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New vets council forming

A new group — the Baker County Veterans Council — is forming to help support local veterans and their families.

Tony Esterling, director of the Baker County Veterans Affairs office, said the council aims to recruit veterans and their families to join forces and assist other area veterans in any way they can, whether it’s financial help, mowing a widow’s lawn or guiding a veteran to employment or housing.

The council recently raised money to help a disabled veteran who lost his job and was in danger of losing his home, Mr. Esterling said.

The council is seeking nonprofit status through the Internal Revenue Service, which among other benefits will allow donors to write-off their charitable gifts and reduce their federal tax liability.

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‘Charmer’ Mabel Brazil at 90

Mabel Grazil on the porch of her historic College Street home.Mabel Brazil loves to chat.

At 89 years old, and about to mark her 90th birthday on June 20, the Macclenny resident for the last 42 years has many stories to tell.

There’s how she met her husband of 65 years, the late Dallas Brazil, at 16 years old in the Springfield neighborhood of Jacksonville while roller skating around big rose garden.

“Him and his brother-in-law were sitting on a park bench just doing nothing,” she remembers. “We struck up a conversation and went from there. From there all the way to here.”

Then there’s the 10 years Ms. Brazil spent in a dance troupe, “The Charmers,” performing 1920s-era-flapper shows for woman’s clubs and other groups both here and in Georgia during the 1990s.

“One time we had back-to-back shows for five days,” she recalled.

Or how she and her husband moved to Baker County in 1970 following his retirement from the railroad. They later bought the College Street house where Ms. Brazil still resides, an historic structure built in 1901 and restored by her husband.

“He was a good husband, a good provider, a good moral person,” she said of Mr. Brazil. “He had a good reputation. He never did things like drinking and gambling that a lot of people do now. He was a good man.”

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Class of ’87 finally walks

Lori Sullivan receives her diploma.A cluster of thunderstorms passed over Baker County the afternoon of May 31 but cleared out in plenty of time to avoid wrecking the Class of 1987’s second graduation ceremony as they did some two-and-half decades before.

About 7 pm several dozen ‘87 graduates or family members of deceased graduates gathered at Memorial Stadium before the same stage that the Class of 2012 would cross the following night.

They heard from former Baker High principal Danny Boutwell, classmates, former schools superintendent Tim Starling and others before their names were called to accept diplomas as a few hundred friends and family cheered them on.

“Aren’t you glad we won’t be called that class anymore,” said ‘87 grad and Macclenny dentist Dr. Margaret Cannon, who welcomed everyone to the event.

She and other speakers reminisced about what high school was like in  the late 1980s. There were no cell phones and no computers, but you still had to pay your past due library fees to receive a diploma, as Mr. Starling reminded them.

See video from the ceremony here.

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Pre-prom ‘shock show’ at BCHS

Colton Butcher, playing a victim in the mock DUI, is tranported by first responders to a nearby ambulance.A high school keg party ended and a young couple drove home in their Jeep. Another couple was heading home, too, but from the movies in a van.

Their vehicles collided head-on, killing the young woman in the Jeep’s passenger seat and seriously injuring the couple in the van. The Jeep’s driver, a young man bloodied from the crash, survived, but was led away in handcuffs after failing a field sobriety test administered by a sheriff’s deputy.

That was the scene laid out before juniors and seniors the morning of May 9 at Baker County High School. It’s a scene that school administrators and faculty hoped wouldn’t be repeated in the coming weeks as students celebrate prom and then graduation.

The mock DUI, as it’s called, is an annual spring event to showcase the tragedies that can result from mixing alcohol and driving.

Last year’s mock DUI, though, was canceled due to a real-life tragedy and the grief-filled aftermath that gripped the high school last spring: the death of senior Rashard Belford. He was killed on April 9, 2011 when a car driven by another young man involved in a fight nearby ran over him in southwest Macclenny.

The 40-minute program, narrated by Sheriff Joey Dobson and organized by the high school’s campus deputy Matt Riegel, included police, firefighters and emergency medical personnel who responded to the staged accident as they would normally.

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