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July 31, 2014

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Work crews on the U.S. 321 widening project construct a retaining wall between the highway and the Food Lion Shopping Center. JEFF EASON PHOTO

Originally published: 2012-12-28 09:05:59
Last modified: 2012-12-28 09:05:59

2012: A time of farewells

Sadly, 2012 may be remembered by High Country residents as the year of the big funeral.

Heroes, prominent citizens and ordinary Wataugans died in ways that made us sit up and take notice this year, several of them way too early.

Their funerals were a recurring theme, reminding us that life is   short and that we must reach out to those we love and admire before it is too late.

The funeral procession began in February following the death of Watauga County native Dara Lee Watson. Her body was found in the Francis Marion National Forest 11 days after she was reported missing and her GMC Envoy was found burned near Mount Pleasant, S.C. Investigators believe Watson’s fiancé, 34-year-old David Lee Hedrick, shot Watson, 30, and hid her death by sending text messages from her phone, before killing himself at the couple’s home.

Folk music legend and multiple Grammy Award-winner Doc Watson died on May 29, a month to the day after his last public performance playing the Sunday morning gospel show on the Creekside Stage at MerleFest.

Watson died of complications from colon surgery, which was first detected after he was hospitalized following a fall at his home in Deep Gap. Watson was 89.

Thousands of family, friends and fans attended his funeral, which included musical tributes from Sam Bush and others.

For the rest of the year, fans of Doc Watson from all over the country made the pilgrimage to downtown Boone to lay flowers on the bronze statue of Watson on King Street.

Four-year-old Peyton Townsend was killed on June 8 when a group of children from a Vacation Bible School class was playing in the cemetery of Mt. Paran Baptist Church in Deep Gap.
As the children were sitting on and near a headstone, a cross-shaped slab slid off the base and fell onto Townsend, causing a severe head injury. She was transported by Wings Air Rescue to Johnson City (Tenn.) Medical Center, but efforts to save her were unsuccessful.
Peyton was the daughter of North Carolina Highway Patrol officer Randall Townsend and his wife, Sarah.
Hundreds of Townsend’s fellow patrol officers attended Peyton’s funeral services, held at First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock.

Major Ryan Scott David of Boone was among four North Carolina Air National Guard members who died when their C-130 Hercules aircraft crashed near Edgemont, S.D., on July 1. David was 35.
The aircrew was fighting wildfires out west when the crash occurred.
A N.C. Highway Patrol caisson unit led David’s funeral procession from the funeral home to the Holmes Convocation Center, where hundreds of law enforcement officers and military personnel joined David’s friends and family for a service in his honor.

Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputy William Mast Jr., 23, was killed in the line of duty on July 26 as the result of a late night shootout with 33-year-old Mitchell Allen Trivette in Deep Gap. Trivette also died in the shootout.
Deputies Mast and Preston Russell responded to a 911 call and as they approached a mobile home on Hardin Road, Trivette emerged from the dwelling and pointed a shotgun at the deputies.
It was the first time in nearly 60 years that a law enforcement officer in Watauga County had been shot and killed in the line of duty. Blowing Rock Police officer William Greene was shot and killed in 1963 in an attempt to apprehend a group of thieves who had targeted summer homes unoccupied during the winter.  
Representatives from every sheriff’s department in North Carolina paid their respects to Mast at his funeral.

Six months after the death of Doc Watson, his widow, Rosa Lee Watson, died at the age of 81 on Nov. 22. The Deep Gap couple was first married in 1947.
Rosa Lee was Doc’s behind-the-scenes inspiration, but also performed with him on occasion. The couple co-wrote several songs, including “Your Long Journey,” which was featured on the Grammy Award-winning album “Raising Sand” by Robert Plant and Alison Krauss.

Blowing Rock native James Owen Tolbert died at the age of 65 on Dec. 14 at the Watauga Medical Center.
A U.S. Air Force veteran, Tolbert served on the Blowing Rock Police Department for 24 years, retiring as its chief of police in 2006.
Hundreds of family and friends, as well as representatives from various law enforcement agencies, paid their respects to Tolbert at First Baptist Church in Blowing Rock.

Leigh Cooper Wallace, a popular Watauga High School coach and teacher, died unexpectedly on Dec. 17 at the age of 43. A well-respected athlete and runner who competed at the collegiate level at Appalachian State, Wallace helped found the local chapter of “Girls on the Run,” an organization that helps school-age girls get fit, have fun running and aims to boost self-esteem issues. Wallace was inducted into the Watauga Sports Hall of Fame in 2005.

Here’s a look at some of the newsworthy items that shaped the community in 2012:

Watauga County’s first baby of 2012 was born at 3:47 p.m. on Jan. 1 to parents Dana Powell and Eric Karchmer of Boone. The baby boy weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces, and was 19 inches long.

At the January meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council, commissioners voted 3-2 to ban guns in several public areas, including Blowing Rock Memorial Park, Davant Field and the Grover Robbins Swimming Complex. Due to the overwhelming interest in the subject, the meeting was held in the Blowing Rock Art and History Museum’s Community Room. During the public hearing, 27 people spoke from the floor with their opinions for and against the proposed ban.

Two Blowing Rock citizens, Tony di Santi and Judy Hunt, were named to Governor Perdue’s Judicial Nominating Commission. The commission assists the governor in filling judicial vacancies.

Five distance runners who train at ZAP Elite Fitness in Blowing Rock traveled to Houston, Texas, to compete in the marathon trials for the U.S. Olympic Team. None of the local runners made the top three in the men’s and women’s marathon times, the requisite for making the Olympic team and going on to compete at the XXX Olympiad in London.

The N.C. Department of Transportation held a public meeting at BRAHM’s Community Room to answer questions about the U.S. 321 widening project. Approximately 200 local residents attended the meeting to hear about issues such as the blasting of rock along Valley Boulevard.

Blowing Rock’s Oval Jaynes was inducted into the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Hall of Fame on June 26 during a ceremony at Jacksonville State in Florida.

The Blowing Rock Community Foundation announced its scholarship winners for 2012. They included Amanda Bryson, Katelyn Callahan, Maggie Clark, Eric Dehus, Amanda Fox, Max Linville and Kendra Trivette.

A new collection of images and stories devoted to the Blue Ridge Parkway went online. The new collection, “Driving Through Time: The Digital Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina,” was created through a collaborative project based at the Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Chetola Resort’s annual Symphony by the Lake was named one of the Southeast Tourism Society’s Top 20 events for the month of July.

Fire on the Rock creator and host Jimmy Crippen announced that three new competitions would join the Blowing Rock-based chefs challenge. The new events were named “Fire on the Dock” in Wilmington, “Fire in the Triangle” in Raleigh and “Fire in the Triad” in Greensboro.

Blowing Rock School’s boys basketball team finished second in the countywide championship tournament, falling to Hardin Park 31-29 when Hardin Park’s Aaron Dobbins drained a shot with 3.2 seconds left in the title game.

On Feb. 9, Lee Layton, a member of the Hayes Center’s board of trustees, sent out a news release stating that possession of the building and property had reverted to Wells Fargo Bank. The building was built in 2005 at a cost of some $9.6 million.

In a rare procedural point of order, members of the Blowing Rock Town Council recast their votes to approve consideration of an amendment to Chapter 15 of the town code regarding weapons on town property. Once again, the gun ban was approved by a 3-2 majority.

Reba Moretz was named honorary chairwoman of the 35th annual Blowing Rock Hospital Benefit and Luncheon.

On Feb. 19, six law enforcement agencies, including the Blowing Rock Police Department, took part in a high speed chase that began in Blowing Rock, entered Boone, returned to Blowing Rock and ended at the intersection of Creekside Place and U.S. 321 in Caldwell County. Officers arrested Travis Eugene Clark, 31, of Valdese, and charged him with a number of felony and misdemeanor charges.

The town of Blowing Rock celebrated its 123 birthday as an incorporated village on March 11.

In the March edition of Travel+Leisure magazine, Blowing Rock was named one of “America’s Prettiest Winter Towns.” The article listed 12 towns, including Blowing Rock, where you can find small town charm and scenic vistas.

The owners of the Best Cellar and Inn at the Ragged Garden, Rob Dyer and Lisa Stripling, purchased the historic Maple Lodge on Sunset Drive in Blowing Rock. They plan to convert it into a bed and breakfast with 10 rooms, a restaurant and brewery.

During Blowing Rock’s 123rd birthday celebration, four new sites received historical markers. The four new sites are Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church (1912), the Green Park Hotel (1891), the site of the Mayview Manor (1922-1978) and the Watauga Hotel Cottage (1888).

The town of Blowing Rock grew by 58.9 acres when the town council voted unanimously to annex the Blowing Rock Conference Center. The move was the result of a request by the owners of the conference center to connect with the town’s sewer system.

A number of community leaders gathered at BRAHM’s Community Room on March 7 to speak with consultants hired to explore Watauga County’s economic development.

The Blue Ridge Parkway Foundation pledged $650,000 for a number of projects to take place in 2012, including improvements to the Bass Lake and Price Lake areas in Blowing Rock.

Our State magazine’s March edition featured a 10-page on Blowing Rock resident Frieda Jones, known for her hospitality and beautiful garden on Morris Street.

Funds raised during January’s Blowing Rock WinterFest celebration were passed on to Wine to Water. A check for $6,250 was given to organization head Doc Hendley. The money was to be used to help drill wells in Ethiopia.

Blowing Rock School Principal Patrick Sukow was named Watauga County Schools’ Principal of the Year.

Mural artist Brenda Councill unveiled a new mural created for Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church’s narthex, the front entrance to the main worship hall. The ceiling mural depicts a cloudy sky with trees and birds.

Laura Seagle was named Blowing Rock School’s Teacher of the Year. Seagle teaches kindergarten.

During the April meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council, commissioners voted 3-2 to deny a consideration from Watauga County to consolidate its police dispatch system into a countywide 911 system.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum opened its second-ever Main Gallery exhibit, “Curious Collections.”

An overturned tractor-trailer slowed traffic on U.S. 321 on April 16. The accident happened just before 6 a.m. and spilled a load of small gravel on Valley Boulevard in front of Canyons restaurant.

In a special meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council on April 17, commissioners reversed their previous decision on a unified 911 dispatch center, voting 3-2 to consolidate with Watauga County.

North Carolinians voted to approve “amendment one,” a provision to North Carolina’s constitution making marriage between one man and one woman the only legally recognized marital union in the state. In Watauga County, 7,713 voters (50.82 percent voted against the amendment, while 7,464 voters (49.18 percent) voted for it. Among Blowing Rock voters, 457 voted against amendment one, while 345 voted for it.

Blowing Rock’s Art in the Park kicked off its golden anniversary season on May 12. The show began in 1962 with a handful of artists displaying their wares in Blowing Rock and has grown into a six-month-long event featuring nearly 100 artist booths.

During the monthly meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council, two proclamations were unanimously approved. The first declared June 18, 2012,  as “Jerry Burns Day” in Blowing Rock. The second declared June 2, 2012, as “Oasis Shriner Day” in Blowing Rock.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum announced in May that Welborn Alexander would be stepping down as president of the BRAHM board of trustees. Alexander was one of the leading forces in guiding the museum from concept to reality. Teresa Caine was named as the new president of the BRAHM board of trustees.

Blowing Rock’s first female dispatcher and firefighter, Carol Bolick, retired May 22 after 30 years of serving the town.

Appalachian Regional Healthcare System hosted a public meeting at BRAHM’s Community Room to share its plans for the new Blowing Rock extended care facility, to be named Chestnut Ridge. The facility will sit on a 68-acre site near the Blue Ridge Parkway and will replace the current Blowing Rock Hospital. When completed, the facility will provide approximately 200 full time jobs to the community.

The High Country Jewish Community, formerly the Boone Jewish Community, dedicated the new Temple of the High Country and Schaefer Jewish Community Center in Boone on June 22. About 300 people attended the dedication.

In July, Watauga County Schools announced the closure of four pre-K programs, including the one at Blowing Rock School. The system cited state funding cuts as the reason for the closures.

On July 17, The Scotchman, the convenience store located on the corner of Valley Boulevard and Sunset Drive, closed its doors for the final time. Employees cited the lack of business the store experienced since its gas pumps were removed to make way for the widening of U.S. 321.

In July, it was announced that the Blowing Rock Cultural Arts Center, formerly the Hayes Performing Arts Center, would be sold in a foreclosure auction on Aug. 14.

The Watauga County Community Foundation announced that Blowing Rock’s Margaret Anagnos was the top 2012 academic scholar at Watauga High School and was the recipient of John and Ruth Blue Scholarship Endowment.

Nearly 3,000 music lovers gathered at Chetola for the annual Symphony by the Lake event on July 27. The Symphony of the Mountains, led by conductor Cornelia Laemmli Orth, performed a number of works, including the world premiere of local composer Robert Jeter’s piece, “In These Mountains.”

In late July, according to Blowing Rock Police reports, thieves targeted two Blowing Rock churches. Two sterling silver chalices were stolen from St. Mary of the Hills Episcopal Church and a safe was broken into at Rumple Memorial Presbyterian Church’s office. The break-in created about $600 worth of damage to the safe and a door.

The N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources announced on Aug. 6 that Blowing Rock was the recipient of a $142,500 matching grant to renovate and enhance the town’s American Legion Hall, located on Wallingford Street. The hall is used by a number of local groups, including Boy Scout Troop 101.

Blowing Rock School was named a North Carolina Honor School of Excellence for the third year in a row. The honor was based on year-end student tests.

The National Park Service announced that it is looking to hire an archaeologist to explore the grounds around the Moses Cone Estate. The estate was once home to more than a dozen structures, most of which were torn down after Bertha Cone bequeathed the property to the NPS in 1950.

On Aug. 14, the town of Blowing Rock officially opened the new picnic pavilion at the Grover Robbins Swimming Complex. The pavilion, paid for with private donations and grants, features picnic tables and outdoor grills.

Chetola Resort opened its new Timberlake’s Restaurant. The restaurant, named for North Carolina artist and author Bob Timberlake, replaces the old Manor House Restaurant that was closed in August 2011 after a fire damaged part of the building.

In August, the Blowing Rock Town Council approved the use of the old Ruritan Club building for temporary use by a group of parents led by Jenny Bachman to teach 12 to 14 pre-K students ages 4 and 5.

At the Aug. 21 initial public auction of the Hayes Performing Arts Center at the Watauga County Courthouse, Wells Fargo bank was the sole bidder and purchased the building for $1.4 million, pending a 10-day “upset bid” period. The Blowing Rock building had sat unused for more than a year.

The Rotary Club of Blowing Rock named Tracy Brown as its Citizen of the Year. Brown, executive director of the Blowing Rock Tourism and Development Authority, was honored with the 38th annual award.

Tacky Vosburgh was named Blowing Rock’s Woman of the Year. Vosburgh has served on the board of the annual Blowing Rock Hospital Benefit Fashion Show and has modeled in the event for years.

On Aug. 30, Samaritan’s Purse, the Christian-based relief organization based in Boone, presented an upset bid to purchase the Hayes Performing Arts Center in Blowing Rock for $1,493,100, a little more than the minimum 5 percent increase over Wells Fargo’s bid earlier in the month. After another upset bid period passed with no other takers, Samaritan’s Pursed moved into their new building.

The Blue Ridge Parkway’s Linn Cove Viaduct, located between Blowing Rock and Grandfather Mountain, turned 25 on Sept. 11. To celebrate the engineering marvel’s golden anniversary, special events were held at Grandfather Mountain and at the Linn Cove Visitors Center.

Blowing Rock Town Manager Scott Hildebran was recognized by the Region D High Country Council of Governments for his outstanding achievements and contributions at a ceremony on Sept. 7.

The historic Green Park Inn announced that it has joined Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

On Sept. 16, two motorcycle riders were killed in an early morning collision in Granite Falls following a police chase that started in Blowing Rock. John Franklin, 35, of Claremont, and Allison Nixon, 22, of Conover, were pronounced dead at the scene.

The Blowing Rock Police Department announced in September the promotion of two officers. BRPD Detective Angel Mahaffey was promoted to the rank of lieutenant and the town’s fire marshal, Aaron Miller, was selected for the position of police captain.

The last six-mile section of the North Carolina Mountains-to-Sea Trail was dedicated in a “golden spike” ceremony near Thunder Hill in Blowing Rock on Sept. 29.

The Blowing Rock Art and History Museum celebrated its first anniversary on Oct. 1 with a number of special events.

UNC-TV’s “Flavor, NC” program featured Chef Andrew Long of Storie Street Grille on an episode that aired Oct. 3 and Oct. 6.

Nearly 200 people attended a “State of Blowing Rock” public meeting at BRAHM’s Community Room Oct. 4. Organized by the Blowing Rock Chamber of Commerce, the meeting was an opportunity for members of the community to voice their concerns and opinions on a wide range of issues.

Grammy Award-winning musician James Taylor performed at the Obama Field Office in Boone and at a fundraiser for the president at Westglow Resort and Spa in Blowing Rock on Oct. 5.

Blowing Rock School’s student counselor Kelly Baruth was named Middle School Counselor of the Year for 2012 by Watauga County Schools.

James Jordan was named the 2012 Blue Ridge Parkway Employee of the Year for the Highlands District. Jordan is responsible for the Julian Price Campground and Julian Price Picnic Area.

Popular novelist and essayist Barbara Kingsolver appeared at ASU’s Broyhill Inn and Conference Center with Bellwether Prize-winning authors Hillary Jordan and Naomi Benaron and Algonquin senior editor Kathie Pories. The women held a public conversation about socially engaged fiction.

A number of environmental groups gathered at the Blowing Rock home of Leigh and Pamela Dunston to raise money for the Western North Carolina Alliance, a group that works to ensure that future generations of will enjoy clean air, water and land.

The North Carolina Society of Historians awarded Blowing Rock novelist Jonathan Graves and illustrator Gail Haley the Clark Cox Historical Fiction Award for their children’s book “Isabella Propeller and the Magic Beanie.” The book was released in 2011 and is set in Blowing Rock.

Samaritan’s Purse sent crews and trucks to New York and New Jersey to help with the clean up following Hurricane Sandy. The hurricane destroyed hundreds of buildings and left more than 6 million Americans without power.

November’s election results revealed that North Carolina was the only state that President Obama carried in 2008 but lost in 2012. Nationwide, Obama defeated presidential challenger Mitt Romney by an electoral vote margin of 332-206. Locally, North Carolina representatives Jonathan Jordan and Dan Soucek both won re-election bids, as did U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx. Republican former mayor of Charlotte, Pat McCrory, became North Carolina’s next governor.

Blowing Rock’s Rhyne Jones, a member of the Christ School golf team in Asheville, accepted a scholarship offer to play at the collegiate level for the University of Nevada. He is the son of Jonathan and Debbie Jones of Blowing Rock.

During an exceptionally dry autumn, several wildfires broke out in and near Watauga County. Approximately 150 acres burned in Sampson, believed to have been started by a campfire. Another 65-plus acres burned in a wildfire in Caldwell County below Blowing Rock.

At November’s meeting of the Blowing Rock Town Council, the town paved the way for the construction of the new Blowing Rock Hospital by approving the application of three grants that, if approved,  will bring in more than $600,000 for the project’s sewer, water and road work.

Blowing Rock’s Cullie Tarleton was awarded the Order of the Long Leaf Pine during a celebration at Appalachian Ski Mountain Nov. 16. Tarlteon was given North Carolina’s highest civilian award for his contributions to his community during his tenure as a member of the North Carolina House of Representatives.

Michael Foreman, chef at Blowing Rock’s Bistro Roca, came in second in the statewide Competition Dining Series event in Raleigh.

The historic Green Park Inn in Blowing Rock was honored with a Preservation Success Story Award by Historic Hotels of America, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

Blowing Rock Police responded to a call on Nov. 29 from Tanger Shoppes on the Parkway. Sometime during the previous night, thieves had broken into Sunglass Hut and cleared the shelves of all merchandise. The robbery was one in a string of recent cases targeting Sunglass Hut stores.

The Competition Dining Series, a now statewide culinary competition started by Jimmy Crippen in Blowing Rock, announced the 2013 addition of two new competition sites: Fire on the Rock in Asheville and Fire in the City in Charlotte. The sites join Fire on the Rock in Blowing Rock, Fire on the Dock in Wilmington, Fire in the Triangle in Raleigh and Fire in the Triad in Greensboro.

A study by an ASU student revealed that the 2012 Blowing Rock Charity Horse show brought in $7.7 million to the local economy in terms of lodging, restaurants, gas and other expenditures.

The Watauga County Planning Board gave master plan approval to a proposed water park that would be built next to Tweetsie Railroad, between Boone and Blowing Rock off U.S. 321. The proposed park would feature a large indoor water park, hotel and conference center, 50 rental cabins, restaurants and shopping outlets.

For more information and stories, see The Blowing Rocket.

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