The Year in Review… A Look Back at 2021, Part 3

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Old Timers' Day

SEPTEMBER

Spectators lined the streets of Collinwood on Saturday, September 4 for the parade that kicked off the annual Old Timers’ Day festivities in the City Park. Mr. and Mrs. Old Timer, Donald Brewer and Laveda Murphy, were proud of the certificates they were presented that made the titles official! Hundreds of people passed through the park throughout the day to enjoy the live music and various vendor booths that were set up selling everything from food to t-shirts and everything in between. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and everyone seemed to have a fabulous time!

#55 Addie Quillen

Lance Wade Woods, of Cypress Inn, Tennessee, made front page news in Tennessee and Alabama in September after pleading guilty to one count of video voyeurism, allegedly admitting to recording a female co-worker in a bathroom inside a Tennessee Valley Authority facility. The alleged incident took place on April 29, 2019, at a Colbert County, Alabama TVA facility, investigators said. Woods later allegedly admitted to the victim that he specifically hid the camera to record her. According to a civil suit that was filed, the alleged victim said Woods installed a motion-activated, digital spy camera inside an air conditioning vent in a ladies’ bathroom in a field machine shop on TVA property in Muscle Shoals. She also alleged that Woods made suggestive comments to her on several occasions. Woods was later sentenced to three years’ probation and a $5,000 fine.

The Collinwood High School and Collinwood Middle School Trojanette girls’ volleyball teams kicked off their 2021 seasons in September with District wins. These young ladies are among the first to ever play girls’ volleyball in Wayne County. #55 Addie Quillen is pictured putting one down the middle for the Trojanettes.

The Horseshoe Riverbend Festival, hosted by the Clifton Rotary Club, was held on Saturday, September 11. The 2021 event was somewhat different than in years past, but was still fabulous with live music at the new Riverfront Park Stage next to the Tennessee River. Performers at the event included Kimberlie Helton, Glen Templeton, and The Midnighters.

The Wayne County High School Wildcats and their parents received a scare at the WCHS vs. Loretto football game on September 10 when Wildcat Timmy Robbins suffered a neck stinger and concussion during the game. Due to the nature of the injuries, authorities at the game deemed it necessary to have Robbins transported to a Nashville hospital for further examination. Thankfully, the young man was released from the hospital the following day.

Heidi Bundrant, daughter of Jeremy and Brandi Bundrant and a 7th grader at Waynesboro Middle School, was double crowned at US Pageantry Nationals in Pigeon Forge, TN on August 28, 2021. She became the new National US Pageantry Pre-Teen and National Miss US Pageantry People’s Choice. She also received Best Dressed, Best Personality, and Most Beautiful. She received perfect scores from the judges in the categories of Beauty and Interview and had amazing performances in Talent, Theme Wear, and Fun Fashion. Heidi began her journey on August 29, 2020 when she won her title Miss US Pageantry Junior Miss Great Smoky Mountains in Pigeon Forge, TN. During her reign of Miss Great Smoky Mountains, she started her own charity called Heidi’s Christmas Wish. She collected and delivered over 300 toys to kids all over Tennessee and donated $1000.00 to our local Wayne County Angel Tree. Heidi also raised over $700.00 for her platform Luke’s FastBreaks, made get well cards for kids all over the United States, helped make valentine cards for our local Assisted Living, and helped make and distribute masks for our community.

Heidi Bundrant

The Wayne County News was added in September to the list of unfortunate businesses in Wayne County that have been duped by counterfeit money. When going through cash taken in at the newspaper office, WCN Bookkeeper Kara Turnbow noticed that one particular $20 bill seemed different in texture and size from the rest. Upon closer inspection, the bill had other counterfeit identifiers such as uneven borders and odd-looking serial numbers. A test with a counterfeit pen proved that the $20 bill was indeed a fake. When retailers accept fake bills, they bear the entire burden of the loss. Although counterfeiters’ techniques have improved over the years, the bad bills can be detected. Unfortunately for businesses, not all counterfeit bills are found and seized before getting into distribution. And when a business accepts fake money in payment for merchandise or services, they lose the face value of the money they received plus any good or services they provided to the customer who paid with the counterfeit money.

At their annual conference in September 2021, the Tennessee Emergency Number Association (TENA) recognized the Wayne County E911 Center by presenting 911 Director Jimmy Turnbow and Sheriff Shane Fisher with the TENA “Dispatch Event of the Year” award which recognizes the hard work, professionalism and dedication a 911 center displays during a critical incident. The TENA awards committee reviewed all incidents that were submitted to them, and after review, chose Wayne County to receive the award to recognize the lifesaving efforts displayed on a call that involved a young Wayne County boy in February of 2021. While this was quite an honor for the 911 Center, the awards committee didn’t stop there. Out of the thousands of 911 telecommunicators and professionals across the state of Tennessee, they chose to present one of their highest awards to Wayne County 911 Operator Conley (Bobby) Simmons by presenting him with the TENA “Telecommunicator of the Year” award. The award was presented to Simmons in recognition of his actions during the event for which the 911 Center was recognized. Operator Simmons stayed on the phone for over 37 minutes giving lifesaving instructions and encouragement to the family until help arrived, showing professionalism and dedication that went above and beyond.

Family, friends, and his brothers and sisters in law enforcement mourned the death of Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy Matthew Locke following a deadly shooting in September 2021. Initial information indicated that just after 8:30 p.m., deputies with the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office, an officer with the Clifton Police Department, and deputies with the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to a residence in the Cobb Farm area on the Wayne/Hardin county line in reference to a domestic disturbance. Upon arrival, officers made contact with Todd Alan Stricklin, who was armed with a handgun. Officers ordered Stricklin to drop the weapon, but he refused. As Hardin County Deputy Matthew Locke approached the home to assist, Stricklin shot him. The deputy was transported to a local hospital, where he later died. Stricklin ran from the scene into a wooded area. Numerous law enforcement agencies responded to assist in the search. A few hours later, Stricklin was located and taken into custody by troopers with the Tennessee Highway Patrol. Stricklin was charged with one count of First Degree Murder. He was initially booked into the Hardin County Jail before being transferred to the Chester County Jail.

The mystery still continues surrounding human remains that were found in what remained of a burned house on 48 Creek Road. Firefighters were alerted to the fire on Saturday, September 25th. The reportedly uninhabited house ended up as a total loss after the fire department fought the flames for several hours. According to Wayne County Sheriff Shane Fisher, an individual who may have had connections to the property owner came to the burned house the day after the fire and was looking through what remained of the contents when they discovered what appeared to be human remains. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) took over the investigation at that point at the request of Sheriff Fisher and District Attorney General Brent Cooper. The remains were then sent to the Medical Examiner’s Office in Nashville, where they were ultimately confirmed to be human. The TBI has declined to release any more details, including who the person was and how they died. Therefore, it is still unknown why the person was in the house, and if they died due to the fire and smoke or if they were already deceased when the fire started.

OCTOBER

For the second time in just over a week, a law enforcement officer lost his life in the line of duty in an incident with Wayne County ties. Sgt. Nick Risner of the Sheffield, Alabama Police Department died on Saturday morning, October 2, from injuries he sustained a day earlier when he was shot by an offender who had just shot and killed a Cypress Inn man. Authorities said in a press conference that Brian Lansing Martin, age 41, of Sheffield, AL shot and pushed an individual out of a vehicle near the 800 block of Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals. That individual was later identified as William Clare Mealback, Jr., age 58, of Cypress Inn. Responding officers discovered Mealback shot and left for dead on the street. After abandoning his first victim, Martin stole another vehicle. Sheffield Police spotted the vehicle and chased Martin back into Muscle Shoals, behind the Walmart on Avalon Avenue. There, Martin and law enforcement officers from multiple agencies exchanged gunfire. Sheffield officer Lt. Max Dotson was hit but protected from severe injury by his vest, while Sgt. Risner was shot through his vehicle’s windshield, succumbing to his injuries the following day.

Sgt. Nick Risner

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes huddles of Wayne County hosted their annual Fields of Faith on Sunday, October 3. The event was moved indoors to the CHS Gym due to a soggy field, but oh, what a blessing this event was! Each school presented a skit or drama. Wayne County is certainly blessed with amazing students who love their Lord and Savior! Clifton huddles did skits about a Sin Box and Duct Tape. The moral of the story was that we should never let sin bog us down because we have a loving and a forgiving God. We should want to tell everyone about him. Collinwood High acted out a drama to “Don’t Tread on Me.” God will always prevail over anything this world can offer us. Collinwood Middle had songs that Tessa Littrell and Jordan Andrews choreographed for the CMS huddle to perform. The first one was to “Smile.” We should choose joy each day and smile our troubles away. The second was to “My Jesus.” If you need to listen to an uplifting song, then this is the one, hallelujah and amen. Shaina and Shawna Calton shared their beautiful voices with the attendees of the event. Landon Thompson accompanied them on the drums, and everyone was blessed by these students’ talents. Billy Calton led the crowd to a favorite hymn, “Amazing Grace.” The huddle from Waynesboro was joined by the CHS huddle and they performed to “Rescue.” No matter what our darkest days are, God is with us. He sends his angels to encamp us. He will be there through everything we face. He answers our prayers in His way and on His time. We only have to look to our heavenly Father for all that we need.

The Wayne County Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual Awards Ceremony on Thursday, October 14. The event had to be cancelled last year due to the pandemic, but the “Roaring Twenties” theme was in full “swing” at this year’s event, held at the Collinwood Recreation building. Guest speaker at the event was U.S. Congressman Mark Green. A special slide show was presented that highlighted Wayne County in the 1920s…a decade that most of us don’t remember but love to hear about! There was also a 20s-themed costume contest for all the dapper suits and flapper dresses that were donned for the evening. Wayne County Road Superintendent Chuck Moser received the “Person of the Year” award, along with several other deserving groups and individuals who were awarded for their accomplishments.

Chuck Moser

Tennier Industries, the military apparel factory that celebrated its Grand Opening in Waynesboro on October 24th, 2018, announced almost three years to the day later that they would be closing their doors permanently. In a letter to employees and city officials, Tennier Industries CFO Lester Albert said in part, “Due to the loss of contracts that were anticipated to be in effect, the Company is having to close the Waynesboro facility. This layoff is expected to be permanent unless new contracts are obtained.” Waynesboro Mayor Chris Bevis stated at the time of the plant closing, “The City of Waynesboro strongly supports the Joint Economic and Community Development Board’s persistence in trying to attract new businesses to our area. We are always open to the prospect of a new business in Waynesboro.”

Governor Bill Lee and State Representative David Byrd joined county and local officials and business owners on October 25 for the Groundbreaking Ceremony at the site of the new Ag Center in Industrial Park on Highway 13 South. The Wayne County Agricultural Center (Ag Center) will support existing farmers and ag-based businesses and help develop the next generation of farmers. The facility will house the local UT Extension and Soil and Conservation offices, a 125-person training/meeting room, commercial kitchen, and a covered pavilion to provide outdoor classroom and event space. The grounds around this facility will be used for ag-related shows, demonstrations and eventually, community gardens. This project will allow expansion of existing ag-related programming, encourage more entrepreneur farmers, and provide training to increase farm production levels, thus increasing the number of jobs in the agriculture industry. The Ag Center is expected to be completed and ready for use in the summer of 2022.

An 18-wheeler hauling a load of pulpwood logs overturned on Main Street in Waynesboro on October 21, 2021 just before 8:00 a.m. The street was blocked for several hours while the logs, truck, and trailer were removed. Many residents were without power for some time while TVEC worked to get the power restored. Reports stated that the driver of the truck fortunately was not injured in the rollover accident.

Four more stars were added to the Wayne County Museum’s Music Walk of Fame on October 28. Mark Collie spent his younger years growing up in Wayne and Hardin Counties. His debut album, titled “Hardin County Line,” was released in 1990. Since that first album, Mark has written songs not only for himself but for other performers, including Garth Brooks and Tim McGraw. Mark has also appeared in feature films and on television. Glendon Davis was part of the Grand Ole Opry band for several years. He also performed with George Jones’ “Jones Boys.” Loyd Howell was a long time musician, along with being a business and civic leader. Howell experienced success with a record by the title “Froggy,” and enjoyed commercial success abroad. Melba Montgomery was born into a musical family in Iron City, Tennessee. Her career began as a duet partner with George Jones before going solo in the early 1970s. Since 1997, Montgomery has focused her attention on songwriting.

NOVEMBER

Following a lengthy investigation that began in August 2020, Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies, under the guidance of Sheriff Shane Fisher, made multiple arrests in November 2021 for large amounts of methamphetamine distribution in Wayne County. The Wayne County Grand Jury heard evidence that resulted in the indictments of many individuals from Wayne and surrounding counties on charges including possession of methamphetamine with intent to sell and conspiracy to distribute over 300 grams of methamphetamine. Sheriff Fisher stated that the investigation involved massive amounts of meth being distributed and sold in Wayne County. Sheriff Fisher went on to state that Operation Cleanout was a joint effort with Wayne County Law Enforcement, the District Attorney’s Office, the 22nd Judicial Drug Task Force, and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation. “We have worked the case all the way up to the cartel level, which is as far up as it goes,” said Sheriff Fisher. The Sheriff ended his statement on the operation with these words, “If you are responsible for bringing meth into Wayne County, we want you to know, we are coming for you. You WILL BE held accountable.”

A ceremony was held on November 10, 2021 to dedicate the Emergency Medical Services (EMS) facility at Wayne Medical Center as the Joe I. Hall, MD, EMS Building. Dr. Hall was a family medicine specialist who served on the WMC medical staff from 1996 until the time of his passing on November 12, 2020. During that tenure, he served as chief of the hospital’s medical staff for numerous terms. “Dr. Hall was a beloved member of our medical staff and served as a mentor to many of our employees through his dedication to his patients and community,” said WMC CEO Tyler Taylor. “We are deeply honored to be able to remember Dr. Hall by dedicating this facility in his name.” In addition to his service to the local medical community, Dr. Hall was a member of the Wayne County Commission at the time of his passing.

A devastating mobile home fire claimed the life of a 62-year-old Collinwood man, Michael Kennedy, on November 17. At approximately 9:30 p.m., firefighters were called to a mobile home at 906 Keeton Hollow Road in Collinwood. When they arrived on scene, the mobile home was reportedly fully engulfed in flames. According to the report, Kennedy and his son Tristen were asleep inside the home when the fire broke out. Kennedy alerted his son to the fire, and Tristen was initially able to exit the home. However, when Tristen attempted to go back into the home to help his father get out, the flames had fully engulfed the kitchen where his father was located. The report states that Tristen tried a second time to get inside to his father, but he again was unable to get in because of heavy smoke and flames. Mike Kennedy was pronounced DOA at the scene. His son Tristen sustained smoke inhalation and burns to his back, face, and hands. He was transported by Air Evac to Skyline Medical Center for treatment.

Family members of the late Waynesboro City Judge Bob Turman were in attendance at the Waynesboro City Commission meeting on November 22 to accept a plaque honoring the late Robert “Bob” Turman for his 37 years of service as City Judge. Judge Turman was the last City Judge in Tennessee that was not an attorney (the law changed several years ago, but Judge Turman was “grandfathered” in and able to retain his position). City Manager Hickman and the commissioners all shared their memories of Judge Turman, who was also an educator in the Wayne County School System for many years. City Manager Hickman said that the plaque will be on display for anyone entering the courtroom to see.

Every year, the Tennessee Solid Waste Director’s Association awards a solid waste director with the prestigious “Director of the Year” award. This year, the award was given to Wayne County’s own Robert Hayes. The Association chooses the winner based on years of excellence and leadership in the solid waste and recycling industry. Mike Stooksberry, senior environmental management consultant at CTAS stated, “Robert Hayes has been Wayne County’s Solid Waste Director for nearly 30 years. He has been recognized for his innovation for collection system development throughout the state. He has served on various boards and is always trying to improve Tennessee’s solid waste management and recycling.” Under Hayes’ leadership, Wayne County has been able to process recyclables for other counties when their programs have had to pause due to disasters or the pandemic. This has not only prevented recyclable material from being landfilled, it has also brought in revenue for Wayne County. Hayes currently serves as a board member for the Tennessee Recycling Coalition and has been instrumental in organizing training opportunities and scholarships through different organizations to provide advanced education for new solid waste professionals.

DECEMBER

The annual Festival of Trees display was up at the Wayne County Courthouse during the month of December. The festive Christmas trees adorn all three floors of the courthouse with their colorful and creative decorations. The lovely Christmas trees are decorated by local churches, businesses, and civic organizations.

The Wonderland of Trees display at the Wayne County Welcome Center, sponsored by the Welcome Center and the Collinwood Beautification Board, gave residents in the south part of the county a beautiful display of trees to enjoy without having to drive to Waynesboro.

The annual Christmas Parade tradition in Wayne County got underway on December 4 with the Waynesboro Rotary Christmas Parade, themed to the movie “Christmas Vacation.” The Downtown Waynesboro Committee hosted the second annual “Christmas on the Square” event on parade day, featuring lots of vendor booths and activities for the kids. The beautiful Stroll Through Christmas was held in Clifton on December 11, and Collinwood’s Christmas Parade, sponsored by the Collinwood Beautification Board, took place on December 12. People lined the streets for all three events as the holiday season was “officially” ushered in.

The Downtown Waynesboro Committee’s judges had the opportunity to go out and see all of the beautiful decorations and light displays that our wonderful community residents and business owners created for Christmas 2021. Every entry was decorated differently, and each home and business owner put in a lot of time and effort to dress up the streets and sidewalks in holiday style. Of all the contest participants that adorned their homes and businesses with festive decor and twinkling lights, the judges picked the winners for the 2021 Decorating Contest to be Andrew Helton Law and the Hammond’s family home.

Carlie Steele and Aly Wilson

Collinwood High School Senior Cheerleaders Aly Wilson and Carlie Steele were among 600 high school cheerleaders from across the country representing the camp brand “Varsity Spirit” in the Varsity Spirit Pearl Harbor Memorial Parade in Honolulu, Hawaii from December 4-8, 2021. Besides being able to perform for true national heroes, Aly and Carlie had the opportunity to meet cheerleaders and dancers from across that nation and enjoy a memorable trip to the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the USS Missouri Battleship. CHS Senior Cheerleader Rachel Stults was selected to perform with the Varsity Spirit All-Americans in a one-of-a-kind performance parade through Disney’s Magic Kingdom Park in the 2021 Thanksgiving Tour at the Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Florida. While also being able to enjoy a sunny trip to Orlando, Rachel and the other All-Americans were able to enjoy the beginning of a magical holiday season at Walt Disney World. These talented young ladies from CHS were part of a select group of cheerleaders and dancers chosen as All-Americans during Varsity Spirit summer camps across the country. Aly Wilson is the daughter of Allison and Darren Pounders and Brian Wilson. Carlie Steele is the daughter of Jeffery and Jenia Steele. Rachel is the daughter of Stephen and Joy Stults.

Rachel Stults

Sgt. Timmy Harris of the Clifton Police Department and Deputy James Damron of the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office were presented in December with the Silver Star for Bravery Award at the American Police Hall of Fame’s national awards ceremony. On September 25, 2021, these officers went above and beyond in the line of duty to save the life of Deputy Matthew Locke, a Hardin County Sheriff’s Deputy who sadly succumbed to his gunshot injuries. The Hardin County Sheriff’s Office stated that they, along with the entire law enforcement community, are “blessed to have such brave officers that work to keep our communities safe.”

A tragic accidental shooting led to the death of a 20-year-old Waynesboro man on Thursday, December 16th, according to officials from the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Shane Fisher released a statement on the shooting, saying, “On Thursday, December 16, 2021, at approximately 8:27 PM Wayne County dispatch received a call of a gunshot victim being transported to meet emergency medical services. Wayne County Sheriff’s Deputies responded and confirmed a single gunshot victim was transported to Wayne Medical Center then onto Vanderbilt University Medical Center. The victim, identified as Blasedon Smith, succumbed to the injuries. The incident is under investigation by the Wayne County Sheriff’s Office but preliminary investigation shows the incident to be a tragic accident.”

On December 18, 2021, the Waynesboro Police Department, assisted by Santa Claus, hosted their annual Cops for Kids event at Dad’s Pizzeria for eleven special children in the Waynesboro area. Each child got to eat pizza with the police officers and received toys, a jacket, and a Piggly Wiggly gift card as part of the annual Cops for Kids program. This was all made possible by the generosity of Dad’s Pizzeria and $2,812.00 in donations from the community, local businesses, citizens, City Hall staff, the Waynesboro Police Department officers, Santa (aka Roger), and the Waynesboro City Commission. Part of the donations came from proceeds paid by City Manager Hickman and all Waynesboro Police Department staff donating money to participate in No Shave November and December. The officers look forward to this program all year long.

The dedicated volunteers for the Angel Tree program in Wayne County once again had an overwhelmingly successful event in 2021. Program Director Amy Van Fleet said that 432 children had a great Christmas with the gifts the program purchased for them from donations made by many caring citizens of our community. Amy and all her helpers are to be commended for their many hours of work on the project, and all who made donations can feel great knowing how much they helped these deserving children during the holiday season.

The year 2021 came in with the whole country, or rather the whole world, still in the middle of a pandemic that no one had seen the likes of in our lifetimes. As we said goodbye to 2021, progress was being made in the fight against COVID, although it is still looming large in everyone’s mind in the early months of 2022. As we usher in this new year, we at The Wayne County News truly wish great blessings of health and prosperity upon our readers, family and friends.

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