Skip to main content
A1 A1

J.F. Webb men's basketball player Javon Bullock goes in for a layup during his team's 64-54 loss to Knightdale in the final day of the South Granville Holiday Invitational on Thursday morning.

Smiths grateful to be alive after tree crashes into Dabney home
  • Updated

DABNEY — Teresa and Tom Smith feel fortunate to be alive after a tree tore apart their Gun Club Road home early Monday morning, part of a winter storm that brought snow and heavy wind gusts to the Tri-County area.

The tall poplar tree was uprooted and crashed atop the one-story home in the Dabney community north of U.S. 158 Bypass around 7:30 a.m., through the roof and onto the foot of an unoccupied bed. Teresa, having just washed her face in the adjacent bathroom, narrowly avoided the path of destruction.

“I heard the wind blowing really fierce,” Teresa said. “And so I started to walk out of the bedroom and I just felt something from the backside. I came out and then I looked and I knew something [was wrong] and I looked behind me and there was the tree.”

The fallen tree spanned the entire length of the bedroom and the left (if facing the front of the house) side of the home, damaging the bedroom floor and disrupting the structural soundness of the remainder of the dwelling that still had power late Monday morning before rain turned to snow outside.

Teresa had anticipated making a shopping trip to Smithfield on Monday, and was caught off guard when she awakened to the sound of heavy wind.

Unbeknownst to the Smiths, the National Weather Service would later that morning issue a wind advisory for central North Carolina, warning of “northerly winds 15 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 45 mph.” The advisory also detailed that “significant rainfall last night, combined with these strong winds, may cause some trees to uproot.”

The Smiths’ electricity flickered Monday morning before the crash, prompting Teresa into the bathroom to wash her face and brush her teeth, and Tom to put some water in the bathtub in case power was lost.

Then, with the house still dark not long after dawn, came what amounted to an explosion for the Smiths.

“The world had come to an end,” Teresa said of the noise of the crash.

“It was like a bomb went off, if you can visualize that,” Tom added. “Because everything was coming down off the walls.”

Daughter and neighbor Leslie Walthall was the first to arrive. Other community members quickly came to the Smiths’ aid, including the Watkins Volunteer Fire Department and Poplar Creek Baptist Church Pastor Tony Evans and wife Paula.

Walthall’s co-workers at H.G. Reynolds Co., a local general contracting and construction management firm, covered the gaping hole in the roof with a tarp, but on Monday morning, the Smiths expected to be looking for a hotel, not wishing to impede on their daughter’s already full house.

The Smiths, who met and married in Richmond, Virginia, have been on Gun Club Road for around 40 years.

Leslie grew up in the house.

“Yes, it is a material thing,” Walthall said. “But this is a home that they have built for the last 30-some years. So — it’s emotional.”

Standing in the living room, turning back towards the damage, Walthall added, “That tree is right there. Her bed is in half.”

Amid the chaos of the morning and having to repeatedly recount the story, one memory especially stood out to Teresa: the angel atop their living room Christmas tree remaining lit in the moments after the tree crash. She looked at the angel and thought, “To God be the Glory” and thanked God for saving her life.

“Because he saved my life this morning,” Teresa said, “and it’s only through the power of God that I’m alive.”

Madison Oliver, one of the staff at Sadie’s Coffee Corner in downtown Henderson, tried to catch a few flakes when the snow started coming down on Monday morning. Forecasters were expecting less than an inch of accumulation as temperatures dropped on the trailing end of a storm that brought wind and heavy rain to the region earlier in the day. A taste of winter

'Fourteen Days of Giving' in honor of MLK
  • Updated

HENDERSON — Students and teachers at Vance County Middle School got some additional virus protection on Monday.

Gang Free Inc. distributed personal protective equipment as part of “Fourteen Days of Giving,” a service project leading up to Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday on Jan. 15.

Gang Free Executive Director Melissa Elliott said the organization distributed protective masks for students and teachers as well as 50 digital forehead thermometers and 400 bottles of hand sanitizer at the school.

The supplies will help the school follow Vance County school board policy that requires students and staff to wear face coverings indoors in all facilities where students are present, as well as on buses.

The project comes at a time when COVID-19’s omicron variant is surging in North Carolina. “We just want to protect our students and teachers,” Elliott said.

Elliott is in quarantine herself after testing positive — but without symptoms, she said — so it fell to Gang Free staff and volunteers to take on the task of distributing the items to the school.

“Martin Luther King was a man of service,” Elliott said. “We’re going to be doing something every day until Jan. 15.”

She added that Gang Free is working in partnership with the Public in Health organization to promote vaccination equity and education. They also provide resources to deter and slow down the spread of COVID-19 by distributing PPE equipment where it is needed the most.

The Gang Free workers made their delivery to the middle school just in time, as the school closed early due to the inclement weather that moved in late in the morning.

Wild Monday weather causes little damage
  • Updated

HENDERSON — Rain, wind, snow, sunshine — Monday’s wild weather offered a bit of everything, but Vance County and its neighbors appeared to get through it without major problems.

The worst damage from the early morning portion of the storm came when a tree fell on a house off Gun Club Road near Henderson. But aside from that, as of mid-morning there had “not been a whole lot of trees down,” some isolated power outages and some isolated flash flooding, Vance County Emergency Operations Director Brian Short said

“We had some busy periods, but all in all, so far not too bad,” Short said, adding that with temperatures dropping, he suspected the storm might bring some frozen precipitation to the area.

“If it comes down hard enough and fast enough, it can cause some problems,” he said.

At midday, the weather system in fact triggered a snowfall in the Henderson area that for a time resembled a cold-state nor’easter for the heavy blowing snow and reduced visibility that came with it. Road conditions in Henderson proper deteriorated quickly, contributing to a spate of fender-benders around town.

Short said the wrecks coincided with the storm’s peak as the pavement got slippery, but as far as he knew later in the afternoon there were no serious injuries.

More scattered power outages came with the snow. Duke Energy’s reporting as of about 2:20 p.m indicated that the largest pockets were in Oxford, and northeast of Williamsboro in Vance County in the neighborhoods next to Kerr Lake.

Two of the region’s three public school systems, in Vance and Warren counties, opened on Monday but called off classes as the weather continued to pose problems. Warren County School officials sent their students home at noon, and the Vance County schools followed suit at 1 p.m. for elementary school students and 1:15 p.m. for the others.

The Granville County Public Schools weren’t in session, save for Early College students who were working remotely. Tuesday was their scheduled first day of in-person classes for 2022, and the district’s other students were due back in class on Wednesday.

Vance school officials said they will make Tuesday a remote-learning day for students and teachers, and an optional workday for all other staff with school buildings opening at 10 a.m.

The snowfall didn’t stick on much south of Oxford, and in Henderson it stopped by around 2:30 p.m. The sun came out, and temperatures rose enough to begin melting what had fallen.

But with overnight temperatures expected to drop to the low 20s, the concern going into Tuesday is that the damp roads will freeze.

“There is a strong likelihood of black ice in the morning,” Short said, adding that he’ll be “out early riding the roads” to gauge conditions and try “to make some decisions.”

Contact Ray Gronberg at or by phone at 252-436-2850.

New year, new chances
  • Updated

The morning was surreal.

I felt trapped in a churning, murky swamp with occasional jagged shards rising from the surface.

Much of it I can’t recall. Some parts I remember as if they were wrapped in cotton wool, muffled and indistinct. As if I were watching from a great distance. The worst parts of it I felt paralyzed and unable to move or react.

My emotions were muted as well, almost like my brain and heart were shot full of novocain, deadening almost all feeling.

It was a day that I had been planning for yet dreading. That I had literally played in my head thousands of times but wasn’t at all sure I had the fortitude to accomplish.

This was the day that I told Petey I was leaving and moved out of our house.

We’d tried. We’d both tried. We’d gone to counseling and at first it felt like we were going to make it.

But finally, I accepted that I was deluding myself, and the people we had become didn’t bring out anything good in each other. We’d both changed so much, but it was in opposite directions. The home we’d made became a mockery of the love, laughter, and closeness that used to fill it to the rafters.

Here’s the truth Gentle Reader: If I stayed on that couch, in that house of sadness, disappointment, and acrimony for another couple of years, I would be an alcoholic, a bitter, angry wretch, dead — and probably all three

So I made the hardest decision of my life — to leave and give us both a chance for peace and happiness.

That’s when I found a job that I was good at and paid well.

The building in which I desired to live is one of the most famous in town — a beautiful 150-year-old former factory in the center of downtown with history, charm and character. The only problem was it was also one of the most popular spots in town. Apartments didn’t open up very often.

So I contacted the very kind and patient young man who ran the building and set up a tour and meeting. It was exactly what I wanted, a quirky blend of cozy and industrial, full of light and vintage architecture. He knew of two tenants that would be moving out eventually. I was on the list, but there wouldn’t be a vacancy for months.

A large portion of the new income I was making went into a savings account, and while I waited, I mentally decorated my future space.

I didn’t want to go to a furniture store and buy prefab, decorated rooms. I wanted something unique that would take time to create

My bed, linens, and most soft surface furniture were bought new. A few items that I couldn’t resist were also bought new.

But almost everything else was bought at antique stores (like a elm hibachi from the Japanese Meiji period that became my coffee table), thrift stores (a couple of tables and most of my dishes and glasses), and furniture consignment stores (a mid-century sideboard and a Regency period ridiculously over the top coat rack).

I love my new home, and every day I wake up in it, it makes me happy.

These last few months I’ve been thinking a lot about the difference between courage and strength.

Courage is what makes you jump in the water to save the floundering swimmer. Strength is what makes you give up trying to save the person determined to drown and save yourself.

For many years I used every bit of courage I possessed. And although it wasn’t an easy decision, I finally had to be strong for myself and my future.

Thanks for your time.

Contact me at