Saturday fire still under investigation

A Wise County woman remains in Parkland Hospital’s burn unit after a Saturday fire destroyed a travel trailer in which she was living.

Patricia K. Woods, 40, suffered burns on her lower extremities in the fire, which broke out sometime around mid-morning on Saturday.

Reignited and Gutted

RE-IGNITED AND GUTTED – A recreational vehicle where two people were living caught fire, then re-ignited after they went to the hospital Saturday, resulting in a total loss. The home was in the Brushy Creek RV Park northwest of Decatur. Messenger photo by Bob Buckel

Woods and Johnny Moore, 46, were purchasing the trailer from the owner of Brushy Creek RV Park, off U.S. 81/287 just behind the highway roadside rest area northwest of Decatur. They had lived there about three weeks.

After the fire broke out, Moore reportedly took Woods in a private vehicle to Wise Regional Health System in Decatur, where she was treated and later transferred by helicopter to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

According to Deputy Wise County Fire Marshal J.C. Travis, while they were at the hospital, Moore mentioned to someone that they thought they had put the fire out, but were not sure.

The Decatur Fire Deptartment was called at 11:18 a.m. and when they arrived at the location, the RV was fully engulfed again. They extinguished the fire and stayed on the scene until 1:25 p.m. – but the RV and contents were a total loss.

Travis said the couple were doing some remodeling on the RV.

He said the cause of the fire is currently under investigation.

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Navy veteran is new homeless counselor at VSO

If it seems like Elroy Roberson knows what he’s doing as a VA homeless veteran outreach counselor, it’s no accident.

The former Navy veteran, who began working at the Wise County Veterans Service Office Tuesday, has built a career helping homeless and mentally disabled veterans. He’s worked with the Salvation Army and the VA, and pastors a church in Fort Worth, where he says his desire is to see everyone healed.

HELPING THE HOMELESS – Elroy Roberson just joined the Wise County Veterans Service Office as a homeless veterans counselor. He works with the VA and Wise County to offer housing solutions to veterans in need. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

He also knows first-hand what it’s like to be a veteran experiencing homelessness.

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., Roberson moved to the metroplex to attend Bishop College in Dallas. He then spent 20 years as an aircraft handler for the Navy, and decided to move back to the DFW area after he was discharged.

“After getting out of the Navy, I was promised a job in Texas, so I left everything I had in New York and moved,” Roberson said. “When I got here, I found out I didn’t have the job, and then, for about eight months I experienced homelessness.

“That was when I realized that this could happen to anyone.”

With tears in his eyes, Roberson recalled his experiences during those months after he left the Navy in 1994.

“It was a struggle. I slept in my car a lot. Lots of times, people don’t know what it’s really like, and that’s why I’m so passionate about this issue,” Roberson said. “It’s not always that the person’s on drugs, or has mental health issues, but there is depression.

“I would get these wild thoughts when I thought I couldn’t make it. All it takes is one person to step in and help to change someone’s life for the better.”

Roberson eventually got a job working at a mental health hospital in Lancaster while also working part-time at the Salvation Army. After that, he said, his life turned around. He’s been at the VA since January, and pastors the Spirit and Truth Fellowship Christian Center – a church he started in Fort Worth.

He’s working on an MBA at DeVry University so he can become an administrator in the VA. Now, he wants to be that “one person” to help Wise County veterans get their lives back on track, by any means necessary.

“If that means putting people in my car and driving people to the outpatient clinic in Fort Worth, then so be it,” Roberson said.

The VA currently allots $300 million in grants for programs to help the country’s nearly 50,000 homeless veterans. Texas has one of the highest populations of veterans in the U.S. – more than 1.5 million – and a certain percentage of those are on the street.

According to a recent CBS DFW report, at least 2,500 homeless veterans live in North Texas. The VA hopes to end veteran homelessness in America by next year.

Roberson said many homeless veterans from areas like Wise County don’t want to live in Dallas or Fort Worth. That means much of the local center’s efforts center on shuttling people to VA hospitals.

The VA also partners with Catholic Charities Fort Worth for CCFW’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, which helps find housing for low-income veterans and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless.

The program Roberson is most excited about is the upcoming Stand Down fundraising event, a four-day affair where different organizations can donate clothing, blankets and coats, and offer haircuts, showers and checkups for veterans. There is no date set for the event yet, but Roberson said other cities had great success with it in the past.

Wise County veteran service officer Laura Spain said Roberson’s hiring is a good thing for the county.

“We’re excited he’s here,” Spain said. “If you ask anyone, someone’s got a friend of a friend or someone who knows someone who’s homeless. And we’re trying to help those people.”

As for Roberson, he just wants to touch the lives of the veterans he meets.

“This job is really a blessing to me, to be able to tell people that hey, I’ve been where you’ve been. It can happen to anyone,” Roberson said.

Roberson will be working at the Wise County Veterans Service Office every Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.

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Cross Country: Perfect run – Lady Eagles take top 6 spots at Reunion

Led by Jessica Kyle, Decatur completed the perfect race Saturday at the Reunion Run.

The Lady Eagles swept the top six spots, and seven of the first eight, on their home course at Joe Wheeler Park.

Pulling Away

PULLING AWAY – Decatur’s Jessica Kyle surges ahead of teammate Nicole Neighbors near the one-mile mark of Saturday’s 4A-and-under race at the Reunion Run. Kyle won the race. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“We all ran really good,” Kyle said. “Getting a perfect score is promising, especially because we’re not even to district yet.”

Decatur finished with 15 points, winning the 4A-and-under title. Springtown was second with 98. Alvord finished sixth with 159, and Slidell ninth with 190.

It was Kyle’s teammate Nicole Neighbors who set the early pace, leading through the first 800 meters. Kyle tracked her down before hitting the mile split.

“She went out fast and I was trying to catch her,” Kyle said. “At the beginning I was blocked in by a lot of people. After the first turn, it started to thin out.”

Once taking the lead, Kyle cruised to the finish for her second win on the course in 12:24. She also won the district meet there last year.

“I like it. There’s not many challenging hills,” Kyle said.

Finishing behind Kyle was freshman Taylor Butler in 12:37. Butler passed Neighbors in the final meters for second. Neighbors took third in 12:40.

“It was my best finish all year,” Butler said. “It was 15 seconds less than Sanger. I did exactly what Coach [David] Park said.”

Butler and fellow freshman Elizabeth Culpepper did take a wrong turn on the course and ran a few meters more than 3,200. But even with the detour, the two held their spots. Culpepper finished fifth in 12:44, just behind Georgian Palomo in fourth in 12:41.

Paola Paloma took sixth in 13 minutes. Lluvia Ramos ran 13:07 for eighth.

Decatur’s Nancy Torres finished 13th in 13:23, and Hope Fuller 14th in 13:25.

“It was a good day on tired legs,” Park said.

Alvord’s Brooklyn Mitchum ran 13:15 for 11th. Clara Breashears took 18th in 13:45. Hannah Carpenter ran 14:42 for 42nd, and Lulu Murillo 15:27 for 50th. Dessie Putnam was 60th in 17:00, and Cheyann Palmer 61st in 17:11.

Kayson Roof led Slidell, taking 29th in 14:08. Caitlin Pruett ran 14:31 for 36th. Makayla Fitzgerald finished 44th in 14:47. Sydney Keating was 52nd in 15:33, finishing second and a spot ahead of Kylie Franklin.

Megan Garcia ran 18:07 for 62nd.

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Football: Playing tough – Older brothers prep Durdon for gridiron

Football: Playing tough – Older brothers prep Durdon for gridiron

With three older brothers, Ryan Durdon found out quickly he had to be tough to hold his own in backyard pick-up games.

“Being the youngest definitely made me tougher. Everything turned into a fight,” Durdon laughs. “I didn’t have a choice.”

Tough Man to Stop

TOUGH MAN TO STOP – Decatur receiver Ryan Durdon leads the Eagles in receiving while also starting in the secondary for the Eagles. He is averaging 20 yards on his 22 receptions this season. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The Decatur junior has turned that toughness into becoming a two-way star for the Eagles, who start District 4-4A Division I play Friday night.

Durdon enters district as the Eagles’ leading receiver with 22 catches for 443 yards. Defensively, he has bounced around between cornerback and safety, making 10 tackles. He is expected to be back at corner Friday.

His solid play at wide receiver and safety, where he filled for an injured teammate, earned him the Eagles’ top offensive and defensive honors against Carrollton Ranchview.

“I’ve never had that happen,” said Decatur coach Mike Fuller.

But Durdon also plays on most of the Eagles’ special teams units, meaning he gets little rest on Friday nights.

“It’s fun,” Durdon said. “I’ll do whatever they ask me to.”

Fuller said the biggest problem with Durdon being on every unit is getting a chance to talk with him.

“He only comes off when we’re kicking extra points,” Fuller said. “But it seems he goes harder with no rest.”

Durdon’s impressive play on offense has helped the Eagles fill the void left with the graduation of last year’s top targets, Cain Lowe and Austin Givens. What makes his 20-yard-per-catch start even more special is the fact that he didn’t play the position last year. As a sophomore he strictly played defense.

“I forgot what it was like to play offense and catch the ball,” Durdon said.

Fuller credits Durdon’s strong hands and willingness to go up and attack the ball at its highest point with his development as a receiver.

But he doesn’t stop with just pulling in the reception. He’s proven to be one of the hardest runners to bring down in the open field, often dragging tacklers several yards before being stopped.

“I’m just trying to do what it takes to win,” Durdon said. “I’m just trying my hardest to help the team win.”

Durdon gives quarterback Justin Myers credit for allowing him to make plays down field.

“We know Justin is going to get the ball to us,” he said.

Defensively, Durdon started the season at cornerback. But injuries forced him to the unfamiliar spot of safety for a pair of games.

“I like safety,” Durdon said. “When Carsen [Medlin] was injured, I played it for the first time and loved it.”

He filled in at safety again with Payton McAlister slowed. But after Aaron Shetter went down with an injury, he moved back to corner.

He doesn’t mind shifting spots.

“I just love football,” he said.

Those tough games with his older brothers gave him plenty of preparation.

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Football: Eagles open 4-4A play with test against Burkburnett

Mike Fuller’s message to his Decatur Eagles throughout the season has remained consistent: improve each week and get ready for district.

Through the team’s 3-2 start, Fuller says his team has accomplished that in his first year on the Decatur sidelines.

“We’ve gotten better at something every week,” Fuller said. “With maybe the exception of the Ranchview game, we got better as a team each game. But we learned from that. From the first game to the fifth, we are nowhere near the same team. And we’re not where we will be at the end.”

But starting Friday improving will not be just enough as the Eagles start playing for one of the four playoff spots out of District 4-4A Division I. The Eagles start district at home at 7:30 p.m. against the Burkburnett Bulldogs (1-4).

“We want to be district champs,” said Decatur receiver Ryan Durdon. “It’s important to get that first one.”

And with the schedule rolling into district play, the intensity steps up a notch.

“When you show for a district game, the lights are brighter, the bands are louder and the fans are louder. There’s just more electricity because it means something,” Fuller said.

For teams like Burkburnett, it’s a chance to turn around early season struggles. The Bulldogs have dropped three straight since beating Aubrey 41-28. Brownwood hammered Burkburnett 51-8 its last time out.

“It’s a new season for them,” Fuller points out.

Burkburnett brings to town a power running attack led by Marquis Askew-Betts and Bryan Lewis, who have combined for 740 yards and nine touchdowns.

“They are scary to watch. It’s an offense you only see when you face them,” Fuller said. “The big challenge is playing assignment football. And even though you know your assignment, you think you see something and take a wrong step and you get beat.”

The Eagles offense could help the defense by scoring early and forcing Burkburnett’s ball-control offense to play catch-up.

“They are not a team that is built to make the big comeback,” Fuller said.

So far this season, the Decatur offense has not missed a beat behind quarterback Justin Myers, who has thrown for 954 yards and ran for 636.

Through five games, the Eagles are averaging 287 yards rushing and 192 through the air,

“We’re halfway to last year’s total,” Fuller said. “I’m proud of where we are.”


7:30 p.m. at Eagle Stadium

Burkburnett: Harris Rating 199

Notable: The Bulldogs average 236 yards rushing.

Decatur: Harris Rating 215

Notable: The Eagles’ 479 yards per game is 19 yards off 2013.

Harris line: Decatur by 17

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Cross Country: Wilson’s career best leads Eagles to victory

As Tyler Wilson turned the corner after hitting the mile mark Saturday, Decatur cross country coach David Park screamed for him to pick up the pace if he wanted to finish the 5K course in the 16s.

The Decatur senior followed instructions, blazing through the rest of the course at Joe Wheeler Park in a personal best 16:16 to complete a wire-to-wire win at the Reunion Run.

Leading the Pack

LEADING THE PACK – Decatur’s Tyler Wilson smashed his personal record Saturday, running 16:16 and winning the Reunion Run at Joe Wheeler Park in Decatur. Messenger photo by Richard Greene

“At the beginning it didn’t feel like a race, but just another run,” Wilson said. “Once I got started, I kicked it into gear.”

Wilson’s previous best was 17:07.

On a cool morning with virtually no wind, the course provided little challenge for Wilson, who won by 30 seconds over Peaster’s Will McIlroy.

Wilson said it was not only Park’s words that helped him pull away but also hearing McIroy’s coach.

“I heard his coach yell he was 30 yards back and after that I turned it on,” Wilson explained.

The Decatur senior hopes to turn in another dominating performance on the course later this month at the 8-4A meet Oct. 23.

“This is huge. I just want to take it up another notch. If I can beat this at district, it would be outstanding,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s performance was only part of an impressive run for the Eagles. Decatur won the meet with 22 points. Peaster was second with 96.

Alvord brought home fifth with 114, and Slidell sixth with 120.

Decatur placed six runners in the top 10. Parker Cullop finished third in 17:23.

“I was hurting at the end but the downhill finish helped,” Cullop said.

“We did good as a team. Everyone is improving a lot.”

Allen Rangle took fourth in 17:37. Charles Doubrava ran 18:01 for sixth. Bryse Hoyt was eighth in 18:12.

Hunter Helm ran 18:19 for 10th, Joaquin Aldape 18:31 for 18th, and Cason Lowe 19:49 for 34th.

Victory Christian’s Justin McBride posted a top-10 finish, taking ninth in 18:16.

Alvord’s Matthew Johnson turned in his team’s best finish, 21sth in 18:55.

Logan Watkins took 24th in 19:02. Bobby McKinnon was 44th in 20:46, Tanner Baker 45th in 20:49, and Cody Putnam 63rd in 25:59.

Khristian Talamantes finished 26th for Slidell in 19:05. Kyler Carnes ran 19:34 for 31st. Shelby Vanover took 33rd in 19:47. Colton Crane was 37th in 20:23, and Dustin Davis 40th in 20:33.

Francisco Martinez ran 21:15 for 52nd, and Walker Gladden 22:43 for 59th.

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Volleyball: Lady Eagles storm Castleberry

The Decatur Lady Eagles reached perfection Friday in the second set.

With Courtnie Roberts serving 24 straight points, the Lady Eagles won the second game 25-0 over Castleberry.

Decatur (25-10, 2-0) swept the match 25-5, 25-0, 25-4.

“It was definitely cool, but anyone on our team could’ve done it,” Roberts said, downplaying her feat. “I happened to be back there for their weakest rotation.”

Roberts served seven aces during the run that started after Decatur got a sideout for the first point.

The Decatur sophomore said she fought her nerves with each serve, especially after reaching game point.

“At point 24, I was on the line saying, ‘Please, Lord, don’t let me miss this!” Roberts explained. “I have a habit of missing that serve.”

The perfect set was a first for the Decatur seniors and coach Claire Benedict-Gay.

“I’ve never seen it, been a part of it or even heard about it,” said senior setter Stormi Leonard.

“It was so fun. I give a lot of credit to us because we didn’t mess up. When things get slower the more weaknesses are evident. It’s really awesome to be so clutch.”

Along with Roberts making aggressive serves in the match, the Lady Eagles’ front line kept putting down kills. Decatur hit .525 for the match with 35 kills.

“We had to play a little bit,” Benedict-Gay said.

Caroline Lowery recorded 11 kills. Makayla Mayfield added nine.

Leonard handed out 24 assists.

Mayfield made 14 digs. Leonard had seven digs. Maclaine Lowery and Roberts finished with six digs each.

Decatur stretched its district winning streak to 52 straight matches, dating back to October 2008. The program has won 122 straight sets since last dropping one in October 2009.

“We give a lot of credit to the older girls before us who showed us how to play during district. We’re determined to not break the streak,” said Leonard – reaching down to knock on the gym floor.

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Rodeo: Tucker wrestles up win in 6.8 seconds

Decatur cowboy Camerron Tucker needed just 6.8 seconds to complete his winning run Saturday in steer wrestling at the North Texas High School Rodeo Association event.

Tucker led a trio of Decatur cowboys Saturday. Dillan McGuire finished third in 13.2, and Chase Wilson fourth in 17.182.

Northwest’s Trinton Barfield took second in 8.415.

In chute dogging, Nicholas Martinez brought home second in 2.782. Northwest’s Cole Gerrek was third in 2.849, and Decatur’s Wilson fourth in 2.958. Decatur’s Jacob McLeod finished ninth in 4.906.

Decatur’s Jake Cobb took third in ribbon roping in 9.267. Alvord’s Tanner Baker was fourth in 10.237, finishing a spot ahead of Decatur’s Lawson Harris in 11.766.

Cobb also was third in calf roping with a run of 13.383. Baker finished fifth in 14.404. Harris took seventh in 16.942.

Baker was fourth as the header in team roping with a time of 18.397. Paradise’s Paitane Brown took second in team roping as the heeler in 14.32.

Baker finished as the top rookie cowboy with 140 points.

Alvord’s Mikayla Cox garnered sixth in steer undecorating in 2.653 seconds. Decatur’s Carolyn Spear was eighth in 3.607.

Northwest’s Eliesha Hobbs finished eighth in walk-up goat tying in 8.505.

Boyd’s Treavor Hadden O’Neal scored a 64 to take second in bull riding.

The Decatur squad was the top scoring team with 504 points.

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LeRoy Harold Kemper Jr.

LeRoy Harold Kemper Jr.

LeRoy Harold Kemper Jr., 76, a printer, died Friday, Oct. 3, 2014, in Decatur.

Memorial service was Oct. 6 at Christian-Hawkins Funeral Home in Boyd with the Rev. Gary Sessions officiating.

LeRoy was born Dec. 11, 1937, in Florence, Colo., to LeRoy Harold Sr. and Florence Wanda (Sweet) Kemper. He married Barbara Ann Hunter Jan. 20, 1956, in Irving.

LeRoy was the print manager for Image Printing and a driver for Solaris Hospice.

He was preceded in death by his parents; brothers Earl, Merl, David and Robert Kemper; and sister Kathy Beachamp.

He is survived by his wife of 58 years, Barbara Kemper of Paradise; son LeRoy H. Kemper III of Paradise; daughters Debra A. Kemper of Paradise, Donna S. Kemper of Keller and DenaJo A. Kemper Coles of Bridgeport; granddaughters Misti Lea Flores of Flower Mound, Wanda K. Kemper of Paradise, Amanda Nicole Plott of Pflugerville, Samantha A. Stringer of Keller and Sarah E. Faughtonberry of Paradise; grandson Donovon Leach of Brock; eight great-grandchildren; sisters Arlene Willet, Nadine Burian and Ann Cowen; and numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and friends.

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Location: 1650 S. FM 51, Suite No. 700, Decatur

Phone: 940-626-4295

Fax: 940-626-1592



Owner: Bill Winters

Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday

Products/services: Insurance – auto, home, life and retirement

Ribbon Cutting

RIBBON CUTTING – Decatur Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting Oct. 2 at Allstate. Pictured are (from left) Bill Winters, Tarma Winters, Cheryl Haynes and Jesse Lovelace. Messenger photo by Laura Belcher

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Brenda T. Cunningham

Brenda T. Cunningham

Brenda T. Cunningham, 62, died Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Decatur.

Memorial service was Oct. 3 at the First United Methodist in Decatur with Dr. Brian Bosworth and Zack Landis officiating. Arrangements were under the direction of White Family Funeral Home in Bowie.

Brenda was born Aug. 23, 1952, in Dallas to Neil and Bobbie (Mosley) Thomas. She graduated from Athens High School and Sam Houston State University with an Master of Business Administration in 1978.

Brenda married Jim Cunningham Nov. 25, 1981. She worked in human resources for various entities including the city of Huntsville, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Xerox, Pro Travel, Mead, Children’s Hospital and Boeing. Brenda also served on the Texas Master Gardener Association (TMGA) executive committee for many years and was president in 2012.

Brenda bravely fought and overcame breast cancer in 2010 and remained entrenched and active in the TMGA at the state level until her passing. She had been an active master gardener in Dallas County for 15 years.

Brenda is survived by her husband, Jim Cunningham of Sunset; daughter Nikki Hudiburgh and husband, John, of Frisco; son Ryan Cunningham and wife, Andrea, of Plano; grandchildren Charlie Cunningham of Plano, Cora Cunningham of Plano and Finley Hudiburgh of Frisco; mother Bobbie Thomas of Mabank; sister Linda Gamble of Forney; and her little puppies, Bo and Rolo.

Memorial donations may be made to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, P.O. Box 650309, Dallas, TX 75265-0309.

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Geneva Lucille Potter

Geneva Lucille Potter

Geneva Lucille Potter, 84, a cook, died Wednesday, Oct. 1, 2014, in Decatur.

Graveside service is 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 4, at Fairview Cemetery with Bro. James Hurst officiating. Burial is under the direction of Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur.

Geneva Lucille Potter was born Oct. 27, 1929, in Decatur to Johnnie and Lorene “Norris” Dunn. She married James Lee Potter Oct. 19, 1946, at the age of 17 and immediately became the mother of four small children. She had two more sons for a total of six children.

Her life revolved around caring for her husband, children, grandchildren, parents, in-laws and her community. She worked “forever” making “many a meal” cooking for the Decatur’s Rotary Club and Decatur Lions Club, retiring in 1998 after 29 years of service.

Lucille was preceded in death by her husband; three sons, Ricky Sr., Ronnie and Donnie Potter; a son-in-law, Tom Hall; grandchildren Bryan and Dawn Marie Houtchens; her parents; sister Ruby Jo Fuqua; and brother Bill Dunn.

She is survived by sons Randy Potter Sr and wife, Marie, and Pete Potter and wife, Carol; daughter Patsy Hall; and daughter-in-law Linda Potter, all of Decatur; grandchildren Amanda Potter Harper and husband, Chuck, Randy Jr., Jeremy, Tommy, Jimmy, Sherri and Ricky Potter Jr., Jordan and Shelbie Chandler, Tresia Otto, Misty Metzler, Cristy Howlett, Pam Beck, Kimberly Coy, Tommy Hall Jr., Cheryl Bond, Dana and Monty Houtchens, Nikki Lillis and Wesley Manetta; 39 great-grandchildren; 12 great-great-grandchildren; four sisters-in-law; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

Memorial donations may be made to DAV Chapter 70, P.O. Box 917, Decatur, TX 76234.

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Volleyball: Lady Eagles sweep Legacy

The Decatur Lady Eagles filled their open date during District 8-4A play with a victory over Mansfield Legacy.

The Lady Eagles, ranked second in 4A, swept Legacy 25-11, 25-10, 25-16.

Decatur played a strong defensive game with three players reaching double digits in digs. Makayla Mayfield finished with 19. Cooper Martin added 15, and Maclaine Lowery 14.

Stormi Leonard and Courtnie Roberts blocked three shots each.

Offensively, Caroline Lowery buried 15 kills. Martin added 11, and Roberts had eight finishers.

Leonard handed out 33 assists.

Maclaine Lowery served four aces. Leonard and Mayfield recorded two apiece.

Decatur returned to district action Friday at 5 p.m. after hoisting the team’s 3A state championship banner before the match.

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Raylee Shay Cox

Phillip and Madyson Cox of Decatur announce the birth of a daughter, Raylee Shay, on Sept. 30, 2014, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 8 pounds, 7 ounces and was 19 inches long.

Grandparents are Kevin and Susan Cox of Grand Prairie, Darla and Joe Duty of Decatur and Randy and Carol McElvany of Crowley.

Great-grandparents are Linda Sadler of Eastland, Kathy Wolf of Cedar Hill, Steve and Colleen Cox of Waxahachie and Dan McElvany of Fort Worth.

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Fire safety no joke for Clown Brigade

Fire safety no joke for Clown Brigade

October can mean different things to different people. Halloween. Colder weather. Colorful leaves. Columbus Day.

For Decatur Fire Captain Nate Mara, the month of October means another chance to educate children on fire safety in a fun way.

Funny Business

FUNNY BUSINESS – Decatur Fire Department Captain Nate Mara laughs during the dress rehearsal of the Decatur Fire Department’s Clown Brigade show Sunday at the Decatur Fire Hall. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Mara and two other members of the Decatur Fire Department, Eli Nobles and Brandon McGar, will travel the county as clowns this month, performing shows that educate elementary school-aged children about fire safety for Fire Prevention Month.

“As an adult, we can tell you, ‘Don’t do that,’ and you’ll understand, but children who are younger don’t really get that. So we use clowns to get our message across,” Mara said.

Currently in its eighth year of touring the county, the DFD Clown Brigade will visit every elementary campus in Wise County this month to educate students in kindergarten through fifth grades about issues like smoke detector maintenance, making friends and not being a bully, strange animal danger, unattended fires and fire prevention.

Learning Through Laughter

LEARNING THROUGH LAUGHTER – A child in the audience at the Clown Brigade’s dress rehearsal laughs during the show, which teaches lessons about fire safety to elementary students. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

It’s a show that has been months in the making.

“Every January we go to a characterization camp in Bullhead City, Ariz., where they teach us about new topics, props, makeup, budgeting and other stuff like that – and that starts our year off in the right direction,” Mara said.

READY FOR HIS CLOSE-UP – Decatur Fire Department firefighter Brandon McGar poses for the camera in his clown makeup Sunday at the Decatur Fire Hall. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

The team works on their routine a little bit throughout the year until September hits, and then, Mara said, they “go into clown mode.”

“We start perfecting our shows, meeting at the station and around the area,” Mara said. “And the support from the department and our families is really the key to our success. We bounce a lot of stuff off of them to find out what’s funny and what works and what doesn’t.”

Nobles, currently in his second year performing in the clown show, said that the thing he most enjoys about performing for the students is knowing that their safety messages are being heard.

“Last year, after we did the show, my shift got called out to a grease fire, and when we got there, it was already out because the six year-old girl who lived there saw our show and knew what to do,” Nobles said. “So that was proof that our message was sinking in.”

Upcoming show dates and times:

  • Oct. 7, Rann Elementary – 2 p.m.
  • Oct. 7, National Night Out in Decatur Square – 5 p.m.
  • Oct. 9, Young Elementary – 1:30 p.m.
  • Oct. 10, Carson Elementary – 7:45 a.m.

Later shows are still being finalized.

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Volleyball: Lady Eagles keep district streak rolling

The Decatur Lady Eagles started District 8-4A play in the same fashion as they have the past five years – winning.

The Lady Eagles (23-10, 1-0) needed only 49 minutes to close out Lake Worth in three games, 25-6, 25-10, 25-10.

Decatur stretched a district winning streak that dates back to October 2008 to 51 straight matches. The program has won 119 straight sets. Decatur seniors were in seventh grade the last time the Lady Eagles lost a set in league play – against Bridgeport in October 2009.

Against Lake Worth, they dominated at the net. Decatur put down 32 kills in the possible 75 points. The Lady Eagles hit .388 for the match.

Caroline Lowery finished with 10 kills. Cooper Martin and Makayla Mayfield finished with six kills apiece.

Stormi Leonard handed out 24 assists.

Leonard also made a team-high 11 digs. Maclaine and Caroline Lowery dug nine shots each.

At the service line, sophomore middle blocker Courtnie Roberts recorded 10 aces.

Decatur took on Mansfield Legacy in a non-district match Tuesday. The Lady Eagles return to league action Friday at home against Castleberry.

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Cross Country: Fast start – Freshmen add strength to Lady Eagles

Cross Country: Fast start – Freshmen add strength to Lady Eagles

Pictures and newspaper clippings of past state cross country champions cover the walls of Decatur coach David Park’s classroom.

“One of my goals is to have a picture on the wall,” said Decatur freshman Taylor Butler.

FRESH STEPS – Decatur freshmen Elizabeth Culpepper and Taylor Butler are off to fast starts with the Lady Eagles. The first-year duo has finished in the top four for Decatur at every meet. They look to continue their fast start at the Reunion Run Saturday. Messenger Photo by Joe Duty

Butler and fellow freshman Elizabeth Culpepper hope to reserve their spot on the wall later this fall with a Decatur Lady Eagles team hungry to reach the top of the medal stand in Round Rock. Decatur finished second last year.

But the two youngest members of the squad are not just along for the ride. The freshmen have consistently been among the Lady Eagles’ top five runners this season. They will run in their first Reunion Run at Decatur’s Joe Wheeler Park Saturday, racing in the 4A-and-under two-mile at 9:40 a.m.

Park said the two freshman are also just starting to scratch the surface of their potential.

“They’ve got an opportunity to be really good, and I don’t think they know it,” Park said.

“They have an incredible work ethic, and they listen to the older girls. They’ve bought into what the older girls are selling. They are tired of being second and third on the award stand.”

The latter they credit for their early season success.

“They’ve really helped us,” Culpepper said. “Our captains Jessi [Kyle], Nancy [Torres] and Nicole [Neighbors] have really supported and helped us. They give us tips and advice.”

A lot of their questions are about courses that the veteran runners know that the two freshmen are tackling for the first time.

“We ask if this is a bad course,” Culpepper said. “They always say, ‘Trust your train.'”

The first-year high school runners add that there are some benefits to running a course for the first time.

“You don’t know what you are getting into, so there’s nothing to dread,” Culpepper said.

So far, the two freshmen have handled their nerves in the big races. Both claim the most nerve-racking event was the beginning-of-the-season time trial.

Butler ran 13:12 in the two-mile trial, and Culpepper 13:13 to finish fourth and fifth and land varsity spots.

The two have improved steadily throughout the season. From their first 5K to their second, Butler shaved 11 seconds and Culpepper 14.

They both broke 13 minutes for the first time at the Sanger Invitational in the two-mile. Butler ran a 12:55, and Culpepper 12:59.

“[Before Sanger] I asked them when was the last time they’ve been in the 12s,” Park said. “They said never. I told them they were going to do it Saturday and they did.”

Park said he’s tried to bring along the freshmen slowly.

“The worst thing for a freshman is for them to go out, crash and burn,” he explained. “Now they are fit and know the worst thing that can happen is not too bad.”

As Decatur nears the championship portion of the season, starting with the 8-4A meet Oct. 23, the freshmen want to hold up their end and not let their teammates down.

“You don’t want to be the last person,” Butler said.

They also know the legacy of Decatur cross country will be theirs to carry forward after this year. It’s their duty to add more pictures to the wall.

“We’ll have big shoes to fill,” Culpepper said.

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Golf: Eagles finish 3rd at Iron Horse

The Decatur Eagles golf team finished third Tuesday at Iron Horse Golf Course in North Richland Hills.

The Eagles shot 350, finishing behind champion Naaman Forest and Richland’s Blue team.

Brendon Kerby led Decatur with an 82, tying for fourth. Jackson Bearden tied for sixth with an 83. Hayden Bennett shot 85 and Alex Lambert 100.

The Decatur “B” squad shot 385. Holden Walker fired an 86. Kale Bronniman hit a 91. Drew Graves finished at 101 and Isaac Ille 107.

In the girls tournament, Kalee Higdon shot 101. Sarah Crouse hit 114, and Madeleine Semmelmann 146.

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Swimming: Rowden captures freestyle, butterfly

Katey Rowden won the 100 freestyle and 50 butterfly Saturday at the sprint invitational in The Colony.

Rowden turned in a 56.23 in the 100, and 27.57 in the butterfly.

The Decatur girls finished third as a team.

Rowden joined Allie Blevins, Kate Grant and Emily Howdeshell on the 100 freestyle relay that took third in 53.07.

The same quartet was eighth in the 200 relay in 1:54.71.

Blevins took fifth in the 25 freestyle in 13.72, and seventh in the 200 in 2:13.97.

Grant garnered sixth in the 50 backstroke in 33.27.

Colton Teter finished fifth in the 25 freestyle in 12.18. Ethan Miles was eighth in the 50 backstroke in 28.76.

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Neoma Ruth Collins

Neoma Ruth Collins

Neoma Ruth Collins, 86, a retired factory worker, died Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014, in Decatur.

Funeral was Sept. 30 at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur with the Rev. David Isbell officiating. Burial followed at Lone Star Cemetery.

Pallbearers were Dennis Brooks, David Newton, Charles Newton, Phillip Brooks, Randy Tidmore and Tommy Brooks.

Neoma was born Sept. 19, 1928, in Wise County to William Alfred and Sally Myrtle (Dickenson) Newton. She married Guy Leeross Collins Oct. 7, 1988, in Fort Worth. Neoma was a member of Eagle Drive Baptist Church.

Neoma was preceded in death by her parents, husband, two brothers, and a sister.

She is survived by her daughters, Debra Jean Fox and husband, Henley, of Decatur, Alice Sherrod of DeLeon, Paulette Hart and husband, Terry, of Fort Worth and Gail Kapavik of Benbrook; son Larry Morrow and wife, Judy, of Bridgeport; grandchildren Russell Fox, Tressa McCormick, Debra Warbrittion, Dixie Bryan, Kayla Nichols and Cody Morrow; eight great-grandchildren; sisters Annie Mae Brooks, Lou Ellen Lum and Flora Jean Frazier; brother Melton Newton; and numerous nieces, nephews and friends.

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