Klement Ford
Chicken coop fire ignites trailer home

Chicken coop fire ignites trailer home

A fire that started in a chicken coop tore through half of a trailer home at 308 Private Road 4433 early Sunday morning, leaving a cat and one of the five dogs in the residence dead.

Left Out in the Cold

LEFT OUT IN THE COLD – One of the four dogs that survived a trailer fire early Sunday morning near Oliver Creek sits in front of the residence as firefighters battle the blaze. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

East Wise, Rhome and Decatur firefighters contained the blaze to the left side of the trailer. It started around 3:30 a.m.

“Half of it is gone – the two rooms on [the left] end,” said East Wise Assistant Fire Chief Jim Blackney. “Decatur got here quick, and then Rhome, to help attack it.

Standing By

STANDING BY – Homeowner Dennis Lack stands near his truck as firefighters extinguish flames at his home. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We attacked it from the outside initially and knocked it down. Decatur then went in the front.”

Homeowner Dennis Lack said his dogs woke him up.

“I had just gotten to sleep when a couple of the dogs woke me,” Lack said. “I could see flames out the kitchen window.”

Lack, who was the only person in the home, got out with four of the five dogs.

Lack has lived in the home a few miles off Farm Road 2264 near Oliver Creek for more than 14 years.

He believes the fire started in the chicken coop, located at the back of the home on the left side.

“I just finished redoing everything in the chicken coop,” Lack said.

Wise County Fire Marshal Chuck Beard agreed the fire started there.

“One of the two heat lamps in the coop became dislodged and fell into some hay in the coop and ignited,” Beard said. “There’s nothing suspicious. It was accidental.”

Beard added that the Red Cross was called in to provide assistance to the resident.

Raging Fire

RAGING FIRE – Fire quickly spread from a chicken coop to the rest of the trailer Sunday morning. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

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New Fairview fire guts couple’s home, truck

New Fairview fire guts couple’s home, truck

For Joe and Patricia Applewhite, it seemed one moment they were unloading groceries and the next, everything they owned was consumed by fire.

The couple had been to Wal-Mart in Decatur Saturday afternoon and had returned to their home in the 1400 block of Heritage Creek Drive near New Fairview around 4:30. Joe had backed his pickup up to the front door of the house in order to unload groceries.

All Consuming Fire

ALL-CONSUMING FIRE – A firefighter works to extinguish a blaze in a pickup Saturday afternoon. The vehicle fire spread to a home and a pasture before it could be contained. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I noticed the grass was burning under the truck,” he said. “I got a water hose and put it out. My wife fell around the back of the truck. I went to help get her up, and the truck went up in flames.”

Patricia said they had just filled up one of the tanks with gas during their grocery trip.

Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said the grass fire may have started from the truck’s catalytic converter. Because of the truck’s close proximity to the house, the single-story, wood frame home quickly went up in flames as well.

By the time fire departments from East Wise, Rhome and Decatur arrived on the scene, they were faced with battling a vehicle, house and grass fire as the flames had spread to a field behind the rural home, burning five to seven acres. Medics were also dispatched to the location, but the Applewhites were not injured.

The 480-square-foot home was a total loss, and the Applewhites lost nearly all of their possessions. Red Cross was called to the location to provide assistance and secured a hotel room in Decatur through today for the couple.

The couple had been renting the home for the past six years, and they said they had renter’s insurance. The home was also insured. Travis estimated the total loss, including the pickup, possessions and the structure, to be $47,500.

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Officials suspect arson in New Fairview grass fires

Investigators believe the multiple grass fires along Farm Road 2264 in New Fairview Sunday were intentionally set.

The three blazes flared up within a mile of each other between Farm Road 407 and Hilltop Trail around 2:30 p.m.

Arson Suspected

ARSON SUSPECTED – An East Wise fire crew extinguishes one of three blazes in a multiple-blaze grass fire Sunday in New Fairview. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“We found remnants of fireworks at two of the three fires,” Wise County Deputy Fire Marshal J.C. Travis said. “I believe someone was shooting fireworks from a moving vehicle. However, we don’t have any suspects or any witnesses at this time.”

There were no injuries or structures lost, but Travis said that smoke from a couple of the fires blew across the roadway, obscuring visibility.

“There was a bit of pandemonium there at the beginning,” he said. “Firefighters advised drivers not to drive through, but some drivers didn’t pay attention.”

Sheriff’s deputies were called to the scene for traffic control, but a quick response by East Wise, Rhome and Newark fire departments extinguished the fires and allowed the smoke to lift.

“We had 18 mile-per-hour winds and gusts up to 30 mph,” Travis said. “Once the fire started, it took off.”

The incident on FM 2264 was one of nine grass fires reported in the county over the weekend. Most of the others were small and handled by one fire department.

Travis believes the volume of calls is a sign of the chaos to come.

“The hard freeze killed off growth; we’re still in a drought; and because of the weird weather patterns, we’ll see a lot of high winds,” he said. “We are in for a busy grass fire season.”

Wise County is not under a complete burn ban, but burning is prohibited on “red flag” days as designated by the National Weather Service.

“This is an agricultural county, and we realize that a lot of folks need to burn off the brush. So there will be no (total) burn ban at this time,” Travis said. “We’ll monitor the number of grass fires, the temperatures and the high winds. But for now, people just need to be wary of the weather conditions before doing any kind of burning.”

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Still trying to find the Spirit of Christmas

I applied for the Spirit of Christmas and was accepted to receive a voucher to shop at Wal-Mart. I got a letter in the mail telling me a date and time to pick up my voucher and a box of food.

On Dec. 5 at 5 p.m. I went to pick up my voucher and a box of food. The weather had already started getting bad. I picked up my voucher and food and went straight home. By the time I got back to Farm Road 407 at Farm Road 2264, there was a two-vehicle accident that was being directed.

I called Wal-Mart Saturday. There was not a phone number to contact to find out if I could get in touch with someone who knew about the Spirit of Christmas to reschedule a time to use my voucher. I had talked to someone in accounting at Wal-Mart, and she had agreed that this weather was too dangerous to be out driving around and she would have one of the volunteers call us back and schedule a date and time that was going to be a safe time to travel.

When the volunteer called back, she said that they were going to shoot for the following Wednesday, but they weren’t sure and that someone would call ahead of time to let me know. I had been waiting for someone to call and let me know when I could come and use my voucher.

I finally got a call from someone, a half-hour before they were going to stop taking vouchers. There is no way I could have arrived at Wal-Mart in 30 minutes with the streets still iced over. I was not given enough time to get ready to get to Wal-Mart safely and without risking having an accident.

A week passed, and I called and left a message for the person in charge of the Spirit of Christmas. They did not return my call.

I called back a couple of days later and finally talked to someone about getting the opportunity to use my voucher. She was less than sympathetic to my plight, suggesting that it was my fault that I couldn’t make it to town and that the weather had nothing to do with it.

I finally decided to take it to the paper and let everyone know that this was not the Spirit of Christmas.

John and Kandra Morris
New Fairview

EDITOR’S NOTE: Each of the 47 families approved to receive help from the Decatur Spirit of Christmas campaign were to pick up a box food and vouchers on Thursday, Dec. 5. Families could redeem those vouchers at Wal-Mart in Decatur during certain time slots that night, Friday or Saturday.
Because of an ice storm that was expected to hit Thursday night, families were encouraged to redeem their vouchers that night, and more than half of the families did. However, Spirit of Christmas volunteers were present at Wal-Mart Friday and Saturday for voucher redemption.
All but eight families redeemed their vouchers by Saturday afternoon. Spirit of Christmas volunteers called each of those families to tell them an extra day of voucher redemption had been added and was scheduled for that Wednesday. Six of those families redeemed their vouchers that day.
Because of the steps taken to ensure that the vouchers are used for their intended purpose, a Spirit of Christmas volunteer must be present during voucher redemption. The monetary value of the vouchers not redeemed this year was put back into the Spirit of Christmas account for next year’s campaign.

Posted in Letters to the Editor2 Comments

Alpha Tank and Pump Distribution LLC

Address: 116 Graham Rd., New Fairview

Phone: 817-636-6063

Website: www.alphatankandpump.com

Email address: catejd1@aol.com

Owner/Manager: Jerry Cate, Gene White, Brad White and Chad Parish

Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Products/services: Distribution center for polyurethane tanks and pumps for the oil and gas industry.

Ribbon Cutting

RIBBON CUTTING – A ribbon cutting was held Nov. 22 at Alpha Tank and Pump Distribution LLC in New Fairview. Pictured (from left) are Jerry Cate, Gene White, Brad White and Chad Parish. Messenger photo by Kelly Basting

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Hannah Grace Collins

Angela and Joshua Collins of New Fairview announce the birth of a daughter, Hannah Grace, on Sept. 13, 2013, at Wise Regional Health System in Decatur.

She weighed 7 pounds, 15 ounces and was 19 3/4 inches long.

She has one brother: Gabriel Collins, 6; and one sister: Eden Collins, 2.

Grandparents are Monica and Gary Snow and Tammy and Walter Collins, all of Haslet.

Posted in New Arrivals0 Comments

Rodeo arena catches fire

Rodeo arena catches fire

Quick thinking by a passerby and a 13-year-old boy saved the lives of several animals when a rodeo arena caught fire around noon Friday.

Jayson Burnam was passing by the arena on Farm Road 2264, several miles east of U.S. 287, when he noticed the wooden bleachers on fire. Burnam, a former firefighter, pulled over to try and help.

Hot Horses

HOT HORSES – A trio of horses rush about an enclosure after the bleachers at a nearby rodeo arena caught fire. Thirteen-year-old Jorge Aguilar helped two of the horses housed near the arena escape the smoke and flames. No animals were injured. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

Erica Aguilar and her children were inside a home located in front of the arena. Her 13-year-old son, Jorge, rushed around back to help free several animals that were penned near the burning structure.

“First, we made sure all of us were safe, and then we were able to go for the animals,” he said.

The youth braved the black, billowing smoke to open the gate beneath the burning arena, where two horses and three dogs were housed.

“I went back to open the gate – it was really hot,” Jorge said. “I got hit by a big cloud of black smoke.”

Hot Seats

HOT SEATS – A pair of firefighters extinguish the flames consuming bleachers at a rodeo arena located off Farm Road 2264. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

Jorge managed to get all the animals to safety. The horses scampered about frantically in a pen as they watched teams of firefighters battle the blaze.

East Wise, Rhome and Decatur fire departments all responded to the scene. They worked quickly to keep the fire from spreading to nearby storage buildings or the home. Wise County Sheriff’s Department and Wise County medics also provided support.

“I don’t know how it could have started,” Aguilar said. “Nobody was back there.”

The home is owned by Primo Sierra, who runs Primo’s Taqueria with his wife, Margarita, in Decatur. He’s held many Mexican rodeos at the arena over the years.

Rodeo Fire

RODEO FIRE – A fire started for unknown reasons around noon Friday at an arena that has held many Mexican rodeos over the years. Messenger photo by Jimmy Alford

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Antique cargo plane takes flight

Antique cargo plane takes flight

When Dave Graben was only 4 years old, stuck in bed and suffering from a bout with Scarlet fever, his mother gave him a model airplane.

That toy changed his life. By age 17 he’d earned his pilot’s license.

“My dad was very much against the idea,” Graben said. “I was $20 short of the examiner’s fee to get my license.”

“Don’t tell your dad,” his mom told him, and she slipped him a twenty.

Flight Time

FLIGHT TIME – Dave Graben, 76, of New Fairview has logged more than 29,000 flight hours and has been a licensed pilot for almost 60 years. He prepares to take off in a 1944 DC-3. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

For the rest of his life, his passion for flying guided his life. He helped pay his way through college by teaching other people how to fly. After college, he joined the Air Force and became a fighter pilot. While doing a mission during the Vietnam War, he was shot down by enemy fire and forced to crash land his F-105. He served in the Air Force for more than 20 years. He spent another two decades-plus as a pilot for American Airlines. At 76 years old, Graben has spent almost 60 years of his life as a licensed pilot. He’s logged an astronomical 29,400 hours of flying time.

And he’s not done.

Graben’s backyard is an airport. In 1985, he purchased some land in New Fairview, just off Farm Road 407. He built his home there and started a subdivision. It might be the only subdivision where an airport running between the rows of houses is considered an amenity. It’s a neighborhood of frequent flyers. Almost every house has a hangar next to it with at least one aircraft inside.

But on Wednesday, Graben was saying goodbye and setting sail in one of his favorite planes at the airport.

A large, silver 1944 DC-3 cargo rested on the grass in Graben’s backyard. Grasshoppers zoomed beneath it, blurred wings propelling yellow and black cylindrical bodies like aerial squadrons.

Graben had been storing the old plane at his home for several years for a friend. But now it was time for the plane to fly to an airport in Indiana, where it will be completely restored.

Graben is the co-pilot on the trip.

Antique Aviation

ANTIQUE AVIATION – A 1944 DC-3 cargo plane lifted off from a grass airstrip in New Fairview Wednesday and flew over Farm Road 407 on a trip that was supposed to go all the way to Indiana. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

“I’m sad to see it go,” he said. “It’s a much better yard ornament than a pink flamingo.”

The pilot is Trent Scarborough of Dallas. His job is specifically to ferry old DC-3s. He said flying the old planes is not quite as smooth as what most people are used to.

“It’s rough and tough,” Scarborough said. “It’s like wrestling a bear in slow motion.”

After sitting for years, and going through hundreds of hours of repair, it was time for the old Goliath to take off from the grass runway in New Fairview for its flight to Indiana.

“It’s fun landing in an airport in one of these,” Scarborough said. “It’s like pulling up in a ’57 Chevy.”

As each engine fired up, a cloud of blue-gray smoke covered the plane temporarily as if it was moving from a cloud of fog. With what seemed like little runway for such a large plane, it took off smooth, rising only 40 feet above FM 407, headed north. Just one more trip, one more ride through the air, for Graben.

All those years ago, when Graben was only 4 years old, burning up with fever, you know what type of model airplane his mother gave him?

“Curious enough,” he said, “it was a DC-3.”

Editor’s note: The plane never reached its destination Wednesday. Shortly after takeoff one of its engines blew, and it had to land and park in Gainesville, Texas.

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Chrissy Harper and Justin Ryan

Chrissy Harper, daughter of Jerry and Liz Harper of New Fairview and granddaughter of Neldean Brown and Virgnia Harper, will marry Justin Ryan of New Fairview, son of Kellie Pogue of Haslet and grandson of Eileen and Leroy Byrne, March 17, 2013, at Willow Lake Wedding Garden in Weatherford.

Jacob Withers of Aurora Baptist Church will officiate.

The bride-elected attended Northwest High School, Tarrant County College and the University of North Texas. She is a respite caregiver and also works at Plaza Liquor.

The prospective groom attended Northwest and TCC. He works for Plaza Liquor.

Chrissy Harper and Justin Ryan

Chrissy Harper and Justin Ryan

Posted in Weddings0 Comments

Laurie Helen Lutz

Laurie Helen Lutz

Laurie Helen Lutz

Laurie Helen Lutz, 55, died Saturday, Feb. 16, 2013, in New Fairview.

Funeral is 2 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, at Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur with the Rev. Timothy Thomas officiating. Burial will be in Oaklawn Cemetery.

Visitation is 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. prior to the service.

Pallbearers are Dale Revercomb, Jim Floyd, Mick Burson, Bryan Sympson, Mike Bindel and Jeremiah Hale.

Laurie was born Dec. 28, 1957, in Margaretville, N.Y., to Leo Simon and Nedra (Dumond) Mestyanek. She married Thomas Jay Lutz Dec. 28, 1977. Laurie was a senior commercial title examiner for Fidelity National Financial and was in the mortgage industry more than 20 years.

Survivors include her husband, Thomas Jay Lutz; sons Ian and Aaron Lutz; daughter Sarah Lutz; grandchildren Aiden, Barry (Noah) and Lyric Lutz; sisters Sheryl Cudmore and Sandy Walker; four nieces and nephews; and a host of friends.

Laurie was preceded in death by her parents and son Matthew Thomas Lutz.

Posted in Obituaries0 Comments

Burglary-shooting story full of holes

With those words, Wise County Sheriff David Walker announced Tuesday that the shooting portion of a reported break-in and shooting last Thursday didn’t happen exactly as reported.

David Rigsbee, 22, called 911 last Thursday morning from his home in the New Fairview area, saying he had surprised a pair of burglars when he came home, and they shot him in the left arm. Rigsbee told deputies a black male and a Hispanic male were in his house apparently attempting to steal guns, and used one of them on him.

Rigsbee was treated at Texas Health Fort Worth Hospital for a gunshot wound.

Monday, he admitted the gunshot was self-inflicted.

“We started comparing his story to the evidence from the scene,” Sheriff Walker said. “We called him back in yesterday, and he was re-interviewed and confronted with evidence that contradicted what we found at the scene.”

Walker said Rigsbee admitted he shot himself, shot more holes in the walls, then arranged the crime scene as investigators found it.

He still maintains, however, that he did come upon two men in his house committing a burglary.

“We want the public to know there could have been a burglary there but not a burglary where somebody picked up a gun and shot the homeowner,” Walker said.

Further investigation may disprove the burglary story altogether, he noted.

“We’ve been able to discount quite a few portions of his story,” Walker said. “In the event we discount the last of his story, we will look at our options.”

Sheriff Walker said Rigsbee could be charged with filing a false report. If that charge is filed, Rigsbee will be asked to reimburse the county for the costs incurred in the investigation, manhunt and medical services.

“They’re going to continue to work with him,” he said. “We have about 54 man-hours in this case at various rates – investigators, patrolmen, crime scene investigators, administrative people, EMS – that’s a lot of county money expended.”

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Man shot during daytime robbery

Man shot during daytime robbery

SHOOTING SCENE – Investigators from the Wise County Sheriff’s Department pow-wow at the scene of a robbery-shooting Thursday afternoon on County Road 4421 near New Fairview. Messenger photo by Andrew May

David Rigsbee, the shooting victim, was working on his car outside his home on County Road 4421 Thursday morning when he left to test-drive it. He told investigators that when he returned, the back door was open, and he stepped inside.

He said he was then attacked by two men who had apparently broken into the home and were burglarizing it. A scuffle ensued, and Rigsbee was shot with one of the guns the suspects were trying to steal – a .22-caliber handgun. The suspects, a black male and a hispanic male, then fled the scene leaving several guns behind.

Rigsbee called 911 and Wise County EMS, along with several sheriff’s deputies, responded. A search of the neighborhood near New Fairview did not turn up any suspects, but investigators worked inside the house for several hours.

Sheriff David Walker had planned to meet with investigators Friday and look at whatever evidence they were able to find, including fingerprints and slugs from the shooting. The bullet that wounded Rigsbee passed through his arm, Walker said, and it’s possible more than one shot was fired.

Rigsbee was taken to Texas Health Harris Hospital Fort Worth, where he was treated for a gunshot wound to the left arm. Walker said he thought Rigsbee had been released either Thursday night or Friday morning and said deputies hoped to be able to interview him Friday.

He was also to be given an opportunity to look at a photo lineup in the search for possible suspects.

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Savannah Vivian Bate

Dr. Joy and Edward Bate III of New Fairview announce the birth of a daughter, Savannah Vivian, on June 21, 2012, at Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital in Fort Worth. She weighed 7 pounds, 4 ounces and was 19 inches long.

She has a brother, Michael, 2.

Grandparents are Vivian and Charles Martin Jr. of New Fairview and Edward Bate Jr. of Bloomington, Minn.

Great-grandparents are Arlin and Dorothy Blocker of Colleyville, LaVerne Martin of Lake Worth and H.H. Warzyn of Kansas City, Mo.

Posted in New Arrivals0 Comments

Passersby save man, child from fiery wreck

Passersby save man, child from fiery wreck

HEROIC RESCUE - Two passersby to a wreck on U.S. 287 Thursday stopped to render aid and ended up pulling a 4-year-old boy and his trapped 28-year-old father from a pickup truck that rolled over and caught fire. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Quick, selfless actions by witnesses to a wreck saved the life of a 28-year-old man and his 4-year-old boy.

Saul Arevalo de los Reyes of New Fairview was flown from the scene by LifeTeam 68 after he rolled a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer on U.S. 81/287 several miles south of Decatur about 7 Thursday night.

“He was headed north on U.S. 81/287 and the horse trailer started acting squirrely, going from side to side, causing the driver to lose control,” said Department of Public Safety State Trooper Adolfo Patterson. “He ran off the road and flipped over.”

The truck then caught fire leaving the driver, Reyes, trapped inside. Amazingly the boy, strapped into a car seat in the center seat of the pickup, was uninjured. No horses were in the trailer.

One of the first on the scene was Steve Hilton of Wichita Falls. He stopped after he saw the crash and freed the boy from the crushed, enflamed truck, pulling him out of the broken rear window.

“The boy had unstrapped himself from the car seat and was moving frantically back and forth, trying to help his dad,” Patterson said.

Hilton, afraid the burning truck might explode, told the boy to run down the bar ditch where his wife grabbed and comforted the boy until emergency personnel arrived.

He was humble about his efforts.

“It’s just the thing you’re supposed to do,” Hilton said. “You stop and try to help people when you see something like that.”

Hilton then tried to free Reyes from the truck, but the fire had already made the truck too hot. He ran up to the highway and attempted to flag down an 18-wheeler in the hopes of getting a fire extinguisher. At this point, a second witness had pulled over to help.

Miguel Anvures of Cleburne braved the flames and proceeded to pull the man out of the passenger side of the truck.

“I was headed the opposite direction, and all I could see was the horse trailer flipped up,” Anvures said. “I pulled over and ran down there, and the truck was on fire. (Reyes) couldn’t move at all. He kept screaming, ‘Let me out! I don’t want to die!’”

Reyes couldn’t move because the accident had severed his spine. He also had several internal injuries.

“If they hadn’t pulled him out, he would have suffered severe burns, too and probably would of died,” Patterson said.

Anvures was also humble about his actions.

“I just tried to do what I thought was right,” he said. “If that ever happens to me, I hope somebody will do the same for me.”

Reyes was flown to John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth. He was scheduled to undergo back surgery on Friday. Decatur and East Wise fire departments, DPS, Wise County medics, Decatur police and sheriff’s deputies responded.

The northbound lanes were closed for more than half an hour.

Posted in Features, News0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. today at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL service for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

MEMORIAL for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview is 2 p.m. Friday at Jehovah Witness Kingdom Hall. Coker-Hawkins is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

Lois Thomsen

NO SERVICE is scheduled for Lois Thomsen, 85, of New Fairview. Coker-Hawkins Funeral Home in Decatur is handling arrangements.

Posted in Funerals0 Comments

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