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Mrs. Vardaman, 76, of Macclenny

Norma Jean Vardaman, 76, of Macclenny died on January 28, 2013 at Macclenny Nursing and Rehab Center. She was born in Elizabeth, West Virginia on October 14, 1936 to the late George Archibald Bain and Edna Stella Evans Bain and was a resident of Macclenny since 1978 after moving from Tallahassee. She was a Christian woman who enjoyed crocheting, working on puzzles and plastic canvases.

She also enjoyed volunteering and helping others. Norma was once employed by the Council on Aging assisting with the home health care program. She was a loving wife, mother and grandmother who will be missed. She was preceded in death by her son Ray Hyman; brothers and sisters Lawson Bain, Virginia Wehrkamp, Deloris Patterson, Blanche Freeland, Juanita Howard and Betty Watkins; half-sisters Adelia Learned and Gladys Cutler.

Mrs. Vardaman is survived by her loving husband of 34 years, William George “Bill” Vardaman of Macclenny; children Bill (Amy) Hoelscher and Mary Lynn (Kevin) Meyer of Celina, OH, Sandy (Pat) Vardaman of Gainesville, Anita (Paul) Patterson of Jacksonville and Sharon (Kenny) Vardaman of Clearwater; 10 grandchildren; 7 great grandchildren; sister Glenola (Skeet) Eddy.

The funeral service will be held at a later date, and interment will be at South Prong Cemetery. V. Todd Ferreira Funeral Services of Macclenny was in charge of arrangements.

Rowdy win over Forrest

Jefferson gets the rebound and the basket.The Baker High varsity basketball Wildcats got a pair of big wins over district opponents the past week to help move them into the second spot in the district race. The Cats defeated Forrest on January 22 and Terry Parker three nights later in the BCHS gym. The wins moved the Cats to 16-4 overall and 2-2 in the district race.

To call the 75-66 win over Forrest hard fought would be an understatement. This was a chippy game that saw the visitors hit with technical fouls and a delay of game warning.

It was a battle under the basket with an excess of physical play. At one point the benches cleared when a scuffle broke out involving CeCe Jefferson and other  players.

The Wildcats and Rebels went basket for basket in the early going. Forrest nailed shots from the outside, including a trio of three pointers. Jesse Gardner and Johnny Lamb answered with long range shots of their own and at the end of the first period the score was knotted 16-16.

The Rebels continued to shoot the ball well in the first half and slowly pulled ahead of their hosts. They broke the tie and went into the intermission up by three points.

The quality of a good team shows in its ability to make adjustments to what an opponent is doing, and the Cats came out in the third period to shut down the Rebels’ top three scorers. None of them scored in the period and BCHS went on a 15-7 run that gave them a five-point edge going into the final quarter of the game.

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Mental healthcare at root of curbing mass shootings

Gun control is one of those hot button issues that invites the partisan grandstanding and bickering that plagues our leaders in state and national government. But if there’s one point that the Obama administration and the NRA appear to agree on, it’s that our mental healthcare system needs some work.

As far as I can tell, it’s even more of a patchwork system than the traditional physical healthcare system and it has little in the way of an early warning mechanism that could prevent mass shootings before they happen.

It’s all too easy to dismiss the trigger men in mass shooting cases as crazy, evil or deranged and to blame their families, friends or coworkers for not doing something to stop them from committing such heinous crimes.

That pretty much gets society at large off the hook from taking responsibility for these murders or taking any action to prevent them in the future.

Deep down though, I think we all know that reducing the frequency and deadliness of mass shootings will take a collective effort to be more vigilant of each other’s behavior.

But even then, who do you call when you think there may be a problem?

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MLK’s final speech recited for annual tribute program

The annual Martin Luther King Jr. parade and program began and ended at Emmanuel Church of God in Christ adjacent to Keller Intermediate School the afternoon of January 21, the anniversary of MLK’s birthday.

The highlight of the program and new this year was Stephanie Gaskins and her daughter, 14-year-old Kelsey Wilcox, reciting an excerpt of MLK’s last public speech before he was shot in 1968.

In the speech, known as “the mountaintop” speech, MLK talks of when he was stabbed by a woman at a book signing in Harlem 10 years earlier and how the doctors told him the knife came so close to a critical artery, had he sneezed he would have perished in the attack.

“Like anybody, I would like to live a long life — longevity has its place,” said Ms. Gaskins, a high school teacher and tutor with the new Keller Outreach Ministry, which offers free tutoring to students at St. James Baptist Church.

For video from the parade and program, click here.

“But I’m not concerned about that now,” she continued. “I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the Promised Land. 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. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything, I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord.”

The parade included fire department and ambulance units, a few classic cars like the 1970 Buick Wildcat driven by former school board member Paul Raulerson with daughter and schools superintendent Sherrie Raulerson; and a number of residents carrying signs and banners paying tribute to the slain civil rights leaders.

A hot dog lunch was served following the parade  as public officials and others shared their reflections on the MLK’s life.

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