2014: Year in Review

Published 10:03 am Wednesday, December 31, 2014

EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the first and second of a four part series recapping some of the events that happened during 2014. The stories were compiled from The Daily Leader files.

Soon, we bid farewell to 2014, a year full of conquest and defeat, of gain and loss, of tragedy and of hope. As we retrieve articles published throughout the year, we’ll see again the dark times that knocked us off our feet, and the times where we could look ahead to a brighter future.

In the following four issues, the Daily Leader will be revisiting those stories that made us laugh, made us cry and ultimately brought us to where we are.

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Community mourns after accidental fatality

Jan. 3, 2014

Following the accidental shooting of 6-year-old Karlianna Brumfield at her home Wednesday, Enterprise Attendance Center officials have been contemplating how to move forward as the students prepare for their return to school next week.

Karlianna Brumfield, who attended kindergarten at Enterprise, was accidentally shot Wednesday when her 3-year-old brother was playing with his pellet gun and the gun went off inside the family home, according to Lincoln County Coroner Clay McMorris.

 ‘Move to Learn’ Exercise break initiative thrives at Enterprise

Jan. 15, 2014

Clinton public school coach Larry Calhoun, the star of the Move to Learn exercise break videos that are going viral among Mississippi classrooms, demonstrated his program at Enterprise Attendance Center Tuesday.

The Move to Learn videos feature Calhoun leading students in simple movement exercises that can be done in a small space. Teachers are noticing that incorporating the fitness breaks in the classroom has increased their students’ ability to learn and to focus on schoolwork. The fitness breaks help teachers create positive learning environments and promote effective classroom management.

These brief, organized and free classroom movement breaks can help teachers manage their students’ energy levels so that after a fitness break the children’s brains are more focused and ready to learn, or take a test.

Volunteers complete dream home for little girl

Feb. 2, 2014

In recent weeks, little Kaley Wilkerson has stolen the hearts of Brookhaven residents.

Motivated by her heroic struggle against cancer, the community has come together and contributed whatever they can to help.

First, the mayor and city alderman traveled to Mamie Martin Elementary School and designated Friday, Jan. 24, as “Kaley Wilkerson” day.

Shortly thereafter, the entire class body of the school sang “Happy Birthday” to Kaley in the foyer of the school hallway.

And since that time, students at the Brookhaven Technical Center have been sawing wood and wielding hammers to create a giant playhouse for Kaley.

Local team cheers their way to All Star event

Feb. 23, 2014

The cheer team at Mississippi Gym of Dreams in Brookhaven has reached for the stars and has been rewarded with an invitation to compete at Disney World in the All Star World’s Cheerleading Championship.

“It’s the Super Bowl of cheerleading competitions,” said cheer coach Duane Meilstrup. “Gyms all over the nation compete; the best level 5 and 6 go to the All-Star Championship.” Level 5 and 6 are typically high school and college level students.

Locals rally around Belt Line Buddy

March 20, 2014

A local stray animal has become the talk of Belt Line Drive in Brookhaven. ‘Belt Line Buddy,’ as they call him, has won over the hearts of those who know him and have been feeding the stray dog for the past year. A recent traumatic injury to Buddy has brought local residents together to help him heal and find a permanent home.

Missy Thames is one of the big-hearted people who has been feeding the white-and-tan stray. She said there were times he’d disappear and she worried about his wellbeing.

Thames said he disappeared a couple of times, and then a couple of weeks ago they saw him reemerge with a traumatic injury to his face.

After setting up a donation account for Buddy, Thames’ daughter Tyler set up a Facebook page where they could reach out to people for help in capturing him, and where people could put in their Buddy stories and find information about donating to his medical account. The response was instant, Thames said. They quickly raised funds for the veterinarian bill and people started posting their buddy stories.

Belt Line Buddy died Sept. 2.

Fundraiser to aid India Missions

March 28, 2014

The First Baptist Women’s ministry is having an “I Love India” garage sale. Leaders in the group say every penny raised will go to support the missions of the Agape outreach India Ministries.

The India ministry is headed by Sam and Jezy Vargheze, who call Brookhaven and India home – alternatively living in each every six months. They were first-time visitors to the church over 20 years ago, Gerald said. Jezy had a nursing job at King’s Daughters Medical Center, and Sam was studying at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson.

The Indian couple has started 55 churches in India. They have mentored over 40 pastors and evangelists that serve these churches. They have an orphanage, the Agape Children’s home, which serves impoverished and homeless children.

2014 Relay for Life underway

April 27, 2014

Relay for life 2014 will offer fun and games this year, said one of the event’s organizers, Cindie Chambers. The theme this year is “Game On, Time for a Cure.”

The Relay for Life royalty will be crowned. This year the court is King Jeff Michel, Queen JoAnna Sproles, Prince Zaquavius Arnold and Princess Kaley Wilkerson. The royal court will make the first lap for the event at approximately 7:10 p.m.

“At 10 the Hush Angles go around the park, and the rides stop, all activity is paused, and the luminaries go out,” Chambers said. “It is a very special service.”

 BA experiment headed into outer space

April 30, 2014

Five seniors from Brookhaven Academy have received the distinction of having the scientific experiment they proposed in the Flight Experiment Design Competition sent on a mission to the International Space Station.

Garret Smith, Ruth Vaughan, Samantha Barton, Lindsey Winborne, and Ashlea Bardwell will travel to Washington, D.C. for the Student Spaceflight Experiments Program National Conference at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

The Brookhaven Academy team had one of 15 student experiments that competed with students from all across the U.S. Barton explained that their entry is the only one from Mississippi to have gotten into the space flight.

Ready, set, splash! Park now open

May 14, 2014

With the hot summer months quickly approaching and school days nearly over for a while, the children of Brookhaven are ready to play. The water bucket dumps, the hose cannons and the high-shooting fountains at the Bethel playground were set up just in time to cool them down.

“I thank the Lord for this,” said Mary Wilson, Ward Three Alderman. “The children are really enjoying it and the parents like that it is here.”

The project was a joint effort between the city and the county. The county worked with the Pearl River Basin Development District to fund the project. The spray park cost $100,000; 50 percent was paid for by the PRBDD, 45 percent by the city and 5 percent by Lincoln County.

Bogue Chitto bring home gold

May 18, 2014

Bogue Chitto coach Scott Legget was speechless after pausing for a moment to speak as he took off his cap to wipe the sweat from his face as his Lady Cats celebrated their class 1A Fastpitch Softball State Championship title Saturday afternoon.

On a hot and sunny day, Legget’s girls rebounded from an offensive marathon Friday night, falling to the Hamilton Lady Lions 15-9 win Saturday at Freedom Ridge Park.

Bogue Chitto won game two 8-7 late Saturday morning to avoid a Hamilton sweep and then knocked off the Lady Lions 8-7 in the decisive third game.

“I cannot describe the feeling,” said Legget. “These girls have accomplished so much throughout this season. I am so proud of them. We are state champions for the third time in five years.”

Veterans ride to honor fallen comrades

June 20, 2014

In 2005 Army staff Sgt. John G. Doles died during “Operation Enduring Freedom” in Afghanistan. The 29-year-old’s funeral was held in October 2005 in Oklahoma. His family and friends remember him fondly.

At his funeral service, a group of protesters stood across the street picketing the funeral with signs such as “America is Doomed” and “Thank God for Dead soldiers.” The members of the Westboro Baptist Church, an extremist organization based in Kansas, were met with a wall of American Legion Riders.

Then, for roughly 30 minutes, bikers overpowered the vicious comments made during the service with their loud revved motorcycles. When the Westboro protesters finally gave up, the riders joined the family and friends at the service to honor Doles. This was not the first encounter with the WBC, but it helped spark the beginning of a new group: The Patriot Guard Riders.

Hervey Littlefield, member of the local Patriot Guard, explained that the group has evolved since then into showing families of veterans that there are supporters.

“They want to know someone is there for them to honor their fallen hero,” he said.

City names ‘Healthiest Hometown’ in the state.

June 26, 2014

Brookhaven is the “Healthiest Hometown” in Mississippi for 2014, and as a result of the designation, the city will receive a $50,000 dollar grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Mississippi Foundation to support ongoing community health initiatives.

“I am extremely excited about the city of Brookhaven’s being named Mississippi’s 2014 Healthiest Hometown,” said Karen Sullivan, Brookhaven Healthy Hometown Committee member and city alderman at large. Sullivan and other local officials and committee members were on hand Wednesday for the awards presentation at the Mississippi Municipal League Annual Conference in Biloxi.

“This designation speaks well of Brookhaven’s health-conscious citizens as well as of those who have careers dedicated to the wellness of our schools and of our recreation department,” Sullivan said.

Stories surface about city’s underground

July 6, 2014

When construction crews broke ground on a new Miller and White accounting office that is being built in the lot on the corner of Monticello Street and Whitworth Avenue downtown, they unearthed a mystery from one of Brookhaven’s past lives: a small brick room with steps and a small space that leads to a door in the sidewalk.

Since the discovery, speculation has run rampant, but a deeper look into the lot’s past has illuminated an interesting chapter of Brookhaven’s history.

The earliest records available at the Lincoln County-Brookhaven Government complex show that the lot was sold to Peter Lucich by Whitworth heirs in 1876. Lucich built the two-story St. Marco hotel on the lot. This is the first recorded building and most likely the only building that was on the property.

John Perkins, whose family bought the property from Lucich, said the St. Marco hotel was a lay-over place for railroad crews.

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July 8, 2014

The Brookhaven Animal Rescue League volunteers are making final plans for the fifth annual “Dog Days of Summer Kids Camp” set for July 25.

The week-long camp will be held at the Brookhaven City Park from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. each day.

The theme for this year’s camp is “what does the dog say?” Many of the week’s activities will focus on teaching the children to understand a dog’s body language in order avoid bites, and make the most of the relationship between a child and their dog. The kids will also be given tips on how to train their own dogs.

Demonstration by search and rescue dogs, law enforcement k9s and agility dogs will take place throughout the week.

Local’s plane restoration leads to world-class honor

Aug. 5, 2014

Local aircraft enthusiasts, Paul and Jennifer Barnett, of Brookhaven, had the honor of seeing their Globe Swift model airplane awarded the “Silver Lady” at the 2014 AirVenture Oshkosh. The convention is the largest air show in the world, and, out of around 4,000 other planes, the Barnett’s Globe Swift received Reserve Grand Champion in the plane’s division.

The award is the result of the dedication of Barnett and his friend Scott Anderson, who specializes in Globe Swifts, to restoring the plane to prime flying condition over the course of the past four years. However, for Barnett, the accomplishment has been a longtime dream of his since a very tender age.

Alligator found in drainage ditch

Aug. 19, 2014

City workers surveying a ditch for cleanup had a bit of a surprise Monday – a 5-foot, 3-inch alligator was discovered in the shallow water and tall grass.

Roxanne Norton, with Brookhaven Animal Control, said the alligator was apparently too young to pose a threat.

“It’s more likely to run than attack,” she said.

The ditch runs next to Mike and Ethelene Linton Starrett’s home on Avenue A in the Halbert Heights neighborhood. Her son, George Linton, said the overgrowth in the ditch is dangerous.

“Kids play in it all the time,” he said.

Norton jumped on the gator and was assisted by several others present in removing it from the ditch.

MSA celebrates alum’s Miss America appearance

Sept. 12, 2014

Mississippi School of the Arts will host a viewing party for students and local residents Sunday, Sept. 14, when the Miss America finals air on television in honor of Jasmine Murray.

Miss Mississippi Murray, 22, is a native of Columbus and graduated from MSA. She is currently pursuing a broadcast journalism degree at Mississippi State.

Champions are readers: Athletes encourage reading at BES

Sept. 20, 2014

Brookhaven High School cheerleaders and football players and Copiah-Lincoln Community College dancers visited classrooms in Brookhaven Elementary School for “Read Like a Champion Day” Friday. The athletes talked to elementary students, read stories and signed autographs. The event promoted reading throughout the school.

“I wanted people that the kids admire to read to them and show them how important reading is,” said event organizer Kelly Nance. “As we all know, a teacher can tell students how important reading is several times, and it might not get through to them, but if it comes from someone like a cheerleader, dancer or a football player, someone that they look up to, they are more likely to listen.”

Nance began the process of planning the reading event a month ago by contacting BHS and Co-Lin to see if they would be interested in getting involved. She wanted to keep it a surprise for all the BES students.

“They were only told that some special guests were coming to see them,” said Nance. “The reaction of the students when the readers walked in was unforgettable.”

Every classroom got to meet a football player, a cheerleader and even got a visit from the panther mascot.

BHS student excels despite rare disease

Oct. 4, 2014

Drums are the pulse of a marching band. Every strike on the drumhead gives the music rhythm and direction. Tra Henderson is one of the students who gives that heart to the Brookhaven High School Band.

Tra, 16, has been in the band since sixth grade. He started with the trumpet, then moved to the baritone and now plays the electronic drums in the marching band pit crew. For most students being in the band is challenging, but for Tra it has been an uphill battle.

Tra was born with Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare disease that causes his bones to easily break. Doctors knew from birth that he had OI because he was born “crush,” meaning numerous bones we broken. Growing up he has had over 60 broken bones; the family stopped counting after a while.

“Life for him has been tough, but he has always been a happy child and always worries more about other than himself,” said Tra’s mother Vivian Henderson. “It has been hard for him physically, but he is good hearted and good spirited.

BHS football players die in Tuesday accident

Oct. 15, 2014

Two 18-year-old Brookhaven High School football players were killed Tuesday night in a car accident.

Deputy Coroner Ricky Alford reported Shaquan Richardson and Jevonta Dickey were involved in a motor vehicle accident around 9:45 p.m. on Union Street near 914 Union Street in Brookhaven.

The Brookhaven Fire Department used the Jaws-of-Life to pry open the rear driver’s side door.

“We just want to be sure that the family knows we are here to do what little we can,” said Superintendent Ben Cox. “At times like this it’s hard to know what to do or how to reach out to people, but we want them to know that their sons were an important part of not just the high school but the entire school district.”

Four dead after car accident

Oct. 25, 2014

A two-vehicle accident left four dead and six injured late Friday night.

Coroner Clay McMorris said Nicholas King, 19, died on scene. Deputy coroner Ricky Alford said Faith White, 15, and Curtis Gunnell, 17, died on scene. Deputy coroner Robert Tyler said Kylee R. McCord, 16, died at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

Several of the victims attended high schools in the Lincoln County School District.

“This is a very tragic and sad time for us as a community,” said Lincoln county Superintendent Terry Brister. “This type is never easy and when it happens, we try to face it as an entire Lincoln County family. Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those involved.”

Local legend turns 85

Nov 6, 2014

A Brookhaven icon celebrates a milestone as he turns 85 years old Thursday.

Robert Byrd, more commonly referred to as Mr. Pete, has been living in Brookhaven for the past 31 years and has made a huge impression on the city. Most Brookhavenites recognize has iconic cheerful face zipping across downtown on his wheelchair to Janie’s Bakery or at the St. James Missionary Baptist Church.

“I love Brookhaven. It’s a pretty good town,” said Byrd. “I pretty much know everyone in town.”

Byrd is so well liked in the community he was elected Grand Marshal of the Christmas parade last year.

Although Byrd never got married and had children, he is surrounded by his sister’s children and grandchildren. The Brookhaven community has also become his family. He moved to Brookhaven in the 60s with his mother. They moved into a charming house on Minnesota Street that was left to him after she died. He said he was told never to sell it, so it’s where he resides today.

Flowers dies at UMMC

Nov. 6, 2014

Loyd Star Attendance Center Principal Robin Case said Peyton Flowers died at 1:42 p.m. Thursday at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Flowers was airlifted to Jackson Friday night during Loyd Star’s homecoming game. Flowers asked the coach to take a break. Flowers collapsed while sitting on the bench. The entire state of Mississippi and many across the county have come together to support the family and friends of Flowers during his time at UMMC.

“Losing Peyton will leave a very big hole on campus,” said Case. “We ask the community to still keep his family in their thoughts and prayer during this difficult time that is no where near over.”

Case said the junior high and high school where told as a group Thursday afternoon in the Loyd Star gymnasium. “We are trying to cope with the loss,” said Case. “The students here all love him and have had a genuine sense of care and concern for his well-being. Our students are devastated by this loss.”

“What can I say about this great kid; his life was a miracle, and we loved him so much,” said Loyd Star Head Football Coach Adam Cook. “We are selfish for wanting him back, God has called him home. We pray that we can continue without him in our lives.”

State underfunds BSD, LCSD by $18 million

Dec. 4, 2014

After about half a decade of underfunded public education, schools in the Brookhaven and Lincoln County school districts have worked hard with the money they had but are ready for a larger focus on education spending by the state.

“Parents want a good safe place where their kids can get a good education and we provide that,” Enterprise Attendance Center Principal Shannon Eubanks said, “but we’ve had to squeeze the blood from the turnip, and that turnip is shriveled.”

The Associated Press released specifics on how much money districts have been underfunded since 2009. According to their reports, Lincoln County School District has been underfunded a total of $8,617,629.

Parade jumpstarts Brookhaven’s Christmas spirit

Dec. 4, 2014

This year’s Christmas parade is entitled “Bringing It Home For Christmas” and the family-fun begins at 7 p.m. Thursday evening.

Kay Burton, program director at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, reports approximately 35 floats will appear in Thursday night’s line-up.

Burton said she is excited to see what the winner of last year’s float contest, the Hurst Review, comes up with this year.

“They’re always creative and imaginative,” she said.

This year there will be about 30 children involved with the float.