Man, 79, dies in tree-trimming accident

Man, 79, dies in tree-trimming accident

Greenwood lost an active member of its community to a tragic accident Monday morning.

Bill Maxwell died when a large tree he was trimming fell and struck him.

FATAL MORNING - Bill Maxwell, 79, of Greenwood was killed at his home Monday morning after a large tree he was trimming fell onto him. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

FATAL MORNING – Bill Maxwell, 79, of Greenwood was killed at his home Monday morning after a large tree he was trimming fell onto him. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Maxwell, 79, was trimming trees by a creek bed on his property, just down the hill from his home, when the accident occurred about 9:30 a.m. The farm is located in the 1200 block of Farm Road 1204, a couple of miles west of Farm Road 51.

“He was cutting some trees along the creek bank when one of them broke and came over on him,” said Captain Kevin Benton with the Wise County Sheriff’s Office. “Everything in our investigation is showing us at this time it was a very tragic accident.”

Another man was working with Maxwell at the time of the accident. He called 911 and attempted CPR on Maxwell while waiting, but to no avail. The blow killed Maxwell almost instantly.

Family, friends and neighbors gathered on a rolling hill of the farm as emergency responders investigated the accident. Wind, which was gusting from the west up to 22 miles per hour, might have played a role in felling the tree onto Maxwell.

Greenwood/Slidell Volunteer Fire Department, Wise County medics and members of Wise County Sheriff’s Office all responded. Justice of the Peace Clay Poyner pronounced Maxwell dead at the scene.

Maxwell lived at the home alone, and according to friends and family, stayed busy working and tending the property. A small herd of goats he raised grazed in a nearby pasture.

Those who knew him said he was doing what he loved when the accident happened.

“He loved working, and he loved serving people and helping people,” said Bobby Cates, his pastor at First Baptist Church in Slidell. “He couldn’t get enough of it.

“His dad always told him the quickest way to die was to get up and do nothing.”

So, despite his age, he kept busier than most people.

“There was a wonderful stubborness that kept Bill Maxwell going,” Cates said. “He was not just going to lay down and get old.”

“He was just a ball of energy,” said Bert Pruett. “He kept going all the time. He was never still.”

“He was 79, and it was a challenge to everybody around him to keep up with him,” Cates said.

Maxwell grew up in Greenwood and attended Decatur Baptist College before he moved away to finish college and work. He moved back home to Greenwood about 15 years ago to take over his family’s farm. “He would get up every morning and work for a couple hours around his place,” said Pruett, who taught Maxwell’s Sunday school class. “Then around lunchtime he’d make his way to the fire hall to play dominoes. That was his daily routine.”

Serving others in his community was also part of his routine. On Wednesdays and Sundays he’d drive a bus around Greenwood and Slidell to take young people to church whose parents couldn’t take them. He organized the fall festival the church has every year, he organized a men’s prayer group at the church and helped the church build a carport to cover the church’s buses. He’d recently been ordained a deacon.

“Bill was involved in just about everything,” Cates said. “It will be difficult to remember everything until it comes up next year and I’m needing Bill for help.”

Maxwell was also involved with the Greenwood Cemetery Association, the buyers’ association and the fire department.

Funeral for Maxwell is 10 a.m. Friday at First Baptist Church Slidell with burial at 2 p.m. at Moore Memorial Garden, 1219 N. Davis Dr., in Arlington. Family visitation is 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at the church.

Memorials may be made to the Benevolence Fund at First Baptist Church of Slidell.

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Bobby Carroll Williams

Bobby Carroll Williams

Bobby Carroll Williams, 78, died Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012, in Greenwood.

Funeral was Dec. 14 at First Baptist Church of Greenwood with the Rev. Tracy Epting officiating. Burial was at Greenwood Cemetery.

Pallbearers were Dustin Wilson, Devin Wilson, Chace Williams, Shawn Hess, Jack Teague, John Teague and Jimmy Williams. Honorary pallbearers were David Caraway, Neal Fortenberry, Frank Maxwell, Dale Burks and Rodney Mote.

Bobby was born April 15, 1934, in Greenwood to Elmer Ellis and Flora Elizabeth (Myers) Williams. He married Georgia “Jo Ann” Coker on Dec. 19, 1953, in Corsicana. Bobby retired from Lockheed-Martin Aviation as a quality control supervisor after 26 years of service. He retired from the Army National Guard after 25 years of service.

Bobby was a 32nd degree Mason in the Greenwood Lodge No. 799 and a member of Greenwood Baptist Church.

He is survived by his wife, JoAnn Williams of Greenwood; son Tim Williams and wife, Maggie, of Greenwood; daughter Kim Biggerstaff of Lake Kiowa; sister Sandy McCormick of Waco; grandchildren Dustin Wilson of Corinth, Chace Williams of Greenwood, Megan Williams of Muenster and Devin Wilson of Granbury; great-granddaughter Emma Grace Williams of Muenster; nephew Steven Young of Waco; and niece Julie Young Evans of Waco.

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Hats off to the VA North Texas Health Care System

In the past few weeks I have seen repeated stories on the various local TV stations about problems with the VA North Texas Health Care System, slamming the quality of care and the medical services veterans get at their facilities. I was really stunned to see these stories because of the great quality of care that I have personally been given in the VA North Texas Health Care System.

I went 12 years or more with a small mark in the middle of my forehead that would never completely heal. The civilian doctors told me repeatedly that it was no big problem and to “just put a little salve on it.” On my first visit to see Russell Wilson after he had just arrived at the VA Clinic in Bridgeport, when he saw that sore, he got very upset. He stated it looked like cancer and could be very dangerous.

He immediately scheduled me an appointment with the dermatology department at the Dallas VA Hospital, where I was seen within a week or so. They confirmed through a biopsy that it was not only cancer, but also the most agressive form of melanoma there is. Surgery was scheduled within a very short time. What was initially supposed to be a basic, two-hour, outpatient procedure became a two-day, extensive surgery because of how big the melanoma turned out to be. It took four plastic surgeons to close up on the second day.

During the surgery, everyone at the hospital, from the volunteers to the surgeons, treated my wife like a queen. They couldn’t do enough for her while I was in surgery. Because of Dr. Wilson’s correct, initial diagnosis in the Bridgeport VA Clinic, the entire VA Health Care System literally saved my life.

Recently, there has been another potentially very serious health issue arise for me that was found by the North Texas Health Care System. Again, I have received nothing but the finest of care, in the quickest possible time frame, both initially by Dr. Wilson in the Bridgeport VA Clinic and at the Fort Worth and Dallas VA Center and Hospital, respectively.

I have talked with many other vets who also credit the North Texas VA Health Care System with saving their lives, too.

I have had the pleasure of having Dr. Wilson as my primary care physician, and I have been seen at the Fort Worth and Dallas VA Hospitals on numerous occasions. Everyone in the entire VA Heath Care System has always been extremely courteous, and my treatment has always been of the highest quality possible.

That’s why I say, “Hats off to the VA North Texas Health Care System.”

Jim Popp

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Samantha Jo McNorton

Samantha Jo McNorton

Samantha Jo McNorton, 28, a homemaker, died Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012, in Greenwood.

Memorial service is 11:30 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 24, at the First Baptist Church of Alvord with the Rev. Bill Cleveland officiating.

Samantha was born Sept. 17, 1984, in Fort Worth to Randy Lee and Jodi (Creese) McNorton. She graduated from Alvord High School in 2004.

Survivors include her parents, Randy and Jodi McNorton; husband Paul Agnew; daughters Courtney and Katylnn Agnew; and son Alan Agnew, all of Sunset; grandparents Billy Creese of Alvord, Thomas and Carroll McNorton of Lowell, Ind.; brothers Randy McNorton Jr. and Terry McNorton, both of Springtown, and Wesley McNorton of Bowie; five uncles, five aunts, numerous nieces, nephews, cousins and a host of friends.

Samantha was preceded in death by her grandmother, Beverly Creese; aunt Sue Dillard and niece Kyleigh McNorton.

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Annual celebration avoids rainout, raises money

LEADING THE WAY – Teresa Cox drives her pony-powered wagon Saturday in the Greenwood Fall Festival’s Parade. The parade highlighted the event that raises money to support several community services, projects and organizations. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Despite cloudy skies Saturday morning, the 15th annual Greenwood Fall Festival drew several hundred supporters to the main drag to celebrate the community’s history and raise money for charities and community needs.

While children streamed down the street in a small train ride, older folks perused crafts and goods at the booths set up under and around the pavilion. The event has been the Greenwood Extension Education Club’s major project for several years. Gerry Galloway, a member of the Greenwood EE Club since 2001, and Linda Hood are among the festival’s organizers.

“This is one of the main things we can do for the community,” Galloway said. “We can all get together – and it has grown tremendously over the years.”

Galloway said the first festival only consisted of a few booths under the pavilion, but now spills into and across the streets. She said it is people’s love for the Greenwood community that keeps them coming back and supporting local initiatives.

“It is a real community, and we all work together,” Galloway said.

The Greenwood/Slidell Volunteer Fire Department is one of the festival’s major beneficiaries. VFD Chief Adam North said about $12,500 was raised, slightly below the 2011 total.

“I think the weather scared some folks off,” North said. “A storm system was rolling in that evening.”

North said people can still support the VFD even if they missed out on the good times. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 153, Slidell, TX 76267.

The Greenwood Fall Festival also supports:

  • Angel Fund;
  • 4-H scholarships;
  • 4-H expenses;
  • W.A.R.M.;
  • Sonflower Camp;
  • Buyers Association;
  • School library;
  • Voices Advocating for Children; and
  • miscellaneous community needs.

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Fall Festival Saturday

The annual Greenwood Fall Festival is this Saturday in the community located just north of Decatur.

The festival, which features arts and craft booths, children’s train rides, food and game booths and door prizes, runs from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., highlighted by a parade at 10 a.m.

The event is hosted by the Greenwood Extension Education Club.

To get to Greenwood, head north for 10 miles on FM 51, then turn left on Farm Road 1204. It is approximately five miles to Greenwood.

The public is invited.

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Navigating a maze of maize

Navigating a maze of maize

GET LOST – Brittany Smith navigates her way through the high, dense stalks of Greenwood’s Get Lost Maze. The maze opens Friday and will be open on weekends until Halloween. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

A lost figure moves alone through the rustling green labyrinth.

Stalks sway in the wind, too tall to peer over, much too thick to fight through, dense as a jungle.

You’re stuck in a giant corn maze. There’s only one way out, and in the dark, the mind plays tricks on you.

Beginning Friday afternoon, the Get Lost Maze near Greenwood is back.

The maze is located on Farm Road 51 just north of Farm Road 1204. This year it will be open Fridays from 3 to 11 p.m., Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight and Sundays by appointment only.

Tickets are $10 each, and it’s free for children 5 and under.

The maze will be open later on the weekend before Halloween, until 1 a.m. Friday, Oct. 26, and until 2 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 27. It will also be open the 30th and 31st. Those four days, the maze will be haunted – complete with monsters, fog machines and scary sounds.

“But we don’t start any scares until after dark,” said Kriston Wilson.

Wilson’s family started the tradition of the Get Lost Maze eight years ago, but they’ve only had it every other year.

“We couldn’t have it last year because of the drought,” Wilson said. “We’ve always had to depend on the weather.”

This year they installed drip irrigation so they’ll be able to conserve water and grow the maize for the maze every year.

“We want this to become a tradition,” she said. “It’s a lot of fun. I love getting to meet people.”

And the maze is always challenging.

“In the daytime, I can get through it,” Wilson said. “But at night even I can barely get through it, and I designed it. Everything looks different at night.”

Wilson measured out the cornfield, which is about 60 feet wide and more than 300 feet long. Then she designed the maze using computer software.

It’s always been a family affair, but this year she’s been handling the maze herself.

“It’s a lot of work,” she said. “I underestimated how much goes into it.”

She planted the crop, which is a actually a sugar cane hybrid, back in July. It’s grown thicker than ever before thanks to the irrigation. Then she had to carve out the maze route with a lawnmower and machete.

Her friend, Brittany Smith, of Denton, has helped along the way.

“It was so thick when we were mowing that I had to hold a red umbrella above my head,” Smith said. “Kriston would have to mow toward that direction.

“I grew up in Indiana,” she continued. “There are a lot of cornfields up there, and I’ve never seen anything like this corn maze.”

To help people that actually do get lost in the Get Lost Maze, Wilson and Smith will be patrolling on a regular basis. And in this age of technology, people find other ways to get help.

“I’ve had people who get lost so they pull up the website on their smart phone and call me,” Wilson said.

This year they’ve added a family fun day on Saturday, Oct. 20, with face painting and a bounce house.

“We wanted something fun for some of the little kids that might be too scared to go through the maze,” Wilson said.

For more information or to schedule a birthday party or other private event, go to or call (940) 389-1879.

HACKING AWAY – Brittany Smith (left) and Kriston Wilson carved out this year’s Get Lost Maze. Wilson’s family has been making the mazes for eight years now. She uses a machete to clear paths. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Fire ravages large country home

Fire ravages large country home

FIRE-WATER – A large country home located between Greenwood and Slidell caught fire Sunday afternoon. The blaze spread quickly throughout most of the home. Above is a poolside view of the destruction. Messenger photo by Brandon Evans

The biggest part of a grand country home between Greenwood and Slidell burned to the ground Sunday afternoon.

Firefighters battled the blaze for seven hours in 99-degree heat. Their efforts saved the south wing of the 3,500-square-foot home.

The house is located in the 6700 block of Farm Road 51 North, just north of County Road 2625.

Red and orange flames poured from the roof of the cream-colored, wood-framed house situated on a ridge overlooking prairie land. A cluster of live oaks shaded the front yard, but gave way to sprawling pasture dotted with thousands of yellow flowers the size of quarters nodding in the dry wind.

Greenwood/Slidell Volunteer Fire Department was first on scene at 12:15 p.m. They were soon assisted by Decatur, Alvord, Paradise, Era and Krum departments.

“Our engine was first on scene and flames were already venting through the roof,” said Tim Fletcher, assistant fire chief for Greenwood/Slidell. “Decatur arrived about five minutes later and with their help we were able to make entry and sever the fire, saving the south wing of the house.

“All the departments worked real well together.”

Medics tended to firefighters under the shade of the oaks, giving them bottled water and white towels soaked in cold water.

“We had enough firefighters on hand to attack it in crews of three and let three others rest,” Fletcher said. “The medics and Red Cross kept us hydrated.”

A Greenwood/Slidell firefighter got overheated and was given intravenous therapy. He was treated at the scene by Wise County medics. No other injuries were reported.

Red Cross arrived and served food to the men and women who fought the fire all day. Fletcher said the local Red Cross office is looking for additional volunteers.

The home was built in 1986 and valued at $311,000 according to the Wise County Appraisal District. It is owned by Kathy Fleckenstein.

Eighteen-year-old James Fleckenstein had lived in the house since his parents, Mark and Kathy, bought the home when he was one year old.

“It’s just a weekend house now,” said James, who lives with his mother in Krum. “We were in the process of remodeling right now. We just pulled all the carpet out of it and painted it. We had a crew supposed to come in Tuesday and do some more interior work.”

That effort turned to naught as he stared at orange flames leaping from a rooftop quickly diminishing to ash and charred wood. Thick, black smoke dimmed the sun’s glare.

He didn’t know what started the fire.

“It might be electrical, but we just don’t know.”

With no Wise County Fire Marshal it might be a while before the cause of the fire is discovered.

“It’s still under investigation,” Fletcher said. “The county needs a fire marshal. Our department doesn’t have the ability to study the details and forensics of the scene to determine what caused it.”

WRECKED RENOVATION – Firefighters from six departments battled tirelessly for almost seven hours in 99-degree heat as a 3,500-square-foot home burned on the prairie. The owner was in the process of renovating the 26-year-old house. Messenger photo by Brandon Evans

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Teague remembered for service to community

If you live in the Greenwood or Slidell area and have had a fire on your property within the past 50 years, chances are Major Teague has come to the rescue.

And if you listen to emergency radio traffic, no doubt you are familiar with Teague’s distinctive gravelly voice.

If you have served on the Greenwood/Slidell Volunteer Fire Department with Teague, there are probably enough stories to fill several newspapers.

On Saturday, friends, family and fellow firefighters said a final goodbye to Teague at his graveside service at Greenwood Cemetery. Teague died Monday, Aug. 27, in Greenwood.

For the past three years, Teague served as an honorary member of the department, but prior to that he had served actively for half a century.

Tim Fletcher served alongside Teague for nearly 40 years. He said Teague preferred the firefighting part of the job.

“He knew his limitations,” Fletcher said. “In his later years, he drove the tank truck. He’d say, ‘I’m not a medical person.’ But one day I walked in on a medical call and Major was doing CPR on a person. He may not have been doing it right, but he was always trying to help.”

Fletcher related another story of a medical call when Teague was the first person on the scene of a man who had been stung by a bee and had a severe allergic reaction. Fletcher said he arrived to find that Teague had tried using an “old remedy.”

“I said, ‘What’s that on his arm?’ And he said, ‘It’s the old remedy. You put honey on it to take the sting away,'” Fletcher said.

Fletcher said Teague would sometimes light a cigarette at a house fire with a butane tank outside.

“We’d say, ‘Major, you can’t do that.’ He’d say, ‘I’m not going to start no fire,'” Fletcher said.

Teague would often work on the fire trucks at the “barn” – the term he always used to describe the fire hall.

His methods might not always have been textbook, but he was dedicated to helping the people of his community, Fletcher said.

At the service Saturday, dispatchers toned out a call for Teague twice, and upon receiving no answer, said, “Firefighter Teague, may he rest in peace.”

“It was pretty emotional for a lot of people,” Fletcher said.

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M. L. Teague

M.L. Teague, 75, of Greenwood died Monday, Aug. 7, 2012, in Greenwood.

Graveside service was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 1, at Greenwood Cemetery with Pastor Charles Taylor officiating.

M.L. was born Jan. 7, 1938, in Denton County to Major Grace and Edith Adeline (Terry) Teague. He married Ila Kammerdiener Nov. 17, 1961.

He served in the United States Army, and wasa volunteer fireman for the Greenwood/Slidell Fire Department for 50 years.

Survivors include sons: Jack Teague and wife, Tawnya, of Decatur; John Teague and wife, Julie, of Greenwood; and M.G. Teague and wife, Bonnie, of Greenwood; and five grandchildren: Ashley, Brandon, Crystal, Casey and Joey.

He was preceded in death by his wife and parents.

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M.L. Teague

GRAVESIDE service for M.L. Teague, 74, of Greenwood is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Greenwood Cemetery. Family visitation is 6-8 tonight at Coker-Hawkins.

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M.L. Teague

GRAVESIDE service for M.L. Teague, 74, of Greenwood is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Greenwood Cemetery. Family visitation is 6-8 p.m. Friday at Coker-Hawkins.

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M.L. Teague

GRAVESIDE service for M.L. Teague, 74, of Greenwood is 10:30 a.m. Saturday at Greenwood Cemetery. Family visitation is 6-8 p.m. Friday at Coker-Hawkins.

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Students graduate from A&M

Three Wise County students graduated from Texas A&M University at College Station Aug. 21.

Sydney A. Lawrence of Decatur graduated with cum laude honors, earning a bachelor of science degree in biomedical sciences.

Andrew D. Waggoner of Decatur earned a bachelor of science degree in agricultural systems management, and Jack D. Sandford of Greenwood earned a bachelor of science in animal science.

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Ashley LaRae Smith and Keaton John Haverkamp

Ashley LaRae Smith and Keaton John Haverkamp

Ashley LaRae Smith of Muenster, daughter of Dan and Rhonda Smith of Greenwood, will marry Keaton John Haverkamp, son of Shana Haverkamp and Kevin Haverkamp, all of Muenster, in fall 2013.

The bride-elect is a 2003 graduate of Slidell High School and works for PumpCo Services in Valley View.

The prospective groom graduated from Muenster High School in 2005 and is employed by Orteq Energy Services in Gainesville.

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Major Teague

SERVICE for Major Teague, 74, of Greenwood is pending at Coker-Hawkins.

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Moving gift; Non-profit organization donates special trike to teen

UNSTOPPABLE – Charlie Young and Bill Silver, members of AMBUCS service organization, Thursday present Jessica McClure of Greenwood with an AmTryke, a modified tricycle that accommodates riders of all ages, sizes and physical limitations. McClure has cerebral palsy with dystonia. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Little stops or slows 17-year-old Jessica McClure of Greenwood.

The Slidell High School senior does not allow cerebral palsy dystonia to hinder her living as normally and independently as possible.

And with a special donation Thursday, there’s really no stopping the tenacious, determined teenager.

AMBUCS Inc., a non-profit service organization dedicated to creating mobility and independence for people with disabilities, donated to McClure an AmTryke, a modified tricycle that accommodates riders of all ages, sizes and physical limitations.

The unique tricycles, which can be hand or foot operated, offer therapeutic benefits such as improved motor skills, strength development and higher self-esteem.

McClure had a more specific intention.

“I wanted to get physically fit,” she said. “But bikes like this cost around $1,000, and we don’t have that money. We thought about redneck rigging a regular bike and putting training wheels on it, but we realized that probably wouldn’t be very safe. Balancing is hard for me.”

Instead, McClure reached out to personnel at Cook Children’s Medical Center, where she is regularly treated and serves on the Youth Advisory Council.

“We know there are organizations that donate money for wishes like this,” she said. “And they told us about this wonderful organization.”

McClure’s application was sent to Ohio, where a club member recognized “Decatur, Texas,” the hometown of colleague, Charlie Young.

The Bartonville resident, who was born and raised in Decatur, pitched the application to his AMBUCS chapter in Irving. The club, which has raised money to give away about 1,500 in the last 15 years – more than any other AMBUCS club – agreed, and Thursday presented McClure with the treat.

A tearful McClure accepted the donation; her mother, Lanette, was just as appreciative.

“We pay so many medical bills, there’s no way we could’ve afforded this,” Lanette said. “Thank you.”

Young replied: “This is just the way we pay our civic rent. You’re most welcome.”

For information on AmTrykes, visit the AMBUCS website While most bikes are donated, they are also available for purchase.

GRATEFUL FAMILY – Lanette McClure of Greenwood kisses her daughter, Jessica, after Jessica was presented a modified tricycle from Charlie Young and Bill Silver, members of the Irving chapter of AMBUCS service organization. Also on hand for the presentation was Jessica’s father, Russell. “My parents spend a lot of money on my medical bills,” Jessica said. “I didn’t want to ask them to pay for this, too. Thank you so much.” Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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Thanks for helping with camp

Dear community of friends, I want to thank you all for making Sonflower Camp for Kids with Disabilities such a bountiful success again this 14th year. You know, the Bible says to not let your left hand know what the right hand is doing, and you are all wonderful at that. In that spirit, no name mentioning is necessary, for your Heavenly Father knows all and sees all.

We had a huge crowd. Three-hundred-fifty awesome T-shirts were given away. The weather was perfect and the attitudes amazing. God is love! Praise His holy name! For you folks who have not had the blessing of experiencing Sonflower Camp, stay tuned and come out next time.

Thank you again from the bottom of our hearts.

Andrea Duwe on behalf of Sonflower Campers and Buddies

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Remove Ross from office

Republican County Commissioner Terry Ross’ criminal indictment doesn’t come as a surprise to me, unlike it was to his attorney Barry Green. What does surprise me is the amount he allegedly stole was under $500. By my thought and calculations, just the amount of employees it took to move the extremely large playhouse appears to be over that amount.

Regardless of the amount, what was a surprise to me is the thoughts behind the district attorney’s office when they decided not to petition the district judge’s office asking for his removal while under indictment of felony charges.

Terry Ross was elected as a steward of taxpayer money and was expected to protect the integrity of his office and use good judgment when making decisions on how he should spend taxpayer money. It’s even scarier to think that it is at this time of year when each county commissioner is required to present a new budget asking for a specific amount meant to be spent in their precinct for taxpayer benefit.

Mr. Ross has lost this taxpayer’s confidence. Therefore, at the very least, his colleagues in the commissioners court should ask for a vote of no confidence as well, and DA Greg Lowery’s office should be questioned why he decided to not step forward with such a petition.

If no petition is filed to ask for Terry Ross’ removal, I as a taxpayer will forever feel that these offices will be under a cloud of legitimacy as long as any of them remain stewards of the millions in Wise County taxpayer money.

Tracy Smith

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Rural post offices to remain open

WE'RE STILL HERE - On Wednesday, Slidell Postmaster Brenda Miller found out that the U.S. Postal Service will not close the thousands of rural offices, including Slidell and Greenwood, it had planned to in the fall. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night nor budget crisis will close rural post offices.

Residents of Slidell and Greenwood received good news in the mail Wednesday when the U.S. Postal Service announced it was not going to close thousands of rural post offices across the nation.

The Slidell and Greenwood offices were among those slated for closure in an effort to save the USPS billions of dollars per year. Residents and longtime users of those post offices voiced their anger and concern about the potential closings during community meetings held in the fall of last year.

“We found out it’s important to rural residents to keep their local post office to keep their ZIP codes and for community identity,” said Sam Bollen, a spokesperson for USPS. “The Postmaster General said on Wednesday that he listened to the customers when making this decision.”

Those were some of the same concerns voiced at community meetings in Greenwood and Slidell last year.

In lieu of closing, the window of time when people can use the post office will narrow. Slidell and Greenwood will both cut back to two hours per day starting in September 2014.

Bollen said USPS will probably hold more community meetings and conduct surveys to determine what those new hours of operation will be.

“All of our customers are relieved,” said Greenwood Postmaster Rose Parker. “We have a lot of elderly customers and farmers who don’t want to have to drive to Decatur. We have one gentleman who is 72 and has had the same address for 50 years. He didn’t want to lose his address after all those years.”

Next door to the Greenwood Post Office, one can hear the soft tapping of dominoes as they plop down on a slick table and slide into place. A group of gentlemen gather on a regular basis to play in the fire hall where they discuss everything from politics to the post office. A breeze drifted in the wide-open door, delivering the searing aroma of hamburgers being grilled at the Greenwood Grocery next door.

“We’ve had a post office here for 150 years; there was no reason for them to shut us down,” said Bill Maxwell, of Greenwood, between his turns at the table Thursday afternoon.

The plan to curtail hours will save the USPS approximately half-a-billion dollars per year.

Down the road at Slidell, Postmaster Brenda Miller said performing all her duties in just two hours a day will prove difficult.

“A lot of people think we just sell stamps and put out the mail,” Miller said. “But that’s the no-brainer stuff. We have to do a lot more than that. There is a lot of computer work that also has to be done.”

The Slidell office processes more than 340 pieces of incoming mail on a daily basis and has 156 P.O. boxes. The Greenwood office has 182 boxes.

SHRINKING WINDOW - In order to keep thousands of rural post offices open across the country, the USPS has decided to shrink the hours of operation. Greenwood and Slidell will be reduced to two hours per day. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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