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UPDATE: Two people dead in plane crash near Covington airport

COVINGTON — Covington Police said there were no survivors of a private plane crash that occurred at about 6:45 p.m. Thursday in the vicinity of Covington Municipal Airport off Ga. Highway 142. Two people died in the crash. Their identities were not immediately known.

Witnesses told police that the plane took off from the airport and then appeared to have trouble gaining altitude. Capt. Ken Malcom said the Cessna 340 twin engine plane veered sharply in a northeast direction, then crashed into four empty tractor-trailers on the property of the General Mills plant, about half a mile from the airport. The plane and the trailers subsequently caught fire.

Malcom said the plane went down in an “isolated area” of the General Mills property where tractor trailers are stored. No one on the ground was injured.

“The fact that it didn’t crash into the plant saved many lives,” said Malcom.

The National Transportation Safety Board is conducting an investigation into the crash.


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Three students take top honors at Rockdale County High
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CONYERS — There are three honor graduates at Rockdale County High School this year due to a tie for the valedictorian honor. This year’s top honor grads are Co-Valedictorians Karen Tejada and Andria Thomas. The Class of 2022 Salutatorian is Kharissa Gabaree. The graduation ceremony for RCHS is set for Thursday, May 26, at the school.

Get to know the honor grads:

RCHS Co-Valedictorian

Name: Karen Tejada

Family members: Nicolas Tejada, Maria Bermudez, Nelsy Tejada, Yesica Tejada

Intended college/university: University of Georgia

Intended major: Human development and family sciences

Intended career field: Travel nurse and then physician’s assistant

RCPS schools attended: Pine Street Elementary School, Conyers Middle School, Rockdale County High School, Rockdale Career Academy

Awards/scholarships: Superintendent’s Academic Award, Bulldog award, Coach’s award for track and cross country

Extracurricular activities: Latino Student Union, Environment Club, CIU (Christian Club), Track, Cross Country, Beta Club

Favorite Subjects: English language arts, science

Memorable help from a teacher/member/mentor:

“Ms. Thieleke helped me as an artist. She has always been supportive of my art and she was the reason why I started taking art seriously. Ms. Harris has been a tremendous help in the college application process. Ms. Hardaway has kept me in check. She’s also prepared me for the health care field.”

Best high school experience:

“I don’t have a specific one but doing cross country and track have been some of my best experiences. Going to state for cross country was great. My track teammates have become like family. We’ve made fun memories.”

What was the reaction of your family and friends?

“They were happy for me because they know firsthand all the hard work I put in and sacrifices.”

What are your takeaways from this past year?

“Time will FLY BY!! Enjoy the little moments you have with people. Life is too short; do what makes you happy.”

What do you look forward to doing over the summer?

“Hanging out with family and friends going to Mexico and getting ready for college.”

Advice for freshmen:

“Stay focused!! You have to put yourself and goals first because only you can give yourself what you want. If you want anything in life you have to be willing to put the work in.”

RCHS Co-Valedictorian

Name: Andria Thomas

Family members: Mom Tia King, dad Antonio Thomas, and siblings Aalia Thomas and Bryson Thomas

Intended college/university (or deciding between): Georgia State University, Louisiana State University, Spelman College, or Xavier University of Louisiana

Intended major: Biology/biomedical engineering

Intended career field: Health care

RCPS schools attended: Flat Shoals Elementary School, Memorial Middle School, Edwards Middle School, Rockdale County High School, Rockdale Career Academy

Awards/scholarships: Principal’s List, Superintendent’s Academic Award (2020-21, 2021-22), Georgia Piedmont Technical College Dean’s List, HOPE Scholarship, Essentials of Healthcare Student of the Year (2020-21)

Extracurricular activities: Varsity softball, Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA), Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) (President), RCA Student Ambassador, Secretary of State Ambassador, Healthcare Work-Based Learning (Internal Medicine Intern), National Honor Society

Favorite subjects: Biology, health care

Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:

“I have had great experiences with so many teachers in my high school career. Coming into my first year of high school, I was blessed to have such a great group of teachers and mentors. All of them have contributed to my success over past three years. Mr. Foster at RCA is one of the most caring teachers I have ever met. He provided me with my first ever scholarship for my AP Government exam. Earning this scholarship allowed me to uncover to my full potential and since then, I continually strive to reach it. Additionally, Dr. Mathis provided with so much support in ninth grade. She has always been in my corner cheering me on. Dr. Mathis has consistently supported me and provided me with vital information that helped me to graduate a year early, and for that I am deeply appreciative. Finally, Mrs. Hardaway has encouraged me to pursue my passion for health care head on. She has been an integral part of my journey since enrolling in the health care pathway. She has helped to open many doors for me as I pursue my career goal of becoming a health care professional. Mrs. Hardaway has also been an inspiration for me beyond the classroom. She holds me accountable and motivates me to be the best version of myself in every endeavor I pursue. Her belief in me and unwavering support has reinforced my confidence that I can and will achieve my career goals. Lastly, I am truly grateful and forever indebted to all these magnificent educators.”

Best high school experience:

“Although the COVID-19 pandemic upended normal life, honestly, going virtual was the greatest experience that ever happened to me in high school. I was able to manage my own schedule while still maintaining my grades, which provided me with valuable practice of independence that I’m certain I will need to be successful in college.”

What was the reaction of your family and friends?

“My family and friends were extremely happy, excited, and proud of me.”

What are your takeaways from this past year?

“Do not let ambition blind you from creating and building positive and meaningful relationships.”

What do you look forward to doing over the summer?

“I look forward to traveling and preparing for college.”

Advice for freshmen:

“Take initiative for your own education and remember that YOU have your best interest at heart. It is important to consult with your mentors and counselors, however you are responsible for the path that you want. So, dedicate time and effort into putting in research to achieve your goals. Furthermore, always challenge yourself and never let failure deter you from extending your potential.”

RCHS Salutatorian

Name: Kharissa Gabaree

Family members: Khemerg Gabaree, Nathaniel Gabaree, Keishauh Drake, Sean Mer, Kaila Gabaree, Kira Gabaree

Intended college/university: University of Georgia

Intended major: Mathematics education

Intended career field: University professor

RCPS schools attended: Shoal Creek Elementary, General Ray Davis Middle School, Rockdale County High School, Rockdale Career Academy

Awards/scholarships: Gold medal — FCCLA STAR Event State Competition, Zell Miller Scholarship, UGA Georgia Access Award, American Express Scholarship

Extracurricular activities: Work-Based Learning (WBL) student teacher, Rockdale Youth Leadership alumn, National Honor Society, Beta Club, RCA FCCLA Chapter president

Favorite subjects: Math, history

Memorable help from a teacher/staff member/mentor:

“Times when I needed help with work or outside the classroom, these teachers were always there for me: Mr. Foster (RCA), Mrs. Houk (RCA), Ms. Conley (DMS), Dr. Stekandel (DMS), Mrs. Smith (SCE), and Ms. Collinsworth (SCE).”

Best high school experience:

“Either being surprised with the salutatorian title this year or FCCLA State Leadership Conference.”

What was the reaction of your family and friends?

“My mom cried and immediately posted it on Facebook. My family is proud of me, and I got many congratulations.”

What are your takeaways from this past year?

“God got me! Once I set a good goal, nothing can get in my way of achieving it.”

What do you look forward to doing over the summer?

“Spending a lot of time with friends I will be leaving behind because I am graduating early.”

Advice for freshmen:

“Enjoy school and surround yourself with the right people. Make good memories and always find joy in the little things.”


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Judy Greer to be honored with Wesley Woods' Heroes, Saints & Legends Award

OXFORD — For many alumni and supporters of the University of Georgia, the late Dan Magill is the individual most closely connected to the school, having served some 50 years in a variety of capacities, including men’s tennis coach, sports information director and unofficial ambassador. For more than a few Bulldogs, Magill remains the face of UGA.

By the same token, Dr. Judy Greer holds a similar place in the hearts of Oxford College alumni and residents of the city itself. Interestingly enough, like Magill, Greer — who joined the Oxford College faculty as a physical education teacher in 1957, just four years after Emory University began admitting women — made her initial mark as coach of the women’s tennis team.

With the exception of the four years she spent on the faculty of Winthrop College in South Carolina, Greer has lived in Oxford for some six decades. She retired from the two-year college in 1996 after nearly 40 years, having served as tennis coach, director of women’s intramural athletics and women’s counselor, and to this day remains active at the college and in town.

In a life highlighted by many honors and awards, Greer will be recognized later this year by an entity that’s near and dear to her heart. It was announced in March that Greer will be one of three women who will receive the Wesley Woods Heroes, Saints & Legends award in September at the Wesley Woods Foundation’s annual Heroes, Saints & Legends Gala. The event honors individuals “who have transformed Atlanta’s community through a life time of achievement and commitment to leadership, service and philanthropy.”

Greer will be recognized alongside Billye Aaron, a retired educator at Spelman, Morehouse, Morris Brown and South Carolina State, a former television personality and the widow of Atlanta Braves legend Henry Aaron; and Virginia Hepner, retired president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center and the director of Cadence Bank, Oxford Industries, National Vision Holdings and the Westside Future Fund.

“For the first time in our 33-year history, we will honor three remarkable women who have blazed historic trails and widened paths for others through extensive community leadership and passions for Atlanta arts and culture, racial justice, affordable housing, education access and business,” said Diane Vaughan, president of the Foundation of Wesley Woods, in a news release.

“Each of these recipients has scored firsts for women — — from the first African-American woman talk show co-host in the Southeast, to the first female professor hired at a Georgia university and the first female CEO and director of two corporate boards, all while demonstrating a life-long devotion to Atlanta with countless contributions to our community. We are proud to call them our heroes.”

Since 1953, Wesley Woods has served Atlanta’s aging population as a senior independent living facility founded by the North Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church and located on Clifton Drive, not far from the Emory University campus.

The annual gala, which was established in 1990, has raised in excess of $7 million for charitable care, pastoral care and wellness programming at Wesley Woods. Previous recipients of the Heroes, Saints & Legends award include Dean Rush, Dan Magill, Vince Dooley, Ivan Allen Jr., Rosalynn Carter, Henry Aaron, Andrew Young, the Rev. Joseph Lowery, Shirley Franklin, Monica Kaufman Pearson and Chick-fil-A founder Truett Cathey. This marks the first year that women will be the only recipients of the award.

Contacted at her home in Oxford on Good Friday, Greer admitted she was surprised to receive the Heroes, Saints & Legends honor.

“I was blown out of the water,” said Greer, who added she nominated former Oxford Dean Bond Fleming for the award some 20 years ago. “When Zo Hix, who serves on the Wesley Woods Foundation board of directors and Oxford College’s Board of Counselors, called to tell me, I told her, ‘I’m not sure if I can take this in.’

“It took me a good two days before it sunk in and I could think about telling my family. It’s a great honor from such a fine institution.”

Born at the end of the Depression in Detroit, Greer played basketball at Cusseta High in Chattahoochee County. She earned her undergraduate degree from LaGrange College, her master’s degree in physical education and counseling from Auburn and her Ed.D degree in physical education and higher education from Georgia.

Greer has been honored with the LaGrange College Distinguished Alumna Award, the University of Georgia Graduate Alumna Award, won Oxford College’s first Fleming Award for Excellence in Teaching and the prestigious R.O Arnold Award from the Newton County Chamber of Commerce.

She has been inducted into the Emory Sports Hall of Fame and the inaugural class of the LaGrange College Sports Hall of Fame. In 2019, the tennis courts at LaGrange College were named after Greer.

When asked about her lifelong affinity for the college and the city, Greer said, “This is my home. I love the college community, and I’m part town and part gown. And Allen Memorial (UMC) is my church. I just can’t imagine living anywhere else. It’s just a good place to be.”


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J.C. Henderson calls for defunding of Gaither's at Myrtle Creek Farm
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COVINGTON — Newton County District 4 Commissioner J.C. Henderson took the opportunity at a budget work session Tuesday to call for defunding Gaither’s at Myrtle Creek Farm, a 175-acre site in southeastern Newton County that at one time was a working plantation.

The site is home to a historic 1850s-era farmhouse, several period outbuildings, a modern pavilion and two 19th century cemeteries, including the Gaither family cemetery and a slave cemetery. The facility is now marketed by the county for weddings and other events. Over the years, the property has been the site of several festivals, has been used for ghost tours, as a movie set numerous times, and has been the location for at least one Civil War battle re-enactment.

Henderson has been opposed to the county’s ownership of Gaither’s at Myrtle Creek Farm for several years, saying that the county should not be in the “plantation business.”

Expenses and revenue for Gaither’s at Myrtle Creek Farm are budgeted at $198,769 for fiscal year 2023. The facility was budgeted at $186,334 for fiscal year 2022; so far this year it has generated $154,765 in revenues.

There was no discussion of Henderson’s proposal at Tuesday’s work session.


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