis, 34, of 1418 Peach Orchard Road. Highway Patrol spokesman Lance Cpl. Tony Keller said the car was traveling east when it ran off the right side of the roadway and struck a tree. None of the three men were wearing seat belts.
Courtney said Griffin was an amazing big brother.
“He loved and cared unconditionally,” she said. “He would give someone the shirt off his back and the food off his plate.”
Cherie Woodsby, the mother of Davis' 9-year-old daughter, Tristen, said he was a great person who would be missed by many.
“Nick was a laid-back person and he loved being around people,” Woodsby said. “He had so many friends and he was always around someone making them laugh. I don't believe he had any enemies. He loved playing with his little girl. She loved her Daddy very much and she still doesn't understand that he's not coming back. It breaks my heart. “
Both Nick's and Tristen's birthdays are coming up - Tristen on Nov. 28 and Nick on Nov. 8.
“I always thought they were going to be able to spend much more time together in life,” Woodsby said.
Even if Davis was unhappy he always tried to keep everybody in a good mood, Woodsby said.
“That's something I will miss the most about him. He didn't have much but he was always trying to give what he did have to someone else,” she said. “Tristen is just like that and that's two of the things I want her to always know/remember about him.”
Crocker is remembered as a good man and father of three who enjoyed his family, being on the river and catching catfish.
“He was a darn good daddy,” said friend Mickey Chesnut. “Just about every weekend we were with our kids, at the river, or fishing, or the Mudbog. He was a great person. Anything he could do for you, if he liked you he would do it. For me, it didn't matter where he was he would drop whatever he was doing to come help me out. I couldn't ask for a better friend.”
Chesnut said he, Crocker, Crocker's oldest daughter and Chesnut's youngest daughter went camping on the river about a month ago. Crocker's phone, which Chesut said had good pictures of the trip, was lost in the wreck.
Chesnut said some friends had been to the site of the wreck looking for Michael's phone, but couldn't find it.
Friend Nick Robinson said Crocker was a good man and a good friend who would be missed.
“Ahhhh-yeeee one last river pirate yell!” Robinson posted on Facebook. “You were a good man, a good friend, a good father, and a good husband! You'll be missed by all the river pirate crew! Save us a spot on the river up there.”
Daniel Clanton, another friend, offered this tribute.
“Never deny death, even the hardship it puts towards our souls,” he said. “Our Living God will comfort us with His arms in our time of need. Michael was a great fisherman and friend and an even better father and husband towards Libby and the kids. To Big Mike, aka 'Stack' I'm going to miss you my brother and I promise you I'm going to take care of your family as if they were mine. Much love. River pirates for life.”
‘God’s got this’
Pair’s crash survival called unbelievable
By ANNA BROWN
Alana Moss has a favorite saying, the Rev. Randy Smith of Christian Fellowship Church says.
“Alana is all about faith,” he said. “Her words are, 'Don't worry. God's got this.' If she could speak to her parents - and she will - she would say, 'Don't worry. God's got this.'”
Moss, 16, a student at Whitmire Community School, was critically injured Oct. 18 in a two-vehicle accident on Santuc-Carlisle Highway. She is hospitalized at Spartanburg Medical Center, where her condition has improved over the week.
After the wreck, members of Christian Fellowship Church gathered at the hospital where they formed a circle and prayed for Moss and 19-year-old Jonathan Bailey, the driver of the truck she was riding in. Bailey has been released from the hospital. Smith said both Moss and Bailey are outstanding people.
“They are two absolutely high quality, top of the line teen-agers,” Smith said. “And we thank God so much for faithfully protecting them in what should have been a fatal accident.”
The wreck occurred around 1:10 p.m. about four miles south of Union near Wilson Road. Lance Cpl. Gary Miller with the South Carolina Highway Patrol said Bailey, the driver of a 2006 Chevrolet pickup, and Marcia Cherell Tucker, 25, of Carlisle, the driver of a 2007 Dodge SUV, were both traveling south when the wreck occurred.
“Both vehicles attempted to pass a slower vehicle,” Miller said.
Bailey's vehicle and Tucker's vehicle made contact. Bailey's truck went off the roadway and struck trees.
No charges have been filed. The Highway Patrol's Multijurisdictional Accident Investigation Team is assisting in the investigation, Miller said.
Bailey and Moss were trapped in the mangled truck. The Union County Fire and Rescue Squad, Santuc Fire Department and Monarch Fire Department were called to assist Union County EMS in extricating them. Moss was freed first and taken by ambulance to the hospital. It took approximately 30 minutes to free Bailey. He was flown by helicopter to the hospital.
Smith said the highway patrol and EMS personnel told the Moss and Bailey families it was unbelievable that the two had survived the crash.
“They said it was like somebody had a hand on them, protecting them, and that is exactly what took place,” he said. “You couldn't ask for two better kids. It goes to show you that bad things do happen to good people, but through it all God has a plan and he is working it out.”
On July 14, Brandon Lewis, another member of the Christian Fellowship youth group, survived a potentially fatal dirt bike crash. He and a friend, Bradley Scott, ran head-on into each other while riding bikes in the Jonesville area.
“Brandon's family has been a tremendous source of encouragement to Alana's family,” Smith said. “They are saying, 'Here he is. This is what God can do.' We have seen miracle after miracle in the last four months. In one thing after another God has manifested himself, an ever-present help in time of trouble. He loves us more than we can imagine.”
Smith said Bailey, a Union Christian Day School graduate, had worked the week before the wreck in Christian Fellowship's food booth at the Union County Fair. Bailey said after the wreck that God had known what was ahead of him and before the wreck had helped prepare him by allowing him to be with people who loved him and who are good influences.
“He sees the providence of God in his life even leading up to this,” Smith said.
Members of the youth group signed a volleyball and a softball for Moss, which were delivered to her at the hospital by youth director Jason Koepke.
Whitmire Community School Principal Joey Haney said Moss plays both sports at school and is a role model for all the students. He said the accident has been painful for the small, close-knit student body.
“Alana is a great student,” Haney said. “She is very respectful and does everything you ask her to do. In our Pre-K through twelfth grade school she is a role model not just for the high school students, but for the younger students as well. Lots of prayers are going up and it is very evident God is doing some miracle work.”
Alana has a younger brother, Brennon, who is in fifth grade. Her older siblings, Brittany and Cody, graduated from the school.
“All four are or have been our students,” Haney said. “The Moss family has been with us for several years and we think a lot of them.”
Former Philippi pastor running for District 42 seat
By ANNA BROWN
Tommy Mann says he has always had an interest in politics and he feels it is time to take the initiative in some issues that concern him rather than just hoping these values will be protected.
That is why the 30-year-old Republican is running for the District 42 seat in the S.C. House of Representatives.
“I have followed politics for a long time and always considered the possibility of a run for office,” he said. “But there are two things that are strong on my heart. The first is I am very pro life. For years I tried to lobby and write letters and do things to end abortion. I feel like it is time for me to take the initiative. The second is protecting people of all faiths. Since the middle of summer we have been seeing people's religious liberty infringed on. I want to make sure that people of all faiths know that their First Amendment right - the free exercise of their religion - is still going to be protected.”
Mann has both a Facebook page and a website, voteformann.com. The website includes his policy positions on abortion, religious freedom, the right to bear arms, taxes and abstinence education.
Mann said he made the decision to run for the office in August. He announced on Oct. 11 that he is resigning as associate pastor at Philippi Baptist Church, where he has worked since 2008. The family will remain members of the church.
“When I speak I don't want to speak for the church,” he said. “I thought it was best for the people of Philippi to step down from my responsibilities there.”
Mann is a former member of the Union County Assessment and Appeals Board and for the past three years was chairman of the Union County Comprehensive Health Committee.
He is a native of Orlando, Fla., and a graduate of Arlington Baptist College in Texas where he received a Bachelor of Arts in Bible. He and his wife, Alicia, have two children, Reagan and T.J. He is the author of several Christian books, including “Asleep in Heaven's Nursery,” “All the Law” and “Who is God.”
Mann said he believes that life begins at conception and should be protected.
Advances in ultrasound technology, embryology, and DNA studies show us that each fertilized egg is genetically complete, and contains its own unique blueprint for life,” he said. “If that doesn't constitute life, then what does? If a child inside the womb is alive, there is no justification for killing it. I pledge to introduce the Life Begins at Conception Act on the House floor, guaranteeing the full rights of personhood to the unborn, including their right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. This also means that we should defund, not defend, Planned Parenthood. I will never cast a vote to approve any budget that gives them one penny of your tax dollars.”
Mann said the United States is a nation founded on the idea that no one religion should be championed by the State.
“But neither should any religion be silenced by the State,” he said.” Our out-of-control Supreme Court seems to have forgotten this. In their quest of judicial activism, they have infringed upon the rights of some citizens while trying to give rights to others. I support the Pastor Protection Act and the First Amendment Defense Act. I want to promise pastors that they can still choose for themselves whom they will marry, and churches can decide for themselves their building reservation policy. But I want to go further than that. I want to promise the business owners that they can continue the free exercise of their religion, not as a matter of hatred, but as a matter of religious conviction.”
Mann supports the Second Amendment.
“Our founding fathers were not crazy when they included the Second Amendment in the Bill of Rights, and they were not thinking merely of hunting deer,” he said. “Every law-abiding citizen has the right to defend himself in the face of those citizens who choose not to obey the law. I strongly support law enforcement, as I come from a long line of Florida's finest, but I also realize that sometimes every second counts. Citizens should have the right to own weapons in their home, and as a person with my own concealed weapons permit, I believe citizens should have the right to feel safe when they leave home.”
While taxes are necessary, Mann said he believes they should be kept low and spent wisely.
“Most people have no problem paying taxes when they understand that their dollars are used to pay for police officers, fire fighters, teachers, schools, honest civil servants, safe roads, underprivileged children, disabled citizens, and other important necessities,” he said. “However, most people also cringe at the level of wasteful spending in both Columbia and Washington D.C. I pledge to keep taxes low, block waste, and bring my fiscal conservatism to the table when voting for any budget.”
Mann said he believes in abstinence education.
“I can't help but laugh when people say abstinence doesn't work,” he said. “In fact, abstinence is the only thing that works. With the exception of our Lord's mother Mary, no abstinent person has ever conceived a child, and their only risk of contracting an STD is non-sexually (thus making the S kind of a moot letter). There was a movement in Union County to introduce contraception to our students, but as chairman of the Comprehensive Health Committee, I helped successfully defeat the attempt. Instead we introduced a curriculum called “Choosing the Best,” which has been quite effective. The year we introduced the new material, Union County led the state per capita in pregnancies among 10- to 12-year- old students. The next year, we led the state in percent of decrease in the same category, and the rates have continually declined. If minors are to receive contraception, that should be a decision left up to parents, not to a State that thinks it is a better parent.”
Republican Mark Cathcart has also announced his candidacy for the District 42 seat. He ran for the seat in 2014.
Community trying to keep Union’s Belk store open
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
A grassroots effort is underway to save Union's Belk store, which will reportedly close in January.
Numerous posts on Facebook are urging people to call or write Belk officials in Charlotte, asking them to reconsider their decision to close the store. The posts include address and phone numbers for Belk's corporate headquarters.
Meanwhile, Susan Ward has contacted several movers and shakers in the community to express her concern, including Torance Inman, director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce; Andrena Powell-Baker, executive director of the Union County Development Board; Union Mayor Harold Thompson and Union County Supervisor Frank Hart.
In an email to Union County News publisher Anna Brown, Ward wrote about the effect the store's closing might have on the community.
“I value the lifestyle of a small town and the ability to know your neighbors,” she wrote. “As a native of Union, I remember growing up in a thriving small town. There are many fond memories of my childhood in Union. I clearly remember shopping in Union and frequenting Belk on Main Street. At the holidays, we loved the storefront of all of the merchants, but vividly remember the moving Santa on display on the side front of Belk. As time moves forward and life changed and transitioned, I continue to support local stores and enjoyed shopping at Belk in the new location. Belk provides a good selection for clothing and home goods. I do not want to lose another business in Union. Still, there are many great things about a small town, but we need to keep what we have. Economically, we need to keep our businesses thriving and not leaving including ensuring that Belk remains in our community. As far as economic factors, it is vital for small towns to maintain their quality of life with a good school system, adequate healthcare, shopping and restaurants. Too often we all stand by and just let things happen, as I have in the past, but I for one want to see our small town thrive, not just survive.”
As of last week, there had been no official announcement by Belk about the future of the Union store. Attempts to reach store manager Gwen Ganzaroli were unsuccessful.
“Although there's been no official notification of Belk's intentions” the company plans to close the store in January, Inman said. “They appreciate people's concern, efforts and input, but the decision has been made and they plan to go forward.”
Several factors contributed to the decision to close the store, Inman said. Union was “one of the least productive stores in the chain.”
There are also issues with the building - it is not cost effective for the company to correct them or build a new building, Inman said.
“I would like to see them remain here; they are an asset to the community,” he said. “It's a major loss.”
Losing stores creates blighted areas, Inman said. Although it has a smaller impact on larger cities, it has a larger impact on Union because it's in the center of the business district, he said.
Powell-Baker said she has had two conversations with Hart and Thompson about the store and another meeting is planned for today.
“We all agree to do whatever we can to try and reverse he decision,” she said.
Hart said county officials are “actively pursuing” a meeting with Belk officials in hopes of find out if anything can be done to keep the Union store open.
Union was Belk’s first South Carolina store and second overall.
Teen says God protected him during freak accident
By ANNA BROWN
The doctors and nurses at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center had some nicknames for Brandon Lewis after he survived a freak accident on a dirt bike in July: “Walking Miracle.” “Miracle Kid.”
“They said one more millimeter of impact and he would have been killed or it would have given him severe brain damage,” said Brandon's father, Steve. “The thickness of a penny was what separated him between life and death.”
Brandon, a 17-year-old Union County High School senior, gives God all the credit.
“I wasn't expecting to die that day,” he said. “I was expecting to have dinner with friends and have a great time. But my day could have been that day. The thing is - I know where I was going. I was going to heaven. I have been redeemed by the blood of Christ. I want people to make sure they know where they are going. Today could be their day. Something could happen they would never expect. There is always that potential.”
It was July 14 and Brandon was in the Jonesville countryside riding dirt bikes with friends, Rob Mitchell, Bradley Scott and Nixon Small.
The teen-agers went to a field track near the Mitchell property. Bradley and Brandon were going to make a lap. Both took off in the same direction. Bradley realized they were going the wrong way.
“He turned around off the track and I never saw him,” Brandon said. “At this point we are headed straight toward each other, very fast. There is a corner in the track and a tree that sits right by the corner - very big, very tall and has branches that hang over the trail - one of the only blind spots in the whole trail. That is where we hit. We hit head-on. As far as we know, I flipped over my handlebars and landed face first into his radiator. My left elbow was lying on his exhaust - that was how I got the third-degree burn on my elbow. My bike was lying on top of me. I was on top of his bike and my bike was on top of me.
Nixon and Rob ran to the crash site.
“Nixon was there first and pulled the bike off of me,” Brandon said. “Rob was there next. He pulled me out of the bike, laid me on my back and pulled my helmet off. He could tell I was choking - I was drowning in my own blood at that time. He turned me on my side so the blood could drain out of me. I don't think I would have thought of that.”
Brandon said he feels he might have died if Rob had not taken action.
They later estimated the impact of the crash was about 70 mph.
Both Brandon and Bradley were knocked unconscious. Brandon remembers nothing about the next few days.
Brandon suffered a severely broken right arm, broke both wrists, fractured a vertebrae, ribs, broke the temporal bone in his left ear - which has resulted in hearing loss - and had a skull fracture from his temple to the base of his skull. He was hemorrhaging on the brain. He had suffered a Le Forte Facture Type 3 - or trans facial fracture - basically every bone in his face was broken. Cerebral spinal fluid was leaking out of his left ear. An EMT who treated Brandon told Steve this was indicative of severe brain damage or impending death.
The radiator cap on Bradley's bike had been peeled back by the impact of Brandon's forehead. Steve said under normal conditions, the heat of the radiator should have burned Brandon's face and goggles and the hot radiator fluid should have spewed on him. His face and goggles were not gashed by the impact.
“Yet, he didn't get burned, not a drop of radiator fluid left that radiator,” Steve said. “That's nothing but the hand of God.”
Bradley's injuries included a broken tibia and torn tendons in his knee. He was told a piece of his tibia was a fingernail's length away from cutting a main artery. If it had, he would have bled to death before help arrived.
Steve was in Orlando, Fla., with Brandon's mother, Becky Lewis, when they heard about the accident through a phone call from Bradley's father. They hurried home as fast as they could, in what was initially rush hour traffic.
“God absolutely sustained us and comforted us through that journey,” Steve said. “There was a huge storm that basically parted as we got to it. Traffic moved out of the way. It was surreal. When we got to the hospital at midnight there were 20 people waiting for us to pray for us and hug us.”
Brandon's brother, Matthew, 21, was at work at Midway Barbecue when the accident occurred. Midway owner Jay Allen drove him to the hospital and waited with him until Becky and Steve arrived. In the absence of his parents, Matthew had been called on to identify Brandon in the hospital's trauma room and provided the necessary information officials needed.
Brandon was hospitalized for 11 days and had three surgeries. Steve said through it all, the family felt like God was using the number 23, Brandon's favorite number (he was born on Jan. 23), to give them signs He was in control and everything would be all right.
The night of the accident the congregation of Christian Fellowship called a prayer meeting at 7. Mike Gregory, who was in charge of the meeting, later told Steve God spoke to him and told him to wait a few minutes more in case someone was late. He did. Two more people came in. Fellow member Jean Capps texted Steve, “There were 23 people at the prayer meeting.”
The youth group at Christian Fellowship made a poster for the foot of Brandon's bed which quoted Isaiah 41:10 and was a great comfort to him. When sunlight streamed in the window it made a line under the words, “I am your God.” Isaiah is the 23rd book of the Bible, and the family felt like this was another 23 that had been revealed to them.
The night before Brandon's second surgery, Steve mediated on Psalm 23. When he woke the next morning and turned on his phone he found fellow church member Angela Fant had texted him the entire Psalm.
The night before Brandon's final surgery, Steve said he kept hearing “Numbers 23” in his head. He looked up Numbers 23:23. “There is no divination against [a] Jacob, no evil omens against [b] Israel. It will now be said of Jacob and of Israel, 'See what God has done!'
“To paraphrase, when God performs a miracle, you can't say there is science or magic that did it or anything else that did it,” Steve said. “The people will say, 'Look at what God has done.' There is no explanation for Brandon surviving, for him looking like he does, for his fast recovery except, 'Look at what God has done.'”
Brandon's final surgery was on July 22. Becky is a cancer survivor and her surgery was on July 22 the prior year. Steve said the family interpreted this as God's way of saying he had taken care of Becky and he would take care of Brandon.
“It was God telling us he had Becky's number and he's got Brandon's number,” Steve said.
Jean Capps relayed a story to them that gave them more cause to reflect on what God had done.
The boys had ridden their bikes earlier that morning and had eaten lunch at Zaxby's before the accident. Jean came in for a meal as well and saw them.
“She said he just had this glow on his face,” Steve said. “He looked happy. He's always happy but she said he looked like he was having a good time. She wanted to hug him but she didn't want to embarrass him. She said his face was lit up, like lights on it.”
Jean said the glow almost took her breath away.
Becky said she feels like this was angels already surrounding Brandon, protecting him, because they knew in an hour his life would be in danger.
“One more mile an hour, a little different angle, that one millimeter is not a lot,” Steve said. “One little pitch here or there and he's gone. He's in eternity. Psalm 91 hold true, (11 For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways). I think God allowed Jean to see that.”
Steve said there is no doubt his son is a walking miracle.
“Every nurse and every doctor that tended to him has said the exact same thing,” he said. “They called him the 'Miracle Kid,' the 'Walking Miracle.” They said he shouldn't be here. He shouldn't be in the condition he is in now. One nurse said, 'We see his kind of injuries every day. Do you know what he should look like?'”
Looking at Brandon today, one would never know he had suffered such trauma. He started school on time with his classmates. He was crowned homecoming king during the game against Abbeville.
On a recent Sunday Brandon gave his testimony at church in front of a packed house - 260 people. Some of the nurses and paramedics who had treated him came to listen.
Brandon said his career goal is to be a bike mechanic for a professional race team.
“I just want to be around it,” he said. “I love racing and I love motorcycles and I always have.”
But for now, he wants to get the message out about God and what Jesus has done for him. He hopes more opportunities to give his testimony will be offered.
Steve said there is a difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus and he's glad Brandon and Bradley know Jesus.
“What a tragedy it would have been if they had died that day knowing about Jesus but not knowing Jesus,” he said.
Sardis United Methodist celebrates 200 years
By ANNA BROWN
In 2003 members of Sardis United Methodist Church began making plans for what they thought was the church’s 150th birthday, as they considered their 1853 dedicated building their starting point.
In their research, they found a deed and discovered a startling fact. The church was older than they had first thought. Land that included a log cabin was deeded to the church in 1815 and services were held there then with a circuit riding preacher.
“It became a stop on the circuit rider’s tour, it was incorporated into the tour and it became a church in 1815,” said church pastor Rev. Jeff Farmer.
In recognition of its 200th anniversary, Sardis United Methodist Church will have a special celebration during its Sunday, Sept. 27 worship service. The service begins at 10:30 a.m. At least three men who grew up in Sardis Church have become pastors- the late Rev. Charles Moore, Rev. Jim Ivey and Rev. Jim Palmer. Ivey, pastor of Jonesville and New Hope United Methodist churches, will bring the message. Palmer will pray. Former pastor Rev. Angelia Price will share remembrances.
Former member Terry Humphries and his granddaughter, Jasmine, will provide special music.
Farmer will dress in clothing like the circuit rider preacher would have worn and will explain some of the church history.
A marker will be dedicated to Sardis United Methodist Church’s first pastor, Rev. Thomas Young. The marker was given by members of Young’s family- the church’s oldest living member, Frances Vaughan and her nephews. (Vaughan has been responsible for communion for many years. She follows in the footsteps of her aunt, Lettie Y. Lankford, who was responsible for communion before her. They are the only two responsible for communion for the past 100 years.)
The church’s cornerstone will be re-opened. It was placed in 1959 and first opened in 2003. Then it was found to contain a newspaper, a coin, a church roll and other items. Church members plan to place similar items inside on Sunday.
There are 28 Confederate veterans buried at Sardis United Methodist Church. Bailey said Union County Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly has said this is an unusually high number. Each grave will be marked with a Confederate flag as part of the ceremony.
Farmer said the most important purpose of the service is to bring the gospel of Christ.
“It is a celebration of what Sardis has done in the past, but looking into the future as well,” he said. “We want to celebrate the community and the church. We want it to be a celebration of our ancestors. “200 Years of Faith” is our tagline.
According to a history compiled by Butch Kimbrell, Betty Johns and Frances Vaughan, the first church was constructed of logs and was used from 1815 to 1853. The land for the church site was deeded to the Sardis Methodist Society by William, son of Charles Humphries. During much of this time, there were 26 churches on the circuit.
The second church building was built around 1853 under the leadership of Rev. Thomas Young. Trees from the surrounding forest were harvested by people in the community and used by them to build the church. A one room school also was constructed.
In 1919 the third church building was built during the pastorate of the Rev. John W. Speaks.
In the first two churches everyone sipped from the same cup when taking communion. When the third church was built individual glasses were used in the communion service. Lettie Lankford became communion steward in 1919 and served in this capacity for some 45 years. The pulpit chairs that have been in use since 1919 were given in memory of Ab and Caroline Humphries by their children.
The present church was constructed in 1959. In 1968, the mortgage was burned during the Homecoming service. Roger Bailey with the history committee said the building cost $50,000 to build. The contents were $8,000. Rev. John Hayes, who was then pastor, went door to door in the community securing contributions.
“He was a worker,” Bailey said. “Everybody liked him.”
The new Family Life Center was completed in 1994.
In 1990, the original organ was replaced with one given in memory of Helen and Brooke Bailey by Roger and Judy Bailey. The original piano was replaced was replaced with a new electronic model purchased with the proceeds of a memorial fund started by Julia Greer, Brown, Judy, Chris and Cam Fant in memory of Manley Greer.
Rev. Jeff Farmer is pastor. Cherryl Sanders is choir director. Vickie Haney is organist. Mary Hailman is pianist. Paul Wells is lay leader.
Tyler Whitlock sentenced for firebomb incident
By ANNA BROWN
A Circuit Court judge ordered members of two Union families to stay away from each other as he sentenced one man to prison time for detonating a Molotov cocktail during a dispute.
Tyler Whitlock, 23, pleaded guilty last Monday to two counts of first-degree attempted assault and battery and one count of possession of a firebomb. Judge Daniel Hall of York gave Whitlock credit for the time he has served in the Union County Jail since his July 10 arrest on one of the attempted assault charges and the firebomb charge but gave Whitlock a Youthful Offenders Division Sentence not to exceed three years on the other attempted assault charge. Hall recommended that Whitlock be placed in a Shock Incarceration Program.
According to the South Carolina Department of Corrections, Shock Incarceration is a 90-day program designed as an alternative to traditional incarceration, providing a therapeutic environment where young, nonviolent offenders receive substance abuse treatment, academic education and other help to promote their reintegration into the community. All aspects of the Shock Incarceration regimen have as their goal the development of law-abiding citizens. The therapeutic approach encompasses drill and ceremony, physical training, work, and education, to which are added a heavy emphasis on substance abuse education and treatment and the development of personal responsibility.
Tyler Whitlock was the nephew of Chad Whitlock, who was beaten to death during an altercation on Sept. 28, 2014. One of the teen-agers arrested in Chad Whitlock's death, Herman "Bubba" Farr, 19, was sentenced on July 9 to seven years in prison for his part in the incident.
Tyler Whitlock is accused of throwing a flaming bottle of gasoline at Farr's parents, Richard and Vanessa Farr, on Aetna Street on July 10.
"Justice is not perfect," Hall told Tyler Whitlock during the sentencing. "In a civil society we cannot function if laws are not abided by everyone. With this court's experience with gas, it is a wonder you did not blow up your truck and yourself. A firebomb can be more dangerous than a bullet in the number of people it can injure."
In sentencing Whitlock he told him to have no contact - direct or indirect - with the Farrs.
Tyler Whitlock's lawyer, David Sullivan, said an investigation had showed that Whitlock's firebomb hit in the street and exploded and was not close enough to the Farrs to injure them. 16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said Richard Farr told law officers he had pulled his wife back from the explosion.
Tyler Whitlock originally had been charged with two counts of attempted murder instead of attempted assault but the 16th Circuit Solicitor's Office allowed Whitlock, who had no prior criminal record, to plead guilty to the lesser charges as part of his plea bargain. Hall told Whitlock the state had given him "a tremendous break."
Hall told Whitlock if he completed the Youthful Offenders Division Sentence and stayed out of trouble for five years he could apply to have his criminal record cleared of the charges.
Hall ordered Whitlock to have no contact with the Farr family. Looking out into the courtroom where the Farrs were seated on one side and the Whitlocks on the other he said, "I urge these families to have no contact with each other."
Richard Farr spoke before Whitlock was sentenced. He said he and his family just wanted to feel safe.
"We are not asking for an unreasonable sentence," he said.
Three relatives spoke on behalf of Tyler Whitlock. His father, Jamie, broke down in tears as he talked.
"He's a great kid," he said. "He's not been in trouble his whole life. This is his first run-in with law enforcement."
Tyler's fiancé, Lacey French, said their 1-year-old daughter had been traumatized by his arrest.
"She tries to break the glass window during Sunday visitation at the jail," she said. "She needs to see her Daddy."
Patti Knox, Tyler's mother, asked Hall to have mercy.
"He's not a bad child," she said. "He doesn't have a rap sheet."
Brackett said he wanted to send a message that taking the law into your own hands will not be tolerated.
"It's my hope that everyone will walk away with the understanding that the system does work and if this type of behavior continues, the response of the system will escalate," he said. "If this kind of behavior continues, more people will go to jail."
FCA collecting shoes
By ANNA BROWN
How many pairs of shoes are in your closet?
In a third world country, there are plenty of people who don't have a closet, much less shoes.
To help remedy this, the Union County FCA is collecting gently used shoes that will be sent to countries such as Haiti for micro-enterprises.
The FCA is working with Funds2Org, which helps nonprofits raise funds. Participating nonprofits are paid for what they collect, and the articles are distributed to support and sustain micro-enterprise ventures by low-income entrepreneurs in disadvantaged countries. Locals create secondary markets for the salvaged goods by selling them in countries such as Haiti, Nicaragua, Uganda, India and several others. Such a micro-enterprise could entail a single table used to sell sneakers in an open marketplace or a street vendor peddling purses laid out on a blanket.
Union County FCA Director Charlie Childers said 3,500 pairs of shoes have already been collected and shipped to Funds2Org. Childers said he has been overwhelmed by the support the program has received in Union County. The FCA is now working on collecting a second shipment of shoes. One hundred forty bags have been collected. The goal is 500 bags, each containing 25 pair of shoes - a total of 12,500 pairs.
"We have extended the drive until Oct. 5," Childers said.
Childers is available to pick up shoe donations or shoes may be dropped off at Twist and Shout Cheer & Dance Center, Lockhart First Baptist, Mon-Aetna Baptist, Bogansville United Methodist, Christian Fellowship Baptist Church, Putman Baptist Church, Tabernacle Baptist, Duncan Acres United Methodist and also Exzel Fitness.
Any type shoe is accepted, including flip-flops and bedroom shoes. The shoes should be clean and in good repair - no holes or broken parts.
"They do not have to be perfect," said Brandy Childers, Charlie's wife, who is working with the project. "We are accepting baby shoes through adult."
Brandy Childers said officials in the Funds2Org office were amazed at the amount of shoes collected in Union County so far.
"She said, ‘A town this small and I never thought you would call me in two weeks and say you had 100 bags,'" Mrs. Childers said.
(For more information, call Charlie Childers at 398-6188.)
Local firefighters form Honor Guard for funerals
By ANNA BROWN
Firefighter Horace Vernon "Demo" Morris was only 38 when his life was forever altered.
Morris was riding on back of a City of Union fire truck en route to a call at Henderson's Trailer Park on July 28, 1972. On West Main Street at Jail Hill driver Gary Owens applied the brakes to make a turn onto South Boyce Street. The brakes locked, the fire truck skidded and struck a tree and cement steps. Morris was thrown off. He suffered multiple injuries, including broken bones and a fractured skull. He spent months recovering and was permanently disabled.
The fire? It turned out to be a false alarm.
Morris died on Aug. 13. The Union County Firefighters Association Honor Guard participated at his funeral, including wearing their new uniforms for the first time.
"Demo pretty much gave his life in 1972," Honor Guard coordinator J.D. McCarley said. "He was never able to do what everybody else could do. When something happens, we want to send that person out in a way we felt was deserving. Everyone on the Honor Guard has their heart in the right place and we wanted the family to know it."
Honor Guard member Harrell Bright said Morris' funeral could be considered the first funeral the guard had participated in for a firefighter who had died in the line of duty.
"He got hurt that day and never recovered and what happened to him happened in the line of duty," Bright said. "To this day, he was still a firefighter."
"It was very Godly timing," said Morris' daughter, Charlotte. "My Daddy died when I was 9, but he was still here and I still loved him. He was my daddy. He was here all these years, just a different person. You accepted it and moved on and did the best you could."
McCarley, a Bonham firefighter, staff sergeant with the Air National Guard and regional supervisor over Region II with the South Carolina Fire Academy, said local firefighters and police officers had discussed forming an honor guard for many years. He, Santuc Fire Chief Mark Wade and Lockhart Fire Chief Lee Brannon considered how many aging firefighters Union County had who had contributed much to the fire service and decided in January 2014 to get serious about forming a guard. They asked other fire chiefs to submit the names of firefighters from their respective departments. They wanted to make sure the Honor Guard mirrored the community, with both black and white members and male and female members. There are currently 19 members, with around five more in the tryout stage.
A name was chosen - the Union County Firefighters Association Honor Guard. After months of planning a uniform was chosen - navy blue with a double-breasted coat, two gold bands on the coat sleeve and a bell cap. Some setbacks were experienced with uniform providers and the hat was back-ordered.
A badge was chosen and Kacie Faulks designed the patch.
The Honor Guard met for drills on saluting, flag folding and marching. McCarley said it helped that many of the members had law enforcement or military experience.
Before the honor guard could be fully outfitted, the firefighting community in Union experienced several deaths. Honor guards were used at their funerals but firefighters wore uniforms from their individual departments, including those for Hayes Vaughan, retired Lockhart chief; Mark Childers, an active Lockhart firefighter; Harry Helms, a former Bonham firefighter; Judy Gill, a Buffalo firefighter who was one of the first female firefighters in Union County and the wife of Honor Guard member Charlie Gill; and Tommy Haney, a Kelly-Kelton firefighter who was set to be the chaplain of the Honor Guard - the liaison between the guard and family members of the deceased firefighter.
The Honor Guard is accepting donations. Uniforms cost around $505 each. Equipment is needed, such as axes. For Morris' funeral, York County allowed Union County to use a trailer full of equipment, including steps that made it easier to load Morris' casket onto the back of a Monarch Fire Department truck.
"We have gotten so much support from EMS, the sheriff's office, the city, all local departments and the rescue squad," McCarley said. "Ronnie Lybrand has been our bugler. Holcombe Funeral Home - every time we have dealt with them they have come out and walked us through. They donated a flag for us to use in training. 911 has helped us with the last call. Usually it's Rob Fraim (Union County Emergency Preparedness director and an Honor Guard member.)
The last call for Morris came over a radio held by Bonham Fire Chief Scott Austin.
"Horace Morris, Union," Fraim called out several times.
"There is no response from Horace Morris," Fraim said. "It is with deep sorrow and sadness to notify you that Horace Morris has completed his last call and has returned home safety to eternity for his final call to watch over his family friends and fellow firefighters. Thank you for your 12 years of service with Monarch and the City of Union fire departments."
(Anyone wanting to make a donation to the Union County Firefighters Association Honor Guard may contact J.D. McCarley at 426-6036.)
Sheriff teaching church safety
By ANNA BROWN
Sheriff David Taylor says that in the past when he spoke to church congregations about security, his presentation included points about not leaving purses unsecured in the choir room, preventing metal theft and having a system of financial checks and balances.
Taylor still addresses these issues in his security talk, but tragedies such as the killing of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston in June have caused him to add information to his presentation.
How can you prevent an active shooter from coming to your church?
What do you do if you have an active shooter situation in your church?
Taylor is available to make his presentation at churches, businesses, apartment complexes, clubs and other places where security is an issue of concern. He recently included points about an active shooter at a church during a presentation at Foster Chapel United Methodist Church. He said the information he provides is designed to help a person survive an active shooter incident anywhere including at work, school, the mall or movie theater.
"Since 2000 the number of active shooter incidents has increased tremendously," Taylor said. "This is something our society has come to have to deal with. I just want to prepare people in our area how to react if they see it happen. The training is open to any establishment, not just churches - any place where there could be a large crowd - businesses, school settings, wherever a large group can gather there is a possibility of an active shooter."
In today's society, some see committing a mass shooting as a way to gain notoriety, Taylor said.
"People don't like to talk about this," he said. "But the Charleston shooting really hit close to home. You think about these types of things happening somewhere else."
Taylor said congregations are urged to have a safety and security team in place, with people stationed at different parts of the church - including the parking lot and the foyer - to observe activity. This team should also be versed in what to do if someone goes into cardiac arrest or has another health problem. Plans for safety during a natural disaster such as a tornado should be in place. The team should have a plan for security at the church nursery. Taylor pointed out that a few years ago a man angry over a child custody issue came to a Boiling Springs church armed with a shotgun. In another incident, at a Goose Creek church a man armed with a long arm robbed church members of their money, jewelry and cell phones. He was never apprehended.
Taylor's presentation includes an explanation of how law enforcement would handle an active shooter situation. In the past, the plan of action was to wait on a SWAT team. Now, the first officers on the scene would seek out the shooter.
The presentation includes the threats and hazards of specific building layouts.
Taylor said in an active shooter incident, use your cell phone. Even if you can't talk, call 911 and hang up repeatedly.
"There are three things you can do," he said. "You can run. Have an escape route. Leave your belongings. Don't scramble around trying to find your pocketbook. Evacuate. If you can't, roll out of the pew and get in the floor. Hide. Try to get out of sight of the shooter. Don't sit there dumbfounded by what is happening. If you do, you are going to be the next victim. The last resort is to fight. If you have no other choice, fight. Attempt to incapacitate the shooter. Look for weapons, something you can use to disable that active shooter. Improvise weapons. Throw things at him. Shoot him with a fire extinguisher. Hit him with the fire extinguisher. If the church has a fire alarm, set the fire alarm off. Anything you can do to notify people or draw attention. If you see law enforcement come in a door, go out that door - you know that area is safe."
Nehemiah 4:9 says, "We prayed to our God and posted a guard." One of Taylor's power points is "Is the guard the Bible speaks of law enforcement and/or crime prevention through environmental design?" He said crime prevention through environmental design is identifying issues that you will face, identifying resources available to you, identifying preparations and actions needed and being educated and aware.
(To schedule a safety and security talk for their church, business, or other group or organization call Kim Riddle Bailey at the sheriff's office at 429-1612.)
Relay for Life celebrates 30th anniversary with ‘80s theme
By ANNA BROWN
In May 1985, Dr. Gordy Klatt walked and ran for 24 hours around a track in Tacoma, Wash., ultimately raising $27,000 to help the American Cancer Society fight the nation's biggest health concern - cancer.
A year later, 340 supporters joined the overnight event. Since those first steps, the Relay For Life movement has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, raising nearly $5 billion to fight cancer.
Union County's Relay for Life, which has won many fund-raising awards over the years, will be held Friday night. Co-chairman Beth Lancaster said this year's Relay would have a 1980s theme in observance of the 30th anniversary.
"The Carolina Rhythm Band will play '70s and '80s music and we've also bought back the popular Carl Brunson," she said. "He's been here before and everybody loves him. He plays keyboard and sings everything from Conway Twitty on. We had him several years ago and at midnight everybody was still sitting there."
Friday's events begin with the Survivor Reception under the awning at the Union County Fairgrounds beginning at 6 p.m. The reception is sponsored by Blue Ridge Hospice, which also has a Relay team.
A silent auction begins at 6:30 p.m. and closes at 8:30. A bake sale will also be held.
The opening ceremony is at 7 p.m. There will be a survivor recognition and a survivor lap.
"We really want to let Union know they need to come out during the survivor lap and cheer on the survivors and show them a lot of love," Mrs. Lancaster said.
The fund-raising goal is $100,000. There are 27 Relay teams.
"Admission is free and there will be plenty of food," Mrs. Lancaster said. "Help these Relay teams finish out their goals by playing games and eating with them."
Food selections will include barbecue, chicken wings, ribbon fries, nachos, fish, burgers, hot dogs, funnel cakes and other items.
"Come out, bring a chair, enjoy the music," Mrs. Lancaster said. "It's a family night, no alcohol, no smoking. Come out and help us in the fight against cancer."
Gene’s Fine Food celebrating 50 years
By ANNA BROWN
Like a lot of other folks around Union County, Alison Wade Coker says she has been eating at Gene's Fine Food all of her life.
One evening when she was 8 or 10 years old, Gene Gregory, who owns the restaurant with his wife, Barbara, approached and asked Alison and her family if they would like to try an unusual new menu item - chicken lips.
Of course, a chicken doesn't have lips, but on every box of chicken strips there were a few end pieces that were too small to serve to customers as strips. Gene had fried a batch of them for the Wades.
"We enjoyed them so much and they became special to us," Alison said. When the family goes to Gene's to eat on Tuesday nights, chicken lips are their favorite choice, especially for Alison's two children and her sister, Amanda's two girls. And when Alison got married, she asked Gene and Barbara to serve chicken lips at the wedding reception.
"He saved them so we could serve them," Alison said.
For 50 years now, Gene and Barbara have been doing their best to serve their customers. The restaurant opened for business on March 22, 1965, as the Little Mint.
Some things have changed - many have remained the same, such as the fried chicken, the Big Fellow and Gene and Barbara's work ethic. You'll often find one or both of them working in the restaurant.
"I think that has been the biggest part of their success - one of them being here," said their daughter, Amanda, who was a little girl when the restaurant opened. "People come by and they look for Daddy's truck with the chicken on it."
Did Gene think the restaurant would make it 50 years?
"I was trying," said Gene, now 82. "I really enjoy it. I enjoy people. I've met so many good people. You would be surprised how many come in from out of town and say how much they enjoy the food. They talk and want to make their picture with me. It's just an enjoyable time."
"We were just a young couple," Barbara said. "We've spent all those good years here. Gene has given 200 percent. I think we worked 15 years before we took a vacation. We have been blessed so many ways. Our customers and our relationship with people have made our business a success and what it is today."
Gene and Barbara
Gene and Barbara Harris Gregory were high school sweethearts. Gene proposed one evening during a date at Fincher's Barbecue. He asked if she felt like she could spend the rest of her life with him. She said she certainly could. He asked what Barbara wanted out of life. She told him she wanted to make something of herself.
After they married Gene and Barbara Gregory went to work with Jete Long preparing and selling food for the workers at Monarch Mill. Barbara worked first and second shift and Gene worked third. The food cart was called the "Dope Wagon" - Dope was a nickname for Coca-Cola, which the cart carried, along with cakes, hot dogs and hamburgers. The Gregorys also served plate lunches with a meat and three vegetables.
"The way we worked a lot of times I would meet Gene in the road," Barbara said. "It's been that way ever since we married but we discovered at Monarch Mill that we really wanted to be in the food business."
Long made plans to retire and the Gregorys got word vending machines were going to be placed in the mill. Their aim was to own their own business and they decided it was time. Borrowing money from the bank was difficult then. They decided to contract with Wilbur Hardee, the man who founded Hardee's restaurants. He said he was starting a Little Mint franchise and the Gregory's restaurant would be the first in the state, many would follow and their restaurant would be a training facility for other managers.
The Monarch Mill workers told them they wouldn't make it.
"They said we'd be back," Gene said.
The Gregorys attended restaurant training that was supposed to last two weeks. After two days, they left.
"We knew we knew what to do," Barbara said.
The Little Mint opened on Barbara's birthday. It had a walk-up window, outside picnic tables under umbrellas and no indoor seating. The menu was simple - hamburgers were 15 cents, French fries were 15 cents, drinks were 10 cents, a quarter fried chicken was 69 cents, a half fried chicken with a roll was 99 cents, eight pieces of chicken was $1.69. The lead sandwich was a quarter pound hamburger with cheese, lettuce, pickles and special sauce for 39 cents. It remains on the menu today, The Big Fellow.
"The chickens came in a box of ice; I had to cut them up myself," Barbara said. "We did it all. We made all of our own sauces. We started out doing well. There wasn't anything else like it in town."
The Gregorys wanted a bank loan to help pay off the restaurant equipment. In his sixth month of business he got it.
"The equipment man came to Union and went to every bank with me, without a lot of luck," Gene said.
Dick Hardy, who was raised in lower Union County, was working with S.C. National in Spartanburg, which did a lot of business with fast food there. Hardy told Bud Jeter, who was with the Union branch of the bank, that he knew the Gregorys and felt like their business would succeed.
"I was at home that night for the first time in six months because I was so depressed," Gene said. "Bud came to my house that night and said we had a loan."
The loan was paid off in five months.
The idea of a chain of Little Mints did not pan out. The Gregorys changed the name of their restaurant to Gene's Fine Food.
Growth over the years
A dining room to seat 75 people was added in 1974. Those on hand for the grand opening included Jete Long and Bud Jeter.
For many years the Gregory's also operated Hilda's Dairy Delight, which sold ice cream adjacent to Gene's Fine Food. The business was named for Gene's mother. When Amanda first went to work there she was so small she had to stand on a milk crate to reach the counter.
She remembers making a bed of empty bread bags and sleeping on a shelf until her parents closed the restaurant for the night. She remembers handing out diner's caps at school when the restaurant first opened. Now she is a grandmother with a successful longtime business of her own - The Dance Academy.
Gene's Fine Food was for many years a popular place for teen-age cruisers, particularly on Friday nights after the football game.
"I was a cheerleader but as soon as the game was over and the last cheer was done I had to get back here and go to work," Amanda said. "Daddy would let me off a little while to ride, or I was waving at them from the window as they went by. A lot of people met their soul mate here."
Barbara said the cruisers knew not to cut up in Gene's parking lot.
"Gene didn't allow anything to go on wrong," she said. "They would see him come out the back door and they knew they had better straighten up or leave."
Amanda's daughter, Michelle, grew up in the restaurant like her mother did. Michelle's four sons, who range in age from 3 to 13, love to visit the restaurant and take orders, take out trash and check stock.
A lot of local people grew up eating at Gene's. The Gregorys said they are now seeing five generations of people they have served. Maurice Cordell and his wife, Jo, are among the people who have been eating at Gene's for decades.
"We like Gene's chicken," Maurice said. "We eat here a lot on Sundays. We enjoy his soups, too."
Susan Jackson, who has worked at the restaurant for 13 years, said the Gregorys are like family.
"They are a fine family to work for," she said. "I enjoy my job with the public and knowing my customers."
Barbara said she and Gene tried to set an example with their work ethic.
"There wasn't anything in here I wouldn't do," she said. "I would not ask an employee to do something I would not do."
Recently the restaurant added free Wifi and began accepting debit cards. The Gregorys said this has gone over well with customers.
"We do want to thank the people of Union County for letting us stay open for 50 years," Gene said. "They have been good to us. They have stayed right alongside us. We want to thank them for everything."
Meth arrests on the rise, locally
By ANNA BROWN
"Want to see what meth looks like?" Sheriff David Taylor asks. "This is what it looks like."
On his computer screen is a compilation of law enforcement mug shots taken before and after an arrested person got hooked on methamphetamine.
"Decaying teeth, an extreme loss of weight, meth sores," he said. "People using meth feel like they've got bugs under their skin and they are constantly scratching. You'd be surprised how many people you would never think are on meth. It can happen to anybody."
Taylor and sheriff's deputies have seen the face of meth a lot lately. They have made 19 methamphetamine related arrests already this year. Additionally, 12 people have been arrested for attempting to purchase more than the legal limit of ephedrine, a crucial component in making methamphetamine.
Methamphetamine has become so popular because most of the ingredients can be purchased at the local hardware store, including starter fluid, Red Devil lye, Heat - which is used to clean plumbing pipes, acetone, ephedrine, muriatic acid, salt, coffee filters and butane fuel. Meth dealers also will trade out meth for ephedrine because they are desperate to get it, Taylor said.
All the ingredients for the "Shake and Bake" method are put in plastic bottles and shaken. When methamphetamine is being prepared it is possible for an explosion to occur. Taylor said local firefighters have been warned to consider a meth lab as the possible cause in structure fires.
"A lot of times we find the remnants of where a meth lab has been made," he said. "We worry about the litter crews picking up litter. We tell them if they see a bottle smoking, don't pick it up."
The tell-tale signs of a meth lab in a neighborhood include smoked up plastic bottles and the empty containers of the ingredients.
Taylor said although Shake and Bake meth is still popular, officers also are making more and more cases involving crystal methamphetamine, which is more expensive. Crystal methamphetamine, which resembles shards of glass, can bring $2,000 an ounce.
According to Narconon, an addiction and treatment program located in Louisiana that specializes in methamphetamine addiction, crystal meth and meth, are fundamentally the same thing. The chemical n-methyl, 1- phenyl-propane, 2-amine is called methamphetamine or for short, meth. In crystalline form, it becomes crystal meth. Chemically they are the same, but their structural makeup is different, varying in form and levels of purity.
Both crystal meth and methamphetamine are made in labs illegally throughout the country. The drugs are usually snorted, smoked or injected and are considered stimulants. A form of meth, amphetamine or Desoxyn, is legal and a chemical used to create drugs like Adderall or Ritalin that are used for Attention Deficit Disorder or Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Law enforcement's battle with methamphetamine dealers is an ongoing battle and methods are constantly changing in the illegal drug industry, Taylor said. He compared dealers to businessmen thinking about opening a restaurant.
"When someone is looking to locate a restaurant here they ask themselves, 'Will I thrive? Will I make a living? Will I have customers? That is the same mentality of the drug pushers. Some come in and provide the drugs for free at first just to get people hooked on them."
Family, friends have fond memories of Lawrence Price
By ANNA BROWN
Lawrence Price often said he would love to see his church, Crestview Baptist, filled with people.
At Price's funeral on March 1, that happened. The pews, choir and extra folding chairs in the sanctuary were all occupied by family and friends who came to say goodbye to Price, who was buried in a Carolina Gamecock cap and tie, a baseball on his chest. Many of the floral tributes were in garnet and black.
"When you heard the name Lawrence, you didn't have to be told Lawrence Price,'" said the Rev. Josh Freeman. "Your mind automatically went to the biggest little man you ever knew. He lived each day with a passion. He swung for the fences. He wanted to make the most of everything he did."
Price passed away suddenly on Feb. 26. He made his mark with his loving, vibrant personality and as a much-loved local Little League baseball coach for 29 years and fan of the Union County High Yellow Jackets and the Carolina Gamecocks.
Freeman said the Bible verse Proverbs 17:22 reminded him of Price. "A cheerful heart is good medicine but a crushed spirit dries up the bones."
"If Lawrence Price didn't have a cheerful heart none of us have ever seen a cheerful heart," Freeman said. "I have never seen the man have a bad day. He was always excited."
Price was the same no matter what day you saw him and if he was passionate about something, he gave it his all, such as sports.
During Coach Steve Tanneyhill's first year, Union County High beat Daniel High and won the upper state championship. Freeman said they were riding home that Friday night through downtown Clemson. The Clemson/Carolina game was the next day at Clemson and Clemson fans were everywhere.
"We were sitting at a red light and he rolls down the window and sticks his head out and says, 'Go Cocks!'" Freeman said.
Freeman said Price's love for the Lord emanated everything he did, including his coaching, and that impacted the youth of Union County.
"Because he had a love for the Lord in his life, a talent for coaching and he connected with kids, he was able to use those talents to make an indelible impression upon every man who came through," Freeman said.
Angie Price Knighten, Price's daughter, spoke at the funeral. She said she was blessed to have Price as her father. She began with some of Price's favorite sayings, including "How 'bout them Gamecocks?" and gave a Gamecock crow.
"Ho Ho Ho! Do you know how many days it is until Christmas? Two hundred ninety nine days. I wouldn't have known that. But my daddy did," she said.
The things that were important to Price were his faith in God, his family and sports, Mrs. Knighten said.
"He loved his players," she said. "They were his boys. He prayed with them and he taught them sportsmanship."
No matter where Price worked he enjoyed it and made an impression on others, Mrs. Knighten said. After he retired Price got a job at Winn-Dixie bagging groceries.
"He could interact with people, talk to them and he got paid for it," she said.
Mrs. Knighten said her father loved WBCU's Saturday morning Sports Hour, where former longtime host Bo Rabb had him as a frequent guest.
On Feb. 28, Rabb joined host Tyler Shugart for a tribute to Price, which they ended by playing the Gamecock fight song. They recalled him coming to the studio before the show armed with newspaper stories.
"It's not going to be the same without him coming in with his stack full of clippings," Shugart said.
Shugart read from numerous Facebook postings written by people saddened by Price's death. One from former Union High Yellow Jacket and Carolina Gamecock football standout Monty Means said, "He taught young people about the game of baseball and about the game of life."
Callers said they thought a baseball field at Timken Park should be named for him or a monument should be put up honoring Price's memory.
Rabb said often as the show was about to close, Price would say, "I've got one more thing."
"And we'd always give him a couple of minutes more," Rabb said. "It didn't matter."
In 2014 Price was one of four people named to the inaugural Dixie Youth Baseball Hall of Fame.
"It feels good," he said of the honor. "I was surprised they called my name."
His teams never won a championship, but Price made a greater impact.
"I coached a doctor, a lawyer and two preachers," said Price. "I see my former players coaching."
"I love baseball and working with kids. We said the Lord's Prayer before each game. I wanted to bring them up the right way."
DSN board names new executive director
By ANNA BROWN
The new executive director of the Union County Disabilities and Special Needs Board is a familiar face at the agency and in the community.
Amy Smith assumed the duties today. She replaces Lou Stackhouse, who has retired after serving as the director since 1996.
"One thing about this position it could never be a one person show," Mrs. Smith said. "When I think about this opportunity and leading this agency I think about the employees we have who have so much experience. Because of the staff and the experience they have, it will make leading this agency so much easier."
Union County DSN Board chairman Robbie Littlejohn said Mrs. Smith would do a wonderful job.
"Amy has been employed with our agency for almost 25 years," he said. "She has been a valuable employee and a wonderful asset to the Union County DSN Board. She is a graduate of the DSN Executive Director's Academy with Distinction and in the past has served as Interim Executive Director and again as Acting Executive Director. She possesses the ability and leadership skills to lead our agency into the future. She is well respected by her peers and co-workers and we are expecting a smooth transition as we move forward in providing quality services to the individuals and families we serve."
Mrs. Smith grew up in Lockhart, the daughter of Vernon Stepp and the late Pat Stepp. She is a 1986 graduate of Lockhart High School, attended USC-Union and earned a Bachelor's degree in psychology from USC-Spartanburg, now USC-Upstate.
She and her husband, Rick, have two children, Brett, 21, and Brooke, 16.
Mrs. Smith came to work at Union Services part time on July 10, 1990, as part of the direct care staff in the workshop area. In 1991 she went to work full time in case management.
"I enjoy working with the consumers and providing service to them," she said. "I like when you can help someone and improve their life. That is very rewarding."
As executive director, Mrs. Smith's duties are spread among the agency's Gadberry Street office, Union Services on Industrial Park Road and nine group homes.
"You have to be versatile," she said. "You have to have a business sense and you have to have a deep level of compassion for others. While this is an awesome opportunity for me personally, I am thankful the board has given me this opportunity but it would not be possible without the other employees who bring so much to the table. Without the staff this place would not be successful. I feel like they work so hard to provide the quality of services to the individuals we serve."
In her spare time, Mrs. Smith is active in her church, Tabernacle Baptist. She enjoys spending time with her family and exercising. She has walked five half marathons (13.1 miles). Her husband is a runner.
Jesus and turkey stew
Unusual diet helps local Methodist pastor lose weight
By ANNA BROWN
Physically, he was dragging.
At 59 the Rev. Glenn Ribelin had had both knees replaced. He was on medication for arthritis, high blood pressure, acid reflux and gout.
He stays busy ministering to his two congregations at Foster's Chapel and Bethlehem United Methodist churches. The only exercise he got was the walking he did at the hospital to see patients.
And the folks at Foster's Chapel and Bethlehem- including Ribelin's wife, Mary - are good cooks who like to show their love with food.
The result of all of this was that from June of 2012 when Ribelin came to pastor the churches until 2014 he had gained 45 pounds on his 5-foot 9-inch frame.
"We make choices in our life," Ribelin said. "We all face things in life that we enjoy that we have to overcome sometimes. When we realize that - when anything begins to have control over our lives; it doesn't matter what it is - food, drugs, alcohol - we have to draw our strength from God and God has to be first. We can't let anything get between us and God."
Ribelin said he prayed that God would give him the strength and the willpower he needed to lose weight. In 2014 he lost 70 pounds. Mary lost 40. Ribelin said two factors working together helped them achieve their weight loss goals - Jesus and turkey soup.
Lifelong eating habits had to change
"For me in life, one of my weaknesses has been enjoying a good meal around the table," Ribelin said. "Since I was a young boy my family gathered together every Sunday. And I was brought up that what you put on your plate - you ate it. It was sinful to waste food."
Over the years, Ribelin said, his weight was a roller-coaster ride - he lost and he gained. His weight problem started to get worse when he became a pastor nine years ago.
"There is always food involved in a gathering and that makes it even tougher," he said. "Church families like to bless you with a meal."
Mary's life has been defined by food, Ribelin said. Along with being a good cook she works in a school lunchroom and worked as a waitress for many years. Before they came to Union the Ribelins conducted a ministry where Mary cooked and she and Glenn took meals to about 25 shut-ins.
Mary was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent surgery. Her hospital stay lasted longer than anticipated. The congregations of both churches wanted to make sure the Ribelins had food. Members of the two churches decided to take turns feeding Ribelin and his and Mary's 11-year-old son, Joshua.
"One night the doorbell rang and Amy Austin came to the door with a meal," Ribelin. "Joshua and I sat down to eat. Amy hadn't been gone long and the doorbell rang and another lady showed up with a pie. We sat back down and began to eat again. It wasn't long and the doorbell rang again and there was another pie. We had just about finished our meal. The doorbell rang again and there was another pie that came to our house."
Ribelin said he knew that Sunday at church each of the ladies who had brought a dessert would expect him to comment on how good it was. He told Joshua they should taste a sliver of each so they would not disappoint anyone or hurt their feelings.
The doorbell rang again. It was a lady with a cake.
"Folks in the church like to feed you," he said.
Ribelin said he decided to start making choices concerning what he would and would not eat.
"I didn't do it in a way of dieting," he said. "I did it in a way of 'I'm changing my lifestyle.'"
Ribelin began eating cereal - Honey Nut Cheerios or Cinnamon Toast Crunch - and 2 percent milk every morning.
Bethlehem church member Karen Gallman brought some low fat turkey stew to a church function. The Ribelins liked the stew and decided to make it themselves. The recipe for the stew is listed below. Ribelin said they have modified the recipe for variety and taste, including making it a little spicier and thicker. The Ribelins save some of the onions and finely diced cabbage and add it toward the end of the cooking to give the soup a little more crunch. They also add tomato soup.
"Every day at lunch I eat one or two bowls of that soup," he said. "At supper we grill everything, we don't fry anything. And we eat something green. And a friend told me to try and not eat anything after six o'clock, but being a pastor, it doesn't always work that way."
If Ribelin needs a snack in the day he gets a Slim Jim.
Ribelin eats three meals a day and ends the day with a snack - a Red Delicious apple every night.
"Just staying with that routine has taken 70 pounds off me in a year," he said.
Both Glenn and Mary have been able to stop their blood pressure medicine. Ribelin has stopped his acid reflux medicine, one of his gout medicines and some of his arthritis medication.
"I have almost cleared the medicine cabinet out," he said. "I feel good. I feel lots better. I have more energy. But the story in this is making right choices in life. You have to draw your strength from God and let God help you through what you are doing. You can overcome anything with God. That is the important thing. We also have to set an example for people around us that struggle with other things. We all have struggles in life. We all have desires in life and we can't overcome those things ourselves but God can help us with that. He has to be first in our lives to do that. The story is not about turkey soup it is about what God has done for me. We are tempted around us. We all need to be aware that if folks have a problem we don't need to contribute to it, we need to help and it can be something as simple as food."
Karen's Healthy Turkey Breast Stew
(Karen Gallman from the Bethlehem
United Methodist Church cookbook)
One pound of extra lean ground turkey breast
One tablespoon of dried chopped onions
Two tablespoons of olive oil
One large onion, coarsely chopped
One 8-ounce carton of sliced baby bella mushrooms, washed
Two 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes with zesty mild green chilies
One cup of ketchup
Salt and pepper to taste
Two teaspoons of Texas Pete, optional
In a large skillet heat olive oil on medium high adding ground turkey while slicing it into pieces as it is cooking. Add dried, chopped onion to turkey while cooking. You may have to add a few tablespoons of hot water (turkey breast is very dry.) Add in the large chopped onion and continue to stir until the onions are tender. Add in the mushrooms and continue to stir. Add diced tomatoes, salt and pepper, Texas Pete, if desired. When this begins to bubble, add ketchup. Stir, then lower heat until it is only simmering. The longer it simmers, the tastier it will be. Just remember to keep the heat low and stir occasionally (you may want to transfer to a crock pot.) This is wonderful just by itself or you can serve it over small noodles or just eat with your favorite crackers. You may also modify the recipe to your taste.)
Tyger River Plant more competitive after changes
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
A couple of years ago, The Timken Co. downsized its workforce at the Tyger River Plant and removed some of its equipment, leading to speculation that the facility was closing.
Since then, Timken has installed newer, more efficient equipment and is now a much leaner and more competitive operation, according to plant manager Bob Hart.
“The ability to adapt to change is very important in today's competitive environment and without those changes, this could be an empty building now,” Hart told a group of welding students from the Advanced Technology Center before a recent tour of the plant.
Kathy Jo Lancaster, director of the center, said she and Andrena Powell-Baker, executive director of the Union County Development Board, worked with Hart to arrange the tour.
“We want to give (students) exposure to an advanced manufacturing environment,” she said.
Five years ago, the Tyger River Plant had a “terrible reputation within our organization,” Hart said. As a result of the recent changes, the plant was one of 10 sites recently recognized by The Timken Co, for quality excellence, he said.
The challenge for the plant was to change not only the processes into a more competitive operation but to also transform the culture among employees to a team of lean thinkers, Hart said.
“We had to improve problem-solving techniques on the shop floor,” he said.
The plant has developed a training and certification program where associates are cross-trained and required to have certifications in three areas, Hart said. More certifications means a more flexible and competitive workforce and potentially higher pay - with full time pay for people certified on three jobs ranging from roughly $14 to $25 per hour. The plant has recently implemented a bonus system based on individual and plant performance, that is tied to these certifications as well, he said.
Timken produces bearings up to 84 inches in diameter at Tyger River, which are used in mining, oil and gas production and wind turbine equipment. It focuses on the North American market, with 74 percent of its products sold in the United States, Hart said.
The Tyger River Plant produces a large variety of bearings in low volumes, Hart said.
Timken's bearings are known for their quality, Hart said, adding that in the bearings world, a Timken bearing has the same reputation as Mercedes or a Cadillac in the automotive industry. Timken is the only North American bearing supplier for wind turbines without a bearing failure, he said.
Hart told the students that back when textiles were prevalent, “the mills wanted you for your muscle. We want your mind and your ability to solve problems.”
The students spent about an hour touring the plant, watching how steel forgings are converted into highly polished bearings that must meet stringent measurements before being shipped out. One of their stops was “heat treat,” where steel is heated to 1,800 degrees and carbon is added to give it strength.
As they stopped in different areas of the plant the students would sometimes talk with Timken associates. One of them was Mary Gossett of Jonesville, who works in isotropic finish, where small ceramic beads are used to polish bearings.
“I love my job and I love this company,” she said.
Governor, state senator commend local life saver
By ANNA BROWN
Odell Curenton says he did not expect any recognition when he saved the life of a Union woman, but the letters he received from two state officials are nice keepsakes.
Curenton, 66, pulled 86-year-old Arrie Mae Foster out of her burning home on Dec. 22. Mrs. Foster and her daughter, Delores, both were burned in the blaze and Delores is still hospitalized.
Curenton received letters from Gov. Nikki Haley and Sen. Shane Martin.
"I saw the article about you in the Union County News and I want to thank you for your willingness to put yourself in harm's way in order to save the life of Mrs. Arrie Mae Foster," Gov. Haley wrote in a letter dated Jan. 8. "Your courage in the face of danger sets an example for all of us. South Carolina is better because of people like you and I am pleased to have the opportunity to recognize your selfless service to the people of our great state. God bless."
The letter is signed, "My very best, Nikki."
The governor wrote "You make South Carolina proud," next to her signature.
Martin's letter is dated Jan. 14.
"I am at a loss for words when I think about the heroism it took to run selflessly into a burning house," he wrote. "You are a blessing to the community you surround yourself with. I am truly honored to represent you. Thank you for being an example and a role model for many in your community. Your act of courage is an inspiration to many and a reminder that we can make such a profound impact in the lives of our friends and neighbors."
Martin said in the letter Curenton embodies what it means to be a hero.
Curenton said he received the manila envelope containing Haley's letter at home. Seeing "Office of the Governor" on the return address, he assumed it was junk mail.
"I got it and didn't open it - I left it lying on the table," said the Carlisle Finishing retiree, who continues to work at St. Paul Adult Day Care and at Divine Mortuary. "The next day I opened it up and I was surprised."
The letter from Martin was addressed to Curenton at Divine Mortuary. Martin had phoned ahead and gotten the address to the business and owner Joseph Harper and his daughter, Janet Brown the secretary, knew the letter was on the way. The mailman came after Curenton left work.
"I had just left the funeral home and had gotten up to the Southside Fire Department when he (Harper) called me and said, "How about coming back to the funeral home?'
When Curenton got back, Harper and Brown were smiling and holding the letter.
Curenton was delivering food parcels from Potter's House to the Fosters the day he came up on the fire. He got there before any fire departments arrived. He said he helps others because that is what Jesus expects us to do and he likes being active.
"I didn't expect this," Curenton said. "I don't know how they found out about it."
Father’s kidney donation allows his daughter to live a normal life
By ANNA BROWN
Anne Rampey says Nov. 26, 2014, was the most exciting, horrifying, exhilarating, terrifying day of her life.
That was the day her husband, John, donated a kidney to their daughter, Margaret Rampey Goodson, at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston.
"You are pulled in so many directions," Anne said. "Do you go to your husband or do you go to your child?"
Anne said she prayed all day.
"Lord, I humbly come before you asking for a miracle."
"And that is what it was," she said.
Margaret, now 37, has had allergies all of her life and has been diagnosed with Ehlers danlos Syndrome - a connective tissue disorder. Not long after she and her husband, Clint, were married in 2004 she went to the hospital because she was having trouble breathing. Tests showed she had an elevated creatinine level, which signifies impaired kidney function or kidney disease.
"I had no idea," Margaret said. "With kidney disease you have no pain until it's too late."
Margaret was diagnosed with Focal Segmental Glomerulosclerosis (FSGS) a cause of nephrotic syndrome in children and adolescents, as well as an important cause of kidney failure in adults. Doctors said Margaret's FSGS is a result of IgA Nephropathy - a kidney disorder that occurs when protein settles in the kidney.
Doctors associate IgA Nephropathy with allergies, the Rampeys said.
Margaret began undergoing dialysis three times a week on Nov. 30, 2012. The first year she had to travel to Spartanburg - there is a waiting list at the Union clinic.
"It was an all day affair," John said.
"It was exhausting for her," Anne said. "She is so stubbornly independent she wanted to drive herself as much as she could, but that added to the fatigue. She did let us carry her some."
The Rampeys said they could not praise the staff of the Union dialysis clinic enough for their kindness and compassion.
At first Margaret did not want to pursue a transplant, but dialysis began to wear on her.
"It got harder and harder and was taking more and more time," she said. "To be 37 and watching everybody you grew up with having kids, jobs and careers, and here I was sitting there stuck on that machine."
On dialysis days, Margaret came off the machine exhausted and wanted to go home and go to bed. The days she was not on dialysis she slept to try and recoup some energy.
"It was a vicious cycle," Anne said.
When Margaret decided to pursue a transplant, four people stepped up to be tested - her parents; her godmother, Felicia Bennett; and her aunt, Jane Petty. The testing process began in September but was temporarily delayed when the family traveled to the Republic of Georgia for son John Walker Rampey's marriage to his bride, Nina.
Margaret also has had some family members who have been diagnosed with kidney disease. Because of this family history, John Walker, was not a candidate to be a donor.
"He said, 'Mama, I'll just give her one of mine,' Anne said. "But with the family possibility there is something coming down the road we did not want him to be the one."
Felicia and Anne were disqualified because of pre-existing medical issues.
"They wanted to pursue John first - the closer the blood relative the more likely there would be a match," Anne said.
"There is no telling how many tests I went through," John said. "Blood tests, nuclear tests, stress tests, psychological tests. But the people there are wonderful. They treat you like family."
John, 65, was cleared to be a donor before Margaret was cleared to become a recipient. Margaret found out on Nov. 14 - the day before her birthday - that she had been cleared. She called her parents and Jane and asked them to come to her home so she could tell them personally.
Doctors had predicted Margaret's recovery would be quicker than her father's. It did not happen that way. Surgeries went well and John's kidney immediately began working in Margaret's body. But on Friday, Nov. 28, Margaret woke up with a 102 fever, was having trouble breathing and could not urinate. John was scheduled to be discharged. He told the doctor he did not want to leave Margaret. The doctor told him it was best to leave the hospital before he picked up an infection himself.
"They were discharging John at the same time they were putting Margaret on the elevator to go to ICU," Anne said.
Anne called the transplant coordinator who arranged for John and Anne to check in to a motel located five minutes away from the hospital that caters to transplant patients. They remained there until Tuesday when Margaret was released to the "transplant motel," where Clint could stay with her.
A team of doctors studied Margaret's case and initially thought about more surgery to determine what was wrong. The chief surgeon said no - the best course was to put her in ICU and give her antibiotics. That course of action worked well.
The next Saturday Anne was returning to Charleston to stay with Margaret at the motel so Clint could go back to work. Clint called to say Margaret was being re-admitted to the hospital. She had developed pneumonia.
"In 20 minutes my fever went from 98.9 to 103 - Clint was checking it every five minutes," Margaret said.
After this hurdle was cleared Margaret was allowed to come home. Over the next four months Margaret must be regimented about her diet and medication. She and John go to Lab Corps in Spartanburg once a week for blood work and go every two weeks to Charleston.
Anne thanked their family for being with them through the ordeal.
"I had family there and thank heavens for them," she said. "They were wonderful. They dropped everything and came down there and did everything we asked them to. We are so fortunate to have had that support. And the family that was here took care of our animals and Margaret's animals and the things that needed to be done at home because we ended up staying longer than we had planned."
The Rampeys thanked the folks of Union County for the cards and well wishes they received.
"We got cards from people we didn't even know," John said. "We received cards from Sunday School classes - we know the church but we didn't know the people."
"They were praying for us and thinking about us and we couldn't have gotten through it without that support," Anne said. "It was one of the fastest, craziest roller-coaster rides we have ever been on. It was rough."
Both Margaret and John said their lives have been changed by the transplant - hers for obvious reasons. John said the experience deepened his faith in God and he feels he has more patience. Margaret jokingly says she feels she has less patience since she received John's kidney.
"All the energy in her personality has come back," Anne said.
Now that she is free from dialysis, Margaret said she hopes to travel, including going back to London with Clint and to Georgia with her family to spend time with Nina's family.
Anne and John encourage others to explore the possibility of becoming a live kidney donor.
"I feel we have a mission to tell everybody about live donors," Anne said. "If you agree to be a live donor it does not cost you one cent. You will have to go through tests. You will have to take some time off work - two to eight weeks. If at some point John develops some type of kidney issues and has to go on dialysis - because he is a live donor he will go on top of the list."
John said the waiting rooms at the transplant center are full of people needing an organ donation.
"They are just hoping something will happen for them," John said. "We were very fortunate."
‘They were the ideal couple’
Sonny and Hazel Mae Fowler left a lasting legacy for their family
By ANNA BROWN
Sonny and Hazel Mae Fowler were inseparable in life and in death.
Married for 68 years, they passed away within 48 hours of each other - she on Jan. 8 at Wallace Thomson Hospital and he on Jan. 9 at Ellen Sagar Nursing Home. Sonny was 90 and Hazel Mae was 92.
"They were the ideal couple," said Hazel Mae's brother, Bud Cookson. "They were always that way. When you saw one you saw the other."
The Fowlers were in the same room together at Ellen Sagar Nursing Home until Hazel Mae suffered a stroke on Christmas Eve morning. Tommy Fowler, the couple's only child, said his father's health seemed to further decline after his mother was no longer in the room.
"It seemed to me the Lord orchestrated it," Tommy said. "When she went in the hospital Dad started shutting down. He wouldn't eat. He wouldn't drink. All he wanted to do was sleep. As Mom progressively got worse, he progressively got worse."
Tommy, 62, said he felt blessed to have had Sonny and Hazel Mae as his parents and as sad as the situation was, they would not have wanted it any other way.
"They were two of the finest Christian people you would ever want to meet," he said. "They were from the old school. They were set in their ways. They were solid. I am beyond blessed to have had them as my parents."
Hazel Mae Deal Fowler was born in Cowpens on Feb. 1, 1922, a daughter of the late Frank Cookson and Hazel Mae Davis Cookson. She was retired from Milliken and Co., Lockhart Plant and was a member of Lockhart Freewill Baptist Church where she was a member of the Adult Ladies Sunday School Class. She was lovingly known as "Granny." She is survived by a brother, Bud Cookson of Union and a sister, Gayle Turner of Lockhart. She was predeceased by six siblings.
Harrison David "Sonny" Fowler was born in Kelton on Oct. 4, 1924, a son of the late James David Fowler and Amanda Jones Fowler. He was retired from Milliken and Co. and was a member of Lockhart Freewill Baptist Church where he had served as church treasurer for 53 years. He was a mason and was lovingly known as "Paw-Paw." He is survived by a sister, Mabel F. Hyder of Union. He was predeceased by five siblings.
Along with Tommy and his wife, Sara Jane, the Fowlers are survived by their grandson, Brian Fowler and wife Amanda; three great-grandchildren, Jackson, Maggie and Hudson Fowler; and numerous nieces and nephews.
Sara Jane Fowler said his church was a very important part of "Paw Paw's" life.
"He was church treasurer for 53 years at Lockhart Freewill Baptist Church," she said. "He loved his church and it was very painful to him when he had to stop going. This is something that was so impressive when I married Tommy - to see how dedicated he and 'Granny' were to their church. There was never a time that I remember them not going.”
Sara Jane said their son Brian, says all of his life he always heard others say what a fine man Sonny was.
"They were not only the best grandparents but also the best mother and father-in-law that I could have asked for," she said. "They were blessed to see all three of their great-grandchildren. Granny even kept the oldest for about a year for his Mom to work … he is now 10 years old."
Lockhart Mayor Ailene Ashe said she knew the Fowlers all of her life. Hazel Mae was her first cousin and when Ailene was young the Fowlers lived in one half of a mill village house and her grandmother, Corrie Davis, lived in the other half. She remembers that the first baby shower she ever went to in her life was one for Hazel Mae when she was pregnant with Tommy. Grandmother Davis played the pump organ beautifully by ear. Tommy is an accomplished pianist and longtime member of the Riverside Boys, now called Riverside.
"My sister, Nadine, and I attribute Tommy being able to play so well to our grandmother," she said.
Tommy's mother loved him and loved watching him play gospel music, Ashe said.
"When the Riverside Boys were playing Hazel Mae was going to be there and she would say, 'Don't you want to buy a tape?'" Ashe remembers. "She was plain spoken. I always thought Hazel Mae was beautiful and Sonny was so handsome. They were a good-looking couple."
Ashe said it was appropriate that at the end of the funeral for the Fowlers Tommy went to the grand piano at the front of the church and played.
Tommy said his parents had remained in their home together until November. Hazel Mae was 4 feet, 10 inches tall and Sonny was 6 feet tall. Her own health problems and macular degeneration made it increasingly harder for her to take care of him. Hospice advised the Fowlers the couple needed extra assistance. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving the couple went to Ellen Sagar Nursing Home.
"All their life they had done everything together," Tommy said. "She said, 'I will not let him go by himself.'"
The staff at Ellen Sagar worked it out so the couple could room together - a first, they said, for a man and wife.
"They were very kind to us and very professional," Tommy said.
Tommy has nothing but praise for the staff at Ellen Sagar Nursing Home and Wallace Thomson Hospital for the compassion and care they were shown. He said as his mother's condition declined she was put in a comfort room so her family could be with her. Food was provided for the family.
"They accommodated us so nicely and we can't thank them enough," he said.
Tommy said as a Christian, he knows his parents are in Heaven and are no longer suffering.
"We are going to see them again," he said. "I've got that hope."
Man’s quick actions saved woman from fire
By ANNA BROWN
LeRoy Foster shook Odell Curenton's hand and thanked him for saving his mother's life.
“A lot say they would go into a burning house and save someone but when that moment comes, not too many people are going to rush into a fire,” Foster said. “Everybody thinks they will but you were one who did. “
The Perrin Avenue home of 86-year-old Arrie Mae Foster and her daughter, Delores, caught fire around noon on Dec. 22 and quickly turned into an inferno that took three departments to extinguish.
Curenton, 66, was out delivering food parcels for Potter's House. He arrived just as the fire started and before emergency personnel were summoned. Delores, who turned 55 on New Year's Day, was in the yard but Arrie Mae was still inside.
“Fire was shooting out of the back window,” Curenton said. “I called 911. People were standing in the yard. I asked one and he said, “Mrs. Arrie is in there.”
Curenton entered the smoke-filled house. Mrs. Foster was in a hallway and could not see to get out.
“I was trying to make it to the door,” Mrs. Foster said. “He opened the door and got me on out.”
“I heard her voice,” Curenton said. “I went to the voice and caught her arm. I brought her out of the house. By the time we got on the porch the house blew up. Fire shot out the door.”
Spartanburg Regional Transport System driver James Stephens pulled Arrie Mae off to the side. His hair was scorched. Delores, who had come back up on the porch, was critically burned.
Curenton did not receive any burns. The Carlisle Finishing retiree who continues to work at St. Paul Adult Day Care and Divine Mortuary said God was simply with him that day and put him in the right place at the right time. He said he never hesitated to go inside.
“I didn't think anything about it,” he said. “I try to do what I have to do.”
Arrie Mae, who was burned on the back of her leg and also affected by carbon monoxide, was transported to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. Delores was flown by helicopter to the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta, Ga. Doris Foster Craig, Arrie Mae's daughter and Delores' sister, said Delores' condition is improving and she is undergoing surgical procedures.
Doris Foster Craig said the family would never be able to repay Curenton.
“I have known Odell a long time and he is always caring, friendly and compassionate,” Doris said. “Words cannot define Mr. Curenton. He was so brave to go into the home and risk his life for someone else. It's just a miracle. It shows that regardless of what goes on, if you have faith and believe God has a way of protecting someone. He was just a God-sent man.”
LeRoy pointed out there were others in his mother's yard the day of the fire, but Curenton is the one who went inside.
“He is the one who stepped forward,” LeRoy said. “He is the hero.”
(The Foster family hopes to find a new home for Arrie Mae and Delores. Donations of money and household items are being accepted. Checks earmarked for Arrie Mae may be mailed to Doris Foster Craig, 200 Hamlet St., Union or to St. Paul Baptist Church, 308 Wallace St., Union and also should be earmarked for Arrie Mae.)
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