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Southern Middle Tennessee Today News for May 5, 2023

All news stories are aggregated from various sources and modified for time and content. Original sources are cited.

We start with local news…

Maury Parks Groundbreaking (CDH)

Yanahli Park in Columbia will soon be the scenic home of new offices for the Maury County University of Tennessee Agriculture Extension department and Maury County Parks and Recreation.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held on Monday at the park, making way for the 5,000 square foot facility, costing $2.9 million, drawn from the county's adequate facilities tax.

Parks director of 21 years Al Ray said the site is ideal for UT Ag Extension and the Parks offices due to the departments' heavy emphasis on agriculture and nature-based programming.

The extension provides educational programs in the areas of agriculture, family and consumer sciences, community resource development and 4-H Youth Development. It also takes a leading role in organizing the agriculture programs at the Maury County Fair & Exposition.

The Ag Extension office is currently located at Public Square, while the Parks office is housed in a small building at Maury County Park.

"The county needs office space," Maury County Commission chairman of the board Eric Previti said, who led the groundbreaking ceremony. "This can serve as a meeting space, work space and pavilion. Farmers can better pull in with their trucks and livestock, rather than trying to park in the square."

The new facility will also serve as an event site for weddings, receptions and other celebrations.

The construction of the new offices is part of the 475-acre Yanahli Park master plan conceived in 2015.

Starla Hardin, county director of UT Ag Extension, said she is most looking forward to having outdoor classrooms for educational programming and to accommodate Master Gardener classes and 4-H wildlife and forestry teams.

"We couldn't be more thankful and grateful for this opportunity to move our office here to Yanahli. [When commissioner Eric Previti] asked me if I could move the offices anywhere in the county, where would it be, I said Yanahli Park. He made it happen.

"This is a huge part of our future."

Ray said he is looking forward to extending Parks programming and connecting children to nature through the new location.

"We are bursting at the seams at our offices now," Ray said. "We envisioned this center and the extension of this park as part of our Yanahli Park Master Plan back in 2015. I can't wait for the facility to open and see the plan come to fruition."

Construction will take up to 18 months county officials said.

After the ceremony, generational beef cattle farmer Trevor Pennington of 1822 Farms, provided hamburgers from his farm and refreshments for dozens of elected officials, county staff and community members in attendance.

Opening in 2019, Yanahli Park is home to multiple ecosystems, diverse flora and fauna, unique geologic and hydrological features and habitat for potential rare, threatened, and endangered species. The 475-acre park also provides connectivity to the 12,000-acre Yanahli Wildlife Management Area.

Yanahli is a Chickasaw word meaning "to flow through." It is the county's largest public park.

"Our goal is to improve the lives of all Maury County citizens," Hardin said.

Active Shooter Hoax (MainStreetMaury)

Columbia Central High School went on lockdown Wednesday morning after a reported call that there was an active shooter at the facility, a call that proved to be false.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Columbia Police Department each reported on its Facebook page that the call was a hoax and appeared to be part of a pattern of such calls taking place across the state.

“TBI is currently working with state and federal partners to determine the source of several hoax calls, placed to local law enforcement agencies, reporting an active shooter at several high schools in the state. At this time, none of these reports has proven credible and there is no known immediate threat to public safety at this time,” TBI officials said via the agency’s Facebook page.

The TBI had cleared the scene shortly before noon, according to witnesses on-site.

“They told us we were on a hard lockdown and we had to go back in our classrooms,” student Carlos Pillow Jr. told reporters. “Actually we had to run into a closet and barricade everything… The police was running in the building with their vests on, he said.”

Parent Carlos Pillow added, “I was at work and when I got the call, they were saying people got shot. When I called (my son), he didn’t answer the phone so I’m thinking it was my son. I just ran out of work. It’s a scary feeling, he said.”

Although school resumed after the incident, Maury County Public Schools announced that any parent who wished to pick up their child from Columbia Central High School could do so. All Maury County Schools, including CCHS, were dismissed at the regular time.

Students Attend TBR Day at Capitol (Press Release)

Columbia State Community College students Jaeden Kennedy, Lydia Knobloch, Sasha Erickson, Hope Bone and Cayden Flickinger recently participated in Tennessee Board of Regents’ Day on the Hill event with other TBR Student Government members and SkillsUSA Officers from across the state.

Jaeden Kennedy, Columbia State SGA president, attended the event for the second year in a row.

“It was great to be back on Capitol Hill spending the day with our elected officials,” said Kennedy. “I want to say a special thank you to Representative Jody Barrett of District 69 and Representative Sam Whitson of District 65 for their time and advice on running for office. I know for a fact these amazing gentlemen care deeply about our college students across the state and are committed to making Tennessee a better place for us all!”

The TBR Day on the Hill allows members of TBR institution Student Governments and SkillsUSA the opportunity to meet with state legislators and attend post-secondary education committee meetings.

“Being able to attend TBR Day on the Hill was an experience that showed me firsthand how our state government operates,” said Knobloch. “I was able to meet representatives who showed their passion for the state of Tennessee and was also able to discuss ideas to better our state. Not only was I able to talk with representatives, but I was able to sit in on committee meetings which gave me a better understanding on the bill-making process. I am very grateful for this experience and encourage others to become more informed on how our government works!”

During the day, the students were able to sit in on committee meetings and they met with house members. Kennedy, Knobloch and Erickson met with Representatives Jody Barrett from District 69 and Sam Whitson from District 65. Bone and Flickinger met with Representatives Jake McCalmon from District 63 and Scott Cepicky from District 64.

“Seeing democracy in action made me think how blessed I am to live in a free country where people can assemble, debate and, by majority rule, make decisions that shape the future of our state,” said Bone. “I am proud to live in the great state of Tennessee where our governor and majority of legislators are working to protect the values of Tennesseans.”

“I think it was great to have the chance to do something that helped me see what I wanted to do with my life in the future,” said Flickinger. “Meeting new individuals and state representatives was wonderful as well.”

AAHSMC Fundraiser (Press Release)

The African American Heritage Society of Maury County announces a fundraising luncheon for the creation of an African American museum and cultural center in Columbia.

The fundraising luncheon is scheduled for Saturday, May 27, 2023, at 11:45am at West 7th Church of Christ, located at 405 West 7th Street in Columbia. Tickets to the luncheon are free, though a $10 donation for the catered lunch is suggested.

Funds raised from this event will help establish an African American museum and cultural center in Maury County. Jo Ann McClellan, President of the African American Heritage Society of Maury County, serves as the featured speaker for this event. Her presentation is titled “Making a Way for Themselves: Faith, Family, Education, and Entrepreneurship” and showcases the courageous stories of African Americans in Maury County. The event is co-sponsored by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church in Columbia.

“The Society’s vision is an indoor museum space to tell the stories of the struggles and triumphs of African Americans," said McClellan. "The exhibits and programming will include stories of ordinary people doing extraordinary things to build the African American community by establishing churches, schools, businesses, and benevolent organizations."

Other presenters at the event include Representative Scott Cepicky, the Reverend Father Chris Bowhay from St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, and Bishop Phoebe Roaf from the Episcopal Diocese of West Tennessee.

“St. Peter’s is delighted to be a part of raising the voices and stories of resilience, success, and influence in the African American community in Columbia, both before and after the Civil War,” said Bowhay. “The experience of the Gospel of Jesus Christ has been particularly important to the African American Community in Maury County and has played a vital role not only in religion but also in education.”

To register for the event, please visit by May 15, 2023.

Founded in 2012, the African American Heritage Society of Maury County is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization whose mission is to preserve the heritage and history of African Americans of Maury County, Tennessee.

Lung Cancer Detection (Press Release)

It’s no secret that the primary key to successfully treating lung cancer is to find it in its earliest stages, and a pulmonology specialist with Maury Regional Health has made early diagnosis his mission. He’s now sharing his highly successful program with other physicians in the region.


Dr. Jon L. Freels, a specialist in pulmonology and critical care medicine at Maury Regional Medical Group Pulmonary & Critical Care, has developed a program utilizing the ILLUMISITETM Platform by Medtronic that has proven to be highly efficient and accurate in sampling suspicious lung nodules. He’s hosting physicians from the region to observe his protocols and utilization of the platform so they can better serve their patients.

 “This innovative technology helps provide our patients with the highest quality patient care,” Dr. Freels said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to share our program with physicians in our region so we can have a positive impact on more lung cancer patients.”

 The ILLUMISITETM Platform acts much like a GPS to guide physicians through a patient’s lungs. A physician uses a patient’s computed tomography (CT) scan to create a virtual pathway to a suspicious nodule and navigates the pathway with a bronchoscope and navigation catheter, a minimally invasive procedure called electromagnetic navigation bronchoscopy, commonly referred to as ENB.

 Once the physician reaches the suspicious nodule, specialized biopsy tools obtain tissue from the nodule. The tissue is analyzed to determine the diagnosis and stage of cancer.

 What makes the ILLUMISITETM Platform unique is its ability to visually enhance and reach the smallest lung nodules. It also allows physicians to sample tissue in multiple areas of nodules.1

 “Early diagnosis can increase our chance of successfully treating lung cancer by up to 94%2,” Dr. Freels said. “With this technology, we are able to identify the smallest nodules in their earliest stages and take samples of those tissues. We currently have a 92% diagnostic yield on the first biopsy, meaning we are establishing a diagnosis on the first biopsy 92% of the time.”

 Lung cancer is the second most common cancer in the United States and the leading cause of death from cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. The reason it’s so deadly is oftentimes symptoms don’t show until the cancer has progressed, making early lung screenings vital in treatment.

 Maury Regional Health offers low-dose CT lung screenings at Maury Regional Medical Center, Marshall Medical Center, Wayne Medical Center and Spring Hill Imaging Center. To qualify for a low-dose CT lung screening, patients must meet the following criteria:

Be 50-77 years of age

Have no signs or symptoms of lung cancer

Have a tobacco smoking history of at least 20 pack-years (one pack-year equals smoking one pack per day for one year; one pack equals 20 cigarettes)

Be a current smoker or one who has quit within the last 15 years

Receive a written order from your primary care provider

 For those who don’t meet the criteria, a self-pay CT screening of the chest and lung area is available without a physician’s order at Maury Regional Health’s outpatient imaging locations.

 Other common cancer screenings include those for breast, cervical, colorectal, prostate, skin and testicular cancer. For those who have been diagnosed with cancer, the Maury Regional Cancer Center offers comprehensive treatment from a multidisciplinary team of physicians and clinical staff who are committed to providing state-of-the-art care.

 To learn more about cancer screenings at MRH, visit

Columbian Part-Owner of Derby Horse (MainStreetMaury)

When the three-year-old thoroughbreds break the gates at Saturday’s 149th running of the Kentucky Derby, Columbia resident Melissa Duncan will have a special rooting interest. That’s because she owns 3.5 percent of the Florida Derby runner-up and Kentucky Derby participant, Mage.

Since getting her first Walking Horse in 1978, Melissa has loved horses. She fell in love with showing her horse at an early age, and by 1991 when she and her husband Craig watched their first Run for the Roses together at Hard Rock Cafe in Orlando – she was hooked. 

This Kentucky Derby, however, will be a little different.

“This is the first time I’ve ever had one of the horses I own compete in the Kentucky Derby,” Melissa said. “I love racehorses, and the Kentucky Derby is usually my favorite day of the year, but I’m a ball of nerves already.” 

Each year for the last quarter century on Derby Day, the Duncans roll out the red carpet – literally – for friends and family for their annual party at what is affectionately known as “Duncan Downs.”

“We try to do Derby Day right,” she said. “We send out invitations and men wear their most Derby-like attire and women are – of course – required to wear a hat.”

The gaudier, the better too, because the best hat at the party wins a prize. Prizes are doled out to a trivia contest winner and the person whose $10,000 wager (in Duncan Bucks – which is nothing more than Monopoly money) brings home the biggest payday. 

For even a novice Derby onlooker, the Duncan’s Derby Party is sort of like a Super Bowl party – the sporting event is secondary to the festivities. A live DJ keeps the party going and inside the house you can find plenty of Kentucky bourbon being passed around and enjoyed as well. 

But with a horse in this year’s race, will the Duncans be at Churchill or Duncan Downs? 

“We know this is probably a once-in-a-lifetime kind of thing, but if Mage wins, we felt like it would be so much better sharing that moment with our friends instead of strangers,” Melissa said. 

The Duncans have owned other horses, Dalmation Dancer was the first out of Tampa Bay Downs. A couple of years ago for Melissa’s birthday, Craig bought into a partnership with Commonwealth Thoroughbreds, which allows individuals to purchase shares of a horse. The first horse they bought into was Country Grammer, and in 2022 was the highest earning horse in the world, winning more than $11.2 million for the year. 

“It’s an investment where you buy shares of a horse,” Melissa said. “We’re not in this to make money. It’s a hobby and a thrill we do for love of the sport. It makes watching the races so much cooler when you have a horse to root for because you own a tiny piece of it.

“You aren’t going to get rich by any means, but it’s really special.”

That birthday present paid off so much that Mage was a Christmas gift from Craig to Melissa. 

The problem? He’d never raced – not even as a two-year-old. The secret? His pedigree.

“Craig loved Mage’s daddy (Good Magic) and granddaddy (Curlin), and that’s how he follows which horses he likes,” she said. 

Mage qualified with the aforementioned Place at the Florida Derby, where he lost to this weekend’s betting favorite, Forte, by only a length. 

On Saturday, Melissa made the trip to Louisville to check in on Mage while he trained, and she likes what she saw. After breezes of five furlongs and six furlongs at Gulfstream, Mage seemed to take a good hold of the track Saturday in his first work at Churchill.

“I drove to the track and got there when it was still dark in the morning,” she said. “I saw all the Derby horses work, but when he came out it was just magic. I don’t care how many times I’ve been, every time I see the twin spires, I cry. This time was different – a little more special.

“I don’t know what Churchill Downs has on me, but it’s an emotional experience for me.” 

If Melissa cries on Saturday, she hopes they will be tears of joy because her horse and his jockey – Hall of Famer Javier Castellano – will be wearing the roses as they ride into the Winner’s Circle.

“My emotions are already crazy and it’s still a week away,” she said. “I don’t know what the Duncan Derby Party atmosphere will be like if we win, but if you aren’t watching and you hear a sonic boom from out this way, you’ll know who won.”

And now, Your Hometown Memorials, Sponsored by Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home…  

Mr. Robert Seay Parks, 91, owner and operator of Parks Motor Sales, died Saturday, April 29, 2023, at his residence in Columbia. Private family grave and masonic services will be conducted at Neapolis Cemetery. A Celebration of Life will be held Friday from 5:00 P.M – 8:00 P.M. at Parks Motor Sales. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Jeffrey Paul “Jeff” Connelly, 49, self-employed mechanic, died Tuesday, May 2, 2023 at his residence in Santa Fe. Funeral services for Mr. Connelly will be conducted Friday at 7:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home. The family will visit with friends Friday from 4:00 P.M. until service time at the funeral home.

Mr. Jerry Lee Barber, 83, retired maintenance employee for DuPont in New Johnsonville for 36 years, died Saturday, April 29, 2023 at Life Care Center of Columbia from complication from Parkinson’s disease. A memorial service will be conducted Saturday at 2:00 P.M. at South Gate Church of Christ. The family will visit with friends Saturday from 12:00 P.M. until service time at the church. Burial will be in Swiss Cemetery in Hohenwald at a later date. Oakes & Nichols Funeral Directors are assisting the family with arrangements.

Mr. Timothy Alan “Tim” Riddle, 62, died unexpectedly Friday, April 28, 2023, in Kansas City, Missouri while on a business trip for the County of Volusia, Florida where he served as the Ocean Center Director. Graveside services for Mr. Riddle will be conducted Monday, May 8, 2023, at 2:30 P.M. at Polk Memorial Gardens. The family will visit with friends Monday May 8, 2023, from 12:00 noon until 2:00 P.M. at Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home.

…And now, news from around the state…

Mt. Olivet Cemetery (

Whether it’s an abandoned building or a historical site, for many, those kind of old places hold a certain allure for curious minds wanting to know more about them.

The Abandoned Tennessee Facebook page has more than 225,000 members who are constantly posting and consuming fascinating photos of places left to decay.

While most of those places are truly abandoned, there are other places that have made their mark in history that aren’t abandoned, like the Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Nashville.

It was founded in 1856 and stretches over 200 acres of land, located about two miles east of Downtown Nashville. It’s considered to be one of the most historic places in the Volunteer State.

From the unique architectural styles to the mausoleums and vaults scattered throughout the burial grounds, there’s a rich history to uncover.

Mount Olivet offers an overwhelming mix of history, beauty, nature and death.

Tennessee native, Mike Woods, has a great appreciation for the renowned cemetery.

“People ask what’s so interesting about visiting a cemetery that you don’t know anyone in? well, because it exists,” he said.

“Walking through the cemetery to me reading the list of names it’s like you’re scrolling through the road names in Nashville,” he said.

Names like Randall McGavock, who was a former Mayor of Nashville in 1824, as well as James Percy Priest, who represented Tennessee in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1940s can be found there.

Other famed men and women laid to rest at Mount Olivet include, Cornelia Fort, the first woman in U.S. history killed as a pilot on duty during the Pearl Harbor attack, William Bate, the 23rd governor of Tennessee, and Thomas Ryman of Ryman Auditorium.

“He was the guy who built the Ryman Auditorium, but of course it wasn’t that in his day he refused to have it named for him,” said Wood.

The Ryman was originally built as a church in 1892, called the Union Gospel Tabernacle.

After Ryman died in 1904, the buildings was renamed in his memory.

Whether it’s a desire to visit the gravesites of famous people, admire beauty, do genealogical or historical research, visiting well-known cemeteries has become a popular item on travel itineraries and Mount Olivet checks all of those boxes.

Final Story of the Day (Maury County Source)

This weekend packs a double whammy with Cinco de Mayo and First Fridays, but that's just the start as we make our way one week closer to summer.

The city of Columbia invites the public to join together in kicking off this year's Farmer's Market season at Riverwalk Park.

The city will host a special, as well as free, Springtime Jamboree starting at 10 a.m. Saturday at the park.

Activities will include live music, a "lost" Easter egg hunt, balloon art and the chance to meet your local farmers, not to mention the opportunity to shop fresh produce, locally-sourced meats and handcrafted items.

It's a new month, which of course means the first weekend kicks off with another festive First Fridays in downtown Columbia.

Shops will be open late, food trucks will be set up to serve, along with live music and lots of people enjoying the best Columbia has to offer.


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