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Relay for Life set Saturday, May 4

THORN – Chickasaw County’s Relay for Life is set for Saturday, May 4 from 6-10 p.m. at the Thorn Church of God Recreational Center. Relay is not a race, it’s a time of celebration as teams raise money for the American Cancer Society and honor local survivors.

Registration for cancer survivors is 4-4:30 p.m. Mrs. Carol Koutroulis will once again sponsor the cancer survivors’ reception. She, along with her staff, will treat survivors to a tasty pre-relay meal at 5 p.m. Seating is limited so survivors must pre-register by calling Jean Dendy at 567-7336. Survivor invitations are being mailed but the list may be incomplete. All cancer survivors, whether invitation was received or not, are invited but must pre-register to ensure a place at the meal. Each survivor may bring one guest each.

Linda Dendy will register survivors at the door and each will be given a special survivor’s t-shirt. Betty Brown will be on hand to welcome and assist each survivor.

Mrs. Alice Wilson and Lisa Johnson will handle luminaria and sky lantern sales. Luminaria candles in honor or in memory may be purchased for $10 each. Sky lanterns may also be purchased at $25 each. A special ceremony will be held around 8:30 or 9 p.m. where candles will be lighted and Rick Huffman will read each name with donor. Following lighting of candles sky lanterns will be released into the night sky.

Opening ceremonies will begin at 6 p.m. as survivors will take their honorary walk the first lap. Then family and friends will be asked to make the second lap to be honored with their survivor. After the first two laps, the track will be open and all attendees are encourage to walk throughout the night.

Teams will have decorated campsites around the edges of the gym and a walking track will be once again be provided. Due to limited space, attendees are asked not to bring lawn chairs this year. Seating will be provided in the middle of all the activities. This year’s teams include B Team, His Team, Houston Teachers, Houlka’s Team 408, Wal-Mart, Houston First United Methodist Church and Regions Bank.

Teams will be selling hotdogs, nachos, pizza, sweet treats, cold soft drinks and bottled water. All concession money will also be added to this year’s fund-raising total.

Entertainment will be provided with local talent along with Drama Teams from Fellowship Baptist Church and Thorn Church of God Youth.

Jean Dendy, along with Alice Wilson, co-chairpersons, along with all teams invite and encourage the community to attend and help make Relay a success.

Jean Dendy said, “I am so thankful for support our community has already shown. Our sponsors have been generous, contributions have been made and the teams have been hard at work to raise money.” Sponsor names will be on display during the night.

“Please drive out to Thorn Church of God May 4. Remember money raised during Relay goes to the American Cancer Society and it’s our lives we are fighting for,” Dendy added.

Emme Ausbern and Mattie Pearce watched as Robert Porter helped Adalie Falkner learn to play the dulcimer at last weekend’s Flywheel Festival. Porter – who offered to help anyone learn to play the dulcimer, and had several takers Saturday morning – enjoyed teaching the mysteries of the instrument as much as Falkner did learning about them. “Being a dulcimer player, I enjoy sitting on the porch pickin’,” he said.

Neals unhurt after tree falls on their house

HOUSTON – A Houston couple counts themselves luck to be alive after a tree fell on their house in mid-April while they were inside.

Kathy Neal said she and her husband James were in their Park Street home during a storm Thursday, April 18.

“It was early afternoon when the tree fell. We were home at the time, but we weren’t hurt,” she said this week. The tree – which was on a neighbor’s property – had been leaning for quite some time, “and the wind blew it over,” she said.

The tree struck the kitchen and bedroom area. There may be more damage, “but I can’t get to it to see,” she said.

She said the damage is so severe that the house is unlivable. “We’re renting elsewhere for now. “

An insurance adjuster has yet to view the house. Until then, the couple won’t know if the home can be repaired, she said.

“We’re lucky we got out. James is 87, disabled, and on hospice. Nothing like this has ever happened to us before. Despite all this, he seems to be doing fairly well,” Kathy said.

The American flag flies continually at the house, even in the face of trouble.

James is a veteran, who retired after 31½ years in the Army National Guard. He saw duty in Korea, Vietnam and Desert Storm.

Concluded Kathy: “Our preacher, Brother Randy Rinehart at Parkway Baptist Church, said it best: “God does protect us.”

 Vardaman woman died in Thorn Road wreck

THORN • One person died, and several children were injured, following a Wednesday afternoon one-vehicle wreck on Thorn Road, about a half mile from Thorn Grocery, Chickasaw County Sheriff Jim Meyers said.

The victim was identified as Kayla Black, 24, of Vardaman, who was a passenger. She was ejected during the crash, and died at the scene. Five children were also passengers in the vehicle, Coroner Michael Fowler said.

Several of the children were transported by ambulance to North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo, the sheriff said. One youngster was later transported to Lebonheur Hospital in Memphis. Their ages and conditions condition weren’t available Thursday morning.

The sheriff said the eastbound Ford Explorer SUV driven by Jenell Petty, of Highway 32, Houlka, ran off Thorn Road – which is CR 405 – in a curve, came back on the road and overturned. The vehicle came to rest in the middle of the road. The crash was reported about 3 p.m.

Petty is believed to have just left work when the wreck occurred, the sheriff said.

The wreck remains under investigation by the Sheriff’s Department. Skid marks at the scene indicated where the wreck occurred. No charges have been filed, the sheriff said.


Larry Kirk, T.O Lashlee, Hassell Franklin and Guy Mitchell share stories and laughs during the Red Rasberry Humanitarian Award banquet that honored Franklin Tuesday night at the Summit Center in Tupelo.

Franklin helps RRC raise $200K

TUPELO – With understated grace, Houston furniture maker Hassell Franklin worked his magic Tuesday with money and philanthropy.

Honored with the fifth annual Red Rasberry Humanitarian Award, Franklin led the effort that raised a record-breaking $200,000-plus for the Regional Rehabilitation Center. The center provides free physical, occupational and speech therapy, audiology and early intervention services without charge to children and adults around the region.

“He makes money from furniture and gives money to the community and nonprofits; he sees both as his job,” said Scott Reed, who served as master of ceremonies at the annual Red Rasberry Humanitarian Award Dinner benefitting Regional Rehabilitation Center. “His industry is mankind.”

The fundraising effort that culminated Tuesday nearly doubles last year’s effort, said RRC executive director Robby Parman.

“We really can’t thank the community and Mr. Franklin enough for how much they support RRC in so many ways,” Parman said. “We wouldn’t be here without the community.”

Franklin said he was deeply honored to accept an award named for the late John “Red” Rasberry, who, with Nita and Bob Butler, took the RRC from idea to community institution.

“He was such a public servant,” Franklin said of Rasberry before the event at the Summit Center in Tupelo.

“He had a vision, and he kept working for that vision,” Franklin said.

Normally, Franklin tries to work behind the scenes, as he did to help the RRC start its dyslexia unit, he said. But when a center that does so much for others without charge wanted to honor him, he couldn’t turn it down.

“I’ve always been impressed by the people (who work at RRC) and their supporters,” said Franklin, noting they helped his granddaughter with speech issues when she was young.

The speakers at the Tuesday night dinner talked about how Franklin quietly led by example, encouraging others along the way. In addition to making Franklin Furniture successful, Franklin has been very generous with his expertise, serving 42 years on the BancorpSouth board. During his tenure, the bank went from $188 million in assets to $18 billion.

“He was our outside lead director since we had one,” said Dan Rollins, BancorpSouth chairman and chief executive officer. “He’s a supporter of people.”

Beyond business, Franklin has shared his time, expertise and treasure with community and education efforts, including Mississippi State University, the CREATE Foundation and North Mississippi Health Services.

“His legacy is giving back,” said retired furniture executive Mickey Holliman, who served with Franklin on several boards.

The speakers on Tuesday also shared tales of young Hassell Franklin, who grew up in Tupelo.

Franklin, who will turn 84 next month, shared a grade school classroom with a young Elvis Presley. Ripley banker Bobby Martin, who became friends with Franklin through their philanthropic work in the region, told the tale Tuesday that Franklin had taken a guitar pick from Presley on the playground. When a distressed Elvis told the teacher, Franklin got in trouble.

“That pick was important to Elvis,” Martin said. “The teacher told him that if he ever made Elvis cry again, she was going to put his finger in the pencil sharpener.”