| Robinson’s return triggers emotion from family
| Bryon Robinson’s mouth dropped open in disbelief before he could be sure his daddy was finally home. Army Reservist S/Sgt. Steve Robinson had been released from duty after 15 months’ service and drove to Batesville Intermediate School with his wife to pick up their sons.
| By John Howell Sr.
Occasionally a good story comes out of a war.
Steve Robinson of Courtland was that good story last week. He came out of the Iraq War and home to Panola County.
Robinson is a staff sergeant in the Army Reserve’s 850th Transportation Company based in Lyon. He was activated with his unit in December, 2003, then extended last April and finally released Thursday, February 18.
The impromptu planning that he put into his reunion with his sons turned his homecoming day into a poignant moment not soon forgotten by those privileged to see it.
Byron, age seven, and eight-year-old Brycen knew there dad would soon be home, but with the uncertainty often connected with things military, they weren’t sure when.
Their mother, Adrienne, sent them to school as usual that day without mentioning that it was the day their dad would be home. Then she picked up her husband from his armory, and they drove to Batesville Intermediate School for his reunion with their sons. Leaving him at the intermediate school office, she checked Byron out of the elementary school and took him to the intermediate school playground where his brother and classmates were enjoying an outside recess on the playground.
When the soldier walked onto the playground in his uniform, Byron was standing with his mother and his aunt, Robyn Sims, a teacher at the Child Development Center, while Brycen played football with his classmates. When Byron turned and spotted the uniformed man walking his way, his lower jaw dropped and he stood there in open-mouthed disbelief. A split-second later he leaped into his daddy’s arms with the hug he had been saving for all those months.
Brycen appeared to be a little more reserved in his greeting for his dad, perhaps because he had to break away from a pickup game of playground football and perhaps because all of his football buddies walked along with him towards his dad as these curious events unfolded. Brycen’s reticence quickly melted when he saw the growing awe with which his friends regarded his soldier/dad.
During the ensuing embraces, Byron reached for his daddy’s uniform cap to commandeer it for himself and found a surprise: "He’s bald-headed, mama!"
The football soon found its way into Sergeant Robinson’s hands while Brycen ran out for a pass – in a pack that included most of the other boys on the playground. They ran, threw the ball, and tackled Robinson as he frolicked with them in what must have been a welcome change of scenery.
And among the few adults – teachers, school personnel – there grew a sense of having witnessed something profound, the discreet sharing of this personal moment and perhaps some felt their hearts welling with the emotion of the moment’s significance.
Later that day, the returning soldier was reunited with his older son, Larico Treadwell, 17.
"This is the last time I’m putting on a desert uniform," Sergeant Robinson said. But not the first. The Army Reservist was called up for duty in Kuwait during the First Gulf War and served for eleven months.
The Iraq War veteran estimates that his unit drove its trucks more than 300,000 miles during its 14-month deployment, operating from a base near Bagdad International Airport.
Soon Robinson will be driving again, this time in a different uniform. He will swap desert camouflage for United Parcel Service brown when he returns to his job as a UPS driver.
| Meth bust reported at county line
|By Billy Davis
Officers with the Mississippi Department of Corrections (MDOC) raided a meth lab last week that was operating near two churches.
A MDOC spokesman said officers busted the meth lab Thursday, February 17 at a home east of Marks.
MDOC officers arrested Donald Joe Laster and his girlfriend, Kim Daugherty, both of 1436 Bill Locke Road.
Laster was transported to jail in Tate County, where he was on probation for possession of crystal meth.
Daugherty is in jail at the Panola County Detention Center. She has an outstanding warrant for grand larceny, the officer said.
Following the raid, the MDOC spokesman said, likely charges against Laster and Daugherty include possession of a controlled substance and manufacture of a controlled substance.
Officers recovered a 20-gauge shotgun from the home, the officer said, so Laster also faces a felony possession of a firearm charge.
After this raid, the spokesman said, probationers can expect more home visits by MDOC officers.
"We’ve been clamping down on this sort of thing, and after this happening we’re going to be clamping down even more," the officer said.
The meth lab was operating near Locke Station Baptist Church and a Pentecostal church, the officer said.
"The lab was a quarter-mile from the Baptist Church, and it was less than 500 feet from the Pentecostal church," the officer said.
The meth lab raid occurred on the Panola-Quitman county line, the spokesman said, and Quitman County sheriff’s deputies and Jamie Tedford with the Panola-Tate Drug Task Force assisted in the effort.
The MDOC officers were present at the request of the Department of Human Service (DHS), which had received a tip about the meth operation, the officer said.
"DHS did remove some kids from the home and put them in the custody of family members," the officer said.
| Foundation prepares to disburse grant money
| By Jason C. Mattox
Thanks to overwhelming community support, the Foundation for Public Education has more grant money to disburse among South Panola teachers that they originally planned.
SFC John Ard, president of the foundation, said the group originally set a goal of $25,000 for its first year.
"At this point, I really believe we will end up with more than $30,000," he said. "We are very excited about the support the community has shown to the school system.
"A lot of businesses and individuals have stepped up and shown support with their donations," he said. "The foundation couldn’t make it without that kind of support."
Ard said any money collected after the month of June will be placed in an escrow account until the start of the next school year.
"The grant applications are in the schools now," he said. "The teachers have a March 1 deadline to get theirs into the foundation."
Ard said the funds will be disbursed in two categories. There will be small grants available ($1,000 and under) as well as large grants (over $1,000).
"We plan to give out as many grants as we possibly can," he said. "We want to use this money to help as many teachers as we can."
Once the applications are turned in, a review committee will use an undecided blind method to determine which applications will be funded.
"The teacher’s name and school will be censored," Ard said. "We will use either a letter or number system to identify the grant applications."
Once the review committee selects the winning applications, the funds will be handed out during an awards luncheon in April.
Ard said the foundation wants to thank everyone who helped make the foundation’s first year a success.
"We are ready to give out these first grants," he said. "Once that is done, we will be gearing up for next year which we hope will be even more successful.
"The foundation is really enthusiastic about doing whatever we can to improve the quality of education at South Panola," he added.
| Corkern supporters speak up on Tri-Lakes sale
|By Billy Davis
Tri-Lakes Medical Center administrator Dr. Bob Corkern has been a "salvation" to the hospital and the community he serves, and he should win the bid for its ownership, Batesville Alderwoman Bobbie Jean Pounders told The Panolian last week.
Pounders, who is seeking re-election this spring, is the first Panola County public official to publicly endorse Corkern or one of the other bidders seeking to purchase Tri-Lakes.
The other Tri-Lakes bidders are Baptist Health Care, Resurgence, Lifepoint and Attentus.
‘He’s taken us… to where we are now’
Pounders, 69, has worked as an LPN and later an operating room nurse at the hospital, formerly known as South Panola Community Hospital. She also served as a hospital trustee.
Drawing from her background in health care, Pounders said, she believes the hospital is presently in good hands with Corkern and will be in good hands if he’s allowed to purchase it.
"Dr. Corkern has been our salvation," Pounders said. "He’s taken us from where we were to where we are now, and if he’s allowed to stay there I believe it can stay that way."
Since Corkern took over daily operations at Tri-Lakes, Pounders said, the hospital has opened an intensive care unit (ICU), a chemical dependency unit, and has made other progress in bringing new services to Batesville.
(A list of new medical services provided by Tri-Lakes accompanies this article.)
Corkern, who owns Emergent Health in Jackson, has served as hospital administrator since July of 2003.
Randolph: Corkern was clear winning bidder
Also speaking out on Corkern’s behalf is former hospital trustee George Randolph, 79.
An appointee of the county, Randolph was removed from the hospital board January 13 during an executive session between county supervisors and the City of Batesville.
Other hospital trustees have also been removed, and a new Board of Trustees is in place with County Administrator David Chandler operating as its chair.
According to Randolph, the former Board of Trustees tapped Corkern as the winning bidder last summer before the process devolved into political infighting.
Randolph said the trustees "spread all the bids on the table," and Corkern emerged the hands-down winner.
Asked why, if Corkern appeared to be the winning bidder he wasn’t chosen, Randolph said, "That’s what we want to know, too."
‘I didn’t want to hear those things’
The bidding process for Tri-Lakes has dragged on for two years, Pounders said, and a "personality conflict" has since emerged between supporters and detractors of Corkern.
Over the past two months, Batesville Mayor Bobby Baker and Board of Supervisors President Jerry Perkins have said the hospital trustees and Corkern were uncooperative with the other bidders.
Randolph called those reports "totally false."
Pounders said the removal last month of Randolph and the other trustees only worsened the situation.
Regarding the January 13 executive session, Pounders said she regrets remaining quiet while Chandler described the lack of cooperation from the Board of Trustees and Corkern, and the need to replace the current board.
According to the minutes from that meeting, the trustees had failed to provide proposed budgets and fiscal reports for 2003 and 2004.
"I’m looking at how well those gentlemen had served with a bad situation at the hospital," Pounders said. "They brought Dr. Corkern on board, and he pulled it out (of the bad situation). I admire them for that."
Still, the alderwoman was part of a unanimous vote from the city’s Board of Alderman to remove trustees Ken Bloodworth and Mark Larson.
Asked why she voted to remove the trustees when she supported them, Pounders said she felt intimidated because she was "one female in a room with 40 or 50 males."
"I didn’t say anything. I just sat there because I did not agree with what they were doing," Pounders said.
Bidding process ‘has come to an end’
According to Pounders, Corkern’s ownership of Tri-Lakes will bring with it a commitment to good health care.
Corkern has shown the leadership ability to oversee Tri-Lakes, Pounders said, and he has also shown the financial ability to purchase the facility.
The time has come to pick a winning bidder, she said, whether it’s Corkern or someone else.
"This has taken a long time, and it’s cost a lot. I feel like we’re starting all over," Pounders said. "The time to pick a winning bidder has come to an end."
| Accident claims life of Crowell
| The Panola County Sheriff’s Department continued its investigation Monday of the tenth fatal county-road accident in seven weeks, the seventh fatality since the first of the year.
Julius Freeman "Jeff" Crowell died Friday, February 18, when his tractor was struck from behind by a Pontiac Grand Am driven by Andi Hardy Terry. Both vehicles were traveling west on the Eureka Road, Deputy Sheriff John Still said.
Terry was airlifted to the Med in Memphis by a Hospital Wing helicopter. She underwent surgery for extensive injuries on Saturday and was scheduled for additional surgery Monday, according to an official at North Delta School where she teaches in the pre-school program.
Crowell, a farmer and sawmill operator, was driving his tractor from his pasture on Liberty Hill Road to a hay storage area on Eureka Road.
"He traveled through there every morning picking up hay for his cows," Still said. The impact knocked the tractor into a roadside ditch, pinning Crowell under the vehicle, Panola County Coroner Gracie Grant Gulledge said.
| Autopsy results on Morris back, not released
| By Billy Davis
Autopsy lab results are back from Jackson for 18-year-old Emmanuel Morris, but Panola County medical examiner Gracie Grant Gulledge is awaiting additional information before releasing the cause of death.
The President’s Day holiday on Monday delayed her plan to talk to family members, she said, since the state office is closed for the holiday.
Gulledge said she will converse with state officials on Tuesday before talking to Morris’ family.
"I want specifics before I talk to the family, and after I talk to the family I’ll release the results," Gulledge told The Panolian.
Stranded motorists found Morris, 18, dead in the ditch February 9 near Curtis Road. He had been missing since mid-January.
Morris’ funeral was Sunday, February 13.
Morris is the son of the late Edward Morris, a restaurant owner, and Arbie Joe Buckley House, who is awaiting trial for the 2002 murder of husband George House.
Morris last worked at Framed Pictures Enterprises in Batesville. He had dropped out of South Panola High School and enrolled in the district’s alternative school program, where he earned a GED.
Alternative school director Sara Rose McCulloch said Morris scored high enough on his GED exam to earn a scholarship to Northwest Community College.
"Even though he dropped out of the high school he came to this program and excelled," McCulloch said. "He was friendly, intelligent, well-mannered and a pleasure to work with."