2021 began in much the same way that 2020 ended – the COVID pandemic was (and is still) a big part of our lives. What began as an illness that most thought couldn’t possibly affect our little Wayne County communities has claimed the lives of many of our loved ones. The numbers have gone down since the vaccines came out, but there is still no way to know how many of us will be affected by this strange and powerful virus.
The Wayne County Health Department began administering COVID vaccines on December 21, 2020, but ran out early in January 2021. The first phase of vaccinations declared by the state included healthcare workers such as nurses, doctors, first responders, etc. The Health Department and other medical facilities continued to administer the vaccine when it became available.
Several new laws went into effect in January 2021, including a new law that raised the minimum age to purchase tobacco products from 18 to 21. President Trump signed into law a provision in the federal budget making it a violation to sell tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21, including e-cigarettes and vaping cartridges. The use of vaping and e-cigarette products has grown dramatically over the past several years among youth. A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study shows that 19.6 percent of high schoolers and 4.7 percent of middle school students reported are frequent users.
The City of Clifton Commission elected a new Mayor and Vice Mayor in January. Former Mayor Randy Burns stated that he did not wish to be considered for the position again and nominated Commissioner Mark Staggs for the position. Staggs was elected by the commission as Mayor, and Commissioner Eva Ruth Warren was voted in as Vice Mayor.
With high school basketball in full swing in January, the Collinwood High School Trojanettes defeated county rival Wayne County High School Lady Cats by only two points, 53-51. The WCHS Wildcats pulled out a win over the CHS Trojans, defeating them by a score of 61-50. You can be assured that this county rivalry will continue in all school sports every year, but off the court and off the field, many friendships have been forged between Wildcats and Trojans!
The Wayne County School Board voted in January to continue the modified student attendance schedule. Students were on what was called an “AABB” schedule, with students divided into two groups that attended school in-person two days per week. COVID was once again to blame for changes in our normal everyday lives. Thankfully, Wayne County students are once again on a normal school schedule which will hopefully be permanent.
The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce elected a new Board of Directors in January. The new board consists of Chuck Koblentz, President; Steven Turnbow, Vice President; and Stacey Brewer, Secretary. Christine Chapman is Executive Director of the Chamber.
The Tennessee Cattlemen’s Association (TCA) and Tennessee Cattlemen’s Youth Association (TCYA) recognized a young lady from Wayne County in a January awards ceremony. Avery Rowlett from Wayne County and Collin Cook from Robertson County received top honors for the 2020 Tennessee’s Top Tier program year. Rowlett was awarded show heifer of the year and Cook was awarded show steer of the year. Rowlett and Cook received a one-year lease of a 20-foot aluminum livestock trailer.
Wayne County lost an icon on January 25 when Leon Patrick “Pat” Brewer passed away. Throughout Mr. Brewer’s career, he served as a high school chemistry teacher, basketball coach, counselor, principal, school board member, and eventually Superintendent of Wayne County Schools. The Collinwood football stadium was named “Pat Brewer Stadium” in honor of Mr. Brewer’s contributions to the school system.
High school sports events returned to a more normal state in February when Governor Bill Lee announced that he was suspending Executive Order 74 on who could attend high school sports events. The greatest impact of the order suspension was that cheerleaders were once again allowed to cheer at sporting events. The restriction on fan attendance numbers was lifted as well.
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolded, scientists began researching outpatient treatment options to combat the virus in its early stages. In February 2021, Wayne Medical Center and Maury Regional Hospital began offering a monoclonal antibody intravenous treatment. Monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off the virus. Treatment should be administered within seven days of symptom onset and is not for patients who are currently hospitalized due to COVID-19 or who require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19.
For the first time in several seasons, Wayne County found itself directly in the path of a devastating winter storm that laid a path of destruction across much of the country. Winter Storm Uri’s impact was felt deeper in the south of our nation than usual, and as the northerly winds of the Gulf Coast pushed on the storm, much of West and Middle Tennessee felt its fury. Luckily, there were not as many power outages as had originally been feared; however, the roadway situation made travel virtually impossible. Many businesses were forced to close, and Wayne County schools were closed for an extended period of time.
Two young children were pulled from the frigid waters of a Wayne County pond after the ice they were on collapsed on February 24, 2021. The children, ages seven and four, were pulled from a pond in the Lutts community after falling through the ice on top of the pond. The 4-year-old, identified as Luke Bowen, was under water for approximately five minutes before being pulled out by his grandmother and other siblings. His father performed CPR until first responders arrived. Luke was airlifted to Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital, and thankfully survived the terrifying incident.
On February 22, 2021, the Wayne County Commission appointed Katherine Reeves to serve as 7th District commissioner, fulfilling the seat left vacant by the passing of Commissioner Dr. Joe Hall. Commissioner Hall passed away in November 2020 due to complications from COVID-19.
COVID nursing home restrictions were lifted on March 1, 2021. This came as great news to family members of long-term care residents, some of whom had not been able to have in-person contact with their loved ones for almost a year. Although there were still many guidelines in place for nursing home visitors, they were still overjoyed to be able to communicate with their loved ones face-to-face.
Waynesboro Elementary School was excited to announce that Kindergarten teacher Mrs. Ashlee Long had been selected as WKRN News 2’s Educator of the Week. “WES, along with our entire county, is home to some amazing, transformative teachers,” said Principal Brad Stooksberry. “It is worth celebrating when we are able to show off one on a state-wide platform!”
The WCHS/CHS Boys’ Soccer season got underway on March 15, 2021. These young men worked diligently all offseason in hopes to be able to play in the spring, since their season was cut short last year due to the pandemic. The team went on to have a successful season.
The baseball field at Collinwood High School was dedicated in March 2021 in memory of a very special former Head Baseball Coach for the Trojans, the late Adam Andrews. When Adam was fifteen years old, he was rendered a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the neck down, due to a football injury. Determined to get back to a “normal life,” Adam returned to school, with the help of his dad as his aide, in March of 2003, a mere five months after his accident. He graduated from Collinwood High School in 2005 and went on to earn two Bachelor’s Degrees. Adam was employed at Collinwood High School for several years as a College Counselor, Assistant Football Coach, and Head Baseball Coach. Adam Andrews passed away on December 24, 2019, from complications of pneumonia.
Residents in the Natural Bridge Road / Highway 99 area of Waynesboro experienced Mother Nature’s fury in full force on March 25 when a confirmed EF2 tornado with winds up to 130 mph touched down and destroyed homes and property. Thankfully, no serious injuries or loss of life occurred due to the damaging storm. The Stricklin family sheltered 20 people in their basement on Natural Bridge Road, and large downed trees had to be cut away from the home before the people could be rescued. TVA and TVEC crews worked throughout the following days and nights to get power restored to Wayne Countians as soon as possible. The Wayne County Highway Department also put in long hours clearing debris to make all county roads passable once again.
The usually peaceful waters of Green River and other creeks quickly turned into a flood of muddy water and debris on March 31, 2021, consuming and destroying some bridges and roadways. Many Wayne County residents whose homes are close to creeks experienced flood waters that overtook their yards, basements, and vehicles. Homes on Brewer Drive near Bundrant’s Car Care in Waynesboro once again received the brunt of the Green River flood waters, as they have many times before.
Just in time for the Dixie Youth season, some much-needed work and repairs were completed at the Collinwood Dixie Youth baseball and softball fields. Using materials including gravel and wood donated by the City of Collinwood, volunteers worked on the area in front of the concession stand and repaired the wooden stairs leading down to Field #1.
New artwork was added to the Waynesboro square last April in the form of a colorful mural promoting some of the natural outdoor beauty of our county. The mural was partially funded by a 2021 Tourism Grant, along with local funding.
In the midst of the global COVID pandemic, American Picker Mike Wolfe joined leaders from 13 rural Middle Tennessee and Northwest Alabama communities to launch a regional movement dubbed “Nashville’s Big Back Yard.” To help roll out the project, Wolfe produced a series of social media messages and videos on location throughout the NBBY region. Carl Griggs, owner of Carl’s Music Studio in Waynesboro, was featured in one of these social media messages. In 2005, Carl closed Hodges Jewelry Store (which he had owned and operated for over thirty years) and opened what is now Carl’s Music Studio on the square. Carl learned to play the violin several years ago, along with the piano, guitar, and ukulele.
On April 12, 2021, the Waynesboro City Commission approved the second reading of an ordinance to rename a portion of Fairlane Drive to Dr. Hall’s Way, in honor of the late Dr. Joe Hall. Dr. Hall passed away on November 12, 2020 after suffering complications from COVID-19. Not only was Dr. Hall a beloved family doctor in the community, he was also a member of the Wayne County Commission and many other organizations. The renamed road runs in front of Hall Medical (Dr. Hall’s clinic).
On April 14, a Waynesboro man led officers from several counties on a high-speed chase while driving a Waynesboro City Police patrol vehicle. James William Berry had been arrested on domestic assault charges and was placed in the back seat of the patrol vehicle to be transported to the Wayne County Jail. Berry somehow managed to escape from the handcuffs and maneuver himself through the opening into the front seat of the vehicle. At that time, he sped away in the stolen vehicle with the emergency lights on. The pursuit ended when the vehicle ran out of gas in Williamson County.
A violent sex offender was arrested on April 19, 2021 after confronting an off-duty police officer at the Waynesboro City Park. Earl Eugene Rose, age 57, of Murfreesboro, TN, was arrested after Lt. Jeremy Staggs of the Waynesboro Police Department, who was off-duty at the time, was approached by Rose at the park while Lt. Staggs was in his personal vehicle. Lt. Staggs said that Rose, who he had never seen before, became very aggressive toward him. Lt. Staggs contacted Officer Darren Pounders, who responded to the scene and found Rose sitting approximately 30 feet from a group of children. When Officer Pounders ran Rose’s information through the NCIC computer system, he discovered that Rose was a violent sex offender. Rose was arrested and booked into the Wayne County Jail.
Earth Day 2021, April 22, was an amazing day in Clifton with the Wayne County Beautification Project and students from Frank Hughes School. These awesome kids pulled out an impressive 2,814 lbs. of trash from the Tennessee River! “These impressive kids had the best attitude, showed a hard work ethic the entire cleanup, and used teamwork to get the job done—all things that give hope for our future,” said Kathleen Gibi, Executive Director for Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful.
Watch for next week’s edition of The Wayne County News for Part 2 of the “Year in Review.”