The New Year began with a cold rain that seemed like it
would never stop in our hometown, yet the temperature was not cold enough for
snow except on Smoky Mountain tops.
Would it flood, I wondered? A call to the Newport
wastewater treatment plant on Wednesday answered the question of how much rain
did we get? Employee Shannon Hunley said it was .87 inches during the 24 hours
of Jan. 1.
It finally stopped raining Wednesday morning and a good
thing as I walked east from Boone Kelly's garage along highway 25/70,
eventually making it to Rusty Wallace Ford where I chatted with Chris Messer
and general manager Robert Wolford. In between I stopped at a nearly-empty
Huddle House for coffee and a waffle. After all, the newspaper stated that
people slightly heavy lived longer. And I'll share this tidbit learned from
Chris: more farmers are abandoning diesels for gasoline engine trucks.
Looking to the lights of 2013
By now you know that Ralph Valentine is doing well after
treatment for cancer last year. I will finish our talk for now, as he is taking
down his Christmas lights until Oct. He credits radiation, chemotherapy and God
for his cure. Ralph said radiation
lasted only five minutes and at first were not troublesome. Yet the more of
them the "tougher" it was to take the daily ride to Morristown. He
was also getting chemotherapy through a port hooked to a pump for 24-hours per
five-day week administration of medicine. Ralph said his nurses with Smoky
Mountain Home health Care made all the difference in how well he handled the
difficult therapy. And in addition he received "chemo" at Dr. Akbar's
office each Monday for three weeks. "These treatments did not even make me
sick," he said, relieved.
Here again, Ralph credits Dr. Akbar's skill. "My
entire family is fond of him. . . . Dr. Akbar told us to keep praying for God
to heal me and to pray continuously." Ralph remained nervous and worried
about the outcome as he lapsed into weakness but this passed. At age 77, on Nov.
12, Ralph is stronger and had been in better health than most. Last week I met
another 75-year-old whose health has been under siege for the past two years
and he also was diagnosed with cancer recently. Johnny Burnett was having lunch
with Buddy Don Ramsey and Gray Graves at Cracker Barrel when we chatted.
Burnett had surgery and treatment for thyroid cancer and is doing well.
Unfortunately, your heard by now our friend of many years, Buzz Brooks died of
lung cancer on the last day of last year.
We are in this together
Ralph said his friends and family get great credit for
helping maintain a positive attitude. "I talked with two men, Tom Inman
and Rob Myers, who had been through a similar case. Just talking to them helped
me a bunch." His friend at Smoky Mountain Home health, Tammy Francis,
answered many questions and gave him hope. Many of you read about his struggle
on Facebook. "I read all the comments everyone had made; all the thoughts
and prayers from each and everyone." These made him feel loved and had a
strong affect. "I felt God's hand on me through all the prayers of each
person and all the churches that had me on their prayer list. I could not
believe how many people cared about me and prayed for me!"
After many months, recent PET scans showed him to be
cancer free but he will continue to be monitored. It was a difficult journey
facing the unknown, getting food through a feeding tube for weeks, and cancer.
But at his annual fall decoration in Oct., tens of thousands of Christmas
lights illuminated the darkness and have cheered so many because of this
hometown Santa Claus, the community repaid him in their thoughts, prayers, and
deeds. Ralph credits his daughters Lisa and Cindy and their husbands,
respectively, Jackie Shelton and Steve Owen, and the Valentines' son, Bryan,
his new wife, and special nurse, Janet Brown. But most important still, said
Ralph, is his wife of 55 years, his angel, Shelby.
Early interest in all things flying
During a December Newport Kiwanis Club meeting I got to
meet an interesting military pilot with Newport ties. Maybe it was my youthful
interest in aviation and flying that made we want to know more about Lt. John
Bockmann. Many a youngster flew model airplanes, gliders or gas powered ones
they bought or built. I can't recollect if many females ever got interested in
this hobby or wanted to fly a helicopter. When this Army helicopter pilot with
Newport ties trained years ago he most likely never imagined his skills would
be tested in combat zones not firing weapons but on mission of mercy.
Lieutenant Bockmann is a Black Hawk helicopter
pilot who is on active duty in Pakistan and Afghanistan and he described his
duty to the Newport Kiwanis Club during a December program at Fox & Hounds
banquet hall. One of the largest rescue missions he was involved in was the
massive flooding in August/September in Pakistan, a country wedged between
Indian on the east and Iran on the west. The flood affected 20 million people
or about one-fifth of the nuclear-power nation's people.