Crockett football opts to continue season

The David Crockett Pioneers had a tough time on the field last week during the ongoing coach controversy, but are determined to finish out the season on top under new leadership.


Staff Writer

On Monday morning, the David Crockett High School football team had a big decision to make.

They could finish the rest of their season, starting with the county rivalry match up against Daniel Boone this Friday. Or they could opt to put the whirlwind season, following the suspension of their head football coach, to rest.

The Pioneers chose to finish.

Now they’ll do so with Pioneer head baseball coach, and now interim head football coach, Nick Lingerfelt leading the pack.

“I felt like it was my responsibility as a person to step up and say ‘hey, if these kids want to play, I’ll be there.’ And if they decide not to, I’ll support them in that too,” Lingerfelt said at a press conference held at the school on Monday.

“It’s not about me. It’s really not. It’s about these kids. They decided they want to play and they told me today I was going to be the coach. And here I am.”

Lingerfelt was hired in July to take over the baseball program at Crockett. He served as an assistant coach at Dobyns-Bennett for seven years and at his alma mater, Unicoi High School, for eight. He assisted with both the baseball and football programs at those schools.

The decision for Lingerfelt to take on his latest role as Pioneer football’s interim head coach came after head coach Gerald Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave last Tuesday. The letter of reprimand from Crockett head principal Peggy Wright to Sensabaugh lists practicing an injured player, verbal attacks and profanity from the coach as concerns from administration.

After the suspension of their coach, the football team was left divided between students who still wanted to compete in last Friday’s game against Tennessee High and those who opted not to play or attend the game, in support of Sensabaugh. The Pioneers lost 35-13 against the Tennessee High Vikings under the direction of  assistant-coach-turned-interim-head-coach Brandon Qualls.

“It’s been an emotional week,” Lingerfelt said. “We were on fall break last week, and I think the lessons these young men have learned exceed any lesson in a classroom.

“The fact that these kids showed some resiliency and went in there this morning and voted to have a season, that speaks volumes. That speaks volumes for their character. I’m ready to take on this challenge.”

Lingerfelt didn’t confirm who would join his coaching staff for Friday’s game and the remainder of the season, but he did say he would be meeting with former Pioneer head coach Kent Green who resigned from the position in 2012.

“After I got word, I went straight to some of the people that I’ve assembled and I said, ‘Listen, we can’t reinvent the wheel. We’ve got two weeks left in the season and then we’ve got playoffs.’,” Lingerfelt said. “We’re going to get in the playoffs. What happens there, we’ll see.”

As for his roster, Lingerfelt said the student athletes present at Monday’s team meeting exceeded the number he had on his updated roster of 51 kids. He also said if players show up at practice, they’re going to play.

Lingerfelt isn’t the only one stepping into an interim position this week; Crockett head basketball coach John Good is currently serving as the school’s athletic director after Josh Kite was put on administrative leave following allegations from Sensabaugh who said Kite offered him prescription drugs. An investigation on the allegation is pending.

For Good and Lingerfelt who are taking on additional roles at Crockett, both say they are ready to concentrate on allowing the Pioneers a chance to take the field.

“Last week we picked up a kid on his way home from practice and took him to eat,” Lingerfelt said. “I said, ‘What do you think about all this stuff?’ He said, “Coach, I’m 15 years old. I just want to play football.’ And I thought, ’It’s really sad that this young man doesn’t get the opportunity to play a game that he loves.’”

Now that the team is officially back in action, the Pioneers will battle longtime rival Daniel Boone for a Musket Bowl victory on Friday night.

“It’s huge,” Good said. “Kids grow up wanting to be a part of this game. It’s bragging rights within the county.”

This year’s 47th annual Musket Bowl game comes after Boone defeated Crockett 14-10 at the Pioneer’s stadium, but Lingerfelt has confidence in the Pioneer squad.

“We’ve got to play Daniel Boone on the road at the Musket Bowl and we’ve got to be prepared to overcome a lot of adversity,” Lingerfelt said. “We know Daniel Boone’s a good team, but I have no doubt our kids can overcome this and they can win that football game.”

Just by looking at the number of kids on his roster and showing up for team meetings and practices, the interim head coach said it’s clear to him these kids are ready to be out on the field for another Friday night.

“The easiest thing to do would be to fold up tent and quit,” Lingerfelt said. “I don’t see that in these kids. I don’t. I see the drive and the initiative to go forward and I’m excited.”

Crockett will face Boone for the Musket Bowl competition on Friday Oct. 20 at Nathan Hale Stadium in Gray. Kick off is at 7:30 p.m.

Practice canceled amid coach controversy


Gerald Sensabaugh landed the job on Jan. 17, 2017


Staff Writer


*UPDATE: David Crockett High School Head Football Coach Gerald Sensabaugh was put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10.

Athletic Director Josh Kite was also put on administrative leave on Tuesday, Oct. 10. Director of Schools Kimber Halliburton said due to Sensabaugh’s allegations regarding Kite, an investigation will be ongoing.


On Monday morning, when David Crockett head football coach Gerald Sensabaugh announced via social media that his team’s practice was canceled by the school system, all of Washington County seemed to want answers.

Director of Washington County School Kimber Halliburton said the decision to cancel the Pioneers’ practice came after Sensabaugh practiced an injured player. She said the player was under a physician’s care and was put on a list by the athletic trainer that indicated he could not practice or play.

Halliburton also said that when confronted about the issue, the coach “responded by intimidating and harassing the trainer and the student in a public format.”

“Given his conduct and him appearing very angry, we made a decision. The principal requested that we not have practice and I honored her request. I allowed her to make that decision,” Halliburton said. “I allow my principals to make decisions about their school and I support them in those decisions because I am not in their school on a daily basis. And I value Peggy Wright as a 33-year veteran of this school district who has been serving students in Washington County for 33 years.”

Sensabaugh told the Herald & Tribune that prior to the teams’ 9 to 11 a.m. practice, which was scheduled on the first week-day of fall break, he didn’t know why his team’s practice was canceled by administrators.

Sensabaugh also said the trainer told the head coach something different.

“He (the trainer) came to me and said, ‘This kid, he’s pretty much good to go. He just needs a little confidence. Maybe you can give him some confidence.’”

The David Crockett Pioneers are currently 5-2 on the season.

“I instructed the player to do some rehab-type drills to give him some confidence in his ankle,” Sensabaugh said. “No full-speed reps. It was more-so jogging and light high knees and a couple cuts. I’ve had sprained ankles in the past and similar things and it’s pretty much what I would do when I had sprained ankles in the NFL. A lot of stuff goes down and the next thing I know, they tell me I practiced a hurt player.”

Sensabaugh said the player performed the drills off to the side and had no physical contact with the team. He also said the player wasn’t dressed out in his helmet or pads.

Both Sensabaugh and Halliburton said that David Crockett High School Head Principal Peggy Wright spoke to Sensabaugh on Friday, Oct. 6 before the team’s match up against Cherokee High School to address her concerns.

After the conversation with Wright, Sensabaugh spoke to the student athlete and athletic trainer.

“Fortunately, the same kid was there. I said, ‘Hey, did I practice you?’ And he was like, ‘No sir.’ I turned around to the trainer said, ‘Hey, why are you reporting I practiced this kid? He just said I didn’t practice him.’ He was just shrugging his shoulders and wouldn’t say anything.”

Halliburton confirmed that one of the team’s assistant coaches has resigned. She also said the trainer felt “bullied” by the head coach.

Halliburton also stated that she and Wright contacted another Crockett assistant football coach to ask if he could lead practice.

“We asked him if he was confident that he could keep the children safe, given the shortage, given what happened with coach Sensabaugh,” Halliburton said. “His response was no, he was not confident he could keep the children safe.

“My number one adjective and the principal’s number one adjective above football is the safety of our student athletes and our children, period.”

Practice for the team was back on schedule for Tuesday, Oct. 10. But Sensabaugh said he was informed by Wright that he was not permitted to coach the team during the practice.

“They’re allowed to practice but I’m not allowed to be there. I’m not even sure which coaches are going to be there,” Sensabaugh said. “Some kids were saying they’re not going to practice and some reports said some kids are going to practice. I don’t know.”

The coach said he supports his players decision, whether some students decide to attend practice or not.

“I mean they’re furious about it. They want to practice. They know they’re good. They’re just taking it away from these kids. They’re taking away the opportunity these kids have.”

Sensabaugh also said he felt the decision to cancel practice has created a divide throughout his team.

“The kids don’t play, there’s no product to sell. Then that is going to be more detrimental to the program, if the kids don’t play,” Sensabaugh said. “If they do play, my fight for change becomes diluted because they still have a product to sell.

“They divided us. Right now I feel like they’re trying to divide my football team. They’re trying to divide the players and the coaches.”

A rally in support of the head football coach for Wednesday, Oct. 11, has been posted throughout social media along with a petition.

The Pioneers will face the Tennessee High Vikings at home on Friday, Oct. 13 for a conference match up. What players will and will not be on the field is yet to be determined.

On these same social media platforms, Sensabaugh recently sounded off on school system-related topics such as bus routes for the new Boones Creek School, inmates working on school grounds and facility updates at Jonesborough Elementary. He titled the first series of posts as “The real problem in Washington County” which tallied over 100 comments.

Now, Sensabaugh said he still supports his social media postings.

“I just want people to support the change. I just really want people to take initiative and do what’s best for our community,” Sensabaugh said.

“The one thing about social media is you get a direct reception of the people. You get all these people who have all these complaints that they brought about and nothing ever gets done. On my platform, everyone can talk together on the same time and express their concerns or past stories.

“You can take it as ‘he say she say’, but these are people’s testimonies. There are people who signed off on their names on this stuff. I just want to be that voice for the people and the kids.”

The Pioneers are scheduled to face a conference game against Tennessee High School at home this Friday, Oct. 13 in Jonesborough.

Soldier surprises ‘little brother’

Peyton Toth (left) and AJ Keys (right) are reunited after nine months of Toth’s deployment.


Staff Writer

When 20-year-old Army Combat Engineer Peyton Toth arrives to his Washington County home, he’s usually met with his 6-year-old neighbor AJ Keys, who stays up as long as he can to see his best friend. But last Thursday — less than 24 hours after Peyton returned home from Iraq — the Army engineer got to surprise his “little brother”.

“Every time I come home, I usually go over there,” Peyton said, standing by the front office of Grandview Elementary School, just moments before he surprised AJ and his class. “I’ll get home late and I’ll either go wake him up or he’s still awake and I’ll put him back to sleep again.

“I’ve just always been close to him. He’s kind of like a little brother to me and I’m an only child. He’s just a very important person to me.”

Peyton left home on Dec. 27, 2016 for Kuwait, followed by Iraq, where the combat engineer worked to clear routes of any improvised explosive devices placed by the enemy. Now that he’s back in the U.S, the David Crockett alumnus expects to be stationed in Fort Bragg, North Carolina for the next year-and-a-half to two years.

But his mother and father, Debbie and Jeffrey Toth, are just happy to greet their son and share him with their loving neighbor, AJ Keys and his family.

“It was a good joy. It’s just good to see it,” Jeffrey said. “Since he was 5-years-old, his dream has always been to be a soldier in the U.S. Army. He followed his dream and now he’s living it. I’m just glad to see him come back and all in one piece.”

Peyton’s father wasn’t the only one who was happy to see the 20-year-old arrive home; AJ was following along with his class as his teacher read a story, but the moment he realized he was allowed to greet his neighbor and honorary “brother,” the boy went in for the hug he had been missing for nine months.

The solider also took a moment to talk to the class about the most prominent lesson he learned from his time in Iraq, which was put into perspective as Peyton recalled the kids he saw overseas.

“I’ve been in Iraq for the past five months and one thing I’ve learned since I’ve been there is when I was your all’s age, and I was growing up, I took a lot for granted from my parents. It’s shown me a lot,” Peyton said. “If there’s one thing you guys should know, it’s love your parents and don’t take anything for granted. There are kids over there your all’s age, younger and older, they go everyday and they ask just for a bottle of water as we go past. And it’s the most heart-crushing thing I’ve ever seen. It really shows you how much we have here.”

While Peyton and AJ took a moment to catch up, Peyton’s dad said being a soldier’s father has changed his perspective — and that even the words Peyton shared with the class touched his heart.

From left to right, Debra Toth, Peyton Toth, AJ Keys, Sandy Keys and Jeff Toth were all present for the reunion at Grandview Elementary.

“It’s sort of heartwarming that Peyton can take from his experience, to serve his country and see what the other country’s like, and come share with the class what we as Americans all take for granted,” Jeffrey said. “It makes you appreciate things a whole lot differently.”

On that list of things to appreciate, Jeffrey and Peyton both have one particular person placed at the top; Whether Peyton’s stationed in Texas or walking through the streets of Iraq, AJ is sure to be sharing in Jeffrey’s love for the Army soldier — even from afar.

“Besides being brothers in Christ, they’re just like brothers. They’ve always been there for each other,” Jeffrey explained. “AJ has always sent Peyton a live video on his birthday, even when he’s not home, to tell him happy birthday and that he loves him.

“That’s a blessing in itself that he got to have the little fella communicating with him — and thinking that much of my son.”

Dedication station: Chuckey Depot Museum receives new home at W.C. Rowe’s namesake park

The Chuckey Depot now sets at W.C. Rowe Park in Jonesborough.


The Town of Jonesborough will be holding a ribbon cutting for WC Rowe Park and the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m. at 110 South Second Avenue.

WC Rowe Park is named in honor of WC Rowe, a life-long resident of Jonesborough and the area, who made great contributions to the Town of Jonesborough. He constantly worked on a positive partnership between the Town of Jonesborough and Washington County, spending countless hours improving the quality of life in Jonesborough and the County.

Former County Executive George Jaynes said this about Rowe, “He was a very excellent person and a fine commissioner. I miss him more than anybody.” He said Rowe helped with a number of county building projects, including the Washington County Justice Center and Detention Facility.

Fellow commissioner Pat Wolfe said his earliest recollection of Rowe were trips with his father to Rowe Poultry. “It was located up the creek from where the depot was.  WC’s father Roy ran the business.”

Wolfe remembered Rowe as a community leader and a talented athlete as well as someone who could talk all the time. “We were in a 16 to 40 age baseball team league.  He would hit at least one home run a game clear out into the cornfield.” He described Rowe as a “good county commissioner” with whom he served three terms. “Rowe had good ideas,” Wolfe said. “He did a good job. I’m glad to see the park named after him.”

For McKinney Center Director Theresa Hammons, the ribbon cutting will be the conclusion of a five-year project. The depot’s original home was just down the road in Chuckey and now sits within WC Rowe Park in Jonesborough. Built on the railroad’s right of way in Chuckey, the depot was threatened with demolition. Due to railroad policy, the building could not stay in its original location. 

The depot was privately owned by the Babb family who requested that the building be relocated to Jonesborough.  The Town of Jonesborough was eager to have the structure. Jonesborough discussed the possibility of creating a railroad museum because the Town was instrumental in bringing the railroad into East Tennessee. The Chuckey Depot created a perfect venue for such a museum.  

The depot has come a long way since its renovation.

Hammons is a member of the Chuckey Depot Advisory Board. She said, “One of the exciting things about the depot is that we have artifacts that came out of the depot. We are excited to show them to the public.”

She explained that the job of moving the Depot from Chuckey to Jonesborough was a meticulous task undertaken by the Town of Jonesborough and the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, beginning in August 2011. The Watauga Valley Railroad Historical Society also partnered in the project, providing the restoration of a red caboose which sits adjacent to the depot in addition to numerous artifacts and photos.   

Watauga Valley, the Town and the Heritage Alliance have been in charge of overseeing the process of developing the museum to interpret the use of the depot when it was in Chuckey, as well as the history of the railroad in Jonesborough.

The project has also been assisted by a museum studies class from Tusculum College.  Intern Alex Rolison has spent many hours assisting the project under the direction of faculty advisor Peter Noll. As many as 20 students from the college have worked by providing their labor, permanent text preparation and cleaning of artifacts for the museum interior.

Parks and Recreation Director Rachel Conger said a great deal of credit for the depot’s dismantling and later reconstruction goes to members of the Carter County Work Camp.  In the process of planning the program, Conger said she hopes a representative of the group will be present and speak at the ribbon cutting ceremony. 

For more information about the ribbon cutting celebrating the contributions of WC Rowe to Jonesborough and the opening of the Chuckey Depot Museum on Monday, Oct. 2 at 11 a.m., call (423)791-3869.

Town celebrates Constitution Week


Associate Editor

An audience of 150 people plus an uncounted number of bells celebrated a Constitution Week program at Oak Hill School on Sunday. Numerous organizations participated in the event begun in 1955 by the Daughters of the American Revolution.  This year, the 230th Anniversary of the Constitution, the celebration in Jonesborough specially remembered the soldiers who served in the Battle of Wabash, a little known but important conflict in American history.

Special guests at the event were Mrs. Joyce Cole, National leader of the Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge and Nancy Knapke, Museum Docent of the Fort Recovery, Ohio Monument Park. She talked about the effects of the battle in strengthening the United States Military.

Known by several names – St. Clair’s Defeat, Battle of Wabash or The Native American Defeat of the First American Army, out of 1,400 men engaged in the conflict, 918 were killed and 276 wounded.  The casualty list included almost one-half of the entire United States Army.  An account of the battle was given by Joel Dobson from Greensboro, North Carolina,  a veteran of service in Vietnam.


On Sunday, a roll call of 205 names of individuals from the area who participated in the battle was read by various members of Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) in East Tennessee. The DAR along with the Town of Jonesborough and the Heritage Alliance were major sponsors of the ceremony. Carol Redmond, Regent of the State of Franklin Chapter NSDAR, said “ Iwas pleased by the participation in the event.”  It is her hope that people who have traced their lineage to participants in the battle will purchase memorial bricks at the Veterans Park in the Visitors Center in Jonesborough.

These ancestors may be eligible for DAR memberships. Present for the ceremony to welcome the assembly was Mayor Kelly Wolfe along with Regent Redmond. The mayor led an invocation using the hymn “Amazing Grace.” The posting of colors was performed by a ROTC color guard from David Crockett High School. Then the DCHS Choir under the direction of Kelly Davenport sang the National Anthem followed by the Pledge of Allegiance to The Flag led by then Washington County Home School Association.

Students from Jonesborough Middle School recited the Preamble to the Constitution. Children of the American Revolution were present, represented by Melodie Daniels and sons, Ivan, Cohen and Gideon. A salute to veterans by the firing of period long-rifles was given by a costumed contingent from the Overmountain Victory Trail Association.

Jules Corriere, from the McKinney Center for the Arts, gave an account of one woman’s survival in the battle in an address titled “The loss and lamentation.” Anne G’Fellers Mason, Special Projects Coordinator at the Heritage Alliance, said the program, “really went well. It is always interesting to share history with people.” She recounted “The Aftermath of Blame and Support” that took place after the battle. Members of the assembly also received “News of the Day” from an edition of the Knoxville Gazette.

The collection of bells to “make a joyful noise” in commemoration of the sacrifices made by veterans included sounds with a modern twist — cell phone bells. Jonesborough resident and member of the John Sevier-Sarah Hawkins Chapter of the NSDAR Doris Durey brought her large Swiss Bell. Teresa Ann James, State of Franklin Registrar, said she recorded church bells and played them during the bell ringing that followed the singing of “My Country Tis’ of Thee.”

James also was in charge of handing out certificates at the event. “It is the DAR’s way of showing appreciation to those who participated,” she said.

The DAR’s celebration of the Constitution resulted in Congress setting aside Sept. 17 through Sept. 23 as Constitution Week.

The resolution adopted by Congress was signed into law on Aug. 2, 1956 by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The State of Franklin NSDAR has been based in Jonesborough since 1929.

In addition to the State of Franklin and John Sevier-Sarah Hawkins Chapters other DAR organizations at the event included the Northeast TN Regent’s Council, Ann Robertson, John Carter, Julius Dugger, Kings Mountain, Long Island, Mary Patton, and Nolichucky Chapters NSDAR.

On Sept. 17, 1787, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and 31 other delegates to the Constitutional Convention signed the document at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The document has established the framework to govern the nation and to protect the rights of its citizens.

After the celebration at Oak Hill School, the assembly was invited to the Historic Visitor’s Center for a short Wreath Laying Ceremony.

Evacuees find refuge in Jonesborough

From left to right, Angela Letterie, Carl Letterie, Marcy Hawley, Marilyn Lampsley, and Rich Lampsley gather on the porch of Hawley’s Jonesborough home.


Staff Writer

When Rich and Marilyn Lapsley of West Palm Beach, Florida and Carl and Angela Letterie of Venice, Florida saw that Hurricane Irma was headed for the Sunshine State, there was no question as to whether or not they would be staying put.

That’s when the four of them got in touch with their old friend and Jonesborough resident Marcy Hawley who just happened to have space to spare in her historic home nestled near downtown.

“The reason we came is because we lived through a category three and it stayed over Palm Beach County for over 12 hours,” Marilyn Lapsley said. “Let me tell you, our house shook. The pressure was unbelievable. You could just feel this pressure and the noise. So I said to Rich, ‘Anything over a two, we’re leaving. I don’t care.’”

The Lapsleys have lived in Florida for nearly 30 years. In that time, they’ve lived through the wrath of Hurricanes Francis, Charlie, Jean and Wilma. Not ready to make Irma their fifth, they left their Florida home last Wednesday to head towards Tennessee — and away from the preparation chaos that was already taking place.

“We gassed up way ahead of time last Monday,” Marilyn Lapsley said. “Then as the hurricane story started coming out that it was going to be a big son of a gun, then people started to run for the gas stations — they found empty tanks.”

As for the Letteries, who have lived in Florida for two and a half years, they might not have experienced numerous hurricanes, but after living through Kansas and Missouri tornadoes, Hurricane Eva in Hawaii and a country-wide lockdown in Korea when the president was assassinated in the early ‘90s, they’re familiar with evacuation plans and riding out a storm.

“If you watch TV over the years, you see these humongous lines of cars trying to get out at the last minute, but I’m thinking, ‘I’m not doing that,’ Carl Letterie said. “We would have left earlier if I could have gotten someone to put the shutters on the windows earlier. I didn’t want to get stuck. As it turned out, we got stuck out anyway. But compared to a lot of people, it was nothing.”

The Floridians said that because of these hurricanes, their towns have built homes with roofs tied into the walls for better security and steel streetlights that lower into the ground in preparation for bad weather. Even with constructional preparedness, the Lapsleys and Letteries explained that the rush for resources will likely continue after the storm passes.

“The next thing that will happen, based on our experience, is after the storm, there’ll be plenty of gas, but there’s no electricity to pump the gas out of the ground,” Rich Lapsley said. “They tried to make it mandatory that every gas station have an auxiliary generator. So some do and some don’t. All the gas stations on the turnpike have auxiliary generators. The mom and pops probably don’t because of the expense.”

When it comes to who stays and who decides to evacuates, the group said they felt that it was just a matter of choices. And unless under a mandatory evacuations as many Floridians were, the choice comes down to your way of thinking, according to the Lapsleys and Letteries.

“I guess you have optimists and pessimists,” Angela Letterie said. “We’re kinda like on the pessimist end I guess. We were out of there just in case. The other ones thought they’d give it a shot.”

“If we pack up and leave and it doesn’t happen, then we just get a vacation,” Carl Letterie added. “But fortunately, we had the resources to be able to do that.”

Marilyn Lapsley explained that their daughter and her children would be staying in their Florida home though the storm and that they prepared the house with shutters and large amounts of water and ice. Meanwhile, the Letteries explained that they cleared their deck and cut large holes in their pool cage in order for the monstrous winds to pass through without taking yet another of their pool cages flying in a Florida storm.

But in all of their experience living through the howling winds, power outages and what Marilyn Lapsley described as “unbelievable atmospheric pressure” associated with hurricanes, and now, evacuating from a tropical storm, the group of friends agreed that it’s important to take your most important documents along with you. But they also said that in the grand scheme, all those “things” didn’t matter so much.

“It’s only stuff. Your house is only stuff. It’s a lot of stuff,” Angela Letterie said, “but your life is more important.

A day in the life: Kimber Halliburton, Director of Schools



Staff Writer

What Kimber Halliburton really wants to do each day is interact with the students. They are her favorite people in Washington County, after all, and she can’t wait to see how their day is going. But she also knows that behind that door to the Washington County Department of Education awaits the work of the director of schools that must be done first.


She arrives in her blue and white checkered dress and cowboy boots because today she’ll be visiting her favorite people at the Appalachian Fairground before adding a few school visits to her itinerary.

“This is my fair dress,” Halliburton said, beaming across her oak desk where she answers a few early morning emails before her right-hand woman, executive assistant and close friend Jennifer Moore tells her it’s time to head towards the fairground. “I bought it probably a couple of months ago. I’ve never worn it. Now, Jenn might tell on me and tell you why my name’s Minnie Pearl – I usually wear my price tags, but I took it off because you were coming,” she admits, laughing. “I’ll wear it a couple of hours if it’s new, but honey, if it’s uncomfortable, (makes a tag-tearing hand motion), I take it off.”

The director of schools goes over the work she faces for the day.

But it’s not time to show off her fair dress just yet because first, like most days, Halliburton’s morning is filled with follow-up phone calls, coffee percolating in the corner of her sunny office and the occasional reminder from Moore to sign fundraiser forms and any and all other paper work awaiting the director of schools.

“It really just depends — there’ll be a week when I don’t get in a school,” Halliburton said. “Then there’ll be one where I’ve gotten into five schools. It just really depends on what’s going on like what I’ve gotten from the state.”

Before she can even finish the coffee in her steel, monogramed cup, Moore has brought the day’s schedule, fundraiser requests that need her signature and reminded Halliburton of three conversations she needs to have with various principals she’ll see throughout the day. But that’s not all that’s on Halliburton’s mind.

Work that never sleeps. (8 a.m.)

Not all paper work is as hopeful as fundraiser permission forms and documents detailing the total number of recent Daniel Boone and David Crockett high school graduates who went on to secondary school. In the midst of all this, the director of schools’ mind is also still on the document that compares the amount of funds available to surrounding city systems in comparison to that of county school systems.

To put the thought at rest, Halliburton picks up her iPhone and scrolls through her twitter feed for a moment.

“Hey, we gotta pick up on our tweeting,” Halliburton says to Moore from the next room. “That’s another thing; I can’t afford to hire a full-time twitter person. That’s basically what (communication managers) handle. And guess who does the social media for this county.”

That difference is a constant thought for Halliburton as it is for many others in the county system. But she’s got at least eight other items on the to do list scribbled on her office white board, at least two planned school visits and three buses full of third graders awaiting her 13 minutes down the road in Gray to worry about.

And it’s already 10 minutes until the field trip festivities begin.

Chimney pranks and feral cats. (9:12 a.m.)

The site of the future Boones Creek School is one of the director’s favorite places to visit on the weekend.

There isn’t music coming out of the speakers of Halliburton’s immaculate SUV (though Moore insists the director loves to blare her music any chance she gets). Instead, the future site of the new Boones Creek School up ahead takes precedence over any song that could be playing on the radio. She’s driven by it probably a thousand times by now, but somehow the site of the red dirt covering the now level hillside stills pulls an excited gasp out of Halliburton. There’s only dirt and a few bulldozers making their way across the pasture, but Halliburton refers to it as “our new school” anyhow.

“My husband and I, on most weekends, we drive out here every Sunday to look at the progress. We drive up and sometimes we get out and walk around actually,” she said.

“There are a ton of feral cats and if there’s a new kitten out there, I go crazy. And Frank will go, ‘No, we’re not taking it home. That cat is wild, now. It’s not just a little kitten.’”

She passes the small white house on the property that’s nearly gone as she prepares to tell the tale of a joke she played on the head of maintenance.

Halliburton had already requested the enormous dormer from the house in hopes of using it as a reading house in the future school’s library. After Phillip Patrick, the head of maintenance, had to use a trailer to haul it, the director decided to add a little fun to it.

“I said to Jenn, ‘Call up Philip Patrick and tell him that Kimber wants the chimney,'” Halliburton recalled. “He was at central office. We were on the road. He said, ‘I’m sitting down in the grass. I’m about to have a heart attack.’”

Halliburton and Moore take a minute to think back on when the two started working together.

The car is filled with laughter. But then Moore is already back to looking over the to-do list, stopping at a mysterious item added by Halliburton. Just like that, Halliburton is back to work, describing the role of instructional coaches and how in-depth meetings or “rounds” between instructional coaches and teachers on teaching strategies could be a possibility for the school system.

Can’t take the country out of the girl (9:29 a.m.)

With phone in hand and twitter at the ready, Halliburton makes her way over to two West View students who got the morning shift of bathing a couple cows near the Appalachian Fair’s farm buildings.

But the director of schools is anything but afraid to approach the cattle. In fact, she said seeing the livestock at the fair reminds her of the time she spent on her family’s farm in Nashville.

“I really do (feel at home with farm animals). My uncle, he had a beef cattle ranch. We had horses and chickens too,” she said. “We had to be up at six in the morning and then shower. That was the rule. You couldn’t come to the breakfast table without a shower.”

After Halliburton’s parents divorced, she’d spend time with her father on the farm and in the city of Nashville where her mother lived. She says she got a bit of the country life with a bit of the city growing up, but that her kids (one an electrical engineer in Nashville, the other a teacher in Metro Nashville and the third a student at the University of Tennessee) consider themselves “city people.” But for Halliburton, country settings suit her just fine.

After she takes a minute to “tweet out” a picture of the students with their cows and jot a few names into her running list of people she’s working hard to remember, it’s off to socialize with just about anyone who passes by. Sometime throughout the day, she even agreed to come back Saturday morning to show a cow at the fair’s cattle competition after talking to 

local farmer for a few minutes.

For the Nashville native, that’s been the most surprising aspect of her director gig; not that she’s showing cattle (that too), but the amount of time around the clock that she dedicates to being a superintendent.

“I knew I would be busy,” she said. “I knew that this job would be pretty time consuming. I just had no idea that, I guess, 80 percent of my waking hours would be spent on this job.”

Between suddenly agreeing to show cows on any given Saturday and attending home Boone and Crockett football games on Friday nights in Washington County, Halliburton gives credit to her family for being able to give so much to her role as director of schools.

“I have a really good marriage. That helps because if I didn’t have an understanding husband…it’s kind of his job too. But that’s how it’s been since I started being a principal,” she said. “It was kind of a family affair for us, my kids included. They’d always come and help teachers with bulletin boards. When I became a principal, we’d go to a ball game or count text books. It’s always kind of been that way.”

Before becoming the director of schools for the county system, Halliburton began her career as a special education teacher and later took the leap of getting her master’s to become a principal. After a year of being an assistant principal in Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools, Halliburton got the chance to start her own school as head principal at a technology demonstration school.

“I wasn’t necessarily looking to get out of Nashville. I love Nashville. But I love it here. I knew I wanted to go to East Tennessee. I visited here years ago and Frank and I fell in love with the mountains. We just fell in love with East Tennessee.”

Apart from going from serving a district of 90,000 students to one of 9,000, the move was also about timing.

“I thought, ‘You know, it’s the perfect time if I’m ever going to apply to be a superintendent,’” Halliburton said, walking through the fairground during what might have been the quietest part of her morning. “Our youngest had graduated from high school and I thought, ‘I’ve got a great job here in Nashville. I’m just going to apply and see what happens.’ I had nothing to lose. You know, ‘if I don’t get a superintendent job, then that’s not in God’s plan.’”

The director stopped numerous times for photo-ops with various community members.

The director pauses to take her final selfie with a county commissioner she passes on her way back out through the fair gates. Then it’s off for a quick lunch before getting to Halliburton’s favorite part of her job: going to the schools.

Back to high school (1:32 p.m.)

“I turned down a high school job once,” The director of schools said, taking a turn through the parking lot at Boone. “I won’t say I regret it, but Pedro Garcia, my superintendent at the time, talked to me about being a high school principal. My kids were little. I just felt like they wouldn’t even know who I am. I mean, a high school principal gig … ” she said, taking a pause. “I just think about how much fun I would have had as a high school principal.”

Halliburton enters the first school tour of the day at Daniel Boone.

As much fun as she might have had in that role, as director of schools she makes a point to still have time with students, which is especially easy when they gravitate towards her as they did throughout the lunchroom at Boone.

One student took her hand and introduced himself to the director while another young man asked if she thought he still had time to join the Blazer Band. Meanwhile, a young girl stood off to the side, waiting to welcome Halliburton back with a hug and a short update on her senior year.

She specifically requested to meet the student Boone Principal Tim Campbell told her found over $100 on campus and immediately turned over to the office to find the rightful owner.

After a walk through the halls of Daniel Boone, and a bit of time spent in the classroom of one English class’ lively discussion of “The Scarlet Letter,” Halliburton stopped to introduce herself to a new teacher and to take pictures of another’s perfectly decorated classroom before it was on to her next stop, Ridgeview Elementary.

The director talks with the student who found over $100 in cash at Daniel Boone.

But her mind wasn’t on elementary education just yet; her mind was still reeling over the kids she saw at the high school. She spent the drive racking her brain over a way to honor the kid who found the money at the next board meeting. There was also one other student she couldn’t quite stop worrying about.

“I had a hard time getting that kid to talk to me. And usually I can get the loner kids to talk to me. But I think I caught him off guard,” she said, thinking back to a student sitting alone in the lunch room. She even asked the teacher on lunch duty if the student normally had friends to sit with.

“Those kids really need ya. And they’re kids that typically have a harder time fitting in,” she said. “That’s my kind of kid. Everybody loves the popular kids cause they’re easy to talk to and they’re usually personable. But I love talking to the other kids.”

It’s hard to walk through a high school and not think back on your own experience at that age. As Halliburton drove up the hill to Ridgeview, her mind went back to her own time in high school.

“All my friends were popular I would say. I wasn’t an athlete. I wasn’t a cheerleader. I was in student government. I wouldn’t say I was popular.

“I think popularity too, many times, is attributed to money. I probably couldn’t have been a cheerleader if I wanted to — and I’m not telling you a sob story. I don’t know how my parents would have afforded the uniform.”

Around the time a young Kimber Halliburton was making her way through high school, other factors put a bit of a strain on that time period for her as well.

“High school was hard for me. My brother had a really bad drug problem. And so that was a bit embarrassing at times, ya know? He would get arrested,” she said. “He was seven years older than me, but we all went to the same high school. And the teachers would go, ‘Oh, you’re Jeff’s little sister.’”

“One time he was actually in prison and there was a riot. He got shot and was on the news when I was in high school. People knew he was in and out of jail, but it’s not something you want to be reminded of all the time. But he was on the news and the next day at school, people were asking me about it and saying, ‘Oh I saw where your brother got shot,’ being nice, but still, ya know?”

The director doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the details of her high school days. Instead she

’s decided to put those experiences toward offering education options for high schoolers who might find themselves in the same situation as her brother.

“I really relate to people who have something they’re struggling with like that. I mean we all like to do something excessively. Some people are addicted to working out. That’s more of a healthy addiction, but still it’s an addiction,” she said. “That’s why those Asbury and Midway kids — you’ve gotta have things like that for those kids that wouldn’t necessarily be able to make it at a Crockett or a Boone. It’s too much for them. The social stuff is too much for them.

“It might not be to that degree where you’re incarcerated, but I think everybody has something they carry around.”

Every picture a story (1:45 p.m.)

Ridgeview, one of the newest Washington County Schools, is filled with beautifully painted cafeteria and library murals, and for Halliburton, plenty of opportunities for photo-ops.

Ridgeview is the second school stop through the day with the director.

It’s pretty easy to get a daily dose of a day in the life of Kimber Halliburton if you were to take a look at her twitter account complete with photos of all the people, classrooms, events and places she comes across in a day. As she made her way, still in what Moore called her “Hoe-down” dress, the director took a second to explain the reason she takes so many photos everywhere she goes.

“You know, my dad died when he was 54. I have one picture of me and my father and it’s not even a good one,” she said. “So I’ve driven my kids crazy taking pictures. That’s how you document history. My dad didn’t even own a camera.”

As much as she loves capturing photos, when the director steps foot into any school, it’s clear she’s ready to see the teachers hard at work. But she also really misses the interaction she used to have with students back when she was working in a school.

“I want to get to know more of them. The sad thing is, for me, I got to know a lot of the senior class from last year. And they’ve moved on so I’ve kind of learned that I need to get to know the freshman and sophomores. It’s not that I don’t know them, it’s just that I need to invest more time over a longer period of time,” she explained. “I always tell them, ‘Come up to me at a football game. Come say hi. Come sit with me.’ I mean, I want to get to know them.

Halliburton takes a minute to enjoy the Ridgeview library.

Around the next corner of the elementary school, the director spends time looking at one teachers new chrome books she just received. From there, the director stops in the library to ogle over the LEGO board and to say hi to faculty and staff in a professional development meeting.

By the time she shuts the driver door to her SUV, Halliburton already knows where she’s headed next; she’s ready to show off a new system-wide feature that’s soon to be complete in each school throughout the county.

The reading escape (3:01 p.m.)

Maybe it’s her background in education that helps her perfectly explain exactly what it is she wants someone to understand or maybe it’s the excitement she exudes that could almost rub off on her listener. Either way, as she rolls up to Boones Creek Elementary, the director spent a few moments describing the school system’s new book rooms and what it could mean for teachers and students in a way that would make you want to sit down with a good book right then and there.

Along with the new instructio

nal coaches, who work one-on-one with teachers to better advance their skills, the school system is adding these reading rooms that serve as a reading space where teachers can take his or her classes while also serving as a place to keep any items teachers could share instead of buying more than one at a school.

The director and assistant principal at Boones Creek Elementary, Jordan Hughes, make their way to see the reading room.

After her explanation, Halliburton is bound and determined to see the reading room at Boones Creek Elementary that she had heard so much about.

It’s not all about the room though; improving reading scores has been a goal that Halliburton has kept in the back of her mind since becoming the director.

“You know that prisons are planned (according to) third grade reading scores,” the director said. “It’s sad. If you’re not reading by third grade, that’s like a life sentence for not doing well. Not for everybody — there’s those oddball stories where you hear, ‘my dad only had a fifth grade education and he’s a wealthy tobacco farmer.’ You hear that. But for the most part, if you’re not reading by third grade, it’s really hard to catch you up.”

She’s excited to look through the room and all the potential learning that’s already taking place at the tables and reading corners in the room, but as a kindergarten class that just started school a couple weeks ago passes by, you can really almost see Halliburton’s heart melt at the sight of their smiling faces.

After making one last lap through the round part of the elementary school, Halliburton thanks assistant principal Jordan Hughes and the folks at the front office to head back to her own office where she’ll polish off a few more emails and look over a few more documents.

But the trip back to the office is a little easier when you’ve got a glorious view of the Appalachian Mountains — and when you’re still relatively new to East Tennessee.

“Susan Kiernan (the WCDE Director of Human Resources) says, ‘I love seeing your reaction to mountains because you’re like a little girl’ because I didn’t grow up around these. I’m just not accustomed to it,” Halliburton said, gazing at the vast view from the entrance of the elementary school. “I’m getting more accustomed to them, but the mountains to me are just, ‘wow.’ Jennifer says she’s going to take me to the prettiest view she says is in this region.”

Though Moore is yet to drive her by that spot (which she says is near South Central Elementary), it’s unclear when they’ll find the time because for Halliburton, who stops off to get a  coffee, black, for Moore and a coffee with eight creamers and two Splendas for herself, the day is still young.

When it works out (4:30 p.m.)

The work day is coming to a close for most, but for Halliburton, there’s often still to-do list items to cross off (or leave on the white board for another day.)

“We have days where we’ll have meetings scheduled, but some days, it’s so unpredictable,” Moore explained, sipping her coffee as she headed back into the place the morning began. “You’ll have one thing on your mind that you want to accomplish and then all this other unexpected stuff comes at you.”

After a trip around the fair and three school visits, Halliburton doesn’t miss a beat as she heads back into her office. She says when she gets home to her husband Frank and two cats, Harlow and Ellie May, she’ll still tend to a few emails, so she doesn’t mind taking a minute to sip her coffee — and look back on some highlights from her year so far.

It’s been just over a year since Halliburton first got the job as the director of schools. She’s the first woman to ever do so in Washington County and it’s quite possibly the first time for an outsider as well.

“So I interviewed for the job and I thought the board really liked me. That’s hard to determine and there were a lot of local candidates and some outsiders too,” she recalled. “But as we were driving home, Frank goes, ‘I think you really did a good job on the interview. I think they really liked you. The problem is, these people that interviewed are going to be with them for two more weeks. And you’re going back to Nashville.’”

She took the advice of other friends of hers who are also superintendents and decided to be there in person for the vote that would name the new Washington County director of schools. Knowing maybe two people in the room, Halliburton asked to hold a perfect stranger’s hand and awaited her fate; either she’d have the job or she’d be facing a long drive back to Nashville alone.

“I remember looking around at the walls in the board room and I thought I was going to cry. I’m not a cryer. I don’t cry much, but I got this choke in my throat and I looked around and thought, ‘Okay Lord, I really wanted to be here, but it’s not in your plan.’”

After looking back on getting the job and what all she’s done throughout the year, it’s hard for her to picture her life anywhere but in Washington County which now truly feels like home to her.

Halliburton makes her way through her Jonesborough home.

“It takes a while for a place to feel like home. And I think probably after about three or four months, Frank and I went home to Nashville,” she explained. “He went back first and hecame back one weekend and he goes, ‘it doesn’t feel like home anymore. Nashville doesn’t feel like home anymore.’ and I said, ‘Really?’ About two or  three weekends later, I went home. My son  and daughter were there and I stayed in my bed — but it doesn’t feel like home. It’s really different now. This place is truly home.”

There’s still one aspect of life in Washington County she says is completely different from the big city; for Halliburton, she’s still in awe of the kindness of people in this region.

Halliburton socializes with educators at the Teacher of the Year Banquet. She said the ceremony she implemented last school year was something she was most proud of after her first year as the director of schools.

“Relationships are important. Whether you’re in a big district or a small district or a small district. Ya know? If people like you, then when you have something tough that you have to face with them or maybe even about them, they accept it better because you’ve already got that relationship. You start off positive.”

“I’ve enjoyed it,” she said, thinking back on all the people she’s gotten to know in her time as director. “I love the people here. I’ve never met better people and better kids. The kids are so ‘Yes ma’am,’ ‘no ma’am’. They’re so mannerly. There’s just a different level of respect. They’re just taught that here at home.”

She heads out the door after turning out all the lights in her corner of the central office. It’s about time to hang up her fair dress and cowboy boots until next year’s fair. But she’s got quite a few other events to attend before then, like the first home Crockett football game the next night.

As for the to-do items on her white board and in her phone, she turns to the advice she often gives her own kids when they call with one of life’s many problems:

“I used to say, ‘Oh no, how is this going to happen?’,” she said after a long day of work and some unanswered questions. ‘But I have found out — things have a way of working out.”

Gone but never forgotten: local group helps parents continue to treasure their children

Jason Paris

Debbie Shaw

Tommy Hester

Carter Hester



H&T Correspondent

Zel Hester and Sandi Miles, organizers of a new group at the Jonesborough Senior Center, share a pain not everyone can understand: the loss of a child. But the group they have organized, Celebrating Your Child’s Life, will not dwell on the loss. Instead, it will offer an open, welcoming environment for celebrating the life that occurred “in the dash between the years.”

“This is what we’re dwelling on,” Hester said. “Not their births and not their deaths, but what they lived and celebrated.”

Hester has lost two children, Carter Hester and Tommy Hester. 16-year-old Carter died in 1983 in an automobile accident on his way to school, and Tommy, Hester’s elder son, died of AIDS at age 29.

“It was 1993 when he died,” Hester said, “so I also had that stigma to work through. And we were really good friends. I mean really good friends, so I not only lost my son, I lost my friend.”

After working through the losses, Hester said she struggled with mentioning her children in everyday conversation. For example, she said, her youngest son’s fiftieth birthday would have been in July.

“If he was still alive, I would’ve been able to walk into the office and say ‘Gosh, I can’t believe it. My son is 50-years-old.’ But because my son is dead, I didn’t have the comfort zone to feel like I could say that.”

Miles, who has lost two children herself, agreed. Miles moved to Jonesborough from Texas two years ago, and she said the loss of her children can be a difficult subject to broach when getting to know new people.

“You know the minute you tell them that, they’re going to be very uncomfortable,” Miles said, “but if you don’t tell them that you have children or that you had children and they passed away, then you’re denying that your children exist, and they were wonderful people while they were here and there’s still wonderful memories.”

Miles lost her 34-year-old daughter, Debbie Shaw, to breast cancer 15 years ago.

“When you lose a child, it doesn’t matter if it was today, yesterday, or 10 years ago,” Miles said, “that loss never goes away. That hole never leaves your heart.”

Miles has also lost her 43-year-old son, Jason Paris, who died 20 years after a diving accident left him a quadriplegic.

It was refreshing to be able to talk to Hester while volunteering at the Senior Center, Miles said, because Hester truly understood her feelings and experiences. That understanding led to the pair organizing the group so they could provide others with an opportunity to feel that same connection.

“This is not a grief or support group, though,” Hester stressed. “There’s already a grief and support group here in town for the newly bereaved called The Compassionate Friends.”

Instead, she and Miles wanted to organize a group focused on providing parents a place to celebrate the lives their children led, including the remembrance of birthdays, anniversaries, and accomplishments.

“We didn’t want it to be sad. We’re not necessarily going to sit around a table and talk,” Hester said. “We want to be able to come in and mention hard times, but we don’t want to dwell.”

Hester and Miles have come up with ideas for meetings that will bring people together over the good memories of their children. Future meetings may include a luncheon where everyone brings their child’s favorite food, a Christmas tree to which everyone contributes an ornament that reminds them of their child, and a picture day where attendees bring a favorite photograph of their child.

“I think everybody has a story to tell and I think they want to tell their story. Not the sad parts, not the losing parts, but the life that was there,” Miles said. “Everybody wants to share those good memories.

The Celebrating Your Child’s Life group is not restricted to Senior Center members. The public is welcome to attend.

“I can’t stress enough how supportive the Senior Center is in allowing us to have any kind of a group … that they feel would support the seniors here,” Miles said, “and also in reaching out to the community. There are a lot of members of the community who have gone through this who aren’t members of the Senior Center.”

Meetings will take place on the third Tuesday of every month at 11 a.m. at the Senior Center. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, September 19.

The Jonesborough Senior Center is located at 307 E Main St. For more information, you can contact the Senior Center at (423) 753-4781.

Celestial party takes over downtown


Staff Writer

The moon may have blocked the sun on Monday, Aug. 21, but the Town of Jonesborough blocked off Main Street for an Eclipse Block Party in celebration of the 2017 solar eclipse.

With an eclipse totality of 97 percent, Jonesborough was flooded with sky-watchers of all ages for a day of face painting, eclipse-themed treats and sun-gazers speckling the streets and sidewalks of historic downtown.

Everyone came with the same goal in mind—to watch the eclipse. But some event-goers, like Jonesborough resident Tava Cook, the research went beyond just what the sky would look like; Cook was also interested in what Jonesborough would look like at the exact moment the eclipse took place.

Tava Cook takes a look at the eclipse.

“I think it’s very interesting to hear what’s going to happen, how it’s going to get dark, the birds are going to roost, it’s going to cool down. All those things,” Cook explained. “It’s just interesting. You don’t get to experience it very often, so you should at least experience it.”

Before the street cooled down and the sun rays were blocked by the moon, Cook was reminded of the first eclipse she saw in 1978 just a few feet from where she once stood—only without her solar eclipse glasses.

“I’ve seen an eclipse before but not exactly like this. And not to where we were so close to totality like we are,” Cook said. “It was the last one. David Wise, who used to have the grocery store there, had a mirror and he reflected it up on the side of the building. You could watch it in real-time on the building without glasses. There wasn’t a big movement for glasses like there is now. And it worked perfectly.”

The Ward family steps into the street to enjoy the day’s celestial event.

For some, the eclipse was a first and served as an educational experience; though some school systems took the day to watch the celestial event as a normal school day, students were afforded a day to enjoy the eclipse with their families like Samantha and Jason Ward of Johnson City.

“We brought them out to Jonesborough because we thought it would be a good spot to come to. We were looking for the right place to be that’s close by and would be a fun place,” Samantha and Jason’s dad, Brian Ward, said. “We’ve been talking about it for a few weeks now. Especially the little guy. He’s really into space.”

Those interested in the science of the eclipse phenomenon got to hear from Rico Ignace, an astrophysicist professor at East Tennessee State University who explained just what an eclipse is and that Venus would also be visible during the eclipse.

However, for science-lovers like Jason donning a sun-themed t-shirt, the sun and moon were the real stars of the show. And it was a show he clearly realized he might not see very often.

“I like science and I’m also very excited for the corona,” Jason said, peering up at the sun behind his certified solar eclipse glasses. “The moon is blocking the sun! And I’m only going to see it once in my life.”

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.