TownTalk: Harry Coombs Talks Military History

The 6th annual military history show will take place on Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Henderson-Oxford Airport in Granville County. And coordinator Harry Coombs says it’s on track to be even bigger and better than last year, when the event netted $1,700 to benefit the local veteran’s affairs committee.

“I expect the crowds to be pretty large,” Coombs told John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk segment. The free outside event may have ebbs and flows between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., but there will be plenty for folks to see and do all day long, Coombs said.

The helicopter rides were a big hit last year, and plans are to have two choppers on hand to accommodate the crowd and keep lines short. Tickets for the helicopter ride are $40 a person, up a bit from last year’s price to offset rising fuel prices.

There are more than 70 items that are part of a silent auction, and Coombs said there is a Facebook page that has some images of the items, which range from home and garden items to a military uniform and other patriotic items. Local veteran Mike Scott has donated some handcrafted wood burnings that will be among the auction items.

The silent auction will close bids at 2 p.m. and then winners will be announced, he added.

Coombs said he has been involved in similar events before, and decided to start one himself when trying to come up with an idea that would benefit the veterans in the area. “I just wanted to do something to give back to the community in some way,” he said, adding that the airport venue was available for the first event, so he decided to stage it there.

There’s a chance that a military-colored Stearman biplane once used for military training may make an appearance, he said.

All types of military equipment will be on display, from World War I and II, and military re-enactors from the Carolinas and Virginia will be on hand representing military service from as far back as the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, he said.

Some of the re-enactors are military veterans, Coombs said, and others became interested because they had family members who served and they like to research and find out information about the military.

Coombs said the re-enactors won’t just be representing the U.S. military, but said German, British and Russian soldiers will be included in this year’s event. Although most of the uniforms are reproductions, other items that will be on display have come from various places – from the Internet and estate sales to donations from veterans themselves who brought souvenirs home when the war was over.

The airport is located at 6514 Airport Road, Oxford, NC 27565.

To learn more or to volunteer for Saturday’s event, contact Coombs via phone call or text at 919.691.7697.



TownTalk: American Legion Works to Better the Community

Ticket sales for Friday’s chicken plate fundraiser at the American Legion hut in Henderson have been brisk – so brisk, in fact, that Andy Roberson, commander of local post 60 said if you haven’t gotten a ticket yet, you’ll have to rely on luck to snag a plate. 

“We’ve actually sold 1,150 tickets,” Roberson told John C. Rose on Monday’s Town Talk. “That’s the most we’ve ever done.” They shoot for 1,200 plates each time, he said. The fundraiser begins at noon and ends at 2 p.m.

There are usually some no-shows, however, and the cooks always prepare 50 or so extra plates, so if you’re feeling lucky, there’s a chance you can get a plate closer to 1:30 or 2 p.m. without a ticket.

Roberson said the legion post tries to hold the fundraiser twice a year – April and October – and tries hard to avoid other community fundraiser dates. 

Next year, the local post will celebrate 100 years of service in the community, Roberson noted. But it wasn’t too long ago that the post was in danger of having its charter revoked for lack of membership and activity.

Roberson has been involved with Legion Post 60 for about five years. Numbers had dwindled as members aged, he said, and he credits Ed Blue for keeping the post afloat. Blue’s efforts, along with a policy change that removed active military service as a requirement for membership.

The ranks have swelled to 125 members today, Roberson said, adding that service members who served in Afghanistan and Iraq now join veterans who saw action in Vietnam and Korea.

Roberson said it’s just as important for the legion to support the community as it is for the community to support the legion’s efforts.

In addition to raising money to send students to participate in Boys’ State and the N.C. State Highway Patrol Student Academy, Roberson said annual countywide oratorical contests the Legion sponsors could lead to thousands of dollars in scholarship money for local winners who win competitions at higher levels.

In addition, he said a local Girl Scout troop meets at the Legion building.

But mostly, the legion is active to support veterans’ needs, he said. Whether it’s building a home ramp or better accessibility or arranging transportation to the VA hospital for appointments, the legion wants to be available for veterans.

They meet on the third Thursday of the month, gathering at 6 p.m., sharing a meal and then having a meeting about 7, he said, and extends the invitation to any service member to consider joining. 

“If you have a DD-214 with an honorable discharge,” you’re eligible to join. 

“We all have something in common in that building,” Roberson said. 

“If you’re a veteran and you need some help, you call and we’re going to do everything we can to help you,” he said, from help with military service records or getting paperwork squared away to get VA services. “Whatever it takes, we will try our best to get it done.”

Roberson hopes to join Mako Medical and Chick-fil-A again this year to provide meals for veterans. The tentative date is Nov. 5 when veterans can “drive by and get a bag with some food in it,” Roberson said. 

Having such good community partners makes for a good relationship, he added. Other projects in and around the legion have been completed by others in the community, Roberson said. There’s a firepit with five benches representing the five branches of the military that was a scout project, and Franklin Brothers Nursery installed mulch and other landscaping during a recent facelift. The family of Harold Ivey donated a new heating and air system in memory of their loved one as well, he said.

“It just shows what you can do in a community where people want to be tied in to veterans,” Roberson said. 

Contact Roberson at 252.432.2432 to learn more.



TownTalk: Sons Of American Revolution Hope Upcoming Events Will Draw Interest From Vance & Granville

Bill Riggan likes to give credit where credit is due. And as a member of the Halifax Resolves Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, that credit involves identifying and marking graves of long-deceased patriots and compatriots and honoring them with an official ceremony.

Riggan spoke with Bill Harris on Town Talk’s tri-weekly history program. He said there are ceremonies scheduled for the next two Saturdays in Franklin County to where a number of graves at several different cemeteries have been identified.

“Not only do you have to find the grave, but they must be marked…and we have to get permission from the family,” Riggan said.

The first ceremony will be Saturday, Oct. 16 at 10 a.m. in Youngsville at the Winston family cemetery on the grounds of Long Mill Elementary School. Anthony Winston and one of his sons, John Winston, will be honored for being patriots – defined as anyone who contributed service in one way or another to support the Revolution cause.

Whether they held public office, signed the Oath of Allegiance or served in the militia, patriots and their contributions are what SAR members want to commemorate. “Not only just people who were soldiers, but those who contributed to the cause, in our minds, are considered patriots,” Riggan noted.

These ceremonies are actually a pretty big deal, he said, adding that he expects representatives from such organizations as the NC Sons of the American Revolution, as well as their counterparts in Georgia and Virginia. The local Daughters of the American Revolution, local Boy Scout troop and members of the Winston family all will be represented.

Later on Oct. 16, at 2 p.m., the group will travel to Oakwood Cemetery in Louisburg. At this ceremony, Daniel Smithwick, a dentist and well-known historian in Franklin County in the 1930’s, will be remembered. Smithwick was instrumental in reviving the state SAR and in getting the Harrison Macon Chapter of the SAR started in Franklin County. The chapter was named for Smithwick’s father-in-law, and Smithwick “purchased a stone from the government to mark the grave” of Macon, who was a military veteran. The search for that grave marker continues to this day.

It’s out there, Riggan said, adding that it, so far, has proven elusive.

Whenever they locate a grave of a Revolutionary War patriot, SAR representatives plan a ceremony to officially commemorate the spot with a footstone that has an SAR logo on it. The stone is installed in such a way that Riggan said future generations will not have to search for and wonder who is buried where.

On Saturday, Oct. 23, the team will be back in Youngsville to honor Francis Timberlake. The Timbelake Family Cemetery is located on property of Hill Ridge Farms, and the cemetery is located nearby on Timberlake Drive. Then, that afternoon, it’s back to Oakwood Cemetery in Louisburg for to honor five more patriots – that’s the maximum number allowed by the national SAR.

Riggan said he expects that there are gravesites in Granville and Vance counties that can be identified as well, and he welcomes participation from anyone in either county to consider joining the local SAR. The Halifax Resolves chapter encompasses eight counties and Riggan hopes to “spread the good word in Vance County” about SAR’s mission.

Becoming a member is not as involved a process as one may think, he said, although it may prove a little involved if genealogy isn’t your thing. Basically, if there is someone in your family who has served the Revolution in some way, you are a candidate for membership.

“It’s been something that’s been very rewarding for me,” Riggan said of his involvement with SAR. “Other than the Mayflower Society and the Jamestown Society, the SAR and the DAR are the gold standard for genealogical societies,” he said.

There’s a lot more to SAR than just attending monthly meetings, Riggan said. “It’s just a subtle way to show patriotism and be involved in things that are important to a lot of people,” he added.

To learn more, contact

Bill Riggan of the Halifax Resolves Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution details upcoming events.


TownTalk: Infinite Possibilities Shines A Light On Domestic Violence Awareness

Erin Carter says events like the one coming up Saturday at Aycock Rec Complex are about more than awareness – it’s a public demonstration of support to show victims and survivors of domestic violence that they aren’t alone in the fight to put an end to what has become all-too-common in society.

Carter and Bretanya Simmons work with Infinite Possibilities, Inc., a place where victims of abuse can go for support and help during a crisis. Carter is a victim’s advocate and Simmons is a court advocate and also works with area youth struggling with domestic violence situations.

The “Walk A Mile In Her Shoes” event will start at 10 a.m., Carter told John C. Rose on Wednesday’s Town Talk.

“Events like this show our clients that we are all on the same page,” Simmons said. “It’s important for our clients to see us outside our roles sometimes,” she added.

Carter and Simmons are hoping to see lots of like-minded walkers Saturday. “We are hoping for a great turnout,” Carter said, adding that participants just need to show up, sign in to get a number from the information desk and be ready to walk by 10 a.m.

The main office is in Henderson, and Simmons’s office is in Warrenton, right beside the magistrate’s office.  Clients often are referred to her when they come in to get restraining orders for partners or spouses, she said. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, she said she saw an uptick in clients. But volume fell, she said, as the pandemic wore on: victims were stuck at home with their abusers, she said, and didn’t have an opportunity to seek help.

“Once the world stopped, and the majority of (people) were working at home, we didn’t see as many coming in – they didn’t get that time they normally would to reach out and get help with their situation,” Simmons said.

Those “situations” aren’t limited to physical abuse, Carter said. “Domestic violence is so much more than just physical abuse,” she added. Just because we don’t see bruises or other physical harm, doesn’t mean it’s not domestic violence, she said. There’s emotional abuse, financial abuse, spiritual abuse, as well as cyber bullying.

“That’s why education is so important,” Carter explained. “If we are educated, then we can help someone else.” Being able to create a conversation with someone you suspect may be a victim of domestic violence can be the first step to getting help for that person. “Create a conversation – not a coercive conversation, but an empathetic conversation, a gentle conversation…to provide information, could go a long way to help someone,” she said.

The Infinite Possibilities hotline is 252.425.2492. Learn more at or find them on Facebook.

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TownTalk: hmwPreservation Works to Document Historic Architecture

Heather Slane said matching locations on maps with properties that she actually sees at the end of driveways and through wooded areas is sort of like putting together a puzzle. When the pieces all fit together, the end result is rewarding. But sometimes it can take a while before the picture begins to take shape.

Slane is an architectural historian whose firm, hmwPreservation, has just completed part of Phase 1 of a 3-phase project to update Vance County’s architectural survey.

If the survey were a building, it would be considered historical – the most recent one was completed in the mid-1970’s, she said. And today, the general rule of thumb is that a structure is considered historical if it’s at least 50 years old.

Slane joined host Bill Harris on Tuesday’s Town Talk to discuss the project and the progress being made. The first couple of days, she admitted that she had a bit of a learning curve. “We had to make sure we were looking for the right thing in the right place,” she said about using the maps and lists to match up with the properties they were viewing.

The survey is a result of some federal grant funding distributed to North Carolina to complete architectural surveys in six counties. Slane and her group won the contracts for Vance and Person counties.

There was a survey conducted in the early 1980’s in Henderson, which resulted in the formation of the downtown Henderson Historic District, but Slane said her focus right now is updating the county’s list of historical properties that is maintained at the state’s historic preservation office.

So far, Slane’s work has been to identify the approximately 350 properties previously listed in files, using GIS and other documents to locate the properties.

That part of the work is completed, and she said she and her team plan to return in February to begin Phase 2. Before the work is completed in the spring of 2023, she will have identified properties within the city limits of Henderson, too.

“We drove up and down every road in the county and made a list of all the properties that the state did not already have information on that we can go back and create files for,” Slane said.

She’s mindful of the “No Trespassing” signs, she said, and sometimes just has to photograph from along the roadside. But when a property is in obvious disrepair, showing no sign of being cared for, she said she feels comfortable going in for a closer look.

There are some properties listed that no longer exist, either falling victim to demolition or neglect over the last 50 years. But there are other structures that will find their spot on the updated list, and Slane said schools and churches are two types of architecture that are sure to be included.

“One of the things we always try to document, in addition to the condition of the buildings, are schools and churches,” she said. “Those tend to tell the stories of communities even better than most houses do.”

Something she has noticed in her drives through the county is the abundance of ranch-style homes. Instead of trying to document each individual property, she said she looks for unusual roof lines or other interesting details to include a representative of the style that permeates the rural roadsides.

Slane also is interested in hearing from residents who have a particular story to tell or want to share a remembrance about a particular structure or area.

“I don’t know Vance County all that well,” Slane said, adding that having locals tell her which buildings are important and special for them is a real gift. “It’s always helpful to have people who’ve lived in Henderson for a long time” share information with her. It’s that personal perspective that gives context to the survey.

She will welcome input up until January or February of 2023, just in advance of the completion of the survey. Email her at

“We want something that’s useful, not just something that’s a file for the state,” she said.



Town Talk: Gang Free Events Coming To Downtown Henderson

Vance County middle schoolers have a unique opportunity this Thursday that involves food, gift cards, COVID-19 vaccinations and pumpkins. Lots of pumpkins.

Henderson-based Gang Free Inc. has partnered with Food Lion, the Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina, among others, to sponsor “Pumpkin, Paint and Pizza at Vance County Middle School on Thursday, Oct. 14 from 4:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. Gang Free founder Melissa Elliott shared details about the upcoming event on Monday’s Town Talk with John C. Rose.

The term “food insecurity” has become a more commonly used familiar phrase recently, but Elliott said it’s less-often associated with children. With great support from Food Lion, she said the first 100 children to arrive will get $50 Food Lion gift cards.

The evening is “designed to bring middle school students and their parents out to a night of creative fun, while also promoting vaccination equity and education,” Elliott said.

Any person getting a first vaccine also will receive a $100 gift card, she noted. A $10 incentive is available for anyone who gets tested for COVID-19.

This three-pronged approach to a community event – fighting food insecurities, vaccine education and (of course) fun – is one way that Gang Free, Inc. strives to be “an answer to challenges… (W)e continue to use innovative ways to educate and empower to keep our community safe,” Elliott said in a written statement to WIZS.

The Hub Zone Tech Initiative also will be on-site to accept donated laptops that will be refurbished and re-distributed into the community.

Vance County Middle School Principal Stephanie Ayscue reached out to Elliott in search of pumpkins, but, through partnerships, the event has become so much more.

Students will have a chance to eat pizza, decorate a pumpkin and take home a gift card for future use.

Elliott said she and Principal Ayscue hope the event will increase community and parent support. “We’re here to support them,” Elliott said, adding that she wants everyone to know that no one in this community has to be hungry and no one has to go unvaccinated.

The idea of vaccination inequity often revolves around misinformation, she said. A key to combat that misinformation lies “in getting the right message into the community.”

Barriers to vaccination, in addition to misinformation, include access to transportation to get to a shot location or access to the internet to make an appointment.

A community outreach team spends a lot of time fanning out to areas known for low vaccination rates to help get the right message into the community regarding vaccinations, Elliott said.

The teams have been to the Williamsboro community, as well as Sandy Creek, and will be hitting South Henderson as well. “If we’re not out knocking on doors, we’re making phone calls,” she said.

 Whether it’s by canvassing pockets of unvaccinated areas in the county, doling out gift cards or providing pumpkins for children to paint and decorate, Gang Free, Inc. has a laser-sharp focus on making people’s lives better.

“We want to continue to be a blessing in the community,” she added.

Gang Free Inc. is sponsoring another event on Friday, Oct. 15 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in downtown Henderson, Elliott said.

The Hispanic Heritage celebration will fill up the entire block surrounding 200 Breckenridge St. with the sights, sounds and aromas from a wide range of Spanish-speaking cultures.

Dr. Alice Sallins joined Elliott on Town Talk to speak about the upcoming event.

“We have a strong Hispanic population in Vance County,” Sallins said. “We need to be supportive and to learn about their culture,” she added. With learning comes understanding, including what needs are unmet, she said.

Sallins, chairperson of the Henderson-Vance Downtown Development Commission’s Promotions Committee, said having this event in downtown Henderson shows the community’s involvement in downtown.

It’s not just for the Latinex community, Elliott said. “We don’t want just the Hispanic people to come,” she noted. “We want everybody to come out and participate,” she said.

Visit to learn more.

Kerr Tar Regional Council of Governments

TownTalk: Upcoming Job Fairs In Warrenton And Roxboro Are Open To All

The Kerr-Tar Council of Governments is hosting a job fair next week at the Warren County Recreational Complex. Desiree Brooks, business services manager for the workforce development board, said more than 20 employers will be on hand at the event, set for Thursday, Oct. 14 from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

“One thing we have been taking advantage of is the nice weather,” Brooks told Town Talk host Bill Harris Thursday. She said taking the job fairs into the counties of the region is one way to match prospective employers with employees. Previous job fairs in Vance and Granville counties proved successful, and Brooks said she hopes the Warren event will be, also.

The recreational complex hosts a weekly adult kickball game, and Brooks said she listened to local officials to take the job fair to a spot that gets a lot of foot traffic.

In addition to watching the 6 p.m. kickball game, there will be food vendors on site and the Turning Point CDC Mobile Learning Lab for those who may need computer access.

“We wanted to not just pick a central location,” Brooks said, “but have a job fair in each county.” Of course, the job fairs are promoted across the region, but placing them across the five counties gives everyone a chance to participate.

A job fair is scheduled for Person County in late October, she added.

Employers are motivated, she said, and there are many opportunities for job seekers. “Everybody needs employees,” Brooks noted. “(Employers) want to meet everybody who’s looking for work.”

There are many opportunities in the Kerr-Tar region, especially in the fields of manufacturing and health care, she said.

Prospective employees should know that training through Kerr-Tar’s NC Works can help them gain job skills, too. “It’s not a deal breaker,” Brooks said, for a prospective worker to have most, but not all, of the skills needed for a specific job. “Employers are in such a need…for employees who are trainable and willing to work. We can assist with getting those employees where they need to be,” she said.

In this job market, an employee taking an entry-level job can quickly move up. Pay is higher overall, and competitive wages and sign-on bonuses are just a couple of things to consider when searching for a job.

KARTS is available for those who need transportation. Contact the NC Works office at 919.693.2686 to learn more about how to make an appointment.

Visit to learn more.



Granville Vance Public Health Logo

TownTalk: Improving News On Covid 19

COVID-19 vaccinations are an important layer of defense that health officials recommend to help turn back the tide of coronavirus. Along with hand washing, social distancing and mask wearing, it’s shots in arms that has Granville-Vance Public Health Director Lisa Harrison optimistic about the state of things in her health district.

For the past three weeks, the health district has seen fewer COVID-19 cases, as opposed to the end of August and September when cases were on the uptick just about every single day. She told Town Talk host Bill Harris Wednesday that things seem to be looking up.

“The more people that get vaccinated, the less we’ll see that curve…grow,” Harrison said. And as vaccinations continue to go up, the more people will feel comfortable getting back to more normal activities.

Harrison reiterated what other health experts have stated for some time – the majority of those in hospital and ICU’s now with COVBID-19 are unvaccinated.  “The virus will grow a new case and live for a little while,” she said, “and unvaccinated people are where this Delta variant have found its host.”

Granville and Vance counties both are below the state level for percent positive rates – Granville has a 4 percent rate and Vance is at about 6 percent; the state rate is about 9 percent, Harrison said.

She gives credit to community members who have been good about following the public health recommendations and guidelines. “I’m very proud of our communities,” Harrison said. “And we’re getting better all the time.”

While the Delta variant has gotten a lot of attention, Harrison said there are other variants that scientists are watching. “The good news is, so far, they haven’t spread like Delta. If we can stop this virus in its tracks, it will stop mutating so quickly,” she said.

Vaccines bolsters our immune systems and make our bodies stronger to resist viruses, she said. But the effectiveness  of the COVID-19 vaccines, like so many other tried-and-true vaccines, wanes over time, which is why booster shots are recommended.

There will be a Phizer booster clinic on Oct. 15 at the Vance-Granville Community College Civic Center, Harrison said. Anyone who meets the criteria to get the booster shot may get that booster between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.



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TownTalk: Remembering Jerry Patterson

WIZS TownTalk remembers Jerry Patterson, a local friend to many who loved his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and who was a respected businessman.  Obituary script at

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Henderson Fire Dept

TownTalk: Fire Prevention Week

If you’ve ever been awakened in the middle of the night by that annoying little chirp of the smoke detector signaling the need for a new battery, consider this: that annoying little chirp could be a life-saving sound that could avert tragedy in a real emergency.

October 3-9 is Fire Safety Week, and Henderson Fire Captain Lee Edmonds wants everyone to learn the different sounds of fire safety. For example, a smoke alarm signal is three loud beeps; a carbon monoxide alarm is four continuous rapid beeps.

“Learning the sounds of fire safety is very important,” he said.

In a conversation with John C. Rose on Monday’s Town Talk, Edmonds suggested that every household have two escape plans, and from different locations in the home. “Every second counts,” he said.

Smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors are valuable tools to help homeowners – as long as they are in good working order. A good rule of thumb is to change the batteries when the time changes twice a year.

A new type of smoke alarm has a 10-year life span and there’s no battery to replace, he said. So when it begins to chirp, it’s time to toss and replace.

Residents in the community have the chance to learn more about smoke alarms and more during an event from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 7. There will be fire trucks and a “smoke trailer” on hand for children and others to view at the former Golden Corral parking lot on North Cooper Drive.

Smoke alarms should be located inside and outside of sleeping and living spaces, Edmonds said. But, he said, smoke alarms should not be located near kitchens or bathrooms, where steam from cooking or showering could cause them to be activated.

Another important tool to have on hand is a fire extinguisher, and Edmonds said the most common type is one that can handle the three main types of fires in households – regular combustible fires, fires caused by flammable liquids and electrical fires.

This “ABC” fire extinguisher will take care of most any type of fire that occurs in a residence, he noted.

By the end of September, there have been 100 fire-related deaths. “That’s a lot and we’re just nine months into the year,” he said. Last year’s total was 120, and Edmonds said the main way to keep that number down is to make sure there are working smoke detectors in the home.

Any Henderson resident who hears that annoying little chirp can call the fire station at 252.4301877 to get help. “Someone will come out and replace the battery or the smoke detector,” Edmonds said.

Visit the National Fire Protection Association website at to learn more about fire safety.