Flash: ON   January 17, 2017 
Sheriff candidates debate experience, jail operations

A political debate turned contentious when the candidates for Union County sheriff took the stage at USC Union Thursday night.
Incumbent Sheriff David Taylor, a Democrat, and his Republican challenger Jeff Bailey disagreed about a variety of issues, including how budget money should be spent. Taylor questioned Bailey's experience. Bailey questioned the supervision of two inmates - including one murder suspect - who escaped from the Union County Jail in August.
Taylor said efforts are already underway to improve the jail. He said problems include that there is no way to classify inmates and the jail was poorly constructed. He said the concertina wire has gaps in it and the facility is not completely fenced in.
Bailey said the jail needs an administrator on site to oversee operations. He said an alleged murderer should not have been put in the yard for recreation time without supervision.
Taylor said Bailey knew little about jail operations because he had never worked in one and had been in the jail only  as a magistrate.
 “When you can't classify murderers in one spot and Joe Blow who comes in on a public drunk in another, and you have a facility built to house 50 people and we have 63 and 64 there on a daily basis, it's hard to classify. They were out in a fenced-in area with the same kind of fencing used to house dogs in the animal shelter.”
“If you know the fence is in that bad a shape why do we let them out there?” Bailey asked.
“They are required to (have recreation) by the Department of Corrections,” Taylor said.
Taylor said employees knew within four minutes that the inmates, Ashley Tyler and Steven Lipsey, were missing. Bailey countered that the inmates remained at large for hours.
Taylor said his budgets are cut to the bone and there is no money to hire any additional deputies.
Bailey disagreed.
“You can take that budget and cut it down and put more men on the road,” Bailey said. “I really don't want to go into detail right now about how it can be done, but I am telling you it is possible.”
Bailey said his qualifications to run for sheriff include his background as a probation and parole officer for seven years and a county magistrate for 18 years. He said his experience running his own business would be an asset in the handling the budgets of the sheriff's office, 911 and the Union County Jail.
Taylor said his qualifications include 30 years experience in law enforcement, beginning as a city police officer when he was 21. He said he has over 1,000 hours of in service training at the South Carolina Criminal Justice Academy, including 100 hours last year. He is a graduate of the FBI Academy, has advanced jail training and is certified criminal investigator in interview and interrogation techniques and other areas.
The men shook hands before they left the stage.
Clerk of court candidates Republican Amy Austin and Democrat Melanie Lawson and county council candidates incumbent Democrat Tommy Ford and Republican challenger David Sinclair also debated. They were not on stage as long - not as many questions had been generated for them.
Concerning the safety issues at Union County Stadium, both Ford and Sinclair said they think repairing the stadium is a better option than building a costly new stadium at Union County High School.
“Union County Stadium has some safety issues,” Ford said. “A lot of them are small that we can fix right away. Some are bigger issues. You've got to realize the stadium was built a long time ago to play baseball. That is the reason you have the small dressing rooms and the bleachers on the inside they call them baseball bleachers. I think this needs to be a joint effort with the school board. With a little money you could fix Union County Stadium up to be a first class facility. Talking about building a new stadium at the high school - you are talking about least $10 million.”
Sinclair said the school district and the county need to come together to fund the repairs. He said the stadium is in a great location and deserves to be upgraded.
“Moving the stadium to the high school would be devastating to our local business economy because so many of those people after they go to the game, they go eat right there,” he said.
The clerk of court candidates addressed their qualifications for the office and how they would make sure funds are accounted for.
Austin, a graduate of USC Union and Limestone College who is president of Miracle League of Union County, said she got much of her courtroom experience while working with the Department of Social Services in York and Union counties.
“I had to present things to the judges; I worked with the attorneys, worked with the clerk of court's office to file paperwork and schedule cases,” she said. “I know how important deadlines are. I am also familiar with Register of Deeds where I have had to help people in Adult Protective Services for me to prepare cases there. I have also written and helped write several grants we have been awarded.”
Lawson, who now works in the City of Union Building and Zoning Department, said she worked in the clerk of court's office for over 20 years, including supervising Family Court. She said she knows she can make improvements, including having bank statements reconciled by an accountant.
Austin said she did not think involving an accountant was necessary. She said an accountant's salary is around $30 an hour.
“There are two employees in the clerk's office now who have banking background,” she said.
 Austin said though she knows of no current accountability issues, she would ask for a complete audit of the clerk of court's office when she took office.

Whitney Funeral Home reopens for community
David Gist remembers Vashti Whitney as a soft spoken lady who helped many in the community but didn't want any attention.
“She helped everybody out,” said Gist, who worked for Whitney at Whitney Funeral Home from 1980 until her death in 2003. “A lot of families didn't have any insurance or any money. She would work with them until a funeral was paid off. Whatever you had to pay, she would work with you. I have found bills where people owed her since 1977. But they kept coming back and she never did charge them any different. ”
Gist said he is honored now to be part of a way to continue Whitney's legacy at the funeral home she operated for 50 years. Lewis Funeral Home owner Scott Lewis has reopened Whitney Funeral Home on Santuc-Carlisle Highway under the name of Whitney Memorial Funeral Home. Gist, who has worked with Lewis Funeral Home since shortly after it opened in 2003, will continue to work there, but also now is staff leader at Whitney Memorial Funeral Home.
“We are using the Whitney name out of respect for her,” Gist said.
Lewis said he and Gist wanted to reopen the funeral home because they felt families in the Santuc-Carlisle part of the county needed access to funeral service.
 “We are a traditional funeral home without the traditional price,” Lewis said.” We have all the same services, merchandise and options available as a traditional funeral home. We just don't charge a traditional, inflated price. We know the value of a dollar and feel families should not have to pay high prices to receive the very best care in their time of need.”
Gist began working for Whitney when he was in the ninth grade. He remembers Whitney would call Union High School principal Marion “Bull” Parrish and tell him she was coming to school to pick up Gist to work a funeral. When the funeral home was serving a family, Gist did much of the legwork for Whitney, including carrying items to the family and delivering obituaries to the newspaper.
“She didn't want me to leave; I was her legs - I did all her running for her,” Gist said. “She called me 'Legs.'”
Lewis said the Whitney Funeral facility has all the amenities of a traditional funeral home but has left out all the excessive overhead, including expensive new cars and an unnecessary large staff in order to pass on savings to families in Union and the surrounding areas.
The spacious facility, which included Whitney's living quarters, is under renovation but recently was used for its first funeral under the new name. Lewis and Gist said they are excited about the possibilities the facility offers. It currently has a lobby, two viewing rooms, a casket selection room and an embalming room. It also has a seven-bay garage.
Gist said he is glad to see the facility reopen.

“It's like being back at home,” he said.

Peggy and Robert Branch cherish their time together

Peggy Branch says everybody's heard the old cliché, “it was love at first sight.”
But for Peggy and her husband, the Rev. Robert Branch, that's the way it was and still is. They will celebrate their 54th anniversary on Oct. 1. This anniversary is very special. Because of Robert's battle with cancer and some other health issues, they wondered if they would get the chance to celebrate their wedding date again. They wondered, also, if Robert would ever return to the pulpit at Tanglewood Baptist Church. They are thankful to God that both have happened.
“Our friends have been so good to us, her family has been so good and especially our church,” Robert said. “Our church has really been good to us.”
“They have done things for us that we could not even have imagined,” Peggy said. “We have (served) in four different places - Orlando, Arkansas twice, Kentucky - big churches. I am going to tell you those churches don't compare with this little church as far as the love and support.”
Peggy, the former Peggy Harris, grew up in Union County and graduated from Jonesville High School. Robert grew up in Dadeville, Ala. The two met while Peggy was working for Eastern Airlines in Atlanta and Robert was working for a heating and air conditioning company. Both said their meeting had to be arranged by God.
“She was dating my best friend,” Robert said.
Robert had never seen Peggy up close - only riding in a car. He thought she seemed a little aloof and had made up his mind she wasn't anybody he would want to date. Then one day his friend, Bob, wouldn't let him borrow his car. That miffed him a little.
“I decided I would just call his girlfriend,” Robert said.
Peggy said the call seemed to come from out of the blue. She talked to Robert. Then he started calling every day - for three months.
She finally asked him to come over.
“I can honestly say it was love at first sight,” she said. “It was for both of us.”
They had to tell Robert's friend, who ironically now is also a Baptist minister.
“He saw how we felt and graciously bowed out and wished us well,” Peggy said.
Robert and Peggy married in Ringgold, Ga., during her two days off from work, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Robert surrendered to the ministry in 1964 while living in Atlanta. He attended Emmanuel Bible College in Atlanta and Missionary Baptist Seminary in Little Rock, Ark. He is a graduate of Landmark Baptist Institute in Simpsonville.
Robert's first pastorate was Howie Mine Baptist Church in Waxhaw, N.C. He also has pastored churches in South Carolina, Florida, Arkansas and Kentucky.  He returned to Union in 1998 to pastor Tanglewood Baptist Church. He also was pastor of the church when the present building was constructed in 1972.
Robert has had his share of health problems. In February of 2012 he had a heart attack and was flown by helicopter to Spartanburg Regional Medical Center. His treatment included having a defibrillator/pacemaker installed.
In the fall of 2015, Robert wasn't feeling well. He didn't tell Peggy. He went to see Dr. David Keith. Keith sent him to the hospital for tests. Keith didn't feel the results told the whole story, so he referred Bob to surgeon Dr. Tom Young at Greenville Memorial Hospital. Young practiced in Union for many years.
“They said, 'Bring him on. We've got a bed waiting on him,'” Peggy said.
Robert and Peggy said they are grateful to Keith for realizing something was wrong with Robert that tests did not initially show.
“I give Dr. Keith all the credit,” Robert said.
Robert was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Before he could undergo surgery he became severely jaundiced and suffered other complications. On Dec. 31, he developed a severe case of shingles. His surgery had to be postponed until Feb. 3.  
Bob underwent “Whipple Surgery.”  Studies have shown that patients who undergo a successful Whipple procedure have an increased survival rate.
According to the website webMD, the classic Whipple procedure is named after Allen Whipple, MD, a Columbia University surgeon who was the first American to perform the operation in 1935. Also known as pancreaticoduodenectomy, the Whipple procedure involves removal of the "head" (wide part) of the pancreas next to the first part of the small intestine (duodenum). It also involves removal of the duodenum, a portion of the common bile duct, gallbladder, and sometimes part of the stomach. Afterward, surgeons reconnect the remaining intestine, bile duct, and pancreas. The surgery lasted eight hours. Two cardiologists had to be brought in because Robert's heart gave complications.
Robert went to rehab. He lost around 50 pounds during his illness and his clothes no longer fit. He and Peggy went shopping for a new coat and slacks he could wear while preaching. They were coming in the back door of their home on April 16and Robert fell and fractured his left femur. He had to go to rehabilitative therapy until July 29. Since then he has fallen twice. Robert and Peggy said the Lord has taken care of him both times and no other bones were broken. They thank their neighbor, Curtis Eubanks, for helping them both times.
“He (Robert) has been through so much,” Peggy said. “You would have had to be with him to know what he has been through. He had a triple bypass in 1988. He had diverticulitis that ruptured in 1983.”
Robert and Peggy said they could not believe how many friends stopped to see Bob, including Union residents Martha Lindner and Buddy Smith, both from Bob's hometown.
“People have been praying for me from the Philippines and all over,” Robert said.
He said the staff at Heartland of Union could not have treated him better.
“They told me they never thought I would get out of there,” he said.
Peggy came to see him every day. If she wasn't there by a certain time, the nurses wanted to know where she was.
Robert returned to the pulpit in August, first in a wheelchair and now on a walker.
“It's been a long road, but it's been a happy road,” Peggy said of their marriage. “It's been a blessing.”
“She has been the best wife I could have married,” Robert said. “She has really taken care of me.”
They thanked Brother Charles Hutcherson, a church member who has filled in for Bob in the pulpit and on his WBCU radio show.
When the doctor told Bob he had cancer, they both were devastated, Peggy said. But they did not express any discouraged feelings to one another.
“His quote, one of his famous saying, which he always preaches is, 'I'm not worried about tomorrow because God is already there,'” Peggy said.
Robert, who is undergoing chemotherapy and radiation, said the hardest part of his cancer battle is not being able to be active in the community. He has also worked for two hospices in the past.
“I want to get out and go so badly,” he said.
“He just loves people,” Peggy said. “He always has.”

Local man honored for life-saving efforts

Wesley Seaburg was just helping a couple in distress when he rescued them from rising flood waters - the fact that he might be honored for his actions never crossed his mind.
Seaburg, a distribution lineman for Duke Energy in Spartanburg, received the James B. Duke Award last week at the company's headquarters in Charlotte, along with six other employees. Duke Energy has presented the award for the past 10 years; this year it was expanded to include heroic acts.
Last October, Hurricane Joaquin caused historic rain and flooding in South Carolina. Three people died in weather-related traffic accidents, including a Spartanburg woman, who drowned in her car.
Seaburg was called in to work because of a power outage on the west side of Spartanburg. He was traveling down Pine Street toward Vic Bailey's car dealerships when he saw a stalled car with water creeping up the side. A man and woman were trapped inside the car.
Seaburg said he drove his bucket truck through the rising water and maneuvered up beside the car. He pulled the woman into his truck and drove back up the hill, where he dropped her off. He then went back and got the man.
Police officers and firemen took over from there, Seaburg said, and he went on about his job.
“It was just one of those things,” he said.
Apparently not - the woman he rescued showed up at Duke Energy's Spartanburg office and spoke with Seaburg's supervisor.
“She was calling me an angel,” he said.
Afterwards, the supervisor talked to Seaburg “and I told him what went on,” he said. “The Spartanburg office put me up for the award.”
Months later, Seaburg was notified he had won the award. He and his wife, Katy Beth, were invited to Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte for the awards presentation. They also ate lunch with the company CEO Lynn Good.
Seaburg, 30, has worked for Duke Energy for a little more than four years. He and Katy Beth live in West Springs with their sons, 2-month-old Walker and 2-year-old Weston. He is the son of Al and Carol Seaburg.

Jail escapees recaptured after manhunt
A man accused of murder and his teen-aged cellmate escaped from the Union County Jail Friday, prompting a manhunt that ended with them being captured in Buffalo Saturday morning.
Ashley Dean Tyler, 41, of 1304 Canal Road, Lockhart and Kenneth Steven Lipsey Jr., 18, of 1418 Peach Orchard Road were charged Saturday with escape. They were taken into custody around 9 a.m. near the Buffalo Mill Village. Both were transferred to the Spartanburg County Jail Saturday afternoon and are being held without bond.  
Sheriff David Taylor the two men were captured because of teamwork and perseverance. He thanked the Union Public Safety Department, SLED agents, Jonesville Police, officers with Probation and Parole, the Highway Patrol, and the S.C. Department of Natural Resources.
“Without the teamwork of these agencies together, we would not have these two escapees back in custody in less than 19 hours,” he said.
Taylor said Tyler and Lipsey escaped during state Department of Corrections-mandated recreation time. They had been placed in a fenced-in area at the jail Friday afternoon. They took the fence apart, which was topped with concertina (razor) wire.
“They got outside the recreation area into another area,” Taylor said. “They threw a blanket over the concertina wire, hooked into it and pulled themselves up. They got on top of the jail, ran across to the other side and jumped off the roof.”
Bloodhounds began tracking Tyler and Lipsey immediately after their escape. They tracked the two to Buffalo and continued tracking them late Friday night and a perimeter was formed. A command post was set up at the Buffalo Fire Department.  The tracking effort began again at 6 a.m. Saturday.  They were captured around 9 a.m. without incident.
“The two bloodhound units tracked the individuals for approximately 10 miles through rough terrain and along Buffalo Creek,” Taylor said.  “This morning, (Saturday) law enforcement received a tip from a homeowner who had spotted two sets of footprints with no shoes. Officers knew the two inmates had no shoes on, (jail-issue flip-flops) because they had lost them running from officers. The homeowner had been down to the creek about dusk/dark on Friday and there were no prints at that time. The bloodhounds were deployed off of South Street in Buffalo and tracked along Buffalo Creek towards Wages Road. After tracking the creek for approximately one mile, the footprints were no longer visible. The bloodhounds circled back and picked up the tracks going up into a wooded area and about 100 feet into the woods. The two inmates were spotted by deputies and SLED agents.”
Taylor said Tyler and Lipsey were lying down in the woods between South Street and Wages Road.
“They had pretty much run out of gas,” Taylor said. “They surrendered without a struggle.”
Tyler and Lipsey were handcuffed and shirtless as officers escorted them into the jail. Around a dozen officers stood around them or just outside the facility as they were booked. The two were examined by medics with Union County EMS.
Taylor also thanked the Buffalo Fire Department for allowing officers to use their facility as a command post. He said he also was appreciative of the assistance from all the volunteer firemen who helped keep a tight perimeter during the tracking process.
Taylor said Tyler and Lipsey were in the same cellblock with several other inmates. Tyler has been in jail since Nov. 30 on charges of murder, privation violation, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon and failure to register as a sex offender. He is accused of killing his stepmother, Rebecca Tyler.
Lipsey has been in the jail since Aug. 8 for possession of less than one gram of methamphetamine.
When Lipsey was arrested, he was already out on bond on charges of grand larceny, driving on the wrong side of the road and failure to stop for a blue light.
Lipsey and two other men are accused of being involved in the theft of a Yamaha Kodiac four-wheeler from 1332 Peach Orchard Road on May 30. The victim valued the ATV at $4,000.
Taylor said Lipsey was probably looking at a short prison sentence for the crimes he committed prior to his escape. Now Lipsey has thrown that away, Taylor said.
The jail's deteriorating condition has been a cause for concern for several years. Taylor said plans are in place to address any issues that remain.
“We will have to go back and evaluate how this happened,” he said. “They were just checked on by correctional officers because they had just got through serving dinner. Within five minutes of them leaving the area where the inmates were that is when these two individuals made a break. It wasn't like they had a lot of time to prepare to get out. There are some security flaws at our facility and we need to get those corrected.”
Taylor said authorities don't believe Lipsey and Tyler had any help in their escape from anyone outside the facility. Neither had made phone calls from the jail Friday.

Governor to attend ribbon-cutting ceremony Wednesday

Standing on a sawdust-covered floor, the Rev. Neil Keisler takes a break from his work to talk about “Meeting Place on Main,” a place where people can go to get help finding a job.
“We're trying to clear away details that stand in the way of people trying to find gainful employment,” he said.
Those details include education, training, transportation resources and contacts, said Keisler, pastor of Trinity Baptist Church.
Earlier this year, Keisler received a $37,000 grant from The Original 6 Foundation to renovate the former McCall's Frame Shop and Gallery at 111 West Main St. The foundation was founded by Gov. Nikki Haley as a resource to “build bridges for a better quality of life for the residents of the communities we serve.”
Haley will be in town Wednesday morning at 11 for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
The renovations include a new back deck, two new bathrooms, new floors, a new ceiling and new lighting. Carpenters, electricians, plumbers and heating and air conditioning specialists have done much of the work, but Keisler and volunteers have also contributed labor to the project. In addition, Hubbell Lighting in Greenville donated 80 percent of the lights in the building, Keisler said.
Besides job training, “Meeting Place on Main” will offer services and activities for at-risk youth, mentoring and counseling. Four computer workstations with Internet access will be located along one wall of the building.
Common Grounds Coffee Shop, a ministry that formerly operated in the Union Square Cinemas, will also be located in the building. Proceeds from the sale of coffee and sandwiches will help finance operations for “Meeting Place on Main.” Other funding will come from the United Way, grants from companies such as Broad River Electric, churches and private donations, Keisler said.
“Meeting Place on Main” will work hand in hand with the county's Workforce Investment office and Wade's Employment, Keisler said.
“We've seen people find jobs who haven't worked in multiple years,” he said.

Boogaloo shows good side of Union

With the purpose of involving all of Union County in an oral-history based performance process that defines the community, Boogaloo Broadcasting got its start more than 15 years ago with the summer play, “Turn the Washpot Down.”
Today, Boogaloo - now Boogaloo Folk Life Productions - continues that aim with the recent production of “Connections.” Through all the summer and winter venues, the goal has remained the same - to show the good things about Union County and tell the history that might otherwise be lost.
“To me, Boogaloo is a community treasure,” said Dr. Dan O'Shields, who wrote “Connections,” and who has written the plays for other productions since 2013 “There would be so much history that people might not be aware about if Boogaloo didn't bring it up in shows and reenact some things.”
Director Kathy Stepp agreed.
“Basically it's to inform citizens of who they are, where they came from and how they got to be who they are,” she said.
Stepp pointed out that “Connections” helped tell the story of the many people from North Carolina who came to Union to work in the textile mills.
“We all have connections elsewhere that maybe we don't even know about,” she said. “I think people are basically unaware of the history of this little town. We have been trying to pinpoint some of those moments of history through putting them in a play; calling attention to some of the valuable history we have here.”

In 2000 Union County was hurting from the loss of its textile mills and the negative publicity of the Susan V. Smith case and trial. Art Sutton, who was then owner of WBCU, was looking for something that might bring new economic life and positive publicity to the town. He and others traveled to Colquitt, Ga., to see the folk life play, “Swamp Gravy,” a Community Performance Incorporated-facilitated community play that turned the economy around in troubled Miller County, Georgia. Using CPI writer Jo Carson's method of gathering local stories from every level of local society and crafting them into a script, then adding writer Richard Geer's creative direction with music and movement, Miller County inaugurated Swamp Gravy in an old cotton warehouse in Colquitt in 1991. The production was so successful that it soon became recognized as the official “folk life play of Georgia,” selling out to busloads of tourists each year. A venture that started with $2,000 in seed money turned into a million-dollar budget, owns its own building, and generated more than a dozen spinoff projects.
Sutton created Boogaloo Broadcasting Company and hired CPI to put together a play in Union.
Geer and his co-writer and director, Jules Corriere, each spent 13 weeks in South Carolina over the year and a half it took to produce the play, training a band of story gatherers to mine the narrative gold buried in the region. “They told us we had to have an opening question to start people thinking,” Union County Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly, said in an interview then. “Most important, we just had to be quiet and listen. Transcribers took down everything verbatim - our language and vernacular. We had to.  It's our oral history.”
The stories in “Turn the Washpot Down” range from the innocence of two boys accidentally getting drunk on blackberry wine to more serious tales of broken dreams and race relations.
The first performance in “Kellett Theater,” an old warehouse on Keenan Avenue, featured a cast of about 100 black and white people telling the true stories of the people of Union County. Playwright Corriere took the name of the play from a story passed on by Union County Council member Dora Martin-Jennings. She said her grandmother told her that slaves were forbidden to gather in public, so they met secretly in the woods and carried with them an iron washpot, believing that the pot would dampen the sounds of their whispered stories. The pot was turned upside down to hide each secret “so it don't get out to people who ain't ready to hear it yet,” as a black character explained to the audience in the play's first scene. One by one, over the course of the play, townspeople approach the woods and the pot turns up as they spill out their stories.
Every show sold out and around 3,000 people saw the play. The play attracted the attention of the national media and was written up in People Magazine and Southern Living.
That year a Christmas production also was performed, “The Miracle is in the Mail.” This play was written by Betsy Trakas, who also wrote the play for the following summer, “What Goes Around,” a tale of lost love and newfound love. The songs were choreographed by Ralph Lawson.
Other plays have included “Comin' Up a Cloud,” in 2004 “Mill Song” in 2005 “The Shape of Things to Come” in 2006 “In Good Company” in 2007 “Hark Real Hard” in the winter of 2007, “Something in the Water” in 2008 “Can't Live With 'Em” in 2009, “For Love Or Money” in 2010.
O'Shields wrote the 2013 summer play, “Whisperings,” the 2014 vignettes performed at Cross Keys House and the 2015 play, “Murder On Apple Road.”
The 2013 winter play invited audiences into two local cemeteries for storytelling theatre. Sally Summer at the Episcopal Church of the Nativity and Stepp at Grace United Methodist led audiences throughout the cemeteries as they discussed the history of some of the bodies that rested there.
“It is amazing to me what all has happened here,” Stepp said. “When we look at ourselves now and find ourselves discouraged about the position we are in, we have had a comeback story before. The mills were that comeback story. Hopefully now with economic development we are going to be pulling ourselves back up.”
“I think people need to see that we started out as a small farming community, we boomed, we exploded in population because of the mills and then we lost the mills over a period of half a century,” O'Shields said. “But what I hate is that we tend to let things go. We tend not to maintain what we have been given with Main Street and some of the historical buildings.”

Joey Haney: ‘Whitmire is my family’
When Joey Haney began working as a teacher and administrator in Whitmire, he found he had a lot in common with the folks there and the school became his heart.
Haney, who has been principal of Whitmire Community School since 2007,  said that attachment would remain as he begins his new job as assistant superintendent for operations and administration at Newberry County Schools.
“Whitmire is such a special place; it's so unique,” he said. “I think my time being from Lockhart and going to Lockhart Schools help me with that fit into Whitmire. When I was at Lockhart it was a K-12 school. Who would have thought I would have ended up in another K-12?  It's been a wonderful opportunity. I have always told people it was easy for me to talk about Whitmire and Whitmire Community School. It was easy for me to talk about them and brag on them.”
Haney is the son of Joyce Haney and the late James Haney. Haney has a son, Joseph, 19, a college student who works with the Newberry County School District technology department.
Haney graduated from Lockhart High School in 1990 and began taking courses at USC-Spartanburg in the fall of 1990. He said he knew he loved math and it was his strong area. He decided to major in accounting.
In the meantime, he had provided his class schedule to Lockhart High School and he was called as a substitute teacher during his free time. He was also given the opportunity to volunteer as a coach.
“Substitute teaching and volunteer coaching at Lockhart were what changed my mind,” he said. “I loved math, but I was doing the wrong thing with it - I needed to be teaching it. So after a semester at USC-Spartanburg, I changed my major to education. I made that change and it has been the best decision I have ever made.”
Haney graduated from USC-Spartanburg in December of 1994 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Secondary Education-Math.
He got an opportunity to interview for a job at Whitmire High School. Whitmire and Lockhart were rivals when Haney was in school.
“When you went out on the field or the court with them, you went out to beat them,” Haney said.
Haney quickly fell in love with the “rival” school.
“I knew it was a special place from day one and I knew it was the place I needed to be,” he said. “I went to work in August of 1996 as a high school math teacher and coach.”
Haney was named “Teacher of the Year” for the 2001-02 school year. He became assistant principal in 2002.
Whitmire Community School, which serves students in pre-kindergarten through twelfth grade, opened in 2003. Haney was named assistant principal for students in grades 6-12.
During his years at Whitmire, Haney coached many sports, with girls' softball being his primary sport. He started the JV softball program.
“I had a great bunch of players and parent support and that made it easier,” he said.
In late summer of 2007 Whitmire Community School Principal Jim Suber was named assistant superintendent for operations and administration with Newberry County Schools. Haney became the new principal at Whitmire Community School.
In his new job, Haney will oversee facilities management, technology, child nutrition and school resource officers - he will work with the Newberry County Sheriff's Office on the placement and duties of the officers.
Haney said he is looking forward to his new job.
 “It's exciting and been a goal I had set for several years now,” he said.
In preparation for becoming an administrator, Haney earned a Master's degree in Educational Administration from USC in 2004, an Education Specialist Degree in 2014 and also has superintendent's certification.
“I am very thankful and grateful to have this opportunity,” he said. “It will be very rewarding to work with Jim Suber (the new superintendent) again. From my first day at Whitmire until now he has been my mentor. I have a great appreciation of him. The most difficult part of the whole move is leaving Whitmire. I have an investment in the school. I love the people and the town. Whitmire is my family, it really is. I can't say enough about the support I have had in Whitmire. It has been a pleasure being part of the family and working with them. I will continue to work with them and they will continue to be my family.”
Dan McGlohorn will be the new principal at Whitmire Community School.
“He and I have a great relationship,” Haney said. “I know we will continue call on each other. I know he will do a great job.”
Haney pointed out that many children from Union County and other districts close to the area choose to attend Whitmire Community School.
“I think it says something about Whitmire that people want to travel and come to our school,” he said.

Christmas in July
Union County 4-H campers create care packages for foster children
Santa Claus is coming to town early this year.
Thanks to Union County's 4-H chapter, Christmas will arrive this month for children in need. Last week, campers participated in the Christmas in July service project to create care packages for foster children.
Chris Vaughn, president of Union County's Foster Parent Association, said that many times when children are removed from their homes to be placed in foster care, they have nothing but the clothes they are wearing.
“This is a stressful and challenging time for everyone involved,” he said. “The kids are often confused and upset and unfortunately, they can't find comfort in something from home.”
Union's 4-H, an organization promoting youth development, wanted to give back to help these children. Anne Brock, 4-H director, said she hopes this project will teach the campers to have a caring heart and to value their community.
“The 4-H pledge is our mission - we learn by doing,” she said. “Through this event, I hope our campers can learn about the importance of helping the community. A lot of them don't know that there are children, just like them, that are hurting. Through this project, they have the ability to make a difference in a child's life.”
During the camp, the 4-H members filled book bags with toiletries, clothes, toys and crafts to give to foster students. With these items, the intent is to give foster children something that is theirs to keep.
“While we cannot change the circumstances these children have already experienced, we would like to at least provide a tangible source of comfort and hope for the journey ahead,” said Brock.
The campers helped to paint sun catchers, decorate Christmas ornaments, create necklaces and bracelets and make stuffed animals to place inside the book bags. They also filled 4-H cups with toiletry supplies like shampoo, soap and toothbrushes.
As part of the camp, two workers from the local Department of Social Services (DSS) came out to speak to the kids.
Crystal Jackson and Stephanie Hill gave a presentation on what the DSS is and does as well as answered questions about the foster system. They said that there are currently 10 children from Union in the foster system. There used to be a larger number, but many were able to return home or were adopted.
 “Once a child goes into the foster system, they can return home if their parents are able to resolve whatever issue caused their child to be removed,” said Jackson. “However, sometimes children don't get to see their parents or visit home for a very long time, so it's important that DSS can find and match them with a loving home.”
“Foster parents become family and they love just like biological parents would. There's an extensive process to become a foster parent, so from the very beginning they're committed to providing a safe and loving environment,” said Hill.
Vaughn and his two foster children also visited the camp as well. He spoke about the Foster Parent Association and answered questions for the children. He said it was amazing to see kids working hard to help other kids. The 4-H'ers then presented Vaughn with the book bags that they had completed.
Forty-six book bags were donated to 4-H, but Brock said the goal is to have this service project be an ongoing opportunity for the community to give back. Donations of items, money or gift cards to fill the bags are still needed and will be accepted throughout the year. Items will be classified according to age group: birth to 4, 5 to 8, 9 to 13 and 14 to 18. Contact the Union County 4-H office at 437-6259, ext. 113 or drop off donations at 120 Kirby St.
“Through this project and in general, we want to teach our 4-H'ers life skills and that includes good values and serving the community,” said Brock. “It's so rewarding to watch them grow and learn and I'm thankful to be given this opportunity to make a difference in their lives.”

William Free continues family’s tradition of service

William E. Free III says many family members and friends have played important parts in his life, seeing him through the good times and the tough times.
“I've been in business for 24 years and I've been in the funeral service since 1975,” said the Union Community Funeral Home owner and operator. “By the grace of God, we are still here. It's always been about serving Union and the people of Union have been good to us.”
Being on Main Street in a business that serves others is in Free's genes. He grew up in the family's shoe shop business, watching how his father, William E. “Elmo” Free Jr., and his grandfather, William E. Free Sr., interacted with customers and made a living. His brother, Howard, still operates Free's Shoe Shop next door to the funeral home.
These days Free, affectionately called “Third” by family and friends, is looking toward the future, with renovations recently completed to the funeral home. The chapel, which seats 200, has been redesigned. It has been painted and has new lighting, new air conditioning, new drapes and a new ceiling.
Free is one of three children of the late Elmo and Juanita Free. He said his parents always encouraged him.
“My mother was my fifth grade teacher and she was very hard on me,” said Free. “They were a source of great support; my greatest supporters and greatest friends.”
He said he grew up being accepted and loved in a lot of different homes and always being welcome to eat at the table of Ada Sims, Floree Robinson, Lula Bates, Virginia Kelly, Josephine Ray and his in-laws, Son and Lillie Ruth Green.
Free and his sister, Eleanor Devlin, both graduated from Mather High School, he in 1968. After graduating from high school, Free earned his bachelor's degree from Benedict College in Columbia and his master's in guidance and counseling from South Carolina State College.
His first job was working in job development and counseling with the South Carolina Department of Corrections. He later worked for the South Carolina Department of Youth Services and the South Carolina Commission For the Blind.  He retired in 2005 after working 28 years for the state.
Free said as a young man he was a little apprehensive about going into a funeral home and he doesn't think he had ever been in one until it came time to ask his future father-in-law, Carrie “Son” Green for his daughter Carolyn's hand in marriage. Green was owner and operator of Carolina Mortuary.
“He chuckled, puffed on his cigar and said, 'If you love her, you can marry her,'” Free remembers.
Carolyn is director of multicultural affairs at South Carolina State University.  Their daughter, Marti, who recently earned her Ph.D. from Southern Illinois University, is an instructor at American University in Washington, D.C.
Free said over the years he found himself being asked to help out at the funeral home more and more. He furthered his education at Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Science where he earned degrees and got licenses in funeral directing and embalming.
In 1992 he decided to go out on his own with a new funeral home in what was already an established market. He named it “Union Community Funeral Home” because it was a name that provided a sense of togetherness for the Union area. He assembled a group of professionals to help him provide services including James Foster, Anthony Smith, Shirley Browning, Frederick Gregory, Anthony Lipsey, his brother and his parents.
Aside from the business the funeral home does, Free also works as a licensed embalmer and funeral director for funeral firms across the state on 140 to 150 cases a year.
“We have the capacity to serve families of all races, creeds and colors in all capacities to provide the best professional service possible,” Free said. “I enjoy serving Union. Our family loves Union and we will continue to serve it and provide the best professional service possible.”
The funeral home offers pre-need services, traditional services and cremation.
Free said no matter what happened, he felt he always had the support of family and friends including the Rev. J. Archie Calhoun and Corinth Baptist Church, Norman Johnson, Leroy Morant, Margaret Berry, Mike Lopes, John Lesane,  Caldwell Pinckney, Douglas Rhodes, Harriett White, Fannie Mae Means, Mildred Giles, Donald Wicker, Anthony Smith, Billy Duncan, Annie Pearl Smith, Shirley Browning, the late Annie Ruth Spears, the late James Foster his aunts, Maggie Wilson and the late Jessie Mae Sims and his sister, Eleanor Devlin.
“I'm still looking to the Lord for guidance,” Free said. “I want to see just what I'm supposed to do. I want the Lord to tell me which way to go. God always answers prayers and provides a ram in the bush.”

Ag + Art Tour highlights local farms and artisans
The nation's largest free farm and art tour is coming to Union County this weekend.
Showcasing rural life, the Ag + Art Tour has attracted more than 20,000 visitors since it began in 2012. Union's event begins with a kick-off dinner on Thursday and involves nine sites featuring local artisans, offering tours, fresh food and handmade crafts.
Libby Oliver, chairperson for the event planning team, said the Ag + Art Tour is a very exciting opportunity for farmers and artisans to show off their wares and for visitors to learn more about the rural life and the importance of homegrown food.
“This is our second year doing the tour, and we've been growing steadily since last year,” she said. “We've learned more about how to make this event successful and what mistakes to avoid, and because of that the farmers that are participating can see the potential of the tour and are very supportive of it.”
Oliver has been working on organizing Union County's tour for over half a year and has been helped along the way by vice chairperson Elise Ashby and committee members Louise Unti, Marsha Jordan and Curtiss Hunter. She said that through extensive meetings held anywhere from the tourism office to her front porch, the group has become very cohesive and close.
This year, the tour will feature sites including a ranch, a stone-ground mill, the local physic garden, a beer garden and smaller scale farms. Ashby said there is a nice variety and there is a little bit of everything for everybody on this tour. Each site will also have at least one or two artisans or musicians on site, selling their works or performing.
“There's so much that this event has to offer,” she said. “And as the tour grows, so does community participation. This truly is an opportunity for everybody to work together to grow everybody. And that is our ultimate goal, to grow the county.”
Both Oliver and Ashby said that in organizing the event, other organizations have gotten involved which has created a revitalized fresh food movement in Union. They have worked in conjunction with the library, the Eat Smart Move More campaign and the Catawba Fresh Market in order to show the importance of knowing where your food comes from.
“People want to know what goes into making their food,” said Oliver. “They like to know that there aren't a bunch of chemicals or growth hormones in it. And this sentiment isn't only specific to Union, it's running across the country.”
Ashby also thinks it's important that visitors to the tour sites get to experience farm life firsthand. Most of the sites offer hands on activities such as petting zoos, cow milking demonstrations and fruit picking to show how farms operate and function.
“It's so rewarding to see both the kids' and the adults' faces light up. They get really excited about this, about eating clean and getting dirty and about learning where their food comes from, and that is amazing,” said Ashby.
Oliver also said that she hopes the tour can inspire people to grow their own backyard gardens and show them that it is possible to make healthy homegrown food that tastes just as good as a junkier alternative.
“I think kids, if they had the opportunity, they would choose the fresh fruits and vegetables over the junk food. It's just that often, they don't have the opportunity,” said Oliver.  “But if people plant their own food, that can be so meaningful. To create something - that can give a child a lot of self confidence, a lot of things in their life, rather than pulling up to a drive through window.”
Oliver said that through the weekend-long event, she hopes that people will understand what the purpose of the tour is: to promote farms in the area, to show people that it is possible to have a farm and make a living from it, and to inspire people to visit farms on the weekend as a fun destination for the family.
“If anyone is on the fence about coming out this weekend, I'd just remind them that it's free. You have nothing to lose - just get in the car, pick an address and drive out there. It's a great opportunity because a lot of these sites normally charge, but this weekend you can go whenever you want at no cost.”
One such site is Oliver's ranch, Hereford Hills, where she raises grass-fed beef and pasture pork. This weekend the ranch will open a new country store that offers grits, jams and jellies, fresh dairy products and meats, many of which are supplied by the other sites like Olivia's Way Gardening or the Jackson Farm Garden.
“Working to organize the tour has been wonderful because it's an opportunity to meet other farmers and to collaborate with them. We're creating a new family, a new team that supports each other,” said Ashby. “We can only grow, we can only get bigger and better.”
Oliver and Ashby are planning for sustained growth for the tour. Ashby, after serving as the vice chair this past year, will take over as the chair for Oliver, who will continue to serve as a committee member. They want to continue spreading the word about the tour so it can become even bigger.
Oliver said they want to include more artists, more craftspeople and more farmers in the future. She said it has been especially difficult in the past finding local artists, often because many who create arts or crafts don't think of themselves as such.
“We want to encourage people that you don't have to be a professional artist to create. We're just looking for people to think outside of the box, people that make something with their hands or who play music,” said Oliver.
Ashby extends that idea to farming itself, saying that it doesn't matter the size of the farm for someone to get involved.
“You could grow 17 rows of tomatoes, or you could grow a single plant. It doesn't matter. If you love planting flowers, that's fine too. If you are involved with agriculture or art in any way, we encourage you to reach out to us, to try and participate.”
Through the collaboration between the many farms, the tour hopes to bring an inviting and positive atmosphere to the city and to the county.
“We want people to see that Union is a place to come, a place to live, raise their children and to enjoy because it does have more than just its past reputation,” said Oliver.
The tour will kick off with a Farm to Table dinner at the Veterans Park Lodge at 6 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $25 per person and are available at Sanders Garden Center. The dinner will be buffet style with all products coming from the participating tour sites, as well as a complimentary glass of wine or beer from a local winery or brewery. There will be live music provided by Freddie Vanderford and transportation available from the parking lot.
All of the sites on the tour will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. For more about the sites, including addresses, contact information and schedules visit http://www.agandarttour.com/union.

Piedmont Physic Garden continues to grow, educate
When Toccoa Switzer first began planning for the Piedmont Physic Garden, she was not expecting it to develop as much as it has.
What began as a project to honor her late husband, Dr. Paul Kent Switzer Jr., has snowballed into something much larger. The PPG now provides community outreach programming meant to show the importance of the natural world.
Mrs. Switzer first began conceptualizing the garden in 2013, and based it on the Chelsea Physic Garden, a small garden and apothecary in the heart of London. Dr. Switzer had a love for gardening and often spoke about the garden in London.
 “Paul loved the people in Union and he loved Union so we wanted to do something for him. He also really enjoyed gardening, and so we got the inspiration for this project from his interests,” she said. “We wanted to give back to him in a way that also gave back to the community that he was dedicated to serving for so long.”
The Piedmont Physic Garden began simply as a backyard project. The Switzers own two homes on E. South St and used their property as the initial staging for the garden. They purchased an adjacent lot on S. Mountain St., where they had to level a building in extreme disrepair.
“The lot behind us was in horrible shape. It used to be an old duplex building, and the entire situation there was bad. It was used as a crack house and we found needles all over the property,” said Mrs. Switzer. “We leveled the building and cleared the area, but it sat as a grass field for a long time until we could incorporate it into the garden.”
The Switzers applied for and received their official documentation as a 501 (c) (3) non-profit in September of 2014, which allowed the garden to grow even larger. Their neighbors, the Flynns, donated some of their property to PPG, which has since been cleared and is currently under development.  Recently, the PPG has created a master plan to enhance its campus.
Mrs. Switzer said they recently completed the second of four phases in the master plan. Currently they are working on remodeling a small building to serve as a handicapped accessible bathroom in order to comply with code.  In the next year, they also hope to complete a project that Mrs. Switzer has nicknamed The Ward, which will exclusively house medicinal plants, some of which go back to colonial times when Native Americans used them.
For such a large undertaking, Mrs. Switzer has relied on the help of many others in the community. Her daughter, Coie Switzer, has been an integral part in the establishing of and planning for the PPG. Coie, a freelance writer living in Charlotte, N.C., is often in Union, helping her mother with the many projects going on.
“This undertaking has had its difficulties but it's been really neat to be able to work on it, especially since it's such a unique concept,” said Coie. “There are plenty of horticulture gardens across the country, but not in a space like ours.”
Coie said that PPG recently became a member of the American Horticultural Society, an organization that promotes excellence in American horticulture. Membership to the AHS offers exclusive perks to over 300 gardens across the country, such as free entry or significant discounts on products.
To better improve the gardens, PPG has enlisted the help of Union native Billy McBee, a retired horticulturist who volunteers extensively with the Switzers. PPG also has had various interns from USC Union and Clemson to help McBee. Currently, there are two student interns from Clemson as well as a visiting STEM consultant from New Hampshire working at PPG. They are all collaborating to use more advanced technologies and tools to measure things like minerals and other soil levels. In doing so, they will be able to better monitor and improve soil conditions to grow a wider variety of plants.
Coie said the collaborative aspect has been very rewarding for her. She said that having the interns, Mcbee and other volunteers that work in the gardens and give guided tours has been a great way to incorporate the community. She said it's especially beneficial to get younger people involved in order to sustain the garden as well as teach them about the natural world and some of its historical aspects.
And the PPG has gotten even further involved with the Union community.
“We want to offer different educational programs to the community. Right now the goal is to have at least one set up for every month,” said Mrs. Switzer.
The PPG has held a photography workshop with acclaimed environmental photographer Everett Leigh, an Earth Day event at Monarch Elementary School, a creative writing workshop with Maureen Ryan Griffin and a Plein Air painting event with local artist Betsy Skipper.
Mrs. Switzer said they have also offered seminars on how to grow and care for plants, such as a lecture on kitchen and garden herbs and on plant propagation. She said that in the future she hopes to have a “survival garden” and hold seminars about it. She said it's important for families to know what they can do with small plots of land and to learn how to help feed themselves.
Ultimately, the PPG hopes to be a community hub for horticultural and environmental learning.  
“We're interested in nutritional enrichment, especially with childhood obesity becoming an even greater issue across the country,” said Coie. “We want to talk about sustainability and preservation in the environment which really ties into our mission statement of exhibiting and promoting the various important aspects of plants.”
And so far, the PPG has garnered plenty of community support and recognition. They have multiple community partners including Clemson University and the Palmetto Council of Boy Scouts, who look forward to utilizing the garden's campus for events to earn merit badges. The Switzers continue to raise funds to help expand the garden's campus and have received support from events such as their Fireflies in the Garden fund raising party and through memberships to the PPG.
Mrs. Switzer said she's grateful for this opportunity to unite the interests of Dr. Switzer - gardening and giving back to the community. She said that the work has been very fulfilling so far and she hopes that in the future the PPG can be a safe, positive place for the people of Union.

Wade keeps the stadium, airport running smoothly
When Ronnie Wade became manager of the Union County Airport in 1971, there wasn't a lot there.
Then-Supervisor John Greer hired him for the new position - a county job paid for by a two-year government grant.
“It was a mess,” Wade said. “The bathrooms were overflowing; the hangar doors were torn up.”
Wade met with airport commission members Bill Greene and Jerry Lawson. Then, and in the years to come, they meant a lot to him and the growth of the airport.
“Bill - up until the day he died, Jerry - when he started preaching he got out,” Wade said. “They were the two I could always depend on.”
About eight months later, Wade was asked to manage Union County Stadium.
“They said they would get me a truck and get me some help,” Wade said. “I wound up with the stadium after that.”
Nearly 45 years later, Wade remains as manager of both facilities. He's seen them both through a lot of changes. There are more changes yet to come in the future, particularly at the airport, which is in the midst of a $13 million improvement project that includes extending the runway.

Wade and airport history go hand in hand
Wade, who is respected by his co-workers and county leaders, tells his story with dashes of humor as he reminisces about some of the folks and situations with which he has dealt.
When he went to work, the Union High School track was located at the airport where hangars are presently located. Boy Scout troops used the airport as camping grounds. The airport also had become a place where people gathered to hang out and drink at night.
The airport also was the Union County Civil Air Patrol headquarters. Pilots, like Jim Nichols, did a lot of the work at the airport on a volunteer basis.
“This building (the Quonset hut that houses the airport office) was here,” Wade said. “We eventually bought a mobile home to house the office. The runway was 3,000 feet of grass.”
Spartanburg Aviation provided Troy Shelton as supervisor, flight trainer and to set up maintenance jobs for the office in Spartanburg. The company went bankrupt and Shelton decided to stay to supervise Fixed Base Operations, including the sale of fuel.
One morning Shelton was hired to fly Torrington-made bearings to a New Orleans oil company. He left his van at the airport for Wade to use for a Timken personnel pickup. Sue Chrisawn, one of the first female pilots Shelton had trained, was his passenger.
The plane crashed on takeoff. Despite a broken pelvis, Chrisawn climbed out and made it to Shelton's van, where she used the radio to call for help.
Not long before that, Wade and Shelton had spoken before Union County Council asking for funds to cut more trees from the flight path.
“We didn't get any help that night; they turned us down,” Wade said. “That turned out to be part of the story but it didn't have anything to do with the plane crash.”
It was determined water had gotten into the fuel in Shelton's airplane.
“He had enough fuel in the lines to take off,” Wade said. “The plane cut off at the end of the runway. They crashed into the top of the trees and fell to the ground.”
Wade said it was determined Shelton died from a heart attack, not from injuries sustained in the crash. This has been the only crash at the airport that resulted in a fatality. Other planes have taken off from the airport and crashed outside of Union. The airfield at the Union County Airport is named for Shelton.
Under Wade's direction, conditions at the airport improved. Airplanes began occupying the hangars.
“We had fuel here, we had the lounge cleaned up,” he said. “The main hangar here filled up with five or six planes - we never had that many here. We had two smaller T-hangars that were full. With the stadium starting up I had my hands full. The volunteers here continued to do what they had been doing. They would help when you weren't here. They would greet people. We got rid of the people who were coming in here and drinking.”
On one occasion, two men had “convinced each other they could fly,” Wade said.
“One of them had flown two hours with Jim Nichols,” he said. “They took off one Sunday. I got a call that I needed to come down here - the guys are out flying, they don't have a radio on and you couldn't talk to them. They came back in the first time and they must have been doing 150 mph trying to land. The plane whizzed out the other side. They came back the second time they had cut some of the speed down but still couldn't land, still too fast.”
On the third sweep the men did manage to land - the plane spun on the grass and the doors flew open, but no one got hurt. One of the men indicated they needed more fuel so they could practice some more.
“Jim told me to shoot him,” Wade laughed.
Another man kept telling Wade he was a pilot and would like to take Wade up. He brought his World War II pilot's license - a lengthy yellowed paper.
“When I saw his license I knew I wasn't getting in the plane with him,” Wade said.
Another man had a tail dragger airplane parked at the airport. One Sunday morning he asked Wade to fly to Shelby with him.
“We kept getting close to the road and I asked him why he was getting so low,” Wade said. “He was reading the highway signs.”
One night in the 1980s Wade received a call. Drug dealers from Florida were going to land at the airport and the DEA needed access.
When Wade got there, the DEA had the pilot in custody, spread out on the ground. His passenger had fled down the runway carrying a briefcase.
The DEA released the pilot and left him at the airport, but continued to secretly monitor him, including whom he contacted for help.
“They wound up with two more planes that looked exactly like the one they captured that night,” Wade said. “They broke up a pretty good sized drug ring.”
The man who fled on foot was picked up by an unsuspecting passerby near the present McDonald's. He asked for a ride to Spartanburg. He had ditched the briefcase somewhere.
In the 1990s, Ron Fleming, who then served as House District 42 representative, spearheaded efforts to get a $365,000 grant for the airport.
“We built the hangars, paved the area and the county didn't have any money in it,” Wade said. “We have had those full up until now, we have one open. It has been a revenue source for the county.”
 On Thanksgiving morning 2002 Wade was called to the airport to help track the flight path of a plane that had crashed in another state. The pilot's flight plan from Florida to West Virginia indicated he had stopped in Union to refuel before the crash. It was later determined they did not stop in Union. They ran out of fuel two miles short of the runway in West Virginia. The pilot and his wife were killed.
At the intersection of Sardis Road and Duncan By-Pass another driver failed to stop for a red light. His vehicle T-boned Wade's and Wade was ejected.
As his hospital bills mounted, Wade had to file a case to prove he was going to work when the wreck occurred. Eventually the matter was resolved.
Today, Toby Solley is on-site in airplane maintenance. Wade keeps fuel prices at the airport a little cheaper than most vendors to help bring traffic in and keep the fuel supply revolving. An average of 10 planes a day fly in and out of the airport.
In the last several years, six homes have been purchased and removed from the flight path around the airport as part of an “Airport Layout Plan.” Wade pointed out that all remain on the county property tax roll.
“People thought when we were purchasing the homes we were doing that to extend the runway,” Wade said. “The runway will be extended in the opposite direction. We have property there we have already purchased.”
Dirt from the home sites will be used to level off the area for the runway extension.
A small graveyard on the Doris Loyd property will likely have to be relocated, Wade said. Wade praised Mrs. Loyd for being a watchdog of the airport in the early days.
Since 1971 the airport has grown from 64 acres to 330.
“The problem is with what we own, we have to take approach in consideration,” Wade said. “For people to do a non-precision approach we need property away from the runway. The further you go out, the better non-precision.”
Approaches must be open for corporate planes to use the airport.
“One mile of runway will handle most corporate jets,” Wade said. “Insurance will not allow them to land on anything less than 5,000 feet.”
Wade said plans call for the runway to be extended 500 to 1,000 feet at a time in two or three phases. This requires discretionary funding, for which other airports are competing. Sometimes matching funds are required from the state and the county.
“It takes time and if you are buying people's property it takes proper time,” he said. “But you have to have an idea where you are going and you have to work on it every day for as long as it takes to complete it.”
Roger Wade, Ronnie's brother and a Union businessman, said Ronnie has been a neat and orderly person all of his life and keeps up well with the paperwork associated with his job. Roger said he saw this on a professional level when he was serving on Union County Council and council worked with Ronnie.
“He has been that way all of his life; anything he did he put his whole heart into it,” Roger said. “Anything he did he was going to make sure it was done right.”
Ronnie knows how to get grants for projects, Roger said.
“When they put him over the stadium and airport, nobody had really been in charge of anything before,” Roger said. “Ronnie went the extra mile. The stadium isn't new but he tried to keep up what we had. He worked with the special needs people to get the handicapped ramp. Before, it was just about impossible for people with disabilities to come to a game.”
Ronnie has been to many schools learning how to care for the football field turf, Roger said, and the good condition of the field shows this.
The Wade family has been involved in restaurant ventures off and on for many years, including a food booth at the fair, “C.D.'s Downtown” and Ronnie's “Wade's” in Buffalo. Roger said it was work but a lot of fun to work together and Ronnie was a stickler for cleanliness.
“Godliness was cleanliness to him,” Roger said, adding that even Ronnie's basement is organized.  
Ronnie always loved to cook, Roger said. He remembers Ronnie using thin cut potatoes to make fried potato sandwiches for them when they were young. At C.D.'s customers loved the prime rib, which Ronnie seasoned.
Union County Stadium
The stadium also has come a long way under Wade's direction. He remembers in the early days he would have to borrow equipment from Charlie Eaves, whose duties included overseeing the County Home with his wife, Odell Turner Eaves. Eaves grew a huge garden and managed cows, chickens and pigs to feed the 32 residents of the home plus prisoners at the “Chain Gang.” The food often included fresh eggs and bacon.
“I always made sure I got there at breakfast,” Wade said with a laugh.
When the stadium was remodeled, everyone had to work together, Wade said.
“The city paid a third, the county paid two thirds,” he said. “The Union Times gave me $1,500. The radio station gave me $1,500. We built the press box at the same time. The Booster Club gave me $15,000 and the Band Aid gave me $15,000. We put in irrigation, we crowned the field. I used to have a bowl in the field and you would nearly drown when you had a pileup.”
The baseball field had a 220-foot right field fence.
“The train depot gave us a ton of railroad ties and we actually built a wall and extended it; we finally got the field out to 310 feet in right field,” Wade said. “I remember Frank Garner (longtime depot manager) called me and said, 'Your train car is here.' I said, 'What train car?' He said, 'Didn't you ask for some railroad ties? Your car is sitting over here.' We didn't have anything in the county that would lift it. We didn't even have a backhoe then. I called Fred Young at the city, who was over the street department. I asked him if they could use some railroad ties. They went over there with the line truck, the city bucket truck and that was how we unloaded the train. We went in halves on the ties.”
The baseball field wall remains today.
After Union County Recreation Department restructuring, Wade and airport and stadium assistant Sue Cudd have added duties. They help with fairground activities and the Timken Sports Complex. Cudd also works part time at voter registration, the recreation department and veterans administration as needed.
“For over four decades Ronnie Wade has faithfully served the people of Union County,” said county supervisor Frank Hart. “His commitment and passion for the people of Union County serve as an example to all of us.  He has been and continues to be a great resource for our county.”
Wade is currently involved with a park project for the Ottaray Community that includes a picnic shelter and a field. Wade said building director Kenny West and inmate labor from the Union County Detention Center have done a good job with this and other projects - they also recently built some new hangar doors at the airport.
Through it all, he says with a mix of humor and seriousness, he has found one truth, a truth that he tells maintenance workers.
“The most important part is keeping the bathroom clean,” he said. “The first thing you will hear for a complaint is the bathroom wasn't clean.”

June Miller keeping Clerk of Court’s office humming
June Miller said she thought her work in the Union County Clerk of Court's office was done when she retired in 2004.
She thought it was finally done in 2015 when she left again after working part time for five years.
Then, duty called again. And it just isn't like Mrs. Miller to say no. She is currently filling out the unexpired term of Freddie Gault, who resigned as clerk to take a job as liaison for Rep. Mick Mulvaney. She will be clerk of court until the new clerk takes office in January of 2017.
Mrs. Miller said when she retired in 2004 for the first time, she was not really happy. She said she really wished she could have worked two more years, but she did not want to retire in mid-term and require the county to have a special election.
But coming back to the office never crossed her mind.
“Then when Freddie was appointed (2009) he called me and said, 'Miss June, we need your help. If you could just come in three days a week for two or three months and help us to try and get us straightened out, it would mean so much. It is a big mess - we have 18 months of reports that have not been turned in.'”
Mrs. Miller said she told Gault that she would have to think about the offer
Mrs. Miller said she isn't a pack rat - when she thinks she won't ever use anything, she throws it away.
But when she retired as Union County Clerk of Court after 20 years of service, she kept a box that contained her official stamps and seals. She also had a file cabinet with copies of reports.
“It was everything I had used in the clerk of court's office,” she said. “I pulled all that out to sort of refresh my memory. I told Freddie I would have to talk to Joel (her husband of 60 years) and we would have to pray about it.”
Mrs. Miller came back to help for what was supposed to be a few months. She stayed five years.
“Instead of working three days I ended up working five days a week to go on and get it done,” she said with a laugh. “As time went on, I did slow down. But every time I mentioned to Freddie that it was time to get someone else, he would say, 'This is working out fine.'”
In June of 2015 the county faced a budget crisis and some positions had to be eliminated. Mrs. Miller said she decided then she needed to go ahead and leave her job.
“I went to Freddie and said, 'It's time for me to go.'” she said.
The Millers' daughter, Carolyn, and her family came to eat with her parents on Thanksgiving.
“I heard her telling her daddy, 'If my mother talks about going back to work anymore that is one time I am going to put my foot down,” Mrs. Miller said.
Then in December Gault called and said he wanted her to be appointed in his place.
“The first thing I thought about is what Carolyn said,” Mrs. Miller said.
There were many things to consider. Joel has had some health problems. Mrs. Miller's 96-year-old mother, Marguerite Harvey, lives next door to them.
“Joel loves her,” Mrs. Miller said. “He could not love a mother any more than he loves my mother. And I tell people she loves Joel more than she loves me.”
Mrs. Miller called Carolyn and reminded her of what she had said.
“She said, “Mother, the reason I said that was that was your life. You were up their weekends; you didn't take vacations a lot of times because you felt like you needed to be there. If you could go back up there, help them with things, work 9 to 5, not bring it home, just get things the way it should be, that would be fine. But I don't believe you can do that.'  I said this time, I think I can.”
The Millers prayed about it and decided June should take the offer. In their 60 years of marriage they have relied on prayer a lot, she said.
The Millers met when they were teen-agers. Mrs. Miller was a member at Mon-Aetna Baptist Church. Joel's father was the first full-time pastor at Philippi Baptist Church - the Rev. Coy Miller. Mrs. Miller visited Philippi with a friend.
“We were just children when we got married,” she said. “We now have five great-grandsons.” (Carolyn and her husband, Terry, have two daughters, Christi Barkley and Katie Kerley.)
Mrs. Miller laughs as she tells the story of her and Joel's wedding. Joel gave her a diamond when she was in the 11th grade. They had plans for a church wedding, on June 16 after she graduated from high school. Neighbor Andy Littlejohn would be the ring bearer. His mother already had his little suit laid away. June's cousin would be the flower girl. Rachel Bishop Kendrick would be the maid of honor. Joel's father and the Rev. John Hicks of Mon-Aetna would do the service.
But Joel began to feel like he just couldn't go through the stress of a church wedding. They decided to elope - after June's senior prom.
“I was just 17,” Mrs. Miller said. “We told a story about my age and got a marriage license. We started planning things and putting things away - under my bed and behind my bed. I packed a little suitcase.”
Joel asked a couple of pastors to officiate the wedding. Out of respect for his father, none would agree. Joel told his mother what they had planned.
When Mrs. Miller came out of school, her mother and Joel's mother were waiting for her. They told her if she and Joel were determined to get married, Joel's father would perform the service. First, the matter of the marriage license had to be straightened out.
Word got around in town. Ruth Chalk, who sold clothing, sent Mrs. Miller some items before the wedding. Mrs. Miller weighed 92 pounds. Her mother took her to the children's department at Belk and brought her some pedal pushers to wear at the beach.
“We got married at 7 o'clock, went to the prom at 8 o'clock and left for the beach at 9 o'clock,” Mrs. Miller said. “I got married in my prom dress. Lucille got Andy's suit out of layaway, my cousin was my flower girl. Rachel wore her prom dress. Roland Kirby came and played the organ. We had a church wedding anyway and we wouldn't take anything in the world for it.”
Now 77, Mrs. Miller said she thinks this time she is retiring for the last time. She hopes to spend more time with Joel, her mother, and the rest of her family. She thanks her co-workers in the Clerk of Court's Office for making this last time there special. When they encouraged her to take the job they told her they would back her up anytime she needed to take personal time. She said she appreciated Amy Gibson, who stepped up to do the duties of deputy clerk in the absence of Donna Owings, who had to undergo surgery.
“They have been the best group to work with,” she said. “They told me, 'Whatever you have going on if you need to leave we're here for you.'”
Gault said Mrs. Miller has “done her time and done it well.” He said when Mrs. Miller agreed to take the clerk of court's position, the people who work in her office as well as other clerks of court across the state were grateful because they knew what a good job she would do.
“She is a hard worker and she is a very dedicated person,” he said. “She takes the job to heart. To really be the clerk of court it can't be a 9 to 5 job. You have to live it. When you get home you get calls all the time - people with issues and problems and sometimes you can help them and sometimes you can't.”
16th Judicial Circuit Judge John C. Hayes III said he first met Mrs. Miller when he was sworn in 25 years ago. He said she looks the same as she did then, always well dressed and with a pleasant smile.
“She has taught me a lot about how to handle court and how to handle people in general,” he said.

Family shares autism story
For Christmas, Jackson Farr got an X Box One and a complicated Minecraft game that his parents thought would take him a while to master because he is only 7.
“Within the first hour he came in and asked, 'Daddy, what's the password?'” remembers Jackson's father, Tee Farr. “I told him he had just started. He said, 'I've already beaten Level 1.'”
Tee was amazed. Jackson's older brother, Will, who is 10, concurred that he had beaten the level.
“In a matter of a few hours he has beaten that entire game, a complicated game,” Tee said. “He doesn't like to read for leisure, he likes to be active, but he is two or three grades above on his reading level.”
“He's definitely high functioning,” Stacy said. “He's just quirky - it's him.”
Stacy is lay leader at her church, Foster Chapel United Methodist. From time to time in the absence of their minister, the Rev. Glenn Ribelin, she is called to fill the pulpit, either with a speaker or she may speak herself.  Coinciding with April being Autism Awareness Month, she recently spoke about Jackson's diagnosis - Autism Spectrum Disorder - which the family received in October of 2015. She tied in Scripture on which the family relies.
“Sharing his diagnoses and our journey is very personal, but one that I want to share with others because in our journey, it is my goal to raise awareness for autism and help community members become better educated about this disorder,” she said. “As a parent, educator and advocate, I am hopeful that this awareness will lead to a greater acceptance and understanding of individuals with autism and help with children being diagnosed and treated at an early age.”
Autism is a brain disorder in which communication and interaction with others are difficult, Stacy said. The symptoms of autism may range from total lack of communication with others to difficulty in understanding others' feelings.  Because of the range in symptoms, this condition is now called Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Characteristics of ASD are a delay in motor skills, a lack of skill in interacting with others, little understanding of the abstract uses of language, such as humor or give and take conversations, obsessive interest in specific items or information, strong reactions to textures, smells, sounds, sights, or other stimuli that others might not even notice, such as flickering lights.
Some people with ASD want to be involved with others. They simply just don't know how to go about it. They may not be able to understand others' emotions or read facial expressions or body language well; due to this they may be teased and labeled as “awkward” or “quirky.”
The Farrs are both 33. Along with Will and Jackson, they have another son, Samuel, who is 4. Tee is a teacher at Union County High School who coaches football and baseball at Sims Middle School. Next year he will be an assistant principal at Union County High. Stacy is an assistant principal at Newberry Elementary School.
As Jackson grew and began to develop a personality, Tee and Stacy noticed that he had some “quirks” in his behavior and social skills. She discussed these with the doctor during every checkup. Every time she was told Jackson was normal. He is intelligent and reached appropriate growth milestones.
In April of 2015 Stacy insisted on a referral for testing. The waiting list was so long an appointment could not be made until September.
The diagnosis was a relief in a way.
“We expected it but in that moment, it's reality when you hear those words,” Stacy said. “I realize that I will not always be here for him - to be the mama that can swoop in and rescue him and be there for every little thing. It is definitely my passion to prepare him for the world one day and prepare the world for the differences in not just him but other people and other children with all types of disabilities.”
The Farrs said early intervention is a key for many children with disabilities and a parent should trust his or her instincts when seeking a diagnosis.
“Don't overly listen to the doctor,” Tee said.
In February, Tee and Stacy attended an autism conference where Dr. Temple Grandin was speaker. She is the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world.  She didn't talk until she was 3_  years old, communicating her frustration instead by screaming, peeping, and humming. In 1950, she was diagnosed with autism and her parents were told she should be institutionalized. She recounts "groping her way from the far side of darkness" in her book “Emergence: Labeled Autistic,” a book that stunned the world because until its publication, most professionals and parents assumed that an autism diagnosis was virtually a death sentence to achievement or productivity in life.
Tee said the conference was very enlightening.
“What we look at as struggles are normal depending on where you test on the spectrum,” he said. “She talked about different types of intelligence and different gifts.”
Jackson is above IQ in many areas. When Tee took him to a recent checkup, the pediatrician said Tee asked numerous questions about the examination.
“The doctor said, 'He's a thinker,'” Tee said.
Jackson enjoys discussing scientific topics like DNA and one of his dreams right now is to have a lab under his house.
Stacy and Tee said one thing they would like others to understand is the difference between an autistic child's behavior and a normal child's bad behavior.
“Like a tantrum and a meltdown - those are two different things,” Stacy said. “When a child has a tantrum he is looking for your attention - he is looking for your reaction. He has a goal in mind.  Like when a child doesn't get something he wants in the grocery store. They are going to get louder and louder if you aren't paying them any attention. With a meltdown, they can't control it. It's not because they have a goal in mind. It's because something has disturbed them - bright lights, a noise or a sensory issue. Sometimes it is very had to calm them down.”
The Farrs use different strategies to help Jackson overcome a meltdown, including picking him up and holding him, trying to get his mind on something else.
Some parents of autistic children feel judged if their child is having a meltdown in a public place, Stacy said.
“It is important for people to realize people have differences and to be accepting and try to understand those,” she said.
And these differences often come with exceptional talents, Tee said.
“Some of the names that are often thrown out that would have definitely tested on the autism spectrum are Einstein, Mozart, probably Edison, who were late to develop and were socially never there but were brilliant,” Tee said.
The Farrs would like others to understand that those with ASD often have a hard time with figures of speech because they think literally. Jackson will do exactly what he is told to do. Once Stacy told him to “get on the ball,” meaning to hurry up. He became very frustrated wondering what she meant.
“You have to be very specific,” Tee said. “And now that we know that we are way more patient.”
The Farrs noticed early on Jackson did not like loud noises. When Tee would take Jackson riding on his Rhino, Jackson would always get headphones for ear protection. One Saturday morning Stacy was cleaning and had music playing in the living room. Jackson was in his room building with Legos.
“He came in and said, 'Please turn that off. It's making my brain hurt,'” Stacy said.
The Farrs are seeking Applied Behavior Therapy for Jackson. They said they and other parents of special needs children in Union have little access to services like this.
“It is very frustrating for parents in Union,” she said. “People will come from Greenville or Rock Hill and they are not getting travel pay. They come here for two months and say, 'I just can't keep driving here.' Then they have to hire somebody. Since November this is our second therapy company. I have only seen someone one time.”
The Farrs said they are thankful for Jackson's teachers, Kerri Hembree in kindergarten and Jen Roberts who he now has in first grade, for their patience, support and open communication. Jackson plays baseball on the El Poblano team. His coach, Frederick Bates, also is very understanding.
“We want him to grow and experience as much as he can,” Tee said. “That's why we are trying to expose him to as much as we can such as sports and he may be doing music soon.”
The Farrs spend one on one time with each of their three boys. They have taken Jackson to Discovery Center, the State Museum and to Legoland in Florida.
Tee said educators must find ways to find the gifts in all students, but particularly children with special needs.
“His diagnosis has enhanced my perspective as an educator on the services we give students and what they need as individuals,” he said.
Stacy said she and Tee are overwhelmed with all of the information that has been given to us and for all of the support that we have received through family and friends.
“I do not want this to be a secret that we keep, this is a part of who he is and now a part of us,” she said. “Of course, I don't want my child labeled, but autism is now a part of him whether we decided to acknowledge it publicly or not.”
Stacy included this when she spoke in church:
“What does Autism look like? It looks like beautiful brown eyes that sparkle in the light. It looks like a face that lights up with the joy of inventions, trains and Legos. It can also look frightened, nervous and bothered by loud noises. Autism can look like blue eyes, green eyes, brown hair or blonde hair. Autism can look like eyes that never quite meet your gaze or eyes that have learned to make eye contact except when overwhelmed or afraid. Autism can look like flapping and spinning or sitting quietly playing a video game. Have you caught on yet? There is no one look for autism.”
There is no known single cause for ASD, brain scans show differences in the shape and structure of the brain in children with autism compared to neuro typical children, Stacy said. Researchers do not know the exact cause of autism but are investing in a number of theories, including the links among heredity, genetics and the environment.
“Jackson is my son who is comical, caring and thoughtful,” she said. “He loves video games, Legos and television. He enjoys taking trips, making inventions, and eating some of the weirdest combinations of food. Jackson is not the face of autism … but he is one of the many beautiful faces of autism. I am so blessed to be able to take this journey with him; I couldn't have asked for a better pilot.”

Siltzer, son to cut ribbon, lead Relay survivor lap
Jay Siltzer says he misses his wife, the former Kelly McKeown of Union very much, but he takes comfort in knowing she no longer is in pain.
Kelly, the daughter of Walter and Mary McKeown of Union, lost her three-year battle with leukemia on July 13, 2014. She left behind Jay, the morning anchor at WLOS TV in Asheville and a cancer survivor himself, and their son, Malachi, who after her death had to have surgery twice for a malignant brain tumor.
“I can’t say enough about the outpouring of prayers and support we received,” Jay said. “I miss her dearly. She suffered greatly those three years. But I take comfort knowing she is healed.”
Jay and Malachi will cut the ribbon and lead the survivor lap during Union County’s Relay for Life at the Union County Fairgrounds Friday.
“I am looking forward to coming down and being part of this,” Jay said. “Cancer can affect anybody anytime. Any strides we can take to remedy it, we need to take them.  Union County has been incredible to Malachi and me. I am honored to be asked and included in this.”
Torance Inman, who co-directs the Relay with Beth Lancaster, said he hopes a large crowd will turn out and he and Lancaster are thankful to Jay and Malachi for being part of the celebration.
“The honor is all ours,” he said.
The Siltzers are featured in the current issue of People magazine. The article tells about Siltzer’s upbeat attitude as he does the news, despite all that he’s been through.
 He was first diagnosed with testicular cancer in January 1999. He had surgery and radiation and was doing well until the cancer came back and wrapped around his spine.
This time, doctors were less sure of his prognosis. Again, he had surgery and radiation. He also had chemotherapy treatments. Siltzer, who was treated by Lance Armstrong's doctor, was told it might not be possible for him to have children. At that time, he and Kelly were dating. She met him when he went to the dentist and she cleaned his teeth.
Jay and Kelly married in 2000. Five years later they adopted Malachi from Ethiopia. Malachi is now 8 and in second grade. Jay describes him as full of humor and personality.
Malachi was only 3 when Kelly was diagnosed with leukemia.
Jay has written “The Book of Malachi” a collection of Facebook posts from the past five years. The book is available on amazon.com.
“It’s about Malachi and his antics and some of the conversations between him and me,” Jay said. “All profits from the book will go to the organizations that helped Kelly when she was sick. We have already raised more than $5,500 which has been split between the Duke Hospital Patient Assistance Fund and the Patient Assistance Fund at Mills River United Methodist Church (where the Siltzers are members).”
When asked about the incredible fact that all three family members were diagnosed with cancer, Jay told People, "I don’t let myself go there, that would be a dark place. I suppose I could ask, 'Why me?' but the answer is 'Why not?' I'm a person of faith, and I trust good will come from this."

Jo Holcombe left a lasting legacy
Betty Jo Mauldin Holcombe “walked the walk and talked the talk,” according to Debbie Greene, a former student and close friend.
Mrs. Holcombe, who taught English and math at Union High School for 33 years and later co-owned and operated Holcombe Funeral Home, died Sunday at the age of 86.
 “She was my teacher, she was my friend and she was my mother's dear friend,” said Greene. “She was one of the kindest, most sincere persons I have ever known.”
A Converse College graduate, Mrs. Holcombe taught English at Union High from 1951 until the early 1960s when she returned to Converse to obtain a certification to teach math. When she retired in 1986, the high school's yearbook was dedicated to her.
“She was one of the few people I know who was always invited to the high school reunions - she and Grace Lybrand,” Greene said.
Mrs. Holcombe had a lasting impact on Roger Bailey, also.
“She was one of my favorite teachers,” he said. “Even though she taught me English she also taught me how to be successful in life. She was the type of teacher that parents hope their children have.
“The best thing is, she was my friend.”
Mrs. Holcombe and her husband, Billy, were married in 1953. He was the son of Holcombe Funeral Home founders S. Ratchford and Irene Fowler Holcombe. They always treated they families they served with dignity and respect.
“She was the PR person for Holcombe Funeral Home,” said Brown Fant. “She went to every funeral she could and tried to make others feel like they were a part of the family.”
Fant prepared Mrs. Holcombe's taxes.
“She never much cared for the IRS,” he said. “She dreaded it and always put it off as long as she could.”
Fant described Mrs. Holcombe as the “anchor” for the Holcombe family.
“She was always steady,” he said. “She was very sweet to deal with; she was always concerned with everyone else. She was intent on making other people feel better.”
In 1986, Mrs. Holcombe and her husband founded Holcombe Cemeteries, Inc. with the purchase of Union and Jonesville Memorial Gardens and later Forest Lawn Cemetery. She was a member of the South Carolina Funeral Directors Association and the South Carolina Cemetery Association.
After her husband passed away in 1986 Mrs. Holcombe, along with her son, William, and nephew, Tommy Genoble, continued to operate Holcombe Funeral Home Inc.
Mrs. Holcombe was a lifelong member of First Baptist Church in Union where she taught Sunday school and Girls in Action.
“She lived the life of a Christian,” Greene said. “It didn't matter who you were, everyone was of equal value to her. She lived a model life - she never had bad word to say about anybody.”
Funeral services for Mrs. Holcombe will be held Wednesday at 11:30 a.m. at First Baptist Church. Burial will follow at Union Memorial Gardens.

Family celebrates soldier’s return

Myra Heatherly said she did not want anyone to cry at her father's long overdue funeral.
“It's a celebration,” she said. “It's not a sad time.”
It was a celebration because the family of PFC Aubrey Dean Vaughan finally has closure and they finally have him home, Heatherly said. Vaughan was 20 when he died on July 7, 1951, in a POW camp in North Korea. In February, Vaughan's family members were notified that his remains had been positively identified at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (informally known as Punchbowl Cemetery) in Honolulu, Hawaii. He was flown home on April 9. His funeral was held Tuesday on what would have been his 85th birthday.
Friends, family members and veterans groups from near and far packed the Holcombe Funeral Home Chapel where the service was held.  Funeral home employees had to bring in extra chairs. Vaughan's black and gold casket was draped with an American flag and a spray of dozens of red roses was displayed on a rack above it. A picture of Vaughan in his uniform stood on a stand at the head of the coffin. His military medals were displayed in a shadow box.
“I never anticipated this,” said Maxine Vaughan Duckett, one of Dean's sisters. “The military has been unbelievable. After all these years they are still pursuing bringing families together.”
The news that Dean's remains had been found and the planning of his funeral have drawn the family closer, Duckett said.
“We have gained so much family through this,” she said.
Dean's best friend, John Lee “Pie” Ward, another Korean War veteran, sat with the family. Ward recalled that the two volunteered for the Army together. Ward was not initially accepted but was later drafted into service.  He remembered the day Dean left.
“I went to the train station with him,” Ward said.
Ward said it was astounding that Dean's remains had been identified and returned after 65 years.
 “I am glad he is home,” Ward said.
Jantzen Childers, a Vietnam veteran who is chairman of Union County's Veterans Day committee and a Vaughan family friend, read Ecclesiastes: 3:1-8 and sang a medley of hymns that began and ended with “Amazing Grace.”
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens; a time to be born and a time to die,” Childers read.
The Rev. Dr. Aulbrey Calvert, Duckett's pastor and a Vietnam veteran, gave the eulogy. He said it was an honor to be part of a service for a hero who had given his life for his country.
Calvert said Dean's actions showed what kind of person he was. Calvert pointed out that he volunteered for the service knowing his country was at war and he would likely be sent to battle. Calvert used a quote his wife, Judy, found for him when he was preparing his sermon: “A true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him but because he loves what is behind him.”
Some people want to downplay the importance of wars the United States has been involved in since the end of World War II, Calvert said.
“I take issue with that,” he said. “Somebody has to confront the bullies. Somebody has to defend those who can't defend themselves.”
The fact that Dean was promoted to PFC after only a few months in service showed that he had “kept his nose clean and followed orders,” Calvert said.
Dean earned the Combat Infantryman Badge, meaning he was on the front lines in battle, Calvert said.
“He was a prisoner of war,” he said. “He never gave in to the enemy and gave them any information to gain favoritism and gain better treatment. He was the very embodiment of the Army's values - loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity and personal courage. He even told his family that if he didn't make it back to use the insurance money to build a new home, and they did.”
Calvert said Dean's special friend in POW camp, James R. Hope of Belmont, N.C., took on the duty of burying him and told Dean's family they prayed together while they were prisoners. Calvert said this brings to mind Second Timothy, “I have fought a good fight. I have finished the course. I have kept my faith.”
“Dean fought the good fight,” he said. “He fought for his country. He finished his race - the race God had set before him. He served his purpose. As he and his buddy prayed together only heaven knows the effects of those prayers on fellow prisoners, his captors and on himself and his buddy. God does not give us all an assignment that lasts many years. Some are short but they serve God's own purpose.”
Vaughan's family had long prayed that his remains would be found and he would have a proper burial.
“As of today, that closure is realized,” Calvert said. “But also we are reminded of all the military heroes that have not been found, that have not been identified and our hearts ache for those families.”
The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God that He has for us in Jesus.
“Not even a Chinese prison camp,” Calvert said. “When Dean died I believe with all my heart he was carried by the angels into the loving arms of Jesus Christ. I cannot imagine the tremendous contrast he witnessed. He went from suffering at the hands of his captors in a dirty, filthy POW camp - being hungry, tired and scared - into the arms of Jesus and the streets of gold.”
We all one day will die, Calvert said. He urged everyone to place their faith and trust in Jesus Christ as their personal savior.
Lewis Vaughn of Greer, a board member of the National Korean War Veterans Association, presented an American flag to Heatherly on behalf of State Rep. Mike Anthony. Vaughn, who served in the S.C. House and Senate for 20 years, said Tuesday had been declared PFC Aubrey Vaughan Day in South Carolina.
Dean was buried at Rosemont Cemetery in the family plot with his parents and an infant sister. Sheriff's deputies escorted the hearse to the graveside. Along the way people stood on the streets and watched the long processional. Many had a hand over their heart.
At the graveside, members of Rolling Thunder and Patriot Guard Riders stood at attention with American flags. There was a 21-gun salute and Ronnie Lybrand played “Taps” on his trumpet.
Members of Korean War Veterans of Charlotte, many dressed in burgundy jackets, stood together in a group. One was Korean-born Young Chang Ha, a retired United States Navy captain who is chaplain of the group.
“I was 14 years old when the hell started,” he said. “I appreciate the veterans of the war so much.”  

Tyger River Plant celebrates 50 years

In 1966, a new manufacturer began operations in Union County, producing industrial bearings.
Fifty years later, the Timken Co,'s Tyger River Plant is still going strong. This week, the plant will honor its employees, retirees and their families and open its doors for public tours.
“We're thanking the employees and retirees that have been here for 50 years in the community,” plant manager Bob Hart said. “We've been through the good times and the bad times in those 50 years and both the community and our associates have been supportive of both the Timken Company and the Torrington Company when it was the Torrington Company. That is so important for a company to be successful.”
The employees in Union County are among the best he's ever worked with, Hart said.
“I've worked with probably five or six different facilities for Timken and these are just a very adaptable group of people - very hard working - and they do a fantastic job.”
On Friday, the plant will hold an appreciation dinner for employees and present them with shirts, jackets and lunch coolers. There will also be drawings for prizes.
“Everybody will win one prize of something else,” said John Robbins, human resources manager. “We're doing all that we can to make sure they get the recognition they deserve.”
Saturday, the plant will hold an open house from 9-11 a.m., featuring a self-guided tour of the facility that will be open to the public.
“We're keeping it relaxed,” Hart said. “There will be pictures out there, a tour route, displays of products, videos of people working in the area - they can see videos of their brother or sister or father working out in the area.”
Over the past 10 years Timken has invested $40 million in the Tyger River Plant to make it a world class manufacturing facility, featuring state of the art technology, Hart said.
One example of that technology is the plant's dedication to quality.
“If you take a human hair and divide it 35 times - we're holding tolerances tighter than that,” Hart said.
“To ten thousands of an inch - in our world we call it tenths,” Robbins said. “Even a couple of degrees temperature fluctuation in the plant could impact whether it's in spec or out of spec.”
Timken produces bearings up to 84 inches in diameter at the Tyger River Plant, 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. Thirty five percent of the plant's products go into windmills used to generate electricity.
“It's like manufacturing an aerospace product,” Hart said. “If you have a bearing and it fails up there in one of those big windmills it costs that company and its costs us - because it's our fault - a couple of hundred thousand dollars just to get the bearing down; that's not to fix the problem. The liabilities tied in with that are very, very tight. So the controls and specifications and everything are critical.”
Timken is the only North American bearing supplier for wind turbines without a bearing failure.
Over the past 50 years the products Timken produces at the Tyger River plant haven't changed, but the applications they are used for have, Hart said.
“We still manufacture bearings, but the applications and tolerances they are used for have changed dramatically and they've gotten much, much tighter for the applications today,” he said.  “Timken wants to be a problem solver for our customer; they want to solve friction problems that are out there, which means we typically go after some of the more demanding applications that are out there, not the easy stuff.”
The market for industrial bearings is also much more competitive, Hart said.
“The competition globally is much more intense than it was 50 years ago and because of those innovations in material and technology and processes here in this plant, just in the last three or four years we've had a significant reduction in costs,” he said. “Those are the things that allow this plant to be successful. We're in a very, very good condition to continue to be a valuable part of Timken and a valuable part of this community.”
Many of Timken's employees are actively involved in various organizations and boards in the community and the Timken Family Foundation has invested in many projects over the years, Hart said.
“It's truly making the quality of life better for a lot of people in this community,” Robbins said.

Vietnam still fresh in Blair’s mind

SHARON - When people ask Jim Blair when he was in Vietnam, his mind quickly turns back the clock.
 “The first thought that comes to my mind is 'yesterday,'” he says.  “Once you have been places like that there is hardly a day that goes by that something doesn't happen that takes you back. It might be a song, it might be a sound, and it might be a smell. There are still some songs right now that when they play them, you are back there.”
He remembers Christmas of 1967. There were no Christmas decorations, no Christmas music played on Armed Forces Radio. There was supposed to be a 24-hour ceasefire, which the North Vietnamese took advantage of to reinforce troops.
“The decision had been made that soon after daybreak we were going to violate the truce and try to knock out as many as we could,” he said. “They sent me on a mission to Cambodia and mainly up into Laos getting the latest information. I got back to Saigon Christmas Eve night and went to debriefing. They told me to get a shower and come back. I was staying in an old barracks that had been built by the French. They had a 24-hour snack bar - a luxury in Vietnam. I got me a cheeseburger and a beer. There was a base chapel with a little park beside it - concrete tables and benches. They were having a midnight mass and they were singing carols and songs. Twelve o'clock went off and they started singing 'Silent Night.' I started feeling sorry for myself. This was the first time I started thinking, 'This is Christmas. What are the people back home doing? Do they really understand what is going on over here? In that same compound was the morgue. About on cue when they started singing 'Silent Night' you heard these trucks cranking up. They would always take the dead soldiers back to the flight line at night, when there wouldn't be that many people out. There were five or six tractor-trailers, each with about eight flag-draped coffins on the back, going to the flight line. I was standing there, saluting, and thinking, 'What kind of Christmas are these guys' families having? Here I am sitting here, woe is me, and I am a heck of a lot better off. A lot of these guys are not going back.”
Another time, he was in a helicopter waiting to be dropped out for the first time on a Ho Chi Minh Trail watch.
“Scared was not the word for it,” he said. “They were playing music loud music - Grace Slick. 'Somebody to Love.'  That song, to this day, it's like you are back on that chopper, going in.”
Blair, who served as state council president of Vietnam Veterans of America, received the order of the Silver Crescent from Gov. Jim Hodges for his work in 2002. In his letter to Blair, Hodges said the award was given “not for one single achievement” but for a lifetime of achievements that benefited South Carolina.” It noted the sacrifices Blair made serving in Vietnam and over the six years he served as president of the VVA state council - overseeing the growth of the organization and ensuring that all veterans were kept well informed about issues of interest to them.
Hodges didn't know Blair's story, the reasons for his motivation.  In fact, there were things Blair did not tell his wife, Judy, until they had been married for 20 years.

Lockhart High School graduate
Blair, the son of the late Billy and Minnie Blair, started school in a one-room school at Bullock's Creek. It later closed and the students were transferred to Sharon.  Blair's mother was a nurse at Hope Hospital and she got permission for him to attend Lockhart School. His 16-member class graduated in 1962.
Blair started classes at Clemson, where his older brother, Billy Dodd, was already a student. The family could not afford for both to attend at the same time, so they would take turns - one would attend classes while the other worked that semester. (They also have a younger sister, Patsy Blair Parks).  Blair soon got a notice from Selective Service that he no longer had a student deferment and he needed to report for a pre-induction physical.
“I figured there had to be some other options out there,” he said. “I had been in the Air Force ROTC at Clemson. “
An Air Force recruiter told him to take the admission test, but also advised him there was a three-year waiting list to get in.
Blair took the test and made a perfect score - at that time only six people had done this. He enlisted in February of 1967. He did his basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, and then was sent to intelligence school at Lowry Air Force Base in Denver, Colo.
“I left Texas where it had been over 100 degrees for two or three weeks, got to Denver and the first weekend it snowed on us,” he said.
About a week before graduation Blair and two other airmen were told they had been selected for a special assignment. They would train with other men from other service branches for special service.

Training begins
The first day of training began with instruction from a Navy Seal. Everyone was assigned a name and told that was the only name they were to use. They were also not to address the instructor as “sir” and they were not to salute him, but he let them know in no uncertain terms he was in charge.
“He kind of shocked us that first day,” he said we would be falling out at 0400 for a 10-mile run before breakfast,” Blair said. “We three Air Force guys kind of sat there with a dazed look. The Fly Boys, they called us. He told us they didn't expect us to make it the first day, but they did expect us to be with them by the end of the week.”
Blair was told by the other men in his group that he had been selected for his brains and their job was to protect him.
“I told them to do their job and I would sure as hell try to do mine,” he said. “They had different skills - some were medics, some were good with radios; it was like most special operation teams. You work together. You know a little about all of it but you have experts in some fields.”
The school included lessons from Vietnamese instructors who taught the men about the people, the country and the history.
“We learned a lot about the people, the different ethnic groups,” Blair said. “What it boiled down to was they were teaching us to recognize what part of Southeast Asia someone came from by what they ate, how they ate, how they set camps up.”

Next the group went to Spokane, Wash., for Survive, Evade, Resist and Escape training - SERE.
The scenario was that Blair had been shot down, had a head injury and had been captured.
“They gave us a special version of it,” he said. “They put you in an environment where they capture you. They have villages set up with Orientals in them - even little children. Just like you were in the jungle. The Caucasian-type guys were all dressed up in Soviet uniforms. They did the interrogation, they did a lot of things to you - basically they were trying to show you that you could be broken.”
At one point Blair was strapped in a chair and dumped into a pool of ice water.
“What I didn't know was they had hooked a tether to the back of the char,” he said. “They let me dangle in the water for a while and pulled me back up. Then you go through it a time or two again. Then the 'good guy' shows up and he's raising sand, 'Let this man out of here. Bring him in and give him a cup of hot coffee and a warm robe to put on.' They did all kinds of stuff to you. They put you in a cramped up metal box. They'd beat on it and roll you around and you might end up on your side or on your head.”
“The thing that got to me was the sleep deprivation,” Blair continued. “You start questioning yourself, 'Is this real or not?  They let us observe some of the other classes that came in. If you can control a person's physical space, what he hears, sees and reads, it is just a matter of time before you control their brain.”
The next stop was Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines for three weeks jungle survival training.

Missed flight
Blair was allowed to come home on leave. He then got his orders - Travis Air Force Base in California, Nov. 3, 11 p.m.
But when he arrived at Travis he was told his flight had already left and he was not on the manifest for it.
“The captain came out and asked me where I was supposed to be going,” Blair said. “I told him I did not know for sure; I told him a little about the turning.”
Blair was told to get a room for the night. He spent a little time with Jerry Harris, with whom he had grown up with at Bullock's Creek and who was stationed there.
“That went on for three days,” he said. “They said, 'We can't get any confirmation of where these orders came from or where you are going.'  Finally they said they didn't know where I was supposed to be going but they would put me on the next plane to Vietnam and let them figure it out.”
He never saw the team with whom he had trained again.

Blair arrived at Tan Son Nhut Air Base. Again, no one knew where he was supposed to be. The headquarters for the Seventh Air Force was there. He decided to go there and ask someone.
“A captain came down and asked to see my orders,” Blair said. “He told me to come back the next day.”
The next day Blair was sent to a colonel, who asked about his training.
“He said, 'Airman Blair, I don't know where you are supposed to go but I do know enough to know you don't want to go there. I need you here in my group.' I told him I was supposed to be in Special Operations. He said, 'That is what this is.'
Blair was assigned to DITO - Director of Intelligence Targeting Out country.
 “It was a very small group of about five officers and three enlisted men,” Blair said. “We pretty much directed the air war in North Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. It was an eye-opening experience to say the least.”

Information - or misinformation
During training, Blair and the others had been told their job was to provide timely and accurate intelligence so decision-makers could make decisions.  Intelligence was gathered through road watch teams, photography and from pilots.
“It didn't take too long to realize your mission is to provide information - or misinformation - that supports whatever position your superiors want,” he said.
Every week (Gen. William) Westmoreland and leaders had to be briefed. But before they got to him, there were others who had to hear the information first.
“You would walk in and there would be Westmoreland, there would be all the commanders,” Blair said. “Some were actually staying in Japan and the Philippines and would fly in once a week. I have walked in and they were talking about where they were going to play golf that next weekend. You always gave a positive report. This went on for several months and I got pretty disillusioned about the whole process.”
Blair's captain was getting out of the service and was a friend. Once they put together two briefings - one they knew would fly through and the other that would tell the true story. They opted for the truth. One general was standing there with a cigar in his mouth. It began to go around and around. Another general's face turned red and a blood vein protruded.  The captain told Westmoreland that Blair knew what he was talking about.  Westmoreland began asking questions and said he wished he had more frank briefings.
Blair told the captain he thought they had done well. The captain said he feared they had not heard the last.
They were sent to the office of the red-faced general. He flew into a rage of curse words. The captain told him, “Airman Blair was under my direct orders.”

“Sheep dipped”
The captain was placed over the Vietnamese cooks in the officer's club as his time in service grew to a close. Blair would put on civilian clothes, go in the kitchen entrance and eat - the food was better and often included steaks. One night a lieutenant colonel spotted him. The next day he was in trouble. He was “sheep dipped” - given a uniform with no identification and sent into Laos to fly with forward aircraft control. None of the airplanes had any United States identification on them and included Air America, Continental Air and Byrd and Son who supplied aircraft and pilots for covert operations in Cambodia, Laos and North Vietnam - a CIA operation. This operation was not acknowledged until the 1970s.
“I flew in aircraft that was unmarked,” Blair said. “Some of the best we had were French made. We would fly around the jungle tree top level. You'd take fire and call in the jets to strike. You get familiar with the area and you can tell something is different than before. I didn't make it but 10 days and got shot down - in a Cessna. It was fiberglass and had no armament on it.”
It was his 16th mission. There was no written documentation of any of his orders - all were verbal.
“The pilot got us on the ground someway,” he said. “We flipped and the wings came off. It knocked us both out. He had been hit by fire and was in pretty bad shape. I got him out of the plane and an Air America chopper came in. I handed him to the paramedic; they were getting a lot of fire. They took off.”
The plane was on fire when it went down. It exploded after Blair freed the pilot.
The chopper with the 0-1 pilot got out. Another one coming in to rescue Blair got shot down and exploded, killing all aboard.

Waiting for rescue
Blair waited for what seemed like an eternity.
“I could hear the North Vietnamese talking,” he said. “They could have got me anytime they wanted me but they were going to leave me in there to try and get more helicopters in.”
Another chopper was sent in. Ground fire was so intense, Blair heard over his survival radio the command from the controller to abort the mission, leaving Blair behind. The new chopper pilot ignored the order, and asked Blair if he could catch the moving cable, as they couldn't hover. Despite a wounded leg, Blair made his dash, knowing full well what awaited him if the NVA got hold of him.
“A guy radioed me and said, 'If I get a hook to you, can you get on it?' I said yes. I still don't know how he did it. He was doing a spiral dive and dropped that hook in. I grabbed it and got one leg over the hook - like a big anchor. They commenced to dragging me through the trees and getting me the heck out of there.”
Blair had cuts and scratches and broken collarbone. He was flown to a MASH unit and treated. A nurse asked if he would stay on a few extra days and gave blood to some of the injured.
“If I could have figured out a way to get my pay, I believe I could have stayed over there and no one would have known where I was or what I was doing,” he said.

See and not be seen
Blair received no Purple Heart - not for this incident nor another incident when shrapnel struck him. There was no documentation of the work he was doing.
 During his time in Vietnam Blair was sometimes assigned to trail watch the Ho Chi Minh trail - the main route the North Vietnamese used to bring troops and supplies into South Vietnam.
“Your job was to see and not be seen,” he said. “You had a non-U.S. made pistol, that was the only weapon you had.”
If Blair had been captured, paperwork was in place to explain a reason why he was a “civilian” and not on official duty.
“I wasn't aware of this until a few years ago,” he said.
 He says he doesn't know what the parents of men who were captured or killed were told.
“Intelligence is a need to know thing,” he said. “If you have no need to know, then you don't know.”
Vietnamese troops that had been interrogated said they were able to find Americans because they smelled “sweet.”  
“They always knew even at night that they were getting close to Americans because they could smell us,” he said. “Because of the food we ate, deodorant, toothpaste, bathing. You learn that for two or three days (before going trail watching) you didn't bathe. You didn't wash your clothes. You cleaned your system out. One of the best things I found was nucmong, a sauce they used. You'd get eggs, fish, rice, and spices and put them in a jar and let them ferment. It was a delicacy to them.”
Those on the trail reported in by radio and sometimes called in air strikes if they saw a lucrative target. You were to use our radio only once a day. The North Vietnamese had captured radios. If a man stopped answering his radio, no one went after him. He was gone.
It came over the radio that two men who had been dropped out with Blair had not reported in. Blair relaxed and closed his eyes, listening closely to his surroundings. Something told him not to move, not to even open his eyes. The passage, “Be still and know that I am God,” came to mind.
One North Vietnamese passed on one side of him and another on the other side.
“You would be surprised how much eyeballs show up in the night, in the middle of the jungle with the moon shining,” he said.
Sometimes he had to lie perfectly still with a snake trying to stay warm coiled up next to him.

Bombing restrictions
Blair said despite the amount of bombs dropped in Vietnam there were many restrictions.
“Before the first bomb was dropped there were 93 potential targets chosen,” he said. “When we stopped dropping bombs there were still only about 50 that had been struck. There was a three-mile buffer on the Chinese border. You had buffers around all major cities. You couldn't strike within 100 yards of a known dwelling.  North Vietnam didn't have a big infrastructure. About the only thing we had to strike were lines of communication and transportation. They put people living in the rail yards, in the shipyards, on the bridges. We could fly over their airfields and there could be MIGs on the ground and our pilots could not strike them until they were in the air. You could not strike a SAM site or the anti aircraft fire sites until they turned their radar on and locked on to you. Any new target required basically presidential approval. There was one target in particular - a Catholic church. Big church. They were using it as a staging area. There were trucks backed up to every window. There would be hundreds and hundreds of oil drums, boxes of ammunition, but we were not allowed to strike it because it was a church. “
Blair went to the colonel and explained. The colonel told him he would have to request a form. Every week Blair filled out the form and sent photos, asking for permission to strike. It was finally given.
“The pilot said it looked like a fireworks display when it went up,” Blair said.
Blair later saw a picture of the church in a Time or Newsweek. The Vietnamese had taken peace activists to see the damage. The article said the church was an orphanage and children had been killed.
Because of the rules that were in place, American pilots in North Vietnam were often on death missions.
“Aircraft went in the same time every day, the same routes every day,” Blair said. “They just about knew when to man their anti-aircraft. It was almost like they were sending the pilots on a turkey shoot and they were the turkeys.”
Recommendations Blair made about not having pilots go after targets that were already destroyed were taken to heart by his superiors. Blair earned the Bronze Start in part because of this.

Tour ends
Blair's tour of duty ended in 1968. After flying into Travis Air Force Base he and some other servicemen took a taxi to San Francisco International Airport. In the corner of the bathroom there was a stack of uniforms left behind by soldiers wary of protesters.
Blair spent the rest of his service in England. He said a lot of the men he served with also had been in Vietnam. They didn't talk about it.
He said he thinks he understands why so many who served struggled with psychological problems and drug and alcohol abuse.
“You are on an adrenaline high in some situations,” he said. “It was hard for them to come back and go back to a civilian lifestyle.”
He remembers how alive he felt in the jungle.
“You learn to listen to your body,” he said. “I think over the generations certain senses are lost because you don't need them anymore.”
After Blair was discharged the CIA, the NSA, the FBI and Air Force Intelligence recruited him. He chose to enroll in the University of South Carolina and major in International Studies. After he got his degree he went to work in construction. His job took him to Texas, where he met Judy. His boss had laughingly told him he would be married before he left the state and he was right. They have four children: Angela, Betsy, Jimmy and Catie.
Blair said he would not want to go back again to Vietnam, but he enjoyed his Air Force service as a whole.
“I got to see a lot of the world,” he said. “It was a good experience, I reckon. I would not have met Judy if I hadn't gone.”
Judy said her husband's experiences have given him a different perspective on a lot of things.  He isn't easily rattled.
“He doesn't make snap decisions,” she said.

Soldier’s remains returning home
Sixty-five years after he was taken prisoner and died in a POW camp during the Korean War, PFC Aubrey Dean Vaughan is coming home.
In February, Vaughan's family members were notified that his remains had been positively identified at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific (informally known as Punchbowl Cemetery) in Honolulu, Hawaii. His remains will be flown home in April and the family is planning for a funeral service to be held on what would have been his 85th birthday, April 12.
“I was glad I was sitting down when I received the phone call,” said Dean's daughter, Myra Heatherly, who is now 66. “I never would have thought I would have heard that phone call. He is finally coming home to be laid to rest in peace on home ground.”
“I could hardly believe it was happening,” said Maxine Duckett, one of Dean's sisters. “After talking to the young man who buried him we never expected he would come home. I can't express it.”
Aubrey Dean Vaughan was born in 1931, the second of six children of Aubrey and Bertha Henderson Vaughan. He had an older sister, Rita Vaughan Hines, and younger siblings Maxine, James, Joe Earl and Dot (now Dot Grant.)
Maxine said Dean was the typical older brother who looked after and was concerned for his younger siblings.
“He had lots of friends and all of his friends were like brothers to us because they stayed at the house a lot,” she said.
Maxine was 15 when Dean left for basic training. She remembers that she and her future husband, Colon Duckett, had just started dating. Colon was at the movie with friends and Dean introduced himself to him. He wanted to meet the fellow his sister was dating.
Dot, who was 5 when Dean died, has very little memory of him.
“She remembers that Dean and Pie Ward took her to have her picture made,” Maxine said.
Dean volunteered on Oct. 9, 1950, and went to basic training at Camp Pope, La. While in training he came home twice. The first time was to attend the funeral of his grandmother, Mrs. Joe Henderson. He came home again on a 19-day furlough before sailing from California to Korea. Dean was assigned to C Company of the Fifth Infantry Regiment (then reinforced as a Regimental Combat Team.) 25th Infantry Division.
In letters Dean wrote to his family during his service he said he regretted not completing high school and was anxious for his brothers and sisters to finish their schooling.
Dean landed in Korea on March 26, 1951. His last letter to his mother was dated April 18, 1951,
“If anything happens to me take my insurance and buy a home with it,” he wrote.
 On May 27, 1951, his family received a telegraph at their Louise Street home. Dean had gone missing in action on April 23.
“It was a shock,” Maxine said.
In August of 1953 the Vaughans were notified that their son was listed as having died in a North Korean POW camp. At that point, they had not known he was a POW.
When the armistice was signed, prisoners were released and walked back across the 38th Parallel.
“I remember sitting up almost all night long listening to the names of those released, just hoping we would hear his name,” Maxine said. “But of course, we didn't.”
In September of 1953 the Vaughans received a letter from James R. Hope of Belmont, N.C. Hope said he had been held prisoner with Dean and had helped bury Dean after he died. His letter provided answers to some of the questions they had.
“Your son, Aubrey Dean, died in prison camp on July 7, 1951, of dysentery,” Hope wrote. “We were very good friends and often talked about home and what we would do when we got home. I am so sorry that he wasn't as fortunate as I was in getting to come back. There were so many that can't come back. I was just one of the lucky ones that pulled through that awful disease. He was sick for about three months before he died and we promised each other if one of us got out that we would contact the other one's family. I thought Vaughn was one of the finest men that I have ever known and he was a good boy. We often prayed together and hoped that our loved ones at home were praying for us. I know now that the Lord knows best what is for us and what the future holds for each individual in the world. We can't understand His way at times but there is a purpose for everything and everybody.”
Hope said Dean was not wounded when he was captured and he did write letters home from the POW camp.
“He got sick afterward, we all were very sick,” Hope wrote. “The Chinks took all of our personal belongings but some pictures that we had. Vaughan gave me two pictures of his before he died and I promised to return them to his family. It is a picture of his mother and girlfriend.”
Maxine said she, her mother, Rita and Rita's husband, Faye, went to see Hope in Belmont. He told them that the Chinese stripped the dead soldiers of their dog tags and other identification and gave the other American prisoners rolls of cloth to wrap the bodies in. The Americans buried their own dead in the camp cemetery.
“He said they would make crosses and no sooner than they had done that the Chinese would knock them all down,” Maxine said.
Hope told Dean's family he did not think it would be possible for Dean's remains to be recovered.
At Maxine's request in 2001, the Department of the Army sent her a “Loss Incident Summary Sheet” which gave a few details of her brother's capture and death.  It said Dean was captured during a holding action just below the “mid-Korean waist,” where the 5thArmy had dug in.
“Massive Chinese forces had re-gathered from previous attempts to penetrate the valley areas east of Seoul, South Korea, and began anew,” the report said. “This action was fought in the area south of the 'Iron Triangle' which is in the present Demilitarized Zone. The companies of the 5th Infantry were simply overwhelmed by a much larger enemy force but did succeed in withdrawing by stages for several miles, where they again dug in to reorganize. The Chinese captured PFC Vaughan during one of many successive rear-guard actions.”
Maxine and her sister, Rita, both provided a DNA sample that they hoped could be used to help identify Dean's remains if they were ever located.
“We thought we knew it all and that was it,” Maxine said. “We thought all that time his remains were in North Korea in the ground. We didn't have hope. But Myra always had that grain of hope.”
In the meantime, Myra, who was only 2 years old when her father died and has no recollection of him, devoted a lot of time and energy into finding out everything she could about her father and his war service. She spent time on the Internet with a computer savvy best friend, Jan Stalnaker, and wrote her senators and representatives.
Myra found out that through “Operation Glory,” Aug. 31 to Nov. 9, 1954, there had been an exchange of remains between the United States and North Korea. Dean's remains were part of the exchange. His remains were first taken to Japan for identification. His remains were determined “unidentifiable.”  His remains were reburied in the Punchbowl Cemetery.
“All those years his remains were in Hawaii,” Maxine said. “I wish we had known that. That would have been such a relief, to know they weren't just destroyed.”
Maxine and Myra were told the original plans were to bring all remains of unidentified servicemen to the United States to be tested. When the remains were in Japan they were treated with formaldehyde to help preserve them. This destroyed any chances of being able to use a DNA sample to identify them, Myra said.
Dean's remains were re-interred. In May of 2015 he was disinterred and tested again.  Using dental records, an anthropologic study, and a chest X-ray Dean had when he first enlisted, he was positively identified according to a report from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The report said Dean's skeleton is mostly intact, missing only a few fingers and toes. The family wonders if Dean lost them to frostbite in the cold North Korean winter.
Michael Mee, a retired military officer who now works with the agency, contacted Myra and Maxine on Feb. 10 with the news.
Myra said she was at home with her son and daughter-in-law, Tim and Christie Wilburn, and her grandsons, Lee and Josh, when she received the phone call.
Since then the family has been in contact with officials with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, planning Dean's return home and his funeral.  They plan to meet the remains at the airport, but the date of their arrival is uncertain at this point.
They have been told Dean's remains will be wrapped in an Army blanket. A uniform decorated with his medals will be placed on top of the blanket.
“It is amazing the care and concern that has been shown,” Maxine said. “Those are bones, but they are a person.”
“They are treating him like a hero, which he is,” Myra said.
They tentatively plan to have visitation at Holcombe Funeral Home before the funeral service, which will be held in the funeral home's chapel. Maxine's pastor at Morningside Baptist Church, the Rev. Aulbrey Calvert, and an Army chaplain will participate. Jantzen Childers, a decorated Vietnam War veteran who is chairman of the Union County Veterans Day Committee, will speak, sing and read a Bible verse Myra chose, Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.  Dean will be buried at Rosemont in the family plot with his parents and sister, Alma Fay, who died in 1927 when she was four days old.  The family asks that memorials be made to the Union County Humane Society or the USO of South Carolina.
“We don't want this to be a sad time,” Myra said. “We want it to be a celebration that he is finally home.”
Through the years of uncertainty, Dean's legacy lived on. Myra said she has told her grandsons a lot about her father and they have taken an interest.
Myra's mother, Billie Jean Sprouse Alverson, died in 1991. Myra said she told her about how she and her father met and the fun they used to have.
Maxine said her father honored her brother's request that the family use the insurance for a new home. He bought land on the Sardis Road and built a house.
“My father was never well after Dean went overseas,” Maxine said. “He had his first heart attack when he was in his late 40s, soon after Dean went overseas, and after that he was disabled. He died when he was not quite 55.”
 Aubrey Vaughan died in 1960. Bertha Vaughan died in 1976.  
“Mama was a very self-contained person,” Maxine said. “All those years she suffered quietly. She didn't talk much about Dean but you knew she grieved all those years.”

Former teacher sues school district, Eubanks
A teacher who lost her job after a student broadcast “provocative” pictures from her cell phone has sued the Union County School District and interim superintendent Dr. David Eubanks, saying they breached her employment contract and defamed her character.
Greenville lawyer John “Jack” M. Read IV filed the lawsuit for Leigh Anne Arthur Friday in the Union County Clerk of Court's office.
The lawsuit said that on Feb. 19 Arthur left her classroom to attend to her duty to monitor the hall outside of the shop in which her classroom was situated during the five-minute interval between classes. She left her cell phone in the classroom on her desk.
During that five-minute period, one or more of her students - without her knowledge or permission - accessed her phone, scrolled to her photo application, opened it, scrolled through her photos and found four “provocative” pictures of her.  Arthur had taken the pictures earlier in the week for her husband for Valentine's Day.
The student or students then, using a separate phone, took pictures of the photographs displayed on the screen of Arthur's phone. The phone was then placed back on Arthur's desk.
That same day the student or students published the pictures via social media. The next day Arthur was informed by a concerned student that the pictures had been published.
Arthur discussed with Union County Schools the steps to address the actions of the responsible student or students and then addressed the matter directly with the parents of the students. No one from the school district identified any law, regulation, guideline, policy, procedure or administrative rule Arthur had violated, the suit said.
Several days later, the school district and Eubanks directed that Arthur be removed from class while she was teaching.
“They then instructed her to tender her resignation within one day and had her escorted from the premises by a uniformed police officer,” the suit said.
After composing herself, Arthur sought additional answers directly from the district office, according to the suit. There, she was told that if she failed to tender her resignation as directed she would go before the school board. She was told if the board did not find her culpable of violation, she would still lose her job. If the board found her culpable of a violation, her teaching certificate would be terminated immediately - meaning she would no longer be eligible to teach in South Carolina.
Because of the pressure of these and other inaccurate presentations, Arthur felt forced to resign. The process by which she was forced to resign does not comport with the procedures put forth by the school district or the state, the suit said.
Then, the school district and Eubanks submitted a series of “verbal and written false and defamatory statements” to individuals and to the media for publication about Mrs. Arthur, conveying and insinuating she failed to fulfill her responsibility for the proper supervision and care of her students, she was not in her assigned position at the time of the incident, she allowed students to use her personal cell phone on a regular and routine basis, her phone was routinely left on her desk for student use and was never locked, she used the media to transmit false information, her failure to properly supervise students entrusted in her care will negatively impact the lives of students and their parents, she made false statements, she is “unfit” to continue as a classroom teacher and her actions may have contributed to the delinquency of a minor.
The suit said Union County Schools breached Arthur's employment contract by changing, without consideration, the terms and conditions of her employment, by forcing her to resign, by failing to follow its own procedures and state laws governing teacher employment and dismissal.
Because of this, Arthur has been damaged and is entitled to actual, special, consequential and punitive damages in an amount to be determined by the court and the jury.
One student who accessed the phone, a 16-year-old boy, was arrested on March 4 by the Union Public Safety Department.  He was charged with violating the Computer Crimes Act and Aggravated Voyeurism. He was taken into Department of Juvenile Justice Custody but has since been released. Eubanks said at the time of the arrest that the boy faced possible expulsion from the school district.
The suit said Arthur, who holds both bachelor's and master's degrees, was hired by the school district in 2003. It listed her accomplishments as a teacher in the district, including that from 2012 to 2014 her sixth grade science students achieved the highest PASS Science scores in the district. The Academic Challenge team she coached won first place in the district and she received her Gifted and Talented Endorsement from the state department of education.
It says that in 2014 she was approached by a representative of the schools to build and teach the Mechatronics course. To meet the demands of the course, she spent thousands of dollars of her own money on materials and secured donations of equipment worth thousands of dollars from businesses through face-to-face meetings scheduled on her personal time. She developed post gradation placement options for her students. Over the spring/summer of 2015 she studied independently, paid the required fees and passed the test to receive her industrial electrician certification so that she could continue to teach the Mechatronics class the next year and forward.
Andrea White, a Columbia lawyer who represents the school district, could not be reached for comment Friday.
Arthur said she filed the suit because she wants her dignity back.
“I pursued this lawsuit due to the numerous false accusations made by David Eubanks directed towards me along with the Union County School District and David Eubanks acting as the district representative not following district board of trustee policies and due process required for teacher dismissal,” she said. “I have personally struggled over the past month since my resignation was forced. My passionate nature for my position as Mechatronics teacher at UCCTC, along with dedication, community involvement and support, monetary support from industries, materials from various donors all provided for the successful training of students who would exit the Mechatronics program and hopefully come back to work for a Union County industry.”
Arthur said she felt like she dedicated herself to doing what she needed to do and what was best for her students on a daily basis.
“Whether it was gaining my national certification as industrial electrician or asking plant managers what I could do to help better prepare students in my class for them as a possible future employer,” she said. “I feel as though I've suffered an unexpected death - one which has affected not only me but my family as well. I will continue to hold my head high and fight to see this through. As an outcome, I want my dignity back - plain and simple. I also want to see Union County School District administration from the top down follow proper procedures and policies to support teachers. When this is done the best interest of students will become a priority, which is as it should be.”
She said her heart is “absolutely broken for the students enrolled in Mechatronics courses this year that truly wanted to learn.”
“My message to them is simple: do not let the actions of a few deter you from your goals and aspirations,” she said. “Your words and thoughts are and will always be significant. Stand up and be proud. Push forward and overcome this. While I can't be your teacher I am and will be in your corner.”
Meanwhile, 17,443 people have signed a petition on ipetitions.com asking that Arthur be reinstated in her job.

‘Made in USA’ means jobs for Union County
Four years ago, Marriott International approached Standard Textile with the idea of producing towels and bathmats for its nearly 3,000 U.S. hotels.
The idea became reality in January when Standard Textile began producing “Made in USA” terry products at its Union and Thomaston, Ga., plants.
Last week, Marriott executive chairman Bill Marriott and company representatives visited Standard Textiles' Union plant to see where the bath towels, hand towels and bath mats are made, using 100 percent cotton fiber grown in the U.S.
Marriott's commitment to buy “Made in USA” products creates 150 jobs in Standard Textiles' facilities in Union and Thomaston, as well as the company's Cincinnati headquarters. Standard Textiles expects to create 65 of those jobs in Union.
“We believe our guests will appreciate knowing that even simple items they use every day in our hotels represent progress in the U.S. economy,” Marriott said. “We also hope this sends a message to other businesses that buying locally can make business sense.”
The material for the towels and bath mats arrives at Standard Textile in large rolls. After being bleached, washed and dried it is cut, sown, folded and boxed for shipment. The products arrive at Marriott hotels ready to be placed on the shelf.
The “Made in USA” commitment will mean the annual production of 2.6 million bath towels and 4.9 million hand towels - the equivalent of as much as 5.6 million pounds of textiles. If laid end-to-end, the textiles Marriott will purchase in one year would stretch more than 4,300 miles. The commitment to manufacture these products in the U.S. also reduces greenhouse gas emissions by eliminating more than 300 ocean-going container shipments annually.
“Marriott's desire to provide guests with terry bath products made by U.S. textile artisans speaks to the heart of why Standard Textile is thriving and creating new jobs after 76 years,” said Gary Heiman, president and CEO. “Our commitment to technology driven manufacturing and innovation has enabled us to expand our operations in the U.S., creating a sustainable infrastructure for Marriott's 'Made in USA' products.”
Company officials said last week that as a result of the “Made in USA” program, Standard Textile would probably expand its operations in Union.

T&L Diner a local landmark
(Editor's note: This week we continue our series on Women Entrepreneurs. If you know a woman who owns a business that you would like to see featured, please call the Union County News at 427-1090.)

JONESVILLE - Sisters Lucille Johnson and Teresa Wright opened the T&L Diner on Dec. 7, 1987, the day of the Jonesville Christmas Parade.
Lucille decided she wanted to go to the parade and left Teresa there to run the restaurant by herself.
Teresa was overwhelmed by the diners wanting to try the short orders and meat and vegetable plates.
“They ate everything we had,” Teresa said.
“They swamped her,” said Teresa's great-niece, Hanna Wade, a longtime employee. “And from that day forward it hasn't stopped.”
Sometimes it's hard to find a parking place at the restaurant, which was converted from a house on 501 South Main St., Jonesville. Many of the diners have been customers since the restaurant opened.
“Most of the time when people walk in we know what they are going to eat,” said Hannah, 25, who started working at the restaurant when she was 12, washing dishes. “There is one man, Boo Berry, that when he walks in I fix his plate and he lays his money down and keeps going. (Boo's plate is chicken, rice and gravy, corn, a roll and tea.)
The restaurant has been remodeled and enlarged since it opened. The menu has not changed a lot and most of the recipes are from Teresa and Lucille's mother, Emma Mae O'Dell. They call her the best cook in the world.
“We have kept our same recipes from the day it opened,” Hannah said. “Banana pudding homemade just like it was 28 years ago - with egg whites, sugar, flour and canned milk and you stir it for an hour - you don't walk away from it. Simple home-cooked meals - that is the way it started and the way it has kept on. We have fresh hamburger meat - it comes in from Union Packing every morning. Homemade chili. We don't even pre-cook fries - we don't cook fries until you order them. Everything is cooked by orders except for the dinners that are cooked that morning.”
One newer item that has been a big hit with customers is the T&L's wings.
“We sell a lot of wings,” Hanna said.
The standard menu items have included hamburgers, hot dogs, hamburger steaks and chicken strips with a different dinner every day.
Teresa said she appreciates their loyal customers. The restaurant literally at times stops the train -Norfolk Southern workers pause the train near the restaurant if time allows for a meal.
She also appreciates their loyal employees. Lucille's daughter, Tolya - Hanna's mother - worked at the restaurant from the time she was a teen-ager until she was in her early 40s and moved to pursue other career opportunities. Renee Knox has been working there 25 years. Marsha Sprouse and Susan Bradburn also have worked on and off at the restaurant through much of its existence. Lucille retired in November of 2014.
“I've enjoyed it,” Teresa said. “I've always had real good customers and never had a lot of complaints. We have done well. I enjoyed it. Lucille enjoyed it.”
Teresa said she has no plans to retire. Hanna said no matter what she and her mother and her uncle, Todd Johnson, who also works at the restaurant occasionally, want to keep the restaurant in the family.
“We just want to keep it the same,” Hanna said.

Auctioneering was a way of life for Cathcart, family
BUFFALO - Family members say being an auctioneer was more than just a profession for Col. Carol Cathcart - it was a passion and an enjoyable way of life that often got them all involved.
“He was a hard worker,” said Cathcart's son, Mark. “It seemed like we were either hauling cows, baling hay or doing auctions. He knew everybody. I learned a lot of good lessons. I was fortunate to grow up having him.”
Cathcart, 74, passed away on Dec. 19, 2015. He worked as an auctioneer for 44 years and for most of those years conducted foreclosure auctions for Union County. He operated an auction house at various locations in the county during his career with the last location at the present site on the family farm on Buffalo Creek Ranch Road.
Cathcart was born in Buffalo, one of four children of the late Herbert and Marie Cathcart. His sisters, Sybil Ponder and Cora Lee Snyder, live in Buffalo. His brother, Frank, passed away in 2014.
He and his wife Judy, the former Judy Billings, grew up together in Buffalo. Judy was friends with Cora Lee and often went home with her but Judy said she did not take an immediate romantic interest in Carol.
“Then I started looking at him and I liked what I saw and how nice he was,” she said.
After the couple was married in 1968, Cathcart became interested in auctioneering.
“I had been to auctions before we got married and he grew up going to cow auctions,” Judy said. “Col. (Vernon) Anderson was a big influence in him going to school. He told him to pursue his dreams.”
Cathcart studied a course from Nashville Auction House for over a year, attended school for two weeks and graduated in 1971. Judy said she was proud of the fact that her husband was among the original group who helped develop South Carolina Auctioneer Licensing Law, which required many trips to Columbia for meetings in the late 1970s.
When Joe McMillian retired Cathcart applied to be foreclosure auctioneer. He was approved by the legislative delegation in 1973. He performed his last foreclosure auction in December. His daughter-in-law, Celeste Cathcart - Mark's wife - now has the job. Celeste grew up on a farm in Andrews and enjoyed attending farm equipment sales with her father and grandfather.
From the time they were very small Mark and his sister, Carla Cathcart Champion, began spending their weekends at auctions.
“You grew up in front of people,” Mark said. “You knew people from the auctions. You learned how to get up in front of people and you learned how to work. It was different. A lot of Friday nights you were working instead of playing. There were a lot of Saturdays spent all day doing auctions. You learn how to do business.”
“But we all loved it,” Judy added.
The Cathcarts often told Mark and Carla they would send them to auction school if they were interested. Mark now is planning to get his license. Celeste became licensed several years ago.
Over the years Cathcart conducted countless estate sales, farm equipment sales and other auctions.  Judy said he often told her to keep the auction house going if something happened him - “Keep it going; that's my legacy.”
“Carol told everybody we would be back on Jan. 12, after the holidays and after his surgery,” Judy said. “So we did.”
The auction house is open every Friday night at 7:30 p.m. On the second and fourth Saturday of each month a small animal auction is held.
“We sell everything from A to J,” Judy said. “Antiques to Junk. Anything that is legal.”
The Cathcarts said they have enjoyed watching the interesting items that came through the auctions over the years, including items with historical value. Judy recalls one auction at a storage facility where her husband knew there was an item she would not want to encounter - a can of cremated remains - which the owner wanted back and did not want auctioned. As Judy took inventory, Cathcart did not tell her they were there.
“It must have been the second or third night I worked,” she said. “I picked it up and said, 'You know, this is interesting. Here is a can of vegetables and it doesn't have a label on it. I shook it and said, 'Must be dried up.'”
Mark said a New York antiques dealer often brought items for special auctions. One weekend he brought a full-sized horse-drawn sleigh.
“It still had snow in it,” Mark said. “We sold it that night full of New York snow.”
Judy said life has been interesting in an auctioneer family.
“I've loved every minute of it,” she said. “It's been a lot of hard work, hot work.”
Mark jokes that he was close to adulthood before he realized any household furnishings other than appliances could be purchased new - most of the furniture in his parents' home is antique.
The people are what make auctioneering fun, Mark said.
“Really and truly, it's the people,” he said. “You make lifelong friendships. You get to meet people from other places. It's a common interest that brings people together. Most of them get into a routine - that is what they do on Friday night. It's their Friday night entertainment.”
Carla Cathcart Champion said her father is missed.
“My dad was a very gentle man - he cared about everyone,” she said. “He always supported us in each way. He was so proud of his children and grandchildren and great -grandson. He was a man of his word and my backbone. He was also proud of the bakery that my daughter and I opened. He would eat with us  on Sundays and while my mom helped us he loved to sit and talk to everyone. He was also the best auctioneer in the world. No one will ever take his place. I loved working the auctions when I could with him. He is greatly missed and I think of him daily and any time we try something new we always say, "what would papa think about this" we appreciate all the love and support that everyone showed us and keep showing us. He was a great man and we all love him dearly.”

Trustees take legal action over letter
The Union County Board of School Trustees has filed a summons designed to uncover the identity of a letter writer who called himself “The Good Guy.”
The letter, which the school board asserts in the summons was false, malicious and defaming, was sent by email to 25 recipients, including members of the school board around Oct. 12, 2015. It alleged a series of unethical and illegal actions taken by members of the school board.
The summons, filed on Jan. 21 in the Union County Clerk of Court's office on behalf of the school board by Mt. Pleasant lawyer Steven Abrams, names the school board as plaintiffs and “John Doe” as the defendant.
The summons said John Doe used “spoofing” - the practice of disguising an email to make the email appear to come from an address or individual from which it actually did not originate.
One means of spoofing involves placing in the “From” or “Reply to” lines in emails an email address other than the actual sender's address without the consent or authorization of the user of the email address whose address is spoofed. Spoofing can also be accomplished by setting up unauthorized email accounts under the name of an individual that will fraudulently be seen as the originator of the emails and/or choosing email addresses that are so similar to the actual email address used by the apparent originator of the email so as to create the impression that the emails came from that individual.
Abrams said this legal action is necessary to force the Internet service provider to reveal the name of the person who holds the email account.
“It provides the vehicle to send the subpoena to identify the sender of the email,” he said.
The letter was sent to school board members, various elected officials, South Carolina Department of Education employees and various members of the news media, the summons said. The anonymous email was purportedly sent by “UnionCountyStudents1st” a handle for a gmail account, studentsfirstucs@gmail.com. This use of a fictitious name associated with the emails is an example of email spoofing and was employed to protect John Doe's identity, the summons states. Key to the defamation alleged was an attachment entitled, “Union County Schools Corruption.pdf,” which contained a nine-page letter and a six-page addendum. The letter alleges a conspiracy between the board members and others in the education community to “seek vengeance” against the then-superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall and her supporters. “The Good Guy” also alleged that trustees and others have communicated
improperly and developed a plan to take out Woodall and in so doing violated the community trust. Woodall resigned at the end of 2015 to pursue other career opportunities. She is now assistant principal of the 9th grade campus at Boiling Springs High School.
The letter alleged a scheme by certain board members hostile to Woodall to remove two board members said to be closest to the superintendent by falsely accusing the two of an ethics violation involving nepotism. The letter alleged that one board member “violated several laws and code of conduct for elected officials in South Carolina by checking with athletic faculty and staff regarding the health status of a particular student athlete.
“Some of the letter's most libelous accusations are directed towards board member Mike Massey, who is accused of illegally obstructing and recruiting others to assist in obstructing an ongoing SLED investigation,” the suit said.
The letter was published with actual or implied malice, was false and specifically identified some board members by name in defamatory statements, the summons said. It asks the court to grant an injunction from the continuing publication of the defamatory materials and award special, presumed and punitive damages for John Doe's intentional and reckless publication of defamatory material, plus court costs.
Trustees voted 7-1 in November to approve a motion by Manning Jeter for their board's lawyers to investigate the e-mailed letter, signed by “The Good Guy,” and try to determine where it originated. Trustee Jane Wilkes voted no.
“About 70 percent of this letter, I believe, came out of executive session,” Jeter said after the vote. “It's a violation of everybody's rights in this room.”

Step back in time during a visit to Roche Pharmacy
WHITMIRE - John Roche Jr. calls out from behind his computer, “I hear y'all going to have another grandbaby.”
“Yes, a little boy,” said Dorothy Nobles of Whitmire.
A few minutes later, Roche talks with a customer on the phone: “If you quit smoking those cigarettes, you'd do a lot better.”
While filling prescriptions at a frantic pace, Roche stops and motions toward Gail Vanlue of Whitmire, telling other customers, “You've never seen anyone hit a softball like her and her mom made the best hotdogs and chili in the world.”
The late John Roche Sr. founded Roche Pharmacy in April of 1966 and his son continues to fill prescriptions 50 years later.
“I started working at the soda fountain when I was 11 years old,” said Roche. “I've been here 45 years. I grew up with and saw what my dad did to help people and decided that's what I wanted to do. I just wanted to help people and I can't think of a better way to do it.”
Roche Sr.'s life was all about service with the pharmacy and more than 50 years work on the local school board.
“I don't know how he did it,” his son said. “Daddy had six kids. He worked 60 to 70 hours a week, every week. He had a heart of gold. I still hear stories about him opening up the store at 2 or 3 o'clock in the morning for a sick baby.
“I'll do the same thing.”
Behind every good man stands a great woman. The late Louise Roche was a big part of the pharmacy for years. The store used to have colognes, gifts and Hallmark cards.
“I had a great mother and father,” said Roche. “I miss them bad. You've just got to keep carrying on.”
Roche and his five sisters worked at the pharmacy, behind the counter at the soda fountain. They never got paid or so they thought.
“We thought Daddy was being mean,” he said. “Turns out he was paying us the whole time and putting the money in a bank account. He knew what he was doing; we would have blown that money.”
Roche Pharmacy is still a family affair. Roche's wife, Kay, keeps the books, but spends most of her time with three grandchildren. Two techs, Lisa Putnam and Julie Johnson, fill prescriptions. Leon Taylor and Jo Ellen Lampros provide customer service.
Roche has three children and his son, Blake, is at pharmacy school and plans on returning to help out after graduation.
The store hasn't changed much and still has the soda fountain - one of the few left in the country. About 15 years ago, Roche considered taking it out during a remodel.
“They came to me marching with torches and pitchforks to keep it open and that's about the truth,” he said. “When someone that's moved off comes back to town they want to relieve their childhood memories. A lot of them want a cherry Sprite. A lot of them want a milkshake.”
The Roche kids and youth from the high school have run the fountain through the years. Children used to meet at the store to read comic books. Today, children still come and their height is measured on a pole.
“I've got to watch several generations grow up here and it has been real fulfilling to me,” said Roche.
Roche Pharmacy is a step back in time, different than today's chain pharmacies.
 “John's my classmate,” said Danny Joe Rice of Whitmire. “These are my friends. This (pharmacy) means a lot to our town.”
Even those from out of town make the drive.
“I like the service,” said Billy Phillips of Union. “They treat you like family.”
The Roche family has kept the pharmacy open, even as other businesses have moved away.
“When we opened, Whitmire was a boom town, through the '50s and '60s, because of the textile industry,” said Roche. “Over my years, I've watched all that go away. It's been tough on people, but we've survived. We've got some great people here.”
The town has a charm you won't find in a big city.
“You don't see many towns like this anymore,” said Roche. “We don't have a McDonald's, a Hardees or a Wal-Mart. The National Forest has protected us from a lot of that. Some people think that is bad, but I think it's good. You can go to any town in the United States and they all look alike. They've all got the same restaurants, malls, Wal-Marts and whatever. You don't find places like this anymore.
“People say there is nothing to do here. Well there is plenty to do here, but it's the good things, not the bad things.”
The pharmacy has a charm you won't find in a chain store.
“We're a dying breed, but it's different from the chains,” said Roche. “That's a corporate world. We're more concerned with people than money.”
Roche looks to keep the pharmacy open to serve Whitmire for generations to come.
“We've made our mark on this town,” said Roche. “Between daddy and me, it's getting close to 70 years of serving people. I don't ever plan on quitting. I'm not going to retire; I'm going to expire.
“We have a good time up here.”

Woodall received a year’s salary, benefits
Former Superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall received a lump sum payment of one year's salary and benefits as part of her settlement agreement with the Union County School District.
Woodall resigned as superintendent, effective Jan. 1 of this year. She signed the agreement on Dec. 14, 2015.
The Union County News obtained a copy of the agreement last week as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request to Andrea White, the attorney for the Union County Board of School Trustees.
The lump sum payment to Woodall also includes a travel allowance, retirement contributions, the value of her insurance premiums paid by the school district and the value of five of her unused vacation days. Her base annual salary was nearly $130,000.
In the event that Woodall does not find another job on or before Jan. 1, 2017, the school district has agreed to make additional monthly payments, each of which are equal to one-twelfth of her base salary as of her resignation or an amount that represents the difference between her base salary in her now job as of Jan. 1, 2017, and her base salary on the date of her resignation, whichever is less. Those payments would continue for six months or until Woodall finds comparable employment, whichever comes first.
As part of the agreement, both Woodall and the school board agree not to make “disparaging statements concerning each other” to others or to any entity. If either side violates this provision they are subject to a $15,000 penalty.
Woodall's departure came two months after her annual evaluation. Following the board's Oct.12 meeting, Dr. Wanda All, who was then board chair, said Woodall had met her goals during the 2014-15 school year and received a satisfactory evaluation from the board.
The next week, trustees met in executive session for nearly two hours with White to receive legal advice concerning Woodall's evaluation.
They met with White behind closed doors again in November to continue discussions concerning Woodall's evaluation and contract talks.
Dr. David Eubanks was hired as interim superintendent in December. He will serve through the end of the school year or until a permanent superintendent is hired.

Trustees to vote on Taneyhill contract
Steve Taneyhill's future as head football coach at Union County School may be decided tonight.
Eight personnel issues are listed on the agenda under “executive session” when Union County school trustees meet at 7 p.m. at Lockhart School. One of them will be Taneyhill's contract, interim Superintendent Dr. David Eubanks confirmed Friday.
“The board could come out of executive session and do nothing or come out and vote to extend his contract,” he said.
Taneyhill's contract was extended until the end of January at the direction of the school district's administration “pending final resolution,” according to personnel director Jeff Stribble. This took place during the board's Dec. 14 meeting and Taneyhill was notified the next day, Stribble said.
The school district made no announcement concerning Taneyhill's contract extension. Stribble was asked on Dec. 15 about Taneyhill's status with the school district after Dec. 31. “Coach Steve Taneyhill is an active employee and continues to serve as head football coach at Union County High School,” he said.
Taneyhill's record at Union County High is 22-27 in four seasons. His only winning season came in 2012 when he took the Yellow Jackets to the 3A state championship game. The team failed to make the playoffs the next two years, finishing with a losing record each season. Last season the team finished 7-7, advancing to the upperstate title game.
Trustees voted 5-4 last February to renew Taneyhill's contract through Dec. 31, at which time they would evaluate his performance and decide whether to renew it again. The last item on their agenda for the Dec. 14 meeting was personnel, with the administration's recommendation of “action needed,” but the board adjourned without discussing it in open session.
Instead, board chairman Jane Hammett announced that Dr. Kristi Woodall was leaving her job as superintendent “to pursue other opportunities.”

Former UCHS principal sues district
Lawsuit claims Woodall used hidden camera to spy on Lyles
Former Union County High School principal Floyd Lyles Jr. is suing the school district and former superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall because he says his privacy was violated and his contract was not honored.
Attorneys for the Gist Law Firm in Columbia filed the suit in the Union County Clerk of Court's Office on Dec. 29, 2015, on behalf of Lyles.  Lyles and assistant principal Jenelle Gilliam resigned on March 12, 2015. The district gave no reasons for the resignations.  At the time of the resignations Woodall released a statement saying those wanting to know the reason for the resignations should ask Lyles and Gilliam themselves - they were free to discuss it.
Woodall resigned at the end of the calendar year to pursue other opportunities.
According to Lyles' lawsuit, he is requesting a jury trial. He is seeking compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, travel hardships and travel expenses, future earnings with cost of living adjustments, prejudgment interest, fringe benefits, retirement benefits, punitive damages with respect to his claim that Woodall invaded his privacy and court costs.
The suit says Lyles went to work for the district in 1998 as a math teacher at Excelsior Middle School. In 2004 he was asked by district administrators to interview for the assistant principal position at Union High School. The suit alleges that throughout his employment Lyles was “recognized for his excellence in the performance of his job duties as he was consistently awarded promotions.”
Lyles worked as assistant principal at Union County High, principal of Jonesville Elementary, principal of Jonesville Middle School and in 2012 was selected as principal at Union County High School. He “consistently performed his job duties competently and adhered to defendant's policies and procedures.” During his time at Union County High the school saw consistent improvements in the quality of education and had the highest graduation rates in the history of the school. Under Lyles' leadership, the school went from an “F” on the state school report card to a “C”, the suit states.
“Plaintiff took a poor performing school and began to see significant improvements in classroom scores and staff morale,” the suit said. Because of this, he asked during the 2013-14 school year that his salary be raised. Woodall denied the request, exhibited negative reactions to the request and “showed outright animus” towards Lyles, telling him he should be satisfied with the raise he got at the time of his 2012 promotion, the suit said.  Lyles, on information and belief, realized that other principals and administrators had not been treated in a like manner. He again requested a raise and was rebuffed and denied with no explanation.
During the 2014-15 school year Union County High had 1,170 students and 106 staff members, making it the largest school in the district. As the largest, Union High historically had three or more assistant principals assigned to the administrative team. The suit alleges that in direct retaliation for Lyles having questioned the administration and superintendent's practices and for his under payment by Woodall on his job, she moved one of the assistant principals to the Career Center, “leaving plaintiff understaffed with just two assistant principals.”
Throughout the 2014-15 school year the suit says Lyles spoke with Woodall regarding the need for another assistant principal to assist with successfully managing the student population but she refused to hire another assistant. Lyles was “the only principal in South Carolina with a population of 1,170 students or greater with only two assistant principals,” the suit said. He believes Woodall and “other political forces were trying to frustrate him into leaving.” He later learned that the person selected for the assistant principal's position at the Career Center, Michelle James, “was a personal friend to Dr. Woodall and one of the nine teachers he was previously forced to hire by Dr. Woodall,” the suit said.
The school district and Woodall, in an effort to force Lyles out of the district, illegally reduced his salary by $800 per year during his last two years with the district, the suit said. Lyles questioned Woodall about the cut and was told it was relat
Former UCHS principal sues district
Lawsuit claims Woodall used hidden camera to spy on Lyles
Former Union County High School principal Floyd Lyles Jr. is suing the school district and former superintendent Dr. Kristi Woodall because he says his privacy was violated and his contract was not honored.
Attorneys for the Gist Law Firm in Columbia filed the suit in the Union County Clerk of Court's Office on Dec. 29, 2015, on behalf of Lyles.  Lyles and assistant principal Jenelle Gilliam resigned on March 12, 2015. The district gave no reasons for the resignations.  At the time of the resignations Woodall released a statement saying those wanting to know the reason for the resignations should ask Lyles and Gilliam themselves - they were free to discuss it.
Woodall resigned at the end of the calendar year to pursue other opportunities.
According to Lyles' lawsuit, he is requesting a jury trial. He is seeking compensatory damages, back pay, front pay, travel hardships and travel expenses, future earnings with cost of living adjustments, prejudgment interest, fringe benefits, retirement benefits, punitive damages with respect to his claim that Woodall invaded his privacy and court costs.
The suit says Lyles went to work for the district in 1998 as a math teacher at Excelsior Middle School. In 2004 he was asked by district administrators to interview for the assistant principal position at Union High School. The suit alleges that throughout his employment Lyles was “recognized for his excellence in the performance of his job duties as he was consistently awarded promotions.”
Lyles worked as assistant principal at Union County High, principal of Jonesville Elementary, principal of Jonesville Middle School and in 2012 was selected as principal at Union County High School. He “consistently performed his job duties competently and adhered to defendant's policies and procedures.” During his time at Union County High the school saw consistent improvements in the quality of education and had the highest graduation rates in the history of the school. Under Lyles' leadership, the school went from an “F” on the state school report card to a “C”, the suit states.
“Plaintiff took a poor performing school and began to see significant improvements in classroom scores and staff morale,” the suit said. Because of this, he asked during the 2013-14 school year that his salary be raised. Woodall denied the request, exhibited negative reactions to the request and “showed outright animus” towards Lyles, telling him he should be satisfied with the raise he got at the time of his 2012 promotion, the suit said.  Lyles, on information and belief, realized that other principals and administrators had not been treated in a like manner. He again requested a raise and was rebuffed and denied with no explanation.
During the 2014-15 school year Union County High had 1,170 students and 106 staff members, making it the largest school in the district. As the largest, Union High historically had three or more assistant principals assigned to the administrative team. The suit alleges that in direct retaliation for Lyles having questioned the administration and superintendent's practices and for his under payment by Woodall on his job, she moved one of the assistant principals to the Career Center, “leaving plaintiff understaffed with just two assistant principals.”
Throughout the 2014-15 school year the suit says Lyles spoke with Woodall regarding the need for another assistant principal to assist with successfully managing the student population but she refused to hire another assistant. Lyles was “the only principal in South Carolina with a population of 1,170 students or greater with only two assistant principals,” the suit said. He believes Woodall and “other political forces were trying to frustrate him into leaving.” He later learned that the person selected for the assistant principal's position at the Career Center, Michelle James, “was a personal friend to Dr. Woodall and one of the nine teachers he was previously forced to hire by Dr. Woodall,” the suit said.
The school district and Woodall, in an effort to force Lyles out of the district, illegally reduced his salary by $800 per year during his last two years with the district, the suit said. Lyles questioned Woodall about the cut and was told it was related to the increase in the cost of health insurance. The suit said that according to Lyles' information and belief, none of the other 240-day administrators in the district were subjected to the salary reduction and in fact other administrators in the district received pay increases.
During the 2014-15 school year Woodall “created an expectation of privacy for plaintiff in his office space as she knowingly allowed plaintiff to change clothes in his office following his morning and evening workouts.”
On March 10, 2015, after “months of harassment” by the defendants, Lyles was confronted by Woodall and informed that a “hidden camera” had been placed in his office and he had been “caught” on tape for improper behavior.
On March 11, 2015 Lyles alleges that he met with Woodall and was told he was being given the option to resign or be investigated for improper behavior.
“Plaintiff knew that he had done nothing improper during the performance of his job on tape or off tape and that Dr. Woodall had been spying on him and invading his privacy while he changed clothes in his office which caused plaintiff a great deal of embarrassment, mental anguish and humiliation,” the suit said. “Plaintiff felt he had no option other than to resign.”
As a result of being forced to resign, Lyles has suffered lost wages, the loss of his job, mental anguish, emotional and physical distress, trouble sleeping and anxiety.”
The suit alleges that the Union County School District committed breach of contract, breach of contract with fraudulent intent and violated public policy. The suit alleges that Woodall invaded his privacy.
School district attorney Andrea White said the district office is closed for the holidays and had not been served with the lawsuit. She said she had obtained a copy of the lawsuit from the clerk of court’s office and had reviewed it.
“At this point it would be premature for me to make a comment since we have not been served and I have not had a chance to talk with the district,” she said.ed to the increase in the cost of health insurance. The suit said that according to Lyles' information and belief, none of the other 240-day administrators in the district were subjected to the salary reduction and in fact other administrators in the district received pay increases.
During the 2014-15 school year Woodall “created an expectation of privacy for plaintiff in his office space as she knowingly allowed plaintiff to change clothes in his office following his morning and evening workouts.”
On March 10, 2015, after “months of harassment” by the defendants, Lyles was confronted by Woodall and informed that a “hidden camera” had been placed in his office and he had been “caught” on tape for improper behavior.
On March 11, 2015 Lyles alleges that he met with Woodall and was told he was being given the option to resign or be investigated for improper behavior.
“Plaintiff knew that he had done nothing improper during the performance of his job on tape or off tape and that Dr. Woodall had been spying on him and invading his privacy while he changed clothes in his office which caused plaintiff a great deal of embarrassment, mental anguish and humiliation,” the suit said. “Plaintiff felt he had no option other than to resign.”
As a result of being forced to resign, Lyles has suffered lost wages, the loss of his job, mental anguish, emotional and physical distress, trouble sleeping and anxiety.”
The suit alleges that the Union County School District committed breach of contract, breach of contract with fraudulent intent and violated public policy. The suit alleges that Woodall invaded his privacy.
School district attorney Andrea White said the district office is closed for the holidays and had not been served with the lawsuit. She said she had obtained a copy of the lawsuit from the clerk of court’s office and had reviewed it.
“At this point it would be premature for me to make a comment since we have not been served and I have not had a chance to talk with the district,” she said.



Copyright ©  2017 Union County News. All Rights Reserved.