Orange County-2007 Record Year
Warner named Record Newspapers’ 2007 Person of the Year
Linda Warner was a sophomore in high school when she knew she wanted to be a teacher. It was quite a dream for a girl in a tiny East Texas town whose father delivered newspapers for a living.
And it was a dream that came true, with a lot of hard work and dedication. She became a teacher, a coach and administrator.
Through 45 years in education, she has worked with the philosophy that students and teachers deserve respect. She held onto the idea that learning should be fun and a lifelong goal for everyone.
The Record Newspapers named Warner as “Person of the Year” for the special anniversary edition April 18, 2007 because of her dedication to her profession and the community.
“It’s a privilege to honor an educator like Linda Warner,” said Roy Dunn, publisher of The Record. “She has spent her life working for students and teachers, and in turn, has improved the future for everyone.”
In 2006, Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was honored as “Person of the Year.”
Warner retired in 2007 after 35 years with the Little Cypress-Mauriceville school district and the last 25 years as the high school activities director.
Hargrove named GOACC Citizen of the Year
Pauline Hargrove, superintendent of schools for the Little Cypress-Mauriceville Consolidated School District, was named 2006 Citizen of the Year by the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. She was honored on, Jan. 11 at the St. Francis of Assisi San Damiano Center in Orange. The special ceremony will be part of the Chamber’s Annual Meeting.
Hargrove has received numerous honors in the past year, including her November induction into the Lamar University Educator Hall of Fame and Superintendent of the Year (Region V).
The LC-M Superintendent since 2000, Hargrove has been with the district for the past 32 years, teaching grades one through eight at several campuses, before moving into administrative positions. She has served as Principal at both elementary schools, as well as LC-M High School.
She said she credits the entire LCM family for her success.
McInnis named BC Citizen of the Year
In January 2007, Jerry McInnis of Bridge City was named Bridge City-Orangefield Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year for 2006.
McInnis, who is married to Sheila Kitrell McInnis, is the father of four children and six grandchildren, and looked on as very much the godfather of youth sports in the area. Retired from Chevron Chemical after 34 years approximately 8 years ago, he is not just "involved" in youth sports, he is in his second year as President of the Cardinal Athletics Booster Club, and has been a member of that group for four years.
"My favorite of the sports are youth baseball and softball," McInnis said. "I actually got into that in 1959 right out of high school."
Born Aug.10, 1941, McInnis said he was "shocked" that he would win the honor of being named Citizen of the Year and believes that there are tens of hundreds of people who deserve it more than he does. They just didn’t choose to do it as President of the Youth Leagues, but chose different ways to serve. Service to the children and his community is am important thing to McInnis. It’s one reason why he is so involved with the Boosters, Little League, and the Rotary Club in the local area. They, he said, make a difference through service to others.
Bridge City Fire Dept. has new chief
After being a member of the Bridge City Volunteer Fire and Rescue for the past 14 years and serving as assistant chief for the past year, Dickie Uzzle has been elected to the leadership role of Chief and took his official oath of office during a special ceremony on January 4. Uzzle will serve a two-year term leading about 40 members of the Department, which is officially called Emergency Services District #2 and has serviced about 60 square miles for the past 53 years.
“We have a great group of people in the department and I’m excited to have this opportunity,” said Uzzle, who retired from Dupont just four days before becoming Chief. “I would like to keep some of the old values we have had and maybe update things a bit to keep up with the changing technology and equipment.
Uzzle replaces outgoing Fire Chief Scott Barnes, who opted not to seek re-election after serving in the office for the past six years. Barnes also serves as an arson investigator for the City of Bridge City, as well as a Bridge City Police officer.
Barnes said he will remain with the department as a fire fighter and believes Uzzle was an excellent choice to step into the Chief’s position.
Thibodeaux surprised with regional honors
Orange County played a prominent role in the annual banquet of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission in January 2007.
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose took over as president of the organization, and Orange County Judge Carl Thibodeaux was named the recipient of the prestigious Frances K. Monk award for Regional Leadership.
He is the fifth winner of the award, which was established in honor of the late Frances Monk. She was a retired high school teacher who became mayor of Port Neches, and president of the regional planning commission. When one of the presidents was indicted, she stepped in to serve again.
After she died, her family set up a special award for an elected official each year. The region includes Orange, Jefferson and Hardin counties.
Dubose said he could tell Thibodeaux was stunned by the announcement that he had won the community service award.
"For that (Cajun) not to be able to talk, it really got to him," Dubose said about Thibodeaux winning the award. "He actually had tears in his eyes."
Elected officials from all the counties and cities in the three-county area are eligible for the Monk Award.
"It was quite an honor and a surprise," Thibodeaux said.
Dubose named president of SETPC- Jan. 2007
Orange County Commissioner John Dubose became president of the Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission in January 2007. And even though he’s been preparing for the role for six years, a change is going to make him work harder.
Chester Jourdan, the executive director of the planning commission, recently resigned. The executive director is the paid professional who leads the commission in day-to-day operations.
Now, Dubose, as president, is going to lead the effort to find a replacement for Jourdan. For now, longtime planning commission employee Pete De La Cruz is serving as the interim director.
The Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission is one of 24 commissions in the state which serve regional government interests. The Southeast Texas commission includes elected entities in Orange, Jefferson and Hardin counties.
Dubose said the commission has departments with professionals that oversee federal grants to the region. The departments include aging, housing, 911 emergency service, transportation and "a myriad of various grant recipients."
"We try to get as many federal dollars coming into this three-county region as we can," he said
Cow Bayou Bridge demolition planned
County Commissioners gave their official support on Monday, January 15 2007, to the demolition of the Cow Bayou Bridge in Bridge City. In a unanimous vote, Commissioners voted to continue with a TxDOT proposal to remove the 1939 swing bridge that currently carries northbound traffic on SH 87 and replace it with a bridge similar to the one that currently handles southbound traffic.
“We sent our letter today,” said County Judge Carl Thibodeaux. “I hope this project goes though.”
The decision came just one week after the City of Bridge City also requested that TxDOT dismantle and remove the Cow Bayou Bridge. The public was largely unaware of the plans or the historical significance of the bridge.
The project was halted in the 1990’s when the bridge was deemed eligible for the National Registry of Historic Places as an historic bridge.The Cow Bayou Bridge is listed as one of just two swing bridges of it’s kind and age remaining in the state.
Kitty Henderson of the Historical Bridge Foundation was contacted as opposition to the plan emerged. On March 1, 2007, a small group of Bridge City citizens met to become a voice for the Cow Bayou Bridge– and to finally initiate the process of nominating it for the National Registry of Historic Places as an historic bridge.
The National Register of Historic Places serves as an honor roll of properties worthy of preservation. Properties of national, state or local significance may be listed for historical associations and the World War II era swing bridge spanning Cow Bayou qualified.
Orange observes MLK Day despite bad weather
An Artic cold front moving through Southeast Texas brought more than a decrease in temperatures. Fewer people participated this year in the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day March, Jan. 13, 2007 than in past years.
A drizzling rain and temperatures hovering at 40 degrees was discouraging to the local march, which has been an annual event ever since the day became a national holiday in 1986.
The march is sponsored by the Orange Branch of the National Association of Colored People, NAACP.
Only five people braved the cold rain to march through the streets as a few cars followed for a commemoration and speeches at the Orange County Courthouse.
Local government offices, schools and banks were closed for the holiday.
Children at the North Early Learning Center in Orange held an indoor silent peace parade on Friday to honor Dr. King. The students and teachers marched through the school halls carrying banners. Each child wore a headband with either the word “Peace” or a dove on it.
Stark Museum aquires major art work
In January 2007 the Stark Museum of Art in Orange announced a major new work of art for its collections with the acquisition of Edge of the Emerald Pool, Yellowstone by artist John Henry Twachtman. Sarah E. Boehme, director of the Stark Museum of Art, gave a presentation on the painting at the Museum’s Education Center, on Tuesday, February 6.
"John Henry Twachtman is one of the most important American impressionist artists and this painting is one of his most significant works," explained Boehme.
The Twachtman painting is currently on view at the Stark Museum of Art. Sarah Boehme’s talk was the second in the Stark Museum’s 2007 Winter Event series.
The presentations were free and open to the public.
GOACC Names Invista “Business of the Year”
In January 2007 the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce announced the 2006 Business of the Year ,Community Service Award recipient. Chamber officials selected INVISTA of Orange and where honored at a special ceremony on Jan. 11 at the St. Francis of Assisi San Damiano Center. The award ceremony was part of the Chambers Annual Meeting.
Officials with INVISTA said they are honored to receive the award.
Chamber officials said they chose INVISTA-Orange because of its contributions to the community during the past year, citing a $50,000 financial contribution to Serenity House to help rebuild the facility after Hurricane Rita.Other large donations by the Orange company include a $20,000 donation to the local Meals on Wheels organization, as a few examples of the company’s service to the area.
Bridge City couple purchased Sparkle property
In January 2007, the site of the former Sparkle Paradise Club was bought by a Bridge City couple, who are already hard at work making plans to build on the notable piece of commercial land.
Neil and Tiffany Liepke recently bought the 10 acre lot from C.G. “Tiny” Richardson for an undisclosed amount of money. Five of the 10 acres are usable space, while a pond is positioned on the other five.
The property, located on Texas Avenue (Highway 87), was due to be seized by the City of Bridge City in order to recoup money they spent to have the run-down former night club demolished late last year. City officials said they ordered the demolition as a last resort after trying unsuccessfully for several years to get Richardson to clean-up the run down abandoned building and property, saying it posed a safety hazard to area residents.
Richardson, who bought the land and built the night club in 1958, was the subject of much news coverage late last year when he blocked city ordered demolition workers from tearing down the aging building and refused to pay for the clean-up work. At the time, Richardson said he wanted to see some sort of landmark placed on the property to honor the memory of the his former club, which was made famous in the 60’s and 70’s for its live musical performances from artists like “Fats Domino” and Freddy Fender.
The once popular Sparkle Paradise Club closed its doors for good in 2002 when the building no longer met current health codes. It also sustained damage as a result of hurricane Rita and became too costly to repair, Richardson said in an earlier interview.
The Liepke’s said they purchased the land shortly after the demolition work was completed. Richardson could not be reached for comment on the sale of his property, which he said was worth several million dollars.
A soldier’s story, Starkie invited to White House
Paul Starkie, a coach and teacher at West Orange-Cove CISD, will never forget the moment he got word his 25-year-old son had been seriously injured while serving in Iraq. It was Sept. 26, 2006 at 9:30 p.m. when his wife Barbara called with the horrifying news.
“My wife called me almost immediately,” said Paul Starkie. “At first, I just felt numb. A few hours later, we were told he had undergone three surgeries, was stable and was going to be transferred to Germany.”
His son, George Travis Starkie, who was with B Company 296 BSB 3rd Brigade 2nd Infantry Division SBCT, serving in Baghdad. He and other members of his unit were unloading a truck of Jersey Barriers when Starkie got pinned between two barricades, weighing about two tons each.
“I underwent three major surgeries to control internal bleeding and get me stabilized before being transferred to Germany. About a week later, I was transferred to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington DC,” the soldier said. “I was kept in a drug induced coma until I arrived at Walter Reed. I then underwent numerous surgeries.
Once he had recovered to the point of being able to make the short in January 2007, George Starkie, along with a group of about 20 other wounded soldiers, were invited to the White House to meet with President George W. Bush.
Riedel celebrates 30 years with Stark Foundation
Walter Riedel jokes that he hasn’t traveled very far in his career. His office today is in the same building as when he moved to Orange in 1972.
But today, instead of being an assistant cashier of a bank, he is the president and chief executive officer of the Nelda and H.J. Lutcher Stark Foundation based in Orange. In February 2007, he he marked his 30th anniversary with the foundation.
The foundation’s offices are on the corner of Green Avenue and Fifth Street, in the former First National Bank building, where Riedel had his first job in Orange. The bank’s chair at the time was Mrs. Nelda Stark, who was also head of the foundation.
After Mrs. Stark’s death in December 1999, Riedel became president of the foundation. Now, the foundation donates tens of millions of dollars each year to a variety of organizations for education, health and the arts.
Masonic Lodge honors Houseman for community contributions
The Masons trace their roots back to the builders of King Solomon’s temple. Masons laid the foundations and stones for grand temples and cathedrals hundreds of years ago. Today, the modern Masonic Lodge honors non-members with the special Community Builder Award for contributions.
In April 2007, Madison Lodge No. 126 honored developer and philanthropist Tony Houseman with the special presentation.
Past recipients include Joe Burke, Sam Kittrell, Betty Harmon, Cecil Broom, Judy Jensen and Brown Claybar.
Lodge Master Karl Bishop and Mason Billy Burrow gave the award to Houseman during a ceremony in the lodge featuring the traditional dress and regalia of the Masons.
Houseman and his wife, Gisela, worked with numerous service organizations and charities in southeast Texas over the past 20 years. One of their projects was the "House with a Heart Expo," which raised more than $250,000 for programs to help abused and neglected children. The couple has also held an annual party to collect toys for children during the holidays.
The Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) organization, has presented him with the Child Advocate of the Year award, and the Mickey Mehaffy Children’s Advocacy Program honored him with the Commendation for Service award.
Tony Houseman died at his home in Orange on August 3, 2007.
BCISD won Texana Challenge
A group of students at Bridge City High School proved their smarts Saturday, February 3 by walking away with top honors following a tough regional competition.
The Bridge City team won the overall competition at the Lamar University Texana Challenge after a battle students from several 4-A schools. Bridge City and Westbrook ended up in the final round after a grueling day of questions and answers between southeast Texas schools.
The Bridge City team included Mark Placette, Nick Robertson, Madison Davis and Brett Bertles.
The top four place winners each received Lamar University scholarships. Each of the Bridge City winners will get $2,000 in scholarship money.
The East Chambers contestants, who took second in the competition, got $1,500. West Brook won $1,000 and West Orange-Cove High School students took fourth place and won $750.
The event has been organized for the past 13 years by director Mimi Hollier and Lamar professor Dale Priest as a means of rewarding students for their smarts instead of just for their athletics.
$3.8 million earmarked to expand Ferry Road
In February 2007, Bridge City Mayor Kirk Roccaforte said the City had received word that $3.8 million of a $22 million Housing and Urban Development Rita Recovery Grant had been promised to fund the expansion of Ferry Drive in Bridge City into a three-lane roadway.
The proposed project, led by TxDOT, would create a turning or passing center lane in order to ease traffic congestion. Many residents use the road as a “cut through” to get to and from Highway 87 and 1442 without having to travel through the sometimes congested Texas Avenue (Highway 87) area, where most of the City’s businesses are located. City officials said Texas Avenue is also heavily traveled during certain times of the day with drivers traveling to and from the Port Arthur or Orange areas.
The proposed grant money was the second portion of funding offered to Bridge City for repairs stemming from Hurricane Rita.
Bridge City was promised $300,000 in the first-round of federal Rita Recovery funding, which Roccaforte said the City plans to use for housing.
The Rita Recovery funding program, offered through the Texas Department of Housing and Urban Development, had called for Bridge City, as well as all of the other municipalities receiving funds, to have projects from the first-round of funding complete by later this year, but officials said they have requested and received an extension on that time limit for the three county region of Orange, Hardin and Jefferson counties.
Bridge City’s Bryant named MVP for Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Former Bridge City resident Matt Bryant was honored as the Most Valuable Player for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL team.
During the 46th annual Sports Banquet, held February 16, 2007 at the Tampa Bay Country Club, Bryant was honored for being a “reliable, strong-legged kicker who has connected on some very important kicks during his career.”
Bryant is the son of Bridge City ISD School Board member Mary Bryant and Casey Bryant, who was the first coach for the Bridge City High School football team.
Born in Bridge City on May 29, 1975 Matt Bryant still holds the high school football field goal record at 52-yards. He also played baseball while attending BCHS and once hit four home runs in four consecutive at-bats in a game.
He is also credited with kicking the second longest game-winning field goal in NFL history and because of a game winning field goal against Philadelphia, Tampa Bay Mayor Pam Iorio declared Oct. 23, 2006 to be “Matt Bryant Day.”
Orange Rotarians inducted into Hall of Fame
On April 19-22, 2007, Rotarians from the Orange Rotary Club attended the Annual Rotarian Conference in Nacogdoches . Members representing Orange at the conference were Alan Sanders, Assistant District Governor; Darby Byrd, President-Elect; Lynwood Sanders; and Pauline Hargrove, President.
Mr. Sanders was inducted into the “Rotary Roll of Fame.” Past recipients of this honor include: John Cooper; Bennie Johnson; John Levy; Barney Morris; Jim Stelly; Janis Shaw; and Winston Lewis. These individuals were nominated for this prestigious award by their local club for their outstanding service, representation, and commitment to the high ideals of Rotary.
The Club was presented the 2006 – 2007 Presidential Citation for an array of initiatives benefiting the Orange area.
The Orange Rotary Club was chartered by Rotary International on June 1, 1919 with H. J. Stark serving as president.
County helps plant save jobs and end talks of a shutdown
The 400 jobs at the Temple-Inland plant north of Orange should be safe for a long time. In April 2007 The company announced plans for a $25 million expansion and modernization project.
Orange County Commissioners Court declared the site as a reimbursement zone, so the corporation can get a tax abatment contract. The project, though, did not include new jobs at the plant. But keeping the current jobs is important.
Five years ago, Temple-Inland announced it was going to close the plant, which makes cardboard. Then-State Rep. Ron Lewis worked to keep the plant open.
“I guess if you’re planning to spend $25 million, you’re planning to stay a while,” County Judge Carl Thibodeaux said to a corporate representative.
Robert G. Sanford of Temple-Inland told commissioners the plant’s local annual payroll is $20 million and the plant has yearly purchases of $60 million.
He thanked Orange County Economic Development Director Bobby Fillyaw for “being very professional and courteous” with the company.
Laquinta Inn & Suites in Bridge City
Neil and Tiffany Liepke, of Bridge City, recently bought the 10 acre lot from C.G. “Tiny” Richardson for an undisclosed amount of money, and decided in March 2007, to build the hotel franchise La Quinta Inn & Suites, which will be constructed on the 10 acre property, located on Texas Avenue/Highway 87 in the heart of Bridge City.
Constructing the three-story building on the five acres of usable property – the other five contains a pond – is expected to take about eight-to-ten months, but once complete, the new commercial business is expected to bring both jobs and tourists to the Bridge City area.
There is only one other hotel/motel in Bridge City, which is located adjacent to the site of the future Laquinta franchise. Originally built in the 1940’s by Clay Dunn and operated under the name “Midwest Motel,” the lodging facility changed owners over the years and is currently the “Budget Inn.”
Based in Dallas, LQ Management LLC is one of the largest operators of limited-service hotels in the United States. The Company operates and provides frachise services to more than 500 hotels in 40 states and Canada under the La Quinta Inn and La Quinta Inn & Suites brands.
There have been several Laquinta brand hotels franchised in the southeast Texas area recently, including Orange and Vidor.
Training center honors lawman Tarver
When Orange County Sheriff Mike unveiled a new training facility for law enforcement officers in 2007, he was also honoring a long-time colleague and friend by naming the new center after him.
John Tarver, a long-time law enforcement officer and administrator in Orange County, had no idea the facility was to be named after him until the moment the sign was unveiled during a special dedication ceremony at the new center, located on FM 1442 just south of Interstate 10.
“This is John Tarver’s brainchild, getting a nice training center for law enforcement in Orange County,” Sheriff White said as he unveiled the new sign that read “The Chief John Tarver Training Center. “This is for all of his hard work and effort over the last 30 years in law enforcement.”
Tarver, who stood a mere few feet away from the Sheriff, looked quite surprised as he looked at the name for the new law enforcement training center for Orange County.
“This is quite an honor that pretty much has me speechless.” Tarver said a few moments later.
Currently a police officer with the West Orange Police Department, Tarver served as Chief Deputy to the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, as well as the Bridge City Police Chief during his long career in law enforcement.
Gentry steps down as leader of OISD
Mike Gentry retired after 38 years in Education, the last five of which has been spent as Superintendent of the Orangefield Independent School District in May 2007. During his long career, the 60-year-oldGentry worked as a teacher and coach, Principal, Assistant Superintendent and Superintendent. Most of his time in education was spent in the Orangefield area, he said. The District is doing well. Most of the 11 million dollar bond issue to build new classrooms for the elementary, junior high and high school, plus a gymnasium/band hall work at the high school is almost completed.
Myers said good-bye to BCISD
Dr. Darrell Myers went home in April 2007 – back to the area his family has long been rooted, and returned to the very same school district where his extensive career in education first began. After serving the Livingston Independent School District from 1986-88 as a junior high teacher and coach, Dr. Myers, returned. But this time, he is leading the school system as its new Superintendent of Schools.
Myers accepted a two-year contract with the district with an annual salary of $127,000. He received some of his orientation from a familiar. Current Interim Livingston Superintendent Shelley Hullihen worked with Myers during his first tenure with the district and has said she is very excited to have him back.
Wingate “Roast and Toast” for Heritage Housae
Roy Wingate, 83, is almost a cornerstone in Orange County history. He is a storyteller, a descendant of pioneers, a veteran of WWII, a lawyer and former Orange County District Attorney.
In 2007 Wingate became the subject of a “Roast and Toast” fundraiser for the Heritage House Museum held May 19 at the Lamar State College-Orange Student Center. Funds went to repair damage sustained by the two buildings during Hurricane Rita
Wingate is a Trustee for the Stark Foundation. he is a member of the Lion’s Club, Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce, Orange County Bar Association, and was a member of the Trial Lawyers of the United States until several years ago. He was also once President of the Orange County Economic Development at the Port of Orange.
Commissioners approve Pinehurst “liquor by the drink”
The City of Pinehurst will now be able to issue licenses to sell liquor by the drink after Orange County Commissioners Court approved the returns of the May 12 local option election, said Elections Administrator Tina Leverette in 2007. The Pinehurst City Council was expected to approve the proposition for liquor by the drink the following Tuesday.
Leverette’s office oversaw the city election, which drew 227 voters. The official report gave 179 votes "for" the proposition to sell liquor by the drink, and 45 against. Some of the ballots were either blank or had both "for" and "against" checked, she said.
Pinehurst allowed the sale of beer and wine in stores about 25 years ago, but did not allow liquor by the drink in restaurants. Restaurants have been allowing alcoholic beverage purchases by registering patrons in a private club. Now, restaurants will be able to sell beer, wine and mixed beverages after obtaining a proper license.
Bailey Road raised by $740K grant
Thanks to a special $737,000 grant, the heavily traveled Bailey Road in Bridge City will soon be raised about eight-to-12-inches. Although not yet publicly announced, the State of Texas Coastal Impact Assistance Plan (TCMP) has earmarked the grant funding for the local project, which is meant to continue efforts to reduce shoreline erosion at nearby lakes and riverways.
Also known as Lake Drive and Old Ferry Road, Bailey Road is considered a main artery to Sabine Lake, the Neches River and the Sabine River. It’s frequented by commuters and fisherman and has sustained a great deal of flooding in recent years because of higher tides.
Local residents have long complained about the flooding problems, saying that “if a high tide comes in, the entire road is under water.”
Orange County received a grant in 2006 from the TPWD to install culverts along Bailey Road, so that flood waters would have a better flow path. And with nearly all the culverts now installed, the water does now have an easier flow path back and forth between the marsh areas.
County officials said they received a great deal of public support for the project and decided to continue with improvements to the roadway, not only for local residents, but for the wildlife affected by the flooding runoff. And although the culverts did provide relief for some the flooding effects, the goal of raising the roadway is to alleviate the problem all together.
Welch takes over as superintendent OISD
The Orangefield Independent School District acquired a new leader when assistant superintendent Phillip Welch took over as superintendent of schools in May 2007. Welch who officially began his new duties July 1, replaced outgoing superintendent Mike Gentry, who retired from the district after five years in order to spend more time with family. Gentry says Stephens was an excellent choice for the chief’s position. When Welch stepped up from his administrative post, High School Principal, Dr. Stephen Patterson, moved his office over to the district administration building as he officially became assistant superintendent. The move took place in order to place someone in Welch’s vacated position.
Bridge City grad mourned
Friends and family gathered Thursday, May 3 2007 to pay their last respects to a 2006 Bridge City High School graduate killed in an early morning head-on collision on Sunday, April 30. Casey Hastings, 19, died following injuries sustained in a three vehicle accident that occurred in the 4400 block of Highway 69. The Bridge City teen was a freshman student at Lamar University, majoring in psychology, and was employed at Chili’s in Port Arthur, at the time of her death. She was also a member of the Demon’s Dance Team – a new semi-pro football team. According to reports, Hastings’s vehicle was traveling south-bound on the roadway when it collided with another car, driven by 18-year-old Danie Semien. While at BCHS, Hastings was an honor student, a cheerleader, dancer, and according to school officials, an all-around "awesome person.”
Jerry, Loretta Hughes Small Business Persons of the Year
Loretta Hughes accepted the 2007 Small Business Persons of the Year Award on May 15, at the John Gray Library on the Lamar University Campus. The annual award was presented to Jerry and Loretta Hughes of Jerry Hughes Realty by the Greater Orange Area Chamber of Commerce. In 2007 Loretta celebrated her 30th year in the business.
Jerry and Loretta Hughes have a long history of community service with organizations such as the Chamber of Commerce, Rotary Club, Hermann Memorial Baptist Hospital, Service League of Orange and the Orange Lions Club. They support local schools through donations and scholarships to high school seniors yearly in memory of their daughter Angie Hughes.
Orange Mayor Pro Tem Theresa Beauchamp said Claybar was at his lake house that weekend and was doing yard work when he reportedly started having chest pains. She said the Mayor was first taken to a Jasper hospital and transferred by helicopter to Beaumont.
Baytown kidnapping/robbery suspect nabbed in Orange
Baytown police Sgt. Lon Craft, using a Crimestoppers tip, had been looking for a robbery-kidnapping suspect for more than a year. She was known to hang out in Orange, so occasionally he’d call his law enforcement buddies here.
Craft is a native of Orange and began his law enforcement career with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office 22 years ago.
On Thursday, May 24, he called K.C. Breshears, an investigator in the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, tolook for Christina Theus, 22. Breshears checked his computer and discovered the woman was in the Orange County Jail.
“It just worked out,” Craft said. “The moon and the stars aligned.”
He told Breshears, “Put a hold on her and we’ll be there.”
Orange police had arrested Theus on May 23 for possession of crack cocaine.
Firefighter of the Year
Cpt. Fisette honored at annual banquet
Cpt. James Fisette’s colleagues said he deserved his recent recognition as "Firefighter of the Year," because of his hard work and dedication. He was given this honor in May 2007. But Fisette – an instrument technician by trade, who managed to find time to serve as a volunteer firefighter with Bridge City Fire and Rescue (Emergency Services District 2), patrolled the streets of Orange County as a certified volunteer peace officer, assisted crisis victims as a member of the volunteer Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) team and held the seat of Vice-President for the Orange County Firemen’s Association. – humbly said he’s just doing his job. “I’m just a go with the flow kind of guy and to have that many people think so highly of me is just a real honor,” said Fisette. A total of four people were nominated for the Firefighter of the Year honor and Fisette’s name was announced immediately after the 44 members of the department voted. The honor was given for his work last year with Bridge City Fire and Rescue, where he has served off and on for more than 25 years.
New school board members seated in Bridge City
The Bridge City Independent School District welcomed two new members Monday night as Jerry McInnis took his seat in Place 5 and Thad Hill sat in the Place 4 chair. Both were officially sworn into office during the May 21, 2007 school board meeting, along with incumbent Place 3 seat holder, Rebecca Rutledge, who ran unopposed in the recent election. McInnis defeated incumbent Mary Bryant, who served three terms on the board. Hill beat out challenger Wesley Dishon to earn the vacated Place 5 seat, held by Brian Beard for the past six years. Beard, who had served as School Board President, opted not to seek re-election to his post in order to spend more time with his family. Once the new board was seated, it got right down to business and selected a new President and Vice-President, who will serve in the positions for the next year. By a unanimous vote, Secretary Mark Anderson was elected President of the School Board, while Rebecca Rutledge will serve as Vice-President. "I thank you for putting your trust in me," Anderson said after the nomination and vote. "And I will do my best to serve the board and the district in the best way I can.
Orange Lions Club celebrates 70 years
In June 2007 the Orange Lions Club celebrated 70 years of community service at their annual installation of club officers at the Brown Center in Orange. Debbie Hughes 2007-2008 Orange Lions Club President. Hughes, a local realtor with Jerry Hughes Realty, was installed by special guest Dr. Bonita Lowrie, of Garrison and Rotary District Govornor..
Dr. Lowrie recognized Eddie Frienzel as the Orange Lions Club’s only living charter member and awarded him with her District Pin. She also presented Jay Hall the Cultural Community Activities Award. Hall was out-going Lion’s Club president and was recognized for his many years helping conduct the Orange Lions Club Charity Carnival.
Dr. Lowrie also presented Randall Morris with the International President’s Medal from Lions Club International.
Hall presented two special awards, the Lion of the Year to Lee Roy Boehme, Jr., and the Rookie Lion of the Year to George Dickson. Hall also recognized several Lions for their service with the Club Presidential Medal. They were Marlene and Keith Merritt, Mike Smith, John Martin, James Simar, Ortolon Morris, Hughes, Smith and Ardoin.
Heritage House saved from demolition 30-years-ago
Orange was building a civic plaza in the mid-1970s, to center around the Stark Foundation’s plans for the art museum and theater. A 75-year-old house was set to be demolished to make way for a winding boulevard.
But a group of citizens interested in preserving history, came in and saved the J.O. Sims house. Thirty years ago in June 2007, the rambling two-story house was jacked up on a trailer and moved a block and a half away. Today, it serves as the Heritage House Museum and was the beginning of a small museum complex that attracts visitors and saves local history.
Elizabeth Williams, who still works with Heritage House, was one of the people who helped save the house.
“It was falling to pieces,” she said.
The museum was a community effort. The city of Orange had bought the house and property at Front and Eighth streets to build the boulevard. The city donated the house to the Heritage House of Orange County Association, which raised the money to move the structure.
Orange County donated land next to the courthouse annex on Division Avenue, and the house was moved to 905 W. Division.
J.O. Sims was an Orange native who became a banker. He built the house in 1902 and later added on to it for his family. Sims died in 1961 at the age for 87 and only his family lived in the house.
Using donations, volunteer labor and money from grants, the Heritage House Association finally restored the house and furnished it with authentic era furniture. It opened in 1980 for tours and is considered a prime example of an early 20th Century, upper-middle-class home.
Coral snake found in BC woman’s pantry
It began as a typical day in June 2007 for Bridge City resident Marilyn Reeves. She awoke at about 7:30 a.m. and went to the kitchen to make some coffee. But her morning came to a rattling change when she opened a cabinet to get a coffee cup and was met by a rare and poisonous Eastern Coral Snake. “I went to get a cup out of the cabinet for my coffee and the snake stuck its head out of the bottom,” said the retired science teacher. “He just looked at me and stuck his tongue out. I froze for a second, because it happened so fast, my hand was still reaching into the cabinet. I looked at the snake and thought, “this is a very different kind of snake.” Reeves, who lives in the 500 block of Bland Street, was home alone.
But she said, having been a science teacher, she knew the snake was likely poisonous because of its coloring and quickly closed the cabinet and applied duct tape to ensure it didn’t escape before help arrived. I called 911 and I told them on the phone that I know it sounds impossible, but I think I have a poisonous snake in my kitchen,” she said. “It is a secretive and non-aggressive snake, but it can deliver a lethal bite if handled,” reported a reptile rescue foundation web-site. Body ringed with black, yellow and red narrow rings, separated by wider red and black rings, the average adult Eastern Coral Snake is 20-30 inches long.”
Body of Orange woman found bruised, partially clothed at Crystal Beach
Galveston County Sheriff’s deputies are searching for the person or persons responsible for the brutal death of a 28-year-old Orange woman, whose bruised and partially clothed body was found in the sand near a Crystal Beach home Sunday morning, July 15, 2007. Her two-year-old daughter accompanied her to the home for a weekend get-a-way with about a dozen people – mostly other parents with children – and was in the house when her mother’s body was discovered on a nearby beach.
Bridgett Gearen’s body was found by campers at daybreak, about 100 yards from the home where she had last been seen six hours earlier. Deputies said it appears Gearen could have been beaten, strangled and sexually assaulted. They also believe she “put up a fight.”
We’re still kind of torn on whether this was a random act, or someone who knew her,” said Maj. Ray Tuttoilmondo, spokesman for the Galveston County Sheriff’s Office. “Right now, we just don’t know. They (the group of friends) were just enjoying themselves and then… We think it was done with bare hands, but that’s one of the things we’re hoping the autopsy will tell us.”
Her friends told deputies they had last seen Gearen just before midnight Saturday, when the group decided to take a drive on the sand. Gearen walked out of the home first. She was alone, and when her friends went outside to join her a few minutes later, they could not find Gearen, deputies reported.
BCISD welcomed new chief
The Bridge City Independent School District officially has a new leader. And members of the School Board marked the occasion with a public social gathering at their July 16, 2007 regular meeting. Dr. Jamey Harrison, 33, was welcomed and introduced to the community at 7 p.m. in the BCISD administrative boardroom, located on the Hatton Elementary School campus at 1031 W. Roundbunch. Harrison was officially given the title of BCISD superintendent. Harrison worked for Hardin-Jefferson ISD for the past four years. He said he spent the first two years as a high school principal and was Deputy Superintendent for the remainder. During his administrative tenure with HJISD, Harrison was responsible for all the daily operations in the district and also served as the chief financial officer.
Farewell to Tony Houseman: Big Man, Big Heart
Family, friends and colleagues were sad to learn that the vigorous and vital Tony Houseman died at his home in Orange, on August 3, 2007. The big man with the signature shock of white curls was noted wherever he went for his magnetic personality, ready laughter, and generosity of spirit.
A Memorial Service for Tony was held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, August 11, 2007, at First Baptist Church in Vidor, TX. Reverend Terry Wright pastor will officiate. A reception will follow the service for friends and family at the family residence, “The Homeplace.”
Tony Houseman became an important feature in the landscape of Southeast Texas in 1987, when he purchased ownership of his family land company and formed the Housemen Companies. He and Gisela, his wife of 23 years and partner in all his activities, continued the Houseman tradition of home building that had begun in the 1960s. Their work in property development and as master builders is found all across seven southeastern Texas counties, from Galveston Bay to Sabine Lake and points inland, and in five Louisiana parishes.
Alongside his business interests, Tony was a major player in a series of local charities, wildlife conservation organizations, and regional economic engines.
Bridge City named new postmaster
In August 2007, Rose Ouzts was appointed to the position of Postmaster in Bridge City. Prior to coming to Bridge City, Ouzts served as acting postmaster in Vidor and postmaster in Batson, a position she held for four years. She has a total of 22 years experience in the postal service. "There are no changes that I foresee in the Bridge City Post Office at this time," Ouzts said. "There are 12 employees, including me. That is our maximum at this office. I just moved here, have a new office and am settling into the job and area." Ouzts replaced retiring postmaster Charlene Goodeau, who left the office in November, 2006. "Customer service is the goal the Postal Service strives for," Ouzts said. "And here at the Bridge City Office, the commitment is to provide the best possible service to all of our customers. I’m happy to be here."
Cops sting Orange prostitutes
A prostitution sting in the 16th Street area in late August 2007 was a way to stop street solicitors from moving west, Orange Police Chief Sam Kittrell said.
“We’ve had a moving of drug traffic from east to west,” he said. “The prostitutes follow the crack.”
And besides the crack, 16th Street has become the site of several pain management clinics that have found ways to legally prescribe and sell pain killers and tranquilizers.
In addition to finding access to drugs, the prostitutes have access to customers, Kittrell said. The customers are called “johns” in slang term.
For more than a decade, Orange has had a problem with the street walkers called “crack whores” along Simmons Drive on the east side of Orange. The women would perform a sex act, usually oral sex, in exchange for enough money for a rock of crack cocaine.
Dubose names Davis (SETRPC) Executive Director
The Southeast Texas Regional Planning Commission (SETRPC) announced plans to have a news Executive Director in place by Sept. 1, 2007. SETRPC President John Dubose announced Monday, July 16, that Shaun Davis, chief of staff to State Representative Allan Ritter, has been selected to serve in the public position. Davis was formally named to the position by the SETRPC board on Aug. 15.
“We’re pleased to have Shaun Davis. We were looking for someone who has the political and housing experience needed for the position and he has it all,” said Dubose, one of the six members of the SETRPC search committee launched to fill the position, vacated in 206 by Chester Jorden. “The experience he gained working with the City of Houston Housing Department is invaluable and he has a great deal of experience in management and with politics. We believe we found the perfect match for the position.”
Davis beat out over 40 other applicants for the proposed position.
Well known Constable succumbs to illness
Hundreds of law enforcement officers, county officials and community members joined the friends and family of well known Orange County Precinct 2 Constable Parker ‘P..T.’ Thompson, when he was laid to rest on Thursday, Sept. 6, 2007. Const. Thompson, 59, passed away at 10:40 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 2, in the DuBui Unit of St. Mary’s Hospital in Port Arthur, following a long battle with both Leukemia and bone cancer.
An Orange County law enforcement officer since 1977, Thompson was respected, admired, and highly regarded, not only by those in law enforcement, but in the communities he served.
Thompson was first elected to the Pct. 2 Constable’s position in 1996 and was about to enter the final year of his third consecutive term at the time of his death. His current term was set to expire in 2008.
Thompson served in the U.S. Navy , the U.S. Army and battled in the Vietnam War. But his battle with illness began in 2005. He started feeling ill off-and-on, but his condition went undetected until June 2007.
Funeral services for Parker P.T. Thompson, of Orange, were held at Forrest Lawn Cemetery.
Saved projectors hold Orange history
The pair helped John Wayne ride the range, and Bob and Bing travel the roads. Now, no one wants them. But the city of Orange has kept them from the scrap heap.
Two 1940s movie projectors from the Dragon Theater were found in a store room at the city’s public works building on Meeks Drive. It took several men to move the metal projectors from the Thomen Community Center. In 2007 the Thomen Center was sold to the Stark Foundation and demolished.
The projectors reflect a different time in Orange, when the jobs and population were booming, and when racial segregation was everyday life.
The Dragon Theater was built during World War II at 1014 Second Street. Second Street was the heart of commercial and social activity for the black community.
Jimmie Lewis, city planning director, said the Dragon Theater, which later became a club and restaurant, was torn down about 1990. City personnel removed and saved the two movie projectors, hoping someone would preserve them for their historical value.
County proclamation wishes Bum happy birthday
Like most babies of the 1920s, Oail Andrew Phillips was born in a house, not a hospital. That house was at 1408 John Avenue in Orange, and little Oail grew up to be a “Bum,” but one of the most famous people from Orange.
Bum Phillips, the famous NFL coach, is a native of Orange and Monday, Sept. 24,2007, Orange County Commissioners honored him on his 84th birthday by issuing a proclamation.
Today, Phillips is retired and lives on his ranch in Goliad. His son, Wade, who was also born in Orange, is the head coach of the Dallas Cowboys, taking over earlier this year.
Precinct 3 Commissioner John Dubose asked for the resolution, which proclaims Phillips as “one of Orange County’s brightest stars.” He also said Phillips will be buried in Orange.
County Judge Carl Thibodeaux remarked that if Wade keeps winning games, the county will have to pass a proclamation for him, too.
BCHS Class of 57 Celebrates 50 Years Proud
The first graduating class from Bridge City High School was celebrating it’s 50th anniversary in August 2007. The class members were recognized at the Homecoming Game Sept. 21, and on Sept. 22, at the first ever Homecoming Parade. The 2007 Class that graduated this year was the 50th. A half century has passed, and it was a big landmark for all the graduates of BCHS, according to Dr, James B. Jones, President of the Alumni Association. Dr. Jones and several friends decided about three-years-ago to begin the Alumni Association. There were 26 members of the first graduating class, with 28 members of faculty from grades one through twelve who all went to school in different parts of the high school building. That school was in the building on Texas Avenue that was torn down, Jones said. The south end was the High School. The North end handled the Junior High School, and the Elementary. Grover Die was the Superintendent, and the first Principal was Austin Floyd.
Humberto claimed one life in Bridge City
The Bridge City police department reports that an 80 year-old man living in the 2300 Block of Beverly has died when his aluminum patio cover fell on him apparently breaking his neck. The cover appears to have been damaged by Hurricane Humberto. It collapsed on the man at approximately 5:53 a.m. Thursday morning, Sept. 13, 2007. Margie Stephens, the next door neighbor, had performedCPR for over an hour to no avail. The man, John Simon, who was a longtime Bridge City citizen, was pronounced dead at the scene by Pct. 3 Justice of the Peace Janice Menard.
Nickums named "Senior Couple In Action"
The Bridge City Women In Action organization named Bill and Ellen Nickum Senior Couple In Action in September 2007. The group typically selects only one senior, but members said because of all the couple does for others, together, the Nickums were chosen as a couple to receive the honor. We picked them as a couple, because they are both such devoted Christians, not just to their family and friends, but to the community as well,” said Community Women in Action member June Gregory, of Bridge City. They’ve both been tireless recently in helping their parents who are ailing. But this couple will help anyone in the community. They will never turn their backs on a person in need and those are just a few of the reasons they deserved to be honored, and as a couple.”
“We are very honored to present this award to Bill and Ellen Nickum,” said Gregory. “Just spend five minutes with them and you’ll know exactly why they were chosen.” The Community Women in Action’s Senior in Action award is given several times a year. We offer the honor when we see someone, or this case, some people, doing good in the community,” said Gregory. “It could be once a year or four times a year, but when we see a true Senior in Action, we honor them.”
Jones and Terrell B.C. Homecoming Parade Marshals
Dr James "Jimmy" Jones and Raylene McKinney Terrell were named by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce as Bridge City High School Co-Parade Marshals Saturday, September 15, 2007.
Dr. Jones was in the first graduating class of that school in 1958. Terrell graduated there with the Class of 1961. He was born in Conroe, Texas, in 1940, Dr. Jones said. The Jones family moved to Orange County in 1943. His school life began at the old Prairie View School building, and he moved to the Bridge City School on Texas Avenue in the fourth grade. That building was demolished to create the first Bridge City High School.
Dr. Jones was President of the Class of 1958 as well as a graduate of Bridge City High School. Dr Jones and Mrs. Terrell were chosen by the Bridge City Chamber of Commerce for this honor and both have expressed there deeper appreciation.
Raylene Terrell moved to Bridge City in 1957. She was in the last half of the ninth grade, completed it in Bridge City and then the family moved to La Porte for tenth grade, but moved back to Bridge City the same year.She finished school and graduated in the still new Bridge City School, Terrell said, then went to Port Arthur College, where she graduated and worked for the next 46 years at the Port Arthur Housing Authority, retiring as Deputy Director.
Asked why she was chosen to be Co-Marshall for the Homecoming Parade, Terrell said that when they asked Dr. Jones to do it, he agreed "If Raylene Terrell will do it with me." Although the two were in different graduating classes, grads from 1957 – 1961 always have their reunions together, she said. There were 87 in her graduating class, and even fewer in Jones’ class, she said. All those early students of the first high school were close, and still are, she reported.
Cow Bayou Bridge to be repaired, not replaced
Commissioners Court Monday, Oct. 1, 2007, quietly agreed with the Texas Department of Transportation on a plan to close the Cow Bayou Bridge a few nights for renovations. The renovations, though, show the World War II-era swing bridge will be kept and not demolished for a new bridge.
Bridge City was named for it’s bridges– two of them– the Rainbow Bridge deciated in 1938 and the once endanger Cow Bayou Bridge dedicted in 1941. Local citizens protested and worked to save the old bridge.
In January 2007 TxDOT-Beaumont District engineers had announced plans to remove the historic swing bridge, which qualifies as a historic site, and replace it with a new, taller bridge. A group formed, the Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation, to save the rare swing bridge from demolition. The group sought support from the Texas Historical Commission, the Historic Bridge Foundation and TxDOT historic structure specialist seeking the preservation of the bridge.
They were successful.
“”The two-phased planned historic rehabilitation project helps open the way for the Bridge City Citizens for Historic Preservation to initiate the process of nominating the Cow Bayou Bridge to the National Registry of Historic Places as a historic bridge,” said Mark Dunn, chair of the preservation group.
The first phase of repairs to the Cow Bayou Bridge are scheduled to begin in early 2008.
Autopsy in on BCHS student
Autopsy reports revealed in October 2007 that the flu did, in fact, lead to the death of popular Bridge City High School student 15-year-old Lisa Cormier this past February. According to the report, now released, Cormier fell ill with the flu, which remained in her system for about a week, turning into a staph infection that ultimately led to fatal septic shock. Lisa died in Children’s Hospital in Houston.
Her mother, Julie Vickery of Bridge City, says she wants other parents to know that the flu doesn’t just kill the weak and elderly, it can happen to anyone. “They always say the flu only kills at risk people and people need to be aware that it can kill anyone,” Vickery said on Monday. “My daughter was a healthy 15-year-old girl and she died from the flu and a staph infection. I want parents to be aware of the germs that exist everywhere. My daughter simply came into contact with it and it killed her. I can’t change whathappened to Lisa, but I don’t want this to happen to anyone else.”
Lisa Cormier was a freshman at Bridge City High School when she suddenly fell ill. Lisa was popular, on the basketball team, a straight “A” student, an avid photographer and was devoted to her youth church group in Bridge City.
Students raised money for men burnt in explosion
In October 2007, Students at Orangefield Junior High School joined together to raise money for two men, both former Bobcats, who were severely injured in September in anindustrial explosion inside a railroad box car, located at a railroad holding station, just outside Victoria, Texas. Students, under the leadership of the student council, raised $1,135 to help the men with medical expenses by talking faculty members and coaches, Chris Therior, Derek Peveto and Jennifer Burton, to take to the track and run one second for every dollar earned by the students. Faculty members said they are extremely proud of the students for thinking of those in need.
The two injured former Bobcats, Gary Naquin and B.J. Bishop, both in their mid-to-late 20’s, sustained serious burns and other injuries Sept. 13, while attempting to apply a protective adhesive to the inside portion of a railroad box car, a Lt. with the Victoria County Sheriff’s Department said. Both men are still recovering from injuries sustained in the explosion.
The money raised by the junior high students, will be turned over to family members to aid with medical and other costs associated with their hospital stay and ongoing recovery.
Charlie Wickersham dies
Charlie Wickersham, a longtime Orange businessman known for his charm and colorful stories as much as for his business acumen, died Sunday night Nov. 25 at a Houston hospital. He was 79 and had fought through a lengthy illness.
For more than 40 years he owned Wickersham Ford in Orange, but also had extensive investments, particularly in property. He owned Northway Shopping Center for several years and kept the clock tower building at the center, even after he sold the rest of the center.
"He’s a legend in his own time," said Lester "Buckshot" Winfree, a former business partner.
Wickersham moved to Orange as a young man nearly 60 years ago. He got a job at Gasow Motor Co in 1955, which had the downtown Ford dealership, and in 1960, he created Wickersham Ford, Inc. with Nelda C. Stark. In 1983, he became sole owner of Wickersham Ford-Lincoln-Mercury, Inc. Through years he was associated with Ford Motors, Wickersham received many awards and accolades, and he had the honor of being recognized by Time Magazine as one of 10 outstanding automobile dealers in the United States.
He promoted Orange and Southeast Texas as much as he promoted his own business ventures. As a member of the board of directors for the Sabine River Authority, he worked to get the Toledo Bend dam and reservoir built.
Charlie Wilson was a state representative at the time and met Wickersham while they worked together on Sabine River development.
Wilson went on to become the U.S. representative with Orange as part of his district. Wilson is now being portrayed by Tom Hanks in the Mike Nichols film "Charlie Wilson’s War."
"Charlie was extremely civic-minded," Wilson, 74, said in a telephone interview Monday as he recuperates in quarantine after a recent heart transplant operation.
The two Charlies met about 42-years-ago and had remained friends, keeping in touch with each other through their illnesses.
"Charlie lived life to the fullest in every respect," Wilson said.