Janet Denk

#ThrowbackThursday: August 9, 2007

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With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published August 9, 2007, and written by Janet Denk.

Always from the heart

Miss Edith is a writer. She never knew that about herself.

As a matter of fact, Edith Smith is still not convinced, even at the tender age of 99 years young, that she has much to say. But she enjoys words, listens intently and loves the company of other conversationalists — qualities that any writer worth their salt should possess. Edith Smith possesses them in spades.

“She’s remarkable,’ said fellow Happy Times Club member Barbara Stowers. ‘She lives in her home, still cooks and cleans for herself and writes letters to church members. She doesn’t drive, but she likes to get out,’ Stowers added. ‘And she’s ready to go when you call on her.'“

Both women were at the Levine Senior Center last Thursday for lunch and a special presentation by resident historian Caldwell Russell.

“That woman is one of my favorite ladies,” Russell said as the two hugged and caught up on the latest news. Miss Edith brags on Russell, recalling the day, many years ago, that he met her at the Matthews United Methodist Church door and welcomed her inside.

“He just brought me right down in the front row where he was sitting and held my hand the whole time. He’s my good, good friend.”

In this day of emails, text messages, and one minute-wisdom, Miss Edith corresponds the old-fashioned way.

By writing letters.

With pen and ink on paper.

Birthdays, condolences, congratulations, thanks, get well, or just a note to someone know God loves them.

“I just say what’s in my heart,’ she explained about her personal ministry. ‘Sometimes I can get carried away when I get to writing. But, I can’t help it. I suppose that’s just the way I am.”

Born in Virginia in 1908, Miss Edith moved to Charlotte to be with her son, Sam and his family. She has 3 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren. She was married for 64 years. Her husband passed away several years ago. Longevity, she claims, comes from her mother’s side. “I have one surviving cousin — Ginny — who’s 101 years old. Last time I spoke with her I said, ‘Did you ever think it would just be you and me one day?’”

The beautiful smile fades for just a minute. Then it’s gone and Miss Edith regales the visiting reporter with tales of cows and cousins and springhouses and grandparents and carefree days on her family’s farm. Miss Edith wrote her memoirs in an essay that was published in the Charlotte Observer years ago.

“It was an essay contest and I couldn’t believe mine got picked!,’ she recalls. ‘Oh, I’m just bragging a little now. But, I saw my name in print and I was just thrilled.”

Now, Miss Edith can thrill others by sharing her words on a card, or maybe a letter. But always, from the heart.

#ThrowbackThursday: May 4, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This article was originally published May 4, 2006 and was written by Jane Rosinski.

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Mass Transit/High Density Development: Do they mesh in Matthews?

Balancing a desire for mass transit with its corresponding call for high density development is the dilemma currently facing Matthews Town Commissioners. Mayor Lee Myers questioned the council’s support for transit in Matthews after last months 4-3 vote to deny a high density apartment complex near the Sam Newell park and ride station.

The Metropolitan Transit Commission (MTC) emphasizes the need for Transit Oriented Development near transit lines, and Myers pointed out that if Matthews wants this technology, supportive action through zoning is essential. “If we don’t get the density to support transit, we might not get any,” he said, reminding the board that neither light rail or bus rapid transit is a ‘done deal,’ with much competition for federal funding.

Discussion about the Southeast Transit Corridor followed a status report from Charlotte Area Transit System (CATS) officials. Recommendations to the MTC on alignments, station locations and technology are expected to be made in June, and Myers wanted to clarify the board’s stance.

Commissioner James Taylor acknowledged the board may have sent a mixed signal with its recent zoning decision, but asserted that the question of how high is too high for Matthews remains when it comes to living units per acre. Is 14 units an acceptable standard, or, once approved, would council learn that that still isn’t high enough to meed federal guidelines, asked Taylor. Commissioner Kress Query, while favoring light rail, rejects the higher density requisites. “I don’t think we have enough vacant land in Matthews to provide the density CATS wants,” Query said.

“I am not selling out the town for mass transit,” said Commissioner Paul Bailey, who rejects any apartment plan and urged supporters to use what’s already in place.

Although no action was taken, Myers reminded the council that while transit doesn’t drive everything, traffic continues to be citizens’ top concern.

#ThrowbackThursday: March 12, 2009

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With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews News) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published March 12, 2009.

Back to reality

Spring fever has officially begun. Matthews has had five straight days of perfect weather after cold, snow and rain just last week.

Almost overnight plants seemed to pop out of the ground, trees began to blossom, and being out in the yard seemed a relief instead of a chore.

But every god thing must come to an end and temperatures will get a little more realistic as clouds and rain move in.

#ThrowbackThursday: February 23, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews News and Record  (also called Matthews News and Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today.  This story was originally published February 23, 2006.

With the land being cleared for apartments at 10252 Monroe Road, this article explains the significance of the cemetery on the rear portion of the property.

Old Cemetery Tells Stories of Matthews’ African American Community

By Janet Denk

The unmarked Roseland Cemetery gets only a handful of visitors these days. Tucked back in the woods off Monroe Road on private property belonging to the Renfrow family of Matthews, the African American cemetery has all but disappeared beneath pine trees and rambling vines.

Periwinkle crawls across a few marked headstones. Other graves are marked by large stones the rudimentary markers used by people at the time. Depressions in the undulating landscape indicate rows and roes of sunken graves.

The cemetery served as the primary burial ground for members of Tank Town’s Roseville AME Zion church, which had an active congregation until 1928. The church, located on Ames Road near the railroad tracks, was abandoned and eventually collapsed.

Residents were share croppers or day laborers in Matthews. Many farmed or worked on the railroad. Tank Town was the original African American community neighboring Matthews, named because it was the site of the water tank used to supply steam engine trains.

Known today as Crestdale, annexted in 1998, the area is developing rapidly. The rise of housing developments and the natural outgrowth of I-485 will directly impact the area.

The Roseland (Roseville) Cemetery is an important part of Matthews history.

“One of my twins is buried over there. My mother and grandmother, too,” says longtime Crestdale resident Viola Boyd.

Like many African American cemeteries throughout the state, Roseland is rich with the history. Many descendants of people in these resting places have moved or died or were unable to maintain them. The location of many cemeteries like Roseland is difficult to find - giving the impression of being abandoned and uncared for. Back when the area was mostly rural, traveling to the gravesites after the original burial meant traveling long distances by surreys, mule carts, and ox carts.

Residents in the surrounding subdivisions are aware of the old cemetery. Many recall an elderly gentleman who, year after year, came on Mother’s Day to lay flowers on a grave. The say he doesn’t come anymore.

A storehouse of African American history and cultural identity lies beneath that soil.

Mrs. Boyd, speaking with local historian Paula Lester, is one of the surviving links to Crestdale’s past. Born just after the turn of the century, Mrs. Boyd and other elderly folks like her are treasured resources. Her son and caretaker, Harvey Boyd, is a tireless proponent of historical understanding.

They are not alone in their desire to see Roseland Cemetery preserved.

Local citizens - black and white, native and newcomer - are committed to taking care of this historically important part of Matthews. The 50-plus acres of land where the cemetery sits has been eyed by developers for single family homes, but the zoning restrictions have kept them away. The land is still up for zoning.

Whoever develops the land, by state law, will be responsible for moving the graves or putting a fence around the cemetery. The development of that property could be years from now. But many feel that the gravesites occupying a small area within that property should be addressed much sooner.

Interested citizens would like to see the cemetery portion of the land deeded to the Matthews Historical Foundation, in order to secure funding for upkeep. Paula Lester and Harvey Boyd are currently working on the development of a committee which can devote more time to the cemetery.

“People have to understand their past, in order to appreciate what they’ve got now,” Boyd says.

If you are interested in being a part of this effort, please contact Harvey Boyd at 704-847-4983 or Paula Lester at 704-847-7610.

#ThrowbackThursday: June 26, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today.  This story was originally published June 26, 2006.

Labor of Love

Garden oasis a familiar and refreshing sight in Matthews

Anyone who has driven by James Grier’s home on Sardis Road, just before Highway 51, is familiar with the precise rows and varying shades of green growing in his garden. Grier refers to the well-tended earth as a ‘hobby out of control.’ But, to say he’s being modest would be an understatement.

What drivers don’t see as they speed by, are the five or six other finely manicured fields of vegetables behind his home. Also the pond, the fig and apple trees, the grape vines, the mounds of mulch, the greenhouse - where he begins the process in early January - or just the tranquility of it all.

It started in 1992 after Grier’s retirement and three major surgeries. Something worthwhile to fill the time. “It’s been a lot of fun,” said Grier.

He sells his home grown produce under a shady tree off a cart in front of his property. He uses the honor system and expects folks to share the goods.

“If the cart’s not on the road, we’re not open,” Grier said. The cart is out on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.

“I don’t like greedy people,” the gentleman farmer said. He’s referring to those who take more than a fair share of the early pickings. “This old man is trying the best he can.”

Not much goes to waste in Grier’s hands, whether it’s the PVC pipe mounted on his truck for fishing poles, scraps for his mulch pile supplied by landscapers in the fall, or leftovers off his truck.

“We just gave 100 pounds of squash and potatoes to a local church who passed them on to the needy,” said son-in-law Andy Ollis. Both men work the land daily, with Ollis doing most of the heavier labor.

“We still enjoy it,” he mused, “and the people who come by sure appreciate it.” The include people from all around - Pineville, Waxhaw, Huntersville.

When asked how long the farmer would keep the place going, Ollis replied, “I don’t know how many times he’s been asked to sell,” he said about his father-in-law, “But eventually he will.”
And Matthews will be poorer because of it.

#ThrowbackThursday: June 18, 2009

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published June 18, 2009 and was written by Janet Denk.

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Crestdale at the Crossroads

Group seeks to create a piece of work that will preserve the history of the Crestdale community and its people

They called it a Crestdale Reunion - and it had all the makings of one: food, family, laughter, some tears. But the gathering at the United House of Prayer was a chance for members of the longstanding Matthews community to pay tribute to loved ones gone before, honor their elders, and celebrate their journey.

The most recent journey in the Crestdale area of Matthews is The Crestdale Community Project - a collaborative effort of community and arts groups celebrating the history and cultural stew that is Crestdale. The past couple of weeks have been part of a Kick-Off event scheduled for July 11. Pastor Greg Watson of the United House of Prayer welcomed guests. The church has generously offered space to the Crestdale Community Project supporters which will include a series of workshops around town focusing on fine art, music, storytelling, film making, and more. The Matthews Community Center will also be offering work space. Project participants are hoping other groups step up to host workshops, too.

Through a grant from Crossroads Charlotte, the Arts & Science Council is partnering with the The Light Factory and fiber artist Sunya Folayan to create a piece of work that will preserve the history of the Crestdale community and its people. All of the work produced will be placed in a formal exhibit this winter in various locations throughout Matthews.

“It’s time that all the communities in the area come together in tribute to share the history and culture of Crestdale with the rest of Matthews, and the surrounding area,” said Walter Stewart, who was joined by Harvey Boyd and other life-long residents of the area who attended the first two meetings planned for The Crestdale Community Project.

The Crestdale neighborhood is one of the oldest African American communities in the nation, established soon after the Civil War. Located along the railroad tracks in Matthews, between old Highway 51 and Charles Street, the community has become home to a patchwork of different cultural communities. Habitat for Humanity Matthews is located within the Crestdale Community, including Fullwood Trace, a modest neighborhood of brick homes off Charles St. Sunrise Crossing is the newest development. Rainbow Ridge is home to many Montagnard families. Pronounced “mountain-yard,” the term is French for “mountain dweller” or “mountain people.” North Carolina is one of the largest settlements for Montagnards, who fought alongside US Special Forces during the Vietnam Conflict. Crestdale Crossing is a subdivision of one and two-story bungalow-style single family homes with green space shared by all. It was developed on land belonging to the Stewart family.

The Light Factory promotes the power of image by informing, challenging, and stimulating audiences using photography, film, and other light-based media to see their world through a different lens. It is located in Spirit Square in uptown Charlotte.

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#ThrowbackThursday: January 22, 2009

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published January 22, 2009 and was written by Janet Denk.

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Dreams of the Promised Land

Viola Boyd has lived nearly 100 years. All of it in Matthews. As a witness to a century of civil rights struggle, she will finally see the dream realized.

“He’s allowed me to go up the mountain!”

The preacher was referring to his sovereign Lord who had blessed him with the gift of heart, mind, and speech.

“I looked over and I’ve seen the Promised Land,” he told a jam-packed room in Memphis that evening back in 1968. Then hauntingly added, “I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land.”

These powerful words were refreshing to people like Viola Teeter Boyd, who was halfway through her life when the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King gave that speech.

Like any Christian woman, she understood intimately through her faith that she would make it to the Promised Land.

The Bible told her so.

But, being black in the segregated south told her something completely different. It told her that, despite having her own business in a home that she and her husband Sam built on their own land, where they raised four kids, that they were second class citizens.

This was not God’s rule. This was man’s rule. And man’s ways can change.

For what good were rules which allowed her to vote as a woman, but denied her the right as a black?

Battle cries, such as those articulated by Dr. King, were being heard around the world.

And things changed.

This week, the inauguration of Barack Obama, the nation’s first African American president, was cause for lively discussion in the Boyd home in Matthews, which today includes the matriarch and her last surviving son, Harvey Boyd, who buried his brother Calvin this past month.

“Lord no!” Mrs. Boyd replied when asked if she thought she would ever see a black man become president in her day. She will turn 90 years old this summer. Mrs. Boyd is practical about the election, if not politically-minded.

“Aren’t we blessed? But, let’s just see, “ she added, the product of a people with a lifetime of dreams deferred.

Son Harvey, a senior citizen himself, articulates the artist’s heart.

“This is an exciting time,” he said about the election of an African American president. A time of renewed hope and inclusion for all people. “It’s a chance for the world to see America living out all the dreams they represent. This is a victory for all people.”

Mrs. Boyd’s practical nature, or perhaps her memory, is what caused her to blurt out, when discussing the foibles of powerful men in office, “they would’ve hung him, in my day.”

That practical nature cautions her to remember that men are not gods.

Viola Teeter’s world began right here in Matthews in 1910. Most likely, it will end here, in her house on Crestdale Road.

Married at 14 years old, she moved to Philadelphia when Sam was looking for work up there.

“I didn’t like it, there were too many buildings,” said the small town girl who moved back south. The couple became the first black couple to really settle in the area of Matthews known today as Crestdale. Sam Boyd worked for the railroad and became known as the Mayor of Crestdale, for his community activism. Viola opened a beauty shop in her home.

“Customers came from all over the place…Monroe, Charlotte,” she said. “That’s how I got to know so much about people.”

That, and her practical nature.

Harvey Boyd said his mother was a voracious reader - newspapers, magazines, church bulletins, anything she could get her hands on. She was also an Angel of Mercy - part of a group of women who lent others less fortunate a helping hand.

“Some people couldn’t pay me for their hair. I’d say, ‘Can’t you pay me just a little?’ Then I’d find out that somebody lost a job or they ran out of money and didn’t know what to do. So I showed them how to get what was theirs,” she recalled.

Harvey said his mother helped with dozens of people in the area with medical or insurance benefits and claims. Many had no money, or a means to take care of themselves because they were not taught. Poverty didn’t help.

“I just opened my mouth,” she confessed, when asked how she learned to navigate a system that didn’t always work in her favor. “We didn’t have a lot of education, but we had knowledge!”

She squirreled away every dime she earned from her business and whatever else she could scrape up from watching other people’s children.

“I jimmied the lock, so couldn’t nobody get in the box where I put the money,” she laughed. She collected paper and cans for recycling cash. Then she took $10,000 in cash to Wachovia.

“I don’t think the man believed me. But I had it.” Whatever interest she earned, she put right back in. “I wanted to make that money grow,” she said with great animation. Her three favorite presidents were Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Carter. The last one, she says, because her CDs did well.

Practicality and determination keep Viola Teeter Boyd going.

And dreams of the Promised Land continue to make the trip worthwhile.

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#Throwback Thursday: September 27, 2007

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published September 27, 2007 and was written by Janet Denk. Layout and graphics created by Jim Denk.

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A trip from Library Lane

With talk of pedestrian-friendliness and traffic concerns all the rage this election year, The Matthews Record wants to help illustrate the simple act of walking to the post office to mail a letter. Not quite three blocks away, this simple act is wrought with frustration. Let’s take a walk.

  1. From Library Lane, we walk to one of the most popular corners in downtown, S. Trade Street at W. Charles. Navigating three lanes of moving traffic and two parking lanes, the crosswalk is clearly marked. But try telling that to the cars dashing through downtown.

  2. Arriving safely on the other side, we stroll along the building housing a law firm, a portrait shop, and a child’s consignment store. The landscape is generous, the sidewalk is not.

  3. Squeezing through a narrow space between the building and the parked cars, we dead end into a couple of trash cans and a wrought iron rail. This requires stepping into traffic followed by a blind corner in order to cross Cotton Gin Alley.

  4. The sidewalk picks up again until we reach the back side of the Matthews Post Office entrance.

  5. The sidewalk stops abruptly, forcing us into the drop-off/drive through lane.

  6. The sidewalk picks up again and, if we’re lucky, our letter can be mailed inside.

#ThrowbackThursday: January 26, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews News & Record (also called Matthews Record and The Matthews News) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published January 26, 2006 and was written by News & Record staff.

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Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department Appreciation Banquet

At their annual recognition dinner on January 13, members of the Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department recognized Tommy Rogers who is stepping down as the department’s fire chief. Rogers has served as chief for eight years and as assistant chief for 19 years prior to that. He joined the department in 1975, shortly after it was organized.

During Rogers’ tenure as cheif, the department added two new vehicles, completed a major addition and renovation to the fire station, and added paid employees to the roster for the first time to supplement the volunteer staff during the daytime hours. Prior to becoming chief, Rogers was instrumental in establishing the department as a medical first responder in 1991. He will continue to serve the department as an assistant chief focusing on emergency medical services. Jay Alexander stated hew was glad Tommy was not going too far away. “He has been faithful and dependable and almost from day one has helped set the direction of the fire department and enabled them to get to where they are today,” he said.

Also recognized at the dinner was Captain Brian White - Officer of the Year; Captain Tony Bresina - EMT of the year; and Scott Blevins - Firefighter of the Year.

The new fire chief at Idlewild is Ron Cheves. Cheves is a 22 year veteran of the department and has previously served as captain and assistant chief. Prior to coming to the Idlewild department, Cheves served with fire departments in Guilford County, NC and Knox County, TN.

Currently serving with Cheves and Rogers are assistant chiefs Mike Pressley and Jay Garbus.

Matthews Mayor Lee Myers pointed out the Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department was a group that gives back and makes a difference in the lives of the people in the community. Mint Hill Mayor Ted Biggers said the Department was a family in the business of saving lives. Dr. Tom Blackwell was the guest speaker who discussed Med 1 and it’s members’ trip to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina.

The Idlewild Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1975 to provide improved protection for the then unincorporated area between Matthews and Mint Hill. Although legally a new organization, the Idlewild department inherited the legacy of the Oakhurst Volunteer Fire Department, which ceased operations that same year due to annexations by the City of Charlotte. Today most of the Idlewild response area lies within the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill and the department has contracts with both towns as well as the County. The original fire station at 10241 Idlewild continues to serve the department, although it has undergone a series of expansions and renovations. The station has recently been remodeled with living quarters for eight fire fighters and two officers. The department can also be used as an emergency shelter for the community in times of extreme weather conditions or natural disaster.

The department is primarily funded by contributions from area residents in the form of fire dues. It also receives funding from the towns of Matthews and Mint Hill and from Mecklenburg County.

#ThrowbackThursday: March 16, 2006

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With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This story was originally published March 16, 2006.

Grand Opening of the Levine Senior Center

Over thirty years ago, a group of mature adults began meeting and called themselves the Happy Times Club. As their numbers increased, the group realized there was a need for a place that reaches out to the growing number of seniors. That dream was realized Sunday with the Grand Opening of the Levine Senior Center located at 1050 DeVore Lane off Northeast Parkway across from the Sycamore Commons Shopping Center. Approximately 600 people attended, filling the parking lot of the Senior Center and spilling over into Dick’s Sporting Goods store where they were taken by bus up to the center. The weather could not have been more perfect for the opening. As Reverend John Butler from First Baptist Church said, “This is the fulfillment of a dream and will be a blessing for many years to come for the entire community.”

Congresswoman Sue Myrick presented the Providence High School Navy Junior ROTC, under Lt. Commander Larry Parker, with a United States flag. State of North Carolina Speaker of the House Jim Black presented the ROTC with a North Carolina state flag. Jan Burris, representing Leon Levine Foundation (Leon and Sandra Levine), presented the ROTC with a Levine Senior Center flag. Nancy LaFond sang the National Anthem. After the Pledge of Allegiance, the cornerstone was unveiled. The ribbon on the entrance to the center was but by Iris DeVore, the Levine Senior Center Board of Directors, the Matthews Chamber of Commerce, and Levine Center Employees. Attendees then proceeded to the Happy Times Banquet Hall inside the center. Steve Combs, Pastor at Matthews United Methodist Church offered the opening prayer. Mayor Myers welcomed everyone. There was not an empty seat in the room. Attendees two deep surrounded those seated in the Happy Times Banquet Hall and spilled into the hallways and kitchen.

Speaker Jim Black noted, “this was one of the best private/public partnerships anywhere.” Speaker black was very instrumental in getting grants from the State of North Carolina for $20,000 last year and $200,000 this year. Speaker black noted his third-grade teacher, Margaret Phillips, was in attendance and they had a rich heritage. He also noted that Mayor Lee Myers had worked tirelessly getting the center to be a reality. Speaker Black commented that it was wonderful to see so many people for the Grand Opening and noted the many years of service the center offered and the possibilities for its use was endless.

Mayor Myers gave a brief history of the center. IN November 2000, Crosland and Faison donated 9.8 acres of prime property to assist in the center’s development. Council members Kress Query and Martha Krauss were extremely instrumental in obtaining this donation. Non-profit status was acquired and plans were completed to build the 19,500 square foot building that offers exercise programs, educational classes, and social stimulation. In 2003, the Leon and Sandra Levine Foundation challenged seniors with a three to one match up to $1,000,000. This challenge was met with the help of a generous community and the center was named the Levine Senior Center. Mayor Lee Myers and Councilmember Paula Lester were most instrumental in obtaining this donation. Opening this week, the center will offer a variety of services and activities that respond to diverse needs and interests while enhancing the dignity and independence of mature adults. The center will also serve as the community resource for information on aging and support services.

Jan Burris read a letter from Leon and Sandra Levine to Iris DeVore, applauding her for her dedication, hard work, and love she had poured into making the Levine Senior Center a reality. Mr. Levine stated that she had made a real difference to the Town of Matthews and to the community. He said the Matthews community had been good to him and to Family Dollar.

Iris DeVore thanked everyone for coming out for the dedication. She said to expect a miracle and this center is the miracle. She said she had never felt so humble and blessed. “God is so good - so very good,” she said, and then quoted Proverbs 16 - “Commit your plans to the Lord.” She also encouraged everyone in attendance to live now, age later, and celebrate life.

Architect Troy Luttman, Builder Everitt Curlee and Edie Bryant, onsite Supervisor and Art Droste onsite Superintendent were recognized. Special thanks went to Carriage Club of Charlotte, Harris Teeter and Lady Baker’s Tea Trolley for refreshments, and to the Plantation Swingers for entertainment.

In closing, Mayor Myers encouraged attendees to make good use of the building. He said to fill the building in order to pay the mortgage. He thanked Jerry McGuire and Bank of Granite and every person in the Happy Times Banquet Hall for their contributions. John Butler from First Baptist Church offered the closing prayer.  

#ThrowbackThursday: November 30, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. These stories were originally published November 30, 2006 and was written by Janet Denk.

Two men, two worlds apart, together again

When the two Matthews men first met, a little over a year ago, it didn’t take long for the exchanged pleasantries to move into much deeper territory. Discussions of home ownership, family and food preparation shed light on the cultural differences between Oh Rmah and Bill Dixon. But their stories began to intersect when the topic of Vietnam began to emerge.

Oh, a local cabinet assembler living on Tank Town Road in Matthews, was born in the central highland region of Vietnam. His people are known as Montagnards (French for “mountain people”). North Carolina is home to many Montagnard families.

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These two men, from two different worlds, have discovered that they traversed the same jungle decades terrain decades ago. They shared similar memories and fought, quite possibly, on the same mountain thousands of miles from where they stood that day in Crestdale. both men grew up modestly, raised families, joined armies, endured the deaths of their own sons. They’ve seen guts and glory, yet go about their days, as neighbors and simple men. Their communication, like many soldiers, does not depend on words.

It just is.

That comes with the territory.

The territory in the late 60s was the central area of Vietnam in places with names like Dakto, Khe Son, Hamburger Hill.

Oh Rmah

When Americans pulled out of Vietnam in 1975, the war for Oh Rmah and his people did not end. A constant struggle to secure his homeland, the Montagnard joined those who fought against communism in his country. Oh Rmah was happy to work alongside US Army troops to serve as an interpreter and a guide in his native highlands.

For this allegiance, Oh and many others like him would pay a costly price. It would be two years into his imprisonment that his wife, Din, would have knowledge of his whereabouts. The war in Vietnam ended in 1993 for Oh when he was released from prisoner of war camp where he endured years of torture, starvation, and misery in an attempt by the government to “re-educate” him and his people.

It didn’t work because he is a proud American today.

But memories of home still haunt him. The scars on his ankles from shackles remind him of communist Vietnam, where he still has family, including a daughter in her twenties.

The first three months in the camp, Oh, like many others who fought alongside Americans, was tossed into a hole in the ground with his hands and feet bound together. “No light,” Oh recalls. “My hair grew down to here,” he gestures to his forearm. “We were so dirty and we had lice. Excuse me, ma’am.” His recollection of the filth and the shame cause him to become modest in front of strangers. “I told them whatever they wanted to hear, because I wanted to live.”

“Dick” Dixon

Daylight can hardly penetrate a triple canopy jungle. Company A from the 173rd Airborne Division, found themselves smack in the middle of the firing perimeter before they, or the well-entrenched North Vietnamese Army, discovered each other. Three machine guns, at close range, opened fire nearly decimating Company A.

Bill “Dick” Dixon’s command group directed Company B to a left-flanking maneuver to give support to the first company. They immediately came under enemy fire, as well, causing fifteen casualties and wounding the company commander. Throughout the chaos, as darkness began to fall and men around him were dying, Dixon’s military training, or maybe his maturity (he was seasoned at the age of 25, while the average age of soldier in that war was 17) motivated him. He initiated radio contact with the main command post and began reorganizing the remaining men. The battle raged on for another 45 minutes until a thick fog and relentless rain blanketed the hilltop leaving Company A out there isolated and cut off. Dixon headed out into the jungle alone to find them.

This brave act would later earn him a Silver Star. But it would be another seventeen hours before the last wounded man would make it off that battlefield.

Two weeks ago, at the Matthews Rotary Club luncheon for the Armed Services, both men strolled the grounds of Central Piedmont Community College enjoying the food and fellowship. These are better days for both me.

When Oh earned his citizenship this year, Dixon was there. When the fancy washing machine confounded the Rmah family, Dixon helped straighten it out. When Oh threw a birthday party for one of their daughters, Dixon went to the celebration. The commissioner helps out because that’s a part of his nature.

“We couldn’t have operated over there without these guys,” Dixon says of the Montagnards. But something deeper exists between these two men that was not forged in a Matthews neighborhood or at a patriotic luncheon beneath a Carolina blue sky. It was forged in a highland jungle thousands and thousands of miles away when they were soldiers once.

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#ThrowbackThursday: October 25, 2007

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. The Matthews Record asked kids, grades K-12, to complete a story to be published just in time for Halloween 2007. Below are a couple of the winning stories. These stories were originally published October 25, 2007. Illustrations by James Denk.

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The Prompt: The townspeople of Matthews didn’t know where the train had come from or how it had arrived. They only knew that the train, the Seaboard 5217, was empty. Except for the caboose where strange noises awakened the on that cool, full-moon night…

Story number one written by Joey Schachner:

…The mayor called a city council meeting in order to determine what to do with the train.

“Why don’t we just wait a few days to see if goes away?” suggested Mrs. Thompson.

“The next train scheduled to stop here isn’t supposed to arrive ‘till Sunday,” stated Mr. Harton, consulting an enormous ledger.

“I say we BURN it!” cried Mr. Barns. As usual, no one paid very much attention to Barns’ outrageous exclamations.

In the end, it was decided that a group of five would go in and investigate the mysterious train. Once they reported back to the council, the final decision on what was to be done would be made.

Among the five men selected to investigate the train was sixteen-year-old Charles Harvey. Harvey was not afraid of anything, and wasn’t one to pass up on an adventure. Exploring a ghost train was an opportunity too good to refuse. Besides, what harm could some dumb old train do to him?

As soon as the exploration party entered the train Charles immediately branched off from the group and headed for the caboose. He had to admit, though, the deserted train was quite spooky; the dust on the seats and the cobweb in the corners gave the train a ghostly, haunted aura. He shuddered. Perfect.

Finally he came to the door that led to the caboose. Drawing in a deep breath to steady his nerves, he reached out, grasped the doorknob, turned, and pushed. The door swung open, revealing utter blackness within.

Charles Harvey, his hand shaking in fear, lifted his flashlight and swept it across the length and breadth of the room and saw — nothing. With a noticeable sigh of relief, he turned around and was about to shut the door when he became aware of a steady dripping sound. Slowly pivoting back towards the caboose, Charles lifted his flashlight up to the ceiling — and froze.

A bloodcurdling scream split the night air, sending chills down each and everyone’s spines.

The four other men investigating the train raced back along the length of the train, nearly colliding with Charles about three-quarters of the way back. Charles looked absolutely petrified: his face was white with horror and a nasty looking gash ran down the length of his forearm, gushing blood onto the dusty floor. They rushed him off the train and into the arms of Meridel, the town healer.

No one was very enthusiastic about board the train after that incident. In fact, the mayor even decreed the area a danger zone and warned anyone against going anywhere within a hundred yards of the train. But after a little while, none of that even mattered to anyone. Because later that night, when most of the townsfolk had retreated into their homes for the night, the mayor turned to look one last time at the train, but it was gone. Without a sound, flash, or disturbance of any kind, the train had seemingly disappeared. The Seaboard 5317 had vanished.

Charles Harvey never entirely recovered from that one fateful night. His arm healed fine, sure, but it was his mind that suffered most. From that evening on, Charles seemed less of an enthusiast, more withdrawn. And he never, ever discussed what he had seen in the caboose that night. If you asked him, he would dodge the question or mumble something like, “I…don’t really want to talk about it.” No one has ever solved the mystery of the Seaboard 5317, and probably no one every will. But if you stand near the train tracks on Halloween night, you may just hear a scream…

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Story number two written by Mrs. Sutton’s 3rd Grade Greenway Park Class:

The townspeople of Matthews didn’t know where the train had come from or how it had arrived. They only knew the train, the Seaboard 5317, was empty. Except for the caboose where strange noises awakened them on that cool, full-moon night. The Seaboard 5317 normally traveled from Wilmington to Tennessee but this particular night the train seemed to appear from nowhere. Several brave farmers quickly scrambled for their rakes and shovels and crept toward the rear of the train. Suddenly, a screech owl startled the men as it swooped out from behind the livery stable and nestled in the old oak tree. With hearts pounding and eyes bulging, the frightened group huddled together and continued past the empty side cars. The light of the moon guided them as they signaled to one another to be prepared. Several other townspeople soon joined them and you could hear the frantic whispers of nervous town folk as they planned their next move. After all, it was 1901, the turn of a new century and no one had seen such a mysterious train pull into Stumptown before.

Just as they approached the caboose, a wild cackle could be hard from inside. Everyone covered the head and ducked down just in time as a party of phantoms, ghosts, and ghouls flew out the back door of the caboose and into the woods. Were they dreaming? No one really knows, but if you’re really quiet on a full-moon night, you can still hear the cackling sounds today, of those ghoulish spirits hiding in the woods near the train depot.

#ThrowbackThursday: November 2, 2006

With permission, The Beacon is archiving past issues of Matthews Record (also called Matthews News and Record and The Matthews Record) articles online. Throwback Thursday articles will include relevant content still facing Matthews today. This article was originally published November 2, 2006 and was written by Janet Denk.

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Not So Spooky: The Matthews Parks and Recreation Halloween festivities were not-so-spooky, but oh-so-fun. The third annual event was one of the largest, according to town officials, with over 500 participants - most of them in costumes strolling around under crystal clear skies.