Archives for December 2015

Memorable Photos of 2015

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Parades are for kids of ALL ages: Ms. Sylvia Holland waves to the crowd during the DHS homecoming parade.

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Remembering: This is one of the reasons that this job can be more than you think it ever can be. You never know when there will be no more photos to take.

Demopolis, Ala. - 12-8-2015 - Family and friends gather at the downtown Demopolis square at a memorial for Hope Vann.

Support: This image was captured on the night of the candlelight memorial for Hope Vann. The man in this photo, Brian Murphy, lost his own son, Corey, around the same time, four years ago.

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Community: Janet Henderson, mother if missing Demopolis native Rebecca Henderson Paulk, is comforted by a community member during a Sept. 17 candlelight vigil in the Demopolis Public Square. This story particularly hit home for me as Rebecca and I attended all of grade school together and shared many laughs together in high school.

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Celebration: The Marengo Academy sideline erupts in celebration after Cason Cook scored a touchdown in Marengo Academy’s heartbreaking loss to Edgewood Academy. This year’s Longhorn team overcame the odds early in the season amid head coaching issues to come within a single play of knocking off an Edgewood team riding a 70-something game winning streak.

One arrested, charged in Reid hit-and-run case

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Herman Gilmore, Jr. (Contributed Photo)

On Dec. 31, 2015, the Demopolis Police Department made an arrest in the hit-and-run that occurred on Bell Grayson Road where William Christopher Reid was killed on Nov. 29, 2015.  Demopolis Police Chief Tommie Reese confirmed that Herman Gilmore, Jr., aged 44 of Eutaw, Alabama, was arrested and charged with:

  1. Leaving the Scene of an Accident with Injuries
  2. Tampering with Physical Evidence
  3. Possession of Cocaine

According to Reese, the DPD has the vehicle involved in the hit and run case in custody. Reese also commended his officers for keeping a sharp eye out and their persistence in the investigation.

West Alabama Watchman’s most read stories of 2015

As December readies to turn from December to January, it has become the annual tradition of The West Alabama Watchman staff to look back and highlight the stories that have mattered most in the calendar year.

What follows is our list of the 10 most-read stories of 2015 presented in no particular order.

• Marengo Probate Judge will not sign marriage licenses – In February, we reported that Marengo County Probate Judge Laurie Hall would not sign marriage licenses in the wake of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that drew backing from U.S. District Judge Ginny Grenade. That ruling struck down Alabama’s ban on gay marriage. The issue would continue to gain steam over the ensuing month’s until the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage

• Community rallies in support of its own – So many of the stories we write are inherently difficult from a human perspective. They often revolve around the darker side of humanity or the painful aspects of life. But 2015 saw the Demopolis community rally around many of its struggling citizens. Nowhere was this more evident than the support that was shown and the funds that were raised for Dan Harper and Tommie Vice as they were battling cancer.

• Bell Grayson hit-and-run incidents – In November, the city saw two hit-and-run incidents occur on Bell Grayson road in a matter of three weeks. The incidents resulted in two individuals being seriously injured as well as the death of 24-year-old William Christopher Reid.

• Tangle replaces Speegle – Demopolis High Schools Principal Dr. Tony Speegle requested and received a leave of absence in June. Speegle, who spent some 32 years with the system, cited personal reasons for his hiatus. The Demopolis City Schools Board of Education quickly moved forward, hiring former Demopolis Middle School principal Chris Tangle away from Thompson High.

• Demopolis has first homicide since 2009 – Friday, Oct. 30 saw the first homicide in the city since 2009 when Ray Anthony Rowser, 37, was shot and killed on Blacks Drive.

• Hope Vann lost in car accident – The community suffered a tragic loss Sunday, Dec. 6 when 15-year-old Katie-Elizabeth Hope Vann was killed. The loss of Vann, who was a member of the Demopolis High School dance line, brought a tremendous outpouring of grief from around the community but left a hole that will never be filled.

• DCSF reaches $1 million goal – It was a bit of good news in November when the Demopolis City Schools Foundation announced that it reached its long-held “hallelujah” goal of having $1 million in its endowment fund. A $25,000 donation from the Alabama Power Foundation helped DCSF reach the mark and allows it to use the interest from the fund to expand its grants each year.

• Two lost in fire at apartment complex – A Feb. 15 fire at Crossgates Apartments claimed two lives in a tragedy. The story would have been much worse were it not for the heroism of 19-year-old Lane Hawkins and members of the Demopolis police and fire departments who rushed into the flames and saved the lives of two young children.

• Griffin leaves, Kallhoff steps in – Demopolis City Schools superintendent Dr. Al Griffin stepped away at the conclusion of the 2014-2015 academic year. His retirement and subsequent move to the headmaster position at Autauga Academy left the door open for the DCS Board of Education to find a new leader for the system. A lengthy search brought in Chickasaw City Schools superintendent Kyle Kalhoff.

• Luker selected as Demopolis football coach – In the first big story of 2015, Stacy Luker officially became the successor to former Demopolis High football coach Tom Causey on Jan. 9. With no shortage of notoriety locally due to his five state championships at Sweet Water, Luker ended his brief retirement from Alabama after just one year to take over the post. His first season saw the Tigers go 10-3 and make the third round of the Class 5A playoffs.

Tuscaloosa County crash claims life of UWA freshman cheerleader

The body of a car crash victim found along Interstate 20/59 Tuesday afternoon has been identified as University of West Alabama freshman cheerleader Bethany Joyce Harris according to a University release.

Bethany Harris, 19, was killed when the 2007 Scion TC she was driving left the roadway and struck an embankment before striking a tree. (Photo by Joe Chance)

Bethany Harris, 19, was killed when the 2007 Scion TC she was driving left the roadway and struck an embankment before striking a tree. (Photo by Joe Chance)

Harris, 19, was killed when the 2007 Scion TC she was driving left the roadway and struck an embankment before striking a tree. According to Senior Trooper Reginal King, it was suspected that the driver had left the scene of the crash upon initial investigation. It was later determined that Harris was fully ejected from the vehicle and into a wooded area where her body was located around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday. Harris was not using a seatbelt. The crash occurred at 7:45 a.m. on Interstate 59 near the 68 mile marker, four miles south of Tuscaloosa.

The release from UWA Public Relations is included below. The release states that the accident occurred on Monday, Dec. 28; however, Senior Trooper King has verified that the accident did occur Tuesday morning.

“The University of West Alabama has been informed that UWA student Bethany Harris was killed in an automobile accident on the night of Monday, Dec. 28. We are deeply saddened by this tragedy, and we express our sincere condolences to Bethany’s family. She has many friends at UWA and will be greatly missed by the campus community, throughout which she was known and will be remembered for her dedication in the classroom and on the sidelines of Tiger athletics as a cheerleader. She was also very active in greek life on campus. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bethany’s family and close friends during this devastating time.

UWA takes pride in the sense of family that lives throughout the campus community, and Bethany’s untimely death is a tragic reminder of the family bonds that are forged throughout the University.

UWA students, faculty, and staff will be notified of funeral or memorial arrangements when they are available.

UWA Counseling will offer its services to UWA students, faculty, and staff to cope with grief and other psychological issues stemming from this tragedy.”

Bobbie Jean Guy Hobbs

Bobbie Jean Guy Hobbs age 71 of Thomasville, AL died December 7, 2015 at her home. She was born April 20, 1944 in Grove Hill, AL She was a former employee of Vanity Fair and Simplex Industries. She was also a member of the Bassett Creek Baptist Church.

She is survived by her husband, Gerald Hobbs of Thomasville, AL; two daughters, Lisa Trogdon Knight of Camden, AL; and Amanda Trogdon Morgan of Mobile, AL; two brothers, Charles Guy and Edward Guy of Grove Hill, AL; two grandchildren, Shelby Morgan of Mobile, AL; and Adam Knight of Seattle, WA

Visitation will be held at Bassett Creek Baptist Church on Thursday, December 10, 2015 from 1:00 pm until the 2:00 pm service time with Rev. William Gibbons officiating. Burial will be in the Bassett Creek Baptist Church Cemetery.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Thomasville, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Tony Earl Cannon

Rev. Tony Earl Cannon age 81 of Linden, AL died December 15, 2015 at his home. He was born April 9, 1934 in Hugo, AL. He was retired from James River Corp. and also a retired baptist minister.

He is survived by his wife, Gwendola Luker Cannon of Linden, AL; son, Tony (Marsha) Cannon, Jr. of Linden, AL; two daughters, Lisa (Edgar) Beverly of Sweet Water, AL; and Debra (Erik) Hill of Thomasville, AL; 8 grandchildren, Trey Cannon of Linden, AL; Meredith Garner of Tuscaloosa, AL; Matthew Cannon of Linden, AL; Joey Luker, Peyton Luker, Charlie Hill, Daniel Hill, and Cody Hill of Thomasville, AL.

He was preceded in death by his parents, three brothers, and seven sisters.

Visitation will be held at Bethlehem Baptist Church on Friday, December 18, 2015 from 10:00 am until the 11:00 am service time with Rev. Daniel Gandy and Larry Grant officiating. Burial will be in the Linden Memorial Park in Linden, AL.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Linden, AL

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Christi Ware Ballard

Christi Ware Ballard age 41 of Sweet Water, AL died December 9, 2015 at Bryan W. Whitfield Memorial Hospital. She was born April 17, 1974 in Selma, AL. She was a helper with Lavender Construction Company and a member of Sweet Water United Methodist Church.

She is survived by four children, Anna Frances Ballard, Cheslea Ballard (Trevor) Bridges, Zachary Ballard, and Cullen Koregay of Sweet Water, AL; her parents, William Thomas Ware and June Bishop Ware of Sweet Water, AL; brother, Andrew Ware of Sweet Water, AL; sister, Leigh (Wyatt) Autery of Sweet Water, AL; niece, Katie Autery.

Visitation will be held at Sweet Water United Methodist Church on Saturday, December 12, 2015 from 2:00 PM until the 3:00 pm service time with Rev. Adam Hughes officiating. Burial will be in the Paynes Chapel Cemetery in Sweet Water, AL.

Flowers will be accepted or memorials may be made to Sweet Water United Methodist Church or Payne’s Chapel Cemetery Fund.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Thomasville, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Justin Ryan Smith

Justin Ryan Smith age 18 of Grove Hill, AL died December 17, 2015 in Grove Hill, AL. He was born May 14, 1997 in Grove Hill, AL. He was a graduate of Clarke County High School where he played football for the Bulldogs. He attended New Life Pentacostal Church.

He is survived by his mother, Lynn (Thad) Raine of Grove Hill, AL; father, Chris (Annie) Washington of Gosport, AL; two sisters, Amberly Smith and Jasmine Smith of Grove Hill, AL; brother, C. J. Washington of Suggsville, AL; grandmother, Lavader Smith of Chilton, AL; grandparents, Nathaniel & Bernice Raine of Whatley, AL; and L.T. & Willie Washington of Thomasville, AL.

Visitation will be held at Grove Hill National Guard Armory on Wednesday, December 23, 2015 from 11:30 AM until the 1:00 PM service time. Burial will be in the Indian Ridge Baptist Church Cemetery in Whatley, AL.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Thomasville, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

Madge Jordan Sansing

Madge Jordan Sansing age 84 a homemaker of Myrtlewood, AL died December 16, 2015 at her home. She was born January 29, 1931 in Myrtlewood, AL. She was a member of the Myrtlewood United Methodist Church where she served as the pianist and organist since 1958. She also enjoyed playing the piano for Myrtlewood Baptist Church.

She is survived by her husband, William Thomas Sansing, Sr. of Myrtlewood, AL; son, William Thomas Sansing, Jr. of Sweet Water, AL; three daughters, Annette Sansing (T. Ned) Smith of Carbon Hill, AL; Sherri (Kenneth Kelly) Sansing of Sweet Water, AL; and Sandra Gail Sansing (John) Pearson of Myrtlewood, AL; two brothers, Coyt Herbert (Marilyn) Jordan, Jr. of Monroeville, AL; and Herman Russell (Phyllis) Jordan of Trussville, AL; nine grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.

She was preceded in death by her parents, Coyt Herbert Jordan, Sr. and Annie Lee Supple Jordan, sister, Frances Imogene Jordan, and grandson, Eric Pearson.

Visitation will be held at O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home on Friday, December 18, 2015 from 5:00 pm until 7:00 pm. Graveside funeral services will be held at Campground United Methodist Church Cemetery on Saturday, December 19, 2015 at 11:00 am.

Flowers will be accepted or memorials may be made to any Children’s Home or Campground United Methodist Church Cemetery Fund.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Linden, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.

William Hawood Hicks

William Hawood Hicks age 80 of Grove Hill, AL died December 23, 2015 at Jackson Medical Center. He was born March 26, 1935 in Marion, AL. Mr. Hicks was a former bridge and building foreman for Norfolk Southern Railroad and a former civil engineer for the state of Alabama. He was a member of Oak Grove Baptist Church.

He is survived by his wife, Mary Clyde Hicks of Grove Hill, AL; four sons, Marshall Clyde Hicks, Charles Allen Hicks, Randy Joe Hicks, and Dean Mark Hicks of Pine Hill, AL; daughter, Andre Maullette Lowe of Grove Hill, AL; brother, Ray L. Hicks of Spencer, MA; two sisters, Eula Mae Browning and Carolyn Vick of Pine Hill, AL; fourteen grandchildren and twenty two great grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by his parents, Marshall Walter Hicks and Lillie Mae Creel Hicks, three brothers, Marvin Hicks, James Hicks, and Joe Hicks, two sisters, Bonnie Jones and Millie Catherine Hicks, two grandchildren and 1 great grandchild.

Graveside funeral services will be held at Pine Hill Cemetery on Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 11:00 AM with Rev. Mike Brening officiating.

In lieu of flowers memorials may be made to the American Heart Association, the American Cancer Society or the Shriner’s Hospital.

Arrangements by O’Bryant Chapel Funeral Home in Thomasville, AL.

All obituaries taken from the website of the corresponding funeral home unless otherwise noted.