While COVID dominated 2020, other highlights came from it
Published 11:07 pm Thursday, December 31, 2020
Little did we know then that the header for the centerpiece story of the Jan. 2, 2020 edition of The Stanly News & Press would be the anthem for the year.
“On The Front Lines.”
It was a story about paramedics dealing with opioid overdoses, which was really the story of 2019 and the county’s battle with that epidemic.
Many of us had never experienced what the word pandemic meant.
For those first couple months of 2020, it was mostly business as usual. Candidates were ramping up their campaigns. Students were enjoying sports. Bryson Childress got an offer to play D-I basketball at High Point University.
By the end of January, we had a new president of the Stanly County Chamber of Commerce, Sandy Selvy-Mullis, and news that the Chamber was moving its headquarters to Stanly County Commons.
Also in January, two “Idiots” decided to get married. Edwin Kibowen and Simeka Vaughn became engaged at the 18th annual Fellowship of the Idiots run.
Former district and superior court judge Lisa Blue Thacker died Jan. 26 at her home in Anson County. Guardian Ad Litem Supervisor Jon-Michael Haymond, a former juvenile court counselor, considered her courtroom nature as caring, but stern. “She always struck me as being hard but fair on the juveniles in court,” he said. “She almost always addressed them like a concerned mother rather than a judge.”
By the time the Feb. 1-2 issue of The SNAP hit homes, coronavirus was on the front page.
And it’s been a constant ever since.
The law offices of Charles Parnell at 200 Second St. were destroyed by a fire Feb. 2. The office of Mark Lowder and Kirk Bowling at 120 Kirk Ave. was also hit by fire the same morning. The Parnell office, located across from the courthouse, was housed it what was historically known as the King House, dating back to 1898. A former cottage was built on the same spot before the King House in 1850.
An EF-1 tornado touched down Feb. 6 in Albemarle. The steeple from Friendship Methodist Church in Albemarle broke off during the storm. Numerous trees were also toppled in the storm, many landing on homes.
West Stanly Middle School eighth-grader NiJae Hicks won the Stanly County Schools Spelling Bee.
Gray Stone Day School won the Stanly County High School Quiz Bowl Feb. 15. Two teams each from Albemarle, Gray Stone, North Stanly, South Stanly, Stanly Early College and West Stanly competed in a double elimination format.
Texas Sen. Ted Cruz campaigned at the Stanly County Fairgrounds Feb. 16 for his friend E.C. Sykes, a raleigh businessman who was running for N.C. Secretary of State.
By the time the Feb. 27 issue of the SNAP rolled around, Richfield was discussing the purchase of property to have a bigger town hall. The council had eyes on an old Richfield medical building that has been vacant for years.
At the Chamber of Commerce’s annual meeting on Feb. 25, Peter Asciutto was named the 2019 Citizen of the Year and Sylvia Lewis was honored as the 2019 Ambassador of the Year.
In the March 3 primary election, Rufus Lefler III defeated school board chairman Melvin Poole for his seat on the board. Peter Asciutto narrowly defeated Leon Warren and County Commissioner Ashley Morgan in the District 5 primary. Scott Efird defeated Jann Lowder in the commission at-large race. Carla Poplin defeated school board vice chairman Ryan McIntyre for the right to compete in the November general election.
In the March 19 issue of The SNAP, friends of Maggie Peterson, who played Charlene Darling on “The Andy Griffith Show,” talked about her ongoing battle with health problems. (She and her husband have since been moved to a facility to help better care for them. Though she is remembered for her role on the show, residuals were not a thing back then. So medical bills have continued to be a burden.)
Joe Ferebee died March 18 at age 101. Ferebee coached 694 American Legion wins, 667 collegiate wins at Pfeiffer and added 77 more wins at Salisbury’s Boyden High, where his team won the 1955 3A state championship. That’s 1,438 wins total. His Legion victory total was surpassed in 2015, but he is still considered by many as the winningest baseball coach in North Carolina history, with a winning rate of 67 percent.
The longest serving county commissioner in county history died March 24. Gene McIntyre served from 1998 to 2018. McIntyre was a multi-sport coach and later a principal.
Roger Prince, who played tight end three years at Carson-Newman, talked of fond memories of McIntyre from when he played for him in Badin.
Prince acknowledged that he was “hanging out with the wrong kids, getting in trouble.”
“He pulled me to the side and told me, ‘You don’t need to be hanging with those guys. You need to be your own man.’ To the black kids in Badin, he was a father figure to a lot of the kids,” Prince said. “He touched a lot of lives. Every life that he touched, you won’t find any of those kids that grew up in that time to say anything bad about him.”
Prince said he passed down that influence to his son, R.J., who is now with the NFL’s Baltimore Ravens.
The character traits McIntyre brought to him led to his crossover in the voting booth.
“I’m a Democrat, but I vote for the person. He’s a Republican, but I voted for him because of his character,” Prince said.
Mike Martin, who served as an officer with Albemarle Police Department for 26 years, died March 20 of brain cancer. Much of his career remembered by the community was of that of a school resource officer.
“Mike always wanted to help the kids,” Albemarle Mayor Ronnie Michael said. “He didn’t want to be there just to talk to them, he wanted to help them.”
Rick Williams, who had served numerous leadership positions in the county — including as a Stanfield councilman and board member and chairman of the Stanly County Economic Development Commission, died March 29 after a battle with cancer. He was 54.
Jerry Smith, owner of the repair shop Tom and Jerry’s in Norwood, retired in March. The business had been around since 1975 and was known for the classic cartoon characters that were painted on building.
On April 1, Stanly County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jeff James spoke with CNN’s Don Lemon about the school system’s meal delivery system. On March 16, the first day SCS delivered breakfast and lunch, 5,300 meals were served — the highest in the state.
Henry “Buster” Thompson, who served on the Norwood Town Council from 1996 to 2012, died April 2. He was also remembered for coaching the Stanly County Post 76 American Legion baseball team.
The first person to die of COVID-19 in Stanly County happened April 9, according to the Health Department. The county’s second death was recorded April 11.
Pauline Tucker, 98, died April 11. She was the Ridgecrest News correspondent for The Stanly News & Press for several decades. She was the salutatorian for the Ridgecrest High School Class of 1940.
Stephen B. Smith was announced as the new police chief of Badin in mid-April. He has more than 18 years of experience in law enforcement.
Dr. Jeff James sent a letter to the school board April 17 announcing his resignation. James accepted the superintendent position for Iredell-Statesville Schools, where he had previously worked. James’ last day was June 30.
On April 20, Stanly County commissioners approved the drafting of a letter to Gov. Roy Cooper asking to give local boards the power to open businesses. At the same meeting, commissioners voted to renamed their meeting room in honor of the late Gene McIntyre.
Accident survivor and brain injury rights advocate Samuel Andersen died April 22 at age 33. In 2006, the 19-year-old was in a car accident which left him a brain injury. Since the accident, his mom Jean has fought for the rights of individuals with brain injuries, usually making at least three trips to Raleigh each month.
On May 4, “the worst kept secret,” as one state senator put it, was revealed that Charlotte Pipe would build a facility in Oakboro that would bring 400 jobs to the town. The same night, Albemarle City Council announced that a company would invest $2.9 million in the city.
On May 7, Fiberon announced it was investing $20 million over the next three years to expand its manufacturing operations and facility in New London.
At a meeting May 11, the Board of Education picked Vicki Calvert, assistant superintendent of personnel and student services, to be interim superintendent while a search continued for a new hire.
Nabell USA, a manufacturer and distributor of bellows and protective covers for medical, industrial and scientific applications, announced it would expand its operations in Albemarle.
The company, which opened its doors in Stanly County in 1998 and relocated to the city in 2009, plans to create 15 new jobs within the next two years and invest $2.9 million at its existing facility.
More than 8 inches of rain flooded parts of the county May 21-22. At the peak, 83 roads were closed.
Norwood’s Sister City bond grew with a virtual Memorial Day event with Jouarre, France.
The demonstrations following the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police reached Stanly County in late May. People stood outside the Stanly County Courthouse and at Courthouse Square Park holding signs such as “Honk for Black Lives Matter” and “I Can’t Breathe,” which were Floyd’s last words. The next couple weeks would also include other marches and prayer events.
Jeanette Vaughn, the first family nurse practitioner in Stanly County, died June 3 at age 79.
The county passed 100 total cases of COVID on June 5. Also in early June, the county saw its first outbreaks at Albemarle Correctional Institute and nursing homes.
June 7 was the 200th birthday for St. Martin Lutheran Church, but the events of the day and year had to be cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Due to COVID-19 and the state restrictions from it, the Oakboro 4th of July committee canceled the annual parade and celebration.
On June 12, Stanly County Schools conducted drive-thru graduation ceremonies. Gray Stone Day School would honor graduates with individualized graduation moments.
Elithe Hudson was at the top of her class at North Stanly High, joining her sisters Elizabeth and Elaine who were both valedictorians at North.
North Stanly High’s Tina Carter was named Teacher of the Year while Jennifer Huneycutt of Albemarle Middle School was selected as Principal of the Year.
Legendary Albemarle High School track and field coach Agnes Maske, who captured back-to-back girl’s track team state championships in the 1980s, died June 18 in Wake Forest.
Maske led Albemarle to consecutive 1A/2A State Championships in 1986 and 1987. Her women’s cross country teams were also Regional Champions in 1993 and Regional runners-up in 1994.
She was voted Coach of the Year in the Rocky River Conference nine consecutive years, was awarded the Female Coach of the Year for Region Six in 1989 and was named Female Coach of the Year for North Carolina in 1994. She was inducted into the Stanly County Sports Hall of Fame in 2006.
Hundreds gathered June 19 in Badin for the Juneteenth celebration. The event marked the 155th anniversary of the last group of slaves who received their freedom June 19, 1865.
On July 1, Stanly County School Board decided to shelve North Stanly’s International Baccalaureate Diploma Program for the upcoming school year.
“When you look at the amount of money and the low interest at this point as well as with COVID-19 … it would be hard to start a program under those conditions,” Interim Superintendent Vicki Calvert said. She added that the school system will continue educating the public about the program and it could be implemented for the 2021-2022 school year.
On July 4, with the absence of the Oakboro Fourth of July Celebration, an Oakboro Freedom Caravan was held, as well as the annual Forest Hills neighborhood parade.
At the July meeting of the Norwood Town Council, Police Chief James Wilson, Sheriff Jeff Crisco and town officials discussed the possibility of adding a boat to the town’s police department to patrol Lake Tillery.
In mid-July, the Albemarle City Council approved a motion to convert the alleyway beside the old Davis Drug building on West Main Street to be for pedestrians only. The decision allows for the alleyway to be redesigned and revitalized as a way to further develop the downtown.
Members of the Albemarle City Council also gathered with members of the Jack Neel family to honor the late councilman on his service to the city. The City of Albemarle Water Treatment Plant was renamed in his memory.
The July 18-19 issue of The SNAP featured The Badin Inn, which was purchased by Vanessa Mullinix and her daughter, Jennifer Owens.
Greyhound Bus Lines added a stop in Albemarle at Vac & Dash at 154 S. First St.
Steven “Smitty” Smith died July 21 after about 7 months in the role of Locust police chief. The 45-year-old Smith began as a reserve officer with Locust in 1997 before becoming a full-time officer in 1998. He also served in Kannapolis and Monroe before heading back to Locust in 2007.
Morrow Mountain dedicated a new overlook deck in July. Tom Rabe Jr. donated funds for the overlook in honor of his grandfather, park creator John McKnight Morrow.
Badin Town Council voted 4-1 at its July meeting to return a refurbished concrete traffic bollard, known to some as the “dead man,” to its familiar spot in the median of Falls Road at N.C. Highway 740. The item was first placed in the road around 80 years ago to divide traveling lanes on Falls Road.
At its July meeting, Oakboro Town Council approved an economic incentive agreement with C.T. Commercial Paper Products. The company will receive a six-year, 60 percent business development grant between itself and the town, and it will make an $8.5 million investment and create 26 new jobs.
Lester “Snake” Roberts, 92, died July 30. He was head of security at Pfeiffer from 1967 to 1994 and served for 20 years at Uwharrie Point as head of security before retirement.
Steven Brinson, a former addict who was since sober and had worked for Bridge To Recovery, died in a single vehicle accident in late July. Brinson had told The SNAP a few months before that Bridge To Recovery “has meant everything to me because once I finally found a different path in my life, I immediately knew what a great need there was for people who are still struggling.”
By late summer, Albemarle Police Department had completed its move to its new home at 155 W. South St. in the former Home Savings Bank/Pinnacle Bank building.
Also late in the summer, judge Bill Tucker retired from the bench after working for 46 years in family law. At 72, he had reached the mandatory age limit for a judge. He was a lawyer for 35 years with Tucker & Singletary before spending 11 years as a judge.
Auctioneer and festival promoter Ted Hinson died Aug. 7. Hinson, 76, had been a professional auctioneer for nearly 60 years. He was also a strong advocate for Stanly Community College’s Carolina Auction Academy.
North Carolina Wildlife Enforcement Officer Darby
Enoch was named the 2020 SEAFWA Wildlife Officer of the Year for the state. Enoch is part of District 6 of the law enforcement division, which includes Stanly County. He has worked exclusively in the county for close to two years.
Former Stanly County Gymnastics coach Dianne Austin died Aug. 26. She founded the organization and coached for 40 years before retiring in 2014.
After 44 years in prison for a rape he says he did not commit, Ronnie Long was released from Albemarle Correctional Institution Aug. 27 after the state vacated his sentence.
Mark Donham retired Aug. 31 after spending six years as economic development director for Albemarle.
Statistics released in September by the Economic Partnership of N.C. showed tourism spending in Stanly County raked in $89.4 million in 2019, up 5.4 percent from 2018. Stanly ranked 49th out of the state’s 100 counties in tourism and travel impact.
Terry Almond, who was a Richfield councilman for around 30 years, died Sept. 8 at age 71. He suffered an allergic reaction in mid-August after being stung by a wasp.
On Sept. 15, Oakboro native Dr. Jarrod Dennis was approved as the new superintendent for Stanly County Schools. A 1995 West Stanly graduate, Dennis came to SCS after serving as deputy superintendent of Person County Schools.
Students were welcomed to Pfeiffer University’s campus in downtown Albemarle for their first day of classes Sept. 17.
In late September Economic Development Director Candice Lowder revealed that a new industrial site was open for business in Norwood. The 114-acre site has access to rail, sewer, water and electrical access.
After more than three decades as an English teacher at North Stanly High School, Kerri Huffman retired in September. Huffman was also known for her original plays as theatre director.
By the first week of October, Stanly County had topped 2,000 cumulative COVID-19 cases.
Julie Davis, a third-grade teacher at Norwood Elementary School, died Oct 4 after contracting COVID-19. Davis had been with the school two years.
Interim Superintendent Vicki Calvert said Davis “earned a well-deserved reputation as an inspirational teacher who was always seeking ways to support every student so that they were able to fulfill their potential. She implemented creative ways of teaching and her high standards and expectations motivated others to achieve their best.”
County commissioners voted Oct. 5 to move Animal Control under the supervision of the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Jeff Crisco said a trained deputy will now oversee the day-to-day operations of Animal Control. (Jana Aviles was later hired as director for the shelter.)
The first day of early voting on Oct. 15 brough close to 2,500 out to cast their ballots, roughly 6 percent of the county’s total number of registered voters (42,300).
In early fall the Lowder Hardware annex building, between the old Tiffany’s at the Boardroom location and Hair Center Barber Shop in downtown Albemarle, was demolished to make way for an apartment complex.
It was also revealed in mid-October that Stanley Black & Decker planned to close Stanley Engineering Fastening in Stanfield. The 90,000-square-foot facility, which produces mechanical fasteners called rivets and employs more than 90 people, plans to lay off 81 employees by the time it closes in August 2021.
On Oct. 16, a campaign rally for gubernatorial candidate Dan Forest was canceled due to heavy fog preventing Forest’s plan from landing at the Stanly County Airport.
By a week in to the early voting period, more than 30 percent of eligible voters had already cast their ballots. More than 13,000 people had voted, compared to under 9,000 that had voted by the same period in 2016. (In all, around 63 percent voted during the early voting period in 2020.)
Joe Smith, the owner of Joe’s Do-Nut Dinette for 20 years and chaplain at the county’s hospital for many years, died Oct. 28 after suffering complications from the coronavirus. He was a minister for more than 43 years.
Nov. 5 was Election Day. Perhaps the biggest surprise, yet one of a tribute, was the election of the late Terry Almond to the Richfield council. He placed second in the vote tally.
A total of 6,576 people voted on Election Day, which accounted for around 15 percent of all registered voters. When combined with early voting and voting by mail, about 79 percent of eligible voters participated in the election in Stanly County, coming in at more than 33,000 residents voting.
Fiberon of New London donated $45,000 to New London Volunteer Fire Department in November following the department’s response to a fire at the plant in the summer.
Also reported in November, Stanly County Historical Society had launched a campaign to raise funds for continued preservation of the Freeman-Marks House and the Isaiah W. Snuggs House, two of the oldest properties in the county.
A memorial to West Stanly graduates killed in Vietnam was unveiled at the high school in early November. A formal dedication is expected for Memorial Day 2021.
Larry McMahon submitted his resignation from the Norwood Town Council in a letter dated Nov. 16. McMahon, who served on the council for 22 years, cited health reasons for his reason to resign.
By Nov. 19, the state deemed Stanly County to have “significant community spread” as it surpassed 2,800 cumulative COVID-19 cases.
On Nov. 23, a debate continued over Richfield United Methodist Church’s plans to renovate its kitchen to host Community Table meals provided by Stanly Community Christian Ministry. Residents living near the church spoke against the plans throughout the year, talking about people potentially being brought in for meals and there not being a homeless or hunger problem in Richfield.
On. Nov. 25, the county reported its first cases of COVID reinfection. Total cumulative cases were near 3,000.
Also reported in November, Dr. Reese Linnell was announced as the new director of the Stanly Community College Small Business Center.
Locust lost two of its former mayors within weeks of each other. Michael Huneycutt, 66, who served from 1989-1993, died Nov. 30, while Harold Greene, who served from 2003-2009, died Dec. 13.
When Christmas parade season rolled around, only Oakboro and Palestine conducted parades. Other events in the county were either altered or cancelled due to COVID.
At the December meeting of the New London commissioners, it was announced that Dan Phillips was resigning from the town board. He was re-elected in November.
At a special called meeting Dec. 16, Board of Education members voted to delay a return to face-to-face learning until after the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday in January.
Ronnie Long was granted a pardon of innocence from Gov. Roy Cooper on Dec. 17.