TownTalk: Great Shows A Part Of Rec Players’ 50th Anniversary

The seats in McGregor Hall are a little more comfortable – ok, a lot more comfortable – than those hard, wooden seats in the E.M. Rollins auditorium. But once the house lights dimmed, the audience settled in to those wooden seats to enjoy another performance by the Henderson Rec Players.

This year, the Rec Players celebrate 50 years of bringing live theater to the area. There have been some changes since that first season in the summer of 1972, but not that many. Just ask Tommy Nowell – he’s been around for each and every one.

Nowell said he graduated high school in June 1972 and it was June 1972 when the first rehearsals started. He said a few years ago he’d counted up, and reckons he’s “spent somewhere like 25 years of my life at the auditorium of E.M. Rollins.”

He and Jo Ellen Nowell spoke with John C. Rose on Tuesday’s TownTalk about this season’s shows, as well as the importance of introducing children to the theater arts.

The first production is Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town,” which will run from June 23-26.

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum” is scheduled for early July, followed by a children’s production of “Frozen Jr.” Capping off the season’s offerings is “The Fantasticks,” which will be performed Aug. 12-14.

Dwight Pearce was the group’s first director, and Jo Ellen Nowell said she co-directed “Bye, Bye Birdie” with Pearce in 2002. After that collaboration, Pearce was able to retire knowing that he’d successfully passed the baton. She has served as primary director since 2003.

“Right around that same time,” Jo Ellen said, “we were so fortunate that Mark Hopper came to town” and began working with the Rec Players to direct his first show – “The Wizard of Oz” – in 2003.

Dustin Britt will direct “Our Town,” Jo Ellen will direct “Forum” and Hopper will take the reins for “The Fantasticks.”

Audience members will have an up-close and person vantage point for “Our Town,” Jo Ellen said, because the audience also will be located on the stage.

Tommy said the seating will create almost a theater-in-the-round experience, making it intimate and different.

“You get a lot of energy from the audience when you’re that close,” he said.

“Forum,” with music by the late Stephen Sondheim, has two weekend runs – July 8-10 and 16-17.

“It is a flat-out comedy,” Jo Ellen said, “and fairly politically incorrect – it should be very interesting.” This production will have a full orchestra.

And the final production of the season is “The Fantasticks,” which includes a 4-piece orchestra. This season finale is special for Nowell and for Hopper – “It is Mark’s and my favorite musical ever,” he said.

The Rec Players have not shied away from performing long-running Broadway shows like “The Fantasticks” and others that have great lasting power. The company sticks to much of the traditional production, but feels free “to put our own twist” in the performances.

“You want to do shows that will appeal to the most people,” Tommy said.

That may be one reason why the children’s theatre camp will perform Frozen Jr.

Cindy Clark will conduct the two-week camp in July, culminating in a July 31 rendition of the blockbuster Disney movie.

“A lot of these children can sing the songs already,” Jo Ellen noted. During the first week or more of the camp, the young people will be learning about the theater, how it works and the different technical aspects that go along with a production.

“It’s a really great learning experience for the kids,” she said. The last part of the camp will be performing the show at McGregor Hall.  The camp runs from July 18-31. Performances are scheduled for July 29-31.

Education is an integral part of what the Rec Players is all about. “We need to expose the arts to our children,” she said. “We need to teach it to them and teach them to love it, because they are the ones to carry it forward.”

The casting calls are less about auditioning and more about finding a way to include anybody who wants to be a part of a production, she said.

Tommy said there’s just something about being part of a production that, once you’ve experienced it, stays with you.

Just ask Robert Peace. He called in to the show to express his thanks for the Rec Players and bringing live theater to the community. He said he participated in the Rec Players in the late 1970’s and enjoyed every moment. “I just fell in love with theater,” he said, adding that he continued to find ways to tap in to theater during the next 15 years or so when he was in the military.

“This is great what you guys are going,” he said to the Nowells. “Kids get a feel for this and it just stays with you. I still love it to this day.”

Purchase season tickets by calling 252.598.0662 or visit

The deadline to become a season patron is June 21.


TownTalk: LGBTQ Event Scheduled For Henderson

The inaugural “LoveFest” is set for downtown Henderson Saturday afternoon as the community comes together to celebrate and observe Pride Month.

Melissa Elliott, founder of Gang Free, Inc. and Michael Venable are working to organize the event, which will take place June 11 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at 205 Breckenridge St. They spoke with John C. Rose on Monday’s TownTalk.

Gov. Roy Cooper has proclaimed June as LGBTQ Pride Month, and Elliott and Venable said there will be food, fun and festivities for the community as part of Love Fest. Local DJ Corey Hanks will provide musical entertainment.

Elliott said Henderson Mayor Eddie Ellington will be present and will read a local proclamation as well.

“We talk about equality,” Venable said, “but if we want to move forward, we need to include everyone.”

There will be plenty of vendors out for the event, but Elliott said there’s always room for more. Contact her at or 252.598.0067  to learn more about participating as a vendor or organization.

Elliott said the event is being planned as a “nonjudgmental zone” where the community can lay aside misunderstanding and miscommunication to promote inclusion and diversity among all people.

“It’s about people who just want to be treated equal and treated fair,” Venable said.

Event sponsors include Henderson Police Department, the City of Henderson, Food Lion, print company Kolor Kode, Vance-Granville Community College, Miguel’s Beauty Salon, Henderson-Vance Parks & Recreation Dept., Downtown Development, the NAACP, Gang Free, Inc. and Graceful Buttah, a company that sells body scrubs, lotions and butters.

Whether you’re a member of the LGBTQ+ community, have a family member who is or you just want to learn more, this event is a chance to come out and show support.
“I feel like there’s not enough here for the LGBTQ community,” Venable said. “They judge the book by the cover – they don’t read the book,” he said.




Drink To Your Health: The Story Of Mineral Springs


Nowadays, health professionals are quick to point out the importance of staying hydrated and drinking enough plain ol’ water as a key component of good health. A good rule of thumb is eight 8-ounce servings of water each day.

But around the time of the Civil War to the turn of the 20th century, there were a number of mineral springs in the area whose proprietors made great claims about their water’s restorative properties.

There was sort of a mineral springs “belt” that was loosely situated across Halifax County that ran through Warren and Vance counties on the way toward the Clarksville area, according to Mark Pace, local historian and N.C. Room specialist at the Richard Thornton Library in Oxford. Pace joined WIZS’s Bill Harris on the tri-weekly history segment of TownTalk Thursday and talked about the heyday of the area’s mineral springs and the visitors who came in search of health restored.

The waters of Panacea Springs in Littleton, for example, was reportedly good for whatever ailed you – from excema to digestive problems and everything in between.

Shocco Springs in Warren County and Buckhorn Springs in northern Granville County joined other mineral springs that developed national reputations – not just for their water’s restorative powers, but as vacation destinations for the rich and famous of the time.

Marketing played a key role in the popularity of the springs, Pace said, but it was the railroad that played a major role.

“Kittrell wouldn’t even exist if the railroad hadn’t come through,” Pace said. The medicinal benefits of the waters aside, hotels sprang up around some of them to accommodate the travelers. There were four hotels in Kittrell, for example. Kittrell Springs Hotel had a bowling alley, miniature golf, concerts and horseback riding just to name a few amenities.

Back in 1858, “you didn’t go to Nags Head, you went to a place like this,” Pace remarked.

The Panacea Springs resort in Littleton hosted Renaissance festivals back in the years leading up to the Civil War; Jones Sulphur Springs in Warren County included among its guests Annie Lee, daughter of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. She was sent there to ease the effects of tuberculosis  and died there in 1862.

There aren’t many structures left on the sites of the old springs, Pace said – some stone foundations and a small bottling building here are a couple of remnants.

The Buffalo Springs near Clarksville remains active, and visitors can see where the famous water erupts from the ground.

It used to be called Buffalo Lithia Springs because of the claims that the water contained contained lithium bicarbonate.

But when Congress passed the Pure Food and Drug Act in 1906, the Buffalo Lithia Springs claims were called into question. When the water was tested in 1910, Pace said, but the news wasn’t good: Although the water was shown to have traces of lithium, a person would have to drink  hundreds of thousands of GALLONS of water a day to reap the benefits. Needless to say, the springs operation lost the Supreme Court case and had to change its name to Buffalo Springs.

They sold bottled water from there until 1941, Pace said, making it one of the last mineral springs operations in the area.

It also was a stop on the vaudeville circuit and one of the seasonal performers was a very talented Mr. Ebsen from Florida, Pace recounted. Eventually, Ebsen’s son, Frank, got his start at Buffalo Lithia Springs, Pace said.

He became better known as the performer and actor Buddy Ebsen.



TownTalk: World Elder Abuse Awareness Day Is June 15

State law requires that residents report suspected cases of elder abuse to the local Department of Social Services. But what, exactly, constitutes elder abuse? Learn more about this subject on June 15 at the Vance County Senior Center.

The Kerr-Tar Council of Government’s Agency on Aging is hosting an event to mark Elder Abuse Awareness Day from 9 a.m. to noon. The morning will be filled with resources from more than a dozen vendors from the five-county area that KTCOG serves, with activities designed for older adults and others interested in learning more.

The first 200 participants will get a t-shirt and a box lunch, compliments of two area long-term care facilities, and there will be goodie bags and various presentations during the morning designed to increase awareness of elder abuse. Aim High, a local health and wellness center, will discuss ways for older adults to remain active.

KTCOG Regional Ombudsman Kim Hawkins spoke with John C. Rose on Wednesday’s TownTalk and explained more about signs of elder abuse and the process that DSS representatives and others take to help keep disabled adults safe.

Mistreating older adults, no matter the form it takes, is not only wrong, it’s a crime.

A report may be made anonymously, Hawkins said. Once a report is received, the local DSS adult services unit will assess the information to determine whether the individual is in need of protection.

“It’s an intensive intake process,” she said, but the end result is to make sure that the report meets the criteria to be investigated. A team discusses the information and then, when warranted, makes contact with the individual to offer services.

As an ombudsman, Hawkins said she tries to encourages individuals to consent to services, or to get someone they feel comfortable talking with to relay the information to DSS on their behalf.

She said residents report incidents, but also medical professionals, outreach workers and others also have reported suspected abuse, neglect or exploitation of a disabled adult.

“We go out and monitor the facilities and visit,” Hawkins said, adding that she has received calls from individuals who wish to remain anonymous about paying a visit to a facility.

“Residents have called and asked to come visit,” she said, and she will inform DSS officials when she gets calls from those who don’t want to give their name.

It’s not necessary to contact the ombudsman to report suspected abuse situations, Hawkins said. “You can bypass the ombudsman process and call DSS directly,” she explained. “It’s more important…that it gets reported and reviewed,” she added.

People want to help, but often don’t want to get involved, Hawkins said. In some situations, the suspected abuser may be another family member, which makes the anonymous reporting important to avoid undue stress.

Although difficult to prove, mental or psychological abuse is perhaps most often reported. Hawkins said when she is investigating such cases, she and Adult Protective Services representatives look for how the individual’s reactions. One resident of a long-term care facility suffered anxiety attacks requiring hospitalization following verbal abuse from a facility administrator, she said.

Often, the mental or psychological abuse eventually will manifest in physical ways, validating the charge of abuse. By the way, Hawkins said the administrator was ultimately fired from the facility in that particular case.

Hawkins estimates that cases of elder abuse are under-reported, and added that in addition to reporting cases, it is important to educate others about elder abuse.

“Education is one of the biggest ways to prevent elder abuse,” she said. Empowering disabled adults through awareness and education is important.

Hawkins said she is planning a virtual meeting on the Zoom platform on June 9  that will be geared to residents of long-term care facilities, but it is open to others who may have family members or loved ones in a long-term care facility.

Please call the KTCOG at 252.436.2040 for details about how to join the virtual meeting, which should last 30-45 minutes.

Following is the list of phone numbers for the departments of social services in the five-county region served by KTCOG:


Vance: 252.492.5001

Granville: 919.693.1511

Warren: 252.257.5000

Franklin: 919.496.5721

Person: 336.599.8361


Following is a list of the eight most common forms of elder abuse, according to the website

  • Self-Neglect – Refusal or failure to provide himself/herself with adequate food, water, clothing, shelter, personal hygiene, medication (when indicated), and safety precaution.
  • Physical Abuse– The use of physical force that may result in bodily injury, physical pain, or impairment; or any physical injury to an adult caused by other than accidental means.
  • Neglect by Others– Failure to provide the basic care, or services necessary to maintain the health and safety of an adult: this failure can be active or passive.
  • Sexual Abuse– Sexual contact with a non-consenting adult or with an adult considered incapable of consenting to a sexual act.
  • Financial Abuse– The illegal or unethical exploitation and/or use of an elder’s funds, property, or other assets.
  • Mental Abuse– Verbal or emotional abuse includes threatening significant physical harm or threatening or causing significant emotional harm to an adult through the use of: Derogatory or inappropriate names, insults, verbal assaults, profanity, or ridicule; or harassment, coercion, threats, intimidation, humiliation, mental cruelty, or inappropriate sexual comments.
  • Abandonment – the desertion or willful forsaking by anyone having responsibility for care.
  • Isolation– Preventing the individual from receiving mail, telephone calls, or visitors.

The website also lists some of the signs that could indicate an individual may be experiencing some type of elder abuse:

  • Lack of basic amenities
  • Cluttered, filthy living environment
  • Unexplained or uncharacteristic changes in behavior
  • Unexplained sexually transmitted diseases
  • Unpaid bills, new credit cards and/or increased cash withdrawals
  • Harassment, coercion, intimidation, humiliation
  • Caregiver isolates elder

Learn more about elder abuse awareness at




TownTalk: Chief Barrow Discusses Weekend Shootout

Henderson police are searching for four suspects in connection with an exchange of gunfire outside a convenience store on West Andrews Avenue Saturday afternoon.

Police Chief Marcus Barrow spoke with John C. Rose on Tuesday’s Town Talk and provided an update on the weekend incident that took place over the course of about one minute in the parking lot of Gate City Foods on 601 W. Andrews Ave.

“We received a call around 4:15 or 4:20,” Barrow said, but officers arrived to find that the suspects had left the scene. After reviewing the surveillance video, the police identified four suspects and subsequently obtained warrants for their arrest.

“For the past two days, we’ve been out looking for the suspects,” he said, adding that his office is working closely with other agencies, including the Vance County Sheriff’s Office.

A vehicle thought to have been involved in the incident was located on Nutbush Road Saturday evening, and Barrow said between the store’s surveillance video, the location of the car and other evidence, he believes his department has made “a really good case against these individuals.”

While taking cover from the exchange of gunfire, one of the suspects was seen with a long gun of some sort – Barrow said he thinks it could be a type of automatic rifle. One of the subjects recently had been released from prison in connection with a homicide that had taken place several years ago; Barrow said it is believed that the incident was retaliation for that homicide.

According to Barrow, warrants have been issued for:

Jaymon Gibson, 24; Charles Green, Jr., 23; Anthony Sanders, Jr., 18; and Jordan Turnage, 21;

All four suspects are charged with assault with a deadly weapon inflicting serious injury and discharging a weapon into occupied property. Gibson also is charged with possession of a firearm by a felon.

Barrow said one of the suspects is believed to have injured one or both feet in the incident.

Anyone with information about the location of the four suspects is urged to call 911, Henderson Vance Crime Stoppers at 252.492.1925, or use the P3 app or Facebook Messenger.




TownTalk: Maria Parham Memorial Day Ceremony

Maria Parham Health was the site Thursday morning for a solemn ceremony to remember all the members of the military who have given their lives in service to the country and to hear read aloud the 77 names of members from the local area who died serving their country.

CEO Bert Beard welcomed those in attendance to begin the “No Greater Love” observance, in which various members of the hospital staff had roles. Pastor Frank Sossamon led opening and closing prayers and members of hospital security presented the colors. Travis Thompson, director of imaging and wound care, led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance and Hope Schuler, daughter of MPH employee Lisa VanFleet, sang the National Anthem.

Rickey Padgett, with N.C. Detective Agency and also a member of the hospital staff, shared remarks and reflected on what the Memorial Day holiday means. It’s a time to remember all men and women in uniform, Padgett told the gathering but especially those who sacrificed their lives.

“They paid the price so that we could be here today,” he said. The families of the fallen continue to grieve, so it is also important for us to remember, Padgett said, “and to celebrate the freedoms that we have and the life we are given…to remain grateful and never forget.”

Padgett said he had been friends with one particular man who also was a veteran of World War II. This friend had told Padgett that, upon his death, Padgett would receive something from him. That “something” turned out to be a long, typewritten letter – from a real typewriter, not a word processor – that recounted some of what the man had encountered as a U.S. infantryman in the European theater.

Padgett read excerpts from this letter, which chronicled snowy, muddy conditions on and near battlefields in France and the grim task of recovering soldiers’ bodies strewn along the countryside.

“’I could hear the Germans digging foxholes’” in the snowy landscape not far from where this soldier and his unit were camped, the letter read. “’We had to pick up dead bodies, American and German,’” Padgett continued.

Although he said he has met and talked with many veterans of World War II, Padgett said this letter helped answer a question he had often wondered about: How do the bodies of fallen soldiers make it back home, where they can be laid to rest and receive a proper burial?

Soldiers like the one who wrote the letter and sent it to Padgett, that’s how.

Whether it was from a battlefield in Europe or the desert-like conditions in Afghanistan, members of the military take care of each other until the end.

Padgett said he asked this friend what he did in the war. “He said, ‘I was a soldier,’” Padgett recalled.

A simple answer with layers and layers of meaning.

Listen to the recorded ceremony in its entirety just below.

Click Play

TownTalk: Sam Seifert New Associate Administrator at Maria Parham Health

Samuel B. Seifert, MHA, FACHE will serve as Associate Administrator starting Monday, June 13 at Maria Parham Health. He is a board-certified healthcare administrator with over 17 years of continuous experience.

The Henderson native most recently served as a Senior Administrator in the Department of Anesthesiology at Emory Healthcare in Atlanta. Before moving to Atlanta in 2016, Seifert served in various leadership positions during a 12-year tenure at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem.

In a press release issued by Maria Parham Health, Seifert said, “It is an honor and a privilege to join the team at Maria Parham Health and help advance Maria Parham’s nearly 100-year tradition of providing quality, accessible healthcare to the citizens of Henderson, Vance County and surrounding communities. I’m excited to start in my new role, and my family and I look forward to returning to the area and becoming involved in the community.”

(story continues below audio)

Click Play – John C. Rose of WIZS on Seifert Hire

Maria Parham Health CEO Bert Beard said, “We are very excited to welcome Sam home to Henderson as part of Duke LifePoint and Maria Parham Health. Sam’s extensive healthcare experience and knowledge of the region will be a huge benefit to our team objectives as we continue to progress our mission of making communities healthier. With our growth in services and integration with Duke in the graduate medical education space it is a great time for Sam to join the team. We are as excited as the rest of the community to welcome him home.”

Seifert earned a Bachelor of Arts in Religion at Wake Forest University and a Master of Health Administration from Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. He is a Fellow of the American College of Healthcare Executives.

Sam and Amine, his wife and also a Henderson native, have a daughter and son at home.