2017 Year in Review

Reflective gaze at upward gazes during rare total eclipse; 2017 milestones, challenges

Total eclipse as viewed at McFee Park

“Here it goes,” called a female voice as the final stage of the total eclipse — the first in Tennessee since the 18th century and first in the continental United States since 1979 — began to darken the playground area at McFee Park Monday afternoon, Aug. 21.

The crowd was at attention at 2:33 p.m., looking skyward, solar glasses on. Five seconds later, clapping and yelling echoed from all around as sudden darkness descended. Children did backflips and adults cheered and took pictures with cell phones. They had done it — they had witness a total solar eclipse for about 1 minute and 25 seconds.

Town of Farragut Parks and Leisure Services put on a big event and thousands clogged Northshore Drive or got off near-parking lot conditions on Interstate-40/75 to make it. Energy was high and the children had an energy outlet on the playground and Splash Pad waiting for the big event.

First Baptist Concord was asked to help, and came with a food trailer selling a hot dog meal. Face painting was available under one pavilion, with music and DIY eclipse cookies [yellow icing and candy corn for sun rays] under another.

DW Designs store did a brisk business with T-shirts. The only time the Tic Toc Ice Cream truck didn’t have a long line was during totality.

“It’s one of the most phenomenal things I’ve ever seen,” said Elly McDonald, who flew in from Tampa, Florida, “and I experienced it with my family.”

She said it exceeded her expectations.

“I didn’t know I would feel anything, to begin with,” McDonald said. “When the temperature cooled, I wasn’t expecting that — I don’t know why. When it was fully eclipsed, I just thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen, and to get to experience it with my family is wonderful. And this park, this is great.”

She said the event was handled “absolutely beautifully.”

“We had no expectations whatsoever but this is a fabulous place to come. It was wonderful. We could not have had a better day.”

Total Eclipse at The Cove

Exclamations of “Whoo,” and “That is awesome,” a few screams, a dog barking and applause all resounded at The Cove at Concord Park when the moon covered the sun at the height of the total eclipse — about 1 minute-25 seconds — at 2:33 p.m., Monday, Aug. 21.

It’s no wonder people were excited — it will not happen again in Town for another 350 years according to Dr. Mark Littmann, a former astronomy professor and current professor of journalism and electronic media at The University of Tennessee.

“I guess I’m honored to be alive for this,” Knoxville resident Brandi Surplis said. “It just seemed like everyone quieted down and there was this feeling of being one with everybody, experiencing something together.

“To me, it’s emotional because it’s a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” she added, tears welling in her eyes. “I’m honored to be a part of it.”

Her service dog, a Chihuahua named Tango, had his own reaction. “He got really … weird, like he was searching for something, and then when everyone got excited, he started barking because he didn’t understand what was going on. He just had to protect his mommy,” Surplis said.

“It was totally awesome,” Donna Wilson-Renner said. “That is phenomenal. The thing that was weird is hearing the crickets, you know, like you do at night, while it was going on.”

Adm. Farragut Monument to Plaza

To honor Adm. James David Glasgow Farragut, a Civil War hero and first admiral, vice admiral and rear admiral of the U.S. Navy — and Town of Farragut’s namesake — a monument stood more than 110 years at his first home at Lowe’s Ferry.

Now known as Stoney Point on the banks of the Tennessee River, the monument was erected “to recognize the birthplace of Admiral Farragut,” Town Mayor Ralph McGill said during a special ceremony June 8 commemorating the monument’s new home in Farragut Memorial Plaza, next to Town Hall along Municipal Center Drive.

The 3.5-ton marble monument was commissioned by Bonny Kate Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, on May 15, 1900.

“This is a special Day,” McGill added. “... We would like to introduce and thank Lylan Fitzgerald who generously donated the monument to the Town.”

In recent years Fitzgerald assumed legal possession of the monument, owning the Stoney Point property where it was erected, before donating it to the Town. The donation was made official Aug. 11, 2016.

“I’m just glad it found a good home and I’m sure it will be taken care of here,” Fitzgerald said after the ceremony.

“All of us are really excited to have the monument here,” said Julia Barham, Farragut Museum director. “We love our Admiral Farragut collection and love the Memorial Plaza. I, as well as the museum committee, think the monument is just the perfect addition to the plaza.”

Lou LaMarche, Admiral Farragut historian and re-enactor, said the marker was installed “with great fanfare” in 1900 where Jorge Farragut had, more than a century earlier, owned 640 acres along the Tennessee River banks at Lowe’s Ferry. Government leaders and dignitaries, including special invited speaker Adm. George Dewey, floated down the Tennessee River for the festivities.

Decades later a boy named John Fitzgerald, who would become Lylan Fitzgerald’s husband, worked on that same land as a farmhand. As an adult in the early 1970s, he purchased the property that included the marker, Lylan Fitzgerald said.

Duncan to retire, big field vies to replace

With the retirement of Republican U.S. Rep. John J. “Jimmy” Duncan, a former resident of Farragut, from his 2nd Congressional seat after completion of his current term — marking 30 years — it will bring to an end more than 50 years of Duncan family control of that seat.

His July 31 announcement was followed by a small flood of candidates looking to fill the upcoming void.

Democrats announcing their bid are Renee Hoyos, executive director of Tennessee Clean Water Network since 2003 in her first run for elected office, and Dr. Joshua Williams, a Knox County clinical psychologist for 40 years focusing on mental health in his first run for elected office.

They join at least four Republicans who have announced, including Knox County Mayor Tim Burchett, also a former state senator and state representative. Jason Emert, chairman of Young Republican National Federation, is founder/CEO of the Emert Group, an international political consulting, public affairs and government relations firm. Emert has never held elected office.

Rounding out the GOP field is state Rep. Jimmy Matlock [Farragut businessman representing District 14, parts of Loudon and Monroe counties], and Vito Sagliano, a U.S. Navy combat veteran in his first run for elected office.

Williams vying for mayor

Last fall Farragut Alderman Ron Williams, Ward 2, became the first announced candidate seeking to become the Town’s next mayor in 2018 — and fourth in Farragut history after current Mayor Ralph McGill steps down.

Elected alderman in 2016 (non-partisan election), Williams also is vice chair on Town’s Board of Zoning Appeals — well into his second five-year term on that board.

First Baptist Concord storm relief locally

Severe storms that hit the Choto, Harvey and Northshore roads area May 27 left five trees — including two large ones — either snapped off or uprooted and laying in Mary Attkisson’s front yard for nearly a month.

“I had so many downed trees on my property from the Memorial Day weekend storm,” said Attkisson, a Nighbert Lane resident who reflected on her problem before help came about four weeks later. “I’m a single woman and the expense of bringing a tree service in to do this was beyond what I could do. Even though I had several family members who helped me, I had two huge trees that were beyond what we could do. One was uprooted and one was partially down.”

But on Saturday, June 24, her problem was solved: members of three Baptist churches showed up in her yard with chainsaws, a Bobcat and a dumping trailer.

Her friend, Veronica Robinette, a member of First Baptist Concord, had told Attkisson about the church’s service outreach program.

“I told her about our chainsaw ministry,” Robinette said. “She lost five trees in her front yard, including two massive oak trees, and didn’t know how she’d get them out of her yard. It was pretty devastating for her.”

Attkisson said the First Baptist Concord team was joined by teams from Powell and Chattanooga, with Concord coordinating the effort.

“We helped them clear brush and move wood,” Attkisson said in describing she and her son provided. “It was a lot to do — seven hours — but we got it done.”

On the same day, Robinette also had a dead tree removed by the Concord team.

“I’m very thankful for them because they blessed me with their services and it was something I couldn’t afford otherwise. It gives me a peace of mind knowing that tree is gone,” she said.

‘Houston, you have FBC Harvey relief’

Pots and pans were rattling south of Houston in September, in the midst of crisis, thanks to volunteers from First Baptist Concord.

While pans were sizzling and pots were boiling for victims of Hurricane Harvey, church members also were ripping ruined sheetrock and carpet out of flood victims’ homes.

Allen Krueger, director of service outreach at FBC, headed up the teams. Twelve were on the cooking team, five were on the mud-out team in charge of sheetrock and carpet and two manned a shower trailer, since volunteers were spending nights in a nearby church.

In just one week, FBC member Carol Webb and her cooking team produced 55,000 meals.

“We had food on by 4:45 every morning,” Webb said.

Under her direction, 32 volunteers from Tennessee, including 25 from the Knoxville area and the crew of 12 from FBC, had a few hours early each morning, from Monday, Sept. 11, into Sunday, Sept. 17, to get thousands of lunches ready.

By 10 a.m. each day, the Red Cross was there to pick them up.

“By then we would have cooked 3,300 meals,” she said. “We might do beef stew, rice and beans or carrots or corn. When you serve it on the plate, you want it to be appealing to the person. They’re hungry and it’s hot food … We cooked 8,500 meals one day.”

There was no slowing down after the pick-up though, because at 3 p.m. the Red Cross was back for dinner meals.

Avery national “Team Boomer’ champ

Avery Flatford, a 13-year-old eighth-grader at Farragut Middle School, earned “Team Boomer Female Athlete of the Year” honors Tuesday, June 6, among a nationwide field of top student-athletes battling cystic fibrosis.

Her battle hasn’t stopped Avery from becoming an honors student and a standout softball pitcher, points recognized by more than 81,000 voters nationwide — most by either gender — selecting Avery as Team Boomer champ.

Avery will be recognized in April in New York City by Boomer Esiason Foundation, Team Boomer sponsor, which supports those with cystic fibrosis while fighting to end the disease.

CAK turns 40

When Ernie Trebing rolled into Knox County in 1977, he didn’t know what to expect. All he knew was he would be meeting with a group of parents interested in starting a Christian school.

Christian Academy of Knoxville, which started in the Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church building, now sits on a 77-acre campus at 529 Academy Way, just off Dutchtown Road in West Knox County.

Instead of a handful of students, the liberal arts school that houses pre-kindergarten through high school students has an enrollment of about 1,000, which represents 146 churches.

The average ACT score is 28. There are 53 middle and high school sports teams, and over the years, they’ve won 20 state championships and have accumulated $40 million in scholarships.

Graduates have won the Junior Rider Cup, acted on Broadway and risen to the top of companies.

Five members of a recent senior class currently are all in medical school together.

Villages of Farragut construction underway

The first phase of Villages of Farragut Senior Living Community, an assisted living facility on 23.06 acres off Kingston Pike and Smith Road behind farragutpress and Ingles, broke ground in June and began construction immediately after.

Gary L. Keckley, CEO of GoodWorks Unlimited LLC., said Phase I, which includes roughly 10 acres, could be completed “by the end of [20]18.”

With a total of three phases, Villages of Farragut phase I involves a three-story, state-licensed senior living facility with 88 suites.

Town No. 7 — and No. 1 — in state rankings

Town of Farragut was ranked as the seventh best place in the state of Tennessee for families to put down roots in 2017.

Released by WalletHub, a personal finance website, the rankings compared 58 cities in Tennessee across 21 key metrics, said Wendy Smith, Farragut public relations coordinator.

Moreover, Farragut ranked No. 1 in the state in affordability and socioeconomics. Smith said, “Farragut also ranked first in median annual family income (adjusted for cost of living) and had the second lowest divorce rate.”

Northwest sector zoned back to FHS

Helping to make Knox County Board of Education’s vote unanimous to rezone high school students from a handful of subdivisions in the Town of Farragut’s northwest quadrant — zoned back to Farragut High School instead of Hardin Valley Academy — Susan Horn, District 5 Board representative, said it’s a win-win situation.

“This should be a solution that really should satisfy all the families,” Horn said.

However, “There is a very lenient grandfathering clause in the new zoning policy,” Horn said, which allows those northwest sector families who have a teenager currently attending HVA to remain there, if they choose.”

Dock Dogs, Treasure Hunt new from Shop Farragut

Dock Dogs, a national competition measuring how far dogs can jump into a small pool of water, brought a regional event to Town from Friday, Sept. 15, to Sunday, Sept. 17, in Village Green shopping center parking lot,

The event, dubbed “Dog Daze @ Village Green,” was among a handful of new Town events coordinated by Shop Farragut/Farragut Business Alliance.

Inaugural Farragut Treasure Hunt, July 31-Aug. 8, was intended to be a creative and fun way for customers to further “discover” Town of Farragut businesses, leading toward a bevy of prizes for three lucky customers — and one prize for scores of other customers.

Participants simply went to facebook.com and searched “Town of Farragut,” then found a menu on the left side of the page for “Events” and clicked and searched for “Farragut Treasure Hunt.”

Whomever unraveled the clues, indicates “going” on the page, visits all four selected businesses and takes a photo at each and posts them were entered into a chance — a drawing held Aug. 7 — to win one of three packages of prizes announced on the Town’s Facebook page Aug. 8.

Grand Prize winner was Casey Kashif.

Spring 2017 FHS tragedies

Monday, May 1, was “a bad day” at Farragut High School, said Anna Marie Anthony as she drove to pick up her 10th-grade son early. He was upset at the news that a third FHS student had taken his own life since the semester began in January.

From the tragedy came a new course at FHS: Mental Health 101.

“It’s a curriculum offered by the Mental Health Association of East Tennessee … all the students will go through it,” Susan Horn, Knox County Board of Education representative from District 5, said in May. “…A form of that curriculum is covered at Farragut Middle School in their health classes.”

“All of our employees will be participating in a two-hour suicide awareness training that will be provided in partnership with The Jason Foundation, which is an organization dedicated to the prevention of suicide,” Bob Thomas, KCS superintendent, told his subordinates during a gathering of KCS health and physical education teachers about youth suicide prevention in August in Vickie B. Wells Auditorium.

Powered parachute crashes near Bridgewater kills one

Parker Korpak noticed the powered parachute circling above his Bridgewater subdivision home Sunday afternoon, April 2. He said the two men were about 300 feet above ground, in the middle of the afternoon on a clear day.

In what turned out to be a fatal crash, Korpak saw two middle-aged males, one still in his seat apparently unconscious and the other on the ground.

Stanley Descoursey, 58, the pilot of the two-seater, was pronounced dead at UT Medical Center Sunday. The other victim, Kenneth Atkins, 54, was given first aid by ambulance responders.

According to a Knox County Sheriff’s Office report, Christopher Montgomery saw the powered parachute crash-land in the woods behind his residence. He began CPR on Descoursey.

Richard Noce said his wife, Mary Noce, heard the crash. Richard Noce then made his way toward the site.

“They went down through the middle of some big trees,” he said. “I think they just bounce back and forth like they were in a big windstorm.”

“It had been flying in circles and circles and circles,” Cindy Holt, a Kingsgate resident, said.

Abel, ‘First Citizen

of Concord,’ passes

“We lost the First Citizen of Concord,” said Mike Karnitz about his friend, Gene “Mac” Abel.

Mac was the “face” of Historic Concord Village and a founder of Farragut Folklife Museum. He passed away at the age of 96 Sept. 18.

He was known as a local historian due to his extensive knowledge of the community. Mac worked to form the Old Concord Residents Association and was part of a group that placed Concord on the National Register of Historic Places, the only historic zoning overlay district outside of Knoxville’s city limits.

Coach Welch, wife, remembered

On top of his stellar reputation as a social studies teacher and coach of four sports at Farragut High School, the late Lendon Welch helped mold the career of another FHS legend.

Professionally, “Lendon was probably the biggest influence on the direction of my life,” said Bill Parker, legendry FHS track and field state championship coach and a close friend, who was hired by Lendon to teach and coach at FHS in 1976.

“I knew Lendon for about 42 years, and he’s a super guy,” Parker added about Welch, who along with wife, Charlotte Welch, met with tragedy last summer.

The couple drowned in a boating-related accident in Center Hill Lake, DeKalb County Aug. 7. He was 84. Charlotte was 83.

“He trained a lot of people on the right way to live. And he took care of folks. He had the biggest heart. … He took a real interest in students,” Parker said.

Coach Buddy Fisher ‘kept things in perspective’

Buddy Fisher taught Eddie Courtney “how to keep things in perspective,” key advice on how to become a successful high school football head coach.

Mike Childress said coach Fisher “transformed my life,” giving one of his standout former players a job — as the Admirals’ defensive backs coach — which served as a starting point for that transformation.

Coach Fisher, Admirals football skipper from the 1987 through the 1995 seasons who compiled a 72-29 record including six playoff victories — while going 8-1 against rival Bearden — died Aug. 22, after a long battle with cancer. He was 75.

“I was able to visit with him the last six Saturdays in a row. … He was a real fighter,” Courtney, current Admirals varsity football head coach, said.

“Don’t get overly high and don’t get overly low. He said you’ll survive in this business a lot more years if you do that,” he added.

“He always was my friend. ... I’m just glad I got to spend the years I spent with him.”

Childress, Admirals defensive backs coach and standout free safety for coach Fisher’s first three FHS teams [Class of 1990], said he is “forever grateful” to Buddy.

“Fortunately, he gave me my first coaching job,” he added. “He was kind of like a father figure, a second father to me. A great inspiration to me.”