Putting together this week’s boating on Lake Norman special section took me back a few years. Almost 30 of them, in fact.
It was the year 1987 when I first considered moving from Mint Hill, my first home in the Charlotte area since 1984, to a new construction neighborhood west of I-77 and the Huntersville town limits. There was talk that the innermost possible route of I-485 would border my back yard and, even though it eventually took the outermost path, I decided to get while the getting was good to a place with no traffic and little development, an area north of Charlotte called Lake Norman.
These are some facts to consider as the effort to learn more about ocular melanoma (OM) cases in the Huntersville area continues.
• Despite the Town of Huntersville’s eagerness to invest part of a $100,000 research grant in initial environmental testing at and around Hopewell High School and other areas in town, the highly regarded Hart-Hickman consulting firm in Charlotte — the company in position to be paid for the work no matter what they did or did not find — concluded that digging holes and taking samples would not be an efficient use of the town’s funds without more information about exactly what to look for
• Despite initially being ignored when they recommended a direct evaluation of and communication with OM patients and their families — through personal interviews, geospatial analysis, tissue sampling and other research-based practices — would be the best first steps to create a baseline of information about the local cases, a vast network of cancer, eye care and research specialists stayed committed and continued their voluntary efforts to expand their network to incorporate more insight and professional opinions about the Huntersville cases
Spring! It’s the time of year I look forward to most of all. While I spend my weekdays working at the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce, I look forward to those weekends when I can travel down to our family farm in Rock Hill, S.C., and work in the garden that I have toiled in for almost five decades.
My passion for gardening began as a little boy, when my Grandfather Russell first had me plant watermelon seeds in his garden. At the age of 7, I was creating little mounds with my small hands, dropping in my precious seeds and waiting for that day when I could plunge my fingers into a delicious Crimson Sweet.
Granddaddy didn’t confess up front all the work that went into harvesting that plump juicy melon. Instead, over the years, he broke me in slowly. By the age of 16, I was helping both grandfathers with their gardens. Typically, on Good Friday, we planted our seeds and sometimes our plants that yielded the corn, tomatoes, beans, melons, squash, cucumbers and peppers that we hopefully harvested later that summer.
A few weeks ago, I listened as a couple of local entrepreneurs shared the challenges they faced with their small business and I couldn’t help but recognize the similarities between those aspiring entrepreneurs and any determined farmer.
First and foremost, it all starts with that single seed. For many entrepreneurs, it might begin with at a kitchen table with a credit card and a dream. I still remember Jim Engel, the president of Aquesta Bank, sharing how the Lake Norman-based bank started in the basement of his home. Like most entrepreneurs, he began with a vision, surrounding himself with a close-knit team, facing challenge after challenge, on their journey to success.
Both the farmer and the entrepreneur will put in long hours and hard work, and for a farmer the heat, weeds and critters will challenge you every step of the way.
Farmers can usually recount the one good year versus all the bad. They must be patient and optimistic, realizing that perhaps next year can be better than this one.
As a farmer, you pray for good weather, and in some years it seems, the sweat and tears were about the only moisture that kissed the soil that whole summer. Yet, the risks should never be obstacles in pursuing your dream. They are merely steps along the way and we learn from each and every one.
Entrepreneurs face a new challenge every day — challenges that require perseverance and creativity. There are no shortcuts to success. Instead, they toil each day, creating new relationships and nurturing existing ones.
Perhaps there is no better example of entrepreneurship than Tom and Vickie VanWingerden, who immigrated to Huntersville from The Netherlands. They started their business in 1972 with a 20,000-square-foot greenhouse on Old Statesville Road. That 1-acre plastic covered structure has blossomed today into Metrolina Greenhouses, which employs 725 people year-round and another 600 seasonally. It is also the largest single-site heated greenhouse in the United States at 162 acres under roof. Quite an accomplishment for a farmer and entrepreneur!
My grandfather was never a wealthy man, just an old country farmer who toiled from sunup to sundown. Yet, he taught me a great deal — not just about farming, but about life. Anyone can plant a seed, but it takes a farmer or an entrepreneur to envision what it can become. It takes passion, perseverance, and yes, luck. But in the end, the fruit of our labor is the harvest of hope.
Bill Russell is the president of the Lake Norman Chamber of Commerce.
It isn’t about anger anymore, it’s about answers.
For several years, local individuals and families devastated by ocular melanoma diagnoses screamed for attention, shouted that something was wrong and demanded that someone, anyone, look for clues to explain why an extremely rare cancer that statistically strikes five to six people each year in the country had been found in 10 or more people with connections to southwestern Huntersville in a five-year period.
The tragedies of losing their daughters Kenan Colbert Koll, 28, and Meredith Legg Stapleton, 26, to ocular melanoma (OM) in 2014 made reluctant spokespeople out of Kenny and Sue Colbert and Basil and Robin Legg. They led the charge to expand awareness and discovered that several other OM victims had ties to Huntersville (14 cases are now included in the study) and at least one other, Summer Heath, was, like Kenan and Meredith, a former student at Hopewell High School.
The uncharacteristically warm days these past few weeks had me climbing into the attic to retrieve my summer clothes in anticipation of the spring and summer days ahead. Grabbing what I thought to be a box of summer shirts turned out instead to be old scrapbooks and albums.
Feeling nostalgic, I found myself perusing through a worn binder filled with photos from grade school and most of my early report cards. I laughed when I read the comments from my first and second grade teachers who cited “Billy is much too talkative,” and “Billy is a really busy boy,” which was polite Southern speak for “Billy simply cannot stay in his seat!”
We have covered local government proceedings enough to know that sometimes those who fought to get elected must sit back and wonder why. The seemingly simple but lingering process of considering one rezoning request is driving home that point for members of the Huntersville Town Board.
The size of the property, just over nine acres, is not monumental. And the proposed change from a rural designation to special purpose is apparently appropriate for a project expected to turn vacant land into a mini storage yard bordered by a key-man office building. But coping with the tangled web of issues affiliated with the decision, and being fully aware of the awkwardness or public outcry the consequences of a ruling — no matter how the vote goes — will trigger, has put commissioners in a position where they probably wish the matter would just go away.
Why is it that the smallest irritants in life are often the things that can tip you immediately right over the edge, with no warning to the poor souls around you who otherwise had no clue that you were just one twist shy of your panties being where you really don’t want them?
Like a rock in your shoe, it’s the small stuff that can really grate and grind on that last nerve you had left after the others were thoroughly frayed by family, friends and life in general.
If you still don’t get what I’m referring to, consider yourself fortunate. But I really don’t want to be in this state of borderline high dudgeon alone, so here’s a sample of something that regularly and absolutely pegs my irritation meter for no rational reason whatsoever.
Romantics of a certain age likely share a similar memory of what once happened in elementary schools everywhere, as the specter of an approaching Valentine’s Day hovers like chalk dust caught in afternoon sunbeams streaming through classroom windows.
Yes, classrooms used to all have windows.
It’s a memory — or a flashback, depending on the emotions elicited — that usually involved a shoebox, colored construction paper, scissors, glue and imagination, sprinkled liberally with good old childhood angst. The mission? It was two-fold. First, rack your brain to create on your own (this was in the time before the great Helicopter Parenting Disease scourge) a totally cool Valentine’s Day card “mailbox,” and then, lose sleep the night before the great card exchange in class, worrying about being that kid whose mailbox yielded a whopping two cards when it came time after recess for the big reveal — one card from your teacher and the other from the kid always chosen last for dodgeball because he was an unrepentant nose picker and his hands were otherwise occupied.
To be clear, while what they did was baffling, how they did it was worse.
The Huntersville Town Board’s “special session” on Monday, Jan. 9, which concluded with a brief open meeting to accept the requested resignation of veteran Town Manager Greg Ferguson, was announced and conducted well within the formula spelled out in state statutes.
Notice of the meeting was posted around 4:30 on Friday afternoon, 73 hours before the scheduled meeting. The statutes for such a meeting simply require 48 hours notice and don’t specify that those 48 hours should be within normal work days, or really shouldn’t be timed to coincide with the weekend — or a weekend when those most interested in such announcements, including town employees, are understandably preoccupied by other matters (in this case, the uncertainty of just how bad a well publicized wave of snow, ice and frigid temperatures might be).
For the first time in about six years, my desk was clean, most of the contents in a box on an empty desk on the other side of the newsroom while we were only a few hours from putting to bed the Lake Norman Citizen for the last time at 307 Gilead Road in Huntersville.
This week, we composed the Jan. 11 paper from a new location about a mile away. As we were applying the final touches to last week’s edition, crews were busily finishing the conversion of the former Foster’s Frames location on Old Statesville Road into our new office. Foster’s will be re-opening soon at its new location just south of us on Highway 115 next to Huntersville Town Hall. Thanks in no small part to the efforts of staffer Lori Helms who coordinated the technical details of the move — don’t blame us, she volunteered for the job — we’re now (mostly) settled in to our new home, which happens to be the childhood home of our majority owner Irv Hager, whose patience and guidance along with that of his wife, Beccy, has been crucial to the success of the Citizen.
I wish I had done more.
Driving to the office a few days after Christmas, more relaxed than normal because for that one special week deadlines didn’t exist, I fell into line in the lighter-than-usual string of southbound commuters on N.C. 115 passing through Davidson. Despite the reduced congestion, there were still a few drivers completely convinced that their very existence depended on getting wherever they were going before I did. And others who felt that the mere presence of their bumper as close as possible to mine would make the car in front of me move faster.