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A SPECIAL SECTION | SUNDAY, JANUARY 23, 2011

THE BEST OF

2010

REMEMBERING SOME OF OUR FAVORITE STORIES

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

THE BEST OF

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia  |

2010

During the past year, our reporters and photographers produced great stories about the people and events of Northeast Georgia. Today, we reprint a few of our favorites from 2010, in case you missed them. Enjoy.

gainesvilletimes com

the best of 2010

INSIDE The groundbreaking for Lake Lanier | 4 Baby zedonk puts spotlight on refuge | 4 Area vets recall signing of V-J Day treaty | 4 Inside the B-17 bomber | 6 Diving bell that aided miner is restored | 6 Recalling the sit-ins, 50 years later | 8 Rogers continues holiday tradition | 8 Woman finds her passion for signing also fills a need | 8 Five years after Katrina, some move from Gulf Coast | 10 Sandra Deal wants to make an impact | 10

SARA GUEVARA | The Times

ABOVE: Guests enjoy the Wiggle Wave area at the Chattahoochee Rapids Beach and Water Park at Lake Lanier Islands Resorts in June. BELOW: Tubers float down the Chattahoochee River in Helen.

Originally published June 24, 2010

WATER’S PLAY

Chattahoochee isn’t all business as locals, travelers jump in for fun BY ASHLEY FIELDING

news@gainesvilletimes.com HELEN — When jobs dried up in the late 1980s, Terry Sims turned to the river. “I grew up here, and we camped and fished and tubed on the Chattahoochee River all our life,” said the White County native. “...It was more rural, you know? If anybody came through, if you seen anybody, you knew they was lost.” And as Sims found himself without enough work to keep his hydro-seeding business going in 1989, he figured helping others bathe in the river’s bounty would be an easy way to supplement his income. “There was other people in the tubing business, but I just didn’t think they run it right,” Sims said. He opened Cool River Tubing Co. in 1990, starting with a makeshift outdoor dressing room, a couple of buses to carry tubers and a picnic table on the banks of the river in Helen’s tourist-driven downtown. “I kinda done like Johnny Cash done that car, you know? One piece at a time,” Sims said. On a Tuesday in early June, 20 years later, the parking lot in front of his now two-story tubing company is filled with cars bearing tags from metropolitan Atlanta. Each year, some 50,000 people pull into Sims’ business, bringing with them $5 bills from all over the region — and sometimes, the country — to redeem a rubber tube and a couple of hours floating down the river’s cool headwaters. “People love the river,” said Sims, who claims it was his Southern hospitality that allowed his new business to survive on a back street. Casting a line, launching a kayak or simply sitting on the shore may be the Chattahoochee’s most obvious and immediate benefit. But on paper, leisure is not regarded highly. Other needs met by the river — sustaining ecology and economies — take priority in crisis, and Wilton Rooks calls sheer enjoyment the “stepchild” of the Chattahoochee. Rooks, the chairman of the recently formed ApalachicolaChattahoochee-Flint Stakeholders group, first started sailing on Lake Lanier, a few miles downstream of Sims’ business, in the 1960s. He later moved to the lake, bought a speedboat and became one of the lake’s biggest advocates. The group Rooks chairs seeks to find a way for all the river basin’s users — be they drinking water providers, farmers irrigating fields or folks out for a good time — to come to a consensus on how they can amicably share its waters. And despite recreation’s position at the bottom of the totem pole, Rooks works on the committee to make sure it is at least considered in important decisions on the river’s management. While it’s true that recreation provides quality of life benefits that cannot be quantified, it also has direct economic value as people spend money in bait shops, marinas and tourist stops such as Cool River Tubing. Rooks believes the impact of recreation in the ACF basin could be as much as $750 million. “A lot of uses are not economically driven, but the contribution to the local economies is huge,” Rooks said. The practice of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been that recreation is a valid use of the river system — as long as water abounds. The corps manages the flow of the river from Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam, impounding it behind four other dams until the

ONLINE In June, The Times published The River’s Reach, an eight-part series that told the stories of the people whose livelihoods depend on the Chattahoochee’s flow. Go to gainesvilletimes.com/river to see videos and and photo slide shows from the series.

Chattahoochee is released on the brink of Florida and becomes the Apalachicola River. Legal battles between the three states that share the Chattahoochee’s banks all center around the congressional authorizations of each of these impoundments. While these corps-operated lakes report millions of recreational visitors each year, most are not congressionally authorized for recreational use. Still, the government has poured money into campgrounds, boat ramps and other amenities surrounding the lakes. The investments reap their own financial rewards as visitors pay fees to use campgrounds and build boat docks. “The Corps of Engineers is the No. 1 provider of recreation of all federal agencies out there... and the reason is, we have a lot of reservoirs and flood control projects close to heavily populated areas,” said David Barr, supervisory park ranger for West Point Lake, the Chattahoochee’s second corps-operated impoundment. “So who wouldn’t want to come and fish or camp by these beautiful watersheds?” Located in a 35-mile stretch east of LaGrange on the Alabama line, West Point is the only lake operated by the corps in which recreation is considered a priority, Barr said. When the river was dammed up here in the late 1960s, the lake that formed behind it became a test facility for future federal recreation projects. Scattered along the lake’s 525 miles of shoreline are some 34 recreation areas, most operated by the corps. In some, waiting for visitors are empty basketball and tennis courts, picnic facilities and campgrounds. “About the time they were building West Point Lake, the corps was really getting into the recreation business,” Barr said. “We were told ‘you’re going to provide safe and enjoyable recreation facilities for the public.’” Some 2.8 million people visited West Point Lake in 2009, and Barr says revenue from user fees jumped as much as $200,000 as campers sought escape from the economy. “More people are, it appears, getting outdoors and enjoying the great outdoors,” Barr said. “And that’s good to see.” But each lake along the river has certain tipping points at which the water level can no longer sustain recreational use. A report recently compiled for the ACF Stakeholders group claims the number of visitors to Lake Lanier drops “precipitously” once the lake’s level is drawn 10 feet below its summer full pool of 1,071 feet above sea level. The report states it is necessary to determine a tipping point for recreation at each segment of the Chattahoochee, and to delineate what economic and human benefits are at stake. Though the lakes on the Chattahoochee have been reported to have the highest numbers of visitors — and revenue — each year, the river itself offers recreational escape throughout its 550 miles. In Columbus, there are plans to breach two dams on the river to make the middle west Georgia city a water sports destination that attracts kayakers, white water rafters and spectators alike. And Sally Bethea, executive director of Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, says people often forget that a 48-mile

stretch of the river between Lake Lanier’s Buford Dam and Peachtree Creek in the heart of Atlanta, exists purely for recreation. Officials with the National Park Service have maintained in letters that the corps should consider the Chattahoochee River National Recreation Area in its plan for water released downstream of Lanier, Bethea said. “I’m always frustrated that we don’t see river recreation (considered),” Bethea said. In the towns around the Apalachicola River, south of all the corps-operated lakes in the system, the river is the sole source of rural recreation, said Dan Tonsmeire, head of the river advocacy group on that end of the basin, the Apalachicola Riverkeeper. On the Friday just before Memorial Day weekend, Tonsmeire pulled his boat to the edge of a busy boat ramp near the small town of Wewahitchka. He passed a dock covered with teenagers in swimsuits. The parking lot was full of empty boat trailers. The region around the river there is sparsely populated, Tonsmeire points out, but most of those there seek out the river when they can. “Within the lifestyle of the American, it ranks real high as a (recreational) resource,” Rooks said. “... We need to keep it in front of a decision process that says that it is a valuable utilization.” In a river system gummed up by technology, Rooks said the people’s desire to unburden their cares in the currents of the Chattahoochee should be considered, because the river’s reach may stretch farthest as a place for fun. “In Atlanta, you might have 5 percent of your population going to Lake Lanier, and it looks like a lot of people,” Tonsmeire said, his boat on the Apalachicola. “Well, here, you maybe have 95 percent of your population coming here, and it’s everybody — it’s where they meet, it’s where they see each other.”


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The Times, Gainesville, Georgia  |

gainesvilletimes com

Sunday, January 23, 2011

WHAT’S DIFFERENT AT LAKESHORE MALL?

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CMYK The Times, Gainesville, Georgia  |

Sunday, January 23, 2011

the best of 2010

gainesvilletimes com

Originally published Aug. 14, 2010

WITNESS TO HISTORY Area vets recall signing of V-J Day treaty by Jeff Gill

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com

TOM REED | The Times

A baby zedonk stands next to her mother last summer at the Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Lumpkin County. The zebra, donkey mix was born in July.

Originally published Aug. 3, 2010

IT’S A WHAT?

Baby zedonk puts spotlight on Chestatee Wildlife Preserve by Brandee A. Thomas

bthomas@gainesvilletimes.com She may have come from humble beginnings, but a baby zedonk has quickly become the star at Chestatee Wildlife Preserve in Dahlonega. The zedonk, half zebra and half donkey, was born at the preserve nearly two weeks ago and has since captured the attention of local residents and national media outlets alike. “Our phones are ringing constantly,” said C.W. Wathen, the preserve’s founder and general manager. “We never really thought about how rare it is, but we’re finding that out more and more every day.” Interest in the zedonk hasn’t been limited to the United States, either. “We’ve gotten calls from Russia and have even had visitors from France,” Wathen said. “One group of visitors came by this weekend and said they came to see it because they got a call from their friends in Egypt that told them about her.” Although the animals on the preserve have been running together in the same fields for more than 30 years, Wathen said this is the first time there has been any crossbreeding. With her donkey mother’s bone structure and zebra father’s stripes, the baby zedonk is quite a spectacle. “Everyone that comes out can’t believe what they are seeing,” Wathen said.

And interest in the zedonk is keeping the preserve’s all-volunteer staff jumping. “Business has really picked up. Some people have already been back a couple of times, and they’re bringing more people with them each time,” Wathen said. “Things have been busy, but it’s for the animals, so everyone is all for putting in a few extra hours if they have to.” The zedonk now has a name, too, at least temporarily. After receiving numerous requests to name her Pippi Longstocking — a character in a children’s book who is famous for her striped hosiery — the preserve’s staff have conceded. “We’re calling her Pippi, but we’re still leaving that open for the schools. We’d like to do a naming contest for the kids,” Wathen said. “So her name may stay Pippi, or it could change.” The preserve is a nonprofit organization dedicated to rescuing animals. In addition to Pippi, the preserve has become the home for white tigers, black leopards, a baby grizzly bear and numerous macaws — among other animals. “I sort of fell into it. I used to raise a lot of horses years ago in Kentucky,” Wathen said. “One day, someone asked me if I wanted to trade a few miniature horses for a couple of zebras, and I did. And it just sort of grew from there. I love all animals, but I really fell in love with the exotics.”

A formidable sight, with its length that of three football fields and imposing guns aimed at the sky, the USS Missouri sits anchored today as a memorial in Pearl Harbor. The battleship, a symbol of U.S. military might in World War II, has etched its place in history as the place where a peace treaty was signed on Sept. 2, 1945, capping the exuberant moment 65 years ago this weekend when the Japanese surrendered to the Allies. Memories of those times haven’t faded for three area men, who attended the ceremony as part of the vast U.S. military presence in Tokyo Bay. Two of them, Rhuel Patterson and Hubert Davis, talked about those historic events in an interview recently at the Northeast Georgia History Center at Brenau University in Gainesville. The other, Jack Blackwell, spoke by phone from his Banks County home. Strangers before the interview, Patterson and Davis afterward strolled in the center’s reflective Freedom Garden, which bears the inscribed names of Hall County veterans - from various wars - on granite pillars. “The Missouri was sitting kind of in the center (of the action) and lots of boats were around it,” said Hubert Davis, recalling the day. “Our troop ship ... had a good view straight in on the deck (where the peace treaty was signed).” “Well, we weren’t far from each other,” Patterson said, reacting to the comment, his eyebrows raised. Davis, a DeKalb County native now living in White County, was in the Army at the time. Patterson, who grew up in Gainesville and has lived here since 1947, was in the Navy. Patterson said his ship was just off the Missouri and he could see the ceremony, but, without field glasses, “it was hard to identify people.” “Planes flew all day, I guess you remember that?” he said, looking at Davis. “Yes,” Davis said, nodding his head. “Just drones of planes all day,” Patterson said. “I could see all the movements on the Missouri, but (the ship) was probably about 200 yards (away),” Davis said. “I could recognize (Gen. Douglas) MacArthur. I saw him later in Japan several times.” After the 33-minute ceremony, Japanese officials and officers were escorted off the Missouri and U.S. Army Air Corps planes “put on a show that lasted ... I don’t know how long,” Davis said. “I think our ship had already moved out of the harbor and it was still going on.” “I can really remember the feeling when we pulled into that harbor,” Patterson said. “Nobody knew what was going to happen. It was an eerie feeling. ... At that time, the papers hadn’t been signed.” Jack Blackwell, born and raised in Banks County, entered the Navy in 1943 and toured

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

J.R. Parsons served on the destroyer USS Iz-

through the Pacific aboard the destroyer USS Taylor, including the Philippines and the Japanese island of Okinawa, before arriving in Tokyo Bay for the surrender ceremony. After the atomic blasts took place that convinced Japan to surrender, “we were the first American warship into Japan,” he said. “And we were the first American warship to anchor in Japan.” Blackwell’s ship brought war correspondents to the Missouri for the ceremony. “After that was over, we went up into northern Japan - I cannot remember the island - and picked up all the ex-POWs we could get.” Blackwell, who participated in 11 battles in the Pacific, vividly remembers Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945. “Thank God, it’s over,” he said, recalling how he felt upon hearing the news. “There was this uproar on the ship of ‘Hurray, hoorah!’ We were about 75 miles outside of Tokyo that morning.” For Davis, the war wasn’t quite over. He still had dangers to face. He and fellow soldiers in the 112th Cavalry traveled to Tateyam, Japan, to gather up ammunition to sink in the ocean. The ammo dump exploded, flattening a nearby hospital, killing 63 U.S. soldiers, and shredding 112th’s tents that had been set up near an airstrip. “We had just settled in and had everything pretty well in order,” Davis said. As the ammo shot off into the sky, “we ran and got behind a concrete wall at the air strip to save our hide.” “I thought (the war was) starting all over again,” he said. Of course, it hadn’t. And life would start anew for Davis, Patterson and Blackwell after they returned to the United States, where they started jobs and families. “For me, it’s been a fast, fast 65 years,” Davis said. “My umpiring— my second hobby — has kept me going, kept my health good. I can still run.”

Originally published Feb. 28, 2010

LAUNCHING LAKE LANIER

Local residents remember the groundbreaking ceremony that led to Buford Dam By Jeff Gill

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com Harold Martin had two things motivating him when he stood on the hillside with his 8 mm camera. The Hall County man loved tinkering with machines, particularly farm equipment, and he was thrilled about the prospect of a new lake in Gainesville’s backyard. So there he stood, panning over the lush Gwinnett-Hall countryside with his camera and capturing on film the earthmovers and trucks as they chugged along, grading and moving dirt to make way for the Buford Dam. For good measure, perhaps to preserve the historic moment, he filmed the sign announcing the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project. “There’s not many people left who saw them build the dam,” said his wife, Dot. Monday marks the 60th anniversary of the ceremonial groundbreaking that brought some 3,500 people to the site of what is now Buford Dam. A black-and-white photograph shows dignitaries, including Gov. Herman E. Talmadge, picking at and turning dirt with shovels. The initial contractor for the first phase of construction was a Minneapolis firm that was awarded the contract in June 1951 for $2.8 million. The work also included construction of two saddle dikes and an access road. The firm subcontracted work to an Oregon company that drilled three penstocks and a sluice tunnel 246 feet in length to allow for power production and emergency releases of water downstream.

Six years later, flood gates were closed and Lake Lanier began filling, realizing talk of a dam and reservoir that began in earnest following the end of World War II. The River and Harbor Act, which was approved by Congress in 1946, authorized “a multiple purpose dam on the Chattahoochee River at Buford in the interest of navigation, flood control and power and water supply.” Talk of a new lake pleased Harold Martin, a Gillsville native, eager to get out on the water with his family. “I had been out in a boat a couple of times. I went to Allatoona and Chatuge (lakes) a time or two, so that’s the reason I wanted a boat,” he said. As far as going to the lake with his camera, “I was just interested in them building the lake and the dam,” said Martin, who has lived off Atlanta Highway since 1952. “We went pretty often.” Work progressed and “I got the fever wanting a boat,” he said. “I ordered a kit boat from Sears Roebuck. It was a 21-foot cruiser, and it took me two years to put it together. I started it in 1955 and launched it in 1957.” Another home movie shows a young, lanky Harold Martin working on the wooden frame of his boat (later named “Barbara Nell” after his daughter) in a garage and looking up at the camera. Later, “I carried it over to the shop to put the motor on it. The first motor I had ... was a 40-horsepower Scott-Atwater,” he said, watching the movie, now converted to DVD, with his hand wrapped around a remote control. The Martins’ camera also documented an early family trip to the lake, possibly before

Lanier reached full pool of 1,070 feet above sea level in May 1959. They, along with another couple and their children, sped along the water in the boat and, at one point, passed by the new dam. Several in the party tried their hand at skiing behind the boat on a round disk the Martins now use as a tabletop on their back patio. “Those were good days,” said Dot Martin, smiling. The boat lasted about six years and “it dryrotted,” said her husband. “It was made out of Philippine mahogany plyboard.” The Martins later owned a houseboat, “Sugar Shack,” for 17 years. “Now, that was really fun,” said Harold, now 86. The new lake would mean hours of sunfilled recreation for many. For others, it was a less pleasing prospect, at least initially, as they had to give up homesteads and other property for the 38,000-acre project. A story in the April 14, 1954, edition of The Times gave an account of the first land purchase for the lake. Henry Shadburn, then 81, was paid $4,100 for his home and 100 acres in Forsyth County, roughly $1 an acre. Some landowners resisted and became subjects of a civil action in U.S. District Court. The land disputes were resolved by the time flood gates were closed in 1956. Betty Payne recalled her family having to move from their 90 acres off what is now Jim Crow Road in West Hall. Now 68 and living in Oakwood, she couldn’t remember her age at the time or her parents’ reactions. But she recalled being excited, along with

her siblings. “We were glad to have a new home,” Payne said. “My dad bought 16 acres from his brother and ... we had running water. I can remember our old home didn’t even have electricity until about a year or two before we moved.” She said she later was thumbing through a book and found that her father had received $7,000 for the property. “But a lot of people didn’t get that,” Payne said. She recalled returning to the old homeplace during the drought of 2007-09. “You could walk out to it. It was kind of up on a hill,” Payne said. “I’ve got a lot of pictures of that. There were a lot of rocks in the old foundation of one of the chicken houses — it was pretty much intact. “We found some old plows and broken glass. You can tell where the well was.” The whole experience was “very emotional,” Payne said. “It was like me going back home again.” As Lake Lanier reached full pool in October, then continued to climb as rain continued to pour, water covered the property. Today, the lake stands at just above 1,070 feet above sea level, as the corps keeps trying, through water releases, to drop the level to the winter pool of 1,070 feet. The Martins, who have slowed their pace in recent years, largely because of health problems, still keep up with the lake’s goings-on. “I’d like to have a home on the lake, but I can’t afford such as that,” he said. “... That would be nice to have a home and a boat dock, and I could go sit on the dock and fish.”

SARA guevara | The Times


CMYK the best of 2010

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia  |

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

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the best of 2010

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the best of 2010

The Times, Gainesville, Georgia  |

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Sunday, January 23, 2011



Originally published Oct. 16, 2010

INSIDE THE B-17 BOMBER

Times reporter got to take a spin in vintage WWII airplane by Jeff Gill

jgill@gainesvilletimes.com There’s nothing quite like an old war bird, especially one with such historic significance as the B-17 bomber. The U.S. Army Air Forces used the “Flying Fortress” in daylight bombing raids against military and industrial targets in Germany during World War JEFF GILL II. A primary jgill@ weapon of gainesvilletimes.com the Allies, the long-range bomber could take a beating and keep on flying. Before last week, I had only seen such planes grounded or in static display, maybe walking through an aircraft’s belly and flipping at some controls. Fun as that is, nothing quite beats taking off into the blue yonder and imagining what life must have been like for those brave American warriors as they crossed high over enemy lines. I got that chance as the Experimental Aircraft Association brought the B-17G “Aluminum Overcast” to Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field in Lawrenceville on Thursday for an exhibition that ends Monday. The 34,000-pound, four-engine plane stood there on the tarmac, a museum unto itself. Restored to World War II likeness, the bomber appeared ready for action, with its Browning machine guns jutting from different positions. The wind was up, at times quite brisk, sparking concerned looks from the pilots, Tony Manzo, a Gainesville resident, and Bob Davis of Wisconsin. We might not fly today, they said. OK, safety first, but what a disappointment that would be. Get this close, only to be turned away by stiff breezes. The trip became more promising when officials decided that, because of limited seating, the B-17 would embark on

TOM REED | The Times

John Reitz and Yvonne Desmarais look over the B-17 “Aluminum Overcast” at Briscoe Field near Lawrenceville in October.

two flights. After signing our releases and hearing a few preflight instructions from crew chief Rick Reynolds, Times’ photographer (and EAA member) Tom Reed and I climbed on board and took our seats. I had some trouble buckling my war-era lap belt, getting some help from the passenger next to me, Fred Huppertz of Snellville. In the few minutes before the pilots started the engines, I surveyed my surroundings. Not as big as I had imagined, for some reason, but the plane had a sturdy interior. A machine gun was aimed through a plexiglass window (an open one during war times, Huppertz told me) just a few feet away and, to my left, stationed behind Tom was the closed-off compartment where the tail gunner would have been. To my right and on the floor was the hatch that covered the tight space where the ball turret gunner would have sat crouched with a machine gun. I struck up a conversation with Huppertz just as the plane began to taxi down the runway. Turns out he’s a 26-year Air Force veteran who flew the iconic

(and pressurized, unlike the B-17) B-52 bomber. He served in Vietnam in 1965-66. “This is pretty primitive. The technology is ancient,” Huppertz said of the B-17. “But it was one of the weapons that won the war for us, so you can’t knock it.” Soon, we passed a windsock on the runway. Would it be up or down for the old bird? We began the ascent and a quick prayer raced through my head. One more mission, baby. Reynolds gave us the thumbsup sign, our cue to release the seat belt and tour the plane as we pleased. “It’s pretty turbulent. Be careful,” Huppertz said to me, his words faint in the roar of the engines. Good advice as I stepped from my seat with one hand trying to steady my video camera - not an easy task - and one hand to make sure I didn’t become a casualty. Slowly at first, I ventured through the 74-foot, bumpy plane, also trying to record footage of earth below from the windows. I reached a small room where the radio operator would have worked, and I sat for a while. I waited as another media pas-

senger crossed the catwalk in the room ahead that would have housed the plane’s bombs. Finally, I reached the cockpit, but my real destination was the glass-enclosed room on the plane’s nose that housed the bombadier and chin turret gunner. “It’s easy to get hypnotized in there,” Reynolds had cautioned us in making sure we don’t linger there, but take quick turns looking around and climbing out of the tight space. There was an awesome view in the nose and I could have hung around a bit, but before long, Reynolds motioned me out and instructed me back to my seat. Time to land and I was just getting my air legs. Survived also without any motion sickness, which I’m not prone to get but which was mentioned as a possible consequence in the preflight session. I braced myself for the landing, which was smooth. Kudos to Manzo and Davis, both retired commercial pilots. After we climbed out of the B-17, I met up with another of the passengers, Chuck Larcom, 87, of Roswell, who flew the B-24 bomber during World War II and the B-17

after it. The last time he had been inside a B-17 was 1946. “I forget how small they were,” he said, grinning. “I tried to get into the nose section, but I couldn’t get all bent over.” As an aircraft, the B-17 is a relic, all but gone now. More than 12,000 were produced (the one we flew, at the end of the war), with only a dozen in flight today worldwide. Just a handful of others are on display. The “Aluminum Overcast” was sold for scrap at $750 only to be rescued, later reused by a mapping company and eventually restored. Today, local EAA chapters sponsor the B-17’s tour around the country. At $5 per adult or $15 per family, visitors could walk around the plane. Prices range from $359 to $425 for a flight. The event draws quite a crowd, said Joel Levine, spokesman for Chapter 690 in Lawrenceville. “When the veterans come out, you see some of them with tears in their eyes,” he said. “It’s an opportunity to reconnect. They walk through there and it’s a unique experience.” Standing outside the B-17 after it made its second flight, I watched as Loganville’s Kenneth Powell stepped from the plane. Caught in the exhilaration of the flight, it’s easy to forget the heroes. Powell was a Flying Fortress co-pilot on July 16, 1944, when his plane was shot down over Munich, Germany. Some 5,000 B-17 crews suffered a similar fate. “Everybody in the plane got out OK,” said Powell, 89. “We all got together on the ground and everybody was alive, but a couple of them were shot.” The Germans captured the crew and assigned them to Stalag 1 as POWs for the next 10 months. “I was liberated the day after Hitler committed suicide,” Powell said. He flew in the B-17 last year for the first time since the war. “It was just like going over Munich again, except for the flak,” he said. “I didn’t notice any flak today. And (the pilots) sure made a good landing.”

Originally published June 29, 2010

HISTORY RECOVERED

Diving bell that aided Dahlonega gold miners being restored By Carolyn Crist

ccrist@gainesvilletimes.com A piece of history left Gainesville 135 years ago, but now it’s back. A diving bell — the only one of its kind still left from the Civil War — was unearthed from the Chestatee River decades ago and is finally being restored before it is displayed in downtown Dahlonega. Usually found in port towns such as New Orleans, Savannah and Charleston, S.C., the diving bell was used in Dahlonega in 1875 to mine gold at the bottom of the river. The object, which measures 8 feet high, 15 feet long and almost 6 feet wide, allowed divers a place to breathe under water while skimming river bottoms. Historians have compared the design to turning a glass upside down in water, which creates a pocket of air at the top. “It’s a very rare piece of Civil War-era technology and the only one surviving of its kind,” said Chip Wright, project manager and preservation planner for the Georgia Mountains Regional Commission. “This diving bell should never have been here. It’s a good thing because that’s why it has survived.” During the metal drives of World War I and World War II, bells of this type were melted down and used by the military, he said. “This was lying on the bottom of the river and forgotten for all these years,” he said. “You can read about these in books and see drawings, but this one is even more unique because it was customized to serve in a gold mining operation.” Philologus Loud, a Dahlonega inventor and entrepreneur, was doing business in New Orleans when he came up with the idea to use the bell to search for gold. The Benjamin Mallifert bell model, which includes two hatches and a pressurized air-lock system to create a pocket of air under water, was part of the salvaging ship named The Glide that scanned the Mississippi and Yazoo rivers. Loud bought the bell when the ship was converted to a package steamer. The bell was loaded onto a rail car and reached the end of its rail trip in Gainesville, where it was

loaded onto a Southern Express wagon and toted to Dahlonega. In 1983, local gold miners decided to pull out the object that fishers had noticed. “The gold miners knew what it was right way,” said Anne Amerson, a Dahlonega historian who has studied the bell for years. “I didn’t see it until 1990, and we still haven’t figured out everything about it.” Amerson and historian Chris Worick found old newspaper clips about the bell and a ship used on the river in 1875 and 1876. The boat sank, and the last article found said officials suspected sabotage. “The next few issues are missing, so we don’t know if anything else was reported,” she said. “People from far away started getting interested, and we decided to figure out what to do with it.” The bell sat on the side of the river until 2003 when new property owner Birch River Golf Community asked a local metalworker to repair the top and paint it. The bell was later moved to a nearby service road by new owner Achasta, the newly renamed residential golf community, until June 10. “It was sitting there beside the maintenance area, and Achasta recognized the value of the bell and that it belonged to the community,” Amerson said. “They agreed to donate it to the city, and the city council voted to place it somewhere within walking distance of the square.” The bell will be placed in a pavilion constructed in Hancock Park, located one block off the Dahlonega square. Last June, Amerson and Worick created a committee to decide what to do with the bell and in April named Wright, a maritime archaeologist, to oversee the conservation of the bell and submerged ship. “Since the bell has been sitting out and exposed to the elements for so many years, we decided it should be stabilized and studied in great detail,” Wright said. The bell was sent to Mike Cottrell in Gainesville, and a team is welding, painting and doing minor sandblasting to get the historic artifact back in shape. “Being visionary, Mike Cottrell

Photos by SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

ABOVE: Chip Wright, left and Steve Katona discuss restoration efforts on the Chestatee River Diving Bell, a submarine-like device built in the 1800s. BELOW: Wright shows off some of the restoration work.

drew up a lifting device that we created in a few days to lift the bell onto a flatbed trailer,” said Steve Katona, who is heading up the conservation project under Cottrell. “It’s a big joint effort, and we’re being very patient. We want the end results to be perfect.” Wright has been documenting the process on Facebook, posting pictures and updates to the “Chestatee River Diving Bell” profile. He’s also adding updates about the newest project — investigating the sunken ship that held the bell. On May 22, Wright, a diver, located the wrecked ship under water. “It’s buried under sediment. The water of the Chestatee River is so cold, which gives a great degree of preservation,” he said. “The best place for it to be for now is where it’s at because the river has taken care of it all these years.” Thought Wright doesn’t plan to raise the ship above water, he wants to find the dimensions of the ship and figure out how it operated

with the bell. Once the bell renovation is complete, the community is holding a fundraiser event July 31 at the Cottrell Ranch barn to raise money for the pavilion that will house the bell. “We’ll have the bell fully sta-

bilized and on a custom trailer at the event so people can look at it,” Wright said. “We don’t have time line yet for when it will go in the square. The city is working out the details, but in the meantime it will be stored in a safe that is dry.”


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Originally published Dec. 14, 2010

following a sign Gainesville woman finds that her passion also fills a need By Brandee A. Thomas

bthomas@gainesvilletimes.com Lori Fugere is a very animated speaker. When she can’t make her point with words alone, she’s been known to incorporate lots of hand motions. For the last 24 years, Fugere has been an active user of American Sign Language. She picked up the skills in college and quickly blossomed as an interpreter for the hearing impaired. She’s been interpreting at various churches for more than two decades, which is fitting since she says she got into signing “by the grace of God” during her freshman year in college. “One day on campus, (an acquaintance) came up to me and said, ‘You have to try getting into this sign language class — it’s amazing.’ It was odd because I’d never told him that I was interested in signing or anything,” said Fugere, a C.W. Davis Middle School teacher. “I tried to get into the class that first semester, but it was full. I tried again second semester. Only 45 people were allowed to sign up for the class — when I registered, I was No. 45.” That first class proved to be a turning point for her. “Signing became the first thing in my life that I felt really good at,” Fugere

said. “Everything just fell into place for me.” Just as non-impaired individuals enjoy going to special events and even concerts, so do individuals with impairments, she says. To accommodate their needs, Fugere has been interpreting productions like AtlantaFest, a Christian music festival, for a number of years. Although interpreting music may seem like an impossible task, Fugere says it’s not that difficult. “For some performances, I type all of the lyrics to a song, and follow those music sheets, but for others, I just listen. Since a lot of words in the English language have the same meaning, there’s just one sign for all of them. But if you learn the (signing) alphabet, you can spell out words if you don’t know the sign,” Fugere said. “About 50 percent (of communicating with signs) is facial expressions and body language.” Sign language isn’t just an effective tool of communication for individuals with hearing issues, it’s also great for non-impaired children. “Verbal skills don’t develop as quickly as fine-motor skills,” Fugere said. “If you use sign language with (young children), you would see a lot less frus-

tration from them because even if they can’t talk, they can still communicate their wants and needs.” From trips to the store to trips to the dentist, Fugere has seen a need for her services everywhere. “The deaf population is capable of doing anything, just like anyone else, so you never know when you may run into someone who is hard of hearing,” Fugere said. Although sign language clubs are often available to students as extracurricular activities, Fugere would like to see more Georgia schools offer signing as a foreign language. “Georgia was one of the last two states to accept American Sign Language as a foreign language (option), but there sill isn’t a lot of participation,” Fugere said. Aside from deciding on a career as an interpreter, offering the class also can help students get ahead in their desired field of choice. “For instance, a doctor may have a deaf patient. A teacher could have a deaf student, or even a non-impaired student with a parent that is deaf,” Fugere said. “You just never know where you will be and be able to help someone communicate.”

TOM REED | The Times

Lori Fugere signs music during a special Christmas program at Central Baptist Church in December

Originally published Jan. 18, 2010

RECALLING THE SIT-INS

Students still fight, but causes have changed BY Brandee A. Thomas

bthomas@gainesvilletimes.com

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

Longtime Good News at Noon cook Ellen Rogers, right, gives a hug to friend Donya Jarrett during the shelter’s annual Thanksgiving Day dinner.

Originally published Nov. 25, 2010

A serving tradition

Rogers continues holiday tradition by serving meals at Good News BY Elizabeth Burlingame

eburlingame@gainesvilletimes.com For more than a decade, 83-year-old Ellen Rogers has helped the less fortunate have a traditional Thanksgiving meal to eat. Rogers, a great-grandmother to 18, who won a seat on the Clermont town council last year, will help serve 300 meals at Good News at Noon today. “She’s a great lady and a fantastic cook,” The Rev. Ed Grant of Good News said. “My favorite is her homemade vegetable soup.” Though some of the diners may be without a home or a job, the homeless shelter provides them with a classic Thanksgiving meal, which could be found on many dinner tables across the U.S. The meal includes all the trimmings including mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie. Rogers usually takes charge of the meal and last year’s organizers hung a sign from the door that read “Today only the Rogers family in the kitchen.” This week, she and volunteers were busy carving 30 pre-cooked turkeys for the shelter’s largest luncheon of the year. “I think people look forward to it. We always have good food,” she said. Rogers said she got her start with Good News in the 1990s and said giving has helped her overcome struggles in her own life. When a close family member suffered a head injury after a car wreck, she said, she felt unable to help and wanted to find ways she could make a difference. “I found that you are the one that gets the blessing from volunteering,” she said. Every fourth Friday of the month, Rogers helps buy and prepare a restaurant-quality meal for people at the shelter. A smart shopper, Rogers can find grocery store ingredients for more than 100 meals for under $200. Much of the food is prepared in her own kitchen. “We usually have salmon, chicken or beef and vegetables,” Rogers said. “And I always make 130 biscuits.” Although Rogers said she has never cooked professionally, she has several years of experience under her belt. Her family calculated she has served more than 82,000 plates to the needy over the years. Rogers adds that the meals are usually more elaborate than soup and sandwich. “We want it to be like Sunday dinner at mom’s house,” Rogers said. Rogers said she ran for office for the first time last year to be a voice of preserving the history and character of Clermont, while opening the town to additional tax revenues from new residents. Today, Rogers expects to claim a spot in the Good News kitchen, and volunteers predict to see another increase in first-time diners this year. “It seems like there are more people each year,” Grant said. “We actually see different people each day. Because of the economy, some people are travelling from state to state to find better jobs. We probably see about two to three new faces a day,” Good News general manager Thomas Ramirez said. As well as serving major meals for holidays, Good News will provide more than 50,000 lunches to people in need this year, seven days a week. The number has increased from 40,000 meals served last year. Rogers said most of the food for the Thanksgiving feast is pre-cooked and volunteers will spend the morning heating it up. “People can come for a free meal for Thanksgiving and then come in Friday and enjoy the best vegetable soup they’ve ever eaten,” Grant said.

Fifty years ago, four students from North Carolina Agricultural and State University entered a Woolworth’s store and approached the lunch counter. Their desire was simple — to walk through the front door of the establishment, sit at the lunch counter, place their orders and enjoy a meal like every other paying customer. But instead of blending in with the crowd, these particular patrons stood out like a sore thumb. Although their money was green like everyone else’s, it was no good because unlike the other patrons, their skin had too much pigment. The year was 1960, the place was Greensboro, N.C., and the students were smack-dab in the middle of the Jim Crow South, where unequal treatment for blacks was the rule and there were no exceptions. If you were black in those days, dealing with “white only” signs on water-fountains, seats on buses, department store windows and most public places was a way of life. The actions of those students would kick off a series of nonviolent student sit-ins around the country that would help college students gain the respect of their elder civil rights leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., whose birthday celebration is marked today as a national holiday. According to author Taylor Branch, King is said to have later told student organizers, “What is fresh, what is new in your fight is the fact that it was initiated, led and sustained by students. What is new is that American students have come of age. You now can take your honored places in the worldwide struggle for freedom.” As the sit-in movement gained momentum, the students endured increasing verbal and even physical abuse, all the while turning the proverbial “other cheek.” “From today’s perspective, I don’t think I would’ve been able to do it,” said Charmaine Gilmore, a Brenau University senior. “But looking back at the 1960s, I think I would have been more passionate about it seeing how the African-American race was being oppressed and it was so much adversity. So I think I would have had the strength and courage then to sit in and try and make a difference during that time.” While the sit-ins were staged by mostly black students, there were some white students who joined the movement. “I’d like to think that I would have been one

‘I think it’s all about the education of the generation after us. It matters what we do.’ Jillian Ford Brenau University sophomore of those fewer Caucasian people who joined the movement, but you never know until you are in that situation,” said Ashley Lamphier, a Brenau University junior. “But I’ve always believed actions speak louder than words and in the importance of standing up for what you believe in. And I believe in doing what’s right for the equality for all people.” Because students fought back then for equality, students today are able to walk into establishments like The Collegiate Grill on Main Street, which first opened in 1947, and enjoy a milkshake and hamburger just like everyone else. Because today’s students don’t have to fight for every right, older generations may think that these students are a group without a cause. But that isn’t true. Though many of today’s students are removed from the same type of struggle as students in the 1960s, there are causes that they believe in and work to bolster support for. “I can’t speak for other campuses, but here at Brenau we are working toward being more sustainable and going green, which I think will be one of the major issues especially with global warming and keeping our planet going,” sophomore Danielle Cesar said. “I feel our culture now, we are taking a stand toward going green and doing what we can to save the planet.” And despite many critics labeling today’s young adults as the “me generation,” there are individuals who realize the importance of continuing to strive for excellence and clearing the way for other generations to follow — much like the North Carolina students who started the college sit-in movement. “I think it’s all about the education of the generation after us,” said Jillian Ford, Brenau University sophomore. “It matters what we do. If they see us constantly pushing and constantly trying then maybe if we teach them that, then generations will get better eventually.”

SCOTT ROGERS | The Times

2010 marked the 50th anniversary of the first lunch counter sit-in during the civil rights movement. A group of Brenau students, above, recreated the moment and discussed how they might have responded a half century ago.


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Originally published Aug. 29, 2010

A NEW HOME 5 years after Katrina, some residents build their lives away from the Gulf Coast by Carolyn Crist

ccrist@gainesvilletimes.com Takisha Angeletti knows New Orleans is her hometown, but now, Gainesville is home. Today marks the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina devastating her hometown, and she’s not going back. “It tears me up. I miss home, I do, but I couldn’t go back,” she said. “I’ve had the opportunity to, but I believe everything happens for a reason, and I choose not to go. My kids are the reason why I’m here.” The schools are great, she says, and she’s comfortable in Gainesville. She recently moved from an apartment to a house near Poplar Springs Road, and she’s here to stay. “I love it here. I would never change it,” she said. “My kids miss the holidays and seeing their cousins, but we try to go see them twice a year. Everybody else went back, but I couldn’t go.” A day before the hurricane decimated the Louisiana and Mississippi coasts, Angeletti and her three children, brother, mother-inlaw, former husband and an elderly relative piled into cars to head east. In a trip to Atlanta that usually takes seven hours, the family arrived in Norcross 17 hours later, nearly running out of gas several times. “We thought if it was a Category 3 (intensity), we’d stay home, or a Category 4, we’d get a hotel,” she said. “We didn’t plan for a Category 5. We never left because of a hurricane before because they just never hit us.” At 9 a.m. Sunday morning, the family packed a few bags and left. With Interstate 10 blocked, cars evacuated bumper-to-bumper to I-20 through Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia. “We didn’t have reservations, we just thought we’d have fun with the kids and do a little vacation,” she said. “It was fun at the time to stay in a hotel, but then the levies broke on Tuesday, and that’s when reality set in.” The family stayed in hotels in Norcross and Snellville before taking up a home on Forest Avenue, which a woman offered to them free of rent until December. She didn’t enroll the kids in school, thinking they would all move back as soon as possible. “I knew I was going back home, and we drove back in October,” she said. “We cried and cried. There were military trucks everywhere, and they wouldn’t let you go down your street unless you had an ID. That’s when I decided I wasn’t coming back.” Angeletti lived in a rental house that wasn’t damaged beyond repair, but she left it anyway. Her relatives’ houses were destroyed; they only salvaged a few pictures. She came back to Gainesville and began working at McDonald’s on Thompson Bridge Road with her mother-in-law Shirley Bickham. Now she’s store manager at the McDonald’s in Oakwood, and Bickham is still at Thompson Bridge. She sits in a beautiful two-story home and is proud of her progress. “As time went on with promotions and hard work, I’ve been all right,” she said. “I think people look down on McDonald’s as a job, but I don’t have any hardships and

I don’t have to worry. I can support my children.” Darrius, 14, is at Gainesville High School, with Brittney, 12, at Gainesville Middle School, and Ernest, 9, at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy. “We got so much help with clothes and school supplies and furniture. The kids needed nothing, and everyone around here made it so simple to transition,” she said. “The emotional part was the hard part.” For months after the devastation, local churches and community organizations came together to help. Many New Orleans natives turned to First Baptist Church on Green Street, which housed almost 50 people for weeks and helped them to relocate to nearby apartments and homes. “It was a really major community effort,” said Andrea Cook, pastoral counselor at First Baptist. “I would get there early every morning, and the sidewalk would be full of supplies. People would bring things through the night, and we were overwhelmed.” The church used the donations to help people get settled and then sent the rest — four loads by tractor-trailer and three more loads by personal airplane — to help families still in New Orleans. When a church group traveled back to New Orleans months later to help families prepare their homes for rebuilding, Cook saw the devastation firsthand. “It was catastrophic, like a Third World country and completely leveled. You couldn’t find where you were going, and there were still markings on the homes where people died,” she said. Although Cook was amazed at the community support, she still wishes she could have done more. “I don’t think we saved them. Their belongings and health records were just gone,” she said. “We made three meals a day for a long time, and doctors and dentists gave their services, but I still don’t feel like it was near enough.” Coretta Clark was one of the evacuees who first came to First Baptist Church. She also decided to stay in Gainesville with her two sons. “I wanted a change for me and my boys, and I wanted them to be able to go to better schools, more diverse schools with different nationalities and opportunities,” she said. Clark and her sons, 11th-grader Robert Santee and eighth-grader Ahmad Santee, only thought they would be leaving for the weekend and packed a few bags to stay with a friend in Gainesville. “I lost my home and car, and the only things we had were what we packed in a weekend bag,” she said. “I had to start from the beginning.” Clark and 13 family members piled into cars to head to Georgia. Everyone has gone back except her. After a few months in Gainesville, she got a job at Kohl’s and went back to school. Clark recently found photo negatives of her New Orleans home and neighborhood, and she plans to get them developed for memories. “I do look at the fact that I am really blessed. I think anybody who wants anything out of life can make it possible,” she said.

TOM REED | The Times

Takisha Angeletti relocated to Hall County from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina five years ago. She decided to stay in this area, and now is the manager of the McDonald’s in Oakwood.

SARA GUEVARA | The Times

Sandra Deal talks about her 44-year marriage to Gov. Nathan Deal and about what she would like to accomplish as first lady.

Originally published Dec. 23, 2010

A GRACIOUS FIRST LADY

Sandra Deal wants to make an impact by Melissa Weinman

she is a great role model. “She will be a very gracious first lady who makes efforts to try to motivate Georgians to be our best, to Sandra Deal is a woman who has always worked be a people who value education, who value work and behind the scenes. who value service,” Lovett said. Her husband, Republican Gov.-elect Nathan Deal, “There is nothing pretentious about Sandra. She’s has spent the last two decades as a polione of the most genuine, caring people tician. I have ever known.” ONLINE And she has been with him for every Harris Blackwood, a campaign advistep of the way, taking care of her fam- Watch an interview with sor for Nathan Deal and who was reily while he served as a state senator, Sandra Deal, the new cently appointed as the director of the a U.S. House representative and now first lady of Georgia Governor’s Office of Highway Safety, preparing to take over as the governor spent many hours with Sandra Deal on of Georgia. the campaign trail. And for the first time, Sandra Deal will be in the Blackwood said she was a tireless campaigner who spotlight herself. wasn’t content until she had shaken every hand in a As the first lady of Georgia, she will have the plat- room. form to be a public advocate for causes that are dear “She’s very outgoing and we didn’t stop anywhere, to her heart. not even a fast food restaurant, without speaking to “I thought, all through these years, most of my life everybody,” Blackwood said. “She is a very gracious has been devoted to doing the things my children lady in that regard.” needed done, and my husband needed done and the He said he realized just how energetic and friendly parents needed done. Very little of my time was for Sandra Deal is during the many hours they spent travthings that I chose to do. I’m looking forward to being eling the state together over the past year. able to do things that I choose to do to help society,” “She never meets a stranger,” Blackwood said. she said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity, and I hope I’ll “Somedays it was fast and furious and we would hit be able to take full advantage of it to promote various four or five towns in a day. She’s a little bit my senior issues that I’m concerned about.” and she wore me out.” She said she recently spoke with Mary Perdue, wife Sandra Deal said the gubernatorial campaign was of Republican Gov. Sonny Perdue, about the role of a great experience for her. the first lady. Mary Perdue told her to take her time “Campaigning, that was just something I loved. I and think about how she wanted to use her time in the love people so I had such a good time going out and governor’s mansion. meeting new people and renewing old friendships,” “There’s just so many things that concern us all and she said. I want to help,” Sandra Deal said. Though Nathan Deal’s political career has taken Though she hasn’t decided exactly what she wants him far away from home, Sandra Deal chose to stay to do, there are a number of ways she hopes to im- in Hall County. prove the state as first lady. “I wanted my children to have stability and to have “I have a great concern for the need for little chil- a fairly normal life with friends and family to give dren to get a good start. I know that so much learn- them support, and so we stayed here and he made the ing takes place by the age of 3. Early education is trip home every weekend,” she said. extremely important, getting a good start for chil“In fact I think the staff counted up and in the dren and good nutrition, good training in those early almost 18 years he’d been in Washington he’d only years,” she said. stayed up there four weekends.” “But on the other end of things, I looked after our His term as governor will take the Deals to Atlanta parents, mine and Nathan’s, and I know about elder together to make a new home in the governor’s mancare and how much good care and love and proper sion. medicine and nutrition means.” “I think by being in Atlanta he’ll be close and he A former teacher, Sandra Deal feels education is can get to the office quicker and maybe I’ll see a little very important. It is very likely she will devote her more of him, which will be nice,” she said. time as first lady to education in Georgia. “I’m a country girl and I really have not lived in the Teaching came naturally for Sandra Deal, who city ... I don’t really have the experience of living in grew up with parents who were educators. She taught the city and I’m kind of looking forward to it.” full time for 15 years and spent many years as a subSandra and Nathan Deal have been married for 44 stitute teacher. years. The couple met on a blind date while Sandra “My mother and daddy just loved teaching and Deal was at Georgia College in Milledgeville - now people loved them. Students would come by to visit Georgia College & State University. them and talk to them about situations or problems “My college roommate invited me down for a or just to come by to visit because they loved them.” weekend to go to the beach and when I got there, he she said. was my substitute for a trip to the beach,” she said. “I thought, this is one of the greatest gifts you can “When I met him, I knew that he had special qualities have is to touch a life. And a teacher does that almost I admired. I thought, here’s a man who can think for every day, and so I chose to be a teacher and change himself and who has a depth about him.” lives. And I think I did.” She grew up in Hall County and attended the New Sandra Deal hopes she will have the ability once Holland school in the New Holland mill village before again have a positive impact on students. graduating from East Hall High School. “I had prayed that I would know what I was supSandra Deal said she still is still friends with her posed to do with my life because I had retired to look high school classmates. after the parents and I hadn’t found the right thing “There were only 63 of us and we still get together that turned me on and seemed like the right thing I about every two months because we enjoy each othwas supposed to really connect with, she said. ers’ company,” she said. “And then Nathan decided to run for governor, and Blackwood said her continued friendships say a lot I knew I had a big job ahead of me to help with that. about her character. And it opened up this opportunity for me to be active “She has a strong love of family and a very tightand engaged in changing Georgia and I hope I can.” knit group of friends,” Blackwood said. “To those she Kathy Lovett, Sandra Deal’s long-time friend, said knows and those she’s close to, she’s very loyal.” mweinman@gainesvilletimes.com


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