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s p o t l i g h t angelina county

We’re Here in Business A look at some locally-based companies, whether they be a mom-and-pop store or an industry that has been doing international transactions for decades.

Andy Adams/The Lufkin News

Angelina Hardwood Sales Company President George H. “Trey” Henderson III.

Sunday, march 24, 2013 the lufkin news



Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Growing a legacy

Angelina Hardwood branches out across three generations By DENISE HOEPFNER The Lufkin News


ust as the roots of a tree keep it anchored and nourished, so do the roots of family. With three generations and nearly 70 years behind Angelina Hardwood Sales Company, President George H. “Trey” Henderson III knows this well. As he sits behind his desk, a heavy, carved desk made from white oak that once belonged to his father, George H. Henderson Jr., he reflects on the history of the company built by his grandfather, George H. Henderson Sr., and the changes in the industry since the heyday of the sawmill town of Ewing where it all began. Taking root It was while working at a familyowned lumber mill in Ewing that Henderson Sr. learned the business. “We started out over in Ewing, where we had a lumber mill,” Henderson said. “My grandfather ran the plant out there. In those days, we were cutting hardwood for other mills.” Ewing was like other sawmill towns of the time, with employees living in company-owned housing, buying food and other necessities from the company commissary and attending school, church and other social functions on company land. “Highway 103 divided the mill from the community where people lived,” Henderson said. In 1944, the Ewing mill shut down. While all that physically remains of Ewing are a couple of buildings, photographs and a handful of commissary tokens — Henderson has plans to do something with them someday, although he’s unsure of what — there are still those who remember the days the of the old sawmill town. Until recently, an annual reunion was held each October, when former residents and mill employees gathered to share their memories. Branching out In 1945, the senior Henderson opened Angelina Hardwood Sales Company on Wilson Street in Lufkin. Along with the change in location

came a change in the business, Henderson said. “When we moved here, we became what we call a dimension mill, where you take raw lumber and cut it into something specific,” he said. “Back in the day we mostly did furniture. This mill even supplied caskets for a while. We did a little bit of everything.“ It was while Henderson Sr. was helping out a friend that he hit upon what would become the company’s new focus. “My grandfather and Walter Trout were good buddies,” Henderson said. “They traveled together, my grandfather and my grandmother and Walter and Sophie Trout. One day, the folks at Lufkin Industries, which Trout was the president of, were loading a pumping unit that they built to go to Midland and the lumber floor in their trailer broke through. So, Walter called my grandad and said, ‘Hey, do you have some lumber out there that I can get my guys to go out there to repair the floor?’ He said, ‘Yeah, bring your trailer out here and let my guys measure it and see what we can do.’” Because the mill was making furniture, the wood on hand happened to be two-inch oak, Henderson said. The trailer was re-floored and the pumping unit made it safely to Midland. As it turns out, the company had another trailer, which also needed a new floor. “They only had two trailers at the time,” Henderson said. “The guys back at the shop called up to Mr. Trout’s office and said, ‘Hey, we’ve got another trailer that is just about in as bad of shape. Do you reckon you could call Angelina Hardwood and see if we can get them to fix that?’” Meanwhile, the trailer flooring had also garnered attention in Midland when the pumping unit was delivered. “The guy in Midland, when the trucker pulled up, asked where he got the trailer,” Henderson said. “He said it was a Lufkin trailer, but they got the lumber from a company there in Lufkin. So the guy in Midland got my grandfather’s contact information and called him and said he had several trailers that needed new floors.

Andy Adams/The Lufkin News

Angelina Hardwood Sales Company, President George H. “Trey” Henderson III.


Above: George H. Henderson Sr. Below: George H. Henderson Jr.

“With a large number of manufacturing jobs leaving our area over the past several years, I am proud that we have maintained this company through some difficult times, and we will work to continue that effort.” George H. “Trey” Henderson III

Angelina Hardwood Sales Company, President

SEE Legacy, PAGE 8H

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Local business owner supplying Diboll with ‘Everything’ for 30+ years By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News

Pouland said they originally catered to residents as a feed store because Diboll did not have DIBOLL — John Ralph Pouone. land knows just about everything “Well, we were a feed store, a there is to know about Diboll, so tire store, we worked on brakes it is only natural that Pouland’s for the loggers who might need The Everything Store fits right in it,” Pouland said. “We are really since locals, travelers, truckers four generations working for and Diboll veterans gather there Temple, my granddaddy, my daily to locate anything they daddy, me and my son Roho.” might need for a day’s work. Pouland said Diboll runs Customers not only come by through his veins and he has for tires, feed or gardening supnever thought about leaving. plies, but pilfering through the “We like people,“ he said. antiques, keepsakes and hearing “Every morning, this is kind of about Diboll history has become a gathering place. We get here the Pouland’s lives and liveliand they are here waiting every hood. morning. We open the door and “I was born and raised right they come in and have coffee, here in Diboll,” Pouland said. sit down, chew the fat and talk a “I first went into the logging little bit. Then, in the afternoon, business here for Temple in 1960. they come by again and visit I spent about 30 years in a log and talk over their days and talk truck, and after that I went into about what is going on in Diboll.” business here and have been here Area residents and friends 30 years. Before that, my fatherhave been spoiled by Pouland’s in-law had a grocery store on generosity that has grown to the old highway called Powell’s become a ritual around Diboll Grocery. When they moved the every Saturday. highway, then he moved up here, “Every Saturday morning we too. My wife has a real estate have a big sawmill breakfast,” he office there now. This was just a said. “We treat them with bacon RHONDA OAKS/The Lufkin News vacant lot, and we were able to and eggs and sometimes homeJohn Ralph Pouland has been in business in Diboll since the early ’60s. His Pouland’s The Everything Store at 611 N. Temple Drive is SEE Everything, PAGE 4H just that: It has just about everything. buy it and we built this store.”

35 years

and counting Butcher, owner of The Choice Cut Meat Market providing friendly service, quality cuts for decades By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News


ene Sullivan said his being a butcher was set in stone when, as a young man, he worked for Brookshire Brothers in its meat department. But his experience in the industry started long before that, when his dad owned Sullivan Packing Co. in Lufkin. In 1978, he saw the opportunity to fulfill a dream, and he has pleased the community with his superb cuts of meat ever since at The Choice Cut Meat Market. Located at 1006 S. John Redditt Drive, the meat market has become much more than a place to stop by to pick up a roast for supper. It is also a favorite among area workers who stop by daily for tasty barbecued pork chops, ribs and chicken that Sullivan prepares on his own smoker. “I don’t know what started me thinking that I wanted my own place, but I did,” Sullivan said. “Besides working at Brookshire for several years, I also worked in Weingarten’s and Safeway in Houston. This location was originally Ray’s Choice Cut and I was able to buy it out. I don’t think it ever crossed my mind that I would be here 35 years later, but here I am and it has worked out.” Sullivan said he has built his business on quality and service. His products include Angus choice beef. “In the old days, I learned how to cut on what was called hanging beef,” Sullivan said. “Now days, it is pretty much boxed beef. It comes here packaged and ready to slice up and sell. My first experience with boxed beef was when I was working in Houston. It was an experiment back then, and these guys today, they just take it out of the box and I learned how to cut it right off the side of beef.” Sullivan said his repeat customers for his meat and prepared lunches keep him glad of the choice he made to open his own meat market. “About 10 years ago I started using a good Angus cut, and that has really built my business because it is so good and such a good grade of meat,” Sullivan said. Along with the smoked lunches Sullivan provides, he also has a line of fresh lunch meats, cheeses and spices. Knowing most every customer who walks through his door keeps his

RHONDA OAKS/The Lufkin News

Gene Sullivan, owner of The Choice Cut, prepares a cut of ribeye steaks for waiting customers. Sullivan has been in business for himself in Lufkin for 35 years.

“I have met a lot of people right here in this location. Good service, reliability and good quality meat is what, really, how I have built my business. And I am not going anywhere anytime soon.” Gene Sullivan

Owner of The Choice Cut

service a personal one that has helped form many friendships through the years. Sullivan said thoughts of retiring have entered his mind, but it is not on the horizon. “I have met a lot of people right here in this location,” he said. “Good service, reliability and good quality meat is what, really, how I have built my business. And I am not going anywhere anytime soon.” Rhonda Oaks’ email address is

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Brown’s Shoe Fit Company

serving community since 1971 By MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS The Lufkin News


ack in 1971, Brown’s Shoe Fit Company began making its footprint in Lufkin when it bought the TopperLovett Shoe Store, which was right on the corner of Shepherd and First street (the present home for The Standpipe Coffee House). After being bought by the Shenandoah, Iowa-based shoe store that started in 1911, the business remained downtown for another 20 years until it moved to its present home at 705 S. Timberland Drive, just south of Denman Avenue. Joe Flood is the store’s owner/manager. The self-professed Army brat, who has lived all over the world, started with Brown’s back in 1982 after serving for years in the U.S. Air Force. “If 30 years ago if you would have told me that I would be selling shoes today, I would have laughed at you,” the now soft-spoken Flood said. “I wasn’t even thinking about that. When I got out (of the Air Force), it was during the recession of 1981-82. I went six months unemployed and was finally offered a job, and I took anything that I could get.” What he “got” was the assistant manager trainee program with Brown’s Shoe Fit. He was hired for its store in the West Texas town of Big Springs. He transferred to Lufkin in 1986. Flood said once he started his position that it didn’t take long for him to realize the job was actually his calling. “After my first day, I realized I liked it,” he said. “It has never felt like work. The majority of the day I sit and visit with people — and that’s it. It cultivates relationships.” Building relationships through education on feet and shoes seems to be why many first-time customers of Brown’s become regular clients. “More than visiting with them, for the first-time customer we’ll ask them what brands have they’ve been wearing. That’ll give us a good idea of what they like,” Flood said just as Theary Johnson and her husband L.C. Johnson walked in to get Mr. Johnson shoes that he could wear while he recovers from a recent ankle surgery. The target audience of Brown’s Shoe Fit seems to be people “mostly 35 & up — learned mostly by recommendation or by word of mouth,” Flood said. There are some common things Brown’s will have to do to correct some shoe “nonos,” he said. “Usually that they’re wearing their shoes too short — both men & women,” Flood said. “We’ll measure them and then just go get the right one and have them try it on without even telling them (about the actual shoe size they should be wearing). And the reactions are classic. It’s usually like, ‘Wow! That feels pretty good. What size is it? ... I don’t wear that!’” Flood said he’ll usually tell the customer, “But you said it feels good,” and explain what they’ve been doing wrong, especially when measuring the foot. He said the fit should be based on the length of the arch in your feet, not fitting it from heel to toe. He says that’s why Brown’s uses the iStep Foot Scan, which is a free, non-committal evaluation. The technology and machine are not exclusive to Brown’s Shoe Fit. “This company has the best product to back up, as far as arch supports are concerned,” Flood said. “It reads the pressure points of your feet and recommends what type of support you need. This company makes it for high arches, medium arches, flat feet. They do different arch supports.” And the gratification he receives once he provides shoes that are the correct size, fit and arch support is priceless, Flood said. “A lot of time it’s a, ‘Wow!’” Flood said with a smile on his face. “I mean, they get instant gratification. And it makes you feel good that you are making them feel better.” It appears that many Americans are buying into those little, yet crucial, foot de-

“A lot of time it’s a, ‘Wow!’ I mean, they get instant gratification. And it makes you feel good that you are making them feel better.” JOE FLOOD


Joe Flood uses iStep Foot Scan to scan a customer’s foot for accurate sizing.


According to Brown’s Shoe Fit owner Joe Flood the fit of a shoe should be based on the length of the arch in your feet, not from heel to toe.

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Joe Flood helps a customer with a shoe purchase at Brown’s Shoe Fit Company.

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Brown’s Shoe Fit Company is located at 705 S. Timberland Drive. tails. Flood says the latest recession hasn’t stopped the foot traffic into the company’s shoe stores. “During this past recession Brown’s Shoe Fit as a whole had our best years,” he

said. “When you add all 80 stores together, 2010-11 were the best years we’ve ever had. Everyone else is crying, and we aren’t.” Michael W. Douglas’ email address is

Everything Continued from Page 3H made biscuits. We are here more than we are home.” Walking through Pouland’s store, customers will see pictures and signs from Diboll’s Box Factory, early school pictures, modern day and antique gardening equipment, cookware, gloves, antique scales, seedlings, fertilizer and most anything a farmer or rancher needs. “We still handle a lot of guns, and we still have lots of things a logger needs,” Pouland said. “In fact, we still carry overalls. We always have. As the seasons change, so do we. In hunting season, we sell a lot of guns and shells, and in the summer we sell a lot of garden seed. We are still about 40 percent tires, since we sell tires and fix flats. We have just about everything you need around the house to keep it up.” Pouland said it wasn’t the money that has kept in business all these years. “Oh, no, it sure wasn’t the money,” he said. “You know, we just all like people. We have had a lot of ups and downs and we have had to diversify as times

changed and seasons changed, but we have always been here for the long haul. Temple has always been good to us here, and

we have made a living with them and the good people in Diboll.” Rhonda Oaks’ email address is

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013

Changing with the times


RHONDA OAKS/The Lufkin News

Jeff and Sheila Harkness at Pineywoods Printing, 2409 E. Lufkin Ave. Jeff’s father started the company out of his garage in the early ‘70s.

Family business starts in garage, now serves national customer base By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News Jeff and Sheila Harkness have spent much of their life at Pineywoods Printing Company at 2409 E. Lufkin Ave., but Jeff said it was in his father’s garage where he first stood on a box and learned how to set the letter press for printing. “I have been in this business since I was 12 years old and I am 53 now,” he said. “We started out in our garage, and it was probably within that same year that my Dad built part of the building that is still here now at this location.” Harkness’ parents, James and Doris, founded Pineywoods Printing in the early ’70s. It became a success in those early years much because of James’ knowledge of printing. He first began working at the age of 16 at The Lufkin Daily News around the printing press. He joined the Navy and ran a printing press while he was in the service, and when he returned home he joined Southwest Color, running a printing press there. He had the desire to own his own company and began printing out of the family garage with Jeff at his side, not quite tall enough to run the typesetter, so he stood on the box to help. “By the time I was 18, I kind of wanted to get out in the world, so I worked for Halliburton on a tugboat,” Harkness. “It was the second largest tugboat in the world at the time. I was

on it a couple of years and had the opportunity to work in the south China Sea for two years. That is when they really started talking to me about coming home and working here in the company. So, I came back and went to work, married Sheila in 1981, and we have worked here ever since.” Harkness said that in the ’80s, when typesetting began to become computerized, Jeff’s mother’s health began to fail and Sheila decided to work fulltime. She said they raised three children and home-schooled them, requiring many hours of instruction and studying in the shop. The Harknesses said that when they decide to retire, they would like to see the printing business passed on to their children if any of them has the interest. Harkness said that while Pineywoods Printing still has a few of the original customers that his parents served, his customer base has spread nationwide, much because of the Internet. “We do printing for companies in New York, California and Hawaii. It has really expanded,” Harkness said. “We can really do anything that is printable. Because of the changes in the printing industry, from letter press to computer graphics, it has remained a business that is able to change with the times. That is one reason the company has remained successful.” Harkness said he believes the

ability to change with the times along with excellent customer service have been the real assets upon which his parents founded the business. “Even the jobs that are in other states, our customers seem to keep coming back,” Harkness said. “We actually get on the phone and talk to them. We are personal, and not just a computer order or a recorded voice on the telephone. If I see a problem with one of their orders, I get on the phone and we talk about it. Our customers are more like our friends.” That personal service was demonstrated as a customer stopped in to check on an order and Harkness told him he had ordered a special item the customer was wanting, and that it would cost a little bit more than what they had talked about, but not much more. The customer laughed and replied, “No problem. I know you must have forgotten to add in your tip last time.” Harkness said keeping a personal touch with customers is an important part of the business. “When the paper mill was here, they would call me and want me to test their paper and check for problems,” he said. “So I would go and troubleshoot and see what was going on and I would make suggestions for improvement. I would test their paper for them and tell them the dirt and lint content so they could produce better paper. They were a good

Any person who lives, works, worships or attends school in Angelina County, as well as businesses and other legal entities located in Angelina County are eligible for membership in Lufkin Federal Credit Union.

account that helped us really get going, and we knew them and they knew us.” Harkness’ idea of recycling scrap paper before recycling was considered important also helped since the companies he located would come pick up the scrap paper and pay him for it. “They actually would come get it, and they used it to make paper towels and other products,” he said. “It was a sad part of our industry here in the Pineywoods to see the paper mill go down, but the Scandinavian mill located in the boreal forests was able to produce a better, cheaper paper than we could here.” Harkness said he will stay in the printing business until retirement, but on a bad day, he wonders what it would have been like to stay on that

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

From food to furniture

‘Boots’ serves Huntington community for over 60 years

RHONDA OAKS/The Lufkin News

Scott Morehead sits at his desk inside “Boots.” The family-owned store sells furniture and appliances in Huntington.

From teacher to business owner By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News

construction. Lehman continues to contrib“It takes time to put a good ute to the community in various group of employees together,” ways and has served on the R. L. Lehman thought he Lehman said. “I have the right board at Huntington State Bank wanted to teach agriculture in mix, I think, in every situation. since 1980. He said as his busischool, but life took a turn that I come and go when I please and nesses grew, so did the friendhas determined the course for with the great group of people I ships. many other people. Teaching ag- have, I know everything is going “I am proud of the years here riculture lasted for six years and to just keep right on going and I and I have other real estate, like was a career Lehman enjoyed, don’t have to worry about it.” next door here at the Peterbilt but the hobby he developed on Lehman said he also enjoyed place,” he said. “They have a the side quickly turned into recruiting basketball players lease there on my property and I a pipe and steel business that for Angelina College for about just did a million-dollar expancaused him to have to make a 10 years during the early years sion for them last year. I have choice — whether to continue of the pipe and steel business, met so many good people along teaching or give it up and conbut with the rapid growth he the way in these businesses, I tinue the dream of owning his was seeing and the decision to guess that is one of the things I own business. Lehman’s Pipe open the RV and manufactured am most proud of.” and Steel began in 1966 and grew housing business, he had to give Lehman, who just recently reso rapidly that, once it was sucup the recruiting services to the turned from his mother’s 103rd cessful, Lehman said, he looked college. birthday celebration in Huntsto the Lufkin loop for real estate “I traveled all over the country ville, said family and friends are and made the choice to begin recruiting ball players, but then what he has found to be some of a manufactured housing and I got tied up here and it was time the most important things in life. “Doing a good business and recreational vehicle business. to go with this. I think I have offering a good service that Angelina RV Travel Center and offered a good service to the people need is what I have enManufactured Housing, 3907 community through the years N. Medford Drive, opened its with the business and I continue joyed the most,” he said. “I need doors in 1988 and will celebrate to see new and repeat customers, to figure out what I want to do for the next 25 years, but I know its 25th anniversary on April 13. I would not have done anything I probably won’t be sitting still. At the age of 83, Lehman said any differently with either of that while he has thought about these businesses. I have enjoyed I will find something to keep me retirement, he looks forward to everything I have done. I enjoyed busy.” his next challenge, whatever it teaching. I still see some of the Rhonda Oaks’ email address is may be. students I taught, those who are “I either had to quit teaching still alive. They are all retired.” or run my business,” Lehman said. “I was working too many hours every day. So I gave up teaching and my business doubled every year for the next 10 years. My children and grandchildren run the pipe and steel business now and it has really become a good business. I am proud of them as well as all Free Estimates of my employees. I have such a great bunch working for me. It Bonded worked out good. I have thought about retiring, but I just haven’t found a place to quit.” Lehman said with 21 employees at Angelina RV and another Metal 25 at Lehman’s Pipe and Steel, he is proud of the fact that there is Buildings • Houses very little turnover. Angelina RV Car Ports • Roofs and Travel Center offers a full Patio Covers line of mobile homes, a refurbishing center and a complete Sheds • Barns service center. Lehman’s Pipe and Steel, on state Highway 7 east, offers a complete line of pipe and steel for any type of

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By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News HUNTINGTON — Life was simpler more than 60 years ago when T.D. “Boots” Morehead returned to his hometown of Huntington, fresh out of the military, and met the love of his life, Jackie. Together, they put motivation behind their dreams and opened a small grocery store that grew to become known by most East Texans as just “Boots.” It began as a grocery store that sold locally grown produce that offered many area farmers, cotton pickers and saw mill workers food for their families. Boots quickly saw the need for appliances, furniture and good service that evolved from the grocery business, and it still draws shoppers from around the area to shop for the best bargains. “What really made it for Momma and Daddy was that early grocery store,” said Scott Morehead, who recalled how early the workdays began for his dad. “Mom would come in later and Daddy would go home and take a short nap,” he said. “Then he would come back to work and stay until all the workers from the area came back through. Back then it was cotton-pickers for the local farmers in Shawnee Prairie, saw mill employees at Ewing and the local folk who shopped for groceries here.” Morehead said that as the years went by, the couple raised a family, and though he has dreamed of other things he could have done, he never seriously considered leaving the family business. “No, I never left. I dreamed about it, but I never did,” he said. “Daddy just always told me that this was my job, and when I grew up, I just naturally stayed and helped out. I have pretty much worked here all


Dream realized

Robby McKnight Owner


RHONDA OAKS/The Lufkin News

“Boots” started out as a grocery store more than 60 years ago.

my life.” In 1952, when the grocery store opened, Boots decided that if he was going to make it in business for himself, it should be built on personal service. It is a standard by which the Moreheads run the business today. “This has always been about repeat business,” Morehead said. “The town is too small to have anything more. It is the repeat business and the satisfied customers that keep coming back here for their furniture and appliance needs. Not just that alone, it’s also the service we give our customers that brings them back.” As customers come and go throughout the day, Morehead knows most everyone by on a first-name basis and is prepared to help or answer questions. However, as he looks at an old photograph of his parents in the early days of the grocery business, he knows that his future really began there with the choices they made. “They have always been dedicated people,” he said.

“They love to help people and give of what they have. That is just the way they are. It took them working really hard to keep it going and make it the good business it is today. People around here just know what you are talking about when you say you’re goin’ to Boots.” The nickname “Boots” was given when, as a young man, T.D. would sleep in his boots. “It just stuck. No one calls him by his name. It has always been ‘Boots,’” Morehead said. “If Daddy comes into the store now, he might stay for a while, but he still to this day will go home and take that afternoon nap, but he will always enjoy working. He always has.” Morehead said the store will continue to serve the Huntington community for as long as the customers want it to. “I feel blessed to be able to be here this long,” Morehead said. “We treat everyone with honesty and we believe in hard work. I think that is a big reason we are still here and why we will continue to be here.” Rhonda Oaks’ email address is




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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


They don’t speak German but they work on German cars By MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS The Lufkin News


ust outside Loop 287 on Lufkin Avenue and just across the street from Lufkin High School, there sits a unobtrusive two-tone metal building — beige and cement gray — that at times has several German cars strategically parked and waiting. In the grassy area along the major road, there is a simple white sign that reads, “Brann’s Foreign Car Service.” A passerby may never notice it, but for drivers of Volkswagen, BMW, Mercedes-Benz and other German-brand vehicles who do discover it or have discovered it, they know all about Brann’s and the service provided that has saved them hundreds or perhaps thousands of dollars on maintaining their rides and ending the need to drive to Houston, Tyler or Beaumont for routine maintenance. Tommy Brann, the shop’s namesake, been in the business of repairing cars since 1969. He started in the Dallas area, where he grew up. He moved to Lufkin, where he worked for the former Volkswagen dealer for 18 years before taking off on his own. “A lot of the time, working for someone else, you have your own opinion on how something should be done,” he said. “If that doesn’t line up with what you feel like is the right thing to do, sometimes it rubs you the

wrong way. I’ve always wanted to do things my way, which I feel like is the better way — a lot of times. Sometimes I can be wrong, but we don’t have very many comebacks — comebacks in the sense that it wasn’t fixed right.” Brann said he and his shop of two employees “take pride in trying to do the job and do it right, at an affordable cost to the customer.” Part of that process is customer education. Mike Conditt, who was born and raised in Lufkin and has worked at other auto mechanic shops, said none of his former jobs has been as personally and professionally fulfilling as working for Brann’s, which he joined in 2005. He credited “the honesty — and being able to go home and sleep at night.” “Seeing the customer happy” is the goal, Conditt said while on hold with a parts supplier. “Not all of them turn out the best-case scenario, but if you can turn that around and make it where the customer still feels comfortable, that’s what I do.” Usually in the shop, Conditt is the company’s parts guy who works the Internet and telephone to find and secure parts. When he’s not on the phone, he is sharing money-saving tips with customers whose newer vehicles are still under warranty. “Anything maintenancerelated or most repairs really don’t have to have to be done at


Tommy Brann calls a customer from his desk.


Brann’s Foreign Car Service is located across the street from Lufkin High School on Lufkin Avenue. the dealership,” Conditt said. “It won’t affect the warranty as long as they have documentation on it. You generally, after the very first service, don’t have to go back to the dealer at all except for a recall. But we always check for recalls and stuff like that when we have them in here.” Brann’s “go-to guy” for service is Jake Kesinger, who

is the youngest on the crew. He has worked there since 2007. “I enjoy the weekly paycheck and the customers,” he joked. “It’s always busy. ... These cars are expensive to work on. And we want them to know what (the customers) are getting and why they’re getting it and what they can do to prevent more problems.” Brann said he has gotten to

know a lot of customers on a personal level. “I have customers now that were babies or not even born when I first opened the business. I used to service their parents’ cars,” he said. One of Brann’s greatest accomplishments, he said, is customer loyalty. “That’s why we’re ready to show a customer why a car


Jake Kesinger works on a car in the shop.

needs something and try to explain it on a level they can understand, and we don’t want to sell anyone anything they don’t need,” he said. “We’ve always got a reason that a car needs a particular repair. And it’s always the customer’s choice whether to fix the car or not fix the car.” Michael W. Douglas’ email address is


Mike Conditt seaches for parts.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Legacy Continued from Page 2H

of equipment and how the operation worked. He started at the bottom, doing what he needed to do, and worked his way up. He ran the plant, ran the yard. We were a lot bigger then. We probably had 60 employees back in the day at our peak. We’re probably at 15 to 20 now, because we’re automated now.” After the senior Henderson’s death in 1975, Henderson, Jr. took over as the head of the company, where he would Foreign wood introduce new technology that When furniture-quality would increase output fourfold. domestic hardwoods became “The most significant technotoo expensive to use as trailer logical change under my dad’s flooring, Henderson Sr. headed leadership was the purchase of to the Philippines along with a computerized cutoff saw in his wife, Maurine, to check out the mid-1980s,” Henderson said. the possibility of importing “The cutoff saw reduced our laapitong, a durable hardwood bor by a third and quadrupled native to Southeast Asia. It our output of precision-cut was the 1950s, a time when the lumber. At the time, saw-cut area still lacked a significant lumber was easily our biggest infrastructure. bottleneck. The machines and “My grandmother was automated stackers were alalways dressed in dresses and ways well ahead in production had pumps and some kind over our sawing operation. We of necklace on and always had our issues to work through looked good, and my grandfato maximize production as ther always had on a tie and computers in the lumber indusa business shirt and slacks,” try were still in their infancy Henderson said. “The way I when my dad bought it, but understand it, they literally once we installed the computwent over there and got out on erized saw and worked out the dock, got in this canoe and the kinks, the bottleneck was went up the riverways and it removed and we eliminated the was like a jungle. Then, out of stop-and-go process that we had the blue, there was this sawmill faced before.” that was run by the natives.” Although the sawmill A seed is planted lacked modern technology, the Henderson remembers visitFilipinos had devised a way to ing the office with his siblings harvest the wood. when he was a boy, something “They actually moved the he said he looked forward to lumber by hand,” Henderson for the conversation, if not the said. “There were these huge candy. logs, and they would roll them “My mom would bring us out over and hand-push it through to the office, and of course they the saw and cut these big slabs always kept a jar of candy,” he of apitong. The slab would fall said. “The secretaries all knew over and there would be this us; they had been there for clear piece of wood that was years. We’d go in and get candy gorgeous. And what they would and a Coke and say hey to do is lash these boards together my dad, and we’d go sit in my and then throw them out into grandfather’s office. I’ll never the river and float them down forget, my grandfather always to the port and then drag them had a big stack of mail on his out where they could put them desk. I’d look at it and I could on steamships.” see the red, white and blue Henderson Sr. struck a deal stripes around it, like it was for raw lumber, which he would airmail, which was a big deal. then dry and machine at his You could tell it came from plant. The decision was a game- overseas, all over the place, changer in the trailer flooring and he would sit there with the industry and apitong would stack and he’d have his letter set a new standard in flooring opener, but he always took the durability. time to visit with us and ask us “To this day, I’m still import- what was going on. I can just ing the bulk of my lumber from remember those days.” Southeast Asia,” Henderson He worked his first week said, “but over the years, it has at Angelina Hardwood when evolved from being a roughhe was 10 years old, during a sawn slab of lumber to the school break. technological side being done “They were clearing the yard over there. The Germans have for a new building and I was moved in over there, so they’ll throwing sticks in the fire, helpkiln dry it there, and in some ing with the clearing,” he said. cases even machine some of the “I’ll never forget this: We came lumber. But the theory, and the home for lunch the first day — same concept, exists as it did we worked from 7 to noon, then back in the ’50s.” from 1 to 4 — and my mother looked at me with my hard hat New growth on and black soot all over my After graduating from clothes and everywhere, and Southern Methodist University told me I was not setting foot in 1956, George H. Henderson in her house. She said I needed Jr. began working full-time to take all my clothes off right alongside his father at Angelithere and then I could come in na Hardwood. The next year, he and eat lunch. I can remember married Mary Martha Gardner, telling my dad, ‘I better not whom he met in college, and come home looking like that the couple would go on to have anymore,’ which he took with a five children — Trey, Stewart, grain of salt. I looked like that Rich, Sharon and Ashley. every day. It was just because it “My father really came into was sooty and I probably didn’t the business after he graduated do a good job of keeping myself from SMU,” Henderson said. clean.” “He worked here as a kid, just Despite the dirty work, Henlike I worked here as a kid, and derson said the job made him grew up in it, knew every piece feel proud. That was what ultimately evolved us into the trailer flooring manufacturing business. Basically, we got started with Lufkin Trailers, then we got started with some of the other outlying area trailers and we got busy enough doing that through word of mouth. So, we evolved out of the furniture business — the dimension business — and into the trailer business.”

“I was working,” he said. “I was out there with the guys I had been knowing since I was even younger than that, coming out and visiting my grandfather.” He was thrilled, too, to use his first paycheck to buy a gift for his mother. “I took part of what I got paid and I got my mother a wooden purse,” he said. “I told my dad what I was going to do and he helped me wrap the gift. We wrapped it in blue paper, but we couldn’t find any tape to tape it. So, my dad went and got Band-Aids and we taped it up like that. Now that I think about it, the wooden purse was gaudy; it was awful. I don’t know why I did it, but it was what I thought I needed to do.” Except for one summer when he worked with a local veterinarian, Henderson spent summer breaks working at the company. “There never really was a question to what I was going to do,” he said. “I can remember when I was in ninth grade and Lynn Arnett — now it’s Medford — was my student teacher, and both our dads were there to speak for career day. I was drawing a picture of an Angelina Hardwood truck with big logs on it. Now, we never brought big logs to this plant, but it was just easier to draw than lumber.” Tall roots After Henderson graduated from Texas A&M University in 1980 with a degree in agricultural economics/agribusiness, he became a full-time employee, making Angelina Hardwood a third-generation business. In the mid-1990s, he was responsible for the purchase of a computerized dry kiln program that further improved the company’s product. “It did a number of things, but most effectively it took the guesswork out of drying lumber and allowed for an accurate, on-demand calculation of the moisture of the lumber in the kiln,” he said. “This insured the moisture content in the lumber, which is a critical factor for truck-trailer flooring. Secondly, we cut our drying time by 24 to 36 hours, and in the hardwood business that is significant.” After about 20 years of Henderson proving his mettle, his father decided to change the makeup of the company. “At one point, Dad split the company up and we had Angelina Hardwood Sales and Angelina Hardwood Manufacturing Company,” he said. “One was the sales and one was the operations, and he made me the president of the manufacturing company. That was probably in 2000, or around there. I think it was a way to offer a promotion and it gave me an incentive to go and make that part of it make its own profit and keep the sales part doing what it was doing. So that was probably good for me to go and do that.” Henderson said he learned more from his time working with father than just normal day-to-day business practices. “Working alongside my dad not only taught me to be a good businessman, but to just be a good man,” he said. “I’ve tried to do that and pass that trait to my own sons. I have an etched piece of rock that was given to me several years ago that sits in my office that reads, ‘My father

“You’re talking about four to six months, so whatever I plan today, I’ve got to anticipate what’s going to be happening six months from now. That’s not easy. Another part of it is currency. You have to balance the value of the dollar versus whatever you’re buying against, whether it’s in South America or Malaysia.” Acts of God, too, play their part in how the business runs, particularly if they occur in Southeast Asia. “If I hear a tsunami is coming, you can bet I’m interested,” he said. “When I hear of any kind of eruption over there, I certainly pay attention. Even for a little business like this in Lufkin, Texas, what happens at that level over there is a big deal to me. One time, one of the ships that was bringing my lumber got caught in a storm and there were pictures of my lumber, which had become unlatched, floating in the ocean.” With military contracts, the growth of the trailer industry and the continued need for durable trailer flooring, the business has continued to succeed from its nondescript place off the beaten path in a small East Texas town thanks to the foresight and flexibility of its leaders. “We didn’t start out doing this; we evolved, and the fortunate thing about that is we’ve evolved over the last 70 years,” Henderson said. “Some people will say, ‘Y’all are the best-kept Growth rings secret around here,’ and that’s Just as his father did before OK. I don’t mind being the besthim, upon his father’s death kept secret. We really like what Henderson took over at the we do out here in our little helm of Angelina Hardwood. neck of the woods. Yeah, we’ve “After Dad died in ’03, I got far-reaching tentacles that took over as president of both companies and decided to mesh reach out in our own country them back together, and we’ve and overseas, and that’s good, but at the end of the day, what been operating that way ever we do is right here at home and since,” he said. that’s the way we want it.” In his time at Angelina Hardwood, Henderson said, he has seen many changes. Email Lumbering on Despite having two sons of and the advent of the Internet his own, Henderson doesn’t have lessened the problems of doing business in different time plan on adding another genzones, but despite new technol- eration to the family business, although his older son would ogy, the business still faces some of the challenges it did in join him in a “heartbeat,” he the beginning. said. Instead, with one eye on “There’s the timing of the future of the industry, he placing an order and getting defaults to his role as a father it here,” Henderson said. and considers what would be didn’t tell me how to live; he lived, and let me watch him do it.’ I think that exemplifies my relationship with him and what a tremendous mentor he was in my life.” George H. Henderson Jr. passed away in March 2003, after a battle with cancer. Known as a community leader, businessman, philanthropist, friend and family man, Henderson Jr. was mourned not just by those who knew him, but also by those who knew of him. “There isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t wish he was here to bounce things off of, both business and personal,” Henderson said. “One thing he was, was a good listener. If I never learned anything else from him, I hope I have learned to listen when others are talking. “I had the best advisor that you could ask for, and I say that with all confidence because so many business leaders, politicians, clergy, neighbors around our house and our lumberyard, as well as our employees, would come to our office over the years and ask my dad’s opinion on a variety things,” he said. “And again, he was always there to listen and, when asked, offer advice. After his death and even to this day I still have folks stop me or drop me a note and tell me that they still miss him for his guidance and wisdom. I answer back that I have that feeling every day.”

best for his children. “As parents you want to say, ‘I want you to do what you want to do, but I also want you to do what I think you can have success at,’” he said. Rather than have his children focus on the legacy of the business, Henderson said he would rather his children consider the more lasting legacy of community service begun by the family generations ago. “We’ve been chairmen of the Chamber of Commerce and presidents of the local Lion’s Club and Rotary Club and served on school boards and college boards and have been appointed to boards and other things, so it’s been a great platform for not only this business, but for other opportunities,” he said. “We enjoy doing what we do, being a part of this every day. We don’t want to be more or less than that, but we sure want to do our part. If we do that, then I’m pretty comfortable with how things go.” In the past half a century, the business landscape of Lufkin has certainly changed, something that has not escaped Henderson’s notice. And, while he is well aware of the challenges he faces in the future, he said he is prepared to meet them. “There’s the old saying that ‘if it were easy, everybody would do it,’” he said. “Well, there aren’t many that do what we do and those that do are not like us, a family-owned business of almost 70 years buying and selling all over the world. We’re a dying breed, and I know full well that one of these days change will come and we will do what we need to do to insure our place in the truck-trailer business and we will be prepared. We have the greatest employees you could ask for; most of them have been with us for many years, and they are always there to help in every way. With a large number of manufacturing jobs leaving our area over the past several years, I am proud that we have maintained this company through some difficult times, and we will work to continue that effort.” Denise Hoepfner’s email address is

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Expanding the funeral empire

Partnership allows for improvements, updates at Tims Funeral Home By MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS The Lufkin News


f you’ve driven behind Garrett Primary School down Leach Street within the last three years, you might have noticed subtle changes at Tims Funeral Home. The interior has undergone a makeover, too, with more casket options and an updated chapel. The funeral home’s vehicles are now Cadillacs. The changes are due to Tims being bought by Vernon Webster Sr., of Houston-based Vernon Webster Investments, LLC, which also owns All Families Mortuary in Hearne and Madisonville. The casket company, called The Unique Designer Casket brand, has a distribution facility in Lufkin in the old Boles Food Market Building at the corner of Abney and North Douglas Street. Webster said it was God’s plan that he got into the business because he was scared of caskets. Now he’s designing and selling them. “You just grow into it,” he said. “‘Lord, I was 50 years old and You have called me from what I loved to do, which was to sell clothes.’ Now that’s what I love. And then now I find something equal to that.” Webster started working in fashion at the age of 14 in 1969, when he left Hearne and went to Houston, where he landed a job as a porter with Palais Royal department store. Then in 1970, as a 15-year-old, his dad told him to look for wholesale clothing in Houston. That began his fashion sales and merchandising career. He did take two years off to graduate from the Gary Job Corps in San Marcos in 1972, but spent the next three decades in men’s clothing. This included opening up Michael Clothier in Houston, which is now managed by one of his sons, Vernon Jr. But when Webster Sr. semi-retired when he turned 50, another opportunity came his way.

“I owned some real estate in Hearne, and a funeral director wanted to put a funeral home on it and questioned me about it. And so I decided to convert that building into a funeral home. That was in 1985-86. And that got us started in our first funeral home, All Families Mortuary,” he said. “And then a year or two later, I ventured into another funeral home in Madisonville, Texas.” While visiting with a funeral director, a family’ made a unique request that sparked Webster’s designing interests. “A family wanted a casket that reflected their mother’s love of quilting. ‘We really, really want something special for our mom. We want a casket that is different from anything else we’ve ever seen,’” he recalled them saying. “That stuck with me. There are other families that would also want something different and unique, so I created the company called Unique Designer Caskets. “I’ll never forget it. She said she remembered her mother knitting a cotton sack. When were kids coming up, grandparents and older people would make cotton sacks. ‘The last thing that mama was knitting was a quilt,’ a family member said. ‘I’d really like to have something like that, something like a quilt inside.’ And so we got a manufacturer that did that for us. And inside the casket it was like a quilt … patchwork. And, boy, they loved it. That’s what they wanted to put their mom in.” After that, Webster said, he felt called to the funeral business. “It looked like a miracle that I was led to a company that manufactured caskets and had that material, who would produce that kind of casket and did produce it,” he said. “It’s amazing. Because of that family’s need, it led me into a full business. I realized you have to be connected to that community and I realized

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that it should be a calling, not just a job. And then something really went off in my head: I realized how I felt when I was able to satisfy that family and wanting that feeling to reproduce itself with other clients that our funeral home would serve. How can I make this special and what gratification would I get? I enjoyed so much being able to help families during their time of their bereavement and their grieving process. It became a calling to me. When that calling hit me, I had to come out of retirement mode and realize this was a 24-7 business. I work more now than any other time of my life. But I’m gratified more now, because I’m happier now when I’m serving a family need.” In 2010, when Webster came to Lufkin, he went to meet with Freddy Tims about his Unique Casket Designs and about selling caskets to Tims Funeral Home. “One thing led in to the next one, and then he thought, ‘Hey, man, I’d like to have a partner.’ And then he went on to tell me how it had been here since 1928. It started off as the East Texas (Undertaking Co.) in the 1920s. About how his daddy I.D. Tims had purchased it in 1949 and changed the name from East Texas to Tims Funeral Home. And that he’d hate to see the business just go out. And so I thought, ‘Man! This is an opportunity that we could redo something in this community,’ because this is probably one of the oldest buildings and businesses in North Lufkin. And to lose something like that would be to lose part of who we are, our identity. And so I looked at it, thought about it and then that made me go in and buy it. And I bought it and decided that we would keep it right there, and serve the community in such a way that we would put emphasis on ‘With Pride, with Respect and with Dignity.’ And that’s what we’ve been able to do the last three years, for sure. “I’ll never forget what Ms.


Vernon Webster Sr., of Houston-based Vernon Webster Investments, LLC, is shown standing in front of a variety of designer caskets. Bettie Kennedy tells me all the time when she sees me. She tells me, ‘You all have turned the funeral home service to a different level. You have carried it to a different level, because we see things at your service that we haven’t seen in our community.’” Keeping Tims at its location, keeping Freddie Tims as the funeral director, establishing a brand, and giving the building a makeover are just some of the signs of the new owner’s commitment to the community. “I didn’t have to keep Tims in that community, I could have moved it out on the loop,” he said. “I could have done other things. Or I could have just closed it down and opened up an entirely different funeral home, not to compete with myself. But when I realized that name had a ring in this community for all of those years, I knew it was important that we keep it there and that we do put emphasis on service ‘With Pride, with Respect and with Dignity,’ because that’s the time the family really, really needs you and depends on you.” Webster said business has been good, which includes getting requests for services be-

yond Lufkin and from growing diversity in clients. “Without looking at the real numbers, I would say 20 percent of our business now is from other communities, other than black folks,” he said. “That’s progress.” He said he stresses to his fu-

neral directors that when indigent families ask if they can get a proper burial for a loved one, even if they don’t have insurance, the employees always say yes, “because when man stops off, God will pick up.” Michael W. Douglas’ email address is

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

© 2013 Lockheed Martin Corporation


turning visions into

positive outcomes A commitment to community. Many claim it. We walk the walk. For the second time, our Pike County Operations facility was named one of Industry Week’s “Best Plants In America,” and took home the 2012 Alabama Performance Excellence Award. We’re proud of these accolades, and what they mean to the community. Because we don’t just work here. We live here. And supporting our communities so that they can grow and thrive is our top priority.

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3/11/13 4:44 PM

s p o t l i g h t angelina county

We’re Here i n e d u c at i o n

Local educators who have been contributing to the intellectual wellbeing of our children for decades without getting their due. Also, an update on Angelina College’s growth and importance to East Texas.


Senior UIL team members Ryan Dempsey (left) and Nohema Mendoza, and junior members Vanessa Saucedo and Kimlang Ly (right) surround Lufkin High School’s Accounting/UIL Coach Janice Holcomb.

Sunday, march 24, 2013 the lufkin news



Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

zavalla ISD

Former missionary shares experiences with Zavalla social studies students By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News ZAVALLA — Paraprofessional Carolyn Jordan is taking cultural learning to a whole new level at Zavalla ISD. Jordan has traveled to more than 30 countries in her lifetime, and now, through classroom presentations, she provides students with a firsthand look at the treasures, clothing, foods and customs she has gathered from her time in the foreign lands. Zavalla Junior High School social studies teacher Cathy Lott said Jordan brings these countries to life for her sixth-grade students, who are always excited to hear the paraprofessional speak. For more than 20 years, Jordan served as a missionary, traveling the eastern world alongside her husband and children. She and her family spent most of these years in Ecuador, where she homeschooled her children. After 15 years, her youngest daughter went off to Stephen F. Austin State University, and the family felt they had fulfilled their calling in Ecuador. “We felt like God wanted us somewhere else,” Jordan said. So the couple began missionary work in Thailand, and ended up serving in countries all throughout South Asia, including India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Jordan said she feels teaching is her true calling, so she and her husband taught Christian leaders throughout the area. Jordan’s husband passed away in 2002 due to terminal cancer while the two were on a leave of absence from the mission field. She started working as substitute teacher in East Texas while seeking permanent employment. In 2010, she found an open position at Zavalla ISD as a paraprofessional. Superintendent David Flowers said Jordan’s real-world experi-

ences contribute greatly to her students’ education. She is also bilingual, and often assists with Spanish communication at the school. “We’re super blessed to have her on our campus,” Flowers said. Nancy Bryan of the Content Mastery Center helps schedule Jordan’s meetings with Lott’s social studies class. She believes the best thing about Jordan’s presentations is the hands-on, three-dimensional experience students obtain through her exhibited items. “I have found that students learn on a three-dimensional level better, and retain the information,” Bryan said. “If you can see it, taste it, touch it, you are experiencing that, so therefore, it is an internalized reaction.” Jordan said that when Lott discovered she had traveled to so many countries — whether through her mission trips or for pleasure — she asked her to come share her stories regularly. “I love it,” Jordan said. “It has been fun. It’s been great getting to know these kids, and working with them. ... I think, especially for these kids, it opens their eyes to (the fact) that not everyone’s the same. Not everyone thinks the same way, or dresses the same way or eats the same things. And perhaps they’ll be able to, or have the desire, to go travel to other countries, or even work in other countries, and maybe not be afraid to do that.” Jordan has shared numerous stories with the students relating to the caste system in India, elephant transportation, the outdated medical systems in Russia, her consumption of haggis (a pudding containing sheep’s heart, liver and lungs cooked in the animal’s stomach) and an her encounter with an erupting volcano in Ecuador, just to name a few. “It seems like wherever we hop around the globe, she has

something that she can contribute,” Lott said. “The students want to know, ‘When will she be back?’ ... They’re very excited when she comes. It’s like she brings this magic trunk of all these items and she passes them around, and they get to try different things. They get to see photos. They see her in the photos in these various places, her riding an elephant ... and it just motivates them to thirst for more knowledge of those areas.” Jordan said that when she saw the volcano erupt, it looked like an atomic bomb had exploded. She brought some ash for the students to feel, and it was surprisingly grainy, Lott said. “For your kinesthetic learner, getting to touch that ash — they were just amazed by that,” she said. So far, Lott said, Jordan has assisted the class in learning about Europe, Russia, South Asia and Southeast Asia, and next they will study South America. Through her stories, the students are able to gain a new appreciation for the freedoms and luxuries they have in the United States, Lott said. Jordan shared encounters she had with less than favorable conditions — from housing to bathroom facilities. “The students in the United States don’t really (understand the) concept (that) everywhere in the world, people aren’t free,” Lott said. “I think that she makes that real, that we should be thankful for the freedoms that we have. I could tell them, and the book could tell them that your travel is restricted, or freedom of religion is restricted in these areas, but when someone has actually been there (and) saw those freedoms taken away from those people, then it makes our students appreciate that more.” Jordan said she hopes her stories will open the students’ eyes

Contributed photo

Zavalla ISD paraprofessional Carolyn Jordan (right) poses with students Cole Birchfield, Jason Rhames, Katrina Tarver, Lene Peete and Kayden Newsome.

Contributed photo

Carolyn Jordan tells a social studies class about one of her souvenirs. Her 20 years of missionary work took her all over the globe.

They’re very excited when she comes. It’s like she brings this magic trunk of all these items and she passes them around, and they get to try different things. Cathy Lott

Junior High School social studies teacher

and motivate them to see and do more in the world. She said she enjoys her experiences at Zavalla ISD, and loves watching the students grow year to year. She is always happy to share

Lufkin ISD

Lufkin teacher leads students to success during and after high school By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News

“After 13 years of teaching freshman English, I became aware of the fact that perLufkin High School’s Acsonal computers were being counting/UIL Coach Janice used in businesses and would Holcomb began her teaching eventually be brought into the career more than 40 years classrooms,” she said. “I took ago, but she adamantly strives courses in word processing at to stay on top of the everAngelina College and moved changing 21st century learning from the English classroom to technology. the business classroom. With Holcomb describes herself the support of my adminisas a risk-taker who is always trators, I was able to bring excited about trying new personal computers into my technology. She regularly seeks typing classroom and begin to new, interesting ways to teach teach word processing classes.” her students, and has led her During this time, the district UIL team to 13 straight district had chosen about 20 teachers to championships. serve as computer technicians Her first year as an educain order to build new computer tor began in Houston in 1970. labs on the campuses, Holcomb A year later, she was hired by said. Lufkin ISD to teach freshman “I was chosen as one of English. Holcomb served as the those first techs and spent student council sponsor and many after-school hours and held elections and meetings weekends with computer soluon a local and district level. tions companies as we built Each year, she would drive her three computer labs at Lufkin officers to state conferences Junior High West,” she said. in Austin. She also worked in “I climbed ladders to string the cafeteria making change the wiring from one room to for students who bought their another and even assembled lunches with cash, she said. the metal tables that we used in

her stories, she said, and will give presentations to interested groups, schools and organizations. “Mrs. Jordan makes the traditions and ways of life of

these many countries real for the students,” Lott said. “(She) is a priceless addition to the students’ learning.” Melissa Heard’s email address is

ThE BEST in MaTh

“If it weren’t for Ms. Holcomb, I wouldn’t have known what I wanted to do in college. Now I’m going into business at UT McCombs School of Business because of Ms. Holcomb.” Nohema Mendoza

LHS senior and UIL team captain

the new labs. During this time, I also attended conferences to learn about the Accelerated Reading program for secondary schools, and we were able to install it in one of our new labs.” Holcomb also helped her coworkers with computer repairs on a daily basis. “If I could not solve the problems, I then had to call the computer solutions company,” she said. “I had no repair training and was just learning on the job. Along with the other techs, I also taught software to teach-

ers so they could use them in their classrooms.” Her current accounting teacher position opened up at the high school in 1997, and Holcomb said she took the job in order to begin building a competitive accounting program in the University Interscholastic League. “I had not studied accounting for over 25 years, so I got to work studying and teaching myself the curriculum,” she said. “I started over for the third time in my teaching SEEHolcomb, PAGE 9I

St. Patrick’s is the only school in the lufkin area to offer the Kumon math program and to be designated as a PreK Center of Excellence, a gold standard in high quality PreK by the State of Texas. We are a co-educational Catholic school serving students of all faiths in grades PreK3 through 8th. We offer exceptional educational opportunities and are dedicated to a student’s spiritual, academic and physical development. Students learn the skills that empower them to excel in today’s society. We would consider it a privilege to welcome you into our community. See the St. Patrick way at


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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013

Hudson ISD

Above and beyond

Cindy Weems goes beyond the classroom for her students, school HUDSON — “Wherever you will find (Hudson Middle School) students representing our school, you can scan the crowd and rest assured you will find Mrs. (Cindy) Weems with camera in hand, documenting the moment,” said HMS Principal Richard Crenshaw. Weems currently heads the school’s AVID program, and teaches journalism and health education. An educator for 33 years, Weems goes above and beyond her assigned jobs to take on managing the HMS yearbook, updating the school website and handling all campus community relations. “Apart from preparing for three preps, Mrs. Weems also finds time to attend every function that Hudson Middle School students can be found participating in,” Crenshaw said. “Mrs. Weems has a hand in bringing pride not only to Hudson Middle School, but also to teachers, parents and grandparents that read the local paper and find exciting information about their child, grandchild, and/ or friend.” Weems said she especially enjoys leading the AVID program, which stands for “Advancement Via Individual Determination.” It is a college readiness system designed to increase school-wide performance and learning. “It’s a very goal-oriented program,” she said. “To just see their faces light up when they meet their goals — that’s just so rewarding to me.” The program focuses on future goals, and the students make dream boards for goal visualization. “I have a hand in helping them realize what their dreams are, and then I get to encourage and support them to reach those dreams and goals,” she said. “So

Angelina college

Angelina College uses Distance Learning program to serve students all over East Texas By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News

By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News


AVID educator Cindy Weems holds a bowl of chocolate mix made in preparation for the program’s annual Valentine’s Day Chocolate Fountain. Students pictured are eighthgrade AVID students, from left to right, Natalie Aldape, Christina Wallace, Destiny Marsh, Taylor Colbert and Sydney Molandes. it’s an awesome program to be a part of. I feel very lucky. It’s a program that’s all over the world, and we’re blessed here at Hudson to be able to have the program.” Weems has watched the school system expand over the years, and has developed many friendships throughout her time with the district. “It’s been amazing,” she said. “I’ve worked with the best students, the best teachers — everyone has a common goal of helping kids to be the best that they can be. The support from the school district is like a family. I just have some really good friendships that have developed from working here, and I just enjoy working with my coworkers so much. I feel very lucky.” As the yearbook sponsor, Weems attends as many events as possible relating to HMS students, and is always ready to capture the moment. “Mrs. Weems has managed to attend more student functions than myself, the campus principal, assistant principals and campus teachers all together,” Crenshaw said. “This requires much of

her personal time and energy, but (she) gladly does it with a smile on her face.” While Weems originally set out to major in journalism, she realized along the way that she felt called to teach. “I feel blessed to be a part of this school district,” she said. “It’s a very rewarding job.” When Weems began teaching at the Hudson school district in 1986, her husband also taught biology, and her son and daughter both went through the school system. “That’s another reason why I love this school,” she said. “They’ve nurtured my children. They had an impact on them. They helped to make them who they are today.” Weems said she would best sum up her years at Hudson as a blessing. “Definitely, hands down, my favorite thing about my job is the kids,” she said. “It’s just a blessing to me every day to come and be around kids who are striving to reach their goals.” Melissa Heard’s email address is

Pineywoods Community Academy College Preparatory Charter School

Outstanding ACADEMICS • PCA is a comprehensive free public charter school serving students in grades PreK-12th grade. • PARAMUS Early College High School students grades 9-12 take Dual Credit courses at Angelina College and can earn up to 60 college hours or an Associate’s Degree • PARAMUS is the only ECHS designated by the Texas Education Agency in the greater Angelina County area • Students can also choose certificate tracks including Vocational Nursing, Welding, Diesel Mechanic and Child Care.

Outstanding ACTIVITIES • UIL District 23-1A sports at the Junior High, Junior Varsity and Varsity levels including boys and girls basketball, track, cross country, golf, and tennis. • UIL Academics, Destination Imagination, and Robotics activities elementary through high school. • Award winning choral music and theater program.

Outstanding ADVANTAGES • Class sizes of 20 students or less provide individualized instruction and a student-centered approach • Student care available from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm

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through the Distance Learning program, as well. “One of the major goals of With Angelina College’s Angelina College is providing efforts to serve students from access to everyone for higher all over East Texas through its education,” said President Distance Learning program, Larry M. Phillips. “So obviously Marketing and Development through distance learning, it Coordinator Gary Stallard put gives us many more avenues to it best when he said, “Wherever reach out to people in addition you are, we’re here.” to having off-campus centers.” By implementing large satelThe independent satellite lite campuses in Livingston, centers serve as a representaCrockett and Japser, the college tion of Angelina College in is able to reach out to students their respective locations. without their having to travel to Prior to their implementation, the main campus. Technologiinstructors would offer courses cal advances like closed circuit at area high schools in the television allow AC teachers evenings. Now, the school has to educate distant students in hired a center director for each real time — as if they are right location who can best represent there in the classroom. Along the needs of the community. with a wide range of services, “They’re the eyes and ears,” the school offers dual-credit, Johnson said. “They know SEE Distance learning, PAGE 8I Internet and hybrid courses


History teacher Daniel Rankin lectures to Angelina College students and off-campus students via closed circuit TV. Rankin placed the visual of the concurrent class on the projector screen.


Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Lufkin ISD

Virginia Burse and Linda Latimer: 70+ years of LHS history By MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS The Lufkin News Mrs. Burse and Mrs. Latimer. Those two names have been such a part of the Lufkin High School autonomy that countless alumni, parents and legal guardians in the past three decades have had contact with either or both of the front office veterans. It may have been an uneventful meeting, or it could have been unforgettable — like the day a reporter from The Lufkin News arrived at Lufkin High to interview receptionist Virginia Burse, who was swamped with incoming phone calls and a host of motivated and not-as-motivated student office assistants. During the conversation, Linda Latimer, secretary to head principal Mark Smith, walked in to the reception area, and the interview organically involved into a conversation with two women who have seen a lot and shared a lot and both love their jobs and each other. Latimer has dedicated four decades to the Lufkin Independent School District. “I was 19 years old when I went to work for the district,” she said. “I turned 60 just this past December. See, Virginia and I, she’s a little bit older (three months) than me.” Burse, a 1972 graduate, grew up in the Redland school system. “Redland was integrated before Lufkin ISD, seventh, eighth and ninth grade at Redland,” she said. “I worked at the state school for about three years. Then I took a break for a few years and then began filling out applications for the school.” During that break Virginia and her late husband James Burse became parents to twin boys in 1973 and then a daughter in 1976. In 1979, she got hired with Lufkin ISD through a Deep East Texas Council of Governments program that was charged with diversifying the staff. Latimer had nine years already in the district at other campuses. When she arrived at the high school, she was a receptionist. And then fate brought the ladies together. Q: How’s it been working with Virginia? “Oh, great!” Latimer laughed. “I wouldn’t work without her.” “We go way back,” Burse said, laughing. “We’ve been together … wow,” Latimer said, “because we were in the office together at the old school, too, you know. We would cover for each other and that sort of thing.” “I told him about Jo,” Burse said. “Do you remember little, short Jo Sullivan? Remember, you got her spot, and I got Linda’s spot.” “To me, this is the worse job,” Latimer laughed. “I wouldn’t say the worst. It’s not really the work, but these two jobs (receptionist and

“A lot has changed. I can’t even say the kids are the same — especially with technology. Linda Latimer

Secretary to head principal Mark Smith

“I was telling Linda, we always say, ‘When one retires, we’re going to both retire.’” Virginia Burse

Lufkin High School receptionist

check-in) are on the front line and you see everybody here. If they’re mad. Good mood, bad mood, whatever. And there’s constantly someone in here … wanting something. Q: What was the best year for student workers? “I believe the ’80s,” Burse responded quickly,” because the students, a lot of them, were real mature. They just knew when to just let it go.” “Oh, I agree with that,” Latimer said. “We got to know them. And they respected us. The kids from 1987 — that’s my most memorable year. I think I was closer to that group of kids. I don’t know if it was my age or what. That was with Andrew and Jarrett and Becky Kent and Charlotte Dies — all that group. They were good kids that respected me.” “See! That’s what I was telling him,” Burse said. “It was the respect. You see, the teachers used to be able to handle the situation. Now they have to get the principal most of the time.” “A lot has changed,” Latimer said. “I can’t even say the kids are the same — especially with technology. We’ve got that cell phone battle every day.” Q: How has technology changed? “I had that little click-and-tap typewriter,” Burse said. Q: Was it an electric typewriter? “No, it was that manual kind,” Burse laughed. “I started off with the manual, and then we had that little old adding machine. And then we had the old mimeograph machine. Then there were those manual crank machines … duplicators. With that old black stuff, that black ink, we would get it everywhere. We used to have to go in there and put that on there and make our own copies when we had to make several copies. And you kind of had to ink it. Because when you’d ink it, it would smear.” Q: Do you miss the days of messy duplicating? “Oh, no,” Latimer said. “It’s really gone from chalkboard and chalk to scanning and texting, and emailing.” “Some teacher came in today,

and he was so happy I had some chalk left. I usually order just a little for the ones who still just want to use chalk.” Q: What are some embarrassing moments you MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS/The Lufkin News remember? “You know what was funny,” Virginia Burse engaged in a lively conversation with Linda Latimer about their combined 70-plus Burse said. “That day when we years at Lufkin ISD and three decades of friendship. had Mr. Thompson down there, when that boy, someone caught them down there and said they had been smoking. Do you remember those two boys they brought up? And the dumb boy put the cigarette in his pocket and he was standing up there saying he wasn’t smoking.” “Oh yeah!” Latimer said. “With it burning (in his pocket)!” “It was just a-burning,” Burse said. “That was one of the funniest things. All I can say, I watched the kids laugh. And they laughed and laughed and they laughed.” Burse was asked whether staying at Lufkin High for 30 of her 33 years with the district was on her mind when she first took the job. “That’s a good question,” she said, “because I had started taking some nursing courses and then I just kind of stayed. And when I lost James (her husband), that’s when I kind of like stopped taking the nursing classes. That was in MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS/The Lufkin News 1993. I kind of stayed put and I Linda Latimer stops for a moment “on the front line” before heading back to her office. started working part-time. And then I got caught up. And then when the kids graduated (from Lufkin High), I just kind of stayed put. So when I retire, I’m just going to be retired. I might volunteer or something at the hospital when I retire.” The retirement question is a bit more involved for Latimer, because her husband Frank, who teaches at the high school and has been with the district 44 years, is still working, too. “Well, it depends,” she said. “It depends a lot on the whole school system. It just depends on who … and what.” Right on cue, Burse said, “I was telling Linda, we always say, ‘When one retires, we’re going to both retire.’” “That’s right,” Latimer said.

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Diboll ISD

Huntington ISD

Diboll librarian gives 20 years of service

Teacher’s perseverance leads to competitive robotics program


Huntington High School’s robotics teacher, Peggy Albritton, helps her students with designing a competitive robot. By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News Under the leadership of robotics teacher Peggy Albritton, the students of the Huntington High School Gearheads robotics team can take on the world. It was her perseverance and drive that resulted in the implementation of the competitive robotics program in the small, country high school about 10 years ago, and during the program’s first year, she led her team all the way to the World Championships. Every year since, her teams have come very close to returning, she said. Albritton’s teaching career began 31 years ago as a Lufkin ISD home economics teacher. In her 11 years with the district, she also worked with the Teen Parenting Program and sponsored several organizations, including Youth Advisory Council, Future Homemakers of America and Cheerleaders/Pep Squad. Albritton joined the Huntington ISD family in August 1994 when she was hired to introduce a new home economics program to the eighthgraders at Huntington Middle School. It was the appeal of the quiet, small-town atmosphere that made it an easy move for Albritton, her husband and three daughters, she said. “My husband and I found a little house here and moved here, and decided we wanted a small town for the family,” she said. “It is a great school district — lots of great kids.” Albritton transferred to Huntington High School, where she said she continued to sponsor Future Homemakers of America worked with the Teacher Cadet Program. It was not until she attended a High Schools That Work training session in Nashville, Tenn., that she realized just how many students she could reach through robotics. “Not all kids are going to be roboticists, but they learn so much from the skills, the team work, the creative thinking and thinking out-of-the-box,” she said. “(There are) so many kids that may not be successful in

something else, but when they get in there and they see how it all fits together and how it all works, then they truly can apply the skills they’ve learned in the other classes. So it’s really awesome.” After the training session, Albritton began developing more technology-related programs — instituting a variety of innovative courses in robotics, computer technology and networking. “I currently teach robotics and have sponsored competitive teams for the past 10 years,” she said. “I have also worked with the Angelina County Youth Fair by creating and organizing the Family and Consumer Sciences Division.” Prior to her involvement in the FIRST Robotics Competition, Albritton would annually lead a team of inventors through the Texas Computer Education Association competition. “The first year we went, we won state,” she said. “For the next three years, (four years total) we won state, and then after that we placed, but then I just felt like it wasn’t enough. It wasn’t challenging them anymore.” That is when Albritton decided to steer into the robotics route. “When I found this, I thought, ‘Well, this is going to be a great challenge. This is going to be hard,’” she said. “And then that first year we qualified for world. It was amazing. And then every year, we’ve been very, very close. It is truly amazing, because we are competing against charter schools that do nothing but technology and math and science.” The school district is very supportive of the program, Albritton said, but even with all of the assistance, the small school still faces financial limitations compared to its competitors. Principal Jason Adams said Albritton has helped put the school on the map, and is providing students with a multitude of learning opportunities. “I would say, especially from a standpoint of providing kids opportunities, she does a

tremendous job,” he said. “She incorporates a lot of different aspects of different classes such as math, science (and) engineering — kind of combines it all into one. We’ve got some kids that aren’t necessarily successful in some classes, but you put them in a program like hers, where now they’re doing project-based learning ... and they can incorporate all these different aspects and put it together. ... Some kids, they may struggle in math but do great in her class, and it gives them an opportunity to be successful.” Regarding competitions, Adams said it was great to see Huntington going head to head with STEM academies and technology schools and coming out on top. “Here we are just a little country school that’s competing with the big kids,” he said, “so that kind of looks good for our place. It’s pretty impressive.” Albritton’s robotics students spoke highly of their teacher and her dedication to the team, stating she comes in on Sundays, family birthdays and anniversaries to assist the students in planning. “She’s always giving 150 percent,” said student Jessica Lowry. “Like, even when we are not, she is. ... She is always for the betterment of us — for the betterment of our team. No matter if we win or lose, she’s like jumping for joy at the end.” The team captain, Dalton Claussen, said it was Albritton who sparked his interest in pursuing engineering as a career. “I was in robotics I when she saw my potential in (it),” he said. “She asked me to be on the team specifically, and I did, and it changed my life.” Albritton said she continues to look for new ways to challenge the students and help them learn as much as possible. “It’s just amazing what they can do,” she said. “It’s always a challenge. ... I love it very much.” Melissa Heard’s email address is


Librarian Sally Macher of Diboll High School poses in the library she has worked in for 20 years. By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News DIBOLL — Since 1993, Diboll High School librarian Sally Macher has gone out of her way to assist students and staff in pursuing academic goals to their fullest potential. “I really love it,” she said. “You get to touch lives of all the kids — not just ones that you have in a certain class. ... I am able to help students and teachers alike to be successful.” Serving in the education field for 30 years, Macher took on her current librarian position 20 years ago and still has not run out of steam — nor does she plan to. Macher is constantly coming up with new ideas to better the school, Principal Daniel López said, and helps keep academic and technological operations running smoothly. Macher said she enjoys assisting the students in a wide range of subjects. She also enjoys working in a close-knit community like Diboll, where she is able to know everyone, she said. “It makes you feel like you’re a part of something, and you care about how the kids do,” she said. “Everybody knows each other. That’s what’s nice about a small school. I’d much rather be at a school where I know everybody.” Macher grew up in St. Louis and moved to East Texas in 1981 with her husband, who works in the forestry business. The couple both work in town, and their two children went through the Diboll school system. When her daughter was a freshman 15 years ago, Macher became the sponsor of the school’s Interact Club, a volunteer organization sup-


“She’s just great. We’re lucky to have her on campus. We really are.” Daniel López

Diboll High School Principal

ported by the Angelina County Rotary Club. Macher said being the club sponsor is one of her favorite things to do, so she went on to offer her services to other interested clubs, as well. She also sponsors the National Honor Society, and recently, an anime club, in which students come to the library and read anime books. “I just like working with the kids, because I get to meet with them, and get to know them a little better than just seeing them in the library,” she said. “That’s part of my favorite part of this job, is getting to do other things besides just (librarian duties).” Librarian duties have become much more involved than what people realize, Macher said. Besides dealing with books, she also takes on technology distribution, troubleshooting, calculators, computers and meeting the needs of the teachers. “It’s a very diverse job now,” she said. “It’s not just books, at all. It makes it more fun. I enjoy interacting with the teachers on different levels. ... I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t do this.” Macher also assigns senior library aides to help with the workload. The students obtain service experience and organizational skills on the job, Macher said, and responsibility is reinforced. Each is expected to set

an example for the student body, and in order to hold the position, each student is required to read a book and write a book review every six weeks. Student aide Alex Grimaldo said Macher has helped him a lot with his writing skills, and that she is always ready to help students at a moment’s notice. “I learned how to categorize books and things in the system,” said student aide Sade Levias. “(Macher) is great. She’s patient. She can be funny, but she can be serious when it’s time to get serious.” “She’s a new-school librarian trying to incorporate technology,” López said. “She always comes up with solutions.” López described Macher as a “lifelong learner” who constantly strives to stay current. Macher’s library aide of 15 years, Judie McGuire, said she is a fair and likeable person who goes above and beyond to help lead the students and staff to success. “This is her love,” McGuire said. “She’s willing to help the kids. They want someone to sponsor them, and she’s willing to do it. And she doesn’t have to do that. ... She’s a super sweet lady.” “She’s just great,” López said. “We’re lucky to have her on campus. We really are.” Melissa Heard’s email address is

Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Pineywoods Community academy

Veteran teacher plays many roles at Pineywoods Academy By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News

with them,” she said. “It gives us some cooperative planning time, and helps us learn from each other as teachers, so Teacher Jessica Mayes of Pineythat’s been beneficial. ... I kind of help woods Community Academy dedicates coach the teachers with the strategies many working hours to her multiple that we need to use in class. If they roles at the school, high school Princicome to me with a question, I try to pal Monica Gunter said. find the answer, which usually requires “Jessica is a great example of an a little bit of searching, because I’m instructional leader that cares for all learning right there with them.” students,” she said. “She works long Prior to joining Pineywoods, Mayes hours preparing lessons and activitaught in Nacogdoches for nine years. ties for her students. Her classroom The principal, who was her high school is relaxed but focused, and students principal years ago, was retiring, so she are held to a high standard. There are felt like it was time for a change, she many days that Jessica gives up her said. own time having students in her room “I kind of fished around a little bit before school, after school and someand found Pineywoods and thought the times during lunch.” Early College High School program Mayes teaches seventh- and eighthwas very interesting,” she said. “I grade science, forensic science to high thought it was a beneficial program.” schoolers, and robotics, and is the Early At her previous school, Mayes dealt College High School Facilitator. In that with many at-risk and high-needs role, she helps schedule and oversee kids, which is the focus of the ECHS instructional rounds, in which teachprogram. ers observe each other’s methods. The “I also had a high schooler who is program was new to Pineywoods when now a senior, and figured it was a good MELISSA HEARD/The Lufkin News Mayes joined the school family three change for him, as well,” she said. “So I Teacher Jessica Mayes (front center) of Pineywoods Community Academy poses with her eighth-grade students, Emily years ago. brought him over with me.” SEE Pineywoods, PAGE 9I Eng (left), Caitlyn Fisher, David Tolley, Marc Lopez, Cecelia Lopez and Blake Garrett. “I’ve been in the growth process

St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School

The art of music

Karen Greer teaches kids to both love and understand music By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School music teacher Karen Greer sings so well that, during school programs, her students sometimes forget they are supposed to be singing and just listen to her, Principal Brinn Williford said. “Wowing” the school with her talents is not Greer’s goal, however, as she selflessly aims to showcase the talents and abilities of her students through conducting numerous musical programs. Greer teaches kindermusic classes throughout the year, coordinates all of the school’s student performances, leads worship during chapel and teaches music to students in her spare time. She has also taken a lead role in helping St. Cyprian’s prepare for re-accreditation next year. For 13 years, Greer has been a member of the St. Cyprian’s family. “Ms. Greer is just a very wonderful lady,” Williford said. “It’s always a bonus to an administrator when you have somebody that you can give a responsibility to, and I know they’re going to take care of it (without having) to go check on them or look over their shoulder. She’s definitely one of those. She puts our children’s programs together, and we can’t get the kids to walk in line down the halls straight, but she has 200 of them on stage at the same time doing all of their stuff. I don’t know how she does it.” Greer said she gets a lot out of her job, and loves watching the children grow into successful young men and women. “It just gives me so much pleasure,” she said. “(I) feel like I’m being very productive when I help the kids not

only love music, which is my first priority, but understand it, and begin to be able to read music and play instruments. A lot of these kids go on to play in middle school and high school. I’ve got some kids that are doing all-region choir and being in shows, and I actually have a student who went to the Berkeley School of Music. ... It’s just kind of neat to open up that area to them, and not only let them just enjoy it, but maybe give them a little taste of what they can do when they get older. I really enjoy it.” Greer said she grew up leading music in church, so she welcomed the opportunity to lead worship during chapel. Through the Stephen F. Austin State University prep program, Greer teaches music classes designed for parents with children 5 or younger. She helps the parents learn how to interact with their young children, and uses music to stimulate their linguistic and motor development. “It’s so neat to see the parents and the kids bond,” she said. “Music is just kind of an inherently social activity ... so it kind of gives them another way to interact with their kids. ... I think it just benefits the kids so much. It’s amazing the things that they can do — even the babies. They’ll clap their hands (and) play drums.” Over the summer, Greer also runs a camp where students can learn more about music. She has been preparing for several events, including the school-circus performance, its Texas parade, a recycling musical and more. Even if another teacher is in charge of organizing a program, Greer said, she is happy to step in and help out. “I really like to be available to the teachers, just for anything

— any extra music emphasis that they want to do,” she said. “This is such a creative, performance-oriented school. The kids have a lot of opportunities to get up in front of people. It builds their confidence.” Greer’s 13-year-old son went through St. Cyprian’s and now attends school in Hudson. “When I ask him the things that he remembers about school, it’s those special things,” she said. “It’s the performances, or it’s the Wax Museum — those are the things MELISSA HEARD/The Lufkin News that really stick with them — St. Cyprian’s Episcopal School’s music teacher Karen Greer plays guitar and sings a praise and that make an impression on them that they remember. They worship song. Greer leads the school in a large number of musical activities. just really enjoy it, and get to shine.” Williford said it is great to have people like Greer who can take ideas and run with them, and create even more elaborate outcomes than he could have imagined possible. “They could get more recognition and more money Energy Efficient Propane for Your Home anywhere else than at the private school,” he said. “But they Tullos Propane Alto Butane Co. are here by choice, and I would Apple Springs Alto say because they feel like it’s an area of ministry for them. It’s something that, I’d say, by its very nature, does not scream for promotion, but it just makes a difference in the lives of our kids every day. It’s something we’re very blessed to have.” Danny Tullos Trent Williams Williford said he has seen Greer bring out extraordinary talents and confidence in students who he would have never imagined to possess such capabilities, he said. Olin Pap Boots Carmen Jimmy Orvile Hoyt Dwight “It’s just incredible that there Vaughn Blanton Brooks Poland Allen Collins Lyons Lyons are people out there like that,” he said. “She is a very appropriKelly Rester Eileen Smith ate representative for all of the teachers at our school who do the same thing every day. ... Ms. Greer has done it very well. ... We’re just very blessed.”

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Central ISD

‘We truly don’t know what we’d do without her’ Central Elementary’s curriculum coach spends countless hours bringing school improvement projects to fruition


Central Elementary’s curriculum coach, Anita Byrd, demonstrates the school’s new after-school pick up policy, in which teachers walk students to their vehicles, check for the guardians’ ID tags and secure the children before seeing them off. Byrd took the lead in organizing this recently implemented procedure. By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News When things are running smoothly, it is sometimes difficult to fathom the work that goes on behind the scenes to make it happen. But at Central Elementary School, Principal Karen Shumaker said she recognizes that a great deal of the school’s successful operation can be attributed to its curriculum coach, Anita Byrd. Byrd, according to her coworkers, spends countless hours of the day and night bringing school improvement projects to fruition. “If you’re doing a really good job, people don’t really realize what you’re doing, because you’re so effective at it that it looks like it’s all running smoothly,” Shumaker said. “(Byrd) is so organized, and she can just get these things together. ... We truly don’t know what we’d do without her.” As a dedicated Central Elementary employee for about 13 years, Byrd taught fourth grade prior to her current position. Working with math instructors is Byrd’s main focus, but that only scratches the surface of what she does for the school, Shumaker said. She also helps with technological teaching tools like the “Smart Board,” helps with discipline, organizes new school procedures and more. During a meeting this school year, the administrators discussed the implementation of a new and safer after-school transportation procedure for students. “This is a small community, relatively speaking,” Shumaker said. “But we’re growing. And so, because of that, our numbers have grown for the elementary campus so much this year. One of the things that we were noticing is that even though we know a lot of the parents, there are many of them that we aren’t familiar with.” The administrators decided that everyone, no matter if they are well-known or not, is required to show a name tag to pick up their child.

“(Byrd) took the initiative to do this herself,” Shumaker said. “We talked about it, and the next thing we know, she has it all planned out. She never sleeps at night, by the way.” Beginning in January, two teachers from each grade level walk each student car-rider to their vehicle, check for the guardian’s name tag, secure the child and make sure everyone is safe. If parents do not bring their tags, they must walk in the office to sign the children out. Students are required to wear tags with identification information, as well. “With so many things happening in our nation with children being kidnapped, we just felt that it was really important that the children were identified in a way that we could identify them, and that’s why we went to the student tags,” Byrd said. “On their student tags they have vital information that helps us locate them, another teacher (or) their bus. That way, we just know who is supposed to pick them up, and if a person doesn’t have a matching tag, then they’re not allowed to get that child.” Byrd said all teachers are also assigned a bus to monitor, and they follow their assigned group of students from the classroom until they get on the bus. “There’s never a moment on our elementary campus any longer when a child is ever not monitored,” Byrd said. “They’re always supervised — from the classroom to either the car rider line or to the bus.” As a math curriculum coach, Byrd spends time collaborating with teachers — helping direct instruction to meet the needs of struggling students. She also facilitates the school’s participation in the Optional Flexible Year Program, where on extended days she helps absentees, students with behavioral problems or students who need additional academic assistance. Bringing the school district and community together to support students of all grades has been a focus of Byrd’s through her organization of events like the “Dawg Cage.” She planned

out the details of a pep rally during which students with good grades behavior, character and/ or attendance are honored. “I don’t know what I used to do without Ms. Byrd,” said Assistant Principal Kyle Ivey. “She is so organized. We’ll be in a meeting or something, and we’ll just come up with an idea, and the next day she has it all planned out and ready to implement it, and that’s phenomenal.” Ivey said Byrd is always ready to carry out his duties for him anytime he is out for a sickness or emergency. “She just steps in,” he said. “And it’s not asking her to do anything — she just does it. She’s just a go-getter. She just takes reins.” Fourth grade teacher Sheila Cloyd tends to poke fun at Byrd’s take-charge attitude, Cloyd said, often assuring her, “She is not bossy — she just knows what she should be doing.” Cloyd gave Byrd a sign for her door with this message as a joke. She got to know Byrd well after working under her lead for nine years when Byrd headed the fourth grade teachers. “You always need a visionary, but you also need somebody that can implement whatever the vision is,” Ivey said. “She’s that person.” Byrd insisted that her fellow Central Elementary leaders were bragging on her too much, and said the hard work around campus is equally exhibited by Shumaker and Ivey. “I love children, and when you’re in a position like this, you look at other schools, and I can honestly say on an elementary level, the leadership here with Ms. Shumaker and Mr. Ivey is incomparable,” Byrd said. “The Christian values that are here — children know that they’re loved. They know that they’re valued and they’re cared for. I think students, when they feel that way, (are) able to thrive and learn. They feel safe. They feel loved and cared for. I really don’t desire to go anywhere. This is the only place I want to be.”

Distance learning Continued from Page 3I exactly what that community needs. So it helps when we have that full-time invested person over the center. ... People really start to recognize that this isn’t just Livingston High School that has AC meetings there — this is actually Angelina College. That makes a big difference.” Judith Wright, the off-campus and distance learning coordinator, said Angelina College has probably one of the largest schedules of connected classes in the area. Via closed circuit TV, the teachers can simultaneously connect with a Distance Learning class in more than one location. “So we will have an instructor who is teaching students, who are AC students, and that instructor is teaching students in Jasper and in Crockett at the same time,” Wright said. “So they have access to our full-time instructors without having to drive through the Davy Crockett National Forest and the Angelina National Forest to get to AC. It’s a savings on them — on their vehicle and on gasoline, and on their time. They’re able to get their courses in their community, (and) they still have the benefit of our wonderful full-time instructors.” Johnson said even though there may be 12 classes in session on campus during a given time, the teachers could be broadcasting to about 23 locations simultaneously. While Johnson and Wright work to meet the Distance Learning needs on campus, they also hold teaching positions and help with other campus operations. Reaching out to so many students on and off campus is a challenge, but the organizers said they enjoy what they do, and enjoy connecting students from far and wide to the campus. The college has 114 connected classes, Wright said. During an interview with The Lufkin News conducted via closed circuit TV, off-campus student Brandon David of the Jasper center spoke highly of AC’s Distance Learning program. “I’m trying to get into a PTA program and I haven’t had to

drive to Lufkin, so it’s actually saved me a lot of money on gas and vehicle expenses and stuff like that,” Davis said. “So it’s been pretty good to me. ... Angelina was the first place that had distance learning. ... I came in, and there were the teachers on the TV, and I was like, ‘What?’ It was kind of a new experience. It’s really not a hindrance or anything — it’s like they’re there.” Unlike David, many of the school’s concurrent students are still in high school, and are looking for a convenient way to gain as much college credit as possible before graduation. “Most of these high school college students get 24 hours of college credit (the whole year) pretty much out of the way through distance by the time they graduate high school, without many of them ever stepping on this campus,” Wright said. Johnson said he works with about 1,150 concurrent students across the area. Many of the students who have taken AC college courses during their high school years later attended the University of Texas, Stephen F. Austin State University and Lamar University, he said. One concurrent Apple Springs student ended up at Yale University. Students are also able to take advantage of AC’s Internet courses. “That is huge,” Wright said. “With the use of the Internet and the advances in technology that we’ve had (at AC), our office could theoretically impact every student at AC.” In attending the Texas Learning Conference in March, Johnson returned to the campus with many new ideas regarding the use of Internet with class interaction. The directors actively look for new

techniques that can be used to benefit student learning. The school also offers the The Virtual College of Texas — a service of the Texas Association of Community Colleges. Operational since 1998, the VCT is a collaborative of Texas community colleges, and works to increase higher education access through the sharing of eLearning resources. “It’s been one of the most positive organizations that I have been associated with in my job,” Wright said. “We don’t compete with one another. We work with one another.” The two-year schools provide opportunities for students who may need to take a course, but the class is full. If this were the case at AC, Wright would contact a colleague at another location and find out if a seat is available in the school’s classroom, and visa versa. The hybrid course option is another solution for the traveling or working student. Students are able to take half of their registered class online, and spend the other half in the classroom. “That way, they wouldn’t have to travel back and forth two days a week,” Wright said. “So it works really well. ... For me, the hybrid is the best of both worlds.” Wright and Johnson spoke highly of the program, and their passion for their work was evident. “We’re student-oriented,” Wright said. “I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t in some service to students.” The college’s off-campus centers are in Crockett, Hemphill, Jasper, Livingston, Nacogdoches, Sabine Area Career Center, San Augustine, Trinity and Woodville. Melissa Heard’s email address is

“We’re student-oriented. I wouldn’t be doing it if it weren’t in some service to students.” Judith Wright

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St. Patrick Catholic School

Kumon Math gives students a head start in math, other skills

St. Patrick’s variety of programs, small class sizes aimed at keeping students competitive By MELISSA HEARD The Lufkin News

Students also use Saxon Math books and Everyday Math books, as well, as Kumon serves as a supplemental learning program. By the time eighth-graders from St. Pat“There’s a subtle difference between every rick Catholic School get to high school, their level (and) every book,” Menz said. “Every academic possibilities are exponential after level has 20 books. Every book is progressively completing the Kumon Math program. harder, but because it’s slow and it’s progresAdministrator/Principal Jim Menz spoke sive, you’re learning the concept. On the book, highly of the comprehensive program and the you’re graded for accuracy, and then there’s effect it has on the students. By the time many pass or fail, and then if you fail, you repeat it. of them graduate, they are in the top 10 percent You get the book back the next day. We give our of their class, he said, which is partially thanks kids Kumon Math for the first 30 minutes of the to their strong mathematical foundation. school day every day.” Menz said the United States is ranked 27th The school also welcomes parent volunteers, out of all the countries in higher levels of math but not in the same classroom as their own — algebra, especially. Singapore is ranked No. children. The children learn to be respon1. sible for completing their booklets, and are “The United States is in an Algebra crisis,” also timed. With the limited amount of time Menz said. provided for completion, Menz said it elimiWorking as an engineer prior to his adminis- nates the option for students to count on their trative position, Menz has a strong mathemati- fingers. They have to truly study and learn the cal background, and has seen firsthand the material. lack of understanding modern students have The Kumon program works to give students with algebra through his tutoring session at a head start in math, master concepts and Angelina College and Stephen F. Austin State skills, develop independent study habits, learn University. techniques and gain the confidence to succeed. With most colleges requiring algebra to Menz said St. Patrick competes each year in graduate, many students are not equipped to regional mathematical competitions — always rise to the challenge, he said, as there are too winning and moving on to state. He encourages many holes in their learning. Kumon Math community members to consider enrolling helps to fill in those gaps. their children in the school. “If you’re missing something, it kind of fills “When they leave here, I can assure you this in the basics,” Menz said. — they’ll know their mathematics,” he said. The math program has become so popular, “That’s kind of what we’re known for.” he said, that it has expanded out of schools and Along with Kumon Math, St. Patrick offers into independent learning centers. St. Patrick the AR Program “Reading Counts,” Shurley is one of the few schools that was able to keep Grammar, small class sizes, year-round prean ongoing contract with the program due to school program, academic and fine arts compeits long-standing utilization. titions, foreign language (Spanish), computer Menz said that when Larry Gaudet was and science lab, middle school theater, sports, principal, he brought the program into the yearbook and student council, extended care school. At the time, St. Patrick had only about available until 5:30 p.m., a shuttle bus service 60 students, and the implementation of Kumon to and from Nacogdoches, and summer camp. Math helped bolster the school and its reputaThe school will host a festival all day on March tion, Menz said. 17, and open enrollment begins April 9. The The teachers introduce the Kumon program campus is located at 2116 Lowery St. in Lufkin. to the pre-K3 class, and continue through each For more information about the school, visit grade level — offering course advancements all Melissa Heard’s email address is the way up to precalculus.

Holcomb Continued from Page 2I career. I spent many hours planning lessons and learning how to coach a team to become successful in competitions. I put together my first competitive team the second year and we placed third at the district meet.” Since then, Holcomb’s team has won the district meet every year, and is the only team in the school district to rack up 13 consecutive wins. Her current team consists of seniors Nohema Mendoza and Ryan Dempsey, and juniors Vanessa Saucedo and Kimlang Ly. “I have taken students to the State UIL Meet in Austin for the past 13 years, and my goal is to win the state championship,” she said. “They know when we come in we’re going to work hard, because I’ve raised the bar pretty high.” Learning under Holcomb has been a life-changing experience for LHS senior and UIL team captain Mendoza, the captain said. She was introduced to Holcomb as a freshman by her pre-AP algebra teacher, Gary Hamilton. Hamilton often recommends students to Holcomb who have sharp math skills like Mendoza, Holcomb explained. While she does not normally accept freshmen into her accounting class, she made an exception for Mendoza.

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“If it weren’t for Ms. Holcomb, I wouldn’t have known what I wanted to do in college,” Mendoza said. “Now I’m going into business at UT McCombs School of Business because of Ms. Holcomb.” Dempsey said while he is interested in business, accounting was never his favorite subject. But it was because of Holcomb that he chose to take her class and join the UIL team, he said, as she makes the learning process more fun. Holcomb influenced Dempsey to change his intended major from nursing to business, he said, and she has played a significant role in pushing him past his “senioritis.” “Ms Holcomb’s one of the reasons why we keep on going,” he said. “She’s able to keep pushing me along the path — a little bit further. It’s so easy to just want to stop.” Saucedo said she used to have difficulty understanding accounting, but Holcomb put it into terms she could understand. Dempsey said Holcomb relates to her students well because she gets on their level, and although she is teaching them, she lets them teach her, as well. “Teenagers are amazing,” Holcomb said. “I have learned so much from them.” Stephen Rhoades, the LHS


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career & technology director, said that throughout his career at LHS, he has seen Holcomb supply her students with valuable tools for their futures. “She’s very passionate about teaching kids,” he said. “She likes her kids to pursue excellence — particularly excellence beyond high school. (She’s) very outcome-driven.” Rhoades said Holcomb is probably one of the toughest competitors at the school, and she puts many hours into helping her students. “This past month I have been very busy in the evenings and weekends writing letters of recommendation for my senior students,” Holcomb said. “As they apply to colleges for admission, they also apply for scholarship monies to help to pay for their tuition and books. It is very rewarding to watch them prepare for college, and their recommendation letters have become a huge responsibility for me.” When asked how she has remained in her demanding profession for 41 years, Holcomb humbly stated it is because of her students. “The students are amazing,” she said. “They teach me so much.”


First grade teacher Mary Renee’ Gundersen of St. Patrick Catholic school guides her students through Kumon Math.

Pineywoods Continued from Page 7I

It is evident that Mayes’ students think highly of her. When she walked down the hall, several students would happily call out her name and wave “hello.” Eighth-grader Emily Eng said Mayes is a great teacher, and that she appreciates her hands-on approach to science. “The way she organizes her journals — it’s very clean and neat,” she said. “We learn a lot of stuff in her class, because before I came to this school, like when I was at the middle school, I didn’t really learn science that well. It wasn’t good. I can learn better in her class.” Mayes said she has built a close relationship with the students and staff members. Being at a small school, she said, the staff is like her family. “I’ve become really attached to my kids, also, because I teach them for two years, whereas my previous school I would get them for a year and

then I send them on,” she said. “Especially in eighth grade — I’d send them on to high school, and then I don’t see them again, whereas here, I get to see them because they’re in high school and they’re right here across the hallway from me. ... So you really get to know them as they go through.” On top of her school duties, Mayes still finds time to be a mother of three, participate in church activities and go to the gym. “Jessica serves as a great inspiration to us all,” Gunter said. Mayes said she has enjoyed her changeover to Pineywoods Academy. “I have smaller classes and there are less kids overall, (so) I build a better relationship with them,” she said. “I kind of get to know them like they’re my own. ... It’s a whole lot of fun. I don’t think I would do anything else.” Melissa Heard’s email address is

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  Welcome to the Lufkin Independent School District. The mission of the  Lufkin Independent School District is to ensure student success through high  expectations, a focus on student learning, creating challenging and engaging  classrooms, and a commitment to continuous improvement. With increased  accountability standards for all students and the demands of high stakes testing,  Lufkin ISD embraced the need to be proactive in assisting all students in meeting  increased performance standards. Lufkin ISD is proud to provide all students with  world class educational opportunities. Lufkin ISD students are successful and the  Lufkin ISD staff takes pride in that success.   Like many districts, Lufkin ISD has wrestled with increases in population and  the challenges of providing adequate facilities while being faithful stewards of  taxpayer money. In November of 2007 this community passed a $49.5 million  bond initiative to address three main areas of need in facilities and programs.  These needs relate to campus safety and security, program and facility upgrades,  and provisions for student growth. In 2012-2013 we will complete our last  project, the renovation of Malinda Garrett Primary School. Garrett Primary has a  rich history. Built upon land donated by Norris and Malinda Garrett, old Dunbar  School was built and operated there from 1924 until 1952. When a new building,  called Dunbar High School, was built on Lake Street, the school on Leach Street  became Malinda Garrett Elementary School. Please watch our progress as we  complete the renovation on this piece of Lufkin history. Plans for a dedication  ceremony are underway for the spring of 2013. These soon to be completed bond  projects guarantee that the students of Lufkin ISD have world class facilities, safe  and secure campuses, and a positive atmosphere for learning. The community  continues to demonstrate public confidence in Lufkin ISD.    Lufkin ISD offers successful, competitive, and challenging programs to include:  world class dual language magnet programs, gifted and talented magnet  programs, full-day prekindergarten instruction for three and four year olds, full  day kindergarten programs, full day programs for students with autism, deaf  education, and PPCD programs for early childhood. Lufkin ISD puts the needs of  every student in the forefront. Lufkin ISD strives to recognize academic excellence  and challenge every student to reach his full potential.  We are proud of what the  Lufkin Panther Community does for children and why Lufkin ISD is truly a special  place to work and learn.   Members of the Lufkin Panther Nation know what it means to be a part  of a vibrant educational community that is more like being a member of a  large extended family. It is sometimes difficult to explain to people what the  phenomenon of the Panther Nation is all about. What makes Lufkin ISD so special?  It is the people and their dedication to the children in Lufkin. Everyone at Lufkin  ISD shares a passionate desire to see children be successful and challenged  academically. To list all of the contributions of all of our staff members would fill  volumes. Come and experience what it means to be part of the Panther Nation on  any fall Friday night and you will see an entire town turned out to support a world  class football team, band, drill team, cheerleaders, to name a few. It’s a community  event of massive proportions. It’s Panther Pride.  For some towns, it might just be  a slogan on a t-shirt. For Lufkin, it’s a great time to be a Lufkin Panther!

s p o t l i g h t angelina county

We’re Here

in public service The men and women (and canines) of our police and fire departments and important government agencies.

Steve Knight/The Lufkin News

April Earley, Lufkin’s municipal court judge, stands in front of Lufkin’s City Hall

Sunday, march 24, 2013 the lufkin news





Lt. Bryan Holley dedicates 30 years of service to law enforcement By JESSICA COOLEY The Lufkin News

The man nodded and smiled sheepishly as Holley placed him in his patrol vehicle to take him on to jail. hether he’s going toe-to-toe with a naked “If you cannot necessarily make light of a siturenegade or running down a pipeline ation, but try to provide a little bit of laughter, in protester, Angelina County Sheriff’s a bad situation, it breaks the ice,” Holley said of officer Lt. Bryan Holley does it with a smile and a his skill. “You have to know when and where to laugh. use it because there’s some times you just can’t. His dedication to the job coupled with his knack Sometimes we really do run across some bad, evil for diffusing tense situations with humor is some- people. Those type of people I’m not going to try to thing for which the 30-year lawman has become provide comic relief for. They’re out there.” known. Throughout the course of his law enforcement When Keystone XL Pipeline protestors took career — in Angelina County and overseas workto the woods of Diboll in January, the 46-yearing for the United Nations and State Department old Holley was seen running down a 20-year-old in Africa — Holley said he’s seen his fair share of protester before hauling him away in handcuffs. good and evil. While the man’s initial reaction was what you Early in his law enforcement career, while would have expected — hostile confusion — with- working for Pct. 1 Constable R.T. Due, Holley said, in minutes he and Holley were standing beside the he made a traffic stop that took 1,400 pounds of deputy’s squad car laughing. marijuana off the streets. A few years later, while “You didn’t expect that out of this old man, did working at the Sheriff’s Office and partnered ya?” Holley asked, to which the man chuckled in with Barry Soschay, Holley said, they made a stop return, shaking his head “no.” that netted another 1,000 pounds of the illegal What happened next is what makes those substance. He even spent four-and-a-half years around him, colleagues and criminals alike, working as a K-9 narcotics handler for Angelina respect him. County, partnered with a German shepherd “Now look, all laughing aside, I don’t think named Quin (pronounced “King”). you’re a bad person. You just made a bad deci“He was a multi-trained dog — attack, track and sion,” he told the man. “I understand what you’re K-9. I trained him and he trained me,” Holley said. THE LUFKIN NEWS FILE PHOTO out here to do, but I have a job to do, too. It’s nothSEE Holley, PAGE 7J Angelina County Sheriff’s officer Lt. Bryan Holley is shown taking a suspect into custody. ing personal.”


TxDOT engineer always multi-tasking at work, play By STEVE KNIGHT The Lufkin News


esse Sisco, assistant area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Lufkin district, has a lot on his plate. When he’s not keeping his bride of 11 years, Kim, happy, serving as Cub Scout leader to his sons Elias and Avery, gardening, teaching Bible class or training for an upcoming sprint triathlon, you might find Sisco in his office filled with the latest artwork from his daughters Maia and Rosemary hanging on the wall among schematic drawings for the $52 million, 30-month highway project he’s project manager for — the U.S. 59 North Near-Term diamond interchange project at Loop 287 in Lufkin. Sisco was assigned as project manager in September 2009. “Every though my jobs vary in the construction office — design, maintenance, construction — right now I’m solely project manager of this job,” said Sisco, who has worked in the Lufkin district office since 2006. “I want to make sure that the contractor will perform the work according to the standards and specifications in the contract. I have to make sure that they do it just right. I’ll go out and I’ll look at not only what they are doing but what effects they are causing to the environment and make sure we don’t mess anyone’s business up or we don’t flood anybody or cause accidents.” There are a lot of incidents that go along with a project of this size other than just building the road, he said. “That’s our principal item — we want to get in and build it and get out, but we don’t want to do any harm along the way,” he said. “We need to make it as safe as we can. Working under traffic, it’s not easy. For Lufkin, this is a big project. This is something we don’t do very often. They allowed me to manage the design of this,

which is really four projects put into one. I was given a design team of very capable, smart people and we put it all together using our current specs.” Sisco cited the U.S. 59 overpass near Lufkin Mall as an example of a similar project. “If you’re familiar with what happened in front of the mall, it was a new overpass, a 59 connection going north getting onto the loop heading east, so there were no slowdowns and no merging,” he said. “We’re doing the same thing here. We’ve got a 13-span bridge going north and an 18-span bridge going south. There won’t be any merging. It’s going to correct a lot of things along the way. We’ve got (higher) standards now, but 30 years ago, when the cloverleaf, for example, was built, it may have met standards back then, but it’s inadequate for our needs today. We also have some insufficient vertical clearances on some of our bridges in the area, and this is going to correct that.” As there are more cars that hit the highways along with increasing truck traffic, Sisco said, highway planning and engineering must evolve. “When cars were invented they drove on mud roads,” he said. “They learned as they went that we could do this better. If you look at the progression from where we started, we’ve come a long ways the whole time. People drive faster. We know that because they are increasing speed limits. In that measure, we try to design our roads for higher speeds. The percentage of trucks on the roads is not going down.” Sisco, a 1999 Texas A&M University civil engineering graduate, said he didn’t become interested in engineering until college. His dad planted the seed. “My dad said before I got into college that I might make a good engineer,” he said. “Of course, I was thinking trains and driving a train and

I thought, ‘Yeah, I could do that.’ My dad’s an accountant and I didn’t think I would be interested in that. I wanted to be outside a little bit and I like to figure things out. Engineering is just a problem-solving field. I’m not going to say I can figure everything out, but I enjoy the challenge of trying. A lot of it is just common sense. I took the transportation engineering course and I liked it because I could visualize a road turning and meeting another roadway. The calculations all made sense to me. It’s hard to explain, but it’s something I could put my finger on. I didn’t make straight As in college, but I worked hard to finish and I really enjoy what I do.” Multitasking is a must and the biggest challenge on a large project, Sisco said. “There’s everything coming in at one time,” he said. “You’ve got 70 people working on the job. Things are going on all the time — just having a set of eyes on everything, just staying calm and not letting your head spin along with everything else as it spins. I like the variable aspect of it. There’s a lot of folks with different personalities, just like in any job. You’ve gotta treat people with respect even though you may not get STEVE KNIGHT/The Lufkin News respect.” Jesse Sisco, assistant area engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation’s Lufkin district is As far as the future, Sisco shown standing in front of the U.S. 59 North Near-Term diamond interchange project at Loop 287. said he and his family will Sisco is the project manager for this $52 million project. probably stay put with TxDOT. He may stick around long enough to see Interstate 69 make its way through the area. “I probably won’t leave the DOT,” he said. “I’d like to think that I’m a benefit to the state in that I try to work hard. I’ll probably stay here if they’ll have me. I don’t know Litigation in Employment, Trucking and Transportation, if I’ll be full-time construcPersonal Injury, Products, Commercial and Business, tion at that point, but I may Trust & Estate & Probate Litigation and Planning be in the construction office. It’s hard to know where I’ll be. Things come open, and I’m not Lufkin (936) 634-3346 Livingston (936) 327-1100 opposed to moving up in the 224 E. Lufkin Ave. 415 N. Washington, Suite B department if the time is right and the Lord wills.”

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


USFS supervisor manages Texas’ forest lands By STEVE KNIGHT The Lufkin News

more than 10 years. “There’s been a variety of different places — lots of The U.S. Forest Service maninteresting places throughout ages more than 675,000 acres of the country and very beautiful public land in Texas, consisting places,” Van Every said during of the Angelina, Davy Crockan interview in his office at the ett, Sabine and Sam Houston National Forests and Grasslands national forests and the Caddo in Texas headquarters in Lufkin. and Lyndon B. Johnson national “One of the benefits of working grasslands. The national forests for an agency like the U.S. Forest in Texas includes 25 developed Service is that you get to work recreational areas, almost 200 in places that were set aside miles of hiking trails, scenic arbecause of their natural beauty eas, wilderness areas, an off-road and you get a chance to enjoy vehicle trail and more than 100 those. We’re enjoying the opmiles of horse trails. portunity to get to know the area All of that, and the supervihere in East Texas.” sion of 160 employees, comes Van Every arrived in Texas under the responsibility of Mark just in time for the infamous Van Every. East Texas summer with his wife Van Every, who assumed the Janell and his two daughters, post as supervisor of national Leslyn and Natalie. His oldest forests and grasslands in Texas daughter, Kathryn, is attending in June, brings a variety of school in Minnesota. experiences to the job. He has He compares his duties in spent 30 years working in the Texas with that of a CEO at any federal government — for the company. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in “As a forest supervisor, the Minnesota, the National Park best way to describe it is like Service in Hawaii and Wyoming a manager,” he said. “In some and stops with the U.S. Forest cases you might describe it as Service in Alaska, Wyoming, a CEO or general manager of a Utah, Colorado and Idaho. company because you’re responHis last posting was as district sible for the overall management ranger on the Kawishiwi District of all the programs that occur of the Superior National Forest on a national forest, or in this in Minnesota — a job he held for case several national forests and

grassland units — personnelrelated issues, organization, budget, certainly all the various resource management activities that we do here on the national forests and grasslands in Texas. There’s lots of interaction with people from outside organizations, whether that be elected officials, government agencies, the public that uses a national forest for recreation or perhaps in business activities related to the national forest.” That kind of interaction, coordination and conversation with people, he said, is an important and vital part of the job. “Interaction with elected officials at all levels — we want to be coordinated with local and state government as well as federal, that we directly work for,” he said. “There’s a pretty broad depth of things. Every day seems to bring something new and it’s never boring. To me, it’s a great privilege that, working for the Forest Service, we work for you and other members of the American public. It’s an opportunity and privilege to take care of a pretty amazing resource and do so in a way that meets the needs that the public has.” Texas is much different than SEE Every, PAGE 9J

STEVE KNIGHT/The Lufkin News

Mark Van Every, who assumed the post as supervisor of national forests and grasslands in Texas in June is shown. The national forests in Texas includes 25 developed recreational areas, almost 200 miles of hiking trails, scenic areas, wilderness areas, an off-road vehicle trail and more than 100 miles of horse trails.

Municipal court judge won’t be typecast


By STEVE KNIGHT The Lufkin News


pril Earley, Lufkin’s municipal court judge, does not fit the stereotype of someone who sits on the bench. The young, African-American woman began her two-year appointment as Lufkin’s first full-time municipal court judge in October 2011. “I’ve had so many people come in, especially the first eight months, to ask, ‘Where’s that other judge? I want to talk to him. Could you just go away?’” Earley said of the transitional period after taking over for John Sloan, who served as the city’s part-time municipal judge for 26 years. And no, she can’t just go away. “I heard it over and over again, not just from African-Americans, but also Caucasians and even Hispanic people,” she said. “You don’t embody the typical of what you think of as a judge. You think of an older white guy. I would walk in there and it’s like, ‘What the heck is going on? You’re not the judge.’” In most cases, Earley said, she would kindly reply, “Sweetheart, you’ve been talking to the judge for the last 10 minutes.” She said she still gets the occasional comment from a confused litigant. She also receives confused looks when she goes out-of-town for judicial conferences. “If I’m not the youngest, I’m usually the youngest-looking,” the 30-year-old Earley said. “Of course, I’m getting looks like, ‘Are you in the right place?’ I get that from the judges I don’t know, and there are so many of us in the judicial sector. That’s always interesting.” As the municipal court’s case load grew, the city took action to hire its first full-time municipal judge. After graduation from Hudson High School, where she was a standout on a Lady Hornets basketball team that reached the state tournament, Earley received a bachelor of communications degree in 2004 from Texas Southern University and went on to earn her Juris Doctorate in 2008 from the Thurgood Marshall School of Law in Houston. While attending law school, Earley also served as a judicial intern in a Harris County probate court and as a student attorney for the Earl Carl Institute. Returning to Lufkin in 2008, she joined the staff of the Haglund Law Firm as an associate attorney, practicing criminal, family, immigration and general civil law before taking up her current post. She’s the first woman and the first black person to assume the municipal court bench. But as somebody who describes herself as naturally competitive (she played basketball on the collegiate level), aggressive and strong-willed, Earley said she didn’t initially think of all of those “firsts.”

Steve Knight/The Lufkin News

April Earley, Lufkin’s municipal court judge, stands in from Lufkin’s City Hall “I thought, ‘Yes, I accomplished this, I can do this and I’m going to help the legal system and my community,’” she said. “Afterward, there was such an outpouring from other people stating these things and I had to sit back and think, ‘Maybe they’re right.’ I just look at it as getting a job. I’m accomplishing something. It’s something that I love, not necessarily all of those other things. But now that I have, it makes me feel good to be able to encourage other young women, other African-Americans and other young people, period — to let them know that you can do whatever it is you want to do. It may be hard work to get there, but if you’re willing to put in the work, it’s possible. “As far as what I tell other young women, because this is a male-dominated profession, is that first of all, you have to gain respect. Nobody is just going to hand you respect even though your title commands it. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the person fulfilling that position can garner that respect or maintain that respect. Let them know that you’re going to do your job and you’re not going to be pushed over. I think that once people understand that, it’s a lot easier. You know that if you approach me in a manner that is unbecoming or something I don’t like, I will let you know and I’m not going to back down.” Sports and entertainment law was once Earley’s primary interest. “That was the reason I went to law school,” she said. “That was my main goal. While in law school, though, I did develop a passion for family and criminal law. Then I graduated and started working. This is not exactly a big market for sports and entertainment law, so I evolved into family and criminal type of work. That’s how I got into the SEE Earley, PAGE 6J

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Two of the guys

Earley Continued from Page 3J

Female firefighters enjoy challenges of demanding job By JESSICA COOLEY The Lufkin News


he word firefighter is typically associated with the image of a man, young and strapping, rescuing a woman from a burning building, but two Lufkin firefighters have spent the last 20 years proving it isn’t an all-boy’s club. With nearly three decades of firefighting experience between them, Battalion Chief LeeFran Skelton and Capt. Natalie Parrish said they both just think of themselves as one of the guys. “I wasn’t sure how I’d be perceived or treated when I came here. At first, everybody just stayed to themselves, but it didn’t take much time at all until everybody accepted me,” Parrish said, adding that the general public has a harder time seeing past the gender roles than the men with whom she works. At 5-foot-2, Parrish said it’s usually her size that makes it difficult for the public to see her as a firefighter. “With the guys here, you can prove yourself because you work with them every day, but to the public, just the general impression of you — little you — getting out of a fire truck, they’re like, ‘What are you doing?’” Parrish said. “When we only had one-man engines, I remember pulling up to a fire in the fire truck and being the only one there. People just were shocked. ‘What? What? Where is everybody?’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, they’re coming.’” Skelton said she’s noticed gender stereotyping on fire scenes when outside officials pass her over to look for the “man in charge.” “Our guys will be like, ‘Oh, no, not me. She’s who you need to talk to,’” Skelton said. “Then, sometimes they’ll just point to my shirt and say, ‘battalion chief.’” “She is the first female battalion chief in fire department history,” Parrish added as Skelton shrugged. “It’s no different than the guys. They have the same opportunity as I do,” Skelton said. “I guess I’ve been here 20 years, so I don’t see it any different.” Given the demands of a busy 24-hour work day — a fire here and a car accident there while responding to medical calls in between — the women said makeup, manicures and elaborate hairstyles aren’t an option. Before getting into the firefighting game, Skelton held a cosmetology license and worked in a barbershop. “I love what I do, but if you’re worried about your fingernails getting chipped, or worried about dirt on your face, this isn’t the job for you,” Skelton said. “I mean, my hair has been in a ponytail for 20 years. And makeup? There’s no use.” “Yeah, after a typical shift you’re greasy, dirty and smell like exhaust,” Parrish said. Though working 24-hour shifts answering fire and medical calls in the city of Lufkin and surrounding areas can take its toll, on their days off, both women try to keep some semblance of a normal home life. These days that is an easier task for Parrish, as she is currently serving as the department’s EMS coordinator. Though it’s a challenging task keeping tabs on all equipment, gear, shot records and credentials for Lufkin’s 70-plus firefighters, it at least comes with what most would consider a “normal” schedule, Parrish said. Working a 24-hour shift every third day for the majority of her 10-year career meant

oston, MA 02114

ANDY ADAMS/The Lufkin News

Battalion Chief LeeFran Skelton and Capt. Natalie Parrish are Lufkin Fire Department’s only female firefighters.

“I love what I do, but if you’re worried about your fingernails getting chipped, or worried about dirt on your face, this isn’t the job for you. I mean, my hair has been in a ponytail for 20 years. And makeup? There’s no use.” LeeFran Skelton Battalion Chief

she wasn’t always home with her son, who is now 16, but it afforded her the opportunity to get her RN license. “You’re gone from home 24 hours at a time. You don’t get to go home every night and you miss your son and his activities, but that was the sacrifice I made,” she said. “I enjoyed that schedule, but I also like it now where I feel like I’m more of a wife and a mother — at home every night, off on weekends.” Because Parrish’s husband, Eric, is also a fire department captain, she said he always has a sympathetic ear when the challenge of work and home gets to be too much. After nearly a decade of marriage, she now jokes about the early days of their relationship. “I met him at functions outside of the fire department and got to liking him. I didn’t even like him at the fire department. I thought he was mean,” she said with a laugh. “He worked A shift and I worked C shift for six years or more, so we only saw each other every third evening. Now that I’m home every night, he’s the only one who’s gone every third night. But, because you’ve lived it, too, you understand. No complain-









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a big-eye opener for me.” She also said she discovered that more people go through the municipal court system than any other court system in the state. Some defendants Earley sees in her court hire a lawyer to represent them, but most, she said, represent themselves, creating a different set of challenges. “That creates a different problem because I want to make sure that everyone understands what their rights are and is knowingly and voluntarily doing whatever actions they see fit,” she said. “I want them to know exactly what they’re doing, what the laws are and what their rights are so they can make a good decision on what they are pleading.” Five or 10 years from now, Earley said, she sees herself continuing to perform judicial work. “I think that’s become a passion for me, not just upholding the law, but also helping our citizens, listening to them and getting to know them,” she said. “There are all these laws and statutes. If you do A, the penalty is B and C. People have extenuating and different circumstances that may warrant a lower fine or a dismissal if it’s in my power to do so. The law says I can do that, and if those things exist, then I’m not beyond lowering fines or doing things to help people out, like payment plans or spacing them out — anything to help out the citizens.”

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ing on either side because you know.” Skelton’s husband may be a “civilian,” but he, along with their three children ages 14, 8 and 7, has become accustomed to the fire department way of life. “I was single when I started, but my husband knew what he was getting into,” Skelton said with a smile. “The kids adjust. It is just their lifestyle. They don’t know any different.” Skelton even carried all three of her children to term while working for the department. With her first, who is almost 15, she said she continued to work as a firefighter until three months shy of her due date. It was her chief, not her doctor, who insisted she transition into an administrative position until the baby was born. “The chief got more nervous than I did. My doctor said I could keep doing what I could do — my usual — as long I could,” Skelton said. “The fire chief at the time said, ‘I don’t care what your doctor says. You’re not going to be out there in a fire.’ He brought me into the administration building on light duty.”

She also worked administrative positions with her second and third — born only 15 months apart — at one time holding the same position Parrish holds now. During the last decade the women have forged a friendship few would understand. Parrish said she has always looked to Skelton for guidance — a lifetime sounding board. “I’ve always kind of looked up to LeeFran as to follow because she’s always been here — since I started, anyway,” Parrish said. “I can always go to her and say ‘Hey, what about FTH this? Or that?’” “She’s a lot nicer than me,” Skelton joked. All joking aside, both women said that working for the department, though not a typical female career, has provided them opportunities they would not have had otherwise. “I absolutely do love this place,” Parrish said. “I mean, I could make more money as a nurse, but I would not trade it for anything in the world.” “Yeah, you’ve got to love what you do,” Skelton said. “And I do. I love it.” Jessica Cooley’s email address is

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realm I’m in. As far as judicial work, during the time I was doing my judicial internship, I thought that I could do this. I really like this aspect of it. At that point, that’s when the seed was planted. If I get an opportunity, that would be the most awesome thing in the world. When this position became available, I had to at least apply.” According to the city’s website, the municipal court’s jurisdiction includes traffic citations, parking tickets, Class C misdemeanors, animal control violations, code enforcement violations and other city ordinance violations. After practicing as a trial attorney with Lufkin attorney Wayne Haglund, who taught her the ropes about “honest law,” Earley said there are differences being on the other side of the bench. “You discover that you have to have — I don’t want to say more compassion, but everyone wants their day in court and everybody presents a different set of circumstances, so you have to judge each case in accordance with the law,” she said. “Having to differentiate a lot of truths and half-truths has been the biggest thing. When you come in and try to get your feet wet and get a feel of things, especially when you’re like me — a judge for the first time — you try to feel everyone out and feel out how the process works. Not as far as the legal, but the procedure in dealing with the public, the community and defendants. That was

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013

Joe Burton

Hudson’s Super Cop



Bonnie Harper touches many lives through work as volunteer firefighter By JESSICA COOLEY The Lufkin News

ANDY ADAMS/The Lufkin News

Lufkin firefighter/Hudson Police officer/Hudson volunteer firefighter Joe Burton stands in front of Hudson City Hall. By JESSICA COOLEY The Lufkin News HUDSON — Lufkin firefighter/Hudson Police officer/ Hudson volunteer firefighter Joe Burton said his career has been about being in the right place at the right time. Even on his days away from being an emergency official, the 43-year-old still manages to find himself on the scene of wrecks and fires. “I kind of believe that God puts me in people’s lives for a certain reason. Whatever job I’m doing that day, if I’m there then He put me there for a reason,” Burton said. “It happens just out of the blue, and you wouldn’t even realize I wasn’t supposed to be there. I don’t go out looking for it. It just somehow finds me.” The summer of 2011 was a busy one for Burton, as he and wife Morgan brought home a baby girl from the hospital in July. Before they even made it home with her, the couple stopped so Burton could assist with a day care van fire on Lufkin’s west loop. Just two months before that, Burton was off work and just happened to come up on a wreck in front of Hudson Volunteer Fire Department in which a woman was severely injured. In a matter of seconds he went to work, freeing the woman from her mangled van while wearing shorts, tennis shoes and a T-shirt. A year earlier, while on police duty, Burton was credited

“I kind of believe that God puts me in people’s lives for a certain reason.” Joe Burton

Lufkin firefighter/Hudson Police officer/Hudson volunteer firefighter

with helping a couple trapped inside their vehicle following a wreck. He was one of the first at the scene and climbed into the upside-down SUV to check on the man and woman, kicking out the back window to do so. He kept the couple calm and did not leave the vehicle until they were both freed, according to previous reports. Burton became a firefighter paramedic first and then went on to get his police officer certification in hopes of doing arson investigation. It wasn’t until he spent time on the streets of Hudson that he realize he truly enjoyed police work. “I initially wanted to get my arson investigator (certification) to go along with my fire service, but then after I started working as a police officer I really enjoyed it,” he said. “Sometimes it can be difficult because I know so many people, but I enjoy being able to give back to the community where we live. We work all kinds of cases, but seeing a conviction out of the Kevin Kathrine trial last year on aggravated sexual assault of a child — I was extremely

pleased with. He got 40 years.” Just last weekend, Burton finished an arson investigation school as part of an initiative taken on by Hudson Volunteer Fire Department. “We’re trying to put together an arson investigator unit with Hudson Fire Department, and four of us took the fire investigator class,” he said. Being a “jack of all trades” does not come without a price. He said his co-workers at Lufkin Fire pick on him mercilessly, inspired by the friendly rivalry between policemen and firemen. “I get all kinds grief because I’m a police officer,” Burton laughed. “They call me names — like ‘pig.’” When he’s not working or happening upon an accident scene, Burton enjoys spending time with his family — wife Morgan, four kids and two grandkids. “On the Sundays that I’m not working at the fire department, I take off so I can spend time with the family,” he said. “I feel like I’ve been very blessed.”

More recently, Holley said he had to rely on his own splitsecond reaction when he was approached by a man a day after arresting him on a public intoxication charge. During their original run-in, Holley and fellow deptuty Sgt. Sergio Luna wrestled the naked man into custody and seized from him a bag of synthetic marijuana known as K2. At the time, K2 has just been banned federally. “You’re taking a break outside the sheriff’s office one minute, smoking a cigarette, and the next minute you’re confronted by somebody that threatens to kick your (rear end),” Holley recalled with a laugh. “He was just mad that he didn’t get his K2 back. He said I was going to get it for him and I said, no, I wasn’t, so he said, ‘Well, I’ll just kick your

(rear end), then.’ ‘Well ... no, you won’t, but you will go to jail for retaliation.’ Of course, he didn’t like the headlock.” When Holley calls it a night after a long day on patrol, he’s greeted by his wife, Tammy, a former Angelina County dispatcher who is now retired, and their two children. He also has two step-daughters. Having someone at home who understands has made his law enforcement career easier to mesh with home life, Holley said. “When she was at the SO, we were able to talk on common ground. She knew what I was dealing with and I knew what she was dealing with,” he said. “It made life at the house a little easier because we didn’t have to talk about it. If it was a good day or if it was a bad day, we already

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While biologically she may only be a mother of three, Bonnie Harper has been affectionately called “Mom” by a countless number of Angelina County volunteer firefighters through the years. “That’s all I’ve ever been called, is ‘Mom,’ and my husband was always called ‘Pops.’ I couldn’t even tell ya how many ‘kids’ we’ve had — probably in the hundreds,” she said. “It’s just a big brotherhood. Regardless of where you need the help, somebody will be there for you.” The 69-year-old Ohio native has called Huntington home since 1991 after meeting and eventually marrying the late Ora Volunteer Fire Department chief, Gil Harper. It was a fire that brought the couple together 23 years ago when she, working as an insurance agent in Athens, Texas, met the gruff and rough state fire marshal through the course of an arson investigation. Two months after Bonnie insured a 14x60 mobile home for a customer, it was destroyed in a fire. JESSICA COOLEY/The Lufkin News “This man walks in the ofHuntington woman Bonnie Harper, 69, is “Mom” to a countless fice and gives me his card, ‘Gil number of Angelina County volunteer firefighters. Harper, Arson Investigator, State Fire Marshal’s Office’ — very intimidating,” she said with a laugh. “He laid some pictures down and said, ‘There’s your 14x60 mobile home.’ It was a travel trailer. Needless to say, I was embarrassed. I felt about two inches tall.” Though he was working out of Duncanville at the time, any time Gil was in the area, he stopped by to visit, Bonnie said. After many glasses of sweet tea at the Pit Grill, the two started dating, and when he was transferred to Lufkin, she came along. They married in 1992 and were soon approached by friends about volunteering with Ora’s department. Since she was already licensed as an emergency medical technician, Bonnie said, she was roped into volunteering alongside her husband in a department he “lived for.” Friendly Service from Your Locally Owned Hardware Store On the majority of calls in Ora and the surrounding area, 1827 W. FRANK • LUFKIN • NEXT TO BROOKSHIRE BROTHERS Bonnie is a friendly face and 936-632-3456 provides assistance wherever she is needed. “It has kept me young, kept me going. I love it. It’s an adrenaline pump when the (emergency radio) tones go off,” SEE Harper, PAGE 8J

Holley Continued from Page 2J

“He came home with me every night. He retired when I left the Sheriff’s Department in ’04 and ’05 and went over to Africa. He was 13 or 14 when he died in November 2004. My wife Tammy called and told me the news. She cried and I cried and everybody else cried. He had been a fixture — a part of our family. He’s buried in my back yard.” Returning to the streets of Angelina County as a patrol sergeant in 2005, Holley said, has given him the opportunity to work with good people in law enforcement. “It’s nice to work together for a common goal. We are a brotherhood,” Holley said. “We may wear a badge and a uniform three days a week, but we still bleed. We have emotions. We cry. When you sign on to do this stuff, there are a lot of days where nothing happens, but on the days something does happen you’ve got to start and react within one second.” Having that split-second reaction while staying safety conscious is something Holley said he preaches to his fellow deputies, be it new recruits or even seasoned team members. “Safety, safety, safety. Go home to your parents; go home to your kids; go home to your wife every night, but the only way you’re going to do that is to be safety oriented,” Holley said recalling a time he was on the other side of the radio listening to a call in which a “bad guy” got a drug interdiction officer’s gun. “The bad guy shot Joey Davidson in the leg and Joey returned fire on him. He killed him. My deputy, Aaron Brown, backed him up. I’m hearing all this on the radio and my car can’t get me there fast enough.”

knew.” Nearing his own retirement, Holley said walking away from his brothers and sisters in law enforcement will be tougher than putting down the badge itself. “I’ve worked with some really good people over the years. That has made my life and career in law enforcement a hell of a lot easier,” he said. “I’ll keep doing this ’til when it’s enough.” Jessica Cooley’s email address is

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

To the rescue: Search and Rescue Team training dogs to save lives

contributed Photo

The Hudson Volunteer Fire Department Search and Rescue Team at a training with its dogs.



ith four legs and wet noses, some of the most valuable players on Hudson Volunteer Fire Department’s Search and Rescue Team are of the canine persuasion. The team currently has six “missionready” animals — mixed breeds, bloodhounds, Labradors and even a Belgian Malinois — and five others in training. SAR team assistant coordinator Mike Stephens is the handler of Spec, a female Malinois which looks something like a German Shepherd. The 7-year-old dog has become very much a part of the Stephens family. “It’s like having a kid,” Stephens said with a laugh. “She’s gotten to be an old lady now.” Spec, along with her SAR brothers and sisters, get called out between three and 12 times a year, Stephens said. Wherever there’s a lost hunter, missing child or even a possible dead body, the Hudson SAR team is ready to act. “We have air scent dogs which work off a leash, and we have trailing dogs which work on-leash,” Stephens said. “It takes roughly a year to get them mission-ready, depending on the dedication of their handler. ... We don’t do criminal apprehension. It’s a danger to the dog and the handlers and it’s not what we specialize in. We leave that to TDC and law enforcment K-9s.” The dogs start training typically as pups — pedigree not necessary, fellow SAR team member Cathy Clark said. “We’re looking for a dog with a lot of drive. If you throw a tennis ball and they’re after it, they’re after it, they’re after it — they have a drive,” Clark said. “You’ve got to have one that you throw the ball in the weeds and they’re still after it. They won’t stop looking until they find it.” The training starts out very basic, rewarding them for taking interest in a par-

ticular scent item. The next step is similar to a game of hide-and-go-seek, in which the animals are rewarded for seeking out and finding their handler with the hiding spot being more difficult to find each time. In the next level of training, the animals seek out someone who is not their owner, but still someone with whom they are familiar — typically another member of the SAR team. In the final step before attaining “missionready” status, the dog seeks out a total stranger. Stephens said the department is always looking for community volunteers to act as “hiders.” They train with the dogs nearly every Sunday in Angelina County and the surrounding areas. “When we have to use someone on the team, they’ll look for them, but when they find them it’s like, ‘Oh, it’s Bob. I just saw Bob a few minutes ago, so I don’t know why you’re having me look for him,’” Stephens said. “It’s really important that we get different people so we can change up training locations. We work in different terrains and different weather.” Clark trains her dogs in human remains detection — “HRD.” While it can be a morbid process with Clark getting “scent items” from a nearby medical examiner’s office and other SAR teams, the service that cadaver dogs provide is invaluable to law enforcement. “I’ve been given liposuction remains and placenta as scent items. At an HRD seminar two years ago, we did a source exchange and I got part of a liver,” Clark said. “There used to be a place called The Bone Room in California and you could actually buy human bones that were imported from overseas. I don’t know if you can do that anymore, but I do have some human bones — clean human bones — that I bought from them.” The dogs can even differentiate between animal and human bones, Clark said, adding that not all dogs can be trained in HRD. “They have to like the odor. You can’t

contributed Photo

Search and Rescue Team member Mike Stephens with his dog Spec, a Belgian Malinois. At 7-years-old Stephens calls Spec an “old lady.”

make them like it,” she said. “If when you first introduce them to the scent, and they turn around and back off like, ‘Unh-uh, no sir, lady. I’m not doing that,’ you can’t force them to.” During the past nine years, Clark has worked with her dogs on cases across the state — live finds and human remains. One of her dogs, a bloodhound named Madison, located a missing child off Water Well Road in April 2008. “She was given a scent article — the little boy’s shoe,” she said. “The little boy got out of the house without anybody being awake. He had been out two or three hours. The mother and her friends had looked for him and the Sheriff’s Office, too. Then they called us. I’ll never forget that day.” When the dogs do find the person they’re looking for, they alert their owner by performing a certain signal. “Madison’s alert was to jump up on the person she was trying to locate. Maggie, who is in training, does that also,” Clark said. “I have to jump in when she’s locating a child or an elderly person. I usually let her start the jump, but I’ll reach out and let her jump on my arm but still allow her to lean over and smell the person. Then Gili, a Labrador/ weimaraner mix, does a down-and-bark alert.” Having a dog is not a requirement of being a member of the team, Clark and Stephenson said. “The dogs are just another resource in looking for lost and missing people. We’ve got a lot of other skills that we need members for,” Clark said. “If they join the team and have a dog they want to train, it depends a lot on the dog. They’ll need to be evaluated.” To learn how to become a member of the SAR team, contact team coordinator Jeff Burns at or Stephens at

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Harper the little kid you brought back down here on Preston Street she said. “I’m going to do it as years back? This is her,’” Bonnie long as I can do it — until the said, adding that the girl is now man upstairs says it’s time to a teenager. “It just really makes quit. He must like me because you feel good seeing kids like He’s let me keep going.” that, that you know you made an Through her EMS work, impact on their lives and their Bonnie has touched hundreds parents’ lives. of lives. And though it’s all in “There’s been a lot of calls a day’s work to her, she said like that over the years but you on occasion she is reminded of don’t get hardened to it. You just the people she’s helped. Last kind of put your feelings behind month Bonnie was recognized you and don’t show them on by a woman standing in a the scene, but you come home grocery store checkout line who and cry a lot. It really gets to remembered her as the woman you sometimes. But everybody who resuscitated her daughter a is like that. I’ve seen seasoned decade ago. paramedics work a wreck, go “She said, ‘Do you remember out behind a truck, get sick and

Continued from Page 7J

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then finish working it, but it’s just part of the job.” When her husband passed away two months ago following a long battle with lung and bone cancer, she said, her kids tried to persuade her to move back to Ohio, telling her she has nothing keeping her here. After her son came in to surprise her by being at the funeral, Bonnie said her kids now see that she truly does have family here. “My son went home and told them, ‘Mom’s all right. She’s well taken care of,’” she said. “He was so amazed at the show of love that all the fire departments showed at the funeral.” When it is her time to go, Bon-

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nie said, like her husband, she’ll be cremated. Their ashes will then be mixed together — fire uniting them in death as it did in life. “Gil and I always joked that we were going to put him in an urn on the entertainment center and every once in a while let him out to dangle his feet,” she said, covering her tears with laughter. “I’ve really appreciated everybody’s help throughout the years and especially now. It has been an honor being a mom to so many — young, old and in between. I’ll be mom until the day I die, too.”

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013

Every Continued from Page 3J his last posting in Minnesota, he said — about 100 degrees of difference. “Certainly different parts of the country are going to have different climates, which is pretty obvious between Minnesota and Texas,” he said. “I was talking to somebody in Minnesota (recently) and it had been 30 below and that was about a 100-degree difference between the two locations. Beside climate, the vegetation is different, the resources specifically are different and the cultures are different. What is important to people in one area may not be very important to people in another area and vice versa. All of those things come into play, and yet at the same time the basic principles of how you manage a natural resource and how you work with people are the same. Those skills that you gain working in different situations, working with different groups of people and working with different resources all help you as you adapt and try to manage a new challenge, whether that’s a new challenge in a different location or it’s a new challenge in the same location.” Another difference from his last posting and East Texas was dealing with mining interests in Minnesota versus oil and gas interests in Texas. “I had an opportunity when I was in Minnesota,” he said. “I was district ranger, essentially a manager of a smaller unit, for about 11 years, and during that time, mining became an active part of what we managed because of some interest in hard rock minerals in that area. I learned a lot about hard rock mining. We didn’t deal with oil and gas like we do in Texas. However, in jobs that I had in other places like Wyoming and Colorado, I have dealt with those resources. Each place is different. The trees here are a little bigger — it’s amazing what a year-round growing season will do — and they grow a lot faster. That doesn’t mean that the basic principles of how we manage vegetation and how we manage trees is different. The species are different.” Van Every said the winter climate allows rangers to manage some things here that rangers in Minnesota are unable to do. On the other hand, some things are easier to manage during a Minnesota summer compared to a Texas summer. “We used a lot more temporary employees because of the seasonal nature of some of our work,” he said. “I had wilderness rangers who worked for me. We didn’t need very many of those in the winter, but we needed some. One of the most interesting positions I’ve every supervised was that I had a dog musher, because we had people that ran dog sleds in the winter time. That was how they traveled in the wilderness area. There’s differences from that standpoint. In terms of being unique, obviously every place is different in terms of people that you work with and some specifics about the resources. A lot of the other things are very similar.” There are no dog mushers needed in Texas, but what makes the Texas posting unique is that Van Every is also responsible for the supervision of two national grassland units — the 17,873-acre Caddo and 20,313-acre Lyndon B. Johnson national grasslands located in north-central Texas, northeast and northwest of Dallas-Fort Worth in Fannin, Wise and Montague counties. Before the federal government purchased them in the late 1930s, the grasslands were mostly abandoned farms and ranches suffering severe soil erosion from poor agricultural practices. The national grasslands in Texas, along with the national forests, have been managed by the Forest Service since 1955. “There are not a whole lot of grasslands nationally,” Van Every said. “In some cases, a supervisor may only be over one grassland unit, rather than a grassland and national forest, so the fact that we have four national forests and two national grasslands is a little bit different than most forest supervisor-type positions. That’s definitely a learning experience for me because I haven’t directly managed a grassland unit in the past. I’ve been aware of them. I’ve been aware of what grasslands are managed for, but I haven’t been directly responsible for that. Interestingly, the district that I came from was almost the

same size as the national forests and grasslands in Texas, but it was much more compact. We had 700,000 acres, but it was all within a hour’s drive of where my office was. Here, with some of the grassland units being as much as five hours away, that creates some different challenges. There’s a lot more communication by technology than in person, but I’ve made a very concerted effort to get up to the unit numerous times since I’ve been here. That’s something that’s important, but the logistics of travel are certainly something both ways — for those employees to interact with us in Lufkin and for me to interact with them.” About 301 million trees — about 6.2 percent of trees statewide — were killed as a result of the 2011 drought, a Texas A&M Forest Service survey of hundreds of forested plots across the state showed. Although that survey showed that East Texas was spared the worst of tree mortality damage, Van Every said Forest Service employees have not been able to deal with every dead tree, but focus on areas that present the greatest risk to people and property. “We’re focused on roads, trails and our developed recreational areas, as well as property boundaries when they are a direct threat to people’s structures,” he said. “That’s where we’ve concentrated our efforts, is clearing those trees that are likely to come down onto those different areas and pose a threat to people and property. We haven’t completed all of that and we still have work to do, but most of it is done. We’ve done most of the work in our developed recreation sites, but we will continue to have additional trees that will die, if not from drought, from natural causes, so it’s an ongoing challenge that we have to work with. Same with our trails — most of our trails we’ve been able to reopen, but we have to keep watching for new trees that become a risk, as well.” The Forest Service continues to receive questions concerning trees along property lines, he said. “Those that are along a pasture or a fence line — we’re not going to be able to handle all of those, so we’ve allowed people the opportunity to cut them themselves,” he said. “If they choose to do that, we issue them a free permit for them, and that’s one way we can address those issues. We’ve made tremendous progress over the last year-and-a-half, but not without considerable cost. There’s a limit to how much money we have to spend on that, so we have to balance that as much as we can. We will continue to address those efforts, but hopefully that worst is behind us and we can start moving forward for here.” For those with dead trees at home, Van Every provided some advice. “I’m dealing with this personally with my new house,” he said. “You have to look at as those trees die — and some species are different — that they’re going to decay and come down at different rates. My suggestion would be that folks watch, obviously if you have a tree that’s stressed but it’s not dead yet, and provide water and fertilizer to strengthen the tree. If it’s already dead, then you want to consult someone who has expertise and skill in that area to determine whether the tree is a threat.” Van Every said you never see yourself exactly where you end up, but that he believes the experiences and opportunities over the years have led him to this type of position. “Whether or not it would have been in Texas, I couldn’t have predicted that, but I think it’s a great opportunity,” he said. “My wife grew up in Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas. In fact, her father, who worked in the Forest Service but had nothing to do with how we met, set up the first Job Corps center in New Waverly back when my wife was a young girl. She was familiar and lived part of her life in this part of the country, so that was an attraction for us to come to this area. I am very thankful that I have the opportunity, and I don’t have any other plans to be anywhere but here. We’ll have to see what the future brings and what opportunities are there. I plan to be here and do the best job I can for as long as I’m here.” Steve Knight’s email address is



Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news


“Since I got my new knees, every day just seems to get better.” Max Haney’s knees hurt so much, he could hardly stand up from a chair. “I couldn’t escape the pain,” he said. “I was still trying to play golf, but it wasn’t worth all the pain medicine I needed.” Max knew it was time for knee replacements. “Years ago, I had a quadruple bypass at Woodland Heights,” he explained. “I thought, if they can take care of my heart, they can take care of my knees. And I was so pleased with the care I received from Dr. Guse and the staff. They helped me get my life back.” Woodland Heights Medical Center is the only hospital in Lufkin with national accreditation from The Joint Commission for both hip and knee replacement. It recognizes our dedication to continuous compliance with the group’s state-of-the-art standards. Learn more

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Steve Knight/The Lufkin News

Jason Kartye, Angelina County parks director stands in front of Lake Sam Rayburn at Cassels-Boykin Park.

Sunday, march 24, 2013 the lufkin news



Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Parks director improving, caring for Cassels-Boykin Park By STEVE KNIGHT The Lufkin News

They might want to come back to camp and fish.” The park is starting to see its share ason Kartye, Angelina County of large fishing tournaments, according parks director, may have the best to Kartye, including last October when the park reeled in a prestigious FLW view from an office anywhere in Tour event that saw 110 professional East Texas. His office may be a pickup truck, but anglers compete for a $125,000 purse. “I think last year we had 10 tournathe view includes Lake Sam Rayburn — specifically Cassels-Boykin Park, in the ments that were booked out of here, and four of those would be what I mid-lake area near Zavalla. would consider large tournaments Kartye was brought on board about with 150 teams,” he said. “We had the three years ago after a 20-year stay at Temple-Inland and a three-year stint as FLW tour, which was a really neat deal because they don’t just go anywhere a land agent with a pipeline company. and fish. They were thrilled with the He’s a one-man-band. He’s the chief way they were treated in Lufkin. They executive officer. He books weddings. were thrilled with the facilities we had He books the campground. He’s the out here. It’s one of those tournaments chief financial officer. He’s the custowhere they won’t bring it back every dian. year, but we’re definitely on the list. “I wear lots of hats,” Kartye said. “But it’s cool, because it’s always some- They usually like to hit different lakes in order to spread it out. I feel sure thing different. I love dealing with the public. Ninety-nine percent of the time, they will come back. They’ve already told me that they want to come back.” that’s probably the best part of the job With prime fishing spots including — getting to interact with people from different parts of the country. Depend- the Black Forest, Canyons, Deer Stand, Pophers Creek, Atoyac River, Julie ing on the weather, it can be kind of nasty, but just to be able to get out every Creek, Harvey Creek, Indian Creek, Mud Creek and Veach Basin, Kartye day and be at the lake every day, that’s said the park is in an ideal location. pretty much everybody’s dream job.” “All the prime fishing is pretty The area is already known as one of close to here,” he said. “There’s a lot the best locations for largemouth bass of people over the years since Humfishing, but Kartye said efforts to marphrey’s had the pavilion on the south ket the park itself are ongoing — and end, and they’ve been holding a lot of not necessarily just for fishing. tournaments, that naturally like to “We have an updated web page,” he fish on the south end. We’re more of a said. “We try to do a lot through social mid-lake. You can run to the north or media with our Facebook page. Probyou can run to the south. This location ably one of the biggest things that has helped, especially in our wedding busi- where they built this thing is ideal, ness, is you’ll have a couple get married because you can access either end of the lake from here. A lot of people out here and they’ll have people from don’t know about this place, but the out of town. They’ll draw a crowd of word is getting out as they’re seeing 200 or 300 people that potentially have these programs. For instance, the never seen the park before come out FLW tournament that they had down here and fall in love with it. Next thing here and televised all that. People are you know, they’ll want to have their looking at fish these guys are weighing wedding out here or they’ve got family that might want to get married out here. in and it peaks their interest. Why not


Steve Knight/The Lufkin News

Jason Kartye, Angelina County parks director stands in front of the Dr. Bill and Emily Shelton Pavilion at Cassels-Boykin Park. go fish where we know these guys are catching fish?” Other amenities include the Dr. Bill and Emily Shelton Pavilion — a vision that took nearly 13 years to complete before its dedication in 2010 — campgrounds and plenty of room for trailer parking. According to Kartye, more improvements are forthcoming. “It will consist of a handicapped-accessible floating fishing pier that will be off the front,” he said. “In conjunction with that, we’re going to get in a few more sidewalks, a small parking lot specifically for the pier and a fish-

release system.” The Angelina County Commissioners’ Court awarded a construction manager-at-risk contract with Timberline Constructors, Inc. for the project. A $500,000 federal grant, acquired through U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert’s office, will provide most of the funding for the project with private donations and foundation grants making up the balance, according to county officials. Kartye said they are awaiting final approval of the plans from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers before continuing with the project.

“It’s a beautiful spot,” he said. “East Texas has so much to offer as far as natural resources, and this is like a crown jewel in the county. I have people come out here all the time that hadn’t been out here or they were out here 20 years ago and they’ve come back out and seen the improvements we’ve made and see the improvements that we’re going to make, and they are really excited. A lot of people have forgotten about this place or written it off. Come give us try.” Steve Knight’s email address is

Kids, Inc. day care highly rated by state By RHONDA OAKS The Lufkin News


hastity Vinson, owner of Kids, Inc., just past Loop 287 on U.S. 69 north, said the plan she had for her life never included owning a day care, but there was a divine purpose and plan that she discovered not long into her career. Vinson became a nurse working in local hospitals when on a particularly bad day at work she walked away and decided to go a different direction in life. Today, the day care is rated by the state as one of the best in Angelina County. “The Lord put me in this,” Vinson said. “I told God that if this is where he wanted me, he was going to have to make it happen. I didn’t really want to do day care, but everything fell into place and this is where I am supposed to be, and I am doing what I hope to be doing until I retire.” With a different career direction in sight, Vinson said the property where the day care is located became available and she purchased it within 24 hours. Beginning the business with 18 children, she said it began filling up within a few months. The facility currently has 97 enrolled. The challenges of running a day care are constant, Vinson said, because of state regulations and inspections on which she must constantly stay up-to-date. “For instance, you have to run background checks every two years on everyone who works for you,” she said. “It is easy to forget their start date and miss it by a day or two. If you do, you are out of compliance with the state. I keep the dates posted in front of me all the time, and any changes that the state implements, I make them right away and never put them off.” Vinson, who lives in the Central community, said she offers a needed service to the Lufkin area for ages 1 through 12. Children are delivered by school bus to the facility for after-school care. Each room in the facility is geared to

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Kids, Inc. owner smiles with her students. The day care is rated by the state as one of the best in Angelina County. a different age group with one large gymnasium-type room for indoor play, after-school care and movies. Kids, Inc. has grown to a staff of nine who follow a teaching plan, and with the staff in the kitchen who work daily to serve breakfast, lunch and afternoon snacks, the facility offers a complete program. “I want to know every child by their first name,” Vinson said. “If I ever get to where I don’t, I quit taking enrollments. I want the children and parents to feel like this is a second home, and I want them to feel comfortable here. I have a great staff and some great kids.” Vinson said though keeping up with regulations and requirements from other state agencies, such as the fire marshal, food inspections and government inspections, her No. 1 priority is the children. “Our first consideration at Kids, Inc. is for the children, making sure they are safe, happy and cared for,” she said, “Everybody makes mistakes — you are going to at one time or another — but the safety of the children always comes first.”

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Special Olympics director looking to strengthen the program By DENISE HOEPFNER The Lufkin News


hen as a football player at Mary Hardin Baylor University Ricky Lopez got in trouble for breaking a team rule, he had no idea his punishment would lead him to a new passion, and eventually, a new career. “I had to put in some volunteer hours and because I was the typical college student, I waited until the last minute to get my hours in,” Lopez said. “The only thing left was the Special Olympics Spring Games in Waco. I knew nothing about Special Olympics and I knew nothing about special education. I figured it was going to be a bunch of people that were in wheelchairs and I was going to have to do some lifting and other stuff. Then, I get to the event and I’m just blown away by all the effort I saw. I got really humbled. I was 20 years old, a college football player thinking I’m the king of the school, and I was pretty quickly humbled.” Lopez was so inspired, he decided to pursue a master’s degree in special education to go along with his bachelor’s degrees in exercise and sports science and sports management. “Instead of graduating on time, I added a semester of school for special education classes, just to make sure that when I went to apply for my master’s I would get in,” he said. “I knew if I did anything more in life, I wanted to work with underprivileged children or people with special needs.” While working as a graduate assistant and coach at Mary Hardin Baylor and attending classes at night to get his master’s degree, Lopez continued to volunteer for Special Olympics. “That kind of got me going in the Special Olympics avenue,” he said. “When I was in school, I never thought I would be working for Special Olympics. I didn’t even know they hired; I thought it was an all-volunteer organization. Then the director from Area 12, which is in Waco, asked if I wanted to be his intern, and I said, ‘For what?’ He said, ‘So you can be a director one day.’ I didn’t even know

they had opportunities like that. So, I jumped at the chance and finished my master’s, then went and interned from January to May, then this opened up in Lufkin.” Lopez, who also served three years in the U.S. Navy, took over as the area director of East Texas in June 2012, which includes 15 counties. Since then, he said, he has learned a lot about the people who make up the region and how supportive they are of the program. “It’s a huge area, but the one thing I’ve noticed is when it comes to Special Olympics, the people here open up their hearts, their time, their checkbooks — whatever they can do to help,” he said. “In fact, my toughest problem is keeping up with everyone who wants to do so much. Our chapter office in Austin will call and ask ‘How are you doing?’ and I’ll tell them I’m bombarded and they’ll take it as if I’m not getting anything done. Then I’ll have to tell them the reason I have so much going on is from people wanting to be involved with Special Olympics. There are fundraisers and events every other day, and that’s what takes my time up, which is a good thing.” While many people think Special Olympics hosts just one annual event, the organization has events year round, with athletes competing in local and regional competitions. There are coach trainings going on during the year, as well. With so many events covering such a large area, Lopez relies heavily on volunteers to keep his one-person office on top of things. “It’s very stressful in between events because you have to plan everything, and it’s a one-person show,” he said. “But I have great volunteers, and the stress and the worries just melt away on the day of an event because you see those athletes get those medals and it changes your outlook on everything.” Lopez said one of his biggest goals in his new position is to make Special Olympics more known in the community, especially among area businesses. “My goal is to have more businesses to jump on board and sponsor events

it a big spectacle like you would get at a high school football game or basketball game, where all eyes are on you; it’s all about you. That’s what I want the day of the Games.” The athletes had a taste of that recently, when they held a basketball “local” in the Hudson Middle School gym, he said. “Hudson had the whole gym packed,” he said. “They were cheering and our athletes would almost stop in awe because they were not used to that. They’re used to practicing in empty gyms with their buddies, and they had this whole middle school gym filled. I told the principals it was amazing. Our athletes felt like they were in an NBA game, getting cheered. They were pointing at the crowd, and they had a blast.” Along with time, the organization will take any donation offered. ANDY ADAMS/The Lufkin News “We don’t turn down anything,” Sarah Wilson, left, of the Hudson Hornets team plays in a local Special Lopez said. “Something as small as Olympics basketball tournament hosted by the Hudson school district in Gatorade or temporary tattoos will blow February. Special Olympics Area Director Ricky Lopez, center, referees our athletes away, because they don’t the game. On the job since last June, Lopez is looking to grow the Special normally get those. The littlest things Olympics program and its recognition in the 15-county area he handles. make the world of difference to our athletes, and that’s what I think makes our organization so unique.” and get our name out there,” he said. “We always need volunteers or Other needs are office volunteers, a “When you see businesses coming out organizations to come out and help our and supporting the athletes, that means athletes; the more the merrier,” he said. college student intern with an interest in special education, tickets to area a lot to the families. Our parents, they “I will never turn down a volunteer. I sporting events and people interested in go through so much with their sons and can make them fans in the stands, ascoaching a sport. daughters that it just means so much to sign them to a team to cheer. We’ll find something for them. It’s a very huge “The more help I can get from the them.” event for Lufkin and a very important community, the easier it makes my job Currently gearing up for the Spring in helping the athletes,” he said. “We Games, which is the largest event in the event for our athletes.” Last year, Spring Games attracted have a lot of athletes in this immediate area, Lopez is excited about embracing between 350 and 400 athletes, around 75 area and a lot of coaches working really the challenge. coaches and between 150 to 200 volhard, so anything we can get, we are “I’m very excited, very eager to take unteers, Lopez said, but he has bigger open to it. Special Olympics is a deep on the challenge and hopefully put my passion of mine, and I love working touch on it,” he said. “They take a huge plans for the future. “I want to grow that to almost 900 or with our coaches and I love working amount of pride in the Games in Lufkin. 1,000 people involved,” he said. “I want with our athletes.” We had a donation from the T.L.L to have about 350 volunteers and I want To find out more about Special Olympics East Temple Foundation of $50,000. This to grow our number of athletes. My is how important Spring Games is to Texas, go to or goal is to make it a production. I want to search for Special Olympics Texas - East Texas Lufkin and why it’s held here and why the office is here. They have open arms, have the Lufkin Panther Band perform, Area on Facebook. For more information about and whatever we need they help us out.” professional athletes come out — ideas volunteering, becoming a sponsor or making a like that. My whole goal is to give the Lopez is calling on the community donation, call Lopez at 639-1755 or 563-9947. athletes the best day. This is their day to to support the athletes at the Spring Denise Hoepfner’s email address is be superstars, to have that fanfare with Games, which are scheduled for April people cheering their names and make 26-27 at Lufkin High School.

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fter two tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Air Force, Don Lymbery did what any logical man would do while trying to carve a future path for himself, his wife, Ginger, and their family. He took a map, closed his eyes and pointed. “We were clowning and I said, ‘This is where we are going to move,’ and I pointed on a map,” Lymbery said. “Not only did my finger hit Lufkin, but it hit the northeast corner of Lufkin and fell directly on a strip of land that we ended up finding here when we moved to Lufkin 40 years ago. It was so strange, but I had no idea until my wife said, ‘Remember when your finger landed on the map?’ and I said, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘That’s the property we just bought.’ It’s been uphill ever since, but it’s been a pleasant battle because I love the struggle.” Lymbery seems to be everywhere. You may see him reading to students at Brandon Elementary School. You may see him at a Angelina County Commissioners’ Court meeting. You may see him greet members before the weekly meeting of the Lufkin Host Lions Club. You may see him serving as secretary of the Angelina County Appraisal Review Board. But the most likely place to find Lymbery is at the Angelina County Airport, either

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Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. celebrates 100 years of service By MICHAEL W. DOUGLAS The Lufkin News


illions of viewers watching the 2013 Tournament of Roses Parade witnessed history on Jan. 1 when Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. became the first African-American women’s organization and the first Greek-letter organization to have a float in the parade. Members of its Lufkin chapter were transfixed to see and celebrate the official kickoff of their celebration of 100 years of service. Delta is the largest Greekletter organization, boasting a membership of more than 200,000 predominantly black, college-educated women and some 900 chapters throughout the United States, England, Japan, Germany, the Caribbean and South Korea. Thousands of students who have been educated in Lufkin’s schools in the last 50 years or more likely have had their lives impacted by a Delta According to its website,, the private, non-profit organization was founded in 1913 by 22 students at Howard University. “These young women wanted to use their collective strength to promote academic excellence; to provide scholarships; to provide support to the underserved; educate and stimulate participation in the establishment of positive public policy; and to highlight issues and provide solutions for problems in their communities,” the website states. Although it was founded on a college campus, women — regardless of their race, ethnicity or national origin — can seek members after they have graduated college through an alumnae chapter like the Lufkin Area Alumnae Chapter, which was chartered in 2009. Guessippina Bonner of Lufkin was instrumental in helping get the local charter, according to Sellestine Hunt of Lufkin, who chartered the Kappa Mu Chapter at Sam Houston State University with 14 other undergraduate women in 1973. Hunt is current president of the Lufkin-Nacogdoches Alumnae Chapter. “We just felt that we have enough women in this area who


Delta Sigma Theta Sorority was founded in 1913 by twenty-two collegiate women at Howard University.

are interested in having a chapter,” Hunt said. “We have a lot of need in this area for Delta. And we can focus on this particular area and let Nacogdoches handle the north area.” Hunt, like hundreds of other students in the segregated and then later integrated schools, had Deltas in her life, including Ella Austin of Lufkin, who pledged the sorority in 1948 at Wiley College at its Alpha Iota Chapter. Even though Austin didn’t teach Hunt at Lufkin’s Garrett Elementary, she watched her grow and told her, “Sellestine, you are going to go to college. And you are going to pledge Delta.” As the second president of the new chapter, Hunt is focusing the chapter’s efforts on only three of Delta’s “Five Point Programmatic Thrust: Economic Development, Educational Development and Political Awareness and Involvement. “We have got to do something in our community about economic development,” she said. “We have got to empower our people to own more and buy

more from our people. And that’s where we start.” Hunt said young people today need to know more about personal finance. “We’ve got to have a sense of economics. We’ve got to have a sense of our buying power,” she said. “We’ve got to have a sense of saving and not going out and spending $250 on a pair of tennis shoes. I’m all about dressing and I’m all about looking nice. But I’m also about having some money in my pocket, too — having something that we can fall back on.” Part of teaching kids is being addressed with the LAC’s Delta Academy, which according to its website (deltasigmatheta. org/academy.htm) was “created out of an urgent sense that bold action was needed to save young females (ages 11-14) from the perils of academic failure, low self-esteem, and crippled futures.” The LAC meets with the girls once a month, but before the girls can begin, their parents or legal guardian must attend a session with the local chapter for an ori-

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Tarsha Henderson, Monica Peters, PhD, and Colleen Howard flash the sorority pyramid during the Delta Academy. entation over the topics that will be discussed to help the girls prepare for the physical and mental changes that can and do happen as developing young women. “It’s not just up to the educators anymore,” Hunt said, “so we’re going to have to pull those parents in. We’re going to have to educate those parents as far as what you need to do with your kids, what kind of expectations you need to have for your kids. When you hear First Lady Michelle and President Barack Obama say, ‘Our kids watch no more than two hours (of television) a week.’ A week! What it does, it sets up a mind set where they don’t even miss it. They don’t even want to do it. They want to pick up a book. They want to be engaged in something else.” Hunt said they are using the Delta Academy to also expose the girls to careers in STEM education: Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. “Science, mathematics — that’s where it is,” she said. “That’s where the money is going to be put. And, politically,

that’s where they are looking at. They’re saying politically we need to move up as far as America is concerned. And why shouldn’t our kids right be right in there to take advantage of this movement? because we have some sharp students. It starts very early. During the political season, many residents may have seen women wearing red and white (or crimson and cream, Delta’s official sorority colors) and wearing their Greek letters. The sorority does not endorse candidates or political parties but can create voter awareness. “We were there on Saturdays out at the malls,” Hunt said. “We actually worked really hard in the political awareness area, just getting people registered to vote — not so much telling them how to vote, but getting them registered to vote, explaining to them that ‘It is your right. It is important that you vote.’ and also kind of demystifying voting and going out and voting. We worked really hard.” The chapter is also hard at work on creating its scholarship

program, with plans for a fundraiser party Saturday, June 15, in downtown Lufkin. “We’re calling it ‘Jeans & Bling.’ It’s going to be on a western theme — all rhinestoned out,” Hunt said. “All of those proceeds will go to our scholarship fund. Our goal is at least $500. We’ll be working on all the guidelines for the scholarship.” That desire for hard work to serve the community is seems to be the reason why 22 members of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc., the first black sorority, did a mass exodus and created Delta Sigma Theta 100 years ago. Other local members include Ella Austin, a 65-year member, Rev. Bettie Kennedy, Dorothy Chimney, Gloria Toran, Princess Simon, retired Lufkin High school nurse Bennie Rogers, retired teachers Martha Harris and Ruth Shaw, Tina Alexander-Sellers, and Lufkin High graduates Monica Peters, Colleen Howard, Tarsha Henderson, LaTrell “Miss Ann” Myers and Pam Rogers-Cavenall.

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Nancy Smith: Advocating for Veterans

By STEVE KNIGHT The Lufkin News

I’m not the kind that thinks, ‘Oh, no. I’ve got to go to work this morning.’ I really enjoy it. I really do.”


or Nancy Smith, a patient advocate at the Charles Wilson Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin, 2012 was a good year. Smith received state and national awards from the American Legion for her work to enhance the lives of disabled people. She also received a similar award from the Disabled American Veterans. She then followed that with the Texas Veterans Commission’s Patriot Award. The Zavalla resident has been called an angel and the premiere patient’s advocate by colleagues and patients she has helped over the years. And like most people in a service-type job, she doesn’t know what all the fuss is about. “I wish I knew what I did,” Smith said with a bit of laughter. “It just seemed like it was one after another. I’m extremely proud and I don’t understand what I did to get them. I do my job and I love what I do. Maybe that’s what makes a difference, is that I thoroughly love my job. I’m not the kind that thinks, ‘Oh, no. I’ve got to go to work this morning.’ I really enjoy it. I really do.” Smith and her husband Ben, an Army veteran who died two years ago, moved to the area in 1975. “The first several years, I didn’t work at all,” she said. “I went to work for Lufkin Federal Savings and Loan and worked for them for 10 years. A friend who I worked with there came


Continued from Page 3K enjoying a salad with chicken strips in the airport’s cafe or in the air, piloting his experimental aircraft. Lymbery started his retired life from the Air Force Reserve as a senior master sergeant and the manufactured housing business about six years ago. “Last time I got deployed to Desert Storm, I wasn’t going to leave my wife with the business and the ranch at the same time,” he said. “I decided that wasn’t quite fair. I was going off playing with the Air Force and she was stuck with the hard job. I was active, but I was in the reserves. Where most reservists work two days a week, I usually would work half a week. A lot or times, I would probably put in 10 days a month pretty easy.” Lymbery said he worked on aircraft as a reservist and obtained seven different AFSCs, also known as Air Force Specialty Codes, which are job descriptions. His seven-month deployment in Oman during Operation Desert Storm saw Lymbery work on KC-10 aircraft, the military equivalent of the DC-10. “I was right in the desert,” he said. “There was more dadgum sand than I’ve ever seen, but our base was right on the Strait of Hormuz. A lot or times we would have to go with the aircraft. We had a top-secret mission that I don’t talk about much, but we would get deployed with the aircraft a lot of times to take care of things that have to be done with the airplane if it’s ever stopped anywhere. I loved the Air Force Reserve. I loved the people in the military, and the Air Force Reserve is the best of the best.” He also worked on A-10 Thun-

Nancy Smith

patient advocate at the Charles Wilson Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin

Steve Knight/The Lufkin News

Patient advocate, Nancy Smith, stands in front of the Charles Wilson statue at the Charles Wilson Veteran Affairs Outpatient Clinic in Lufkin. to work here and when my Smith started as a clerk at a husband started coming to the nurse station in 1994 and has VA, she said, ‘Why don’t you put been a fixture at the clinic ever in your application over here. We since. have an opening.’” She explained her duties as a

derbolt aircraft and B-52 Stratofortress bombers during his Air Force stint. Lymbery started flying about 15 years ago, but he said his love of flying started sometime before that. “My love of flying was way back when,” he said. “I started in college and ran out of money. Then, I discovered scuba diving. Now, I’ve got about 1,000 hours in the air and 350 hours underwater. I’ve dove in every major ocean in the world. I fly probably about 100 to 150 hours a year, which is normal for general aviation. I do a lot of ferrying. Someone will have an airplane over in Crockett or Conroe and they need a ride to pick it up, so they’ll holler at me because I’m retired. I’ll run them down there and we’ll fly back together.” Lymbery said he is past president of the Experimental Aircraft Association and has flown 263 kids in the Angelina County area, introducing them to the world of aviation. “That’s one at a time, because I’ve got a two-seat airplane,” he said. “I’m very proud of that and our Young Eagles program, where we’ve introduced a lot of young people to aviation.” Whether flying or scuba diving, he’s comfortable in the air, on the ground or underwater. “I love them all,” he said. “Scuba diving is probably a little more dangerous. Aviation, getting your pilot’s certificate, is a little more difficult to past the test. It’s a learning process, but once you become a pilot, you never quit learning. Once you become a scuba diver, that’s all you’re pretty much doing. But as pilot, it seems like you’re learning something new every time you get into the air. Of all the times I’ve flown,

I’ve never had an issue where it’s been dangerous. I’ve had some close calls where I was talking to air traffic control and they would deviate me while someone was taking off from the ground. As long as you’re using good flying practices, you’re safe.” Even during his retirement, Lymbery said he loves being active and around people. “My wife and I were talking about this the other day and she said, ‘I don’t understand why you volunteer so much.’ In the (Lufkin Host Lions Club), I’ve got 35 years of perfect attendance,” he said. “I was excused, of course, when I was deployed. I love the Lions Club. I love working with people. I go to the commissioners’ court simply because I like to know what’s going on in the county. I like to listen to the way things are administered, why some things happen a certain way and the decisions that are made that guide the county. I read with third-graders in a program over at Brandon and I’ve been doing that for several years. It’s an incredible program. You start off with kids early in the year and they’re reading at first-grade level and when you finish with them, they’re reading at a high third-grade or fourthgrade level. We get them caught up and we’re mentors for that. I just like to serve and that’s what I do. I enjoy staying busy.” Will Lymbery retire from his retirement? Not likely. “The difference between my retirement and when I was working was I had three different jobs: I ran a ranch, I ran two different manufacturing lots and I was in the Air Force Reserve, and that kept me gone a lot,” he said. “I just loved it, so I stay this busy

patient advocate — her official title is program support assistant — as a complaint department of sorts. “I take the compliments and the complaints,” she said. “What I try to do is work out problems between the doctors and the patients. A lot of times, it’s just the fact that there’s miscommunication — they don’t explain themselves well enough at times, and the patient just needs somebody to sit and tell them in the simplest terms what’s going on and what’s being done. In the private sector, if you don’t like the doctor you’re seeing, you can just find another one. Here, we have a process where if you don’t like your doctor, you write me something — that way it can’t be said, ‘She said this, not the patient.’ I then put it through to our chief medical officer and he tells me who to assign the patient to.” She sometimes has other duties as a supervisor or a clerk, but patient advocacy is what Smith enjoys the most. She said she’s everyone’s “enemy,” depending on how a situation is resolved between a doctor and a patient, but that also means she’s also everyone’s friend. “I just enjoy being everyone’s ‘enemy,’ because I’m either the

now. But the difference now is that I do what I want to do. The things that I do are not work. I come and hang out here at the airport and it’s like a big family. Retirement is no different from anything else, except you do what you want to do. I love my life. I love Lufkin. Lufkin is an incredible dadgum town. I was fortunate 40 years ago to find Lufkin, and I’ve been here ever since.” Steve Knight’s email address is

patient’s enemy since I couldn’t do what they wanted to do or I’m the doctor’s because I’ve taken the patient’s side,” she said with a big smile on her face. “That’s just too bad. I loved it from the time I walked in. I really did. I’m of the Vietnam War era. I graduated from high school in 1968 — right in the heat of it. I’ve always had an affinity for the military. I married a man who had been military.” Smith has two grown daughters, Jaime and Jacque, and two grandsons, 8-year-old Joey and 11-year-old Hunter. When she goes home, the grand kids get all of the attention. “When I go home, that is what I do,” she said. “These kids are who I focus on. Their mother was so proud of all the (awards) from this last summer — both of my girls were. The grandchildren come up and see me every once in a while when they are in town. They know that when I go home,

it’s them — even through I do end up doing a few things for the clinic.” And although she would have plenty of time to play with those grand kids, Smith said she doesn’t look forward to retirement. Helping people who have served this country is her ultimate joy. “I’m hoping to make it at least another four years,” she said. “That’s what I’m aiming for, anyway. I may get a paycheck from the Department of Veterans Affairs, but that veteran is why I’m here. He is my employer, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I get into trouble sometimes. My job is to make sure that they listen to what the veteran says, to do their best to bring it to a conclusion where everyone is satisfied and try to treat them like they would want their mother or father, brother or sister, to be treated.”

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013


Woodland Heights Medical Center:

caring for Lufkin community since 1918


This past January, Woodland Heights earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for its Total Joint Replacement program for both Hips and Knees. Woodland Heights Medical Center


e’re Here! And we’ve been here since 1918, serving the healthcare needs of our friends and neighbors. Woodland Heights Medical Center (WHMC) was Lufkin’s first hospital, established in 1918. Since then, the facility has been at the forefront of healthcare in East Texas, continually providing the best in compassionate care and technology. A key focus is working closely with physicians, staff and the community to provide the best possible patient care. From opening the first cardiovascular center to being nationally recognized for quality and safety, Woodland Heights’ team of physicians and staff are committed to staying on the leading edge of healthcare quality, innovation and technology. This past January, Woodland Heights earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval® for its Total Joint Replacement program for both Hips and Knees. This accomplishment was achieved by demonstrating compliance with The Joint Commission’s national standards for health care quality and safety in disease-specific care. The certification award recognizes Woodland Heights’ dedication to continuous compliance with The Joint Commission’s state-of-theart standards. “With Joint Commission certification, we are making a significant investment in quality on a day-to-day basis from the top down. Joint Commission accreditation provides us a framework to take our organization to the next level and helps create a culture of excellence,” said Casey Robertson, Woodland Heights CEO. “Achieving Joint Commission certification in Total Joint Replacement — Hips/Knees for our organization is a major step toward maintaining excellence and continually improving the care we provide.” In addition to the strides the hospital is making in orthopedic care, cardiac care is a service WHMC has been providing East Texans since 1985, when the Cardiac Rehabilitation department was introduced. Since


Woodland Heights Medical Center was Lufkin’s first hospital, established in 1918. The facility has been at the forefront of healthcare in East Texas, continually providing the best in compassionate care and technology. then, the first heart procedures performed in Lufkin were done at Woodland Heights in 1987 and the facility has continued to lead the way in cardiac care in Deep East Texas. Recently, a new cardiac catheterization lab was installed, offering even more advanced technology. With capabilities such as displaying multiple images on one screen and revealing previous images for comparison, the new system is offering physicians an even better look into patients. Although Woodland Heights’ roots run deep, their patients also have a rich history in the area. Oscar Dillahunty, born and raised in Lufkin, began participating in the Cardiac Rehabilitation program in 2003, after he underwent a heart bypass surgery. The retired manager of Lufkin Coca-Cola had plans to only complete one year of the cardiac rehab program, but knew he needed the motivation and the comfort of knowing trained nurses were only steps away should something happen. Having such a serious surgery forced Dillahunty to consider a healthier lifestyle. “I feel better when I leave than when I get here,” he said. “The nurses are great, and the friendships and camaraderie that is developed make it feel like a family.” Registered Nurse Mirva Jacildo and Radiological Technologist Sherri Paresa, who care for the Cardiac Rehabilitation patients, echoed Mr. Dillahunty’s feelings, saying they feel

like patients are part of the family, and that they enjoy visiting with and learning from them. The entire cardiac team at Woodland Heights takes heart care seriously, as demonstrated in 2011 when the team went through a lengthy process to become the first Accredited Chest Pain Center in East Texas and still the only one in Lufkin. Chest pain is among the top symptoms of patients who visit the Woodland Heights Emergency Department. This designation means that any patient who comes to Woodland Heights experiencing chest pain can be confident he or she is receiving care that meets or exceeds the highest national standards of care. Cardiologists, emergency department physicians and patient care staff at the Woodland Heights Accredited Chest Pain Center consistently demonstrate expertise in streamlined diagnosis and treatment, community education and integration with paramedics/EMS to ensure better outcomes for our patients. While Woodland Heights is certainly tied to the past, the facility continues to look to the future. Improving patient care, adding beneficial healthcare services and offering community education are just a few ways the hospital continues to develop. An exciting project that will soon be starting at Woodland Heights is the construction of the first Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Deep East Texas. As the only Level 2 NICU in the area, WHMC will be able to care for critically ill babies

We Invite You. . .


Oscar Dillahunty began participating in Woodland Height’s Cardiac Rehabilitation program in 2003 after he underwent a heart bypass who are currently being shipped surgery. to Houston, Shreveport or Dallas because a lack of the higher level of care they require. Now these babies and their families will be able to receive the care they need closer to home. The project is anticipated to begin in June and be completed by late 2013 or early 2014. Woodland Heights also offers community education through a couple of affinity programs: Healthy Woman and Senior Circle. These programs not only offer education, but a social outlet for their members. More information about these programs and all the services offered at Woodland Heights is available on our website at With a medical staff of more & still growing than 200 physicians, Woodland 1976–2013 Heights offers a comprehensive list of medical and surgiOn Lufkin’s West Loop, Across from the Post Office • 632-4707 cal specialties and treatment Tuesday - Saturday 11:00 ish - 4:00 ish modalities and a commitment to quality patient care.

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Sunday, March 24, 2013 the lufkin news

Memorial Health System of East Texas Ranking among the nation’s best since 1949

Memorial Health System of East Texas


emorial Health System of East Texas represents the largest health care system in Deep East Texas. The main facility in Lufkin opened its doors in 1949, and the hospital continues to pave the way for quality, innovative health care in East Texas. Memorial consistently ranks among the nation’s best for exceptional health care and patient satisfaction. Just recently, HealthStream Research indicated that Memorial is the preferred hospital in East Texas area when it comes to patient care. The private, not-for-profit hospital provides more than a quarter of a million patient services each year, and over the past six decades, the facility has experienced significant growth. The hospital now offers a 175-member medical staff, 1,400-plus health care workers and a host of patient care services that at one time could only be found in large metropolitan cities. The system is comprised of four hospitals within Lufkin, Livingston and San Augustine. Memorial Medical CenterLufkin is home to the area’s only dedicated heart and stroke care facility, the Cardiovascular & Stroke Center of East Texas. When it comes to cancer treatment, The Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center is recognized for clinical excellence by the American College of Surgeons as one of the top 25 percent of Cancer Centers in America. Within Memorial’s service area, the prevalence of stroke, heart disease, diabetes and obesity is higher than the state average. The statistics for smoking, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and residents who do not regularly exercise are also higher in Deep East Texas than across the state. Multiple health risk factors within the East Texas population require Memorial to be on top of the latest technology and most innovative procedures in the country — especially when it comes to cardiovascular health. Recently, Memorial joined the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center for a threeyear program called the East Texas Heart & Vascular Initiative. The overall goal of the initiative is to elevate the level of heart and vascular care to the residents of deep East Texas by offering skills training specifically designed for the Memorial physicians and staff and educating the public about prevention of heart and vascular disease. Mike Wiggins, promotions producer at KTRE-TV, has worked at the local television station for the past 31 years. He was one such person who benefited from the outstanding care provided at Memorial. Dr. David Ladden, a board certified cardiovascular and vascular surgeon, performed triple-bypass open heart surgery on Wiggins in June 2012. Just one short month later, Wiggins was walking in the

Memorial Health System of East Texas

Memorial Health System of East Texas represents the largest health care system in Deep East Texas. The main facility in Lufkin opened its doors in 1949, and the hospital continues to pave the way for quality, innovative health care in East Texas.

Memorial Health System of East Texas

Dr. David Ladden, a board certified cardiovascular and vascular surgeon, (left) performed triple-bypass open heart surgery on Mike Wiggins (right) in June 2012. Just one short month later, Wiggins was walking in the Rocky Mountains at an altitude of 9,000 feet.

Rocky Mountains at an altitude of 9,000 feet. Before his surgery, Wiggins said he did his research and found that Memorial and Dr. Ladden’s experience were what he was looking for when it came to the care of his heart. “There were people who told me I needed to go to Houston to have the procedure done, but I didn’t want to do that,” Wiggins said. “I interviewed Dr. Ladden, and he just gave me more confidence in the procedure, both in his abilities and in the abilities of the hospital to take care of me.” Memorial is home to the area’s first dedicated heart and stroke care center. The Cardiovascular & Stroke Center boasts some of the area’s most advanced cardiac catheterization labs and surgery suites. From the latest in medical technology to the Center’s staff of surgeons, physician specialists, nurses and technicians, the Cardiovascular & Stroke Center in Lufkin is designed to keep patients close to home for some of the most complicated medical procedures. “We are so fortunate to provide state-of-the-art, quality care in our community when it comes to cardiovascular health,” Ladden said. “Having the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center’s resources at our fingertips allows us, as physicians, to further train on the latest technology and procedures, as well as to provide education for our fellow East Texans. Taking care of your heart is vitally important, and we want to help the hearts of our community beat strong for years to come.” During the past two decades, the odds of beating cancer have gone up significantly, thanks in large part to early detection measures and advanced treatment options at facilities such as the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer

Center at Memorial. Floyd Yancy, a Lufkin Independent School District substitute teacher for nearly two decades and a retired Angelina County agriculture agent, is one of more than 11 million cancer survivors in the United States. He was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. Yancy stayed in Lufkin for his medical treatment after taking the advice of Dr. Bill Shelton, the former medical director of the Temple Cancer Center. “Dr. Shelton was a good friend of mine, and he told me he would take real good care of me,” Yancy said. “It was much more convenient to stay here at home, and I’m still getting satisfactory PSA readings, so I would say it was a good thing.” After 42 radiation treatments, Yancy’s cancer went into remission. “The Lord has blessed me,” Yancy said. “My PSA levels have been as low as 0.1, and I have my doctors and the Lord to thank for that.”

The Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center is a Commission on Cancer accredited cancer program. The accreditation ensures that each patient has access to comprehensive care with state-of-the-art services and equipment, access to cancerrelated education and support, and a multidisciplinary team and facility approach to coordinate the best treatment options available. Memorial’s services also include the area’s only comprehensive diabetes, heart and stroke center — the H.C. Polk Education Center, the Temple Imaging Center, orthopedic care, women’s services, Inpatient and Outpatient Rehabilitation, Homecare, wound care and Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, Sleep Lab and Express Lab. The Memorial Medical Center-Lufkin campus is home to Memorial Specialty Hospital, a separately licensed “hospital within a hospital” and the only rural long-term acute care facility in the area.

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Floyd Yancy, a Lufkin Independent School District substitute teacher for the past 17 years and retired Angelina County agriculture agent, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2002. He went into remission after radiation treatment at the Arthur Temple Sr. Regional Cancer Center.

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the lufkin news Sunday, March 24, 2013

Zoo curator brings over 30 years experience to Ellen Trout A

want to learn more; you always want to improve what you’re doing and get more efficient and do it better. Seeing other zoos and collaborating and talking to people really helps to keep building and thinking of new ideas and different ways of doing things.” Much has changed at the zoo in Falzone’s 15 years as general curator, including the addition of exhibits and buildings. “When I first started, the rhino and giraffe area was already planned, but it wasn’t in the works yet,” she said. “The hippoquarium was another big thing. Even the buildings — the old offices were very small, and you could basically fit the old education building into a portion of one of the rooms in the new facility. They are able to do so much more with this new facility and it’s because the community supports this type of thing and wants the zoo to have a nice facility. The zoo is changing a lot and keeping up, but it’s also keeping that close community feeling. We’re very conscious of what people say they want out of this zoo.” Whether she’s working out the logistics of finding a telescoping trailer to transport a giraffe, enrolling a lion cub in a mane study or talking to someone at another zoo about their new commissary, Falzone can’t imagine a career that doesn’t involve working with animals. “I work in a zoo because I like working with animals and I don’t want to end up in a job where I’m never around the animals,” she said. “Sometimes I get really jealous of the staff because they get to do all this cool stuff.” One of those things was when the keepers were able to take home a lion cub born at the zoo late last year, after it was discovered its mother wasn’t producing milk. “It’s probably one of those love/hate things because you have all those sleepless nights, but how often do you get to hand-raise a lion?” she said. “People think the keepers are playing with the animals and that it’s fun, but these are wild


Celia Falzone is shown in front of the lion exhibit at Ellen Trout Zoo. Falzone is the zoo’s general curator. animals; the keepers aren’t playing with any of them. But, if you are hand-raising a lion, that is a pretty cool thing to do even though they would have been happier if he had been raised by his mother.” Falzone said keeping the animals safe, healthy and happy is the top priority of the entire zoo staff, including trying to

anticipate any problems. “We try to think ahead,” she said. “Everybody here has the animals’ welfare in mind.” With some upcoming animal acquisitions and other improvements in the works, Falzone said she credits community support of the zoo for making it so successful. “I like it here,” she said. “I like

the zoo; I like the community. This is the only zoo I’ve ever worked at — and I’ve worked at zoos of varying sizes, including one of the big names in the country — where people will stop me and tell me how much they like it. That just means so much to me.”

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s Celia Falzone strolls through the grounds of the Ellen Trout Zoo, her pride in the zoo and her passion for its inhabitants are evident. She points out the vulture who is too old to fly and remarks how the staff placed branches on the ground so he could hop up and still feel like he was perched high among the trees. She mentions the green herons who have flown into the zoo the past couple of years to nest above the crocodile exhibit, a perfect place for them with the availability of fish in the moat. She jokingly fusses at a feathered friend to quit chewing on something. She laughs as she describes how the contractors who laid the sidewalk outside the giraffe area were horrified when the staff started rolling leaves and pine needles in the freshlypoured concrete to give it a more natural path-like look. As general curator of the zoo for the past 15 years, Falzone seems to have her hands in everything, although her job is tough to describe. “People have no idea what I do,” she said with a laugh. “It’s always a little bit hard to say, because I do so many different things. I work on acquiring animals and moving animals to other places. I arrange shipments when we are moving animals and find a safe way to do that.” Along with animal acquisition, Falzone also handles the day-to-day operations of the zoo, including animal husbandry, food purchasing, supervising the maintenance and ground crews and managing the keepers. “I make rounds every day and go through the back areas as well as the public areas,” she said. “I’m very conscious of the visitor experience because with so much community support, I want our visitors to have a good time when they’re here. I really try to look at it as if I were a visitor here. I get with supervisors and we work to make sure everything is going smoothly.” A graduate of Texas A&M University originally from the

Dallas area, Falzone worked at several other zoos before landing in Lufkin. “My first zoo job was when I was in college,” she said. “It was a summer job and we were mostly having fun.” She then added other zoo jobs to her resume, each increasing in responsibility. “I started as a keeper; then I was also a research technician for a while; then I was a supervisor and eventually moved up to a mid-management level; and from that came here, to the next step up,” she said. “I’ve been working in zoos for over 30 years and in that time I’ve stepped up in positions and the amount of responsibility until I got to this one. You just never know where it’s going to take you.” During her time as a keeper, Falzone worked with birds, but she stops short of calling them her favorite residents of the zoo. “I still get in with the birds, but I’m also managing the big cats, all the mammals and reptiles,” she said. “I don’t really have a favorite animal. I’ve had animals I’ve worked with over the years that I thought were really interesting. I’ve had animals I’ve worked with thinking, ‘Those aren’t going to be very interesting,’ then found out when I learned more about them it was a lot more interesting than I realized. Usually when you start working with a particular type of animal you find out how interesting they really are.” While Falzone majored in zoology, she says there are other paths those wanting to pursue a career in the field can take. “The thing is, even among universities, what they call those degrees can vary quite a bit, but there are a lot of biology-related fields, like wildlife science, that would be relevant,” she said. Even with her education and years of experience, Falzone continues to take advantage of ways to keep up with what’s going on in the zoo world by attending professional meetings and visiting other zoos. “Everybody does things a little differently,” she said. “It’s good to compare because you always






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