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Saturday, July 24, 2021

Charles "Chuck" Smith remembrance

 

Charles “Chuck” Edward Smith, Jr., age 65, of 100 Williams Valley Court, Madison, TN, departed this life on July 3, 2021, at the Skyline Medical Center.

Charles was born the second child to the union of Charles “Joe” and Dorothy Smith, December 14, 1955, in Kingsport. TN.

After graduating from Dobyns-Bennett High School in Kingsport, TN, he attended Tennessee State University in Nashville, TN, and East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, TN. He worked in the construction industry for several years before starting his own company, Charles Smith Construction, LLC.

He was a member of Faith Is The Victory Church, served as an usher, and sung special music with his wife, Sonya Smith.

Charles was preceded in death by his parents Charles “Joe” Smith and Dorothy Smith, and a brother, Paul “Pete” Crockett, Jr.

Survivors include his wife, Mrs. Sonya Smith; two sons, Dino Bradley, of Johnson City, TN and AJay (Mia) Greene, of Atlanta, GA; three daughters, Alexis Yates, of Kingsport, TN, Meiosha Greene, of Jacksonville, FL, as well as a special adopted daughter, Dyamond (Jonathan) Tucker, of Nashville, TN, all of whom he loved dearly; three sisters, Pauletta Sensabaugh, of Kingsport, TN, Kay (Lou) Perkins, of Manassas, VA, and Yolanda Smith, of Knoxville, TN; and two brothers, Rodney (Roma-Mashburn) Gambrell, of Kingsport, TN and Garland Riley; six grandchildren, a host of nieces, nephews, aunts, an uncle, cousins, and extended relatives and friends.

Charles was a very devoted husband, father, and brother who will be sadly missed by many but never, ever forgotten.

A celebration of life service will be conducted Saturday July 24, 2021 at 3:00pm at Central Baptist Church 301 Carver St. Kingsport TN. The family will receive friends from 2:00pm until the hour of service. Online condolences may be sent to the family at www.clarkfc.com or www.facebook.com/clarkfuneralservice

Professional service and care of Mr. Charles “Chuck” Smith Jr. and family are entrusted to Clark Funeral Chapel and Cremation Service Inc. (423) 245-4971.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

V.O. Dobbins, Sr. to be Inducted into the KCS Educators' Hall of Fame

What's your memory of V. O. Dobbins, Sr.?  You remember... Mr. Dobbins.... Mr. D.... "Festa" Dobbins?  Was it a memory of him teaching you in a class?  Was it eating the vegetables he grew in his garden for lunch at Douglass?  Was it fatherly advice at Central Baptist Church where he was a deacon?  Was your memory at the end of a paddle in his office in the above picture?

The Douglass Alumni faithful are being summoned to recall those memories and honor the steadfast rock in our Douglass School legacy.  All Douglass Alumni are requested to be inside the DB Dome in Kingsport on Monday, July 26th at 11 AM.  Please spread the word!

On that day, former Douglass principal V.O. Dobbins, Sr. will be inducted into the Kingsport City Schools (KCS) Hall of Fame.

"We had several nominees for 2020 postponed from last year because of COVID, and there were three for 2021, including Principal Dobbins," says KCS Communications Director Andy True.  "After judging the strict criteria our selection committee holds to each nominee, Mr. Dobbins was at the top of the list for both years.  To be able to hear the stories of obstacles Mr. Dobbins overcame in leading Douglass Elementary-High School during that time frame in Kingsport's history... the strong leadership.... the moral leadership.... the visionary leadership that he had for the children of our community is very inspiring."

"The stories about his involvement in his students' lives just kept coming and coming," he says.  "The reverence to which his students speak of him is awe-inspiring.  It speaks to his overwhelming involvement in their development."

"We at the Kingsport City Schools are thrilled that V.O. Dobbins, Sr. is in the Class of 2021 inductees, and we hope that all of his students, indeed, everyone that was influenced by him, can join us in honoring his legacy."

"He did indeed overcome a lot of obstacles," says his son Van Dobbins, Jr.  "He was able to teach all of us how to deal with things in life that were not quite right, like bias and prejudice.  He taught us there were ways to work around those things that would be positive to us later on in life.  He always said that despite the fact that somebody might not like you, there were non-violent ways of dealing with that you could learn from."

What does Van think his late father would say if he knew he was being inducted into the KCS Educators Hall of Fame?

"Nothing," laughed Van.  "It's hard to explain.  He'd be honored, but being honored was never his intention.  He would keep any acknowledgment of it to himself and you'd never know how he felt about it.  His concentration was always on helping others and not himself.  To Daddy, awards were OK, but then he'd ask 'what did I do to deserve an award?'  Nothing that he felt, he should not have done."

Again, the induction ceremony for the 2020-2021 KCS Educators Hall of Fame will be held at 11 AM, Monday July 26th, in the Buck Van Huss Dome at Dobyns-Bennett High School.  After parking in the DB parking lot, visitors should enter on the right, at the lower dome area at the outside scrolling door (that's at the bottom of the ramp that faces the baseball field).  That way, folks can enter there and be on the same level as the basketball floor and won't have to walk up the ramp to the dome lobby, then back down stairs to the floor.  Entering on the ground floor will save you some steps.

"Today, we as educators stand on the shoulders of the ones who came before us," says Andy True.  "They laid the foundation that our school system in Kingsport and the surrounding area built on and now teaches from.  We always hold the Educators Hall of Fame ceremony right at the start of the next school year so that our  teachers going into the next school year can be inspired by what the inductees went through."

"V.O. Dobbins, Sr. was critical to that foundation as an administrator," True says.  "To be able to honor his legacy is incredibly humbling, and we urge all who were touched by his benevolence to join us in this ceremony."

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Wednesday, July 14, 2021

After a 2-year COVID break, Rhythm in Riverview Comes Back to the Ballfield

 

"It was very dry in the ballfield... almost lonely and sad-looking.  There was nothing to look forward to, no excitement, no nothing."

Brenda Watterson of Kingsport is describing the two years since the last Rhythm in Riverview event during Fun Fest.  COVID-19 canceled the annual concert last year.  "The pandemic separated us from our family and friends," she remembers.  "Everybody was just shut in."

But not this year.


Excitement is building as the food, the togetherness and the fun of Rhythm in Riverview is back in business on Monday, July 19th at the V.O. Dobbins Community Center ballfield, located at MLK Drive and Louis Street in Kingsport.  The free event is Fun Fest's largest concert at the beginning of the 8-day festival.



"It's just a great atmosphere and a huge, wonderful crowd," Fun Fest director Emily Thompson says, remembering years ago when the event started.  "Rhythm in Riverview adds one more level of diversity in the music mix that makes up Fun Fest.  In this particular event, you start off with gospel and you end with the party.  It's great to see how that has evolved over the years, and we know that people have been hoping to come out there and get together again after two years of Covid."


On Monday, July 19th in the Dobbins ballfield, the popular Kids Central, sponsored by Ballad Health, Niswonger Children's Hospital, Indian Path Community Hospital and the city of Kingsport kicks things off with children's activities involving health and wellness from 2 to 6 PM.   Overlapping from 5 to 7 PM will be the annual Gospel Fest, featuring Christian singer Tobias and the Full Gospel Mission Youth Community Choir.   Kingsport native and aspiring actor-singer Rashad Hunter, a.k.a. Bomani Shad will also entertain the crowd with his positive rap music about making the right life choices and getting a good education.


Eleven vendors, a record number for Rhythm in Riverview will be on hand with arts and crafts, clothing and information areas and among them, the food booths.  "Everything from chicken and fish to snow cones, to funnel cakes to Philly steak, even cheese egg rolls," says organizer Johnnie Mae Swagerty.


Speaking of food, a 'newbie' debuts in the food line at the event this year.  "The Weatherby" will serve up familiar foods, but with a different experience that will probably stand out among the fish sandwiches, the funnel cakes, the hot dogs and the iced cones.  Professional chefs Mark Spencer and Curtis McGhaugy's specialities feature southern cuisine with a gourmet twist.  "The signature sandwich that Mark created," says co-owner Jason Robertson, "is coincidentally called the 'Weatherby.' 


What is the Weatherby?  "It's a baked spaghetti and meatball sandwich."

Holey moley.

"That's exactly what you're gonna say when you taste it," says Robertson.  "It's a totally different experience to what you're used to."  Other featured entrees include fried bologna between two maple donuts with a fried egg... a chicken tortilla nacho, a vegan nacho and also a pork belly taco.




Robertson recalls an upcoming event where the organizer asked if they could do turkey legs.  "After gourmet sandwiches, designer tacos and nachos that look like they belong on the cover of a magazine, we're like, 'what's a turkey leg?" he laughs.  "We can do it for the customer, though."


At 7 PM, it's time to put on your dancing shoes.  Headlining the night are the Extraordinaires from Hickory, North Carolina, a band that founder Rusty Bunton says, will not let you stop dancing.  "If you've been up dancing and you're tired and you go to sit down, here we come with another good song to dance to.  We play everything for everybody:  Earth, Wind and Fire, Stevie Wonder, Tower Power, Kool & and the Gang, Beyonce, Blackeyed Peas, Bruno Mars, the Commodores, Lakeside, Bobby Brown," he says.  "But then, we sneak in Def Lepard, AC-DC and Journey.  We even step back into the 1940's and 50's with the Clovers, Nat King Cole and others."

"Uh oh," perked up Brenda Watterson.  "The Clovers?  Oh my goodness, that's some mainline stuff right there.  I danced to their music many a year ago.  Now you're talking my language.. that's back from when old school was new school," she laughed.


The Extraordinaires has nine players in the musical group, seven of them vocalists.  Bunton's son also is one of them.  He says the band is always changing up the routine so that the lead singer is not always the same person.  "If you're not lead singing, then you're singing backup vocals," he says. "In addition to guitars, drums and percussion, there's also a four-piece horn section, and within that horn section is a guest trombonist with a familiar background.  Varney Green led the late blues icon B.B. King's band in Nashville.  He's gonna help make it an unbelievable show," says Bunton.

"We want people to enjoy what we do," he says.  "It's gonna be one massive party.  We flat throw it down."



All that is music to Brenda Watterson's ears.  After two years of no activity, very little contact with family, friends and fellow Fun Fest lovers, she's bringing her lawn chair and staking out a familiar spot right in front of the Rhythm in Riverview stage.  She says she'll have enough food, energy, friends, family and excitement to keep her company.

"Rhythm in Riverview is like a big family cookout that you don't have to plan," she laughs.  "Everybody can't come to your little family cookout, but everybody can come to this one."

Rhythm in Riverview is sponsored by Eastman, South Central Kingsport Community Development, Inc., Kingsport Parks and Recreation, KHRA and the New Vision Youth.


Thursday, July 8, 2021

Kingsport's New Vision Youth Only Local Children's Group at State Meeting

 


The New Vision Youth group of Kingsport has always had a lot of spirit.  Whether it be at local community events and programs, birthday parties for seniors, neighborhood parades or school activities, you'll always spot them.  The New Vision youngsters are always the most excited participants there.


Now the entire state of Tennessee knows about their spirit.


Kingsport's New Vision Youth group representing Sullivan County just returned from the Tennessee Teen Institute with a huge accolade.... they had more individual Spirit Award winners than any of the other 94 participating counties in the state.

The New Vision Youth Group was the only youth group from Kingsport at the gathering.


The Tennessee Teen Institute (TTI) is a five-day youth leadership and prevention camp sponsored by the Jackson (TN) Area Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependency.  It's held yearly on the campus of the University of Tennessee-Martin.  The statewide conference brings together more than 400 teenagers from across the state to help them deal with teen issues like peer pressure, bullying, violence, suicide, teen pregnancy, teen health and substance abuse.  The idea is to recognize problem issues and hopefully stop them before they get started.  The education is done through programs, exhibits, discussions, question-and-answer sessions and interventions.


The kids are split up into various groups where they get to meet other kids from around the state.  It's thought that the interactive nature of the experience gets them to talk about issues among themselves, while the programs offer them solutions.  Institute staff and administrators guide them through the discussions.


This is the 12th year that New Vision has participated in the Institute, and all 26 Kingsport-area New Vision Youth members representing Sullivan County received Spirit awards.  Director Johnnie Mae Swagerty also took four chaperones to the camp two weeks ago and they themselves also received Spirit leadership awards.  "It's easy for the chaperones to get the children excited about TTI," she says.  "The kids look forward to it every year.  They get to renew friendships they've made, plus make new ones.  Many of the kids were shy at first, but once the program begins and they meet other students, the shyness quickly goes away."


One of those shy kids used to be Keyonna Benson of Kingsport (on the far right in this picture).  Coming from a single-parent household, she says she immediately bonded with other shy children in the New Vision Youth group as a child about 10 years ago.  Growing into teenhood, she learned about issues like the dangers of substance abuse, the harmful uses of tobacco and e-cigarettes, drinking and driving, and bowing to peer pressure.

"Growing up, the peer pressure was almost too great," she remembers.  "Fellow students wanting me to smoke with them, go drink, party.  If you didn't do that with them, then you were an outcast.  That was never fun."


She remembers coming to the TTI camps as a New Vision member while growing up and feeling better than when she first arrived.  "I have to say it helped bring me out of my shyness," she admits.  "It was great to be around people who share positive messages in the New Vision Youth, but then to find many others at the camp from around the state with the same message made it refreshing and fun at the same time."

"We actually had something to talk and be excited about," she says.

Keyonna graduated from Dobyns-Bennett High School in 2019.  Today, she has an associate's degree from Austin Peay State University and is working on her bachelor's degree.  She's also now on the Tennessee Teen Institute staff, helping to mentor students just as she was guided, to make the right decisions in life.  She considers herself a New Vision Youth and TTI success story.


"What makes TTI so special is that the kids yearning to make those positive decisions have found someone who roots for them," she says, leading a cheer, top left on the back row in this picture.  "There is a huge support system that's here all year long, not just the five days of the camp."

Keyonna is also proud of the New Vision Youth group and its Spirit Award recipients.  "Getting a spirit award isn't just about cheering the loudest or being the most involved," she says.  "As administrators, we look at how much genuine energy you put into the program and its message.  It doesn't matter how quickly you finish a project, it's how you finish it.  Your passion, your enthusiasm, your positive attitude, how the project becomes you."


"All of the kids go home with better ideas on how to deal with the problems of being a teenager," she says.  "At the TTI camp, we hope to equip them to go back home and face the challenges better than when they came.  They do that by sharing the same messages together."


"Even though the camp is over for 2021, we still talk to the kids who attended, no matter where they live," Keyonna says.  "At some point we've all needed the help and encouragement to deal with the pressures of teenage life.  TTI is just one week out of the year, but the support and the love the kids get from the program is year-round."  

"And those friendships last a lifetime."

Monday, June 21, 2021

Freedom is Ringing in Riverview! City Marks Juneteenth with Parade and Riverview Bash

 These two combined stories by Calvin Sneed were written for the Kingsport Times-News, Saturday June 19, and Sunday June 20, 2021.  Events happened on Friday, Saturday and Sunday of Juneteenth


KINGSPORT — About 75 people joined in the Juneteenth Parade in Kingsport on Friday, June 18th, making the journey from Centennial Park downtown to the V.O. Dobbins Ballfield in Riverview.

Community leaders, children and seniors joined in the parade, either riding or walking the distance.





Kingsport’s parade came just over 24 hours (25 hours to be exact) after President Joe Biden signed legislation establishing Juneteenth as a federal holiday. It’s the first federal holiday designation since Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was named a holiday in the 1980s.






The recognition of Juneteenth resulted in a jubilance in the marchers and the people waiting on them in the Riverview community.







Friday’s parade kicked off a full slate of activities planned for Saturday to celebrate the Emancipation Proclamation in Kingsport and the ending of slavery in the United States.

On Saturday, June 19th, it had all the ceremony and pageantry of a celebration and a festival to follow.


But when the ceremony is the end of slavery in America, the program is a little more formal, and the festival is a little more joyous.


Kingsport's Juneteenth commemoration began in the V.O. Dobbins Ballfield on Saturday morning, with a welcoming letter from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.  The governor congratulated Kingsport for "honoring the memory of those who were held in bondage," realizing that "while work remains unfinished, we are thankful for all that has been done in the years since the first Juneteenth to fight discrimination and prejudice."


Through the "Eastman Connects" initiative, Karen Ellison presented longtime Riverview resident Jack Pierce with an honorarium, then Bishop Ronnie Collins related the purpose of Juneteenth up to today and beyond.



Kingsport Mayor Pat Shull presented a proclamation honoring the holiday, followed by City Manager Chris McCartt updating the participants on Kingsport's growth as a community.  Chamber of Commerce CEO Miles Burdine shared a poignant moment when he read the names of Pal Barger, Ruth Montgomery, Tony Hewitt, Ken Lane, Herb Ladley, Sid Cox, Richard Watterson, Carrie Upshaw, Ernie Rumsby and Geraldine Swagerty, all prominent Kingsporters who passed away this year.


After remarks by Kingsport police chief Dale Phipps and Sullivan county deputy chief Tracy Kittrell, alderman Paul Montgomery read a resolution on Kingsport's Juneteenth commemoration by the Tennessee legislature, then alderman Betsy Cooper officially began the Juneteenth observance by declaring that "Freedom is ringing in Kingsport!"  It did indeed, in the form of a bell that tolled the beginning of the celebration.

From then on, the commemoration took a sport-related turn, in fact.. the Dobbins ballfield became a "sports central" of sorts for kids with three popular camps.


First up was the wrestling camp in the Dobbins gym led by DB coach Wesley Idlette, who taught 25 kids the basics skills of wrestling along with former DB wrestling standouts Clint and Tre Morrisette.  

From left, former DB football coach Graham Clark, DB athletic director Frankie Debusk, and DB wrestling coach Wesley Idlette

"These were skills the kids can have fun with at the beginner level.  Once they get to the high school level, we can fine tune some of the things they learn to make them the best possible wrestlers they can be."


Outside, a football camp was conducted by legendary former DB coach Graham Clark, present coach Joey Christian, and former NFL player Teddy Gaines and DB current assistant coach and former UT player Malik Foreman.  Coach Clark immediately zeroed in on a 14-year old freshman quarterback, Layton Kennison, visiting the Model City from Florida.


"That kid's got some skills," Coach Clark noted.  "We're trying to teach him basic footwork on quick game, and what we called in the old days five-step-drop.  Since you're in the shotgun already, it's one, two, three and you're ready to throw."


"They're showing me how faster footwork comes in," Layton says, "how to set my feet faster, which gives me a better release technique when throwing to a receiver.  The quicker I can learn it, the better I can get at it.  That'll help me play high school and then college ball."

Left, Layton Kennison of Florida, working out with DB assistant coach Ty Hayworth

"We're got some property up here in Kingsport if he needs it," Coach Clark joked.  "He's a talented player and a fast learner with good-looking skills."


On the basketball court, the skills being taught came from assistant DB coach Dimingo Hale and former player Travis Sensabaugh.  It was a fast seventh-grader that caught Coach Hale's eye.  "We're showing him and the other campers dribbling, getting low and passing the ball, and learning the right way to do a layup."


He says, Sevier student De'ron Clayton may have what it takes to get to the NBA one day, an observation not lost on Clayton.  "It helps me a lot to be ready for high school and college and the big leagues," he says.

Coach Hale says the idea of hosting sports camps on the Juneteenth holiday goes hand in hand with setting goals and not giving up.  "Even in failure, you pick yourself up, dust yourself off and continue pushing forward.  "Junteenth has always been about celebrating a goal and never straying from it.  These kids can learn that valuable lesson as early as possible."


Going hand in hand with the sports camps was food and music in the Dobbins ballfield on a warm partly cloudy Saturday afternoon.  All kinds of food from fish to wings to barbeque and baloney sandwiches tempted everybody's diet plans, along with cotton candy, drinks and flavored ice.


Christian singer Aaron Cole sang rap music songs to the crowd that won him the Dove Award for Best New Artist of the Year, the first Christian hip-hop artist to ever win that award.

Speaking of hip-hop, the Holloway Dance Studio put on a show inside the Dobbins gym, while Doris Kaifa's group from Johnson City modeled the latest outfits in an outdoor fashion show on the ballfield.





Sunday's Juneteenth event was a Gospel Fest at 4 PM on the ballfield stage, featuring songs from Atlanta's Bonita Williamson and music from Christian singer-songwriter Tobias.