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Sawyer Hollow a highlight during holiday traveling


Terry and Judy Dawson stand along a fence off Sawyer Hollow Road. Behind them
is the birthday message in lights for their late son, Brad Dawson, whose birthday
was Dec. 6. To orient you, left of Terry's back would be Highway 160.
Published: 8:33 PM, 12/28/2012

Author: David Popiel
Source: The Newport Plain Talk

A light snow showed up a couple days after Christmas and rain finally diminshed the last week of December in our hometown preparing for a quiet entry into 2013, as we wonder how lucky or unlucky it may be.

The rain slowed last Sunday evening as I drove along Highway 160 looking for the barn and its covering of Christmas lights in memory of Wesley "Brad" Dawson. You read the interesting story that Nelson Morais wrote in the Plain Talk before Christmas. I wanted to see the sign, photograph it, but also meet and talk with Brad's parents, Terry and Judy Dawson. I've only driven on Sawyer Hollow Road a few times so now I know folks who live on the road, the last one before the Nolichucky River where Brad drowned in spring of 2011.

There are two residences across the road from each other, as the families have close and strong ties. I couldn't help but smile seeing an old bus draped with white lights on the Johnny and Lena Smith property to my right. Pulling into the drive on the left, where there are fewer lights, Terry Dawson came out.  Minutes later so did his wife, Judy. She said that she always tries to keep Brad in her thoughts and wants his spirit to be with them, especially during the holidays. I am sure there is never a day that goes by that they don't think of Brad. His memory surrounds them. Despite their loss, the Dawson and Smith families had plenty of Christmas lights and holiday goodwill. The larger Christmas light display is in the Smith's yard, Judy's parents. I got to meet her brother, Jeff, and also Johnny, who posed with a giant lighted globe with snowmen inside.

When speaking to Terry earlier in the week to know his location and the memorial to Brad, Terry's voice sounded familiar, and, when we met, I recalled some business he had with the Plain Talk years ago. His family is distantly related to a former Newport businessman and friend of ours, Bobby Dawson. Terry said that Brad had been living with them several years and was older than his brother, Travis. For about the past seven years Brad did maintenance work for Norfolk Southern Railway on the line between Knoxville and Bristol. The Dawsons could not say enough kind things about Brad's railroad co-workers and their outpouring of love and compassion.

When I photographed the giant electric-light message on the barn, I couldn't help but seeing high on a hillside in the distance and above the red barn three crosses. Terry had placed these for all to see and to share during the season. It was sad to think of Brad's death, a young man planning to marry soon but uplifting to see what powerful message of remembrance and hope the Dawsons and Smiths are sharing at the end of 2012. Perhaps the memorial will light again in Dec. 2013.



Medical pros key to recovery


We have been talking about how Ralph Valentine of Indian Hills overcame cancer after fighting it most of the year. Weeks ago, I came across Ralph out and about, and he looked slimmer and different so my question on how he was feeling prompted his explanation of how he survived cancer. Days later he brought in a four-page story entitled "Poppa's Journey" that details what he calls his ordeal with a "horrible disease." He invited me to share it with you. I think it most appropriate because we have been talking about Lenny Zmich's recent diagnoses of pancreatic cancer. He is now seeking other treatment, while Ralph endured chemo and feeding tubes in the early months of the year.

Most of us would not call suffering with a kidney infection good. But it looks to me that it was fortunate he went to Newport Medical Center on December 31, 2011 with such an ailment and was hospitalized. And further, he got a CT scan. Dr. Mike Hood brought the bad news that they found a mass about ping-pong ball size near his stomach.

Ralph and Shelby's daughters made doctors' appointments, one with gastroenterologist Dr. Michael Ellis, who performed a scope and biopsy after seeing a "sore" on his esophagus and believed it to be cancer. "This was such a devastating blow," Ralph writes in his story. And though the cancer was a "bad one," testing by oncologist Dr. Farooq Akbar revealed the cancer had only spread to one nearby lymph node. Ralph was relieved and also felt comforted by Dr. Akbar's strong faith in God and his immediate suggestion for Ralph and the family to pray. The plan was to do both chemotherapy and radiation, overlapping these. The treatment began with Dr. Anderson at the Morristown-Hamblen Hospital cancer center. By then it was late February and radiation treatment involved five days per week for six weeks. 

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