Arson suspected in two house fires
By ANNA BROWN
The SLED Arson Team is assisting local authorities in the investigation of two separate house fires that left families homeless, caused the death of two dogs and destroyed baby shower gifts.
The first blaze occurred Dec. 1 on 102 O'Shields St. at the home of Paula Moore and her 9-year-old daughter.
Lt. Larry Robinson, City of Union fire commander, was the first firefighter on the scene of the blaze at the wood frame house.
“When I pulled up the whole front of the house had heavy flames,” he said. “We knocked it down quickly and were able to make entry.”
The fire was contained to the two front rooms of the house but the structure was a total loss, Robinson said.
Robinson said firefighters were suspicious because the fire started on the front porch when nobody was home. Moore was working out of town.
Union County Parks and Recreation employee Robert Hill was going back to work when he saw the fire shortly after 1 p.m. He called 911 on his cell phone.
“It was at one corner of the porch when I saw it but by the time I ran up the hill it was all over the front of the house,” he said.
Hill said he knew the Moore family,, adding that Moore's father had recently done a lot of work on the house.
The second fire occurred Tuesday morning at the home of John William “Billy” West on 102 Antioch Drive in Buffalo.
Firefighters reported that the mobile home was burning underneath when they arrived.
West said his two Chihuahuas, Little Bit and Peanut, died in the fire. He said when he received a call at work telling him about the fire, his dogs were his main concern.
“Everything else could be replaced,” he said,
En route to the fire he called his parents, who live nearby, but there was nothing that could be done.
West said his daughter, who had lives with him off and on, is pregnant with twins. She recently had a baby shower and all the gifts were in his home. He said some have been retrieved, but they were smoke damaged.
He said he lost everything.
“All I have is what I had with me in a bag in the truck,” he said.
Others have been kind and helpful to him in the tragedy, he said.
“Just keep me and my family in your thoughts and prayers,” he said.
Suspect dies, dropped in murder case
By ANNA BROWN
Criminal charges have been dropped in a Union murder case because the principal defendant in the stabbing died.
16th Circuit Solicitor Kevin Brackett said murder charges against Landon Blaine Turner, 27; James Hampton III, 20; Michael Anthony Wynn, 23; and Marcos Antonio Ramirez, 23, have been dismissed. A charge of accessory after the fact to a felony was dismissed against Tillia Dawn Wynn, 42, Michael's mother. Betty Sue Prince, 65, Wynn's grandmother, was charged with misprision of a felony. Her charge has been dismissed.
Kenneth Wayne Wynn, 22, who also was charged with murder, died on Sept. 28. He also was Tillia Dawn Wynn's son.
The seven defendants were arrested in the May 11, 2013, stabbing death of Ryan O. Allen, 29, of 114 Faith Lane. Brackett said it is believed Kenneth Wynn was welding the knife that killed Allen in a brawl on Arthur Street.
Kenneth Wynn, who was 20 when he was arrested on May 21, 2013, was diagnosed with cancer shortly after his arrest and was in and out of the hospital before his death in a hospice home. He was in 24-hour-a-day law enforcement custody all but the last two days of his life, meaning that a jail officer guarded his hospital room.
Wynn was in jail for 404 days. The county incurred $49,198 in costs associated with Wynn and his incarceration, including $23,511 in overtime pay to jailers who guarded him in the hospital. The county spent $4,017 on Wynn's medicine. Because Wynn was indigent, Medicaid covered his hospitalization.
Bracket said the state could not have proven beyond a reasonable doubt that the others were involved in Allen's death.
“To get a warrant you need an ounce of evidence, to get a conviction you need a pound,” he said. “They were there, they were involved in something, but it isn't a crime to be present at the scene of a crime. You have to be participating in it or aiding and abetting somebody who is participating in it. That was the problem - we couldn't establish that beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Tillia Wynn was accused of helping her sons escape to North Carolina after the murder. Prince was accused of lying to law enforcement to provide an alibi for Michael Wynn on the night of the stabbing. Brackett said authorities first would have had to prove the sons were involved in the murder to prove the women had a part in it.
“If you are going to convict somebody of being an accessory after a crime, you have to have the first crime,” Brackett said.
Brackett expressed regret for Allen's family for the way the case ended.
“It doesn't give them the closure and satisfaction they were hoping for but we are bound by the laws and the evidence,” he said. “It is unfortunate but there was not much we could do for them in court with what we had.”
Sheriff David Taylor said he felt the state had enough evidence to go forward with a trial. He said he felt a lot of time and resources were wasted because charges were dropped against the other defendants.
Taylor said according to statements taken after Allen's killing, the defendants went to Arthur Street that night with intentions of getting into an altercation. During questioning, Hampton told officers he and the others were part of a gang called Folk Nation and pulled a bandana out of his pocket.
“He told us he and his 'Gs' went to Arthur Street to 'get their hands dirty,'” Taylor said. “He said plans were that there was to be a one-on-one confrontation between two subjects.”
Taylor said authorities don't think Allen was the intended victim in the case - he got caught up in the fight. Capt. Robbie Hines, who was involved in the investigation, said Allen was described by others as a peaceful person who worked as a counselor at Camp White Pines in Jonesville.
“He was in the wrong place at the wrong time,” Hines said.
Hampton identified two of those with him by nickname- “L.T.” and “Kilo.” He refused to cooperate very much with authorities, saying he would not betray the gang.
A girlfriend of one of the others attacked in the brawl picked Turner out of a police lineup as being involved in the stabbing of Allen. She also said one of those involved was wearing a hearing aid and appeared to have a speech impediment.
“That was Michael Wynn,” Taylor said.
The hearing device was knocked off during the altercation and officers found it at the scene on Arthur Street.
On May 15, officers received information that the Wynns had relatives in Kings Mountain, N.C., and might have fled there. They learned that Kenneth Wynn went to a hospital there for treatment for a severely broken jaw. He gave a phony name - Austin Paul Ware. He told police officers he had been beaten and robbed. A young woman brought him to the hospital.
“The female provided the information for the paperwork,” Taylor said. “A hospital video recorded the incident. We reviewed it and identified him as Kenneth Wynn.”
Officers determined the woman in the video was Kenneth Wynn's cousin, the daughter of Tillia Wynn's sister. Taylor talked to the sister. She didn't cooperate at first, but later admitted her daughter had taken Kenneth Wynn to the hospital.
“I told her she could cooperate or go down with the rest of her family,” Taylor said. “She decided jail was not in her future.”
Taylor said he called Tillia Wynn for information about her sons and she hung up on him. Her cell phone was electronically located in South Boston, Va. Police there were contacted and Tillia Wynn was arrested.
“Why they think she can't be prosecuted because her son is dead is beyond me,” Taylor said.
Authorities learned Michael Wynn was due to report to his probation officer on May 16. Officers staked out the Union office of the South Carolina Department of Probation, Pardon and Parole. Wynn came with his grandmother. She told officers her grandson was with her at her trailer the night of the murder. Taylor said she failed to tell officers she took her grandsons to Gaffney to meet another person who took them to North Carolina.
“She also failed to tell officers Kenneth Wynn had an injury to his face,” Taylor said.
Landon Turner was located at Carolinas Medical Center in Charlotte under an assumed name. He had a stab wound. Taylor said when officers walked in they found Turner in the bed with his cell phone. He had been texting others.
“We removed his cell phone and kept someone with him in the hospital room until he was released,” Taylor said.
Turner was already on probation when he was arrested. According to the conditions of his probation he was not to leave the state.
Taylor said the dismissal of the charges doesn't set well with him.
“They said they went down there to start a fracas, they went down there to get their hands dirty, they told their family members and one of their co-defendants in the case said they went there to get their hands dirty,” Taylor said. “That doesn't mean playing in a mud hole. That means they went there with a specific reason in mind. It doesn't matter if Ryan Allen was intended to be the victim or who was the victim. It was a retaliatory gang event. And that is my feeling.”
Cheese or chocolate?
Students share their recipes for cooking a Thanksgiving turkey
By ANNA BROWN
How do you cook your turkey?
Do you bake it in the oven? Fry it in a fryer?
We asked the fourth and fifth grade students in Laura Leigh Todd's Language Arts classes at Union Christian Day School. They say eight hours is the average cooking time and most turkeys need seasoning, which might include cheese or chocolate.
How to Make a Turkey
When I make turkey, I get it from the woods and take all of the feathers off of it. I would put it in the oven and then put it on a fire for just a little while. I would put a little bit of seasoning on it. I would put some spice on it too. I would put one cup of seasoning and one cup of spice on it. I wouldn't burn my turkey. I would make it just right. My turkey would be a good turkey. My turkey would be a yummy turkey.
One Thanksgiving my whole family would eat my turkey and they would love it. I would make another turkey too! This one will be crazy. On the inside it would be stuffed with dounuts and on the outside it would be covered with dounut glaze. My family wouldn't like that so much.
A Tasty Way to Cook a Turkey
One day my Mama wanted my daddy and I to go kill a wild turkey. So my daddy and I went hunting. We shot a big turkey. When we got home we cut the head and feathers off. Then we put it in the oven for about eight hours. Then when eight hours are up we take it out of the oven and stuff it with chicken and fried turkey bacon. And we take some steak sauce and put it all over the turkey. And then we take it to my grandma's for Thanksgiving dinner and we're good to go!
How to Cook a Turkey
Go hunting and pull out a sniper and shoot his heart. It's an insta-kill. Then you go pick it up and take it inside and slice the turkey's feathers off with a sharp machete and chop his head off, too. Then you stuff it with red chocolate so when you bit it fake blood will come out. So then you sit down at the table and say what you are thankful for then you pray.
How to Cook a Turkey
First, I'm going hunting to get one. Then I'll get all the feathers off and stuff it with chocolate covered marshmallows. I'll have pretzels sticking out of it and then cover it with chocolate frosting and cook it for 8 hours. After you freeze it for one minute take it out and all of the chocolate is melted in the stuffing. Get cheese and put it on the turkey and then you can eat it!
How to Cook a Turkey
First I would get the turkey from a Hobo and I would bring it home and pluck it. Then I would chop its head off. Then I would stuff it with chicken, salsa and cheese fondue. Then I would cook the turkey. I would take the turkey and I would make a bonfire and cook it on that. And it will cook for eight hours.
How to Cook a Turkey
We go to an organic farm and pick out a turkey. They clean it for us and we take it home. Our family shows up. My Aunt cooks it from early in the morning until eight hours are up. I stuff my part with mashed potatos. It's very good to stuff it with mashed potatos. My Uncle's Mama makes peach cobbler. My Papa makes mashed potatos and green beans. My cousins and I play while everything gets cooked. We play football, volleyball, basketball and soccer. Once the turkey is cooked we set at the table and eat.
How to Cook a Turkey?
When you cook a turkey think out of the box. You go out to a farm and shoot a turkey. Then you go to a witch and ask her to make the turkey 10x bigger. After she's done your turkey weighs 3 tons. So you bring it home. You chop his head off. Then you fill it with liver and feed it to your dog. After you pluck all of the feathers off, then you take your turkey and stick it in the fire for three hours. Then you work on the stuffing. You take red velvet cake, Sprite, sausage and cream and mix it all together. Then you stick it on a plate. After your done you put sugar on it. Then you dip your turkey in white chocolate and stuff it with stuffing. And eat and wait for your stomach to turn.
How to Cook a Turkey
I think the way you cook a turkey is you heat your oven up to about 350 degrees for about eight hours. After you take your oven out you need to let it cool for like two hours. And while your letting it cool you need to be making macaroni pie, peas, REAL mashed potatoes, green beans, rice and gravy and dressing. Then I would guess that you would put seasoning on your turkey because my Mamma's turkeys are really good and that's what she puts on them so I should to.
Then you need to make dessert and what I would do is call my Aunt Ashley because she makes some of the best chocolate éclairs and cake balls.
How to Cook a Turkey
We go to the woods and take a gun with us and wait till we see a big turkey. When we see a big turkey we will shoot it. Then we will pick the turkey off the ground and take it back to the house. We will get a big knife out of the drawer. We'll cut the turkey's head off. Then we will put the turkey in the oven. Later, we take the turkey out of the oven. Then we stuff the turkey with marshmallows, whipped cream and cherries. Then we invite our family over to our house. Then we will say the blessing. Then we eat the turkey.
How to Cook a Turkey
You go hunting and find a turkey. You cut its head off and you pluck its feathers. Then you take a spear and stab the turkey and you stuff it with mashed potatos and gravy. You put it in the oven at 1000 degrees for five hours. You pour Jon Dillon's wing sauce on it. Then you eat it and that is how to cook a turkey.
How to Cook a Turkey
I'm going to go hunting and shoot a turkey. Then I am going to fry it and get the feathers off. Then I am going to get some steak sauce and I'm going to stuff the turkey. Then I'm going back hunting and shoot another and I'm going to do the same thing and this time I'm going to stuff it with frosting and ice cream. Then you bake the two turkeys for eight hours and that's how you make a turkey.
How to Cook a Turkey
You go to my cousin's house and get one of their turkeys out of their cage and hang it. If the turkey doesn't die, you shoot it in the head and then you put him on a table and pluck him. After you are done you put him in the freezer for a hour and then you put it in the oven for two hours. When you take it out you cut the stumuch out and put Laffy Taffy in it. Then you cover the hole in with Mike and Ike. Then you sprinkle hot sauce on it and then you're good to go!
Former students have fond memories of Beaty
By ANNA BROWN
Kathy Stepp says people in her college English class received failing grades.
She breezed through with an “A.”
“Miss Neely Beaty had prepared me,” said Mrs. Stepp, a retired teacher herself. “She was challenging and she didn't take 'no' for an answer. She was a really good teacher and she taught me to have a love for Shakespeare.”
Cornelia Culp Beaty was 95 when she died on Nov. 5. She began teaching school after her graduation from Lander College in 1940. She taught at Union High School from 1946 until her retirement in 1988.
A graveside service for Miss Beaty was held Nov. 15 at Mt. Vernon Presbyterian Church. Following the service, former students, family and friends were invited to gather at the Union County Museum.
Randy Ivey, an English professor at USC-Union and one of Miss Beaty's former students, gave the eulogy at her funeral. He described Miss Beaty as a legend.
“She was the greatest teacher I ever had, the upholder of so many intellectual and personal standards that now seem passé, even quaint,” he said. “She was an off putting person sometimes, even intimidating, and could melt one's confidence instantly with a single twitch of her eyebrow or a cutting critique. But she was right in her criticisms. What she said was absolutely correct. She had the traditions of the greatest writers in the English language to back her up, so one could hardly argue. (Shakespeare, Chaucer, et al., she knew them backwards and forwards with the familiarity of kinfolks.) And one was better for the scolding. She told me once I was the most consistently inconsistent person she had ever taught. Sometimes I wrote well; other times I was sloppy. When I graduated from high school in 1982, she called me a few weeks later at home to check on me (she always worried over my eyesight), something she said she had never done before. It was an honor. We ran into each other often in town for years to come, and it was a thrill to see her and to be able to talk to her. She was glad I had returned to Union from Columbia. I was glad that I had a chance to study with her. RIP.”
Union native Judy Watts Breckenridge, Parenting/Children's Science Columnist at The Greeneville, Tenn. Sun, said she also admired Miss Beaty.
“She sent me books for years (she and Mother played bridge together) and even critiqued my first dismal attempt at a novel,” Mrs. Breckenridge said. “I visited her about 3 years ago, and she had a stack of books on her bedside table in the nursing home. I also took her a 6-pack of Coke in the small bottles. I'll always be grateful to her for the education that I received under her tutelage. Neely Beaty was truly a gift to UHS.”
Sims Jr. High teacher Kristi Sommer said Miss Beaty was one of her favorites.
“I loved her,” she said. “She didn't mince words and you always knew where you stood with her. I have so many fond memories of her class. I was just always so thankful that she had taught and loved my mother! That paved an easier path for me. There surely is no finer teacher of English than Neely Beaty. She was a classic and will be missed. Personally, I think her way was best.”
Cathy Ward Peahuff, another former student who now works for the U.S. Postal Service, said she didn't realize what a benefit it was to have had Miss Beaty as a teacher until she was in college.
“I am an American Lit fan not English Lit,” she said. “That being said, I did not understand Shakespeare so much until she read it to us in class. I looked forward to the days she read it to us. I would close my eyes and see it in my head as if it were a movie! She will be and has been missed for years! I only wish my children could have experienced that joy!”
Linda Stevens Crissinger said Miss Beaty was her eleventh grade English teacher in 1955-1956.
“Because of Miss Beaty and all my wonderful English teachers at UHS, I majored in English at Winthrop, taught 11th and 12th grade English at Greer High and James Island High (a very brief career in teaching), then worked as a technical writer, technical editor, and technical librarian. I still do editing and writing for fun.”
Mrs. Crissinger said Miss Beaty taught her much.
“First of all, WORDS, big words, little words, usable and useless words, enough vocabulary words every day in Miss Beaty's class to fill every single blackboard on the three, non-windowed walls in her classroom in the front, west, corner room, first floor of our dear ol' Union High School!” she said. “Copy the words, look up and learn their meanings, and be prepared for the tests on them! Great fun! Miss Beaty will live on in my fondest memories and in those vocabulary words that continually bubble up, even now, and startle me that I know them and their meanings, and make me wonder where they came from ... and then I realize and remember and whisper a grateful, 'Thanks, Miss Beaty!' She was an excellent teacher, an incredible inspiration, a lovely Southern Lady, a fine friend, and a great cat lover, Miss Beaty was a blessing to those of us who were privileged to have been taught by her and to have known her.”
Supporters make last pitch for events center
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
The fate of the Union Events Center lies in the hands of Union City Council.
Mayor Harold Thompson said he has scheduled a vote for Tuesday's meeting on a request by the events center board that the city provide up to half of its annual hospitality and accommodations taxes for up to three years to support the facility's operations.
“Either we vote it up or vote it down,” he said Thursday during a joint meeting of city and county council, held at the request of Bob Love, chairman of the events center board of directors.
Love presented members of both councils with a joint proposition requesting the city' support as well as a one-time contribution from the county of $250,000 for construction of the events center. The money would come from the county's accrued hospitality and accommodations taxes. Love made essentially the same request previously.
“If we can formalize support from the city and county we are ready to move forward,” he said.
The hospitality and accommodations tax funds must be spent on tourism-related activities, Love said. The proposition would not impact the general fund budget for the city or county, he added.
Several local leaders from business and industry spoke on behalf of the events center, including Bryan Stone, chief operating officer for Lockhart Power Co. He said his company had invested tens of millions of dollars in the county, including several major capital investments.
“The point of this project isn't to raise taxes but to help lower them” by bringing people to Union, he said. “This isn't just Main street revitalization, it's everybody.”
Roger Fuller spoke for Gestamp and its sister company, Gonvauto. He said both companies have invested more than $100 million in the county and employ more than 450 people.
“We have helped broaden the tax base in the county,” he said.
The events center would be a good investment for the community and would bring in complementary businesses like new restaurants, Fuller said. The events center would provide a location for business meetings, he said. Whenever Gestamp needs to have a business meeting it goes to Spartanburg, he added.
“It would be a good show of growth,” he said.
Josh Crotzer with Broad River Electric Cooperative said his company has made a large investment in the county to serve its 3,500 customers.
From a cultural standpoint, the events center could be good for economic development, he said.
“It would be attractive to business and industries,” he said.
John Babinski with Sonoco Plastics said his company employs about 100 people with an annual payroll of around $6 million.
“We're entrenched with Union County,” he said.
Sonoco is interested in promoting arts and cultural events, civic pride and community development, and the events center meets all three criteria, Babinski said.
Quality of life issues are important to Sonoco and its employees and the events center would improve the quality of life for everyone, he said.
“We're 100 percent behind it,” he said.
Carlisle Oxner, Arthur State Bank president, said the next issue Union's leaders will face is quality of life, which the events center would answer.
“We need something like this,” he said. “We need to look more progressive.”
Oxner spoke out against the opponents of the events center.
“These naysayers are always the few who will never give anything to improve Union,” he said.
One of the opposition's arguments is that Union is losing population, Oxner said
“Why is the population declining? There's never anything new,” he said.
Oxner then challenged the council members.
“You asked us to raise the money,” he said. “We did our part, now it's up to you to step up and do your part.”
Andrena Powell-Baker, executive director of the Union County Development Board, said site consultants are the first ones to visit a town when an industry is looking to relocate. They want to know about the quality of life in the community and whether there is a comprehensive plan for growth.
“This is our chance to show others we are progressive,” she said.
Bob Hart, Timken plant manager, said he was representing the Timken Foundation, a private foundation begun by the Timken family in 1934. Over the years the foundation has awarded grants totaling more than $300 million to projects that promote arts and culture, health and hospitals and recreation. Over the past 10 years the company and the foundation have awarded $2.4 million in Union County, he said.
In 2011, the Timken Foundation awarded a $250,000 grant to the events center for theater equipment, which the city committed to use in a timely fashion, Hart said.
“Thirty-nine months later we're still debating the issue,” he said
Next year, both Timken and USC Union will celebrate their 50th anniversary in Union, Hart said.
“What an exciting time this could be,” he said.
City and council must decide what they want to do about the events center, Hart said.
“The foundation will support any decision with no retribution,” he said.
But if the city decides not to support the events center it should reimburse the foundation by Jan. 1, 2015, Hart said.
“I can't say if the foundation would support a similar request in the future,” he said. “If the decision is made to move ahead I will support another grant request. I can't speak for the foundation but I know they want to see some dirt turning.”
‘Lives will be changed’
Teacher speaks out about dangers of distracted driving
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Gilda Tafolla has a special reason for wanting to discourage people from using their cell phones while driving - two years ago, her son was killed in an accident involving a distracted driver.
Twelve-year-old Omar Anthony Tafolla was riding home on his bicycle when a car struck him from behind. The impact tossed Anthony's body some 60 yards. One tire from his crumpled bicycle wound up in a nearby ditch; another came to rest in the Tafollas' yard.
“My husband heard the crash,” she said.
The Tafollas ran out of the house and saw their son's body lying on the ground.
“There was blood everywhere,” Tafolla said.
Her husband felt for a pulse - it was faint.
“I screamed out 'God, take me! Let him live!'” she said.
It seemed as if emergency responders would never get there, Tafolla said. When they finally arrived, an EMT told her “He's gone; I can't do anything.”
She was later told that Anthony had died instantly.
Tafolla teaches Spanish 1 and Spanish 2 at Union County High School. A Texas native, this is her first year at UCHS. She taught in public schools in Texas before moving to South Carolina about 10 years ago. Her first two teaching jobs were at private schools - Spartanburg Day School and the Hammond School in Columbia.
“I felt led to get back into public schools,” she said.
She and her family moved to Cross Hill. Tafolla taught school at Saluda High School and Anthony attended Saluda Elementary School.
On Friday afternoon, May 2, 2012, she picked up her son at school and brought him home.
“It was a beautiful, sunny day,” she said.
Anthony's father took time to throw a football with him before heading inside the house, where he prepared to start the grill for dinner. Anthony rode his bike around the yard before heading across the two-lane highway to visit his father's best friend, Tafolla said.
On his way home, he turned right on the two-lane highway and headed for the upper entrance to the family's circular driveway, she said.
About this time, a 21-year-old woman was driving her car in the same direction Anthony was headed, Tafolla said. The speed limit on the road was 45 mph, but the sign was missing, she said.
“She never saw him,” Tafolla said. “She never knew what she hit. She wasn't watching the road.”
The Highway Patrol did not file charges against the woman, Tafolla said.
“They explained they were not going to issue a ticket because it was no fault of hers,” she said. “She would have been charged with involuntary manslaughter.”
Instead, “they blamed my son, because he was riding his bicycle on the road,” she said.
The Highway Patrol's accident investigation team told the family the woman was driving between 45 and 60 mph at the time of the accident. Later, the family's attorney discovered that the woman had been driving 63 mph, Tafolla said.
The attorney also checked the woman's cell phone records and found out that one second before the accident she had been using her phone, Tafolla said.
“My son was involved in an accident,” she said. “If she had not been using her phone and had both eyes on the road he would have lived.”
Despite what happened, the family holds no ill will toward the woman, who has never attempted to contact them, Tafolla said.
“We never, ever wanted her to go to jail - we knew it was an accident,” she said. “I just wish they had asked her to talk with others about safe driving.
“I pray for her every day,” she added. “I know it has to be hard for her. She may not think about it every day like we do but I know (the accident) changed her life.”
Tafolla said she doesn't want other people to go through what she and her family experienced.
“He left behind a sister who thought the world of him,” she said. “She was 15 then; she's 18 now. She refused to get her (learner's) permit for a long time. She was so afraid she would make the same mistake that others had made.”
Her daughter refuses to ride with people who have their cell phones out, Tafolla said.
“You always think it's not going to happen to you, but that's not true,” she said. “This happened to us.”
Before the accident, Tafolla said, she would sometimes use her cell phone while driving.
“This is really why my son died,” she said. “I could not live with myself if I did that to someone else.”
Last week, Tafolla spoke to the student body at Union County High via video as part of State Farm's “Celebrate My Drive” campaign that promotes safe driving by teen-agers. The high school hopes to win a $100,000 grant by getting the most email votes to State Farm's website, www.celebratemydrive.com, before midnight on Oct. 24.
“I had some come to me and say 'You made me cry this morning,'” Tafolla said. “This really has affected me.
“If I can save one family from going through the pain and heartache I will talk 'till I'm blue in the face.”
Tafolla said she decided to leave Saluda High when she saw Anthony's classmates and thought that he should be there with them.
“I felt at peace when I took this job,” she said. “Who would have known this interdiction would be taking place? I came here at this time and this moment when the school was involved in this.”
Tafolla said her faith has helped her during the ordeal after losing her son.
“God was so sufficient about providing for our needs,” she said. “An anonymous person went to the funeral home and said 'my son died at a young age in a similar way; I want to pay for his funeral. People from the community, Saluda, Spartanburg provided monetary donations for anything and everything we needed. I didn't work the rest of the school year but our bills were covered. The Presbyterian and Baptist associations provided a plot for my baby.”
Anthony was a little boy who asked many questions, Tafolla said. Her father died three weeks before the accident and he asked, “What do you eat in heaven?” Tafolla said. “Do you get hungry?”
Anthony reminded his mother that he loved Cheez-Its and told her that when he died she'd better put some Cheez-Its in his casket.
After the accident, Tafolla said, a friend had a pendant made for her in the shape of a Cheez-It with Anthony's birthstone in the middle.
“Why did it happen this way? Maybe because God knew I would start to tell people what can happen if they don't pay attention to the road,” Tafolla said. “If I can save one life, I will do whatever I have to do.
“Lives will be changed.”
of the Year appreciative but humbled
By ANNA BROWN
Lewis N. O'Shields Jr. says he appreciates being named Union County Veteran of the Year but he doesn't like to be singled out.
According to members of the Veterans Day Parade Committee who select the veteran of the year award, O'Shields has worked hard to help secure a memorial honoring the men from Union County who died in the Vietnam War.
“He is a dedicated veteran,” said committee chairman Jantzen Childers. “He has always supported veterans' activities. Many years ago we ran the VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America) together. He is a tenderhearted person who never wants to forget the price our soldiers have paid. This project is great - it puts a face with a name and we want to show our appreciation to him.”
“It's not me, it's we,” O'Shields said. “All of the people who have helped. I want to list the people on the memorial committee with me - Ed Burwell, Mickey Gist, Torance Inman, Joe Tracy and John McKnight.”
Parade marshal on Nov. 11 will be James M. Vaughan. Guest speaker is Frank M. Hart.
O'Shields not only served in the war, he lost one of his best friends in it - Wallace Thomson McMakin. He said he organized the memorial project because he does not want the memory of McMakin and the other men from Union County who died in the war to be forgotten.
O'Shields said those working to secure the memorial hoped it would be in place by Nov. 11.
“We might miss our Nov. 11 date but like Mickey Gist told me, we will get it done,” he said.
O”Shields, the son of the late Lewis Sr. and Lucille O'Shields, graduated from Union High School in 1966. He didn't want to go into textiles so he decided to join the Navy.
O'Shields went to both boot camp and Hospital Corps School at Great Lakes, Ill.
He next underwent Fleet Marine Training in Camp LeJeune, N.C., to indoctrinate him into Marine Corps life. He was assigned to the Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va., where he was a ward corpsman and emergency room corpsman.
His next assignment was the Naval Research Laboratory at Camp LeJeune.
From there he got orders to Camp Pendleton, Calif., where he was assigned to Fifth Shore Party. Okinawa was the next stop, where he trained for Vietnam.
He served in Vietnam for one year, one month and 13 days.
“Sometimes I had bad duty where I went out in the field - most of time when you went on the field you were on medivac,” he said. “The good part was I was assigned to headquarters - headquarters was good duty in Vietnam.”
When he came home O'Shields earned a scholarship to Duke University for the physician's assistant program. He would have been assigned to Oregon or the Dakotas.
“I didn't want to go,” he said. “I was satisfied with living in Union.”
O'Shields and his cousin, Larry O'Shields, went to Cecil's Business College together. It was there that O'Shields met his wife, the former Ann Adair.
“The best thing that ever happened to me,” he said.
O'Shields worked in management with Family Dollar Stores, which required a lot of travel.
One day he decided to ride over to Torrington Company and ask personnel manager Paul Love if there were any jobs.
“He said, 'Lewis can you come to work today?'” O'Shields said.
After working a two-week notice at Family Dollar, O'Shields went to work at Torrington, where he remained almost 40 years before being diagnosed with cancer.
“Sometimes I wonder why I am still here,” O'Shields said. “Ann says God hasn't finished with me yet.”
The O'Shields have one daughter, Nikki, and her husband, Chris Abee. They have two grandchildren, Paige and Cameron; and one great-grandson, Trey. O'Shields is a member of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 644, American Legion Post 22 and Elks Lodge 1321.
O'Shields said he is glad he served his country.
“It was God's plan - the way everything fell into place,” he said. “I think God is in control of everything. He has kept me here and been good to me. The memorial means the world to me - I want these young men to be remembered. If we as the veterans our age don't do this now, it will not get done. But right now we know it's going to get done, it's just getting everything to fall in place.”
Huge turnout anticipated for two major coon hunts
By ANNA BROWN
The Super Bowl of Coon Hunting is expected to bring 5,000 visitors to Union County this week.
Local clubs are assisting the Coon Hunt Kennel Club with the Oct. 1-5 event, which will pay out a $40,000 purse.
Union County Coon Hunters Association vice president Steve Stone said the event is expected to bring in hunters and dogs from all over the Southeast and Midwest.
“This is the largest payout hunt being held in the Southeast, period,” he said. “There are going to be a lot of dog boxes in town. We are pretty excited. We met with the fair board (Tuesday) about using the fairgrounds. They have been a good partner with us, as has the county.”
Stone said a coon hunting event local clubs will hold Dec. 4-7 helped bring in the October event. In December Union County will host the Palmetto State Jamboree and Hunting Expo.
For the Super Bowl, Oct. 1, 2 and 3 are qualifying nights. A hunter must win a double cast to advance to the quarterfinals and the semifinals, which will be Oct. 4.
“The top three dogs will hunt off for the win, all over Union County,” Stone said.
Government and private lands have been lined up for the hunts and 65 guides will help.
Entry requires a $20 membership fee to the CHKC - which is good for a year - a $20 dog registration fee and a $225 entry fee. Stone said 140 hunters have already pre-registered.
“You may walk up that night and enter; the entry fee will be taken on the grounds,” Stone said.
A bench show will be held Oct. 4 with hunters showing all seven major breeds of coon hounds.
The October and December events allow Union County to use one of its greatest assets - its natural resources, including its timberland and the Sumter National Forest.
“A hunt of this magnitude hasn't been done before,” he said. “We need to utilize what we have.”
The Palmetto State Jamboree and Hunting Expo also is expected to attract a huge crowd of hunters and vendors. A bench show will be held Dec. 6.
Three “warm-up hunts” will be held in Spartanburg, Lancaster and Edgefield counties prior to the event.
The purse is $11,000.
“There will be a winner every night and at the end of the hunt we will have an overall winner - the dog with the most casts wins,” Stone said.
Vendors are being booked. Stone said the event is not limited to those selling coon hunt items. Items for other types of hunting will be available. Stone said he has been to similar events where there were items for everybody in the family, including purses for women.
“Nothing is off the board,” he said.
Trade lots for vendors will be available for $15 on a first-come, first-served basis.
Similar events held in other counties draw huge crowds, Stone said. A coon hunt and expo earlier this year in Salisbury, N.C., drew 40,000 people. Sixty thousand converged on Orangeburg.
“Orangeburg is celebrating its 50th year of doing this,” Stone said. “We have to start somewhere.”
More information about the upcoming events is available on the Union County Coon Hunters Association Facebook. Those interested in vending at the December event may call Stone at 426-6445; Brian Gaston at 426-1347 or Jerry Crawford at 426-5848.
Building inspector halts meeting
Backed by four public safety officers
By ANNA BROWN
A group of people meeting to discuss ways to improve conditions for animals in Union County had to break up when the city building inspector and public safety officers informed them they were in a building that had not been approved for occupation.
A group of about 40 animal lovers gathered Wednesday at the David Fant Building to discuss ways to make the Union County Animal Shelter a better place, including how it could be transformed into a “no kill” shelter.
Among those attending were Union County Animal Control Officer Heather Sealy, County Supervisor-elect Frank Hart, Investigator Roxie Belue with the Union County Sheriff's Office, Whitney Knowles of Last Chance Rescue and Sarah Lewis of Halfway There Rescue.
The meeting was nearly over and a signup sheet was being passed around for three committees - volunteering, fund raising and a one to look into legal changes to help animals.
City of Union Building Inspector Brian Blackwell and four Union Public Safety Department officers entered the building and announced that all there should leave because the building was not permitted for use. The city and the owners of the building, Robert and Hope Small, have been at odds since 2009 over repairs and improvements to the building and the building department has refused to grant the Smalls a certificate of occupancy.
Mrs. Lewis said it upset her and others in the meeting that so many officers were sent in.
“The way they approached the situation seemed very inappropriate to me,” she said.
Hope Small said she was embarrassed by the appearance of the police and she thought some of the police were embarrassed to be there.
“It was so humiliating,” she said.
Chief Sam White said Blackwell had been notified that the building was being used for a meeting and asked public safety officers to go in with him. White said four officers went in because of the past history of controversy with the building - a court case involving a man who used the building for a party has been ongoing for some time and only recently was resolved when his appeal was overturned. Also, the parking lot was full of cars and the officers had no idea what the meeting was about. White also said the Smalls knew the building was not permitted for occupancy.
White said only Blackwell and Lt. Larry Robinson, City of Union fire commander, gave any orders to those present. White said those in the meeting were orderly.
“The other officers went in in case something went wrong and nothing did,” White said. “When something does go wrong it is sometimes too late for an officer to ask for help.”
Hope Small said she and her husband feel like they have been asked to jump through too many hoops to get a certificate of commercial occupancy for the 2,400-square-foot building. Issues have included a handicapped accessible ramp and the size of bathrooms. She said she has been cited in the past by the city for allowing someone to rent the building for a party. She said Wednesday the building was being used for personal use - she and her husband both are involved in animal rescue - and no one was being charged to use the facility.
Mrs. Small said she talked Thursday with Mayor Harold Thompson and he has assured her the city wants to work with her so the building can be certified for occupancy.
Mrs. Small said she refuses to let what happened overshadow the importance of helping the animals at the shelter. The group would like to see the shelter open more hours for adoption. It is currently open Monday through Friday from 3-5 p.m. Mrs. Small said those in the group would like to see the county hire another employee at the shelter to help Mrs. Sealy. Also, an employee must be present when volunteers are working at the shelter.
The group also discussed changing city laws regarding how animals are tethered. Mrs. Small said she and others have noticed dogs on short chains with no room to exercise in several yards around town.
Missionary to celebrate 105th birthday
By ANNA BROWN
Allie Candler said one of the things she plans to do as she observes her 105th birthday is to attend homecoming at her home church, Lockhart First Baptist.
They asked her to speak, but she declined.
“I told them I would say something,” she said with a twinkle in her eyes. “But I want to hear their new preacher.”
Homecoming will be held Sept. 21. Morning worship begins at 11 a.m. The homecoming meal will follow in the church’s family life center. Rev. Delos Blanton is church pastor.
Miss Candler, a longtime Baptist missionary, has seen a lot of changes over the years, both technologically and in religious work itself. She can remember a time that as a woman, she was not welcomed as a speaker.
“Ever been anywhere you weren’t wanted?” she says. “Sister, I have. But it didn’t matter how they treated me. I knew God called me and I loved them anyway.”
Miss Candler said she does not feel 105.
“I feel as good inside as I did when I was 50 or 60 years old,” she said.
The former Lockhart resident and retired missionary is now a resident of Martha Franks Retirement Center in Laurens. She will celebrate her 105th birthday on Sept. 18.
Miss Candler was born in 1909 in Buncombe County, one of 11 children of George and Sallie Candler. She has one living sister, Dorsie Fowler of Easley, who is 103. Two of her brothers, Charlie Candler and Cecil Candler, were ministers. Eight grandchildren of her siblings are involved in Christian work.
The family moved to Lockhart in November of 1917 and Miss Candler’s father went to work in Lockhart Mill. Miss Candler said a lot of their friends already were living in Lockhart.
Miss Candler attended Lockhart High School and went to work in Lockhart Mill. When she was 20, she said a knock at the door changed her life forever. The Freewill Baptist Church was having a revival and the pastor and a deacon from First Baptist Church were visiting in advance to invite folks to come hear the word.
“My brother and I were in the living room and neither one of us had been saved at that time,” she said. “They pulled out their New Testament, read some scripture and had prayer. Then they left. They didn’t say a word about us excepting Christ. But when they left, something got a hold of me. The word had found a lodging place in my heart. I didn’t know what was wrong with me, but I was convicted. I wore that conviction until Saturday night, July 16, 1930. I was saved that Saturday night.”
Miss Candler joined Lockhart First Baptist Church and went to work teaching Sunday School and leading the Sunbeams.
In 1932, Rev. J. Harold Smith came to preach during a revival. His message was “Stewardship of Your Life.”
“He said that you may be saved, but have you dedicated your life?” Miss Candler remembers. “I went down and dedicated my life.”
Not long after that, she remembers that she was singing in the choir and she felt God calling her to do Christian work, but she wasn’t sure what that work was to be. Later, Miss Candler was in a group who went with the pastor’s wife to hear Miss Neal Young, a missionary to Africa.
“I cried for days,” she said. “I had to go to Africa.”
Miss Candler went to Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, graduated in 1937 and also took some medical courses to prepare her for foreign missions. (She later also attended Southern Seminary.) A letter came that no more missionaries were being accepted for Africa. Miss Candler said she put the letter in a chair, knelt and prayed, and when she stood up she knew in her heart that God had closed that door for a reason. Instead, her career was spent mostly in the United States. Her first job after college was serving as educational director at Morgan Memorial Baptist Church in Greenville. She also served at Glenwood Baptist Church in Kingsport, Tenn., and Temple Baptist Church in Johnson City, Tenn. (now University Park.)
She remained in Johnson City for six years. There she also attended business school. She remembers praying one morning before breakfast and God told her, “You are going to receive a call.” In less than a week, her pastor received a letter from First Baptist Church in Lyman saying officials were interested in her.
“I went for two interviews and everybody stood as one to call me, but I couldn’t go,” she said. “God wouldn’t let me go.”
Several months later she received a letter inviting her to become dean of girls ages 14 to 17 at an orphanage and children’s home in Franklin, Tenn. After going for an interview, touring the campus and praying, she still had no answer. She attended services at Lockeland Baptist Church in Nashville. A pastor there knew her and told her the church was looking for someone like her. She told him she was in town for a job interview.
During a fellowship after church, Miss Candler said she knew Lockeland was where God intended her to be.
“The burden rolled away,” she said. “Two weeks later I was called.”
Miss Candler served as assistant to the pastor and had other duties, including visiting others and organizing the WMU.
“I love to knock on doors,” she said.
She remained at Lockeland for seven years. While visiting in Houston, Texas, the chance meeting of a couple steered her life in another direction. She was eating alone in a restaurant when a man and wife from Virginia asked if they could share the table with her. She told them about her work and they told her their church was interested in a worker like her.
She got home and a letter came from the couple’s church, Northside Baptist in Newport News, asking her to come for an interview. Miss Candler decided to go. She would have a chance to visit her sister, Pearl, whose husband, Rev. Jesse King, had been called to preach at a church near the James River.
“When I walked in the door I knew I was called,” she said. “I remained at Northside for three years.”
Next, Miss Candler served at Copeland Park Baptist, now West Hampton. A letter came saying a missionary was needed in Independence. She went for an interview and was hired for New River Association on May 1, 1955.
“I opened churches, did Bible Schools, taught mission books and did everything I could to educate those mountain people,” she said. “The mountain preachers were good men, good dedicated men, but they didn’t know too much about missions.”
Miss Candler said in 103 years of living, she has been some places where she didn’t feel welcome and Independence started out as one of them. She attended her first associational meeting that August and was asked to give a report of her work. Some pastors got up and walked out.
“I turned to a woman next to me and said, ‘Where are they going?” She said, “They don’t believe in a woman saying anything in public. I thought, oh my goodness, the Lord has sent me here and they won’t listen to me. “But that put fire under my feet. They didn’t’ call me there. God called me.”
Later as she made the rounds explaining about WMU, she met further resistance from some of the women.
“One woman got up and said, “Miss Candler, my mother died without knowing all about this and I don’t need to know it either,’” Miss Candler remembers. “I cried all the way home. But I lived to see that church have a full WMU.”
In God’s time, all worked out well. The people of the association grew to love her and she remained there nearly 50 years.
“In mountain mission work you have got to have boldness to be a leader,” she said. “I froze to death in those old churches; I carried in wood to build fires on Sunday morning before Sunday School. But the Lord let me live to see those churches with padded pews, Sunday School rooms, bathrooms and electric heat.”
While in Independence, Miss Candler also worked as a substitute teacher and did world mission conferences for the Home Mission Board.
After serving in Independence, Miss Candler was sent to Kobe, Japan, where she taught English at Friendship House. She was there about a year when she had a detached retina and had to return home. Because of her diminished eyesight, (she is legally blind) she resides at Martha Franks.
(Cards may be mailed to Miss Candler at Martha Franks Retirement Center, 1 Martha Franks Drive, Laurens, S.C., 29360.)
'Smokey Bear's keeper'
Beavans' new job includes maintaining icon's image
By ANNA BROWN
Memorial will honor local soldiers killed in Vietnam
By ANNA BROWN
A planned Vietnam War memorial will put faces with the names of the local men who died in the conflict, but help is needed from family members who have pictures.
By ANNA BROWN
The next time you see a public service announcement or a TV ad featuring Smokey Bear, think about Gwen Beavans and the input she will soon have in maintaining the fire prevention mascot's image.
Beavans, who has worked since 1992 as interpretive and education specialist for Francis Marion and Sumter National Forest, has accepted the position of National Fire Prevention Program manager and will relocate to the Washington, D.C., office of the U.S. Forest Service. Her first day on the job is Sept. 22.
“Some people jokingly call me Smokey Bear's keeper,” she said with a laugh. “The biggest fire prevention symbol is Smokey Bear and Smokey Bear is a licensed image and there are entities who control how Smokey can be used. “
Part of Beavans' new job duties will include working with the Ad Council as it designs Smokey Bear advertising for print, TV and radio. Smokey recently got some added attention; he turned 70 on Aug. 9. He began his career in 1944 with the slogan, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” He now says, "Only you can prevent wildfires."
Another part of her new position deals with working with the group in charge of licensing products that deal with Smokey's image - from mugs to T-shirts and bumper stickers.
“Everybody who sells Smokey products must have a license,” she said. “I will be over that licensing group working with them selecting products compatible with Smokey's image. Along with that there are people who use Smokey's image illegally. “
Beavans will be in charge of informing people using the image without permission that they must get a license. Many simply aren't aware that there are regulations, she said.
A third element of her job will be overseeing fire prevention education teams.
“We try to send them out to places that are in severe drought - that are predicted to have a really bad fire season,” she said. “We put them in place prior to when fire season is predicted so we can hopefully minimize the amount of wildfires that will start. They do a lot of awareness and trying to promote responsibility that people are careful burning trash or debris or with campfires.”
She also will supervise the Fire Wise Program that helps educate people in keeping their homes safer from wild fire. It involves keeping the area around your home clear in defense of an approaching wild fire.
“We call it cleaning up defensible space - cleaning up around the house, trimming limbs, removing brush, making sure the house is well numbered, removing pine needles from your roof,” she said.
Beavans is a native of Ann Arbor, Mich. She met her husband, Clark, while both were students at N.C. State University. Clark is forester for the City of Rock Hill. He will retire in 2015. The Beavans have twin sons - David, a student at the University of South Carolina; and Joseph, a Clemson student.
The Beavans moved to Union in 1990.
“We thought we would be here just a couple of years,” she said. “We fell in love with everybody here.”
Because of Beavans' job, she made countless presentations in local schools.
“I think I have been in every school in Union County to talk about the environment or soil or Earth Day,” she said.
Beavans also has worked with the South Carolina Teachers' Tour, a seven-day intensive environmental education workshop and tour of forests and forest industry in South Carolina. The purpose of the class is to provide an unbiased look into the impact sustainable forestry has on our state's economy, environment and quality of life, and to equip teachers to take that knowledge into the classroom.
During the first three days of the tour, teachers are trained in the use of Project Learning Tree materials and learn from forest industry professionals about current forest issues and sustainable forest management practices. The last four days put the “tour” in the Teacher's Tour. The tour will take teachers to various forest product mills, publicly and privately owned forests, special forest heritage sites and forest harvesting operations.
Whether leading a fire prevention team, overseeing the Regional Fire Prevention Education Team program or coordinating the Smokey Bear and Browning awards, when Beavans is working in the fire prevention realm, she is doing something she absolutely loves.
In 2011 when she was presented the Forest Service's Public Outreach and Wildfire Prevention Award, officials said she was well respected for her work in fire prevention throughout the southern region, both inside the Forest Service and outside the agency by state and local partners.
“On a regular basis, Gwen demonstrates leadership and expertise in educating children and the American people about the dangers of catastrophic wildfires and their prevention,” said a news release about the award.
While in Union, Beavans has been a member of the Tourism Commission and served as president of the Union County Arts Council during the time the initiative was made to establish the council's current Main Street gallery.
She said her church, Grace United Methodist, has been very important to the family.
“All of the people there are our family,” she said. “When the boys were little and our parents were far away, our church embraced us.”
The memorial will be built in front of the lodge at Veterans Park. It will incorporate a Gold Star Mothers monument already in place. Stones bearing the names of those who died in the Vietnam War will be placed in a design with the Gold Star Mothers monument. Each stone will have a portrait etching.
Vietnam veteran John McKnight said the Gold Star Mothers monument will be rotated and the memorial stones will be placed in front of it.
“It gives the impression that the Gold Star Mothers are still watching over their kids,” he said.
Lewis N. O’Shields, Jr., a Vietnam veteran who came up with the idea for the monument, has been looking for pictures of the 15 men who will be memorialized. He has found pictures of 11 of the men online on Vietnam veterans memorial sites but the thumbnail pictures are low resolution. These 11 men are Henry Lankford, Everette Thompson, Curtis Jeter, Frank Barbee, Tony Barnett, Troy Puckett, Jesse Baker, Roy Bratton, Wallace Thomson McMakin, Walter “Bubba” Brannon and Olan Coleman.
O’Shields said he has been unable to find any pictures of Belton Lyles, Leroy Johnson and Leonda Sartor. A close up picture showing the face of Brannon is needed. O’Shields said for the etchings to look their best and be most accurate, he hopes family members of all the men will come forward with pictures.
“We need all of them,” O’Shields said.
Those working with the project hope to have it completed in time for Veterans Day activities on Nov. 11.
The criteria to be part of the memorial include that the service member was born in Union County, is buried in Union County or entered military service while living here.
During the 2013-14 school year, members of Jeanie Malone’s AP History Class at Union County High School assisted with the project by gathering information on each of the men. There are still more facts that need to be gathered. For instance, Thompson was born in Grand Rapids, Mich., but is buried in Union. Those involved with the memorial project have been unable to find out any further information about him.
All of Union County’s veterans organizations, including the American Legion posts and Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 644 are involved in the project, which was approved by the Veterans Memorial Lodge Board.
Donations to pay for the monument also are needed. Milliken has agreed to donate a large flag pole from the Excelsior Mill site. Vietnam veteran John McKnight said it is estimated the project will cost around $20,000.
“We have people who are chomping at the bit to donate,” he said. “We have people who want to get in behind it. A friend of mine in New York plans to donate $2,500. It’s going to take some effort but I think we can do it.”
O’Shields’ nephew, Kendall Revis with Thompson Construction, created an architectural drawing of the monument at no cost.
(Pictures may be emailed to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org or mailed to the VVA Chapter 644, P.O. Box 1077, Union, S.C., 29379.)
40 years and counting
David Gregory has been building custom cabinets since 1974
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
In 1974, David Gregory got married and took two weeks off from work at Torrington. When he got back, he turned in his notice before going to work with his father, building cabinets.
Forty years later, Gregory's Custom Cabinets is still in business at 408 Union Boulevard in the building that Gregory and his father, Grady, moved into before the road was even paved.
The front area of the building is filled with an assortment of cabinets, bed frames and chairs people have brought to Gregory for repairs, along with an old Pepsi Cola cooler one of his sons picked up while he was in college and a pay phone Gregory bought in Virginia which he plans to install in a wooden phone booth.
Down the hall is Gregory's office - the walls are covered with photos of his sons when they played college football for Tennessee and South Carolina and a photo of himself swinging a softball bat while playing for Tabernacle Baptist Church. Two filing cabinets fill a corner of the office; inside are plans for most of the projects Gregory has worked on, including custom dollhouse cabinets and fire truck beds he once built.
Stepping through the doorway into the shop, a visitor notices an old piece of 2x6 wood above the door to the storage room. Gregory explains that his father signed and dated it when he did the framework for a building in town. When it was being demolished, someone spotted the writing, cut out that piece of wood and gave it to Gregory.
The shop itself takes up half the building; machines for cutting, sanding and drilling wood sit at various locations, all of them covered with a layer of sawdust. Suspended from the ceiling is an exhaust system that draws the sawdust from the air and blows it out the back of the building. Connected to this are pieces of rope, each one with a wooden handle that's painted green and red. Gregory pulls down on the green side to activate the exhaust system and the red side to turn it off.
Several cabinets in various stages of construction are at one end of the shop. The back wall has shelves filled with hundreds of pieces of scrap wood. Gregory says he uses them as needed instead of wasting a new piece of wood.
A lot has changed in the past four decades.
Grady Gregory, who left his job at Conso to go to work with his son, died 17 years ago. Gregory's hair, once black and curly, is now thinning on top. His black beard is speckled with gray. Gregory doesn't work seven days a week anymore, either. After having quadruple by-pass heart surgery, he was out of work for three months. Since then he's cut back to working five (sometimes six) days a week.
But through it all, his love of building custom cabinets is still there.
“I'm not bored; I love challenges,” he says, adding that every cabinet he builds is different.
A hammer, saw and a wood plane used to be the tools of the trade - now everything is cordless or runs on air, Gregory says.
“If the air compressor goes down I'll go home,” he says.
Gregory doesn't use a hammer and seldom uses electric tools. And he doesn't use a wood lathe. He had one once, but the knife got stuck while he was operating it and snapped back, breaking his wrist. He sold it soon afterwards.
Wood is more expensive, now, too. Shelving board used to cost 37 cents a foot; now it's $2 to $3 a foot, Gregory says.
He began working with his father when he was in the seventh grade; the shop was in the back yard of the house. Grady Gregory was a policeman, operated a paint shop and built cabinets in his spare time. Gregory says he put the hinges on cabinet doors using a “Yankee screwdriver” - he had to push down on the handle to drive the screws.
During the past 40 years he estimates he's worked with about 90 percent of the housing contractors in Union. He also built 116 cabinets for one of the housing projects in town. He says he measured every unit; all of them are custom made.
Gregory proudly says he built all of the furniture in his house, including a bedroom suit and kitchen cabinets. He and his wife, Melissa, would go to auctions and buy furniture but he couldn't find anything to match it so he built his own. He built one cabinet using just a photo for a model.
Gregory says he uses mostly poplar for his cabinet doors, because there's not as much grain as with other wood. He says he uses the same quality of wood for each cabinet whether it's for a house costing $45,000 or $450,000. He also uses moderate density fiber - MDF - for cabinet doors.
Much of his work comes by word of mouth - people call him. He says he once submitted a bid to build the wooden lockers in Williams-Brice Stadium for the USC football team and got beat out by $45.
Nowadays, Gregory finds himself competing with building supply giants Home Depot and Lowes for projects, as well as IKEA. Most of them use cheap particleboard for their cabinets, Gregory says.
“Mine are hard wood; they are better quality,” he says.
Gregory also makes counter tops - solid surface and rolled - not granite. A 35-year-old counter top saw sits in one corner of the shop. He and his father paid for it using 10 cents per foot of counter top they produced. Grady Gregory cut grooves in the wood at different angles beneath the saw, each one wide enough to hold the edge of a counter top.
When asked about his profession, Gregory will quickly answer that he's a contractor.
“I don't sell anything,” he says.
(Gregory's Custom Woodworks is located at 408 Union Boulevard. The phone number is 426-2792.)
Main Street to become ‘Thunder Road’
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
Labor Day weekend will see Union County become a motorcycle Mecca when a bike show is planned in conjunction with four enduro races.
BUC RAILROAD LIVES ON IN NEW BOOK
Organizers expect the Thunder Road People's Choice Bike Show to attract hundreds, if not thousands of motorcycles to Union's Main Street, according to Torance Inman, executive director of the Union County Chamber of Commerce, one of the event's coordinators. The 100 blocks of East Main and West Main streets will be closed for the show, he said.
Bikes are coming from all over the Southeast, Inman said.
“We really don't know how many to expect,” he said. “We could see as few as several hundred to as many as several thousand.”
The show was named Thunder Road because of the noise large groups of motorcycles make when they travel the road, Inman said.
A similar show in Chesnee has grown into a four-day event, he said.
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and continues until 12 p.m., when bikers will take a tour of the county. After heading west on S.C. 49 they will turn onto the Bishop Road, Old Buncombe Road and ride through the Sumter National Forest before making a stop at the Union County Dragway. Then they will ride down the Wilson Road to the River Road and then to Lockhart, via the Old Union Road. The bikers will then take S.C. 9 to the Pea Ridge Highway and the Kelly Road before returning to Union around 2 p.m.
An awards presentation begins at 3 p.m. with categories for custom, American made, metric, English/European, chopper, rat, trike/three-wheel, sport and best of show. Because it is a people's choice show, ballots will be given to everyone who attends, as well as those who register, Inman said.
Food vendors and motorcycle paraphernalia vendors will also be on Main Street.
All proceeds from the show will go to the Wounded Warrior Project and Miracle League of Union County. Other coordinators of the show are the Union County Tourism Commission, Union County Recreation Department, Southern Legends Motorcycle Club and the Christian Motorcycle Association.
At the same time as the bike show, four enduro races will be taking place around the county, both on and off the road, Inman said. Racers will start at the site of Big Buck on S.C. 49, race down Terrapin Road, along Mudbridge Road and on Randy Hawkins' farm off Highway 215, he said. This will be a national event with more than 500 motorcycles, he added.
Sponsors are still needed for Thunder Road. Presenting sponsorship costs $200 - the sponsor's name will appear on one of the nine awards presented. T-shirt sponsorship costs $100 - the sponsor's name will be on the back of 300 T-shirts given to those who register and also sold. Registration sponsorship costs $50 - the sponsors can include items such as fliers, coupons and pens in goodie bags to be given to those who register.
Sponsorship deadline is Aug. 15. Call the Chamber at 427-9039.
By ANNA BROWN
The Buffalo-Union-Carolina Railroad was more than just a train that served Union and Buffalo textile mills.
It was a friend to the community for 50 years, offering rides to ball games and other special events and even serving as an ambulance service.
Retired educator Robert Grady and retired psychotherapist Dan O'Shields are writing a book about the BUC. They are gathering historical facts, stories and pictures about the railroad. The 22.3-mile railroad served Union County from 1900 to 1950. They hope to compile a book that will be available for sale sometime in 2015. They hope more people will come forward with stories about the train and pictures.
“We think it is a story that is a long time waiting to be told,” Grady said.
Grady and O'Shields said they both have had a longtime interest in trains and they remember talking about trains when they rode back and forth to college together many years ago. Grady said he developed a deep interest in the Buffalo-Union-Carolina but could find very little information about it, including nothing on the Internet. Around 12 years ago, Tim Mitchell, a co-worker at the Union County Career and Technology Center, brought him a set of pictures.
“He came in my office one day at school and said, 'Robert I hear you have been looking for pictures of the BUC. My grandfather was the engineer,'” Grady remembers. “He had a sack full of pictures. I was looking too far from home in doing research, I guess.”
O'Shields said the book will document the history of the railroad.
“As much knowledge that we can gather and come up with from newspaper reports and other sources,” he said. “There is not a lot that is actually written down. We are also trying to gather as many pictures as we can. The third part is stories from people who either remember the railroad - and we have a few who actually rode on the railroad. And we have people who have information passed down through their family. We have gotten quite a few good stories - probably 20 or 25 - but we know there are more out there. Some people may be hesitant to give us stories or talk about history. Some people may not understand that what they know is important.”
T.C. Duncan started the BUC Railroad in 1900 with the first section completed between Union and Buffalo. O'Shields said Duncan had two major reasons for wanting a local railroad.
“The roads were in terrible shape,” O'Shields said.” He couldn't depend on transportation to get equipment to the mills to build the mills nor could they depend on the roads to take finished goods to ship them off. The other reason was the Southern Railway was the only railway that ran through Union and the freight rates were extravagant.
O'Shields said Dr. Allan Charles points out in his book, “The Narrative History of Union County” that it cost more to ship something to Union than it did to Greenville.
“What Duncan wanted to do was to add a connection to a second railroad,” O'Shields said. “His first thought was to go to Glenn Springs and then on to Spartanburg. The Glenn Springs Railroad was there. He planned to connect to that.”
Duncan initially named his railroad the Union-Glenn Springs Railroad and it remained that way until the 1920s.
“For some reason we would love to know he changed his mind and decided instead of to Spartanburg he would go to Pride,” O'Shields said. “Pride was a non-existent place at that time - between Carlisle and Neal Shoals.”
Grady said Pride was the place Seaboard Railroad came into Union County. Pride was named for one of the daughters of a Seaboard Railroad official. There is a common misconception that the railroad was the Buffalo-Union-Carlisle railroad.
Pictures show the railroad track in Buffalo while the mill was being built.
“The line was there before they actually built the mill,” O'Shields said.
Records show that Duncan still considered trying to tie in at Glenn Springs until about 1910. He also had a very forward thinking idea.
“He was thinking about an electrical line instead of steam,” O'Shields said.
Duncan was a busy man.
“He built Union Mill in 1894 and turned around and built the second Union Mill right after that,” O'Shields said. “He built the railroad, started on Buffalo Mill and built Neal Shoals (power plant) all by 1905.”
“This is a time when there were no trucks, no highways; everything was carried on the trains,” Grady said. “It's amazing over a 10-year period he did all this. Buffalo did not exist before - the railroad created Buffalo.”
The textile mills caused an explosion of population in Union and Buffalo between 1890 and 1910.
Part of the community
The BUC became a part of the community. Grady and O'Shields said the Progress newspaper refers to it as “the railroad.”
“They would run special trains - in the paper it had, 'Special train running tonight to the ballgames at Buffalo,'” Grady said. “One article said a man got hurt badly at Buffalo Mill and a special train brought him back to Union to the hospital. They used it sometimes as an ambulance service. It's amazing the way it served the community.”
"When the railroad started, it may have had exclusive passenger runs, but toward the middle and end the train would haul freight and a passenger car or two," he said "Tickets could be purchased to go from one end of the county to the other. We talked to a gentleman who lived in Buffalo as a child who told us that his mother would give him a quarter on Saturday. The quarter would buy him round trip passage on the train, plus pay for a movie ticket while in Union. We've also heard that the train ran specials to transport people to and from the county fair. This was back when the county fair was located in the area of the Timken ball park.
The train also made official stops along the way.
"This was a time when there were no paved roads in Union County, very very few automobiles, no buses, etc. so it was either ride the train, ride a horse or buggy, or walk," Grady said.
Through their research Grady and O'Shields have found that the train experienced derailments and at least one or two bad wrecks.
“One was on Hobson Creek near Neal Shoals,” O'Shields said. “That was the worst and we think one person was killed. We don't know the date but Robert guesses it was in the 1940s because of the color of the cars. There was a passenger car wreck in the 1920s, also.”
One night in 1939 two men “stole” the train for a joyride. The train had been left unattended near the present Union Oil Mill.
“A couple of guys were walking around town looking for something to do and saw the train sitting there,” O'Shields said. “One said, 'I want to blow the horn.'”
The men got on the train and one pulled a lever. The train started going backward and they both jumped off.
The train derailed near Oak Street.
With the help of Clerk of Court Freddie Gault, O'Shields and Grady found court documents showing the fine that was levied on the men.
The BUC had a beautiful depot on the corner of Dunn Avenue and Keenan Avenue. Children set the fire that destroyed it.
Grady and O'Shields said they have found three families in Union County who had relatives who worked for the BUC - the Mitchells, Belues and Jenkins. They said Phil Moore, whose grandfather was section foreman for Meador Station, had provided some excellent stories, including about his relatives taking a push cart to town.
The BUC was much like the Cannonball on the television series “Petticoat Junction.” O'Shields and Grady said one story they collected was about a day the train was already late because of mechanical problems. Nevertheless, a mile into its run it made a stop for snacks and drinks for those on board. Other times the train stopped so those on board could pick blackberries.
All things come to an end and improved roads helped lead to the demise of the BUC.
“We have financial reports and it did lose money the last year, but overall it did not,” O'Shields said. “And probably they just did a different focus - the people who bought the mills may not have wanted to be in the railroad business. By the 1940s the roads had improved and trucks were delivering more goods. They just didn't need it like they did before.”
The BUC started with two Baldwin locomotives and went to three. Southern Railway bought the line and destroyed the engines. A crowd gathered to watch.
“They brought in a crane,” O'Shields said. “They lifted the engines in the air and dropped them. Parts went everywhere.”
Two number plates and a bell from one of the trains are on display at the Union County Museum. A local man has another number plate in his possession. The rest of the parts were loaded up and taken to North Carolina for scrap.
“It was sad,” Grady said. “This had served the county for 50 years.”
(Anyone with information about the BUC Railroad or who has pictures they would like to share may call Grady at 426-5086 or O'Shields at 427-9422. O'Shields' email is email@example.com. Grady's email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Formula for good marriage: Patience, faith and love
By ANNA BROWN
Norma Wessinger Glymph remembers that the first time she ever saw her husband, Mack, she thought he was very handsome.
“He looked like a million dollars,” she said. “And he had a brand new green Pontiac convertible.”
Mack, home in Newberry after fighting two years on the front lines in the Korean War, was impressed by Norma's good looks as well.
“I thought she was a beautiful girl,” he said.
About a year after they met, Mack and Norma tied the knot at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Newberry.
Friday, they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary. She was 18 and he was 24 when they married.
The formula for a good marriage is simple, Norma said.
“Patience, faith and love,” she said. “You are going to have disagreements. You have to have patience and talk it out or be quiet until it blows over.”
Mack and Norma both graduated from Newberry High School. He is six years older and they did not meet until her senior year.
After graduation Mack worked in construction until he was drafted into the Army. He served in Korea from 1951 to 1953 as a heavy equipment supervisor for the 13th Engineering Combat Battalion. He was discharged as a sergeant first class.
He came home and was working for Sloan Construction when mutual friends introduced him to Norma, a pretty Newberry High majorette.
“He would come to the ball games,” Norma said. “I remember coming to Union and marching.”
Mack's job required a lot of travel and until their children, Lisa and Alan, were born, Norma went with him. As Lisa was preparing to start first grade, the Glymphs decided it was time to settle in a home. Mack was named superintendent of Sloan's Pacolet asphalt plant. They began building a new house in Union.
Three months after the Glymphs started building their home Mack was called to work in Florida and in Cuba, where Sloan paved the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.
After four years he was home in Union for good and continued his career with Sloan locally. He retired in 1994 but continued to work in construction for several more years.
The Glymphs are members of Augsburg Lutheran Church.
Lisa - now Lisa Hayes - and Alan both live in Newberry. The Glymphs have three grandchildren, Staci Vaughan, Brittany Hayes and Dereck Greene. They have two great-grandchildren, Jasper Hayes and Mattie Vaughan.
The Glymphs said they are glad they settled in Union.
“We've enjoyed Union,” Norma said.
“It all worked out for the best,” Mack said.
Author: Book helps preserve mill village way of life
By ANNA BROWN
Dan O'Shields says he wanted to write “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?” in part to help preserve the mill village way of life he enjoyed so much growing up.
“From what I have seen the mill village culture is slowly disappearing; it's dying,” he said. “I felt like during the 1950s was such a good time for me. It wasn't for the families probably because there wasn't much money for the adults. For the kids it was a treasure trove of playmates all over the place. I saw that as a good time.”
Those reading the book will recognize places like Jail Hill and Union's downtown area, but they should not recognize any people - all are products of O'Shields' imagination.
“I guess everything we write is part of us in some kind of way,” he said. “Some of the personality characteristics of my family are certainly taken from what I remember but as far as any character, everything is fictional. I do describe some of the stores on Main Street. West End School is a big part of it but every event is fictional and all the characters I talk about are fictional.”
“Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?” is in part a story of a boy named Benji who wants very much to own a baseball card featuring the legend. But some things happen that readers might not expect.
O'Shields asked his friend, Union County Museum Director Ola Jean Kelly to write a review of the book and this is what she said:
“'Where Have You Gone Ted Williams?' the story of a boy growing up in a mill village, will resonate with all who lived that experience,” she said. “Many familiar places along Union's Main Street will revive memories of times past. But in the style of most southern authors, it is also a story of the human experience, the good and the bad and the very bad. Written in the narrative form, the tension builds from the everyday life of the boy, Benji, whose heart's desire is to own a Ted Williams baseball card, to a riveting conclusion. A real page turner! Great job author and Union native, Dr. Daniel O'Shields.”
O”Shields grew up on Lybrand Street and later on the Seigler Road. His wife, the former Kathy Kingsmore, also is a Union native. A retired psychotherapist, he worked in Orangeburg and later Colorado for many years. He holds a Ph.D. and his career included time spent working on a Navaho reservation in Southern Utah. He and his wife returned to Union County to live in 2005. He worked in private practice before retiring.
In his free time O'Shields began pursuing his writing interest. He has had several articles and short stories published, including an article on mill village porches in Sandlapper magazine, articles in “Birds and Blooms” and “Antiques and Collectibles Journal” and a short story about mill village grocery stores and delivery people in the on-line magazine “Bethlehem Writers Roundtable.” He read this piece in March during the USC-Union Literary Festival.
O'Shields has written the last two plays for Boogaloo Folklife presentations.
O'Shields said he started “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams” two or three times before he completed it. He said he read excerpts to his friends in the Union County Arts Council Writer's Group - Stephanie Bentley, Marilyn Mitra, Sally Parker and Father Louis Miller - and they greatly encouraged him and helped gently prod him forward
Friend and retired English teacher Jack Kelly III helped edit the book. Another close friend, Edward Riggs, helped with insightful comments and honest remarks.
O'Shields thanked his wife for her work with the book, including editing, offering computer skills, patience and guidance.
Mrs. Parker drew the cover picture, which features clock towers much like those on Buffalo Mill. O'Shields said he was very happy with the cover.
“It encompasses the feeling that the mill was the giant 'thing' overlooking the houses,” he said.
Copies of “Where Have You Gone Ted Williams” are $12.95 and are available at the Union County Museum, the Union County Arts Council, Economy Printing, Something Special, Union County News and Amazon.com. A portion of the proceeds from books sold at the museum and arts council will be donated to those two organizations. O'Shields plans to hold a books signing at the arts council and the museum soon.
Pretty in pink
Kaye Driggers becomes a national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics
By ANNA BROWN
Time was running out and Kaye Driggers was falling short of what she needed to do to accomplish her goal of becoming a national sales director for Mary Kay Cosmetics.
The Union native and her husband, Baptist minister Dr. Tim Driggers, prayed boldly to the Lord, as Joshua did when he asked the sun and moon to stop while he was engaged in battle.
Then Tim saw an announcement that those working toward becoming a director had been given 24 extra hours because of computer problems.
“If I had not gotten that extra 24 hours, it would not have gotten done,” said Kaye, who has won a pink Cadillac Escalade as part of the reward for becoming a national director. “God is so good. That was the most emotional part for me, to know that God loved me enough and wanted this goal for us, too, that he gave me 24 hours to get it done. It is the hardest thing I have ever done in Mary Kay and I have done a lot. I have won 11 Cadillacs and that is nothing compared to becoming a (national) director. You have to motivate and inspire. The 10 directors I had - I had to keep them motivated and going and then I had to produce 10 more.”
Both Kaye and Tim grew up in Union County. She is the daughter of Buck and Bessie Vinson and he is the son of the late Bill and Paunese Mitchell. Tim and Kaye have four children - Justin, Joshua, Jessica and Jenna - and nine grandchildren
During Tim's Army career, he and Kaye moved 17 times. She was first introduced to Mary Kay at a cosmetics party in Fayetteville, N.C. in 1979.
Over the years consultants tried to recruit Kay, but she did not become interested until she was living in Mesa, Ariz., in 1995.
“My Mary Kay consultant was my neighbor,” she said. “We were walking buddies. She worried me to death about Mary Kay. I told her no for about 18 months. She said, 'Sit down and let me explain how we make our money.'”
Kaye bought a Mary Kay starter kit but kept it for three weeks before she told anyone.
“I was afraid of what my family and friends would say,” she said. “But I believe God woke me up in the middle of the night and said, 'Your family and friends don't pay your bills.' I picked up the phone the next day and started booking parties.”
In six months she had earned her first car - a red Pontiac Grand Am - and she became a sales director.
Last year, Mary Kay treated Kaye and Tim to an all-expense paid trip to China. They had dinner on the Great Wall. This year they will go to Hawaii.
In May, while Kaye was working on her national director goal she went to Build a Bear and made a bear wearing an Hawaiian outfit. She recorded her voice and put it the bear saying, “You can and will be a national sales director by June30.”
“I played that over and over the entire months of May and June and that got drilled my mind,” she said. “What you think about you bring about.”
She named the bear “NSD” for national sales director. She plans to take it on stage with her when she is introduced during the national convention.
Kaye said she believes in Mary Kay as a beauty aid.
“We have awesome products,” she said. “I absolutely love the product. It makes women feel good. It makes them feel confident.”
Kaye's daughter-in-law, Sarah Driggers, is an executive senior sales director with Mary Kay and has earned a pink Cadillac. Kaye's daughter, Jenna Ellerbee, recently earned her second car and has become a sales director.
Alison Coker of Union works with Kaye and recently earned the title of sales director.
Kaye said motivation is the key in selling Mary Kay.
“One of my husband's favorite quotes that he has given me, and he uses this when he preaches a lot, “If you don't see it before you see it, you will never see it,'” she said.
Kaye said she hopes her career with Mary Kay will continue to grow and she can continue to recruit directors.
“I would like more women working with me,” she said. “I want to be able to inspire them. “
Kaye's theme song for the national convention is Bruno Mars' “Just the Way You Are.” She said she doesn't feel women are told enough that they are wonderful and special.
“That is my passion; this is my ministry,” she said. “I love to tell women you are amazing just the way you are. You need to be authentic. That is one thing I had to learn myself. If you look at some national sales director with Mary Kay sometimes they look perfect. I had to keep telling myself, 'Mary Kay needs a national like me.'”
Arson suspects say they are innocent
By ANNA BROWN
Two Union businessmen accused of setting fire to houses they had interests in have proclaimed their innocence, saying they had no motive to commit arson.
“I am ready for my day in court,” said William Howard “Wahoo” Gibson, one of the men charged. “I was scheduled to buy that house and I was going to make a profit on it. The fire caused me to lose money.”
Gibson, 44, of 126 Foster Farm Road was charged Tuesday with three counts of third-degree arson. Two of the charges were filed by the Union Public Safety Department and one charge was made by the Union County Sheriff's Office.
Robert Fred Small, 62, of 1818 Jonesville Highway was charged by the public safety department with two counts of third-degree arson.
The State Law Enforcement Division Arson Team assisted in the investigation of the cases.
Gibson and Small are accused of setting fire to two houses in the 700 block of Thomson Boulevard on May 13. The houses were in Small's wife's name.
Chief Sam White with the public safety department said authorities immediately thought the fires were suspicious in nature because neither unoccupied house was connected to utilities. An investigation determined an accelerant was used to start the fires.
Neither house was insured. White said there would have been no direct financial gain in burning the houses. He declined to elaborate on a motive because the case is still under investigation.
Small said he did not set fire to the houses on Thomson Boulevard and he felt that authorities did not question him appropriately about his whereabouts before he was arrested. He said he had approval from the City of Union building department to tear down the houses and had moved heavy equipment there for the demolition.
“I moved the tractor down there to destroy them and they caught on fire,” Small said. “Did the tractor catch them on fire that night? I don't know.”
Small said while he was at the houses earlier on the evening of the fire Gibson and another man pulled up and talked with him.
All three men left, Small said. An hour and a half to two hours later, Small said he received a call that the houses were on fire.
“I had no motive, no insurance,” he said. “There was nothing for me to benefit from it.”
Small said he bought the land because he wanted the road frontage and he had intended to develop it.
Small said he thinks he is a target of authorities because he speaks out about injustice and wrongdoing in local government.
In December, Small and an employee of his recycling business were charged with purchasing nonferrous metals and failure to purchase by check. According to court records, the charge against Small was dropped.
Gibson also is charged with setting fire to a $300,000 house in bank foreclosure on 246 Meadow Woods Road on June 9.
Sheriff David Taylor said Wells Fargo owned the house but Gibson had placed a deposit on it and was scheduled to take possession of it on June 11.
Taylor said there were issues with the water and sewer system in the house that Gibson may not have known about until he put down the deposit.
Gibson said he had been to the property on Meadow Woods Road several times in connection with purchasing the house but he had not been there on the morning of the fire.
Jack O’Dell, Midway BBQ founder, dies
By GRAHAM WILLIAMS
For many people, it wouldn't be the Fourth of July without Jack O'Dell's barbecue and hash.
O'Dell, whose food is a Fourth of July tradition in Union County, died Friday at age 86.
“He loved to see people with food,” said Jay Allen, O'Dell's son-in-law. “He'd rather see people enjoying food than anything else.”
O'Dell started cooking his barbecue and hash when he was 13 in a field next to his father's store in Monarch. He borrowed money from his sister, Ethel Holden, to purchase a calf and pig and then borrowed enough pots to cook in.
“He was a fighter from the word go,” Allen said. “A lot of people don't know this, but he went under three or four times before he was successful in his 40s.”
In a 2010 interview, O'Dell recalled the days when as many as 45 people cooked hash and barbecue in Union County.
Customers would sit all night long while the meats were cooked, visiting and enjoying the aroma. They brought their own plates and buckets to carry hash and barbecue home. O'Dell remembered on one occasion some folks visiting Union County from California were in the crowd on a July 3rd night.
“Back then that particular night was as good a holiday as any,” he said.
For years, O'Dell held a full time job to support his wife, Louise, and their three children: Col. John O'Dell, Jeannie O’Dell and Amy Allen. He cooked hash and barbecue on weekends and holidays as a sideline. He borrowed pots from others and cooked in a field. If skies were threatening, he would call the funeral home and ask for a tent. O'Dell's Grocery burned in 1970 and shortly after that, O'Dell opened Midway Barbecue on Main Street, Buffalo. O'Dell chose the address: 811 Hash Boulevard.
“His hash will go down as one of the best ever,” Allen said.
For more than 30 years, O'Dell was a familiar face at Midway Barbecue, where he cooked, served and greeted customers.
“He loved Midway; he put his heart and soul into everything he did,” Allen said. “He loved people and he loved to eat. Eating was his favorite hobby.”
When O'Dell's health began to decline he asked his daughter and son-in-law to take over the business.
“He hired Amy and I - he needed two people to do the work he did,” Allen said. “He was leery about asking us to come back; he was scared to death we wouldn't make it. He told me, 'Don't put your own money in this; if you do, close the doors and run.'”
O'Dell had one rule: “Do not ever change my recipes,” Allen said. “We haven't and we never will.”
O'Dell always put his family first, Allen said.
“He cared about his kids and his grandkids,” he said. “He didn't care for material things. He always told me, 'Put all your energy in Midway. Don't try to invest in other things. It's just you and your family. If you manage the small things, the big things will happen.' Being a product of the Depression the small things meant a lot.”
Odell served in the U.S. Navy during World War II as a fireman first class on board the submarine USS Odax, SS484 and was member American Legion Post 22 for more than 60 years.
“Nobody loved his country, his family and his God more than him,” Allen said.
Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. today at First Baptist Church conducted by the Rev. Robert Emory.
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