Schools prepare for new year with unity in mind

Both high schools came together for the We Are Washington County event at the beginning of this school year.


Staff Writer

Red and white and brown and gold don’t really go together. But in Washington County, they’re starting to.

Representatives from both Daniel Boone and David Crockett High School — coaches, graduates and athletes — came together in the name of unity for Washington County’s second-annual “We Are Washington County” photo-op and event.

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton dons both school colors at 2016’s Mustket Bowl.

“When we’re not competing on the field, we’re about the entire county. That’s part of what the Washington Way is all about,” Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said to the group of students. “We have kids from Boone here. We have kids from Crockett. You’re the leaders in your school, each and every one of you. The students in your school, they look up to you. Your peers do. What you do and your choices matter.”

With football season right around the corner and memories of the fight that broke out at the 2014 Musket Bowl rivalry matchup still in the backs of minds, each of the representatives from both schools came together with a goal to unite as one, after decades of a strong across-town rivalry.

“I was that guy that sat over here,” Boone’s Athletic Director Danny Good recalled, motioning to those wearing red. “I grew up in a house where Boone andCrockett didn’t like each other.

Boone Athletic Director Danny Good talks respect for both county high schools.

“I think the problem back then is there wasn’t a lot of respect. I think that’s what we’re trying to overcome now. You guys work hard and our kids work hard too. I think that’s something that we need to overcome, a respect factor.”

Though the Musket Bowl is the schools’ night to face the rivalry on the field, behavior between the rivals on another battleground was also addressed. To support the idea of remaining civil through social media platforms like twitter and Facebook, 2017 Crockett graduate Rebekah Saylor spoke to the group about the lasting effect harsh words can leave on a person, even if it’s in the name of an age-old rivalry.

“I don’t want to say your high school years don’t matter. They do. They’re very important. But as far as social media and targeting other people, don’t make it personal,” Saylor said. “It’s not worth the hurt feelings because, win or lose, they’re going to remember that you hurt them. So take the opportunity to do good.”

Social media can be more than just a breeding ground for harsh words before a Crockett verses Boone matchup; the director of schools also mentioned the lingering pain that social media can also cause in a high school social sphere.

“I think high school is harder than ever before, even for the so-called popular group,” Halliburton said. “I think a lot of kids struggle today in high school with more than I ever experienced. When I was excluded from a party, I didn’t find out about it until that Monday when kids were part of it. And that party kind of died down. Today if you’re excluded from something like that, it’s an imprint that’s forever there. The pictures are always there.”

Instead, Crockett’s head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh, whose twitter account has more than 69,000 followers, told the group of s

tudents that social media should be used as a platform. He also suggested the students think of the Musket Bowl as a platform as well.

“It’s a platform to promote yourself,” Sensabaugh said. “Use it to promote your school. Promote you as a player. Promote your classroom. Promote your teachers.”

Boone celebrated after their Musket Bowl victory in 2016.

“There are 5,000 people that come to the Musket Bowl. How many things in the Tri-Cities do you think bring 5,000 people together? That platform stage is huge. You can use that platform in front of 5,000 people to show great sportsmanship, great respect for the game. ‘Hey we’re civilized people.’ ‘We’re educated.’ ‘We know what we’re doing.’ You will forget (the game), but being in the moment, you have the chance to impact 5,000 people’s perception of you, who you are, Daniel Boone, David Crockett, the school system — the county as a whole.”

Boone football coach (left) Jeremy Jenkins and Crockett football coach Gerald Sensabaugh talk with the students at the start of the school year.

All in all, Crockett’s athletic director, Josh Kite, wanted to express to the group of Boone and Crockett students how much what they do, in and out of any sports arena, can impact the community, both schools and each wide-eyed child watching in admiration.

“I’ve got two kids back here who are three and six,” Kite said. “They look up to you. When I go to the school, they’re looking at you guys. They’re not looking at the teachers. They’re not looking at the coaches—they’re looking at you. They were watching the cheerleaders yesterday. My daughters are over there doing flips. You guys are our future. You guys are our leaders. Right now we are one. When we play each other of course we want to win, but we’re still one. And that’s what it’s all about.”

Boone’s head football coach, Jeremy Jenkins, offered one last reminder to these students who are about to embark on another year of competition, learning and memories that go further than an antique musket one team will get to keep for a year.

“Let this be meaningful to you. If you think you’re just going to go to work and do a job — you’re going out there to have fun. This is going to be the most memorable times of your career and especially this being one of the biggest rivalries that there is,” Jenkins said. “It’s a rivalry on the field, but then we’re all behind one boss here — and in one heartbeat.”

Every square a memory: Quilter crafts tribute to fallen 9-11 hero

Anna D’Angona prepares to lay down her next stitch in her latest project.


H&T Correspondent

A firetruck. The Statue of Liberty. Firefighters holding an American flag. Each image is a square on the quilt Anna D’Angona made in memory of Nicholas P. Chiofalo, a New York firefighter and fire chief who lost his life while helping to evacuate people from the World Trade Center.

D’Angona crafted the quilt by hand for her son-in-law, Cliff Messina. Chiofalo was Messina’s uncle and mentor.

“He loved his uncle very much. He was very close to him,” D’Angona said. “I’ve been wanting to do this since 2001, but I really didn’t know how to put it together. This year, I just thought, you know what, I’m going to do it.”

And with the help of a few friends at the Jonesborough Senior Center, where the quilt is currently on display, she did.

“I brought it in and I had all the ladies help me with quilting it,” D’Angona said.

With their assistance, it took D’Angona only about two to three months to finish the project.

The quilt has a patriotic red, white, and blue theme, and in the top center square, a message: “9/11/2001, Never Forget.” Next to those words, in the top left square, is a photograph of Chiofalo. Chiofalo, who left behind a wife and son, was one of six firefighters from Brooklyn’s Engine 235 who lost their lives that day.

D’Angona plans to hand-deliver the quilt to her son-in-law, who lives out-of-state, in September. It will be a surprise for Messina, who is currently unaware of the quilt’s existence.

“It’s been 16 years since 9/11, and I just wanted to do some

thing special for him, some memory of his uncle,” D’Angona said. “I think this will be a wonderful gift for him.”

D’Angona has been quilting for three years. She learned to quilt from other members of the Senior Center, including a close friend she met there, Shirley Chase.

Chase has since passed away, D’Angona said.

“I learned a lot from her, and I miss her,” D’Angona said, noting that learning to quilt had always been a goal of hers.

“Thank God for the Jonesborough Senior Center,” she said, “because that’s where I learned.”

D’Angona said Mary Sanger, director of the Jonesborough Senior Center, approached her about displaying the quilt after she finished it.

“We were just really touched by the care she put into making the quilt,” Sanger said. “I thought it was a really lovely piece, and we thought other members would enjoy seeing it.”

While she has only been quilting for a few years, D’Angona is skilled in crocheting and knitting, which she began practicing at an early age while growing up in Italy. As a child, she and her family members would gather frequently to work on needlework projects.

“(We) all used to sit in a circle and everybody had a different project,” D’Angona said, “and that’s how I learned.”

D’Angona has continued the tradition of teaching needlework to family members. When her granddaughter was six-years-old, D’Angona taught her to crochet.

“She made me the first little crocheted bracelet,” D’Angona said. “And I still have it.”

Now at twelve-years-old, her granddaughter has made her own little crocheted quilt, D’Angona said, and D’Angona would like to see more youngsters take up needlework and quilting.

In the future, she said, she would like to teach needlework to youths, to share the knowledge she has gained over the years and to instill an appreciation for handmade goods in the younger generations.

D’Angona would also like to create another memorial quilt, but this time as a memorial for all those lost on September 11, 2001.

“I would love to do that,” D’Angona said.

If she ever gets the opportunity to pursue the project, D’Angona would like to donate the quilt, which would have the names of those lost on it, for display at the September 11 Memorial in New York.

“I would like to donate it to them so that they’d see that people will always remember them. These people are not forgotten,” she said. “They are still in our hearts. No matter what, they are still with us, and they are going to stay with us.”

The quilt memorializing Nicholas P. Chiofalo is planned for display through the month of August at the Jonesborough Senior Center, which is located at 307 E Main St. You can contact the Center at 423-753-4781.

Kimber Halliburton considers future, families of ‘Washington Way’


Staff Writer

It’s not everyday that Kimber Halliburton, the Washington County director of schools, drives by the future Boones Creek School site on Boones Creek Road. But when she does, she’s overwhelmed with a feeling of opportunity and a new era coming to Tennessee’s first and oldest county.

Kimber Halliburton, the Washington County Director of Schools, attends this year’s Teacher of the Year Banquet.

“If I’m a busy, working parent and I’m driving by that new school site to go to another school to get to work, I’m going to be questioning, ‘Hey, can I go there? Can I send my children there?’ I think what a new school means to the community is a fresh start,” Halliburton said, thinking of the school that will set on the ridge of the old Williams Farm in a few years. “It doesn’t mean that things aren’t going well; it’s just an opportunity to become even better. As Commissioner Matherly said, this isn’t the finishing line, this is the starting line of the Washington Way. I find that very exciting to be a community leader and to be a part of cultivating the culture of that new school. What an opportunity.”

As much time as the director spends thinking of groundbreakings and future sites of the Boones Creek and Jonesborough K-8 schools, she spends even more time working on what is going on inside the 12 schools throughout Washington County. And when asked what makes the county a desired destination for students and families, the internal workings were her first replies.

Halliburton said the school system just completed a year with Rutherford Learning Group, Inc and their professional development training. That’s something she sees as a major draw for parents.

“The reason that’s appealing for parents is that it really helps the teachers beef up their talents in the classroom,” she said. “Anytime a teacher can build upon their talents, what we find is that rigor and academic challenge increases in our classrooms which is very exciting for parents because that’s what parents want.”

While upping the amount of professional development for many district employees, Halliburton also increased the amount of technology in schools.

After serving as the principal at a technology demonstration school in Metro Nashville, Halliburton headed to Washington County with technology as one of the most prominent tools in her academic toolbox. The director of schools said all eighth through 12th grade English Language Arts classrooms are equipped with laptops, all second through fourth grade classrooms have interactive panels and audio enhancements are set up in all kindergarten through fifth grade classrooms.

Now, Halliburton is ready to do more of the same.

“We’ve increased the use of technology and increased the technological tools that those teachers and students have access to,” Halliburton explained. “Eventually what I would like to see for Washington County is that we are a one-to-one device school district, meaning every student will have access to either a tablet or a laptop that they use in their academic coursework every day.”

The professional development and technological implementation Halliburton has plugged into the school district also goes hand-in-hand with another newly added element in Washington County; Halliburton recently got her dream of housing an academic coach in each school in the district and these academic coaches will also serve teachers struggling with lesson-plan hangups or even help with the new technology in the classroom.

“You know, we have placed new technology in our schools. So this is a way we can offer some additional training,” She said. “As a teacher, I might be reluctant to walk up to my principal and say, ‘Hey, I’m really struggling with this clear touch panel. I really don’t know what I’m doing.’ But I’m more likely to go up to a peer that’s serving as an instructional coach and say, ‘Hey I’m really struggling with this. Can you come in and spend some time with me on this?’ That is the role of a coach—to really spend time with teachers.”

Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton speaks to the future students of Boones Creek School.

In addition to adding new roles and devices to Washington County, Halliburton is also looking ahead at the future of Washington County—which will include an academic magnet school for top-performing students in the area. The school, which is scheduled for 2021, will be a lottery school that will find a home in the current Jonesborough Middle School building after the Jonesborough School is constructed.

“Being totally honest with you, the magnet school that will be opening would definitely appeal to me as a mom,” she said. “My husband and I, we were always very serious about the level of education our kids were receiving. This magnet high school will be lottery and students will have to meet a certain criteria to even make application. That would be very appealing to me as a parent because I would welcome the opportunity for my three children to be around other very serious-minded students who knew they were going to college, who wanted to qualify for some of the best universities, to be in a highly academic school where there is rigorous demand and challenge. I think the magnet school is going to appeal to that type of parent.”

All of this change doesn’t come without a solid reason, though. Halliburton considered the big picture when explaining the academic magnet among other parts of the Washington Way plan. For the director, it’s about attracting families while also showing what a county school district is capable of.

“I think that there is a perception sometimes about county schools verses other school districts that is not accurate. And I think the only way to change that perception is to start offering as many academic programs that will appeal to various parent types and then I think it will just snowball. I’ve already seen a culture shift since I’ve been here.”

She’s also hoping that culture shift will be one that parents will be excited about, especially when it comes to the new school being built on Boones Creek Road. As a former principal and parent of a newly opened school back in Nashville, Halliburton considers the new schools a real opportunity for all in Washington County.

“I would just encourage parents right now that are attending Boones Creek Elementary and Middle School to really help us out in the community and talk about what a great instructional program we have at both of those schools,” Halliburton said.

“The opportunity for me to be a pioneering parent at the new Boones Creek would be very appealing to the Halliburton family. It just truly would as a parent. I would be ecstatic.”

Boones Creek School construction officially begins as shovels hit the dirt



Staff Writer

“I think it’s befitting to say who this school is being built for,” Washington County Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said, surrounded by the crowd awaiting the groundbreaking for the new Boones Creek School site. 

“We’re certainly building this school for our staff. We’re certainly building this school for the community, but you know who we’re really building this school for? We’re building this school for these boys and girls that we serve in this community. And I want you to know that it’s an absolute blessing and honor for me to serve as your director of schools. You are our most treasured possessions.”

The Monday, July 17, groundbreaking ceremony for the new K-8 school included county commissioners, parents, school board members and future Boones Creek School students. While some came with hard hats and shovels in-hand, they all came ready to see a plan that Halliburton said received momentum under former director of schools Ron Dykes more than five years ago.

“Today, I think all of us here feel like we finally got there (in building a new school),” Washington County Commission Chairman Greg Matherly said. “But really today is not the finish line —today is the starting line.”

The new school is projected to accommodate 900 students in a one-level, 142,000 square-foot building that will set on the 56-acre site. The new Boones Creek School also serves as the first part of the Washington Way plan that includes a new Jonesborough K-8 school and a transformation to turn the current Jonesborough Middle School site into a renovated academic magnet school.

It’s this transformation that Halliburton is looking forward to seeing, starting with the site on Boones Creek Road.

“Our new state-of-the-art facility will create a new era in Washington County,” Halliburton said. “A new school can be transformative to a community. And I firmly believe this is the beginning of that transformation of our school district. This is the piece of the Washington Way. It’s the beginning piece that will make our school system even better.”

Boones Creek Elementary and Boones Creek Middle were first built in 1971 and 1939. Halliburton mentioned during her speech at the groundbreaking that the middle school that was completed in 1939 was funded thanks in part to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Since that time, the new Boones Creek School and this new “era” in the county didn’t come without it’s obstacles, however.

Washington County Board of Education Chairman Jack Leonard recalled the discussions regarding the site of the new school that sent the BOE back to the drawing board numerous times. After a 4-4 draw, a 5-4 vote against and finally a 5-4 vote in favor of the Williams property as the new home of the Boones Creek School, Leonard spoke on the board’s ability to back the project.

“I’d also like to thank the school board. As everyone is aware, it took many votes for us to come to a decision. Some of us were not for this piece of property — and I was one of them,” Leonard said. “Once it was approved, I said, “let’s move forward and let’s get this completed” because in a democracy, majority rules. I backed the decision that had been taken. I am now glad that I did because I believe that we are moving forward and we are going to help our community. We’re going to help Washington County. And we’re going to help our children.”

It’s those children, from the site’s future first class of kindergarteners to the K-8’s middle-school age students, who all had a part in the groundbreaking. But before Dykes, Halliburton and each school board member also grabbed their shovels, Leonard had one final statement about the unity he believes a project such as Boones Creek School offers the county.

“The school board is made up of very many members. We’re diverse, we come from different parts of the county, but there’s one thing that holds us all together. We’re Washington ountians,” Leonard said. “And we work together as Washington Countians to make Washington County number one.

“My goal is to when I travel around the state they’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ve heard of that school system. I heard of that brand new school you built. I hear about those wonderful things you are doing.’

“And I feel like that’s exactly what’s going to happen with Washington County Schools.”

Group bridges gap for veterans


Staff Writer

If you see three men out and about in Washington County wearing white, short-sleeve button-ups, with dark blue, old-school side caps sporting a collection of colorful pins, you’ve stumbled upon the members of the Disabled American Veterans group — and they hope you recognize them.

“Anytime we’re out, we’re dressed,” DAV member Keith Jones said. “A lot of veterans groups, they go out and you don’t know if you’re really dealing with a veterans group or some individual that’s trying to hoodoo you. We’re not out there to hoodoo the public; we’re here to take care of our veterans.”

These members, who belong to the DAV’s ninth chapter in Tennessee, have hit the streets of Jonesborough and many other areas of the county in hopes of spreading the word about the local chapter of the DAV and to do some good while they’re at it. From crafts for both local members and service men and women currently in combat to the services they offer to veterans’ families at the time of their passing, Washington County’s local DAV group is ready to help disabled veterans and any other veteran who needs assistance.

“A lot of veterans don’t want to go to the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and see a VA service officer because they’ve got it in their mind, ‘that guy works for the VA and their trying to keep me from getting my benefits,’” Jones explained. “So we found that it works better if we’re not connected with the VA, even though the paperwork goes through the same place. It’s just that mindset.”

Jones said there have also been times when members of the DAV have been approached by veterans who need assistance filing claims and even receiving their compensation.

“We had a guy that someone told him he couldn’t get compensation for his service connection because the government will take his firearms away from him. Well, the government won’t take his firearms away from him just because he’s service connected,” Jones explained. “And he, for years, wouldn’t go file a claim because he wanted his firearms. We got him in touch and he wound up getting $1,500 a month every single month for the rest of his life that he could have had 20 years ago if somebody was there to help him. It’s those kind of things that we do.”

Group member Keith Jones’ cap is decorated with pins from his time as an Army medic in Vietnam along with the work he’s done with the Disabled American Veterans.

The DAV also has a food pantry in their new building, at 407 E Market Street, Johnson City, Tennessee, for veterans who are in need of canned goods. They provide veterans with any wheelchairs, power chairs or any other similar medical equipment as well. Jones said the DAV also assists disabled veterans with financial assistance at times once they’ve been properly screened. The volunteer group operates on donations, an annual forget-me-not flower sale and their skeet shoot fundraiser.

“For years people didn’t know what DAV meant,” Commander of the DAV Chapter Ken Sheppard said, “Well now we’re back into the community again and people are starting to understand what we’re doing and who we are. That’s the main thing, to let them know what we stand for.”

The group most recently made an appearance in the Jonesborough Days Parade and was a part of Johnson City’s Pepsi Independence Day Fireworks Celebration. The local group even added a 13-passenger van to their organization that has helped them to become more mobile. But the van has offered another service to veterans as well.

“There are three or four trips we made out to Gray to people that would have died over the weekend if we weren’t able to go out and get them and take them to the emergency room,” Jones said. “This is the first year we’ve ever had a van and it’s really coming into play.”

The group has made an impact on numerous lives throughout the years; Sheppard told the Herald & Tribune about a veteran who always wanted to accompany the group on their trip to the war memorials in Washington D.C. Due to sickness, he wasn’t able to go. After he passed away, the group made a trip in his honor and laid a wreath at the Korean War Memorial for him.

Meanwhile, DAV member James Lamprecht also told the story of a veteran whose dying wish was to have an honor guard at his memorial. Upon just an hour’s notice, DAV members were standing at attention to give the American veteran his honorary service.

“We just do what we can, that’s all,” Jones said.

Talking to these veterans is also a big part of Jones, Lamprecht and Sheppard’s “mission”.

“Especially Vietnam veterans (have a lot of built up memories of war). Vietnam veterans don’t like to talk to anybody but Vietnam veterans,” Jones, who was in the ninth infantry division in the Napalm Delta, Vietnam, said. “They wont talk. They won’t come out. They won’t come out to their families and they won’t come out a lot of time to their friends because they went through a lot of stuff that they don’t want their family to even know about. They think they’re protecting their family from what they went through. And most veterans are that way. But they’ll talk to a veteran or they’ll talk to a good looking woman, but they won’t talk to just anybody ya know.”

For these DAV members, primarily, they serve as a bridge between the help America’s service men and women need and someone who understands what it truly means to be a veteran.

“We’re them. We’re there with them. They’ll unload to us. I’ve had guys tell me stuff they wouldn’t tell anybody else. And I’ve probably told him some stuff I probably wouldn’t tell my wife,” Jones said, pointing in Lamprecht’s direction. “Not that I did anything wrong—just things that I’ve seen.”

The members have shown the community that they’re here to help and they’ve also shown one another the same thing; Sheppard once spent 12 hours at the hospital waiting for a veteran to get out of surgery.

And Jones was there for 11 days before Lamprecht’s wife passed.

“We’re brothers,” Jones said.

“And we’re proud of our chapter,” Sheppard added.

Merchant opens up travels to her curious customers

Janet Browning has traveled the world visiting with various tribes. She’s now inviting others to come along on the adventure.


If you have walked down Main Street, you’ve surely noticed the vibrant shop called Hands Around the World — where a cultural experience and a story tags along with each item sold.

Baskets woven by the Yekuana Tribe from Venezuela, hand carved turquoise placed in sterling silver rings from Peru and handmade nativity scenes from all areas of the world fill the store. Each item is created from artists in small villages from various regions of the world, each telling the story of that culture.

Janet Browning, owner of Hands Around the World, is a true traveler. Her story began in an Indian village deep in the Amazon where she met an artist selling his work. “It was a traditional sculpture, the one of a snake that is being caught by a bird.” Browning said. “The artist had a very detailed piece of art, almost to the grotesque point, with blood dripping down the fingernails of the bird and all that kind of stuff. But it was a wonderful work of art and I talked to him about it and ooed and awed.”

“This was a motif that a lot of people did so I found one that was simpler and more modern and I bought it. I saw his face when he saw me with the other one and it was obvious he was devastated. He just had it in his mind that I was going to come back and buy that from him. And it made me think how important that sell would have been to him.” Browning continued. “It made me think about how they probably sit there all day and sell little to nothing, ya know? So, I said to my daughter, “Someday, I would like to come back here and buy everything that someone’s made. I want to make a difference for that one person.” About six months later that is exactly what Browning did.

Janet Browning is also the woman behind the Hands Around the World shop located in downtown Jonesborough.

Browning bought a great big hippie van and began traveling all across the southeast — and broke down all across the southeast.

She was living her dream by selling items bought while traveling to numerous exotic locations.

Continuing this tradition, Browning then opened Hands Around the World in 2001. Now, she is expanding Hands Around the World by offering travel experiences to the public.

Using her expertise, Browning plans the entire trip for you but also allows flexibility. It will give the opportunity to spend a day with a local family, see how they live and what their life is like.

“You can go to these islands and it is real touristy.” Browning said. “They make boats out of reeds that you can ride on and such. But I told one of my guides I wanted to go to an Island where it wasn’t like that. I just want a family that lives a little away and see how they fish, gather reeds, make things with the reeds, and all about how they live. We came back with a real knowledge of those people.” The trips are designed to give a true taste of that culture- delve into it and truly experience it.

“Typically, you’re the tourist and there’s the people —I want to mesh those. My business lets me do that,” Browning said. “The most rewarding part is going back and visiting the same people.”

Browning believes travel changes people for the better because they’re not just seeing the American point of view. She strives to honor cultures that are disappearing and to provide people with an outlook on tradition and unique ways of life.

Just a few of the destinations Browning has on the list for the future will be Nepal and Tibet in August, Spain, Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Panama, New Zealand, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and even perhaps an African Safari.

On top of it all, Browning is an accomplished artist. You can stop in Hands Around the World on Main Street and see some of her work or sign up for her class charcoal portrait class at the McKinney center for the fall.

If you would like more information on taking a trip call Janet at 423-737-1496, email her at, or stop by our shop, Hands Around the World at 111 East Main St., Jonesborough.

Or be a part of Janet’s story by taking one of her Charcoal Portraits From Photography Class or joining in on one of the Beading workshops at the McKinney Center. For more information contact Theresa Hammons at or call 423-753-0562.

Annual Jonesborough Days Festival 2017 Photos

Local farmer plows up memories of simpler time

It was about 50 years ago that Paul Armentrout would take his father’s old Farmall tractor, cutting through pastures and down a quiet country road to his neighbor and lifelong friend Robert Shanks’ house.

Back in those days, Armentrout would sit on a fence post watching local farmers cut hay with the most eye-catching tractors Armentrout had ever seen. But now on most blistering hot day summer days, Armentrout can 

still be found, sitting on a tractor while his old friend, Shanks, chats with anyone who stops by—including a Herald & Tribune reporter—about their love for tractors and memories of yesteryear in East Tennessee.

“When I was a little boy, (Shanks’) dad and another fella farmed on the farm that joined us. My brother and I would sit on a fence post and watch them work with those old tractors. Well, they were new tractors then,” Armentrout said, laughing at the memory. “In fact, Robert and I used to take tractors down to each other’s houses and play on Sunday afternoons.”

Now just down the road from where those memories took place, Armentrout is living that young farm boy’s dream, cutting hay on a 1946 Farmall M tractor from his childhood that he’s now putting to good use.

“I love to operate them and see them work—that’s what they were designed for,” Armentrout said. “I just like to hear them run. Growing up on a small farm, we just had a small tractor. I still have the only tractor my dad ever owned which was a little Farmall 100,” Armentrout said. “I don’t know, just being a farm boy (sparked an interest in tractors). Not much else to do. That was our entertainment I guess.”

In addition to Armentrout’s old family tractor, he owns a Farmall M and a 1948 Farmall H. A few years ago, the Washington County native found the two antique tractors on a whim—and for a reasonable price as the man selling the tractors was prepared to junk the antique farm equipment.

“By driving them back in the early ‘60s, you had a fond memory of that particular tractor,” Armentrout explained. “In fact, I was on my way to South Carolina to look at a Farmall 300. My daughter lived in North Carolina at the time and we had stopped in to see her on the way and my brother called me about the advertisement in the farm bureau paper. I didn’t even go on to look at the 300 because I really wanted the M model and a H model even more so and was probably going to get the both of them for less than what I would have paid for the 300.”

Though he started as a young boy dreaming of driving the farm equipment of his youth, Armentrout later joined the Air Force as a airframe and repair technician during the Vietnam War. Later he went on to work as a computer and program analyst, but eventually, he was led back to his roots of farming on the land he grew up on.

“It’s just basically a hobby, something you really enjoy and you missed it working on computers,” he said. “They’re very different. Working with computers, you come home and you have a mental fatigue. And where you work on the farm, you usually come home with a physical fatigue. A good night’s sleep with cure that, but a lot of the mental stuff you carry to bed with you. You’re laid up for hours trying to figure out how to solve this problem. It’s a different type of way of thinking about things when you try to relax.”

Now he’s ready to relax and work as a “hobby farmer” in the one place he always wanted to come back to, East Tennessee.

“I’ve been blessed. I’ve had the privilege to see every state in the union including, Alaska and Hawaii, I’ve been to Europe three times and I’ve been to South America once and there’s no place like East Tennessee,” Armentrout said. “I’ve been on three different foreign mission trips and the first one I went on was in Venezuela. I was actually in homes that you could go to the dump and get the material to build everything that they had in their house. That’s how poor those people were—but the most loving people I’d ever met in my life. They took little figurines off of the walls of their house to give to me as a going away present. You hated to take them but you didn’t want to refuse them because you knew it would hurt their feelings.

“We’ve been so blessed in this country but it has changed so much in the last few years in the negative way that it’s scary for raising children and grandchildren today.”

In that hay field on Bob Shanks Road, Shanks shared a memory of standing in that very same field to see a red double-wing airplane zip through the field writing “Coca-Cola” in the clouds like you see on the bottles today. For Armentrout, that same road has seen many changes—from generation to generation.

“I can remember my dad talking about running to see the first car that came up the road. So that’s quite a bit of change isn’t it?” Armentrout said, laughing. “Between two generations, you go from seeing an automobile to putting the man on the moon.”

Today with all the world’s changes, above all else, Armentrout fondly remembers the memories he with his family in a simpler day in age that seems to have been swept away by time.

“You sit down as a family and you ate your meals together,” Armentrout recalled. “Now we’re just hitting and missing and trying to grab something to eat and families aren’t together like they were going up on the farm. Those are things that I really cherish. My mother and dad have been dead for 17 years and it’s just constantly, every week I’m having memories of the wonderful things we did together. At the time you didn’t appreciate it that much. But now you look back on it and oh, it was a wonderful way of life.”

But his love for the country life, farming and his East Tennessee home doesn’t end with Armentrout—now he had a grandson who is embarking on similar farm adventures—with his grandfather’s same love for tractors in tow.

“My grandson’s been out all morning with me on the old H tractor just loving it and enjoying it. He loves tractors I believe more than I did,” Armentrout said. “It brings back memories.”

Boone Street food store moves toward expansion


H&T Correspondent

The Boone Street Market expansion project is moving ahead after earning the approval of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen on June 12. The board granted approval after Jonesborough Locally Grown, the non-profit that manages Boone Street Market, presented board members with the previously requested architectural renderings of the expansion, which were produced by C.W. Parker of Ken Ross Architects.

At the time of approval, there were questions about whether buried fuel tanks, left over from the building’s days as a gas station, would interfere with construction plans, but those questions have been to put to rest, according to Town Administrator Bob Browning.

“We ended up communicating with TDEC (Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation),” Browning said.

TDEC confirmed that the tanks, which were officially closed out long ago, are not in the way of proposed construction and won’t interfere with the project as it goes forward, he said.

“The next step will be getting a final cost,” Dana York, Chairman of the Board of Jonesborough Locally Grown, said.

They already have an estimate from the architect, she said, but now they need to get estimates from builders.

“I’m waiting on a couple of construction estimates to come back,” Karen Childress, Executive Director of Jonesborough Locally Grown, said. “Then we’ll know what we really need to shoot for. We know we don’t have all the money yet, but we just don’t know how much more we need to raise.”

The project has already received a $50,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture and about $40,000 in individual contributions.

The individual contributions thus far have come from donors who helped with the initial renovation of the Boone Street Market building.

“I’m hoping it’s going to come in that we have about $30,000 more to raise,” Childress said.

At that point, she said, fundraising can start in earnest.

The expansion will add 600 square feet to the display area of Boone Street Market, which will allow the market to accommodate more produce from local farmers, some of whom have been turned away in the past due to insufficient space for their products.

“We don’t have enough space right now for all the farmers who want to sell at Boone Street Market,” York said. “It limits the sales we can make.”

This expansion remedies that, Childress said.

“This doubles the size of our display area – from 600 square feet to 1200,” she said.

The expansion also adds 250 square feet of covered patio, and an approximately 200 square foot office/workspace.

“With the expansion, we hope to accommodate more farmers and offer the community more variety, more quantity, and more regular stock,” Childress added. “If more people are coming in consistently and we grow our customer base, we will be able to offer more.”

Childress said the expansion will also allow for more community events at the market due to the increase in space and seating.

“It will allow us to be more of a community gathering space,” she said. “The community has been very supportive of this organization and what we’re trying to do. We have really loyal customers. We have volunteers coming in all the time. I think that makes all difference. It makes us want to grow and expand.”

The key hurdles, Childress said, were getting permission from the town and from the Historic Zoning Commission, and completing the design idea. All of that has been accomplished.

“Now it’s just getting the money, getting the builder, and jumping off the diving board.”

To donate to the Boone Street Market expansion project, visit or donate in person at Boone Street Market, located at 101 Boone St. The market is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Gregor retires after nine years


H&T Correspondent

They say dog is man’s best friend, but K-9 Gregor has been more than just a friend to handler Sgt. Mike McPeak. He was also his K-9 partner at the Jonesborough Police Department for eight years, a partnership that ended on May 25 when K-9 Gregor was retired due to health reasons.

“It’s heartbreaking,” McPeak said, watching Gregor explore the lawn of the Jonesborough Police Department. The dog’s back legs wobbled as he walked, but with eyes and ears alert, he forged energetically along, sniffing and searching the ground. “What’s so disheartening about it is he’s so ready to work. He’s so ready to play. He wants to go, go, go.”

Gregor suffers from degenerative myelopathy, a progressive disease in dogs that affects the spinal cord, causing a loss in coordination and weakness in the hind limbs.

“I started noticing a little bit of a change back in December,” McPeak said. “When I was off-duty I would always walk him in the mornings and evenings. One of the trails we walked on, part of it was paved. I noticed (a scraping noise) every six or seven steps. It was his rear right leg.”

As the disease progressed, Gregor had trouble carrying out his duties with the police department, and after several trips to veterinarians and attempted treatments, McPeak said, it became clear that Gregor would not be able to continue in his role as K-9. In fact, it became clear that the 10-year-old Czech Shephard would need extra care as his condition worsened.

But that knowledge didn’t keep McPeak, who has been with the Jonesborough Police Department for 14 years, from adopting Gregor after his retirement from K-9 police work. McPeak gladly took on Gregor’s care.

“He’s very much a part of my family. I haven’t been away from him…” McPeak paused. “It’s been less than a day for over eight years.”

The pair have spent countless hours training and working together and have a strong bond, McPeak said.

“We are required as K-9 handlers to get no less than 16 hours of training per month, and I’ve always gotten anywhere from 25 to 35 hours with (Gregor.) And that’s on-duty. I do a lot off-duty, too.”

Gregor has been a K-9 officer for nine years and has been certified in Narcotics, Tracking and Article and Building Search. K-9s must be certified annually.

Gregor has also had a highly successful career.

“He’s had close to 150 drug-related arrests,” McPeak said.

He’s been utilized not only by the Jonesborough Police Department, but by other agencies and departments as well, including the Washington County Sheriff’s Office, the VA, and the FBI.

In addition to his law enforcement work, Gregor has spent a lot of time working with the public, including visits to schools, scout groups, church groups, and participation in festivals and events.

“There’s probably been over a thousand hands on him,” McPeak said. “I’ve done probably close to 100 demos with him.”

He’s great with children, McPeak added.

“I have a 3-year-old and he calls him ‘big brother’,” he said. “He sleeps under my child’s bed. (Gregor) is as friendly as can be.”

Since the disease Gregor suffers from is degenerative, his condition is expected to deteriorate over time.

“It just gradually gets worse,” McPeak said. However, McPeak and his family plan to give Gregor the best retirement possible.

“He’ll get more special treats now,” McPeak said. “Now I take him basically everywhere I go when I’m off work. My wife’s family has a farm and we take him there and let him just play and be a dog.”

McPeak said Gregor has free run of the house, gets the best food and drink, and will be vacationing with the family soon.

“We’re going to try to go to the beach in the next month or so and we’ll definitely be taking him with us.”

Gregor’s health issues came as a surprise, McPeak said, but the shepherd’s life after the police force will be more laid-back, and the former K-9 officer will spend his retirement with his partner, handler, and friend of eight years — and that is what’s important.

“I wouldn’t have it any other way,” McPeak said.

Gregor’s retirement leaves the Jonesborough Police Department with only one K-9 officer, and due to budget issues, McPeak said, it is currently unclear whether Gregor will be replaced. He hopes, however, to work with another K-9 in the future.

Quilters thread old with new

Quilters Bette Mullersman (left) and Anita Smythe (right) look over the guild’s work on the quilt.


Staff Writer

It took over 200 hours to quilt, more than 15 sets of hands to do everything from designing to ironing, and four people to hold up the colossal quilt that seemed to swamp the members of the Old Town Quilter’s Guild in guild member Anita Smythe’s living room for the Herald & Tribune photo-op.

The guild made the quilt as part of the group’s annual quilting challenge and the proceeds from the quilt, which will be on display and up for sale at the Visitor’s Center during the National Storytelling Festival in Jonesborough, will benefit the Jonesborough Area Ministerial Association.

“We thought tying into that (storytelling) would really help to promote Jonesborough,to create awareness for quilting and that it isn’t just traditional,” Smythe said. “I think that’s another thing. You’re displaying something that has a traditional pattern but certainly is not traditional in the execution of it.”

Though the practice of quilting has been around since about 3400 B.C. and in the United States since the settlement of the New World, many associate quilting with the Appalachian region and the old-time quilters who pass down their hand-sewn patchwork from generation to generation. But now, the Old Town Quilters Guild is ready to take that traditional method and add a slightly modern twist.

“Many people think of quilts as very traditional in appearance,” guild member and project committee co-chair Bette Mullersman said. “They know about their grandmother’s flower garden quilt or their grandmother’s wedding ring quilt, but they don’t often see more contemporary fabrics used in traditional patterns.”

Bette Mullersman explains the pattern and fabrics used on the quilt.

In fact, the quilt dons a “hunter’s star” pattern which inspired the quilt’s name, “Stars Over Jonesborough”. It’s also a boutique quilt, which means it’s the same pattern on the front and the back so there is no “wrong” side.

Though the quilt offers a traditional pattern and technique, Smythe chose less traditional, fall-colored hues in honor of the town’s festival taking place in October. The style of quilt isn’t the only part of the project that rides the line between modern and traditional, however; Smythe said one of her favorite parts of the guild is the range in the group’s skill levels.

“It’s very inspirational to get together with people from various levels because we have everyone from beginners to advanced, prize-winning quilters,” Smythe explained. “I started when I was a kid making doll clothes. Then I was making people clothes for myself and then for my kids. But then I got to the point where I wasn’t happy with what I was making. Because I still wanted to sew, so quilting was the next step. Plus, just the history behind it really intrigues me and the colors basically. I love the colors.”

Meanwhile, Mullersman said it’s the freedom she finds in the skill-level and quilting style variance that keeps her coming back and wanting to share the word about the group.

“I think that’s the benefit of being in a guild is that you have people who are doing all kinds of things,” Mullersman said. “And if you want to try it, everybody’s helpful and willing to teach you and stand by you and share new techniques and even old techniques that still work. For me, it’s refreshing and inspirational like Anita said. I feel accepted even though I do different things. My quilts are really not like this. They scream colors.

“It really is a combination of a lot of people’s generosity.”

Guild member (and helpful neighbor who came right over to Smythe’s house after a phone call saying Smythe needed help holding the quilt up for a photo) Carolyn Walsh is another quilter who has witnessed the generosity of the group. Walsh said knowing how to thread a machine was  the extent of her quilting knowledge when she joined the group, but now, quilting lets her express her personality.

“I’m a rule follower. I always wanted to be a rebel but I never was,” Walsh said. “And with quilting, you have to follow those rules. If it says stay in that quarter-inch line, you stay in that quarter-inch line. And I can do that. But when it works out, it’s like, “Ah, okay! I can do this.”

Now that the quilt is complete, the project seems to have worked out for the guild, but for some guild members, the project isn’t complete until someone finally buys the star-laden quilt that will be up for sale in October.

“The goal isn’t just to finish it. The goal is to sell it,” Smythe said. ”It’s not finished yet until it’s actually sold. That’s part of the process.”

Though the quilt could go to someone in town or a visitor from anywhere in the world, the purchaser will always have a reminder of where the sewn blanket was made.

“It’s so perfect. If someone does come in for storytelling, or maybe it’s someone from Jonesborough, on the back of the quilt it has a picture of the courthouse and it says who made it and that it’s from Jonesborough,” Walsh said. “So they’ll always have a reference of a part of Jonesborough in their house. So it’s very cool.”

The guild—which is similar to their quilt in that all their pieces and personalities and modern-meets-traditional style all came together to form one group and quilt—are now ready for that final step of displaying the hand-crafted blanket. And as with most specially made items, the attachment and appreciation is something the members have certainly considered.

“My hope is for someone just to appreciate it. People are like, ‘Oh that’s a nice blanket. Okay, I’ll take it.’ But it’s different. If the person can’t appreciate it, I don’t want their money. If they can’t look at it and say, ‘Oh look how perfect that line is all the way across’—mine probably wouldn’t be yet” Walsh said, laughing, “but this one is. This one is perfect. As long as they appreciate it and realize that took a lot of time.”

“Well you know, it’s hard (selling it),” Mullersman said. “It’s interesting, I’m ready to sell it because I know it’s going for a really great cause. I did it for that reason. It’s interesting how you do get attached. But I think because it’s been a group effort to meet specific goals, it’s easier. It’s much easier because it’s a combination of all of our work.”

“The person who purchases the quilt, I think there’s going to be several motivations. Knowing that the money is going to be used for the food pantry, a local charity, I think stimulates people to let go of their money,” Mullersman said. “And to know that they’re contributing to a Jonesborough charity and then they’re taking home something that they’re going to use and enjoy. That’s a good feeling all around.”

The quilt will be on display and for sale throughout the festival on October 6-8 in Jonesborough.

Local car show offers easy-going charm

Marsha and Allen Torbett’s ’35 Plymouth is pretty easy to spot in the Hardee’s parking lot.


H&T Correspondent

If you’ve driven past the Jonesborough Hardee’s lately, you may have noticed that the parking lot has taken on a retro vibe, and it will do so every Friday evening for the rest of the summer. The Hardee’s, located at 395 E Jackson Boulevard, is hosting a weekly cruise-in event on Fridays from 5 to 9 p.m., weather permitting, until September 29.

The cruise-in features a classic car show, meal deals, and door prizes.

The cruise-in is organized by Bill Rider, a trustee for the New Life Fellowship Community Church, and the funds raised through the summer event will go toward the construction of a new church.

The car show is free for participants and visitors, but donations to the church are appreciated. Rider also encourages the purchase of tickets for door prizes.

“This is the only cruise-in you’ll go to that you’ll get a door prize,” Rider said. “I sell 50/50 tickets. The winner gets half the money and the other half goes into the church building fund.”

There are usually between 20 and 30 classic cars at the cruise-in, which is open to motorcycles and other vehicles as well. Rider himself brings a ’52 Ford pickup occasionally.

Norm Dion’s ’67 Mustang sets watch at the Cruise-in.

People don’t realize it, he said, but there are a lot of classic cars in Jonesborough. And many classic cars come with interesting stories.

Bill Harvey brought his ‘homemade’ classic to last week’s event. The car is nicknamed “Old Woody.”

“It used to be a station wagon,” Harvey said, “and a tree fell on the back of it.”

The rear end of the unique vehicle is now constructed out of shiny, well-cared for wood.

“It was rebuilt by a cabinet maker,” Harvey said. “It took two years. It’s all oak.”

Harvey also owns a ’67 Fairlane Convertible and a ’71 Mercury, and according to Rider, he’s one of the regulars at the event.

Newbies show up often, too, Rider said. Most of them have heard about the cruise-in through word-of-mouth.

The atmosphere of the car show isn’t competitive. Instead, it’s relaxed and friendly. Most of them have heard about the cruise-in through word-of-mouth.

Most car shows charge fees and have restrictions on what cars can enter, Rider said. This show isn’t like that.

“This is an open car show. I don’t care what you bring in here as long as you behave yourself,” he said.

And while you enjoy the cars, you can eat too. A table at the back of the parking lot holds door prizes along with a stand advertising the car show food deals: Two chili dogs for $3.33, $5 for a big bag lunch with a free apple pie, $1.79 onion rings, and $4.99 for a classic double cheeseburger combo.

Later in the summer, ice cream and strawberry lemonade will be added to the list, Rider said.

As far as when the church will have the money to build, Rider is hoping to have the funds in place by next year. The cruise-in, which has been going on during the summer months for four years now, has already successfully helped the church secure land to build on.

“We paid for the land,” Rider said. “Now we’re paying for the church.”

According to Rider, the cost for building a church ranges between $300,000 and $600,000, depending on what features the church has.

“But this is just one fundraiser we’ve got going,” he said. “There are others.”

The New Life Fellowship Community Church will be having a separate cruise-in fundraiser on Saturday, June 17th from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. (rain date June 24).

“We are trying to get the word out about it,” Rider said.

The fundraiser will be free and open to the public, and guests can enjoy an afternoon of corn hole, softball, music, and classic cars. Food will be available for purchase and the event will take place on church property on Leesburg Road, across from Leesburg Estates. Signs will be up pointing the way.

Summer activities provide something for everyone


Associate Editor

With ten parks consisting of approximately 150 acres and numerous walking trails, the Town of Jonesborough operates a Parks & Recreation Department with an operating budget of $842,000.

Rachel Conger, the Department’s Director, said the position has “a lot of diversity. It makes the job enjoyable.”

While Conger who has been with the Town for 10 years said she does not micro-manage, she does “love to be involved in everything. Every week I have a schedule. I need to get it down on paper in my own handwriting. It keeps me organized.”

In addition to the parks, trails and youth sport programs, the town offers a variety of indoor activities at the Jonesborough Historic Visitors Center, the McKinney Center, the Senior Center and the Jonesborough Repertory Theater. The Heritage Alliance assists the town with museums at the Chester Inn and Visitors Center while maintaining the Oak Hill School art, radio programs, music and theater along with educational programs for both the young and senior citizens are offered on a regular basis. The Recreation Department also helps with the staging and performance of a variety of special events including Jonesborough Days, Music on the Square, Easter, Halloween Haunts and Christmas.

Town Administrator Bob Browning said he knows the secret to the town’s present-day success in providing recreational opportunities that offer something for everyone. “We have been very fortunate to have good people,”

Browning, who arrived in town during the 1970s, said. “We have to work at it and figure out creative ways to have programs.”

A key component of the town’s success is a dependence upon volunteer groups who assist in community events and offer advice in assessing the community’s needs. “Community input is important,” Browning said. “You need outside advice to keep things going, for example, soccer and Little League programs,” he said. There is constant interaction between Town Officials and members of Jonesborough’s various advisory boards.

“The boards help with what can be done,” Browning added. “We make fewer mistakes with their help. If you are working daily, it’s hard to see how you are doing.”

The Recreation Department Advisory Board has the following members: Jack Van Zandt, Chairman; Jimmy Rhein, Marilyn Buchanan, Mark Merriman, Dr. Jason Davis, Casey Marler, Affiliate member, Little League; Hobart Powell, Affiliate Member; David Sell, Alderman; Katelyn Yarbrough, Mayor Designee; Conger, Parks and Recreation Director, and Matt Townsend, Wetlands Water Park Director.

Browning has an encyclopedic memory concerning the history of leisure activities in Jonesborough. In the 1970s Jane May started funding activities through the Jonesborough Community Chest. An early project, the restoration of the Christopher Taylor Cabin, was not a town project but it started an action movement that began to restore and revitalize what became the historic district.

“Little League baseball was going on,” he said. The local “Field of Dreams” was Duncan’s Meadow where there was no lighting on the fields. The Old Town Hall on Main Street was very small and had a little parking area.

When the decision to fund the building of a new town hall, now named for Browning, and a post office, the area of Duncan’s Meadow was selected. The construction of the two facilities would eliminate the ball fields.

Town officials began looking for land. Mayor Jimmy Neil Smith wanted to have a recreation staff. Browning was in charge of Community Development at the time. Kathy Frazer with money from the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) started the Recreation Program. Later, she became the Recreation Director in Kingsport.

With the help of Gerald Sparks and Steve Cradic, the town found 110 acres of land on which to build two ball fields. The rock in the area, now known as Persimmon Ridge Park, was blasted and resulted in room for a third field.

In 1979, Jonesborough submitted a grant application for a swimming pool on the property. It was turned down. However, in the 1990s, Mayor Kevin McKinney submitted the same general application and it was approved as the no. 1 project in the state.

“I had young children,” Browning said. “Our family went to a Disney theme park. They had water programs that were generating income. Nashville had a wave pool. When we did a recreation survey, the No. 1 request was for a pool. The only other pool in the area was in Johnson City.

“We felt our water park would have a good customer base,” the Town Administrator said. After some study, “An innovative design was draw up. We wanted enough income from our park to hopefully pay for itself.”

The result was a water park, at the time the only one in the state run by a municipality. “We did get a lot of respect for the project.” Browning said. “We felt the water park would promote tourism. This meant the town wanted to create better recreational facilities. We also knew that the project would benefit Washington County.”

Besides the ball fields at Persimmon Ridge Park, the Christopher Taylor Park was the only other park facility in town. The Town’s Board of Mayor & Aldermen wanted to create neighborhood parks. Mill Spring Park would become the first neighborhood facility.

Today, the Town has 10 parks: 1. Persimmon Ridge Park — 130 acres including baseball fields, the Lost State Scenic Walkway, a basketball court and an 18-hole disk golf course;

2. Wetlands Park – inside Persimmon Ridge – with the town’s swimming pool;

3. Golden Oak Park – the community’s newest park on north side of town between two neighborhoods with a playground for children ages 2 to 12 years;

4. Barkley Creek Park — The Lost State of Franklin Walkway runs from the park off the intersection of West Main Street and Persimmon Ridge Road around the fishing pond to the Washington County Courthouse on Main Street;

5. Depot Street Park – with bathrooms, volleyball and basketball facilities;

6. W. C. Rowe Park — the Chuckey Depot serves as a focal point for a linear park beside the creekway;

7. Mill Spring Park – near downtown that features a stream and a gazebo which is often used for weddings and other events throughout the year. The park also contains the Slemons House and restrooms;

8. Jimmy Neil Smith Park– located directly behind the International Storytelling Center it has a winding stone stairway from Main Street that leads up to the park with seasonal gardens and walking paths;

9. Stage Road Park – located about a mile from downtown, this park is over three acres of landscaped playgrounds, gardens and walking trails. The park features a playground for children ages 2 to 5 years. The site is popular for birthday parties and special events that can accommodate up to 50 people.

10. Veterans Park next to the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center with the names of those who have served their country.

Future plans call for a Community Park behind the Senior Center. The park has not yet been built or named. The site is located where the Town of Jonesborough’s current garage and maintenance facility is located. Grading work on parking for the park has already begun. The town has a $500,000 local park and recreation grant from the State of Tennessee to develop the three and a half acres. It requires a 50/50 match.

“We can match the grant with labor and equipment and also use the value of the land,” Director Conger said.

Jonesborough has been given two years to use the grant beginning in August, 2017. A concept plan designed with the assistance of a planning group from Virginia Tech has already been developed.

“We are definitely way ahead of the curve on park development,” Conger emphasized. She looks forward to the remodeling of the Jackson Theater and the opening of the Chuckey Deport. The depot opening is scheduled for June 28, immediately prior to the town’s Jonesborough Days celebration.

More trails, including one that could reach as far as Johnson City, sidewalks, walkways, a parks brochure  and camping are included in a list of future projects.

“I’m really excited to see our arts program expand,” Conger said. “The McKinney Center is working on storytelling programs. We also need room for separate facilities for soccer in order to have the sport played in the spring summer and fall.” Functions at The Arboretum, currently staffed by volunteers, are being shifted to the Parks and Recreation Department.

In summary, Browning stated, “The Recreation Department has an unbelievable list of projects and programs still on the list.”

Conger said, “Jonesborough is great. It is incredible. Jonesborough is such a good steward of tax dollars.”

Those recreational dollars have given the community a quality of life that draws residents and tourists alike to the state’s oldest and many would say Tennessee’s Most Livable Small Town.

Town gets ready to reveal its secrets

Marilyn Buchanan (left) and Nansee Williams (right) set out the event’s signs in Jonesborough.



Some of Jonesborough’s most beautiful secrets will be revealed this Saturday as the Tuesday Garden Club and Schubert Club kick off their 21st Annual Garden Gala Tour.

“This is something for yourself,” explained Tuesday Garden Club President Marilyn Buchanan as she worked to finish the final touches on the “Through the Garden Gate”  event. “You can go and see the gardens and have lunch and do some shopping. It’s just a day for you.”

Set to be held Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in downtown Jonesborough, this year’s gala – as in years past – will feature old town gardens, a collection of garden vendors and a lovely garden tea.

But there are also going to be a few changes, according to Tuesday Garden Club Vice President Nansee Williams.

“We’ve changed the time to begin earlier,” Williams said.

This year, the tour will  begin at 10 a.m. That, she explained, is to take advantage of the cooler hours of the day. “One year it reached 100 degrees,” she recalled.

Last year’s ticketed seminar is also a thing of the past.

“We are having demonstrations in the garden this year,” Williams explained. And these demonstrations will be informally hosted by the home gardeners themselves, ready and eager to share their expertise as asked.

Topics will include “Raising Chickens in the Garden,” “French Double Digging,” “Farmers’ Market Ready,” “Composting 101” and more.

This year’s event, agreed both Buchanan and Williams, may be one of their best galas yet, as they’ve taken two decades of experience to plan the day.

“I would go to get ideas,” Williams said. “Because of the creativity of the homeowners. I am just blown away by them.”

For early birds, registration will begin at 8 a.m., according to Buchanan. And should those birds be hungry, there are a number of breakfast opportunities before the gala begins.

“It starts at 8 at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center,” Buchanan said. Tickets can be purchased at that time —$16 each — and participants can receive their swatch at that time that will allow guest to visit any of the featured gardens listed on their programs.

If you already have purchased a ticket, Williams added, your name will be on a list and you can also receive your swatch.

“People can come and then go get breakfast at the Jonesborough Presbyterian Garden Gala Breakfast or go to the Corner Cup and get crepes,” Buchanan said. “Or garden lovers can visit Boone Street Market or even the Pancake House for their morning fare.”

The tour itself – a self-guided one that can proceed in the order and at the pace of the ticketholder – begins at 10. Bus stops and water stations are shown on the map for both ease of travels and to ensure guests don’t get dehydrated.

And then there are the gardens, from vegetable to water to floral, as well as raised bed, gazebos, mosaics and more.

A special noon to 2:30 p.m. Garden Tea will give guests the chance to sample some sweet and savory treats and sip cool refreshments.

There will be lots of time, as well to shop for treasures at the Courthouse and Storytelling Plaza, where vendors will showcase everything to do with gardening, from sun visors to gnomes. Garden lovers can also extend their adventure to lunch and shopping downtown when restaurants and retailers will be featuring gala specials.

“This is to share our gardens,” said Buchanan, whose garden will be on the tour. “We have beautiful gardens.”

Better yet, she said, money raised will be used on goes to support a wide variety of Jonesborough projects and events, from the food bank, the library, At Home with Santa and more.

Tickets for the Garden Gala are $16.00 for a group of 10 or more tickets are $13.00 and may be purchased online at or by calling the Jonesborough Visitors Center at 423-753-1010.

DCHS students design video game

(From left to right) Sydney Hill, Austyn Shelton and Corbin Cowden stand proudly with their state trophies.


Staff Writer

“You can go to any school really in East Tennessee, and the first thing you notice as soon as you walk through that door is that the only trophies you see are sports trophies,”David Crockett High School student Austyn Shelton—who is a member of the three-person team that won first place at the state competition for video game design—said. “And that makes kids think that they have to live up to that legacy and to become good at sports. That’s why most anyone who goes here is pretty much an athlete or something else.”

As for Shelton and his fellow team members Sydney Hill and Corbin Cowden, taking home the the Technology Student Association award for their video game “The Abstraction” at the state competition in Chattanooga on April 8 took time away from things like sports and other after school activities for a typical high school student. But creating the arcade-style game that focuses on teaching kids a life lesson took extra dedication outside of their class with Crockett drafting teacher Guy McAmis.

“Some of (the skills TSA covers) I know how to do. Video game design is not one of them,” McAmis said. “They basically learned this on their own. So they did it from scratch themselves.”

“There’s not really a class (for video game design),” Shelton added. “The game that we made and the stuff that we had to do, we had to go learn how to do it on our own. There’s really no one here for that.”

However, there were guidelines the team had to follow in making the game that would end up topping the other 24 games entered in the state competition; The project had to be an arcade-style game that taught a skill or lesson. So for the team’s project, they made the focus a life lesson about right and wrong.

“So we were coming up with ideas and we were like, ‘Hey, what if ‘you get what you deserve?’,” Cowden said. “So we created this game about a thief, the best thief in the world, who wants to go and steal a diamond and—‘get what you deserve’—get captured by the cops by the end of it.”

The idea for the game came from Hill whose main focus is art and animation.

“If you read the backstory, Alec (the game’s main character) grew up feeling that he was never good enough,” Hill explained. “And his parents were telling him that the only way you can be a  part of the family is if he stole. They were finally caught in prison and never heard from again so he said, ‘I will make them proud by stealing the world’s most valuable diamond.’ So that’s how it starts out.”

With a lesson in “The Abstraction” that is a bit more complex than basic arcade games like Tetris and Pac-man, the team wanted to extend beyond teaching kids something like simple math. They wanted to instill a lesson that would be a bit more lasting.

“We went with something that would be more interesting for kids to actually play because for that competition, you could walk in there with a game that’s just simple like ‘What’s two plus two?’ kind of thing to teach math,” Shelton said. “But we wanted to go with more of a kind of vivid approach that’s actually more appealing to the eye. Like you’d actually want to play while learning a lesson at the same time.”

It wasn’t just a lesson through gaming that motivated the designers to create their own virtual world; the three brought their specific interests and aspirations together to form a team that ended up taking home some hardware for their efforts.

“I watched ‘Rise of the Guardians’ as a kid and that kind of really inspired me,” Hill said. “I felt that childhood wonder and love for animation. And I want to be able to express that to other people. I know how stressful the world is nowadays, so to be able to give someone that childhood feeling or just that excitement and joy is just my dream.”

For Shelton, technology was also a driving force for wanting to team up with Cowden and Hill.

“I’ve always been fascinated with computers. Ever since I was little, I’ve always been taking them apart and putting them back together. I’ve always wanted to know how they work and whenever I started getting into programming, I learned there were these competitions you could do through TSA that actually focus on that skill set.”

As for Cowden, who is a member of the soccer team and made a perfect score on his ACT as a sophomore, his interests vary and was proven through the level design, character design and some of the programming work he did on the project.

“I like a bunch of different things,” Cowden said. “I made a couple (of games) on my own. But I really like world-building and story-building.”

This sort of interest in building and designing a game might not be a typical high school student’s leisurely activity. In fact, according to the National Math and Science Initiative, the U.S. has fallen behind other countries and is ranked 27th in math and 20th in science amongst 34 other countries. And only 36 percent of high school graduates are considered ready to take a college-level science course by the end of their high school career. This leaves a need for science, technology, engineering and math amongst young people.

On the other hand, classes like wood shop, driver’s education and other career and technical classes have fallen to the wayside throughout the years. Though the two could be considered on opposite sides of the educational spectrum, it takes both of these areas to create an end-product like these Crockett students did in building their video game.

When asked why both of these areas of education are falling behind, Cowden had one simple reply:

“Probably instant results,” Cowden answered. “Most people are now used to instant results. In English, you go and you do a 40-minute quiz and then you scantron it and you have that right then. In math, you go problem to problem and you have so many quick results. But in engineering, you’re taking weeks to do a project. We started this in the fall and just now got it done. We revised, revised, revised.”

For McAmis, he can see a lag in the amount of career and technical education classes offered throughout the country. But as time has gone on, he’s noticed a sort of revival towards valuing hands-on work.

“Things are changing. I can see us working more and more toward that way where we’ve got the STEM classes and the hands on stuff for kids to do. We’ve got carpentry, we’ve got all these different CTE classes and you can hear them—they’re building right now,” McAmis said above the sound of hammers and electric saws echoing throughout the back building at Crockett. “And there’s a lot of kids, that’s what they want to do and that’s the way they go. But I think we need a little more of the in-depth stuff to break it down a little more.”

In relation to STEM education, Shelton said he felt that extra, in-depth step is also a main component to bettering those slipping STEM numbers.

“If you learn English, guess what, you know English. If you learn history, you know history,” Shelton said. “If you learn math, hey guess what, you know how to do math. But if you learn programming, per se, that doesn’t mean you know how to make a video game. That doesn’t mean you know how to program a robot. There are several steps.”

One focus in McAmis’ class is his application of real-world aspects. Encouraging the process in which actual professionals outside of the doors of David Crockett High School is exactly what the drafting teacher hopes to instill in his classes.

“If they were to go to a video game designer, this is exactly how it would be laid out. You’d have somebody that would come up with a concept, then you’d have somebody that would do the grunt work like the programming and the other part of it. And they would all work together as a team,” McAmis explained. “They have worked together as a team just like real-world video game designers. To me, that’s more valuable than anything because they’re learning what it’s going to be like when they get into the real world.”

But before the sophomore and two juniors head off into the “real world”, they’re entertaining the idea of heading to the national competition—if they can find the money to go.

“Nationals this year is in Orlando, Florida. And right now, we’re not sure if we’re going to get to go because we don’t have the money to,” McAmis said. “The county has given us money and even with what that, it’s still almost $600 a student to be able to pay for motel rooms, registration, things like that.”

Even without attending nationals, the TSA trophies stored in McAmis’ room could fill a trophy case themselves. The drafting teacher told the Herald & Tribune that Crockett has scored state wins for a number of categories from machine shop to graphic design and cosmetology. A number of his students even created a robot and a solar-powered go-kart that was recently driven at Bristol Motor Speedway for the solar go-kart race.

“I want to show you these other things going on that the community doesn’t know about that’s happening here at David Crockett High School, good things that are happening.”

As for the video game designers, they’re already fixing glitches in their game. Cowden even paused the interview to say he had a few ideas already in the back of his mind.

“They’re always thinking of the next step,” McAmis said. “And that’s good. Without goals you can’t get anywhere. You gotta have a goal.”

Banquet honors county educators


Staff Writer

“I want you to think for a moment of a teacher—because everyone has a teacher in your life that really made you feel as though you were the most important person in the class, the most important person in the world,” Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said to school board members, county commissioners, principals and finally, the teachers who were being honored at the first annual Teacher of the Year banquet on Tuesday May 2.

“And I’m going to tell you, for me, that teacher is Mr. Tom Ward back in Nashville. He was my sixth-grade social studies teacher and he made me feel as if I was the most important student in his class. The magical thing about Mr. Ward was he made every kid feel as though they were the most important person in the class.

“He did not know the level of impact he had on me back in the sixth grade. But you must know that every face in front of you every single day in that classroom, some of those boys and girls feel that exact way about you. You are their favorite teacher. You are dear to them.”

It was all about honoring these educators at the awards dinner at Washington County Mayor Dan Eldridge’s Grace Meadow Farm in Jonesborough for the inaugural event. Though system level teachers of the year are traditionally recognized in the school district, the director of schools was looking to expand a “congratulations” to other teachers who were chosen by their peers throughout the system as well.

“In the past what we’ve done is just the district-level winners were recognized at a school board meeting and they are offered a monetary contribution,” Halliburton said.

“But I wanted a way to actually honor every teacher of the year from every school in Washington County and say that you’re all important to us. I wish we could do this for every teacher in Washington County.”

Ridgeview third grade teacher Alana Street, Lamar School eighth grade teacher Stephanie Gouge and Daniel Boone High School algebra teacher Cody Dishner were honored as the three system level teachers of the year while 19 other Washington County teachers were also recognized as the building-level teachers of the year.

The event also provided members of the community such as sponsors, school board members, county commissioners and both Mayor Eldridge and Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe the opportunity to recognize the role these teachers hold and the impact they have on the community.

“For your results, for what you’re accomplishing in the lives of our kids, I just want to say thank you.” Eldridge said.

“Because at the end of the day, this is what it’s about. You know, we see the fruit of your labor everyday in this community.

“There’s a lot of kids that come through the Washington County School System that today are parents in this community, they’re employees in this community, they’re employers in this community—some people who make a difference here everyday. What you all are doing is preparing these kids. And obviously you’re doing very, very well.”

Some, like Eldridge, who earlier described how business-minded he can be in regards to examining results in many aspects of his life, described the importance of those who make the school system work.

But for those such as school board member Clarence Mabe, who also spoke during the ceremony, the impact a teacher can have on a student is just another lasting significance of an educator.

“Henry Adams said, ‘A teacher affects eternity and can never tell when their influences stop.’ I can attest to this personally,” Mabe said. “When I was a student in high school, I was running for vice president of the student body. It was a tremendous honor for me.

“However, when it was brought to my attention that I had to give a speech, that was difficult. It was so difficult for me because you see, I stutter. But, because of the encouragement of a teacher, Mrs. Kirby, she gave me the courage, the strength to follow through.

“Likewise, another teacher, Mr. Coleman, had such an impact on my life that I often would write his name with my fingers—‘Mr. Coleman.’ During trying times, it helped me to overcome adversity. Occasionally, I still write his name till this day for the same reason. So does a teacher affect eternity? You bet. You can believe they do.”

Dulcimer Week to kick off this weekend



Jonesborough’s Dulcimer Week celebrates the role of the Appalachian mountain dulcimer in American life with nine days of concerts, workshops and “Hands on Jonesborough” opportunities in pottery, drawing and painting.

Ivy Rowe

Grab a chair and head down to the Courthouse steps for a unique Music on the Square performance. Joe Collins, well recognized mountain dulcimer player, will be playing on Friday the 19th with Thistle Dew, eclectic dulcimer group, being the opening act.


“Bring that dulcimer off the wall or out of the attic!” Said Don Burger, Dulcimer Week organizer. “Maybe Grandpa played it and he’s not here anymore. Bring his dulcimer to Jonesborough! There is a whole crew of experienced people who can teach you.” You are encouraged to bring your dulcimer with you, but there will be a few “loaner” instruments as well.

These events will be on various days and times throughout the week-long celebration, see the full calendar below for specific days and times. For more information call 423-753-1010 or visit

Dulcimer Week Calendar

Storyteller weaves life into tales



Staff Writer

The Town of Jonesborough is accustomed to the founder of the National Storytelling Festival, Jimmy Neil Smith, gallivanting through Tennessee’s oldest town on a regular basis. But last week, Jonesborough was also graced with India’s international storytelling pioneer, Geeta Ramanujam, ready to share her stories and ideas on storytelling right here in Washington County.

One might ask what a woman such as Ramanajam who has told stories across the globe and even started her own storytelling centers in India is doing in Jonesborough, Tennessee. But for the international storyteller, the answer is simple—to see a friend.

Ramanujam got in connection with Smith after a woman at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C. asked Ramanujam, who was in the U.S. for a wedding, if she knew Smith. After Smith sent a couple of storytellers to give Ramanujam a ride from Atlanta up to Tennessee, Ramanujam rescheduled her flight back to India and Smith found his new friend a place to stay, a friendship was officially born.


“I think it had to happen. It’s so strange,” Ramanujam said. “For me my belief and my thought was in the U.S., everything had to be organized well ahead, whether you want to meet someone—but this just happened. And I began to believe in a lot of things after that. It all fell in place.”

After attending the National Storytelling Festival in 2003, Ramanujam returned to India and began what would become India’s first storytelling festival and would land the event in the Guinness Book of World Records. But her story doesn’t start there; Ramanujam began her journey as a teacher who simply wanted to spark interest in her students’.

“I felt that it was so monotonous the way people talked. They were bored of the subject,” Ramanujam said. “Teachers were bored of doing the same thing over and over again and I felt when I was a child that it was more of a ‘fact fight’ being told. It’s like seeing a documentary and seeing a film. So there was no interest. Children sat in the class from 9 to 4 feeling bored, not having any interest in the subject because the concepts were not made interesting. So I thought, ‘Why don’t we have stories related to the concept so once you tell them a story, they would be interested in that particular concept.’ ”

After she created a storytelling movement in the education system, she began her storytelling centers in order to educate teachers on how to use storytelling as an educational tool. Before long, the international storyteller had lawyers, advertisers and all sorts of professionals asking to learn the art of storytelling

“If I had had the chance, I might have probably would have wanted to rewrite the entire education system itself, change the way it’s been taught.” Ramanujam said. “It’s just been coming through for years and years and years and no one has been questioning it. Like an engineer would come out of learning and he wouldn’t know how to fix a bulb. So what’s the point in learning and doing all this if it’s only on paper and it’s not application?

“And if there is a system that is not open for learning, then I think that system is not going to exist. I think there should be learning happening. There should be room for change and for things to happen within. I think in a large way, life is like that. What is constant is change and to teach children to adapt and to be flexible and that we are not permanent.”

One of these changes has been due to today’s advancements in technology; Ramanujam said she has seen a shift in the ability to create beautiful stories like the ones her mother and grandmother would tell when she was a child to the inability of today’s generation to come up with stories as humankind has since the beginning of time.


“And you know they didn’t need a skill (older generations). It was natural. But now, you need to train them because they have lost that skill.” she said. “They don’t know how to put words together into a story. To think out of the box or creative and spontaneous thinking, it’s completely gone. With more technology, people are glued. You don’t have to look for answers because the answers are available. So it’s just cut and paste so I’m not thinking. What do I do in this situation? How do I learn common sense. There’s no need for that anymore. They’re not seeking. You click a button and you get it. So there is no need for a person to innovate, to think. So they’ve completely the art of thinking to thinking.”

“What was naturally grown and was not even thought of was just pick and eat and cook . But after the fertilizers and the insecticides, now we’re talking about growing them again naturally, how to grow them naturally. So the same things happen. Things come back. And when they’re coming back, they don’t know how to do it. So again, storytelling helps there—to come back.”

These stories not only connect parts of a person’s life, but Ramanujam also says she’s seen these stories reflect a person’s personality and experiences in a way that teaches them about much more than how to intrigue others through stories.

“I identify myself as the mountain or I identify myself as the bird or as the cloud or as the sun as a silent witness,” she said. “So it brings a lot of their inner-selves and they relate to it very beautifully. So there are some stories I feel opens up larger horizons. Maybe it’s a story that has touched many people. Many people find the story very transforming.”

Storytelling isn’t just an art form and a nearly lost way of entertainment and communication; for Ramanujam, it’s also a way to better life in all aspects instead of just education or just professionalism.

“What is good? What do you mean when you say good? To look at that holistically and practice it. We are teaching more now that people cannot wear masks. What kind of mask can I use? I will use this for my business, I will use that one for this. Most people die without knowing who they really are because from childhood, they are only using masks,” Ramanujam said. “Ninety-nine point nine percent of the people who come to the course, they are not coming only because they are learning about storytelling, but they love that I help them to ponder. They don’t want to leave at all. They ask for more time. They ask if they can come back. So it’s just a space. That space can be something different. A space that helps you to reflect.”

The woman that brought the storytelling revolution across the ocean and throughout her homeland of India and back again is still out there, telling stories as she did while she was performing in front of Jonesborough audiences like the Jonesborough Storyteller’s Guild, the Crumley House, The Yarn Exchange, University School and East Tennessee State University.

But it’s not just the actual stories of vibrant gold finches and crying mountains who, in their sadness from missing their bird friends, revitalize their earth with their waterfall tears—in fact, it’s the people hearing these stories that keep Ramanujam telling her stories and changing lives.

“I think for me it’s more the gratification of people when they come back to say that they feel good. And when they say, “ I think I’ve found my calling. I want to be a storyteller. And I want to do something, maybe an outreach program.” Because you need them to continue your storytelling.

“As long as they feel transformed and they feel inspired, I think that’s great. Many of them have started (a program). And that’s what keeps me going because I don’t have to keep knocking on the door which is closed.

“It’s still opening. As long as it’s open I think I will continue.”

Home project starts for local veteran



Staff Writer

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

“Someone asked me the other day what it’s going to feel like being in a house without obstacles. I tried to make something up, but the truth is I have no idea what it’s going to feel like because I’ve not had that since I’ve been hurt,” Hall said. “The thing is though, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to find out without the donors and Homes For Our Troops and the sponsors and you guys supporting everything. I want you to know how much I appreciate it.”

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”

Home project starts for local veteran



Staff Writer

Friends, supporters and veterans lined the uphill road leading to the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9724 in Jonesborough on Saturday, April 22 waiting for a black Ford truck with Army Staff Sergeant Joshua Hall inside to make it’s way behind Hall’s motorcycle escorts.

There wasn’t a person there without a flag in his or her hand waiting for Hall, a retired veteran, to be honored at the ceremony that officially marked the beginning of the house that will soon be built for him and his family thanks to the non-profit organization, Homes For Our Troops.

“I’ve never done anything like that before. That was wild,” Hall said about his escorted entrance at the ceremony on Saturday. “The fact that there’s a packed house on race day around here is pretty big. It’s a lot of support. I grew up here, but I haven’t been back in Jonesborough in a long time so it’s pretty overwhelming and heartwarming to see this many people coming out.”

In 2012, Hall’s left heel triggered an improvised explosive device while conducting a damage assessment after a firefight in Afghanistan. The blast left him without his left leg and with severe damage to his right leg. He also suffered a broken pelvis, fractured neck and back and had to be resuscitated three times before he woke up from a coma two weeks after the explosion.

Now, HFOT is ready to provide Hall with a wheel-chair accessible home filled with more than 40 special adaptations such as widened doorways for wheelchair access, a roll-in shower and kitchen amenities. The home will also alleviate the mobility and safety issues associated with a traditional home, like navigating a wheelchair through narrow hallways or over thresholds.

Saturday marked the beginning of the journey to a new home for Hall and his 2-year-old son—but it’s seeing the project from the community kickoff day to the moment Hall receives the keys to his house that keeps community members, volunteers and people like HFOT Community Outreach Coordinator Alicia Berta coming back.

“That’s one of the reasons why we have these events for the community, so that people can see start-to-finish what we’re doing,” Berta said. “This is like the kick-off. This is the start of our whole process for Josh. When the house is getting ready to be done, we do the landscaping for the home and they can come out and see the home—they can actually help contribute to something that he’s going to have forever. And then at the key ceremony, they have a chance to walk through the home and see it.

“I think that part—where people can see the adaptations and pull down the cabinets and walk into these spaces that have bigger doorways and have bigger space—you can really visualize how important it is for these guys to have it.”

As for Hall, he told those at the event on Saturday that he’s not quite sure what to expect—but he’s ready to find out.

But it’s not just Hall’s home that will receive support from the non-profit that uses 90 cents of every dollar they receive through donations; HFOT also follows each veteran after their home is built in hopes of improving other aspects of their lives as well. Since Hall’s accident, he’s taken up Krav Maga which is a martial arts self-defense system and has become a part-time instructor of the sport.

“One of the things they kind of started was the mission. ‘It’s building homes and rebuilding lives’ because a lot of these guys, they might get into a home or adapt their home, but then what else are they gonna do?,” Berta said. “So we try to also encourage them to get out there, do sports, go back to school, whatever. Our veteran support team at our office follows them after they move into their home. I mean, this is kind of our responsibility to pay back these guys that did so much to serve us.”

Hall is ready to also set his sights on a new life in addition to his new home.

“For me it’ll be up to focusing on my son growing up and a career and starting from there versus trying to find somewhere to live and maintain and get through,” Hall said. “The VA and the non-profits have helped, but I’ve spent a lot of personal income modifying things just to get by. Now that I won’t have to do that, I’m going to have a lot more money and time to do what I really want to do.”

Hall and HFOT have done much of the preliminary work before even setting the foundation for his new home, but for him, the reality of owning his own home won’t really sink in until he sees it with his own eyes.

“It felt great (first hearing the news of getting a new home),” Hall said. “I’m kind of one of those delayed-reaction people so it will probably hit once I’m sitting in the living room—I’m looking forward to it.”