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Left to right: Donnie Thurman/Holy Angels VP of Human Relations, Kerri Massey/Holy Angels Executive Vice President/COO, Maggie Ferguson and Regina Moody/Holy Angels President/CEO.

Holy Angels announces Ferguson winner of the first Steagall Family Foundation Scholarship

Holy Angels, Inc. and the Darrell & Patricia Steagall Family Foundation offered the first-of-its-kind scholarship to Gaston County teenager, Maggie Ferguson.
“To be the recipient of this scholarship is not only an investment in my future, but gives me the opportunity to give back to this organization that has blessed me for years,” said Ferguson.
Maggie is no stranger to Holy Angels. Her first experience came when she was in seventh grade as part of the “volunteen” program. She participated as a volunteen working with Holy Angels residents who are differently able for five years. Maggie received the “Summer Star Volunteer Award” in 2018 and the “Outstanding Volunteen Award” in 2019. Maggie was also a distinguished speaker at the Holy Angels annual volunteer banquet.
“From the first time she stepped foot on our campus, she made an impact,” said Holy Angels President/CEO Regina Moody. “She is the perfect person to win this scholarship for her dedication and support of our mission of loving, living and learning for the differently able.”
The Darrell & Patricia Steagall Family Foundation Scholarship was created in a partnership with Holy Angels to seek out exceptional people who are invested in the Holy Angels mission and story to help them continue their education and continue that vital mission.
The scholarship provides $10,000 a year for college education along with an additional $6,000 per year for a summer internship program at Holy Angels. There will only be one scholarship recipient at a time.
“The scholarship itself is huge. We have been trying to figure out how to pay for her college education without leaving Maggie with a huge financial burden. This family stepping up and offering this scholarship to us is a huge blessing to our family,” said Maggie’s father, Ben Ferguson. “We’re indebted to them and Holy Angels.”
Maggie graduated from Highland School of Technology with a 4.47 GPA and is now attending the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She plans on also attending graduate school to study speech pathology.
“I’m going to take away priceless experience from this internship,” said Maggie. “I’d love to work at Holy Angels after I graduate. That’s kind of my end goal. I’ve been here since 7th grade and I want to stay, if they’ll have me. That’s the dream.”
Holy Angels was founded in 1955 by the Sisters of Mercy.  The private, nonprofit corporation located in Belmont, NC, provides residential services and innovative programs for children and adults with intellectual developmental disabilities with delicate medical conditions. To learn more about Holy Angels, join Holy Angels caring team or volunteer, please call 704.825.4161 or visit Holy Angels website at
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These are some of the artists who took part in a previous Plein Air art event in Mt. Holly. Left to right: Heidi Gordon, Teresa Rench and Stephanie McLaughlin.

September will be a busy month for the arts in Mt. Holly

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly  arts scene has a lot of action lined up for the month of September.
The main artistic attraction will be the third Arts Mount Holly 3rd Annual Plein Air Paint Out - Fall Flourish 2021  followed by the Wet Paint Sale and Reception.
Arts Mount Holly is inviting artists to participate in the Third Annual Plein Air Paint-Out. This event is open to all professional and amateur artists in Mount Holly, Gaston County and the greater Charlotte metro area. Paint in one or more of several recommended areas in Mount Holly September 23rd through 25th. Submit your fresh work to be judged on Saturday for prizes and then a wet paint sale and reception at Arts on the Greenway. Register for more information and details. For more information email
So, what is Plein Air art? It’s a manner or style of painting developed chiefly in France in the mid-19th century, characterized by the representation of the luminous effects of natural light and atmosphere as contrasted with the artificial light and absence of the sense of air or atmosphere associated with paintings produced in the studio. It’s a painting executed out of doors and representing a direct response to the scene or subject in front of the artist having the qualities of air and natural light.
Arts Mount Holly is also looking for student artists to  participate in the Third Annual Plein Air Paint-Out. The event is open to all middle and high school students in the Mount Holly, Gaston County and greater Charlotte areas who would like to have the experience of painting outdoors and the opportunity to win awards and sell their work.
Registration is due Sept. 15th and the event is September 25. Arts Mt. Holly will provide one 11x14 canvas. Artists will also need additional canvases/paper, their chosen medium (oils, acrylics, water colors, etc.), brushes, pencils or anything else needed to create theirwork.
Arts Mt. Holly will provide a list of recommended Mount Holly locations to registered student artists. Adult supervision at paint sites is strongly recommended and must be provided at the discretion of school personnel and parents. Students may paint from outside art sites at their home, or designated by their parents / art teacher. A reception, award ceremony and Wet Paint Sale will beheld at Arts on the Greenway following the paint out. Arts Mt. Holly recommends watching “What I Take Plein  Air Painting” by Jennifer Laurel Keller (10 min 37 sec) on YouTube (
To register for this event, please send the following student information to the Event Coordinator, Wanda Campbell, at or text 704-868-8177.  Full details will be sent to registered students in advance of the event- Student name, Email address, Phone number, Street address, Name of school, Art teacher’s name. If you have any questions, please contact
Also, get ready for the 2021 Mt. Holly Lantern Parade. This year’s event will be bigger and better thanever. “The Lantern Parade is slated for October 23 beginning at 7 PM and this year we have even more schools participating,” said organizer Emily Andress. “Thanks once again to Jeff Stanton and McDonald’s donation, we are able to welcome even more school children. The community is also busy making lanterns for our theme of Let’s All Go To The Movies and from what I’ve seen so far, this will be the best yet. It’s not too late for people who want to participate to create their own lanterns. They can go to and click the lantern parade tab for links of how to videos. All they need to do is sign up for our newsletter to get the link to sign up. My Care Village is sponsoring this year’s cash awards and we are so grateful for their participation.”
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Cramerton mayor Will Cauthen (center) cuts the ribbon officially opening the Cramerton Historical Society museum.

Cramerton Historical
Society museum
officially open

By Alan Hodge

The long awaited official grand opening of the Cramerton Historical Society’s museum took place last Saturday. The event was attended by Society members, Town of Cramerton officials, and a large group of citizens, all of whom shared in the excitement of finally having a place where folks could come and see exhibits relating to Cramerton’s long and interesting history.
The Cramerton Historical Society’s physical location is at the Cramerton Community Center’s first (bottom) floor at 1 Julian Street.
No mention of the new museum would be complete without paying honor to the late Ted Reece who was instrumental in its founding. Reece passed away August 2nd at the age of 93.
Reece was the youngest of ten children and a life-long member of Cramerton Independent Presbyterian Church. He retired from Burlington Industries and C.H. Patrick after many years of faithful service. He was a founding member of the Cramerton Historical Society and was a former Cramerton Citizen of the Year. He was the recipient of the Cramerton Lifetime Service Award in 2018 and the Cramerton Veteran’s Memorial “Spirit of the Memorial Award”. He was affectionately known as “Mr. Cramerton” and “The Pickle Man”. Ted was an avid golfer and enjoyed many days spent with the “Lunch Bunch” and was a huge sports enthusiast,  lettering in three sports at Cramerton High and Belmont Abbey College.
The museum’s board chair, Richard Atkinson worked countless hours with Reece.
“There is a big empty spot here today without Ted,” Atkinsonj said. “But he will always be here in spirit.”
The CHS’s first president, Jeff Ramsey, explained how the society and museum ideas were hatched.
“In 2015 we had very successful Cramerton Centennial Celebration.  Everyone enjoyed the 100 year time display from 1915-2015,” Ramsey said.  “It portrayed Cramerton’s rich history and artifacts during the celebration . We decided to create a non-profit organization, Cramerton’s Historical Society, in 2015 to share our history with surrounding communities, since we did not have a place for a museum.  Our focus was celebrating the 100 year landmarks in Cramerton with fundraiser events by presenting them with historical markers, such as Maymont’s mansion from 1917 to 2017 and Mayworth / Cramerton’s School from 1919 to 2019.  Multiple events were held at local elementary schools to share the history of Cramerton. We were able to help spearhead the Cramerton Veteran memorial in 2018 with the Town of Cramerton to honor all the Veterans of Cramerton.  Cramerton is very excited to have a museum enabling us to provide events and display our rich history and artifacts of Cramerton. We want to thank the Town of Cramerton for all their support and for providing us a place for the museum.”  
The museum is strong on visuals including plenty of vintage photos from Cramerton’s past. A good example of this is the huge, black and white aerial photo of Cramer Mills that covers one entire wall of the museum’s main space.
Allen Millican provided the photo and Ken Parrott of Bedgood Advertising made the mural.
Another feature of the museum are large, foldable panels that have photos and graphics attached. The six double panels measure 80x30 inches. Subject matter on the panels will be changed periodically.
One big item at the museum is a small room that has been made into a replica of Stuart Cramer’s office when he ran the mills.
Other items on display naturally include a tribute to Cramerton’s famous khaki cloth that was used to make countless WWII uniforms.
Another, larger room has its wall space covered with large, framed, archival photos showing things such as the hotel and rail depot that were once in Cramerton. The photos were previously in the recreation center gym across the street.
Interested in going? For more information visit Cramerton Historical Society on Facebook or call 704-906-5339.

Belmont’s Cookie Thompson honors fallen heroes in a unique way

By Alan Hodge

There are all sorts of ways to honor and remember our fallen first responder heroes and Cookie Thompson of Belmont has come up with a truly unique way of doing it.
Thompson, a highly skilled metal fabricator and race car builder, has prominently placed the images of fallen police officers Tyler Herndon of the Mt. Holly Police Dept. and Jason Shuping of the Concord Police Dept. on the hood of his latest dirt track car build. The graphics were done by Franklin Signs and Graphics in Lowell.
Herndon, you will recall, lost his life on December 11, 2020 while responding to a breaking and entering call. Shuping was killed in the line of duty just a few days later on December 16, 2020.
Thompson is a popular frequent visitor to the Belmont Fire Dept. and has done fabrication work there on several occasions. He explained what led him to honor the officers with the race car graphics.
“Craig (fire department division captain Craig Austin) let me go on a ride along with them to the scene of a serious car accident,” Thompson said. “It takes a lot to be a police officer of fire fighter, they have hard jobs. That’s what triggered it.”
Austin appreciates Cookie’s kindness.
“It makes us feel good to know that people in our community like Cookie are behind us,” he said.
Thompson has taken the car to several local dirt tracks such as Carolina Speedway, Cherokee Speedway, and East Lincoln Speedway. It won’t be raced until next season. The visits have been to let fans see the car and the pictures on its hood. Right now the car is parked in Cookie’s yard.
“People come by and take pictures of it,” he said.
On August 11, the car was hauled to the former Bi-Lo grocery parking lot on Wilkinson Blvd. for a special presentation. A large group of police officers, fire fighters, and members of Herndon’s family were treated to the sight and sound of the car as it was revved up and circled the lot.
Mt. Holly police chief Don Roper was on hand for the interesting event.
“Several members of the MHPD were with the Herndon family when they saw Cookie Thompson’s race car, and the tribute to Officer Tyler Herndon and Concord Officer Jason Shuping on the hood,” Roper said.  “The Herndons, and Tyler’s colleagues, were honored and impressed by the gesture. Our law enforcement family is very grateful for the support of people like Cookie and his efforts to honor their sacrifice, and for helping us ensure they are always remembered.”
Cookie doesn’t take sole credit for the car’s build. He has a cadre of friends and colleagues that pitched in as members of his “Team Respect”. These folks are on the same page with Cookie regarding the need to honor all first responders and include but are not limited to Sharon Pride, Veronica Thompson, Tasha Goodson, Brian Glonek, Trent Franklin (driver), Brian Whitesides, Gene Bridges, Dustin and Amy Croft, Krista Swann, and nine-year-old Lilly Blanton.
As for the car’s future, Thompson says he plans to enter it in several local Christmas parades, then give it a rest before it takes to the track next spring to spread its message and hopefully chalk up some wins.
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Happy as larks, the First Baptist Mt. Holly congregation seated in the new sanctuary. Photo by Bill Ward

First Baptist Mt. Holly holds official ‘grand re-opening’

By Alan Hodge

The long awaited grand re-opening of the rebuilt First Baptist Church of Mt. Holly took place on August 22. The event was a heartfelt celebration of the church’s literal resurrection from the fire of July 21, 2016, that burned the majority of the sanctuary to the ground.
The five long years of work to rebuild the  structure was culminated in a special service that included a number of guest speakers and a strong sermon by the First Baptist pastor Rev. Dr. Kendell Cameron.
The congregation was filled with emotion at finally being able to sit in shiny new pews, hear the messages and music, and in general mingle like the “good old days”.
Reeve McGlohon headed up the rebuilding committee.
“The dedication service marked the end of a long and difficult period in the life of our church - but more importantly, it highlighted the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in 1st Baptist’s history,” he said. “Our church received great support from our city and the faith community following the fire and throughout the rebuilding process.  We felt that the dedication service presented us with a chance to “pay back” some of that support and we chose the Mount Holly Police Memorial Plaza as the recipient of a special offering taken up during the ceremony.  We are proud that that offering provided over $2,200 toward the construction of the Memorial Plaza. It was appropriate for the dedication service to highlight both WKWW Architects and Beam Construction.  We could not have chosen better groups to design and build our new sanctuary.  Their efforts have given us a beautiful new facility that will assist us in carrying out the mission of 1st Baptist for years to come. Our pastor deserves much of the credit for the beautiful new facilities that were dedicated during the service.  He spent countless hours working with our architect and contractor, while continuing to take care of his regular pastoral duties.  His positive attitude was contagious within our Building Team and our congregation.  We are so appreciative of Dr. Cameron’s leadership following the fire and throughout the rebuilding process.”
Here are some great photos that show the magnificence of the church and the strength of its members and staff.
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Officer Herndon’s car “wrapped”

“Be in pursuit of the ultimate good.” Last week the newly wrapped patrol car of  fallen MHPD Officer Tyler Herndons was parked at the Municipal Complex in his honor. Thank you to Industrial Signs and Graphics for the incredible work performed on his car. The photos of Tyler on the car tell his incredible story and serve as the perfect reminder of his everlasting impact on our community.
Photos by Alan Hodge


Grand opening of Cramerton Historical Society museum

The Cramerton Historical Society will have a grand opening and ribbon cutting of its wonderful new museum at 2 pm on Saturday, August 28. The museum is located in the lower level of the community center at 1 Julian St.
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Mt. Holly police Deputy Chief Brian Reagan (left) and Captain David Sisk scan the Mtn. Island Lake shoreline on a patrol last week. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly police taking to the water at Mtn. Island Lake

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly Police Dept. has a new tool in its inventory that’s over twenty feet long.
Actually, the “tool” is a boat designed to give a presence on the 27 miles of Mt. Island Lake shoreline the department is responsible for.
The craft has a johnboat style hull, is 21-feet long, eight feet wide, and powered by a 150 horsepower Mercury motor that can send it skimming along at up to 50 miles per hour. It also features a center console, lights, siren, and safety equipment. The boat has Lowrance electronics including a depth finder and sophisticated 3D side-scan and down-scan sonar.
The boat didn’t cost the taxpayers of Mt. Holly a penny.
“We got the boat with a state governor’s crime commission grant for $35,000,” said Deputy Chief Brian Reagan. “We typed up a proposal and it was approved.”
About ten Mt. Holly officers have taken a boating safety course and are approved to use it. The idea is to have at least two officers on each shift qualified.
“We can deploy it 24/7,” said Reagan.
Some of the officers, like Capt. David Sisk who piloted the craft on the patrol that generated this article, are seasoned rivermen and familiar with the coves and currents where the boat will see the most use.
So, what exactly does it get used for?
“There are several locations on the lakeshore where people gather to swim and party and we visit them,” said Reagan. “Also, if someone on the shore or in the woods near the shore were to be injured, it might take officers on foot an hour to get there. The boat can be there in a fraction of that time.”
In the sad case of a drowning, the boat’s electronics come in handy locating a victim. The electronics can also detect evidence such as a weapon thrown in the water.
“The 3D is awesome,” said Sisk.
The boat is also good for education and public relations- all with safety in mind.
“We had a case where two young children were in the water without life jackets,” Reagan said. “We stopped and took care of it.”
The boat and Mt. Holly officers won’t be checking fishing licenses and things like that.
“We leave that to the Charlotte, Gaston County, and Wildlife boats,” said Reagan.
Overall, the Mt. Holly PD boat is proving to be a valuable, efficient, and economical means of helping folks enjoy Mtn. Island Lake and stay safe while doing so. If you see it- wave.
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Kemp Michael and wife Cindy at the Order of the Long Leaf Pine presentation.

Kemp Michael awarded
Order of the Long Leaf Pine

By Alan Hodge

One of Mt. Holly’s most distinguished citizens, Kemp Michael, was presented with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine at a recent city council meeting.
Since 1963, North Carolina’s governors have reserved their highest honor, The Order of the Long Leaf Pine award, for persons who have made significant contributions to the state and their communities through their exemplary service and exceptional accomplishments. Persons named to The Order become North Carolina “Ambassadors” with their names and award dates recorded on a Roster maintained by The Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society.
Michael was completely surprised by the presentation.
“I am very appreciative of those who helped me obtain this high honor!” he said. “I never expected anything like this.”
Yet it is that very sense of humility, considering all he has done for Mt. Holly, that makes the Long Leaf Pine designation all the more fitting.
Mt. Holly city council member David Moore, like many other city officials and citizens, has long been familiar with Michael’s heart of service.
“The Long Leaf Pine Award was well deserved,” Moore said. “Kemp has always been about helping people. He is a huge fan of his hometown and enjoys making things better for people. He is a great person and someone you want to be around.”
Retired Mt. Holly city manager Danny Jackson has known Michael professionally and personally for many years.
“Obviously, the essence of the award is community service and having a positive influence on those that cross your path. Kemp has accomplished both in fine fashion,” Jackson said. “I am a byproduct of that service and positive influence. I have known Kemp during my entire 34 years of working for the City of Mount Holly. We have had a personal and professional relationship over the years.
Kemp has provided guidance to me when we were working on various projects for the City. We have established and reviewed many contracts and agreements for the City. We have worked on various internal policies and practices for the City, most of which are still being utilized today. We have represented the City in court cases over the years and have upheld and protected the best interest of the City. I am very thankful for the opportunity to learn from his wisdom.
Personally speaking, we have spent time together outside of the office over the years. This is his way of showing me to not let work override other joys of life. We have broken bread together, which usually leads to some master storytelling on his part. His stories are priceless and speaks to his life experiences. We have gone to sports activities over the years, a lot of the time on a whim, his M.O.
His loves in life are family, fishing, career and his fellow man. He will always lend himself to helping another when needed. He has truly been an inspiration to me over the years. The above speaks to why he was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Award. He is most deserving of it.”
Mt. Holly mayor Bryan Hough and Michael’s daughter Marie Anders submitted information to the Order of the Long Leaf Pine Society that led to Kemp being chosen. Here is the gist of it.
Kemp Arnold Michael grew up in Charlotte and as a boy was a frequent visitor of his grandparents, who lived on Summit Avenue in Mount Holly.  He graduated from law school in 1972 and moved to Mount Holly to begin private practice.
In 1974, Mayor Charles B. Black and Councilmember Tommy Belk approached Kemp to talk with him about becoming City Attorney for Mount Holly, and since that time he has faithfully carried out this appointment over his career for a total of forty-six years until he stepped down from that position in December, 2020.
Former Councilman Jim Hope stated in a newspaper article recognizing Kemp for 20 years of service as the City Attorney for Mount Holly: “Kemp has demonstrated a professionalism that benefits the city and its citizens first and foremost.  He always goes the extra mile and uses it not as a job but as a service to the community he is a part of.”  Some highlights of Kemp’s career as City Attorney for Mount Holly include: completing forty-seven annexations, including the historic annexations of Catawba Heights, which approximately doubled the size of the city limits at that time, and of the Freightliner Truck Plant; negotiating the purchase and conservation of over two hundred acres of waterfront property along the Catawba River; negotiating the regional wastewater interconnect agreement with Charlotte Water to accept all of Mount Holly’s wastewater flow, which will allow Mount Holly to decommission its outdated treatment plant and to grow without limitation; and working on such landmark projects as the purchase and renovation of the Mount Holly Municipal Complex, the bond referendum for the downtown streetscape, and the negotiation of easements with American & Efird, Clariant, Duke Energy, and others for the greenway system.  Kemp has missed very few City Council meetings over his tenure and has always been available to attend numerous special meetings and to assist the Parks and Recreation Commission, the ABC Board, and the Board of Adjustments.  His wife, Cindy, was secretary to the City Council for twenty years and kept detailed minutes of every meeting.
In addition to serving as the City Attorney for Mount Holly, Kemp also served on the Gaston County Board of Education for fourteen years, served on the Gaston County Board of Adjustments, and served as the City Attorney for Lowell.  He coached basketball for the Mount Holly Recreation League, has been a Rotarian since shortly after moving to Mount Holly in the 1970s, serves as a board member of the Mount Holly Historical Society, and is a member of the First United Methodist Church.  As a Rotarian, Kemp has served as President of his club, started the annual Christmas Party for underprivileged elementary aged children in Mount Holly, and served on the first scholarship committee for graduating high school seniors.
For the last twenty years, Kemp has continued his full time work, community service, and effective leadership while battling challenging health concerns.  Rather than giving up, Kemp has turned this adversity into opportunities to help others.  In 2001, Kemp’s family began to notice that he was not his usual energetic self.  His doctor diagnosed him with kidney failure and he began to take dialysis three times a week.  Instead of going to the dialysis clinic, Kemp converted a room of his law office into a “home dialysis” station and continued to practice law full time, even when hooked up to machines for six hours at a time.  In addition, he continued to serve on the school board as the chairperson and to serve as City Attorney, not missing meetings and keeping a full workload.  At that time, inspired by the stories of other patients he met at the dialysis clinic, he began a pro bono Wills clinic for Gaston County dialysis patients and their spouses which he still continues to this day.  In October 2002, Kemp received a kidney transplant from his son, Allen Michael.  Kemp and Allen together used this experience to raise awareness about the critical need for organ donation, including speaking at organ donation rallies by the Mount Holly Rotary Club and the Mount Holly Black History Forum and assisting LifeShare of the Carolinas to dispel myths about organ donation.  Unfortunately, a few years later, Kemp was diagnosed with lymphoma.  Faced with chemotherapy and radiation, many people would understandably slow down.  Instead, Kemp scheduled his chemotherapy appointments in Charlotte for early in the morning so that he would not miss work and continued to serve as City Attorney for Mount Holly and as a member of the school board.  In fact, at that time, he served on the site selection committee for the new high school that became Stuart Cramer High School, traveling to prospective sites and logging extra miles and hours even when greatly fatigued to find the site.
Kemp has received numerous honors and awards for his service, including being sworn in to practice before the US Supreme Court in 1999, the Mount Holly Man of the Year award in 2013, and the Distinguished Rotarian award in 2002.  He loves the outdoors, especially fishing, camping, going to the beach, and riding horses.  Kemp and his wife, Cindy, have been known for their memorable parties throughout the years, including fish fries, Super Bowl parties, and 4th of July parties at their lake house.  A devoted husband, father, and grandfather, he has almost never missed a game in which his children and grandchildren have played.  His son, Allen, and daughter, Marie, grew up with a father who was never “too busy” to spend time with them, and who played with them every bit as hard as he worked for his community.  He is now just as close with his grandchildren: Grace, Olivia, James, Jordan, and Leo.
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The Ability Experience has supported our angels for more than three decades
Journey of Hope
Riders make a special
visit to Holy Angels

A group of adventurous and dedicated cyclists recently made a stop at Holy Angels during their 59-day-long, 3,663 mile journey across the United States to bring awareness and support for people with intellectual developmental disabilities.
 The Journey of Hope is an annual cross-country ride created by The Ability Experience, the exclusive philanthropy of Pi Kappa Phi. They started in Santa Barbara, California and will travel to Washington, DC.
 “It’s crazy because the further we go into it, the less tired we get. The first few weeks were definitely the roughest, but now that we’ve made it further into the trip we’re able to cope with what we’re dealing with,” said Dalton James, a Journey of Hope rider from Shelby who attends NC State.
 The riders took a couple of laps around the Holy Angels campus with residents safely cheering them on from a distance. In years past, riders would eat lunch with the residents and get to know them on a personal level. Due to the pandemic, the riders were not able to interact directly with the residents.
 “Holy Angels is just a magical place for us. The opportunity to bring college students to a residential campus and to see the work Holy Angels does each and every day is inspiring, magical and an opportunity to connect the men of Pi Kappa Phi to these service opportunities is special,” said The Ability Experience CEO Basil Lyberg. “Every time a man steps on this campus they leave with a fuller heart.”
The Ability Experience, headquartered in Charlotte, has raised more than $15 million to benefit people with disabilities and organizations dedicated to their service. The relationship between this nonprofit and Holy Angels goes back decades.
“We consider members of the Ability Experience our close friends,” said Holy Angels President/CEO Regina Moody. “Ever since our first experience with them in 1989, this organization has continued to support Holy Angels through their time, talent and treasure. The Journey of Hope isn’t just about a long bike ride during one summer for these men. It’s about building strong leaders and creating relationships that last decades.”
Moody also serves on the Board of Directors for the Ability Experience.
The Ability Experience (then known as PUSH America) first came to Holy Angels in 1989 when members of the fraternity from across the southeast spent a weekend building a play area. The organization returned a few years later for another weekend and helped build Camp Hope, a recreation destination for Holy Angels’ resident on Lake Wylie. Members of the fraternity have made multiple other visits to help refurbish and expand the original projects.
There are four riders with connections to North Carolina participating in this Journey of Hope:
Dalton James, Lawndale NC – NC State; Nico Krachenfels, Chapel Hill – UNC – Chapel Hill; Alex Simpson, Huntersville – NC State; Liam Wyman, NC State.
“When you ride through and you’re just doing two laps it seems like such a small thing, but you feel like a celebrity. To see them all waiving and smiling. I have chills thinking about it right now,” said Alex Simpson, a Journey of Hope rider from Huntersville who attends NC State. “They’re just so happy to see us and they’re greeting us with wide open arms. They just want to see us. It feels incredible honestly.”
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Mt. Holly police chief Don Roper (center) and members of the city council turn the soil for the Mount Holly Police Department Memorial Plaza.

Groundbreaking held for
Mt. Holly Police Dept.

Memorial Plaza

By Alan Hodge

An official groundbreaking for the spectacular Mt. Holly Police Dept. Memorial Plaza took place last Monday. The groundbreaking event was attended by a wide variety of law enforcement and municipal officials as well as Mt. Holly citizens.
The plaza will be built on a knoll at the Municipal Complex. It will honor not only MHPD officer Tyler Herndon, who lost his life in the line of duty while responding to a larceny call on December 11, 2020, but other law enforcement officers as
well. The location is exactly where Herndon’s patrol car was parked for a time after his death and covered with flowers and tributes. Mt. Holly police chief Don Roper was among the groundbreaking speakers.
“We are here because Tyler Herndon was a fine young man,” Roper said. “This memorial will show service, sacrifice, commitment, and connection to community. It will be a rock and a source of comfort to our police department and our community.”
The plaza has been in the planning stages for months. Earlier this year, the City of Mt. Holly formed a committee to explore ways to create the plaza.
The committee was appointed by Mayor Bryan Hough. It included local officials and citizens including Bobby Black, Miles Braswell, Melanie Black, Phyllis Harris, Jeff Meadows, Randi Moore, Paige Sigmon, Cindy Suddreth-Williams, David Sisk, Brian Reagan, and Don Roper.
The committee met with design and engineering specialists David Malcolm and Nick Lowe with the Charlotte-based design firm McAdams and a concept for the project was developed. The concept was presented to the city council on March 8 and approved.
The Memorial Plaza will be stunning in its appearance. In addition to extensive landscaping, it will feature a statue of a police officer holding a child. There will be benches where folks can sit and reflect. There will be an eternal flame. There will be a memorial wall. Blue lights will be a prominent feature. These will represent the police department but also recall the hundreds of blue lights that people in the Mt. Holly area displayed and still display in remembrance of Herndon. People will be also able to purchase memorial pavers similar to those at the Mt. Holly Community Garden.
In addition to the Memorial Plaza, Officer Herndon will be remembered in other ways. A five mile stretch of Hwy. 273 between I-85 and the Freightliner factory has been designated as the Officer Tyler H. Herndon Memorial Highway. The route is one that Herndon often patrolled. N.C. Rep. John Torbett helped expedite the highway’s designation- a process that can sometimes take a year but in this case was passed through the N.C. General Assembly in just a couple of months.
Also, a delegation of MHPD officers will attend the National Police Memorial Service event on Oct. 22 in Washington, D.C. where Herndon’s name will be unveiled on the wall there. Herndon’s family will also be attending.
See photos on pages 4 and 5 in this week's Banner-News  (August 19, 2021)
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Fuel spill on Catawba River brings out fire and hazmat crews

A truck accident and the resulting fuel spill around 9am Monday morning on the US74 bridge over the Catawba River in Belmont brought a swift response from area fire departments and hazmat teams. The teams deployed oil absorbing booms across the river and then removed the fuel. Traffic on the bridge was reduced to one lane in both directions for several hours. Responders included Belmont Fire Department, West Mecklenburg Fire Department, City of Charlotte Fire Department, City of Gastonia Fire and Hazmat and commercial hazmat removal personnel.  This photo shows Belmont FD captain Craig Austin at the helm and Gastonia FD hazmat team members Josh Duncan and Chad Kay as they return to shore. For more scenes from the operation, see page 3.       Photo by Alan Hodge
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The school is officially opened. From left- School board chairman Jeff Ramsey, principal Susan Redmond, superintendent W. Jeffrey Booker, LS3P architect David Bellamy, Beam Construction supervisor Robert Browne.

Stunning new Belmont Middle School ready for students

By Alan Hodge

The long awaited grand opening of the new Belmont Middle School took place last Sunday.
Ground was broken in late March 2019 for the project and despite a few weather related hiccups has continued at a steady pace ever since.
Now, the job is done and on August 23, students will begin streaming into their shiny new school.
The official ribbon cutting was attended by a large group of parents, students, interested citizens and officials.
Plenty of praise was heaped on the school project by those who took to the podium.
‘It’s a great day to be in Belmont,” said Gaston Schools superintendent W. Jeffrey Booker. “Just look around you and see this incredible school.”
BMS principal Susan Redmond remarked “This is a wonderful and amazing day. I have often driven down South Point Rd. and watched the school take shape.”
With its rich dark red and tan brick coloration, not to mention sheer size and classic architectural appearance, the exterior of the school has already become a familiar and fabulous sight on South Point Rd. The sprawling campus and athletic fields add to the overall visual impact.
Interior colors in paint, flooring, carpet, and furniture reflect the school colors of green, blue, with grey backgrounds.
A large, gleaming, stainless steel kitchen and food serving area will make dining times a pleasure. The cafeteria also has a stage for performances and other events. It’s dubbed a “cafetorium”. A modern library and media center will serve as the heart of the school and is located near the main entrance.
One nice feature of the inside are the skylights that let natural light flood in. In this respect, Belmont Middle is similar to the new Stanley Middle School where skylights are an important architectural feature. Indeed, Belmont Middle’s floor plan is similar to Stanley, but is “stretched” to accommodate more students.
Sports are an important part of Belmont Middle and the new school has superb facilities for them. Out back, a nice brick concession stand and press box overlooks the football field and a paved running track. Bleachers will be ADA accessible. The school also has two baseball diamonds.
The gymnasium is huge and the floor features the BMS Wildcat logo. There are four basketball goals and plenty of seating area.
Here are some more facts about the new school.
 The new Belmont Middle School is an investment of approximately $40 million.
Beam Construction Company of Cherryville is the builder, and LS3P Associates  the architectural firm.  LS3P also designed the new Stanley Middle School, which opened in March 2018.  Beam Construction also built the new Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in Gastonia, which opened in August 2017.
The new two-story school  features more than 155,000 square feet of space and will be able to accommodate 1,000 students.  The core areas of the school such as the cafeteria and gymnasium are built to accommodate 1,200 students to plan for future growth.
Also, grades will be separated by wings, with the sixth grade on the main floor and seventh and eighth grades on the second floor as well as administration areas on each floor; separate bus and vehicle entrances with more than 200 parking spaces and a pick-up lane that is able to accommodate 100 cars; maximum use of natural light and energy efficiency throughout the school.
The school was paid for with a $250 million bond referendum.

See more photos in this week's Banner-News (August 19, 2021)

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Gospel Concert coming up

Saturday Aug 14th – 6 PM, Lowesville Gospel Concerts at Living Word Ministries – 1062 South Hwy 16 – Stanley (Lowesville) NC,  presents Kentucky Just Us, a bluegrass band from South Central KY, Plus Dixie Revival, a local group from Bessemer City.
This will be a great evening of fun and worship.  Bring a friend and come enjoy with us, in the cool air conditioning.
A freewill offering only to be received, and you are invited.  Contact Carroll Cooke 704-618-9762.

Opioids epidemic town hall
meeting planned August 9th

The City of Belmont and the Gaston County Controlled Substances Coalition are hosting an informational town hall session on the opioid epidemic. The event will take place on August 9th, 2021, from 6pm - 7pm in the Community Room of the Cityworks Center located at 1401 E Catawba Street, Belmont, NC 28012. This session is to inform citizens of the ongoing opioid epidemic, resources available to them, and how to help.
This is a free event you can register for online at This event will feature presentations from Captain Davis and Sergeant Black from the Belmont Police Department talking about their experience with the epidemic and Michelle Mathis, the Co-founder of the Olive Branch Ministry, a local harm reduction nonprofit specializing in opioid addiction.  The presentations will be followed by a Q&A session.
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These First Baptist Mt. Holly kids were enjoying Vacation Bible School last week. From left R.D. Hoffman, Harper Allen, Ava Sisk, Rachel Smith, Elizabeth Lopez. The window’s theme is “Come Unto Me”. Photo by Alan Hodge

First Baptist Mt. Holly
to hold new sanctuary dedication event

By Alan Hodge

On July 21, 2016, the stately 1924 sanctuary and education buildings of First Baptist Church in Mt. Holly were nearly completely destroyed in a huge conflagration that took 150 firefighters from 16 different departments several hours to control.
Now, after five long years of hard work, dedication, commitment, and prayer, the structure has been completely rebuilt and will be officially dedicated on Sunday, August 22 at 10:30 a.m.  Guest speaker for the event will be Dr. Larry Hovis, Executive Coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship of North Carolina. Following the service, a covered dish lunch will be provided. The public is welcome and encouraged to attend this historic event.
A tour last week of the completed project really drove home how much had gone into rebuilding the church. The smell of fresh paint and the sight of new wood, furnishings, lighting, and a new pipe organ contrasted sharply with what had once been twisted and charred steel, blackened bricks, and the acrid aroma of ashes.
First Baptist’s minister, Rev. Dr. Kendell Cameron looked out across the new sanctuary and reflected on what all has taken place.
“Sometimes I walk in here and go back five years,” he said. “Now, it’s still standing and better than ever.”
One of the final, and most beautiful, stages of the post-fire rebuild project at First Baptist Mt. Holly involved installation of the magnificently restored and crafted stained glass windows that were one of the sanctuary’s most notable features. Statesville Stained Glass got the nod for the project. Avery Wooten supervised the job.
Nearly all of the church’s 100-years-old stained glass pieces were salvaged when it burned. What Statesville Stained Glass did was literally put Humpty Dumpty back together again.
“Any glass that was broken was duplicated by Kokomo Opalescent Glass Co. in Indiana,” Wooten said. “The glass that was not broken was cleaned and put in new frames.”
The large picture window of Jesus that now faces Main St. was made from scratch by Statesville Stained Glass. The window was designed by Leslie Wicker. Artist Johnny Sherrill did the full-sized rendering. Marty Freeman and Laci Wooten painted the scene on the glass. The theme is “Come Unto Me”.
Another major project and upgrade is the new pipe organ. The original organ was destroyed in the fire and Schantz Organ Co. based in Orrville, Ohio created an even a bigger and better one.
“The new organ can last hundreds of years,” Rev. Cameron said.
In addition to the difference in sights and smells, another contrast at First Baptist are the sounds. Last week the laughter of kids enjoying Vacation Bible School rang throughout the building was a marked departure from years of hammering and sawing. In the new offices, folks were meeting, chatting, and planning upcoming events and services. In short, it was back to the business of the Lord as usual.
“In the Bible in Ezekiel chapter six it talks about the children of Israel dedicating the second temple,” Rev. Cameron said. “Like they did we are rededicating our church and our mission.”

See more photos on pages 6 & 7 of August 5, 2021 issue of Banner-News
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Mike Featherstone

Turning rocks into diamonds

By Kathy Blake

“You’ve got to be very careful if you don’t know where you’re going, because you might not get there.” – Yogi Berra
Before he ever saw the inside of a dugout, Mike Featherstone saw his future. He felt the ball roll in his left hand, got the grip just right, and hurled a good cutter 90 miles an hour, straight to the mitt. Little kids dream like that, sometimes.
What Featherstone actually held was a hand full of rocks, in a back yard, with a fan club of two.
“I guess my parents noticed, because I liked to throw rocks as a little kid, and they got me into the Mount Holly Optimist League, made up of the local churches,” he says. “I started playing Little League and played for the Castena Presbyterian Church on Highway 16 up near Mountain Island.”
Being a lefty, he says, made it a natural fit to be a pitcher.
He pitched in middle school, in high school, in front of scouts who promised summers in Arizona, and for a team whose antics rivaled the Bad News Bears. He pitched in college, and had his pick-off moved filmed as a training video. He pitched for a summer league team that somehow made it to Kansas in a bus – engine probably held together by Scotch tape and prayer – that didn’t make it back home no matter how many times they clicked their heels. He pitched in a Cape Cod League and in the pros, in the Braves organization, and found that, in baseball, always knowing where you’re going leads to cherished memories of where you’ve been.
Featherstone, 56, of Lincolnton, ends his baseball ride in the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s an honor. The first thing I thought about when they told me was that if my dad were still here, he could participate,” he says. “I’m just honored. I appreciate the acknowledgment.”
It was Earnest Featherstone who taught his son about aiming high, but taking the right road to get there.
“My dad was my mentor, and I looked up to him and respected him,” Featherstone says. “He made good decisions.”
A year before Featherstone graduated from East Gaston High School in 1982, Major League scouts were regulars at games. Particularly Vern Benson, then with the St. Louis organization. Featherstone was All-Southwest Conference as a junior and senior, conference co-Player of the Year in 1981 and pitched four one-hitters. Benson called to say the Cardinals planned to take him in the sixth round and plant him in Arizona. Earnest Featherstone said no.
“I wanted to go play ball. That’s really kind of a low point between me and my father. I didn’t talk to him for six months,” Featherstone says. “I would have gone to (Class) A ball or rookie ball, but he was all about education. It was absolutely the right move. Fathers know best. I was only 17. But we mended fences, and I got my degree from Wake Forest.”
Featherstone was the winning pitcher against Shelby in the playoffs his senior year at East Gaston, the year Wake was in the market for a left-handed pitcher. Wake coach Marvin Crater, the ACC Coach of the Year in 1982 – who played in the Yankees farm system and was roommates with Yogi Berra – was in the stands. “He offered me a full ride,” Featherstone says. “He had the paperwork with him.”
But before college, there was that certain summer league.
The 1983 semi-pro Winston-Salem Indians placed sixth in the National Invitation Tournament in Wichita. “It was a talented team; the guys, the starting line-up had played some level of minor league professional baseball. They were in their late 20s, early 30s, kind of a rag-tag Bad News Bears,” he says. “The owner was an interior decorator. We had a shortstop named Ron Fowler, and during the game he would be smoking a cigarette and he would never drop an ash when the ball was hit to him. He could turn a double play smooth as silk.
“They had a cooler in the dugout and they loved Bud Lite. And the more beer they’d drink, the better they’d hit. There’s a lot that goes on that the fans don’t have a clue.”
Like, when the umpire is a little tight on the strike zone, and the catcher has to have a talk, send a message. “So, you get a runner on first and we’d have a pitchout, where we’re going to pick the runner of first. And sometimes, you get the signals crossed and I throw it right over the plate, and sometimes you hit the ump in the shin guards,” he says. “One time, I kind of hit him in the midsection and he kind of went down, and the catcher told him, ‘You need to loosen up the strike zone, or we’ll do this all night long.’”
But back to the W-S Indians…
“We ended up going to the national semi-pro tournament in Wichita, Kansas, and ended up finishing sixth. We were playing in the Triple-A ballpark, and the crowd was chanting for us. Ron never dropped an ash the whole tournament. We rented a Greyhound bus, and it smoked like a freight train, so when we left Winston-Salem, instead of going on I-40 through Knoxville and a straight shot to Kansas, we had to go through Atlanta because that thing would not make it through the mountains. I called my dad and said it wouldn’t make it back to North Carolina. Could he get me a plane ticket? Four other guys did the same thing.”
Next summer; different team.
“My sophomore year, I got a chance to go to the Cape Cod League, and that was a great experience,” he says. “It’s a summer league put together by college coaches, to invite the upper tier of talent to play together. I played with the Falmouth Commodores. It was loaded with scouts at every game.”
Featherstone played 52 games in four years at Wake Forest and in 1986 had the second-most strikeouts in the ACC. He pitched 73 innings in 16 games his senior year, with 54 strike-outs.
He was drafted by Atlanta and played for the Pulaski (Virginia) Braves in the Appalachian League, and won the Rookie League Championship.
“If the world were perfect, it wouldn’t be.” – Yogi Berra
Featherstone’s last game was in 1987. He tore the rotator cuff on his pitching arm and had surgery in the winter. By spring training in Bradenton, Florida, the arm didn’t cooperate. “There wasn’t enough time to rehab, so I got released. My wife and I, we never looked back.”
He and Lisa were married in July 1987. They have three daughters – Brittany, Mackenzie and Kassidy. Today, Featherstone works for Duke Energy, as manager of the IT enterprise help desk. He has about 60 employees.
“Sometimes, I remember the camaraderie with the guys, and playing the game and the love of the game,” he says. “And those minor league road trips, travelling on the busses…good times. Those are some good memories.”

East Gaston High School (1980-1982):
Sophomore – 22 1/3 innings, 28 strikeouts, 0.94 ERA. Junior – 63 2/3 innings, 97 strikeouts, 7-3 record with 3 saves. Senior – 71 innings pitched, 97 strikeouts, 8-2 record with 2 saves.
All-Conference, 1981 and 1982. 1981 Southwest Conference co-Player of the Year. Intended 6th-round pick of the St. Louis Cardinals. Signed NLI with Wake Forest.
Wake Forest University (1983-1986):
1983 – Sixth place, National Invitation Tournament, Wichita, Kansas with the summer league state champions Winston-Salem Indians semi-pro team. 1984 – Cape Cod summer league, Falmouth Commodores. 1985 – Pitched a one-hitter in win over Georgia Tech. 1986 – Team co-captain. Led Atlantic Coast Conference with most first-base pickoffs. Drafted by Atlanta Braves.
Played for the Pulaski (Va.) Braves of the Appalachian League. Won Rookie League championship.

After having had to cancel the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that the 2021 event will be held on August 21, 2021 at the Mount Holly Municipal Complex at 6pm. Tickets are available for $20 at Moose’s Pharmacy and David’s Detailing.
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Bobby Brown

Belmont Historical Society names late Bobby Brown 2019 Citizen of the Year

The Belmont Historical Society recently held a special presentation  and named the late Bobby Brown as its 2019 Citizen of the Year. 
Over 75 friends and family members attended the event to honor Brown. Phil Tate honored his friend, Bobby Brown, giving the remarks about his life here in Belmont. He was one of the founders of the BHS. He was born and raised in Belmont and always kept his love for the town and the area. Those attending enjoyed refreshments, touring the museum buildings and visiting with each other.
Here is a tribute to Brown written by local author and former BHS president Stan Cromlish.

By Stan Cromlish

Robert Dallas Brown, better known as Bobby to his friends, lived a lot of life from November 15, 1938 through June 4, 2017. During his life, he was an avid reader, teacher, mentor, writer, friend, promoter, encourager, and someone who lived life completely. He was an eternal optimist believing that like everything else he could overcome Idiopathic Pulmonary Fibrosis, a rare lung disease, that really made it difficult for him to breathe and have the energy to participate in the many hobbies and causes that he loved dearly.
Bobby had a zeal for life that has been rarely equaled by anyone in the community and from his earliest childhood to his final years, he continuously strived to give his best in everything he did and his best was better than most because he had more energy than two normal men. After 30 years of work in the teaching field and at Summey Building Products, Bobby retired and with the support of his loving wife, Gail Yount Brown, he really got busy.
Music, writing, automobile restoration, and philanthropy were just a few of Bob’s many talents, and he put them to good use over the years. He bought a 1930 Model A Ford because it reminded him of the good ole days in Belmont when life was slow and easy. He was an award winning writer with his three books which all won North Carolina Society of Historians awards. Guy Brown is Back! is a biography about his beloved brother and local boxing legend, Guy Brown. Laughin’, Living, and Learning and Some Things That Come With Life are anthologies that contain short stories, epigrams, and poems about life in Belmont. Bobby loved Belmont and its people and it showed through in everything he did. In 2005, with the help of seven like-minded men, Bobby promoted the foundation of the Belmont Historical Society. The Belmont Historical Society museum was founded by these men to preserve the past for the sake of the future.
Several years ago, he was approached by Art Shoemaker to join the board of directors of the Belmont Sports Hall of Fame. There were no half-measures of support with Bobby; he used his high-octane energy and every promotional tool he had to promote the annual Hall of Fame banquet and induction ceremonies. His promotional prowess made most of these events a rousing success.
People always remarked that Bobby seemed to be in a constant state of motion whether it was running errands for the Historical Society, promoting the Sports Hall, or visiting patients for his beloved Mended Hearts Chapter 379. His Mended Hearts involvement gave him an outlet to share that heart disease and heart surgery were not the end of life as the patient knew it but a new beginning. When his application for the Guinness Book of World’s Records was approved for the “Longest Surviving Double Heart Bypass Patient”, he used that not to shine a light upon himself, but to promote the fact that you can live and live well with heart disease. He often spoke that he would love to be able to congratulate the individual who broke his record of 40 years and 216 days because he would have one more way to help others who suffered from heart disease.
Bobby gave full measure of himself in all his endeavors and should be remembered for his “Service Above Self” attitude. Bobby may be gone from the earth, but his contributions and the love he showed everyone he came in contact with will live on forever in the hearts and minds of those people who cherished this man of unwavering energy and devotion. A friend in a remembrance said, “Go rest high on that mountain, Brown. Your work here is done, but the results of your work will never be forgotten.” This legacy of Robert Dallas Brown is only exceeded by the love known by his beloved children and grandchildren.

End of Watch riders visit Mt. Holly

By Alan Hodge

Last Tuesday saw a solemn yet uplifting occasion occur in Mt. Holly when members of the Beyond the Call of Duty End of Watch Ride to Remember motorcycle group and their support staff visited the Municipal Complex and police headquarters. The event was part of a nationwide tour the riders are making honoring members of law enforcement who gave their lives in the line of duty during 2020.
As everyone recalls, on December 11, 2020, MHPD Officer Tyler Herndon was killed as he responded to a breaking and entering call.
The riders are based in Yakima, Washington. For the 84 days between May 28 and August 19, the caravan is traveling over 22,000 miles across the United States visiting cities and police departments. Last year, the group honored 146 fallen officers across America in 2019. This year, the number is 339 from 2020- over twice the previous year’s figure.
The 40-foot support trailer for the group has the faces and names of all 339 officers on its sides. Herndon is among them. Just seeing the display is stunning and really drives home the fact that police work is serious business.
MHPD chief Don Roper was among the crowd of officers and city employees who came out, saw the display, spoke with riders and their crewmembers, and stood in solemn little groups taking in the scene.
“It’s very humbling when you see the overwhelming support most people have for law enforcement,” said Roper. “People really care about our guys and this display is a major part of the healing process.”
The ride was organized by Jagrut Shah. He explained its purpose.
“I felt it was important for police departments to realize their hurt is not just in their city or county,” he said.
Shah pointed to the faces on the trailer.
“All of these beautiful men and women are heroes,” he said. “We want their survivors to know we are not going to forget them.”
Lincoln Jorden, 12, from Spokane was among the support crew. His father was one of the riders. Lincoln explained what spending his summer taking part the ride meant to him.
“A lot of the families don’t get the support they need and we are trying to show that support,” he said.
The riders stayed in Mt. Holly for about an hour then left for their next stop in Concord to honor Officer Jason Shuping who was killed December 16, 2020- just five days after Herndon.
For more information on the riders and their mission visit

The Mt. Holly Community Garden is having
a great summer

a huge undertaking. The new beds should last ten years.”
The rebuild was funded by the Mt. Holly Community Development Foundation, the Gaston County Farm Bureau, and local donations.
Another upgrade planned will be a water feature in honor/memory of longtime garden advocate Carol Golden.
In addition to being a place for folks to grow flowers and vegetables, it’s also proving to be a teaching tool. Last week, students from Ida Rankin Elementary were pitching in to help weed, trim, and in general learn about gardening. Two of the kids were fifth graders Madelyn Sanders and Addison Shuler. It was hot work but they seemed to be enjoying the agricultural experience.
“I love it,” said Madelyn. “It’s very unique.”
Addison agreed.
“It’s just fun,” she said.
Denison pointed out the fact that the garden has become somewhat of a destination in downtown Mt. Holly.
“People bring their coffee or lunch and sit on the benches and enjoy the beautiful flowers and plants,” she said. “Folks are welcome to come any time, but harvesting is for members only.”
Incidentally, the garden shares it extra produce with the Mt. Holly Community Relief Organization (CRO).
Now that Covid is on the run, the garden will be getting back to having special events. Cooking demonstrations are still on hold for a while, but Denison says the annual Christmas Enchantment event will take place on December 11.
“We will have food trucks, music, and luminaries,” she said.
Meanwhile, summer is in full swing and the garden is fulfilling its traditional role as a vegetable paradise for birds, butterflies, and people.
For more information on the Mt. Holly Community Garden, visit
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Principal Jessica Steiner

Stuart Cramer High’s new principal Jessica Steiner is all about building relationships

By Alan Hodge

Stuart Cramer High has a new principal, Jessica Steiner, and she’s eager to begin forging strong relationships with students, staff, and the community. Steiner replaces Audrey Devine, Cramer’s first principal, who retired in June.
Steiner brings plenty of experience to her new post. Before embarking on her new job, Steiner had served as assistant principal at Cramerton Middle School beginning in 2018. From 2014-2018, she was principal at Holbrook Middle in Lowell. From 2009-2014 she was assistant principal at South Point High. From 2007-2009 she taught fourth grade at Springfield Elementary in Fort Mill, S.C. She also taught fourth grade from 2006-2007 at Winget Park Elementary in Charlotte. From 2002-2006 she was an EC and fourth grade teacher in Largo, Florida. From 2000-2002 she taught second grade at Bardmoor Elementary in Seminole, Florida. Apollo Beach Elementary in Florida saw her work as a Learning Language Disabilities teacher from 1999-2000. In 1999 she taught emotionally handicapped students at Turkey Creek Middle School in Plant Coty, Florida.
Steiner graduated from the University of South Florida in 1999 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Special Education with a Minor in Elementary Education. In 2000 she earned a Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership from Winthrop University in Rock Hill, SC.
So, what got Steiner interested in becoming an educator?
“When I was in college I worked part time in a doctor’s office at the front desk and always enjoyed talking to the kids,” she said. “In high school I worked in a day care and loved interacting with the children. That experience let me see kids grow and learn.”
Now that she’s been on the job for about a month, Steiner has had a chance to meet the Stuart Cramer staff and has high praise for them.
“They are great,” she says. “They work together for the common good of helping students. They are a very cohesive group and have a strong sense of teamwork.”
School starts August 23, and Steiner is eagerly anticipating the coming scholastic year.
“I am looking forward to getting to know the students,” she said. “My leadership style is to meet, greet, and observe. I want to work alongside the teachers.”
Steiner also plans to be out and about in the Cramerton community.
“We border schools rich in history,” she said. “Community involvement and support is very important.”
Steiner knows that Stuart Cramer is a special place.
“We have a strong athletic program and many extracurricular activities available,” she said. “In addition to traditional classes like math and English, there are also a variety of vocational career classes such as welding and culinary arts where students can begin a career path.”
Overall, Steiner is bringing a high level energy and enthusiasm to Stuart Cramer High and is obviously dedicated to continuing the good work Audrey Devine began back in 2013 when it first opened.
“I’m very excited be here!” she said. 
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Congratulations to Gaston Business Association member Bansen Farms Event Space and Airbnb on celebrating their opening with ribbon-cutting. Located near New Hope Elementary School, Bansen farms is a boutique wedding venue and Airbnb farmhouse that offers a boho vibe for celebrations - weddings, birthdays, corporate events.
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Another great day at Shining Hope Farms. Karleigh Faulk - Horse Leader, Ashley Seal – OT, Autumn Bishop - Side Walker, Courtney Farmer – Patient ,and Epic the horse. Photo by Lauren Faulk

Shining Hope Farms
busier than ever helping folks on horseback

By Alan Hodge

There’s so much excitement these days at Shining Hope Farms even the horses are kicking up their heels.
Headquartered near Stanley, with branch locations in Charlotte and Conover, Shining Hope Farms is a 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to enable children and adults to reach their full potential through the use of equine assisted activities and therapies. Programs provided include physical, occupational, and speech therapy utilizing equine movement as a treatment strategy called Hippotherapy.
Shining Hope Farms serves a total over 250 individuals weekly. There are 30 horses at the Stanley location. There are over 40 staff members consisting of occupational and physical therapists, speech and language pathologists, PATH Intl. certified riding instructors, and administrative staff, plus literally hundreds of volunteers.
In addition to physical therapy, Shining Hope Farms added a new program last year designed to help veterans with conditions such as PTSD. The program is called Saddles and Salutes. Currently, eleven veterans are taking part. The goal is to eventually have sixty participants.
One veteran enrolled in the program is Shante Roseboro who served in the U.S. Army.
“The Saddles and Salutes program is awesome,”
she said. “It has decreased my PTSD, anxiety, and insomnia. It also helps me relate better to others.”
In addition to veterans, Shining Hope Farms is also expanding its mental health outreach to include first responders and law enforcement.
With the growth in its clientele and staff, Shining Hope Farms felt the need to undertake a capital improvements program. Facility upgrades at the Stanley location includes a sprinkler system for the arena to help keep the dust down. The arenas are also getting graded and new sand laid down.
Shining Hope Farms has a couple of fundraising events slated in the coming months. On September 11, there will be a 5K and 10K Salute Trail Run starting at 8am at 6347 St. Peters Church Rd. in Conover. Proceeds will provide sponsorships for the Saddles and Salutes program. Register at
On October 4, look for the 2nd annual Shining Hope Farms golf tournament. It will take place at Verdict Ridge Golf Course in Denver. To register for the golf event go to
Another fundraising program at Shining Hope Farms lets folks “adopt a horse”. Believe it or not, horses eat a lot of food and need to be in tip top condition to do their work. People wanting to help Shining Hope Farms keep their herd rarin’ to go can donate funds for that purpose. To find out more call 704-827-3788 or visit
Next year will mark the 20th anniversary of the founding of Shining Hope Farms by Milinda Kirkpatrick. A gala dinner event is planned in May. In the meantime, what started out as a dream keeps growing and growing and touching more lives in a positive way from the back of a horse.
Overall, the future of Shining Hope Farms is as bright as the flowers blooming beside the barn.
As Shining Hope Farms director of development Patrice Gibson puts it- “We are setting ourselves up for another twenty years.”

More About Shining Hope Farms
Shining Hope Farms is a Premier Accredited Center of PATH Intl. (Professional Association of Therapeutic Horsemanship, International) and member of the American Hippotherapy Association. Shining Hope Farms is also a GuideStar Exchange Gold participant, a leading symbol of transparency and accountability among nonprofits. For more information, visit or call 704-827-3788.
See more photos in the July 22, 2021 issue of Banner-News (Page 3)
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Fortner woking the bag, back in the day.

Mt. Holly Sports Hall of Fame - Donald Fortner
Dancing with Gloves On  

By Kathy Blake

As far back as Donald Fortner’s daughter Elizabeth can remember, music floated through the house. Jazz music … Dixieland Jazz.
And her father danced.
He was the youngest of 12 children, all of them blessed with moves to accompany a trumpet melody and cornet-trombone improve.
“Oh, they were all good dancers, some more than others, but they all loved dancing to the music,” Elizabeth Hall says. “If you had any kind of get-together, there was always dancing. They’re all gone, now, all the brothers and sisters.”
The last, Aunt Mary, was 95 when she went to be with Lord in July of 2019.
Don Fortner’s story, which started in Mount Holly in January of 1931 and had segments in South Carolina and Texas, isn’t solely about jazz tunes, which filled the CDs scattered about his home and car. He was, Hall says, “multi-faceted.” A college graduate, war veteran, car salesman, Christian.
He also was a champion boxer – “not a fighter, a boxer,” Hall says. A successful one, which has earned him a spot in the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame.
“I wish my father were alive to be able to receive this award,” she says, “but I know he’s looking down, and he’s so proud that he’s a son of Mount Holly.”
The music is a glimpse into who Donald Fortner was, when he wasn’t a student-athlete, or working man.
“He was a Renaissance Man. He taught at Arthur Murray to make money during college,” says Hall, who lives in Delaware now. “He was not your typical handyman. You weren’t going to ask him to rebuild an engine or build a playset, but he could show you how to do the foxtrot, or waltz or the tango, which was a lot more interesting. He taught us in the living room. As a young child, you’re not always that interested, but it was there if we wanted. And he would always go to the Chattanooga Jazz Festival with a cousin. That was something he looked forward to.”
It was the boxing that fascinated Fortner while at Mount Holly High School. He boxed for the school team and won the 1948 Mount Holly Golden Gloves title as a middleweight. There was a two-story building on Main Street, with a drug store downstairs and room upstairs, where the boxing club met to train. He won the 1949 Charlotte Golden Gloves title, the ’49 Concord Golden Gloves and 1950 Golden Gloves in Mooresville and Silver Gloves in Gastonia.
His name made the papers a lot, and though there’s a difference between a fighter and a boxer, sportswriters’ Webster’s are known to fluctuate, slightly.
From the Mount Holly News, of Friday, January 6, 1950:
“Two Mount Holly pugilists were slated to fight in the semi-finals of Gastonia’s 10th annual Silver Gloves at the Gastonia Armory last night. The two boys on the evening card were Don Fortner, popular local fighter and loser in a raw decision at the Gloves last year, and Jack Carpenter, representing the Cramerton team in the ring. Don is one of the best boxers to come out of Mount Holly in many moons and his loss in the Silver Gloves last year was the subject of much debate since most fans agreed that Don had easily beaten his opponent.
Fortner was slated to mix with Lee Godfrey last night in an open division welterweight battle royal. Results were not available as The News went to press. Fortner was fighting unattached.”
His talent got him a ride to Belmont Abbey, where he earned an associate’s degree in general studies before getting a scholarship to the University of South Carolina, where he was a welterweight champion in 1950, ’51 and ’52.
The Korean War came, and Fortner was stationed in Tokyo. His South Carolina diploma says B.A. in Education, January 1953.
Fortner had a buddy, a fellow boxer, named Jim McManus. They met in sixth grade and were friends forever, until Fortner died in April of 2013. McManus is 90 and lives in Myrtle Beach. He still talks of his friend in present tense.
He called Fortner “Fuzz” because of the way his haircut stood up straight.
One day in eighth grade, McManus signed a school paper with his initials – J.A.S. Fortner saw it and, perhaps with a five-piece band bebop’n in his head, said “Jazz.”
“And now,” McManus says, “everyone knows me as Jazz. I have friends who still call me Jazz.”
The two boxed together in high school, under Coach Dick Thompson who did boxing and football, and McManus said he’d have gone to South Carolina and been a Fightin’ Gamecock, too, if the place hadn’t been so big. “It was so huge, I had nightmares. I backed out and went to Western Carolina and got my degree,” he says.
He has stories, lots of them, about him and Fortner’s adventures. Like the one about the mansion.
“We were living in the same village in Mount Holly, and we were just walking along the road one day and there was a big home, we called it the mansion, and they had what you call a servant’s house, and we looked and there was smoke coming out of it,” he says, “and the two of us rushed into that house, and there was one lady. And we carried her out, and the flames took over and my gosh, we went and got the furniture out, and Boom! It was gone.”
They worked out at the boxing club on Main Street, across the street from Charlie’s Drugs, “then moved on up the Stanley road, to that community building.”
After college, the two men went separate directions. But they never lost touch. Fortner had car dealerships in Texas. “But before that, he was selling these high-priced cars at a dealership in Charlotte,” McManus says, “and I’d call the dealership and say, ‘I want to speak to Fuzz.’ And they’d give him the phone. He was quite a fellow, and quite a blessing.”
McManus went into the television broadcasting business and got stations on the air in Ohio and Greenville, S.C., where he was president of the Greenville Broadcasting Corporation. When he moved to Myrtle Beach, he started the city’s FOX affiliate.
There’s another part to the bond between the men. McManus pastors The Lord’s Chapel in Myrtle, an interdenominational church. He’s been doing mission work for 38 years, he says.
He calls Fortner “an athlete for Christ.”
“I was blessed to serve as a Christian minister to Don for a number of years,” he says.
 “I think it’s remarkable, the friendship they had,” Hall says. “There aren’t too many people who can say they had that long of a friendship, with someone they’ve known since childhood. They came together over a sport, growing up in the same town, and went so many different directions and are still close. It’s a remarkable bond.”
Hall says that, among her father’s many trophies, were some that showed his character, too. Most Popular Boxer showed up a lot, on the name plate.
“He never met a stranger,” she says. “He was very talkative, very likable. And very, very friendly. Like a Teddy bear.”

Tournaments won:
1948 Mount Holly Golden Gloves (middleweight)
1949 Charlotte Golden Gloves
1949 Concord Golden Gloves, by knockout
1949 Charlotte Golden Gloves
1950 Mooresville Golden Gloves
1950 Gastonia Silver Gloves
Boxing scholarship to Belmont Abbey
Boxing scholarship to University of South Carolina
Univ. of S.C. welterweight champion, 1950, ’51, ‘52

After having had to cancel the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that the 2021 event will be held on August 21, 2021 at the Mount Holly Municipal Complex at 6pm. Tickets are available for $20 at Moose’s Pharmacy and David’s Detailing.

Rocky Branch Park grand reopening right around the corner

By Alan Hodge

The grand reopening for Rocky Branch Park at the end of Woodrow Ave. in Belmont is set for August 7 at 12 pm. The park has been closed since last January while a major renovation project was underway.
Employees of Chapel Hill based Nature Trails have been hard at work in the Rocky Branch woods tackling tasks like bridge building, brush clearing, and trail blazing.
According to Parks and Rec. director Zip Stowe, the purpose of the  major upgrades was to make Rocky Branch  a more walkable and a family friendly oasis of outdoor area just a couple of blocks from the heart of downtown. The cost of Phase I of the project was $94,650.
“The City funds amount to $46,000,” Stowe said. “The remaining funds came from the Trailblazer’s by way of grants and donations.”
So, what has the project entailed?
“The trail was widened to give it multi-purpose use,” said Stowe. “Several of the old bridges got taken out and replaced with seven new ones. The trail will be a lot better for walking. There is also a new split rail fence.”
Improved drainage and erosion control was also included in the work.
The improved trail is nice and wide and covered in crushed gravel. The new bridges are sturdy and cross the creek at several scenic locations where the water flows over large and small stones. The overall feel is like being in a deep and lovely forest despite the fact that downtown Belmont is barely a mile away.
“We hope to bring groups to the trail for activities such as nature walks,” Stowe said. “It’s nice and peaceful in the woods.”
The trail will link up with another section of the Carolina Thread Trail and go all the way to Cramerton.
Rocky Branch Park has primarily been a mountain biking/hiking trail park. It first opened for use in July 2013 with a couple miles of biking and hiking trails.  It was carved out of the woods at the bend in the road where Sacco St. and Woodrow Ave. meet. The initial construction was done mainly with volunteer labor and free land making it one of the city’s best park deals ever.
In other Belmont Parks and Rec. news, a new program will kick off on August 14 starting at 9am.  It is a speed and agility competition for boys and girls grades 7 to 12 at Gantt Field in East Belmont. It will test the 40 yard dash, the vertical jump, football passing skills, and the box drill.
“We will bring in an outside company to test everyone,” aid Stowe.  “The scores can be used to put on participants sports resume’ for high school and colleges. No other town in our area has an event like it.”
The cost is $20 for folks inside the Belmont city limits and $25 for outside residents.  An overall winner in each event will be announced and someone will be awarded Belmont Athlete of the Year.  You can register online at  For more information call the Belmont Recreation Dept. at 704-913-2910.
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Stanley’s Boyce Mckinney working on the Coke mural in downtown Mt. Holly.

Stanley mural artist Boyce McKinney completes another masterpiece

By Alan Hodge

Stanley mural artist Boyce McKinney has added another masterpiece to his already impressive list of local works.
The newest creation is a large replication of a vintage Coca-Cola advertisement on the side of a downtown Mt. Holly building at 123 N. Main.
McKinney estimates the original mural was done in the early to mid-1950s.
Former mayor Bobby Black and city planner Greg Beal, and the late Carol Golden helped get the ball rolling about a year ago for the project,” said McKinney.
Once the paperwork and permission got sorted, McKinney went at the project with his trademark enthusiasm and talent.
“It took about three and a half weeks to do the painting,” he said.
With its striking red and white vintage Coke logo and lad wearing a bottle cap for a hat, the mural gets plenty of notice in person and online.
“It has been very well received,” McKinney said. “It had 1,500 hits on the City of Mt. Holly facebook page.
The Coke creation isn’t McKinney’s first Mt. Holly mural. Just across the street at the Community Garden, another one he did last year beams forth with bright colors of flowers and the sun. That mural is like a beacon drawing folks to the garden.
Up in his hometown of Stanley, McKinney’s work is represented by a large mural along the whole side of the building at S. Main and W. Plum streets. The mural depicts a very real looking steam train pulling into Stanley. The mural is so lifelike that from a distance it’s hard to tell from the real thing.
McKinney created the work as a free gift to the Town of Stanley.
The work it took to carry out the Stanley project was very real, and challenging as well.
“I was on the Beautification Committee in 2009 and the idea came up to do the mural,” McKinney said. “I was working freelance at the time so I started the project that March.”
Before he began painting, McKinney did many weeks of research into what the mural would depict.
“The depot represents one that burned down in 1929,” he said. “The locomotive is a 1920s era Baldwin. I saw a photo of it in the Brevard Station Museum. It’s the type that would have come through town in that time period.”
The mural is painted with latex house paint donated by Lowes. McKinney mixed the colors so that they really pop. Trackside wildflowers in the mural and the red caboose stand out in bright contrast to the rich dark green of the locomotive and the lighter green of the passenger cars. Above the train  and station, an azure sky and billowing white clouds are all depicted in detail.
“Everybody talks about how real it looks,” he said.
To do the two-year project, Boyce enlisted the help of his brother Joe. Together they climbed ladders and scaffolding, and endured all types of heat, cold, and rain.
Incidentally, Joe has his own mural claim to fame. He painted two murals in Cherryville. One shows the famous Cherryville New Years shooters and the other one has Cherryville landmark scenes and “Welcome to Cherryville” in large lettering.
The McKinneys have art in their blood.
“I won my first art contest when I was three-years-old,” Boyce said.
McKinney credits a local Stanley physician, Dr. Bailey Graham Weathers, and his East Gaston High art teacher Robert Moody, with helping develop and guide his artistic talent.
“They were a huge influence,” he said.
The Mt. Holly and Stanley murals are a big feather in McKinney’s cap, but he has a plethora of other professional artist credits to his name as well. Just a few include Art Director for Heritage USA, Scenic Designer for the dark ride in Hong Kong  “Rise of the Dragon”.  He also was Scenic Designer for the “Magnificent Adventure”, a motion-based simulator ride at the same location in Hong Kong, Assistant Art Director for E.T.’s Adventure Ride at Universal Studios Florida,   Art Director for the Italian project “I Corsair, The Legend of Jason Montague” at a  pirate-themed dark ride in Gardaland, Italy.
He was Senior Designer for Richard Crane Productions on the New Orlando Science Center, Paramount Parks as a Show/Set Designer.   In 1998, he joined Paramount full time as the Scenic Construction Coordinator, and was Exhibits Director/Designer at Discovery Place in Charlotte.
McKinney also created the sets for the Easter cantata art his church, Stanley Pentecostal Holiness.
Now that the Coke mural is complete, McKinney is heading to Columbia, S.C. where he’s creating two murals at a school
McKinney, 62, shows no signs of slowing down. In addition to his mural work, he takes part in long distance charity motorcycle rides. He’s always looking for an artistic challenge, but draws the line when it comes t subject matter.
“I won’t paint naked ladies or demons,” he said.

Boyce McKinney Murals

Scenes from Stanley Fest...

The Town of Stanley held its first street fest and car show last Thursday. Folks showed up in droves to have fun and let it all hang out. The Cat5 band and car show was a big hit. Thanks to Rec Dept. head Tug Deason and Town Manager Heath Jenkins for coordinating, Mayor Steven Denton and council for approving, PD Chief Summey, and FD Chief Withers for facilitating crowd control and safety. Here are some scenes from the jolly affair.

Photos by Bill Ward


KNOLL America Inc. to build headquarters here

The Gaston County Economic Development Commission is pleased to announce that KNOLL America, Inc. has agreed to purchase approximately 12 acres within the Apple Creek Corporate Center and will construct a 60,000 square foot headquarters operation and production facility.
The new facility will also include a state-of-the-art training area, showroom, warehouse and distribution center. KNOLL America plans an initial investment of more than $7.89 million and intends to create approximately 31 new jobs at this location.
“We are excited to have another global manufacturer choose North Carolina for its headquarters,” said North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper. “This decision affirms our state’s reputation of having a strong manufacturing workforce and great quality of life.”
 KNOLL America is the U.S. subsidiary for German-based KNOLL Maschinenbau GmbH. Founded by Walter Knoll in 1970, the company is family-owned and operated by second generation Matthias and Jürgen Knoll and globally employs more than 1,200 people. KNOLL engineers, manufactures, and distributes premier conveying, filter-systems and pumps for chips and cooling lubricants used in the metal processing industry.
Their flexible assembly and transport systems complete the KNOLL product portfolio. KNOLL serves customers of all sizes from OEMs to end users to smaller distributors.
 “We felt immediately very welcomed. Gaston County provides an excellent manufacturing environment for our needs. The close proximity to major interstates and airport allows us to service most customers within a day. We can engage with Gaston College in developing young skilled talent for our operation and support their apprenticeship program. The small-town community feeling is like the area where our Germany Headquarters is located,” said Lothar Burger, CEO of KNOLL America. “This investment is made possible because our owners Matthias and Juergen Knoll believe in our local team and the strength of the North American market. This venture is part of their international initiative within the KNOLL Group.”
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Reggie Ballard

Reggie Ballard:
Owner of the End Zone

By Kathy Blake

Reggie Ballard has the newspaper clippings, highlighted in yellow, describing his success at Mount Holly High in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
“Reggie Ballard scored three of the Hawk tallies,” one says, about a 40-0 win over Cramerton.
Then, in a 27-13 win over the “invading” Mount Pleasant Tigers: “Friday night, Reggie Ballard scored two touchdowns to make a shamble of the area scoring race.” And, “He intercepted a Tiger pass and scampered to pay dirt.”
Ballard, who is being inducted into the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame, had 91 points before his last high school game, when the papers let fans know he would be “aiming at the century mark.”
He finished with 104 points scored his senior year, including extra points.
“I’m not intentionally trying to toot my own horn,” Ballard says, “but I scored maybe 10 touchdowns my junior year and 17 my senior year and was third in the state in scoring, and nobody at Mount Holly High School has ever done that, far as I can find out. And that was on a nine-game schedule.”
Ballard began competitive football in seventh grade, when his friend Jimmy talked him into trying out. At Mount Holly, Ballard started all four years – at center his freshman season, then a “lonesome end” as a sophomore and in the backfield his last two years.
He got a full ride to UNC-Chapel Hill and offers from a few other colleges before attending Castle Heights Military Academy in Tennessee, serving in the military stationed in Germany and finishing his football career at Western Carolina.
“And I’ve got an elephant memory,” he says. “I remember all of it, my childhood and all.”
Ballard was born in Mount Holly, at home, in March 1944. His twin sister, Rheba, grew up to marry a preacher and move to Macon, Ga., where the couple started a church. He lives in Forest, Virginia, now, a small town just southwest of Lynchburg.
“I remember we did very well in the conference championships my junior and senior years,” he says, “but we got a bad rap. We went on to the 3A playoffs, and we got killed in the state playoffs by Winston-Salem [James A.] Gray 68-0. The next year, Winston-Salem moved to 4A and we were 2A. After that, we got to play some of the smaller teams.”
He remembers the team being invited to play up toward Brevard in a 3A game, “And I was opposed to going and getting killed again. So I voted against it. The other co-captain did, too. That was [2007 MHSHOF inductee] Delmer Wiles,” he says. “So we didn’t go.”
Ballard never missed a football game in high school. At 6-foot-2, he also played center for the basketball team. “And even though I can’t prove it, and it’s probably irrelevant, I probably grabbed the most rebounds in school history,” he says. “I could stick my hand 6 or 8 inches down inside the basket. I could stuff the ball. Back then, we could only do that in practice, though. We couldn’t do it in games; it was against the rules.”
In addition to UNC, the University of Tennessee and University of Virginia recruited him, and he had a connection through Wiles that could have put him at Indiana, he says.
“I should have gone to Tennessee,” he says. “They played the single wing at the time. I didn’t have perfect enough grades to get into Chapel Hill.”
He chose, instead, to play for Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame member Stroud Gwynn at Castle Heights. “He was a legend,” Ballard says. “Knoxville flew a plane to the last [high school] game I played, and they wanted me to fly to the campus and visit, and they’d fly me back home. But I wanted to go to Chapel Hill and play for Jim Hickey [who coached from 1959 to 1966]. But my dad had just died, and I made a few mistakes, and I went to Castle Heights, then back home to go to work, over in Gastonia. I knew I was going to get drafted, so I joined the Army.”
Ballard was in Germany from September 1964 to December 1966. The post had a pee-wee football team, and Ballard was asked to coach it. “We had no offense the first four games. I wrote home and asked Coach Wiles to send me some plays,” he says. “I’ve never seen little kids take to the single wing like those kids did. We won six in a row and finished 7-4, lost the last game in a snow storm. I mean a snow storm.”
About 13 years ago, Ballard got the idea to contact one of his players, who was living in Tampa. They reminisced a bit, then the player asked Ballard if he remembered a certain kid from that overseas team…and asked if he ever watched Star Trek. That kid, his player said, played Geordi La Forge – guy named LaVar Burton.
“And that’s ‘the rest of the story,’” Ballard says.
After returning to the states, Ballard attended Western Carolina but an injury forced him to leave football behind. He came home to Mount Holly, married, and worked for Duke Energy for 30 years, leaving the company in 1997. He has two daughters and a son.
He’s divorced, but has rekindled a relationship with a woman he knew in high school, who lives in Virginia, also. To make the trip back for the Hall of Fame, he says, “is an honor.”
These days, Ballard can be found flying his 1953 Piper Tri-Pacer, a four-seater short-wing plane that, he says, “is a lot of fun.” He doesn’t mention if he’ll drive or fly to return to Mount Holly for the ceremony, but he does mention the name of the airplane organization he’s joined. It’s called Sentimental Journey.

Reggie Ballard
Mount Holly High School football: 1959-1962
Top scorer in county, senior year: 104 points
Recruited by UNC-Chapel Hill, Tennessee and Virginia
Standout at Castle Heights Military Academy
Finished playing career at Western Carolina

After having had to cancel the 2020 event due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Mount Holly Sports Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that the 2021 event will be held on August 21, 2021 at the Mount Holly Municipal Complex at 6pm. Tickets are available for $20 at Moose’s Pharmacy and David’s Detailing.


Local Civil Air Patrol members receive prestigious awards

By Sue Buetler

Several members of the Gastonia Civil Air Patrol group recently received a number of recognitions.
During a regular meeting of the Gastonia Squadron of Civil Air Patrol, Cadet Chief Master Sergeant Brianna Smith of Mt. Holly was presented with the Daughters of the American Revolution Outstanding Cadet Medal. This award is presented to a cadet of outstanding ability and achievement in a non-ROTC military-affiliated cadet program. The recipient must have distinguished him or herself through outstanding leadership, honor, service, courage and patriotism. Despite the challenges of a year of Covid lockdowns and cancellations, C/CMSgt. Smith stuck with the program, participated in online meetings, and continued to advance and meet goals even when that required stepping outside of a comfort zone. C/CMSgt. Smith has been a member of Civil Air Patrol since 2018. She was formerly the First Sergeant and now serves as the Squadron’s Cadet Executive Officer.
Squadron Commander, Lt. Michael Hadrick said of C/CMSgt. Smith “she been active within the squadron since the day she joined. She consistently steps up when volunteers are needed, and is persistent in her quest to advance her Civil Air Patrol education and training. C/CMSgt. Smith is a valued asset to the squadron, and I have no doubt that she will soon reach her next goal of advancing from the cadet enlisted ranks to becoming a cadet officer”.

The Gastonia Civil Air Patrol Squadron is also proud to announce the promotion of William Smith to the rank of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant. Cadet Smith was promoted and was presented the General Billy Mitchell Award, which is earned after the completion of the first eight achievements of the cadet program. In addition, the cadet must pass a comprehensive 100-question examination covering leadership theory and aerospace topics. To further highlight the significance of this accomplishment, only fifteen percent of cadets nationwide earn the Billy Mitchell Award. The rank of Cadet 2nd Lieutenant marks the progression to the cadet officer ranks. The Billy Mitchell Award was presented to Cadet 2nd Lieutenant Smith during the squadron’s June leadership meeting by Civil Air Patrol Group One Commander Lt. Col. Carlisle Lincoln.
The General Billy Mitchell Award has existed since 1964. This award honors the late General Billy Mitchell, an aviation pioneer, advocate, and staunch supporter of an independent air force for America. This is the first milestone of the Cadet Program. Any cadet who has received this award is eligible for advanced placement to the grade of E-3 (Airman First Class) should they choose to enter the US Air Force. They are also eligible for advanced credit in AFROTC, various CAP scholarships, and CAP special activity opportunities.
C/2nd Lt. Smith joined Civil Air Patrol in October of 2016. He currently serves on the Squadron’s cadet staff. C/2nd Lt. Smith is a graduate of Highland School of Technology, and is currently working toward a commercial pilot’s license.

During a meeting of the Gastonia Composite Squadron of Civil Air Patrol, Cadet Major Ben Heckel was presented with Civil Air Patrol’s Amelia Earhart Award, named for the record-setting aviator and one of the first female heroes of aviation. The Earhart Award marks completion of Phase III of the CAP Cadet Program, recognizing sustained excellence in all four areas of cadet life: leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. Further, Earhart Award cadets must have passed comprehensive written examinations on leadership and aerospace topics. In granting Civil Air Patrol permission to name this milestone award in Amelia’s honor, her sister said that it would’ve been, “the kind of award Amelia would have chosen for herself.”
Having earned the Amelia Earhart Award, Heckel was promoted to the grade of cadet captain. He has since further promoted to the grade of Cadet Major. Since joining Civil Air Patrol in 2016, C/Maj. Heckel has grown to be respected among the cadets as well as the senior members. He has participated in not only local events, but state and national activities as well, most recently attending the week long Civil Engineering Academy at Tyndall Air Force Base. C/Maj. Heckel currently serves as the Cadet Commander for the Gastonia Squadron. He is a rising senior at Gaston Day School and member of the school’s cross country team. C/Maj. Heckel is also a member of the GCP Lacrosse team.
The award was presented by Lt. Col. Focke, North Carolina Wing Vice Commander. Squadron Commander Lt. Michael Hadrick said “I have watched Cadet Heckel progress steadily up the enlisted ranks and into the officer ranks, and he’s still climbing. He stayed focused on his goals and worked hard during the pandemic to reach this level and continues to advance and take on more responsibility. As Cadet Commander he is a role model for the entire cadet corps and directs and coordinates a team of cadet officers and NCOs.”

The Gastonia Civil Air Patrol Squadron is also proud to announce the promotion of Cade Caudle to the rank of Cadet Lieutenant Colonel. Cadet Caudle was promoted and was presented the General Ira C. Eaker Award, which is earned after the completion of Phase IV of the cadet program, recognizing sustained excellence in all four areas of cadet life: leadership, aerospace, fitness, and character. Further, cadets will have graduated from an academically-intensive leadership academy to qualify for this honor, which is especially appropriate considering that today, the Air Force celebrates Gen Eaker’s legacy by naming the service’s top school for commanders in his honor – the Ira C. Eaker Center for Professional Development at Air University, Maxwell AFB, Ala. To stand in General Eaker’s shadow is to study leadership carefully and serve others. The General Ira C. Eaker Award was presented to Cadet Lt. Col. Caudle during the squadron’s July leadership meeting by Lt. Col. Focke on behalf of the Mid-Atlantic Region Commander.
The General Ira C. Eaker Award is the CAP Cadet Program’s second most prestigious award and honors one of the forefathers of an independent Air Force. In 1929 Eaker remained aloft aboard The Question Mark, a modified Atlantic-Fokker C-2A, for nearly a week, to demonstrate a newfound capability of aerial refueling. During WWII, Eaker rose to the grade of lieutenant general and commanded the Eighth Air Force, “The Mighty Eighth” force of strategic bombers. Even as a general, Eaker preferred to lead from the front, personally flying B-17 precision bombing missions over occupied France and Germany.
C/Lt. Col. Caudle has been a member of Civil Air Patrol since 2015. He has served on the Gastonia Squadron’s cadet staff, including as Cadet Commander.  He has also been a member of the Color Guard, and served in staff positions at many state and regional Civil Air Patrol events. Squadron Commander, Lt. Mike Hadrick remarked that “only about 2% of cadets rise to this level of achievement. They are the best of the best. C/Lt. Col. Caudle fully immersed himself in the cadet program, took advantage of many of the opportunities the program offers, pursued his goals, and has grown into a fine young adult. As he heads off to college, we will certainly miss him and the leadership, abilities, and fellowship he brought to the squadron. We wish Cadet Caudle all the best and know that he has a bright future ahead of him.” C/Lt. Col. Caudle will be attending California State University - LA this fall where he plans to major in psychology and nursing with a minor in fire science.

About the Civil Air Patrol
Established in 1941, Civil Air Patrol is the official auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force and as such is a member of its Total Force. In its auxiliary role, CAP operates a fleet of 560 single-engine Cessna aircraft and more than 2,000 small Unmanned Aircraft Systems (SUAS) and performs about 90% of continental U.S. inland search and rescue missions as tasked by the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center. Often using innovative cellphone forensics and radar analysis software, CAP was credited by the AFRCC with saving 130 lives in fiscal 2020. CAP’s 54,000 members also perform homeland security, disaster relief and drug interdiction missions at the request of federal, state and local agencies. As a nonprofit organization, CAP plays a leading role in aerospace education using national academic standards-based STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. Members also serve as mentors to over 20,000 young people participating in CAP’s Cadet Programs. One of the premier public service organizations in America, CAP benefits the nation with an estimated economic impact of $209 million annually. For more information on the local squadron, visit

Mt. Holly council approves FY2021-2022 budget

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly city council has approved the municipality’s FY2021-2022 budget and submitted it to the state.
Here are the particulars.
Overall Budget
Tax rate will remain the same at $0.485 per $100 of value.
Water and sewer rate will enter into Year 3 and will be increased based on the City Council adopting the Five (5) Year Water / Sewer Rate Study during Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 – 2020.  This new rate is reflected in the proposed Fee Schedule.
The current proposed budget includes a salary study and a COLA tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for employees not affected by the salary study. During the 6/4/2020 City Council Budget Work Session, Council unanimously approved that the COLA would be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Health Insurance will experience a 19% increase and the City will change to a new provider, Cigna.
Liability Insurance will increase approximately 10%, which includes General Liability, Buildings, Automobile, Crime, Workers Compensation and Cyber.
Mandatory retirement contribution to the North Carolina retirement system (ORBIT) has increased to 11.41% (10.15% in FY 20-21) for regular employees and an increase to 12.04% (10.9% in FY 20-21) for Law Enforcement Officers.
No new positions are funded.
 Employee longevity remains funded in the salary line item for both General Fund and Enterprise Fund.  This item is included in the Employee Recruitment and Retention Policy. This totals $106,900.00
 The overall budget increased from $19,856,515 in FY 20-21 to $24,060,938 for FY 21-22 equaling 17.47% but in comparison to FY 19-20 it only equals 7.46% of amended budget but 5.47% less that adopted FY 19-20 budget.
 No Unassigned Fund Balance was used to balance the General Fund budget.
General Fund
Total General Fund $14,626,149, or 12.00% increase from last Fiscal Year.
 Factors that are contributing to this increase are mainly property taxes and sales and use tax; we reduced these last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
No change to Council compensation.
Beautification is funded at $12,500.
Tree City budget line funded at $7,500 (ordinance states $2/capita, equaling $30,000 total budget).
Election Expense increased due to Bond Referendum.
Historical Society budget funded at $2,000.
Operational expenses only. $127,159.00 Capital.
Administration – Information Technology (IT)
Contract Services includes all software, webhosting, webpage maintenance, telephone maintenance, internet access.
Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) includes hardware and maintains a replacement schedule for desktop and laptop computers.
Administration – Maintenance (Building Maintenance)
All in-house and contracted maintenance activities funded through this Department.
All utilities (electricity, gas) will be processed through this Department.

Tree City budget line funded at $7,500 for Grounds Maintenance.
 Phase I 273 Landscaping was budgeted at $54,700.
 Capital includes the purchase of 2 handheld radios at $9,827, (4) vehicles & Equipment $161,000, (3) new car camera systems $17,075, and (4) mobile Car Radios $16,000.
 Capital includes replacing the large diameter hose $5,000, and parking lot sealcoat & markings $12,500.
Normal operations increase.
Streets and Solid Waste
Capital Automated Garbage Truck $330,000, Dump Truck $140,000, and (2) replacement trucks $70,000.
Community Development
Normal operations increase.
No Capital Items (all were Powell Bill).
Parks and Recreation  
 Capital is funded with the ABC Fund Balance proceeds $621,000.
Enterprise Fund
Total Enterprise Fund $9,434,789, or 25.67% increase over last Fiscal Year.
 Factors that are contributing to this increase are the 3rd year rate study increase and an increase in Stormwater fee.
Utility Administration
Professional Services line is proposed at $318,000.  $50,000 is budgeted for the Water Distribution Study for Downtown, $200,000 for the Dutchman’s Creek lift station and force main preliminary engineering evaluation, $10,000 for surveying, $8,000 for AutoCAD Services and $50,000 for various shared services.
Utility Administration – Maintenance (Building Maintenance)
The Building Maintenance Department is responsible for building upkeep only, no Water Treatment or Waste Water Treatment activities or equipment maintenance associated with the plant functions.  Items include cleaning, waste management, landscaping, fire alarm monitoring, security intrusion alarm monitoring, extermination, fire suppression, elevator contract, HVAC maintenance.
Utility Administration – Information Technology (IT)
Contract Services includes all software, webhosting, webpage maintenance, telephone maintenance, internet access.
Furniture, Fixtures and Equipment (FF&E) includes hardware and maintains a replacement schedule for desktop and laptop computers.
Downtown Water Distribution Design $150,000, Sandy Ford Water Line loop $50,000, aerial Structural Design $50,000, Water replacement/Upgrade Program $1,200,000, Lagoon Dredging $215,000, Generator/Auto Transfer Switch $75,000.
Waste Water Treatment
 Contract Services is budgeted at $455,000, in which $200,000 of this line item is land application of sludge.  No capital items are budgeted.
Field Services
Maintenance, repair and replacement of water and sewer lines is budgeted at $540,000. Capital – Pull behind compressor $22,000, Combination Jet-Vac Truck $413,000, 4WD Truck $33,000. Also, for sewer system improvements which includes downtown sewer lining at $200,000.
Projected to receive $339,000 through collection fee.  Yearly expenditures to equal revenue, so in essence, no Unassigned Fund Balance implications. New vehicle $20,000.

Town of Stanley July 4th Celebration scenes

The Town of Stanley held its July 4th event Friday night at Harper Park. Folks flocked in for the fun and fireworks. Here are some scenes from the festive event.

Photos by Bill Ward

City of Mt. Holly July 4th festivities...

The City of Mt. Holly held its July 4th event on July 2nd. Heavy masses of folks came out for the fun and fireworks and to celebrate freedom and the right of non-Covid restrictions liberty.

Red, White, and
Belmont was a blast!

The City of Belmont held its July 4th Red, White, and Belmont event last Saturday. A huge crowd turned out for all the festivities.

Photos by Alan Hodge
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Mt. Holly’s Willie Bert Rhyne celebrates his centennial birthday

By Alan Hodge

One of Mt. Holly’s most beloved citizens, and a member of the Greatest Generation, Willie Bert Rhyne observed his 100th birthday on July 6.
Rhyne was born on a 150 acre farm on what is now Mt. Holly Huntersville Rd. He graduated from Paw Creek High in 1938 and never missed a day of class. In 1939 he went to work for Duke Power at the Riverbend Steam Station.
Two years later, December 7, 1941, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and the lives of millions, including Rhyne’s, changed in a flash.
“I enlisted in the Navy on December 8th,” Rhyne said.
Thus began four years of high adventure and action for Rhyne as a crew member of the USS O’Bannon destroyer.
The USS O’Bannon (DD/DDE-450), a Fletcher-class destroyer, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for Lieutenant Presley O’Bannon (1784–1850), the Marine Corps’s “hero of Derna”.
O’Bannon was the US Navy’s most decorated destroyer during World War II, earning 17 battle stars and a Presidential Unit Citation. During WWII the ship saw action all over the South Pacific including- five major surface engagements, assisted in sinking three cruisers and six destroyers, sinking a submarine, taking part in 21 shore bombardments, and shooting down 13 aircraft. Rhyne took part in it all.
Rhyne recalled his time on the O’Bannon. On board, he was a Machinist Mate 1st Class operating the steam turbines that powered the ship.
“I was gone for four years and only came home once for a few days,” he said. “We didn’t see land for weeks at a time. We were on the go constantly shelling islands or fighting other ships.”
The O’Bannon got around.
 “After the war I was told we had had crossed the equator 46 times and traveled 300,000 miles,” Rhyne said.
 Even though he faced danger time and time again during WWII, Rhyne shuns being called a hero.
“It was a team effort,” he stresses. “We all tried to do our part.”
After the war, Rhyne returned to Mt. Holly and married Ruby Johnson on November 11, 1945. They has two sons Willie E. and Edward J. both of whom also joined the Navy. The Rhynes were married 70 years when Ruby passed away in 2015.
On the career front, Rhyne resumed his job at Riverbend and retired from there as a supervisor in 1982.
In his retirement Rhyne stayed busy. He and Ruby hit the road.
“We traveled all over the U.S., Mexico, and Canada,” he said. “We took several cruises.”
To keep his hands busy and use some of the abundant energy he still possesses to a large degree, Rhyne began building grandfather clocks.
“I’ve built twenty eight of them from kits,” he said.
He also has an interest in stained glass and his home on Walnut St. in Mt. Holly has many of the beautiful pieces he crafted on display. Until recently, Rhyne also raised a large vegetable garden in his back yard every year.
Rhyne has not forgotten his fellow veterans and was a member of Gaston County’s WWII Last Man Club. The group not only gave veterans a chance to get together socially, they also attended funerals for local veterans and presented U.S. flags to the family.
“I helped fold and present six hundred flags,” Rhyne said.
Rhyne credits many things for his long and rich life especially his faith. He’s a long time member of Mt. Holly’s First United Methodist Church.
“I drive myself to church every Sunday,” he said.
Talking to Rhyne, it’s obvious that gives him peace.
“I know I’m going upstairs,” he said. “The Lord has been good to me.”
A final bit of wisdom?
“Don’t sit around,” he said. “The rocking chair will get you.”
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The City of Belmont held its July 4th Red, White, and Belmont event last Saturday. A huge crowd turned out for all the festivities. Dennis Conners was in a festive July 4th mood. See more scenes on page 10.

Catawba Riverkeeper to open new
headquarters in downtown McAdenville

The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation will become the anchor tenant of Dynamo 31, the soon-to-be redeveloped 1940’s-era Pharr Yarns mill building at 102 Main Street near the lake in downtown McAdenville.
Catawba Riverkeeper’s new headquarters will include offices, a conference room, a water testing lab, classroom, public-facing retail space, and a taproom.
The relocation from Charlotte to McAdenville is part of Catawba Riverkeeper’s strategic decision to make its home base along the river. From the new headquarters space, Catawba Riverkeeper will be able to work more efficiently, host more educational programming, and engage the community in its mission to protect local water quality. Creating new revenue streams from fee-based educational programming, field trips, kayak rentals, retail operations, event space rental, and the sale of local craft beer and wine will help sustain the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation as it enters its next chapter.
“We are thrilled to be realizing one the dreams of our founders – to have an ‘on-the-water’ headquarters,” says John Searby, Executive Director of Catawba Riverkeeper. “To have a partner like Pharr who is committed to adaptive reuse of this historical mill and developing McAdenville around our natural resources of the river and trails makes it even better.”
Catawba Riverkeeper is grateful to the donors who’ve made this game-changing opportunity possible, especially to Xylem for funding the lab and Duke Energy for funding the 40-person capacity classroom.
C.L. Helt and Myers & Chapman are the design and construction leads, respectively, of the Dynamo 31 development. The project is expected to be completed in fall 2021.
About Dynamo 31
The name “Dynamo 31” is an homage to the late 1800s direct current electric generator used to light McAden Mills. In 1884, Colonel RY McAden commissioned Thomas Edison to install a dynamo (his 31st), making McAden Mills the first electrically lit textile mill in the world, according to historian Robert Ragan. Dynamo #31 was in use from 1884 into the 1960s, and is currently on display as part of the permanent Carolinas Textile Exhibit at the Gaston County Museum of Art and History.
Bill Carstarphen, CEO of Pharr, says “The name calls to mind the spirit of innovation and competitiveness that will power our community into the future. We hope the building name will inspire its new tenants to be innovative, creative and original, enabling them to launch new opportunities for growth in McAdenville.
In other Catawba Riverkeeper news, the organization has opened  its Riverkeeper Boathouse  in McAdenville.
 The Boathouse is at the South Fork River Trail and R.Y McAdam Canoe and Kayak Launch at 115 Willow Drive in McAdenville. In addition to restrooms, a taproom offering beers from breweries along the Catawba River and an outdoor apparel and gear retail shop, the large building houses temporary offices for the Foundation, which has relocated from Charlotte.
 At the Boathouse grand opening, Riverkeeper Foundation Executive Director John Searby made comments along with CRF Board Chair Tyler Richardson, Montcross Area Chamber President Marc Jordan and Michael Applegate, executive director of the Gaston County Department of Travel & Tourism. Searby also accepted a $1,500 contribution from the Mount Holly and Huntersville Sunrise Rotary Clubs presented by Dana Hicks.
 Boathouse hours are Thursday and Friday, 4 – 8 p.m.; Saturday and Sunday 9 a.m. – 8 p.m.
 The Catawba Riverkeeper is the only non-profit, on-the-water advocate for the entire 8,900 miles of waterways in the Catawba-Wateree River Basin, providing accurate, science-based information about the water and the issues affecting it.
 For more information on the Foundation, the Boathouse and plans for the new office building, visit or call 704.679.9494.
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Miss Mount Holly Anne Marie Hagerty is announced as the first runner-up during the 2021 Miss North Carolina competition.

Anne Marie Hagerty walks away with $16,000 in scholarship money
Miss Mount Holly is first
runner-up at Miss N.C. pageant

Special to The Banner-News

She got as close as a contestant can to winning without coming home wearing the crown.
Anne Marie Hagerty, 25, the current Miss Mount Holly, finished as the first runner-up in the 2021 Miss North Carolina competition.  She was edged out by Carli Batson, a 21-year-old ballerina from Wilmington, who will represent the state at Miss America in December.
But, not all was lost. Hagerty walked away from the pageant experience with a total of $16,000 in scholarship money that she will use to pursue a master’s degree in management from Harvard University’s online business school.  Her scholarship total includes a $10,000 prize for placing second.
“I feel so grateful for the whole experience,” said Hagerty.  “It was more fun than I ever expected, and to win $16,000 in scholarships, I praise God for every moment.”
Hagerty entered the state contest as a favorite, thanks to her strong communication and interview skills.  A 2018 graduate of UNC-Chapel Hill with a degree in journalism, Hagerty has worked in television news – most recently as a reporter for WBTV in Charlotte – and traveled abroad as a freelance journalist and concert pianist.  Last year, she ventured out to establish a communication and public speaking business.
For the talent competition, Hagerty performed her own arrangement of “Fur Elise” on the piano.  During the on-stage interview portion, she was asked about “fake news” and whether Miss North Carolina should engage in politics.  She also had an opportunity to share about her “A Higher Purpose” community service program that is designed to provide support for people who have been affected by addiction.
“My program is about finding the highest purpose each life has when free from addiction,” explained Hagerty.  “I developed a 12-week program that focuses on life after recovery.  The curriculum covers how to handle job interviews, manage personal relationships, and rebuild various aspects of your life.  I have taught the curriculum at a local recovery center, and we have seen progress and success as a result of it.”
More than 60 young women across the state competed in the pageant, which was held June 24-26 at the High Point Theatre in downtown High Point.  It marked the first time in more than 40 years that the event was held outside of the state capital.  Raleigh Memorial Auditorium had been the pageant’s home before the move to High Point, which is referred to as “North Carolina’s International City” because it attracts more than 70,000 visitors from around the world for its home furnishings trade shows in April and October.
Gaston County was well represented in the state competition.  Miss Gastonia Julia DeSerio placed in the top 10, and Miss Gastonia’s Outstanding Teen Keelie Jones won the preliminary evening wear/on-stage question competition and finished as the third runner-up in the teen division.  Other contestants with ties to the Gaston area include Miss Gaston County Mariana Linares; Lexi Foy, Miss Gaston County’s Outstanding Teen and a recent graduate of Stuart W. Cramer High School; Sophia Kellstrom of Kings Mountain, a former Miss Gastonia who competed this year as Miss Mecklenburg County; and Belmont’s Maddy Wilson, who competed as Miss Charlotte.
DeSerio, 24, said competing in the pageant gave her the chance to become a local celebrity, make connections in the community, and promote the importance of the fine arts.
“Being able to represent the Gastonia community has been so special,” said DeSerio, who sang “Memory” in Italian for the talent competition.  “In addition to winning scholarship money, being in the spotlight, and having the opportunity to compete for Miss North Carolina, I have grown as a person and gained so much through this experience.  It really has changed my life.”
Gaston’s five pageant winners have had an extended reign because of the pandemic.  DeSerio, Jones, Linares, and Foy won their crown in November 2019, and Hagerty was crowned Miss Mount Holly in February 2020.  When last year’s state pageant was postponed and later canceled, the young women agreed to keep their title for another year.  Although competing at Miss North Carolina technically marked the end of their reign, they have the option to continue making public appearances until their successor is crowned.
Delores Cox, executive director of the Miss Gastonia Scholarship Association, said she is “extremely proud” of what Hagerty, DeSerio, Linares, Jones, and Foy accomplished at the state pageant and during their two-year stint as titleholders.  She praised them for their hard work, commitment, and perseverance as they upheld their pageant responsibilities while navigating the pandemic.
“To have the young women representing your program win awards and scholarships is wonderful,” said Cox.  “You sit there in the auditorium and beam with pride when they get recognition in front of a statewide audience.  It brings positive attention to our program and our community.”
Organizers of the annual Miss Gastonia/Miss Gaston County/Miss Mount Holly competition are turning their attention toward planning the next pageant, which will likely be held in January 2022.  Young women ages 13-25 who live, work, or attend college in Gaston and surrounding counties may enter.
Contestant recruitment begins in September, and information will be posted on the Miss Gastonia website and Facebook page.
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Graphic provided by City of Belmont

Belmont Council approves Del Webb development

At a Special City Council meeting on Monday, May 24 the Belmont City Council unanimously approved the Del Webb age restricted development. With direction and input from the City Council, City staff have worked with the developers for over two years to develop this extensive plan that includes:
• 2.7 miles of greenway trail along the South Fork River.
• Age-restrictions that result in no school impacts.
• Age-restrictions that result in less traffic than a normal development.
• Transportation and intersection improvements in 7 locations.
• Construction of the South Fork Parkway at no cost to taxpayers.
• A 21-acre natural waterfront park on the South Fork River.
• Enhanced stormwater measures to protect the South Fork River.
• A neighborhood commercial center centrally located with convenient access to neighboring residents.
• A neighborhood commercial center centrally located that supports jobs and 
economic development while bringing goods and services to nearby residents.
To learn more about this project visit:
To view the May 24, 2021 Special City Council meeting go to:
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Dignitaries prepare to break ground for the new CaroMont Hospital near Belmont.

CaroMont Health kick-off construction for new hospital, medical campus in Belmont

By CaroMont Health

Last week, CaroMont Health marked the beginning of construction of a new hospital and medical campus in Belmont. Part of CaroMont Health’s commitment to invest more than $300 million in new and expanded facilities in and around Gaston County over the next three years, CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont is scheduled to open in mid-2023.
“We are building more than a hospital, more than a medical campus, we are building the future,” said Chris Peek, President and CEO of CaroMont Health. “In three short years, this will be the site of so much hope and promise – where new life is welcomed, where patients heal and where the next generation of healthcare professionals find their purpose.”
Located off Interstate 85 in Gaston County, the 28-acre medical campus will include a 66-bed hospital (54-acute care beds and 12 observation beds), 16-room emergency department, labor and delivery unit, operating rooms and surgical capabilities, and robust diagnostic testing and imaging services. Also planned is a medical office building and parking deck. Early estimates suggest the hospital alone could create as many as 150 new jobs in the region and see as many as 16,000 patients in the first year.
“With the insight and guidance of medical and clinical leadership, CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont has been designed with an intense focus on the patient, both their care and their experience,” said Richard Blackburn, Vice President of Facilities and Support Services. “This medical campus, and the hospital that will anchor it, will extend our clinical network to better serve communities in the eastern part of Gaston County and continue to provide exceptional medical care to the region.”
In September 2020, CaroMont Health and Belmont Abbey College entered into a long-term partnership to allow CaroMont Health to build the new hospital and medical campus on land owned by the college and monastic community since the late 1800s. The proximity of CaroMont Regional Medical Center-Belmont to the college campus will offer educational opportunities for students in Belmont Abbey College’s health science programs.
“Belmont Abbey College exemplifies the true spirit of our community – one of progress, integrity, excellence and virtue – and shares many of our core values,” said Peek. “Much like healthcare, education has the unique ability to enrich and support not only the recipient, but all who surround them. A highly regarded institution like Belmont Abbey, focused on the advancement of others, strengthens our community. We are proud to be part of such a historic moment.”
Dr. Bill Thierfelder, President of Belmont Abbey College, echoed praise for the partnership.
“Bringing together two remarkable and storied institutions, the partnership between CaroMont Health, a leading healthcare provider, and Belmont Abbey College, a leading institution of higher education, is a game changer for the region and beyond. We are excited about the opportunity to collaborate with CaroMont Health to provide the highest levels of medical care and academic excellence,” said Dr. Thierfelder.
In May 2019, CaroMont Health announced plans to build the Belmont hospital, expand critical care services with construction of a four-floor tower at the main hospital in Gastonia, and complete several renovation and expansion projects in its medical group. The more than $300 million commitment was the largest in the history of Gaston County. All projects are aimed at expanding CaroMont Health’s clinical network to prepare for anticipated population growth across the region.

Caromount Health Kick-Off Construction

Scenes from CaroMont Health kick-off construction for new hospital, medical campus in Belmont
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Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. Sole Patrol members LaJean Wyatt (left) and Betty Grotts say they are glad the program is getting back to its pre-Covid activity level. Photo by Alan Hodge

Mt. Holly Sole Patrol
is back up to speed

By Alan Hodge

The Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. Sole Patrol senior citizens activity program is back up to its pre-Covid schedule and inviting previous, current, and prospective members to return for more fun and fraternity.
The Sole Patrol is for folks 55 years and up. It meets at the Tuckaseegee Community Center in Tuckaseegee Park. Last week, the City of Mt. Holly lifted Covid restrictions for its facilities and that means Sole Patrol folks can show up Mondays-Fridays 10am to 12:30pm just like they did before the pandemic. Masks and temperature checks are not required.
Mt. Holly Parks and Rec. specialist Kent Womack talked about what the Sole Patrol has on tap physical activity-wise.
“Participants can walk in the gym, or play cornhole, shuffleboard, or use the fitness center equipment,” he said.
Parties and lunches were part of Sole Patrol action pre-pandemic and those will return, but not right now.
“We are working on bringing those back,” said Womack.
Some Sole Patrol members have come trickling back.
“We had eight the other day,” Womack said. “We want to get the number back to the forty or so that used to show up.”
Last Tuesday saw long-time Sole Patrollers LaJean Wyatt, 89, and Betty Grotts, 85, meeting up at the Tuckaseegee Center. They each talked about what being in the Sole Patrol meant to them.
“It’s amazing,” Wyatt said. “I love it. I have been waiting and praying for the reopening. I need the exercise and it’s a blessing to play cornhole, shuffleboard, and socialize. I drive myself here and try to come every day.”
Grotts is from Iowa and relatively new to Mt. Holly.
“We didn’t have anything like Sole Patrol there,” she said. “I like to get out and meet people. I’ve been cooped up during the pandemic and it was horrible. It’s nice to come here and take that mask off and see happy faces.”
Interested in joining the Sole Patrol? For Mt. Holly residents 55 and older it’s free. For non-resident’s it’s $10 a month. You can just show up at the Tuckaseegee Center and sign in. For more information call 704-951-3006.
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Catholic News Herald story/photo

Record number of men
graduate from St. Joseph College
Seminary in North Belmont

Andrew Templeton from Gastonia (second from left in photo) is among nine 2021 graduates of St. Joseph College Seminary – the largest graduating class since the Diocese of Charlotte founded the program to cultivate potential priests from western North Carolina to serve across the diocese.
Seven of the nine men earned undergraduate degrees from the Benedictine-run Belmont Abbey College May 15. They join the ranks of nine other men who previously graduated from the program – a total of 18 men in the five years since the seminary began.
The Catholic college seminary is the only program of its kind between Washington, D.C., and Miami.
St. Joseph College Seminary, located in North Belmont, enables young men to discern a possible vocation to the priesthood while earning undergraduate degrees at nearby Belmont Abbey College. Upon graduation, most go on to major seminaries elsewhere to pursue graduate degrees in theology and receive more specific training before being ordained to the Catholic priesthood.
With a Catholic population that has grown by double digits in the past decade, the Charlotte diocese launched the college seminary in 2016 with eight students. The program has proven a magnet for young men wanting to discern the Catholic priesthood, and enrollment has grown  faster than anticipated. The diocese fast-tracked construction on a permanent home for the college seminary in Mount Holly, about 15 miles west of Charlotte, and the new 30,000-square-foot building opened last fall.
The nine graduates spent only a year in the new building, but their formation over the past four years has been pivotal, they said.
“On a practical level, the establishment of St. Joseph College Seminary made going to seminary much more feasible,” said graduate Kolbe Murrey, whose home parish is St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Tryon. “Instead of traveling across country right after graduating high school, I have stayed in North Carolina and in the heart of the diocese. This has been a great blessing and given me a unified and focused first four years of seminary formation.”
At a special baccalaureate Mass for the graduates, the seminary’s rector encouraged the nine young men to keep growing in their relationship with Christ.
“I think the greatest compliment I can say to you in front of those who are here – in front of your brother seminarians and your families – is that (God) abides in you and you abide in Him, that you are a friend of God’s,” said the Rev. Matthew Kauth, during the May 9 Mass at St. Ann Catholic Church in Charlotte. “I don’t know of any title in the world that is more desirous to have, than to say someone is a friend of God’s.”
The graduates are moving on to major seminaries in Cincinnati and Rome to continue their formation as future priests for the Diocese of Charlotte.
Joseph Yellico, Nicholas Kramer and Kolbe Murrey will study at the Pontifical North American College in Rome. Christopher Angermeyer, Anthony del Cid Lucero, Luke Martin, Noe Sifuentes, Andrew Templeton and James Tweed are headed to Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Cincinnati, Ohio.
As its largest graduating class moves out, St. Joseph College Seminary is preparing to welcome another large incoming class next school year.
At least eight new men are expected to enroll this fall, joining 18 others who are continuing their studies at the college seminary.
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Truist Bank serves as sponsor for
Excellence in Education awards announcement
Gaston County Schools names
‘Of the Year’ winners for 2021-2022

Six employees received the most prestigious honors presented by Gaston County Schools during the 2021 Excellence in Education awards announcement.  Truist Bank sponsored the program, which was held on Tuesday, June 1 at the new CaroMont Health Park, home of the Gastonia Honey Hunters baseball team.
The ‘Of the Year’ winners, who were named during the 9:00 a.m. ceremony, include:
Teacher of the Year: Staci Nezezon of Pinewood Elementary School;
Principal of the Year: Tyler West of Pinewood Elementary School;
Assistant Principal of the Year: Bridgette Best of Pleasant Ridge Elementary School;
New Teacher of the Year: Maddison Szucs of Robinson Elementary School;
Teacher Assistant of the Year: Wanda Marlowe of Catawba Heights Elementary School; and
Central Office Administrator of the Year: Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education, Academic Services Department. Here are the award recipients:

Gaston County Teacher of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Teacher of the Year is Staci Nezezon from Pinewood Elementary School.
After working for six years as an English as a Second Language teacher in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Nezezon joined Gaston County Schools in 2019 as a third grade teacher at Pinewood.  She has served as Pinewood’s literacy teacher and taught virtual classes this year for second grade.  Nezezon obtained a bachelor’s degree in childhood education and a master’s degree in education – literacy specialist from the State University of New York at Buffalo.  
The finalists for Teacher of the Year included Savanna Abernathy, Bessemer City Central Elementary School; Natalie Childers, Gardner Park Elementary School; Bethany Hartley, Hunter Huss High School; and Casey Miller, Stanley Middle School.
Gaston County Principal of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Principal of the Year is Tyler West from Pinewood Elementary School.
West joined Gaston County Schools in 2005 as a third grade teacher at Rankin Elementary School where she was nominated for Gaston County New Teacher of the Year in 2005-2006 and named the school’s Teacher of the Year for 2007-2008.  She was promoted to assistant principal at Bessemer City Middle School in 2012 and was appointed principal of Sherwood Elementary School in 2014 before transferring to Pinewood in 2018.  West holds a bachelor’s degree from UNC-Chapel Hill and a master’s degree in education leadership from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for Principal of the Year included Kevin Doran, Cherryville High School; Jill Payne, Hawks Nest STEAM Academy; Loretta Reed, Woodhill Elementary School; and Torben Ross, Robinson Elementary School.

Assistant Principal
of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Assistant Principal of the Year is Bridgette Best from Pleasant Ridge Elementary School.
Best joined Gaston County Schools in 2016 as an instructional facilitator.  She was promoted to assistant principal at Woodhill Elementary School in 2017 and transferred to Pleasant Ridge Elementary in 2019.  Best obtained a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies with a minor in education from Virginia State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Wingate University.
The finalists for Assistant Principal of the Year included Cassie Bryson-Evans, Brookside Elementary School; Miranda Buchanon, Springfield Elementary School; Jennifer Cabe, Holbrook Middle School; Michael Dermott, Mount Holly Middle School; Adair McKay, Grier Middle School; Janet Ramsey, Forestview High School; Lynn Stamey, Robinson Elementary School; and Jada Warnock, Cherryville High School.

New Teacher of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools New Teacher of the Year is Maddison Szucs from Robinson Elementary School.  The award is named for the late Linda Israel Rader, who began the school district’s professional development program for teachers.
Szucs, currently a first grade teacher, joined Gaston County Schools in January 2018 as a fourth grade teacher at W.A. Bess Elementary School, and she completed her student teaching at Page Primary School in 2017.  Szucs earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for New Teacher of the Year included Hayley Bigelow, Holbrook Middle School; Elizabeth Inzana, Hunter Huss High School; Vekiza Williams, Woodhill Elementary School; and Olivia Wylie, Stanley Middle School.

Teacher Assistant
of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Teacher Assistant of the Year is Wanda Marlowe from Catawba Heights Elementary School.
After serving as a volunteer with Gaston County Schools for 16 years, Marlowe accepted a job in 2017 as a teacher assistant at Catawba Heights, working in the second grade.  She currently is a teacher assistant for kindergarten.  Marlowe attended Central Piedmont Community College.
The finalists for Teacher Assistant of the Year included Jenny Emerson, Cherryville Elementary School; Dana Hannifin, Springfield Elementary School; Giana McGuire, Pinewood Elementary School; and Peyton Walls, Stanley Middle School.

Central Office
Administrator of the Year
The 2021-2022 Gaston County Schools Central Office Administrator of the Year is Brett Buchanan, director of Career and Technical Education (CTE).
Buchanan joined Gaston County Schools in 2014.  He began his career in education in 1999 as a CTE teacher in Burke County.  Under his leadership as CTE director, Gaston County Schools currently ranks first in the state for the number of CTE credentials earned by students and first in the state for the percentage of students earning more than one CTE credential in a specific career field.  Buchanan obtained a bachelor’s degree in technology education from N.C. State University and a master’s degree in educational media from Appalachian State University.
The finalists for Central Office Administrator of the Year included Chad Duncan, director of athletics; Shannon Hullett, director of elementary instruction; Curtis Poplin, technology network systems manager; and Alan Sprout, technology operations manager.
The Gaston County Schools Human Resources Department organizes the annual awards program and facilitates the ‘Of the Year’ selection process.  The Excellence in Education ceremony pays tribute to the school district’s most outstanding educators for their exceptional leadership and many contributions to the public schools in Gaston County.
Superintendent of Schools W. Jeffrey Booker said, “The Excellence in Education program gives us an opportunity to bring attention to the extraordinary efforts of our teachers, administrators, and others, who go above and beyond expectations to inspire success and a lifetime of learning in our students.  We congratulate the award recipients and salute all educators in Gaston County Schools for what they do to support children.”
Dr. Booker added, “We would like to thank Truist Bank for sponsoring this important employee recognition program.  For years, BB&T – now Truist – has been a significant business partner for Gaston County Schools, and we sincerely appreciate the bank’s support of this year’s Excellence in Education event so we could honor our outstanding educators with a special ceremony at the new CaroMont Health Park.”
As the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year, Nezezon and West will represent Gaston County in the regional competitions for 2021-2022.
While it is unusual to have the Teacher of the Year and Principal of the Year from the same school in the same year, it has happened before in back-to-back years.  In 1997-1998, South Point High School’s Sheri Little was named the Principal of the Year and Mamie Chisholm was selected the Teacher of the Year.  The next year (1998-1999), Ashbrook High School’s Trip McGill was named the Teacher of the Year and Gary Short was chosen the Principal of the Year.
In addition to Truist serving as the event sponsor, Courage Kia in Gastonia presented prizes to each ‘Of the Year’ winner, including a $100 gift card for dinner at The String Bean restaurant in Belmont and a free oil change at the Kia dealership on Wilkinson Boulevard.
The awards announcement was recorded, and it will air on Spectrum Cable Channel 21, the Education Station for Gaston County Schools, the week of June 14-20 at 10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 7:30 p.m., and 11:00 p.m. each day.  The video will air at other times during the summer, and it will be available for viewing on the Gaston County Schools website and YouTube channel.
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National Trails Day!

Hike, bike, paddle and play on National Trails Day with Carolina Thread Trail. Join in on June 5, 10 am-2 pm at Catawba Riverfront Greenway and Tuckaseege Park for a free day of fun for the whole family. Pre-registration required to maintain safe event capacity. Visit for details.
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Edith Mack (left) and Margaret Johnson have been lifelong friends. They both celebrated big birthdays recently and are looking forward to their centennial celebrations.

Mt. Holly ladies Margaret Johnson and Edith Mack are best friends forever… and ever and ever

By Alan Hodge

True friendship between two people is a beautiful thing and when the bond has held firm for decade after decade it is super special.
That’s the case of Margaret Johnson, 95, and Edith Mack, 98, of Mt. Holly who have known and cherished each other most of their lives. Folks, that’s a combined total of 193 years.
First a bit about each one of the lovely ladies.
Johnson was born April 27, 1926 and grew up on the Morrison farm in Lowesville near Stanley. When she was 11 years old, the family moved to Mt. Holly and lived in the area near present day River Park.
“It was a big neighborhood then and integrated,” said Johnson.
Johnson attended Rollins School in Mt. Holly then went on to Reid High in Belmont. Later, she took sewing classes and got a diploma as a seamstress.
She and her husband Jacob were married in 1946 and had one child.  She put her sewing skills to good use.
“I made my husband a pair of pants,” she said.
Time marched along and Johnson sampled other employment.
“I did domestic work, worked in the cafeteria at Mt. Holly High, the worked for Perfection Spinning,” she said. “I retired from there in 1988.”
Johnson recalled early days in Mt. Holly.
“It wasn’t bad,” she said. “Daddy worked for the railroad and we lived in a three room house. We were happy and didn’t suffer for anything. In the summers we would visit our cousins in Washington, D.C. We enjoyed each other.”
Johnson recollected some more.
“We would go to corn shuckings and camp meetings at Tuckers Grove,” she said. “We would spend a whole week there. People would come from all over. We always had a big family reunion in August.”
Johnson shared her thoughts on long life.
“Live the best you can and do right,” she said. “God will reward you.”
Edith Mack was born on May 4, 1923. Like Johnson, her early years were spent in a rural environment before moving to Mt. Holly.
“We lived on a farm on Kelly’s Farm Rd. until I was four or five years old then we moved to Mt. Holly, she said. “Daddy worked for Duke Power and we lived in a company house.”
Like Johnson, Mack attended Rollins School and Reid High. Even before she graduated from Reid, she was holding down a job.
“When I was 13-years-old I went to work for Dr. Stroupe as a babysitter,” she said. “I worked for him in his home for fifty three years until I retired in 1977.”
Along the way, Mack married her husband William in 1947 and had five children.
Mack also enjoyed growing up in Mt. Holly.
“We walked to school,” she said. “We would go to carnivals and camp meetings. We had a Model T car and would pack and big lunch and drive to the camp meetings in Denver.”
Mack attributes her longevity to what she called “good genes.”
The friendship between Johnson and Mack is a long, a very, very long, one. Johnson believes it started at Burge Memorial UMC. From that root, a mighty oak of oneness grew.
“We’ve known each other all our lives,” said Johnson.
The pair have done many of the same things. The list includes Burge Memorial UMC Meals on Wheels, going to River Park on First Night Out, and senior dinners at the Mt. Holly Municipal Complex. They are also part of the Reid High Class of 1966 reunion group.
The fact that they live more or less next to each other keeps them close too. Either one can look out their window and see the other one’s house.
“We talk on the phone every night from eight to nine o’clock,” Mack says. “We give each other advice.”
So, what’s in the works for their 100th birthdays?
“We are going to have a big party,” said Mack.
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Stanley Parks and Rec. director Tug Deason in front of the recreation center named in his honor. Photo by Alan Hodge

Stanley Parks and Rec. gearing up for summer excitement

By Alan Hodge

Exciting things are going on at Stanley Parks and Rec. not the least of which is the much deserved honor bestowed upon the department’s director Tug Deason who recently received the Centralina Regional Council’s Region of Excellence Award.
Deason was honored during an online ceremony on May 12, 2021 and received the James D. Prosser Excellence in Leadership Award.
Deason was nominated by Town Manager Heath Jenkins for his steadfast leadership and being someone who positive, encouraging to others, and a go-to person where staff, citizens, and others outside of Stanley call upon as a trusted source of information.
“The Town of Stanley congratulates Tug on receiving this prestigious award Town Manager Heath Jenkinssaid.  “Tug loves the Stanley community and works every day to help others without being asked to do so. His work ethic and contagious humor are an inspiration to all who work with him. From day one when Tug came to work for the Town of Stanley, he had a vision where the Town would have a park of its own. He had a vision of a parks and recreation program where the focus is on the children and instilling values of sportsmanship and fairness. Tug has achieved his goals but continues to work toward new goals that help the community. It is an honor to work with Tug and an honor to see him receive this well-deserved award.”
Deason, in his usual self-effacing manner, had this to say about the recognition.
“I am very honored and humbled about receiving the award,” he said. “The whole town deserves it as well.”
During the pandemic, Deason guided the Parks and Rec. department through some challenging days. When festivals and other events that his staff would normally have been involved in producing were called off, he and his folks did other valuable work.
“We repaired and painted playground equipment and did other maintenance,” he said. “We helped out with the senior Christmas dinner and took 140 plates of food to seniors at their homes. On Valentine’s Day we gave out 200 candy bags to seniors. We also took children Christmas shopping with a $20,000 grant from S.C. Johnson Co. We stayed busy the whole time.”
But now, with most Covid restrictions lifted, Stanley Parks and Rec. is planning a number of activities in the coming weeks and months.
Baseball will be returning to Harper Park.
“We will be hosting the Dixie Youth District 4 tournament,” said Deason. “It will begin at 6pm on June 18th. Teams from Charlotte, Kannapolis, and Gaston County will be playing.”
July will bring more action.
“We will be having a big event on July 2nd with fireworks, a live band, corn hole, and more,” Deason said. “It will be an old time Fourth of July event at Harper Park.”
There’s more.
“On July 8th we will have our first concert series,” he said. “The other dates will be August 5th and August 26th. The time will be 6-9pm.”
Looking ahead, the annual Stanley Countryfest will return for the first Friday and Saturday in October.
“There will be plenty of rides and other fun,” said Deason. “We are looking forward to seeing everyone.”
Overall, the mood is upbeat at Stanley Parks and Rec. and Deason is eager to get everything back to a fun and “normal” round of activities.
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Maia McElvane (right) painted a lot of faces at a past Juneteenth including cute Avery Martin. See Junteenth 2021 celebration details inside on page 4. Photo Alan Hodge

Belmont Juneteenth Celebration – 10 Years of Culture

It began as a new Belmont festival with an unfamiliar name – “Juneteenth.” The festival and the name were new to Belmont, but they were not really new at all.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, specifically the  June 19, 1865 announcement of the Emancipation Proclamation in Galveston, Texas.
The Belmont Juneteenth Celebration was born in 2012, when the City of Belmont recruited a group of volunteers to help plan and execute the first event. Since then, the volunteer group has become the nonprofit organization Elements of Empowerment, Inc., and the celebration has grown to become a festival of music, art, and culture. The traditional format features musical performances throughout the day,  a D.J., African drum circle, and steel drummer before ending with a finale jazz concert. A curated group of vendors offer artistic, culturally inspired merchandise and food. Free family-friendly activities abound, as well as free information and diagnostic services in the Atrium Health Village.
As partners, the City of Belmont and Elements of Empowerment, Inc. mark the 10th Anniversary of the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration, the first and oldest such event in Gaston County. Juneteenth is now more familiar and more widely observed in Gaston County. Bessemer City began collaborating with Elements of Empowerment, Inc. 2019. They continue to do so with their festival scheduled for June 18, 6 - 9 pm. The City of Cherryville and City of Gastonia are issuing Juneteenth proclamations. All will be represented in the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade.
As last year, the 2021 format is modified for the relaxed COVID restrictions. The 10th Anniversary Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade will include floats and a rolling African drum circle.
 Juneteenth Sunday - June 13, 2021: As designated by proclamation. Faith Leaders are invited to acknowledge Juneteenth during services.
Virtual 2K Family & Friends Freedom Walk - June 13 through June 30, 2021: Register your family or friend group for this noncompetitive walk to promote unity and wellness. Just one fee for your entire group!
Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Parade - June 19, 2021 at 2 pm: Join the parade or watch from the Montcross Area Chamber webcam. Families are welcome to register.
Belmont Juneteenth Celebration Concert - June 19, 2021 at 7 pm: Enjoy the steel drum stylings of Minsky Delmonte  and food by Tony T’zzz Grill on Wheels in Stowe Park.
Celebration Sponsors: Help support and sustain the Belmont Juneteenth Celebration. Parade space, Facebook promotion, and media recognition are included.
Virtual Vendors: Artisans, crafters, food truck owners, etc. get noticed in the parade, on Facebook, and  in the media.
Complete Event Details:
Book Online:
Phone: (704) 755-5210

Belmont Memorial Day event

Belmont American Legion Post 144 annual Memorial Day ceremony. May 30, 2021  -  2:00 pm  -  Greenwood Cemetery  -   Belmont, NC. Honor Guard provided by Gaston County Sheriff’s Department.
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South Point’s
Matthew Dalton setting his sights on outer space

By Alan Hodge

Graduating South Point High senior Matthew Dalton has stars in his eyes- and planets and constellations and solar systems. That’s because Dalton has his sights set on a career in the aerospace industry after he finishes his upcoming years at Georgia Tech University where he was awarded a prestigious Albert G. Myers Scholarship to attend.
Dalton is a Belmont native and the son of Sheila and Bryan Dalton. He grew in the local school system attending Belmont Central Elementary and Belmont Middle school before heading to South Point.
Dalton traces his intense interest in outer space back to third grade when he picked up a book about the planets. He followed up by buying a book about our solar system. Later, he watched YouTube videos about space. He was hooked.
“Space has many mysteries,” Dalton said. “For instance, we don’t know how big the universe is. There’s an inexhaustible range of subjects to study. There are many stars and many planets out there. We have only started to scratch the surface about what there is to know.”
Even though he is fascinated with apace, Dalton thinks he might hold off on actually traveling there and focus his attention on the aerospace engineering aspect.
“I am especially interested in satellites,” he said. “I would like to work for NASA or Space X building them or rocket ships.”
Dalton has already gained some experience in that regard. He has attended several summer programs at Duke University where he studied nuclear and electrical engineering as well as computer programming. He’s also big  into physics and math- all skills that will come in handy designing outer space craft.
But Dalton is a multi-faceted lad. He exercises his body as well as his mind. He’s a member of the South Point varsity track team.
“I started running when I came to South Point,” he said. “I really enjoy cross country. Coach Kubbs makes it enjoyable and fun.”
Coach Cody Kubbs had this to say about Dalton.
“Matthew Dalton is a tremendous student and an even better young man,” said Kubbs. “I had the privilege of teaching Matthew in my AP US History course his junior year and I also was able to coach him on the cross country team. Matthew is an incredibly bright and gifted student that excels as a combination of his natural abilities and his unwavering work ethic. Matthew is never satisfied with anything less than his absolute best; that was also true of Matthew as a cross country runner. Matthew is a conscientious student that values learning and has a natural curiosity that he allows to guide his personal educational journey. I’ve really enjoyed getting to teach and coach Matthew and will miss our random conversations in the hall between classes next year; but I am excited to see and share in all of his future achievements and successes!”
Dalton is also an avid soccer player. He started playing soccer at the tender age of three years. Teams he’s played for over the years include Gaston United, Carolina Rapids, and Charlotte Independence. He plays outside defender position.
Other activities Dalton has enjoyed at South Point includes being a member of the chess club, Quiz Bowl team, Science Olympiad, Beta Club, and National Honor Society.
Talking to Dalton, it’s obvious he’s enjoyed and cherished his South Point experience.
“The teachers are high quality,” he said. “Many that were students here returned when they became teachers because of their love of the school.”
Ever thoughtful, Dalton wanted to share these musings with students coming along behind him.
“Have a goal and focus on it,” he said. “Also, take classes for what you want to do for a career.”