Missing Man - Frank Roth Is Now Found Man - Frank Roth

Frank Roth and his faithful companion Sunshine.Frank Roth and his faithful companion Sunshine.

By Alton Porter
News Reporter
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After going missing and being lost for almost two full days, an elderly Houston County man was found by searchers and reunited with his wife and family late Sunday morning, Nov. 12.
Frank Roth, 70, and his dog Sunshine were found by a search party just before 11 a.m. Sunday near where he had last been seen walking the dog in the area of County Road 1860 and Grapeland Country Club late last Friday afternoon.

After being located and his wife joined him at the scene, Roth was transported by helicopter to a Tyler hospital to be checked out.

According to a written statement released by Chief Deputy G.P. Shearer of the Houston County Sheriff's Office, when Roth was located, he seemed "to be okay."

"His dog Sunshine was found by his side and she was happy to see everyone as well," Shearer's statement noted. "He (Roth) was talking and able to recognize family and friends while at the scene."

Shearer wrote, Roth had "several scratches on his body, but (had) no complaints of serious injuries."

The chief deputy gave this account of the ordeal, Roth "took Sunshine for a walk by a lake near his home late Friday and never returned. Family (members) became concerned and contacted Sheriff's Office (personnel)," who "began to search for (him) immediately and summoned assistance from the Texas Department of Public Safety."

A helicopter equipped with FLIR (forward looking infrared radar) was dispatched to the scene, and sheriff's deputies and state troopers searched the immediate area along the lake's shoreline for any signs of Roth and Sunshine.

Saturday, Texas Parks and Wildlife searchers joined in the search with three police dogs and their handlers, along with a boat—equipped with a side-scan-radar system—to search the almost 40-acre lake. They also searched wooded areas around homes in the area.

Sunday, East Texas Mounted Search & Rescue (ETMSAR) brought in more than 20 people to assist in the search, and the search area was expanded. Soon afterwards, a team with ETMSAR located Roth a mile south of the lake through pastureland and heavy timber.

When he was found, he was laying on the ground inside a thick canopy of trees. The ground was sloped and Roth reportedly had lost his balance while traversing the wooded area Friday evening.

Grapeland's emergency medical service (EMS) responded to the scene, initiated treatment and started administering fluids to Roth. And the Air Rescue helicopter arrived shortly afterward and transported him to the hospital.

As soon as word broke Friday that Roth was missing, the Courier immediately posted the paper's first message about the ordeal on Facebook.

The Courier followed up that initial post with numerous Facebook updates, keeping readers apprised of developments in the missing person case and alerting the public to be on the lookout for Roth. Many Facebook readers responded to the Courier's posts.

The Houston County Sheriff's Office thanks "all agencies that assisted in this operation"—Texas Department of Public Safety, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, East Texas Mounted Search & Rescue, Grapeland EMS and Air Rescue—as well as Roth's family members and friends, and Grapeland Country Club personnel who assisted in the successful search.

Good Samaritan Generously Repairs Historical Markers

By Alton Porter
News Reporter
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George Young, shown above, displays his expert welding craftsmanship. Young repaired two damaged Houston County Historical Markers for the HCHC at little cost. George Young, shown above, displays his expert welding craftsmanship. Young repaired two damaged Houston County Historical Markers for the HCHC at little cost. When Houston County Historical Commission (HCHC) volunteers recently learned that two costly historical markers in the county had been badly damaged, they were faced with three options.

They could try to come up with about $3,600—funds they didn't have—to replace the markers, find someone to repair them or do nothing.
Since the first option was out of their price range and the third one was simply not an option at all to them, they decided to at least pursue the second alternative, not having any idea how much it would cost to have the markers restored.

So, they contacted George Young, a welder and former owner of Young's Welding Service & GT Truck Accessories, to get an idea what the cost to have the markers mended would be.

And much to their surprise and delight, Young would turn out to be a Good Samaritan of a sort, offering to do the job for little to no compensation.

"I would like to comment on how gracious Mr. Young was," said HCHC Chair Wanda Jordan. "He was so willing to just step up and use his expertise and help—not only save us money, but—get them (the historical markers) back up so that the driving public can see them.
"He was so gracious in saying, 'Sure, I can help. Sure, I can do it.' He didn't hesitate one minute. He just said, 'Yeah, bring them over to me.'"

Jordan explained, "He's a craftsman with a welding machine, believe me. He did a really good job (repairing the markers). These are castings made of a zinc compound; it's not an easy welding job to repair them. It takes a craftsman to do it."

"He deserves kind of a pat on the back for being a part of the community and being interested in trying to help. He's also done this in the past for us.

"We just so appreciate him volunteering his time and his expertise and his interest in the history of the county."
Jordan added, "We always stress that the biggest thing Houston County has to sell is its history. We say that we're trying to preserve and promote Houston County's historic and cultural resources. That's what he (Young) was trying to do—help us be able to do our mission. He made a significant contribution to preserving our history."

Jordan gives this account of the damaged markers and Young's act of generosity.

"We had two historical markers that were damaged, probably accidentally, on the highway. They were posted on the rights of way of roadways and didn't appear to be vandalized or otherwise deliberately damaged.

"They're quite expensive to replace. So, we got permission from the state for us to try to repair them.

"And Mr. Young over at Young's Welding has done that for us. TxDOT (Texas Department of Transportation) is going to put them back up for us.

"These markers are very expensive," she said. "They cost like $1,800 each to replace. So, the fact that he (Young) repaired them for us saved us a considerable amount of money.

"He was like a second or third generation businessman here in town in his family's welding shop. He has sold the business and is retiring. Special thanks to him for being a part of the community for as long as he has been."

One of the markers, which honors John Wortham (1804-1876), a pioneer era landowner and farmer who was a petitioner for the creation of Houston County in 1837, was located three miles north of Crockett off US Highway 287 at its intersection with FM 2160. It was posted in 1982.

The marker pays homage to Wortham, who later served as a captain of an independent ranger company, and was a major in the Republic of Texas Army and a quartermaster of the Texas Militia. He was appointed to the first Board of Land Commissioners for the Texas Republic.
Wortham was the great-grandfather of Eliza Bishop (1920-2009), who was known for her participation in civic affairs in Crockett and surrounding communities and most notably as historian of Houston County.

The other sign is the Arbor Community historical marker, which was posted near the entrance of this historic community at a location nine-plus miles east of Crockett on SH 7 and three-and-a-half miles south on FM 232. It was dedicated in 1994 and had been posted since that year.

This marker memorializes the settling of this community, which began back in the late 1820s and 1830s. Growth of the community began in earnest after the Civil War, when immigrants from the war torn states moved there to take advantage of the expanding cattle and cotton industries.

The pole of one of the markers was pulled out of the ground—possibly hit by a truck—and the other one was bent over, Jordan said. "One of them was split diagonally, so Mr. Young had to match together all the lettering of the sentences before welding it back together. It's not something your run-of-the-mill welder could do. He had to be pretty precise in doing the job."

These and other such markers must be approved by the Texas Historical Commission and are paid for by private citizens, such as family members of an individual, or by a community's residents, a school, a church or a cemetery association.

The HCHC is the local contact for markers that are situated in Houston County, Jordan said. "We're all volunteers; we have no paid staff. The county very generously provides us with office space (in the Houston County Courthouse Annex)."

HCHD Board Hears Plans of Potential Partners

By Alton Porter
News Reporter
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The Board of Directors of the Houston County Hospital District (HCHD) is diligently working to find a partner to team up with to reopen the county's hospital.

The directors met in closed session Tuesday, Oct. 24, with representatives of three entities, one of which they might choose to join with them in the near future to open again the hospital in Crockett.

Representatives of the three entities presented proposals on what they would do to reopen and maintain the hospital in the executive session.
HCHD Board President Deborah Blackwell said the representatives of the three organizations were given about 45 minutes each to present their proposals to the directors.

The proposals are being reviewed and considered by the directors and a statement will likely be forthcoming from the board on its consideration of the plans as the board progresses in its review and analysis of them, according to Blackwell.

"It was a late night," Blackwell said, describing the length of the meeting. "Nothing at this time (has been) resolved. We're going to probably have to call another special meeting. As soon as there is anything to announce, we'll let (it be known).

She said she is hopeful something positive—reopening of Houston County's hospital—will come out of the district officials' talks with the three potential partners.

The three organizations for which proposals were presented included CHRISTUS Trinity Mother Frances Health System, represented by Scott Schmidly, group vice president of strategy and business development for CHRISTUS Health Northeast Texas. This is the organization that owns CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic-Crockett, which is currently in operation in one of the buildings on the HCHD hospital's premises.

A second group for which a proposal was presented is CHI St. Luke's Health-Memorial of Lufkin, represented by Monte Bostwick, the organization's market chief executive officer and president.

A third organization for which a proposal was presented is a group that has formed under the name of The Crockett Healthcare Partnership, whose principal members are Dr. Subir Chhikara, a urologist who is affiliated with Seton Medical Center in Austin, and Dr. Kelly E. Tjelmeland, a board-certified cosmetic surgeon and the founding partner of Meridian Plastic Surgery Center in Austin.

During the part of Tuesday's meeting that was open to the public, Blackwell announced she had received a letter earlier that day notifying the board that the T.L.L. Temple Foundation of Lufkin has awarded HCHD a $300,000 grant.

"That's good news," she said, explaining, however, "there are some terms or stipulations on the grant." The three main conditions are "that we find a reputable hospital management partner, that the voters vote to remove the (15 cents per $100 of assessed property valuation) cap (on HCHD's tax rate) and that we remain a licensed hospital," said Blackwell. "So, we can't just open an emergency department."
There are nine such conditions, but these three "are the key things," Blackwell said.

Other stipulations include a requirement that the money be used for the hospital reopening and related activities project and no other purpose, that the district officials conform to all laws and that they submit written evidence of how the money is spent to the foundation staff members.

Blackwell said she applied for the grant right after Timberlands Healthcare ceased operating the hospital and it closed June 30.
During time set aside for public comments at Tuesday's meeting, Dr. Robert Grier, the HCHD board's Position 5 director, said to those present, "I want to encourage all of you to vote for our change of our taxation limit. I want you to vote. I want you to vote for the change, but I want you to vote."

Grier's statement was in reference to the on-going election, in which hospital district registered voters are being asked to vote for a proposition that would remove the current 15-cents cap on HCHD's property tax rate and revert to the general state law, which provides that Texas hospital districts may set their rates between one cent and 75 cents per $100 valuation.

Early voting in the election lasts through tomorrow, Monday, Oct. 30, and is being conducted in the Houston County Courthouse basement in Crockett and the Latexo Independent School District Administration Building in Latexo.

Election day is Tuesday, Nov. 7, and on that day voting will be held at the usual Houston County precinct polling places from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m.

Adding to Grier's remarks, Blackwell said, "I'll make one comment along those lines. I made a little statement in the (Thursday, Oct. 26, issue of the Courier). There's concern about the 75 cents (maximum) tax.

"After analyzing what other (neighboring) hospital districts (with similar hospitals) have for tax rates, (most are) somewhere between 19 cents and 29 cents. I can say from my standpoint—and I've talked to several other board members—we are not going to entertain doing something outrageous and raising taxes to some extreme level.

"So, I would say, reasonably (our rate) would be in that range—19 cents to 29 cents. Hopefully, that gives some people some comfort."
County resident Rita Floyd commented, "I think this county can be one of the greatest counties in the State of Texas. But, it takes people changing their old mindsets. I have lived here all my life. ... I also know that I love this county.

"My heart and soul is in this county, and I thank everyone of you who is on this board who has spent your time, your effort, your money, tears, prayers, everything you've done. I appreciate everything you all have done for us.

"It's time that this county changes its mindset and people rally together and come together to make this the best county. That's going to start with this hospital reopening because industries and businesses will come back to this county once a hospital is being re-established (here)."

Floyd said that will happen when "people come together with a new vision, a new purpose, and not stay in the old mindset that we can't afford this and we can't afford that. Until you think you can do differently, you'll never do differently. You're going to be stuck in a rut."
Benford Frizzell, another county resident, said, "There's nobody who hates taxes more than I do, but that's a necessary evil that you have to have. And, in this country where we live, you have to pay it if you want to have what you need.

"I don't know how you people have operated with 15 cents. ... If you don't get it (the proposition) passed and be able to go up so much you're going to go deeper and deeper in debt because everything is going up."

Fatality Crash Near Latexo

By David Hendry, Sergeant
Texas Highway Patrol

On October 14, Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Troopers investigated a one vehicle fatal crash on FM 2663, two miles east of Latexo.

The preliminary crash investigation indicates a 2004 Chevrolet SUV was traveling east on FM 2663 at approximately 8:54 p.m. when the vehicle left the roadway to the left, overcorrected to the right where it struck a culvert and overturned.

The driver of the vehicle is identified as Daniele Amezquita, 29, from Caldwell, TX. Amezquita was transported from the scene of the crash to ETMC-Tyler with unknown injuries.

A passenger traveling with Amezquita is identified as Steven Sherley, 34, from Crockett. Sherley was pronounced deceased at the scene by a Houston County Justice of the Peace.

This crash remains under investigation. No additional information is available at this time.

Vaccinations offered to those exposed to flood

LIVINGSTON -- Eligible Polk County residents, first responders and volunteers exposed to Hurricane Harvey floodwaters who have not had a tdap (Tetanus, Diphtheria, Pertussis) vaccine in the last 5-10 years can receive the vaccine and a flu shot from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday, Oct. 17 and 19.

The Texas Department of State Health Services will provide the vaccinations at the Dunbar Gym located at 1103 Dunbar Ave, Livingston, TX 77351

For questions, please contact Emergency Management at 936-327-6826.

Industrial Park Development Seeing Progress

By Alton Porter
News Reporter
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Development of the Crockett Industrial Park is showing signs of progress as the facility for one of three currently planned entities is under construction.

Building of the future Muscles & Curves Gym structure, located on land purchased on Crockett Industrial Park property off East Loop 304, is underway and James Gentry, executive director of the Crockett Economic and Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) hopes this will lead to development of the entire roughly 90-acre park.

Muscles & Curves Gym proprietors purchased the future site of the gym from the CEIDC, which owns the park, and preliminary construction on the new Muscles & Curves Gym facility began several weeks ago.

The other two facilities currently planned to be built on land in the industrial park are a Dodge Chrysler Jeep Ram of Crockett auto dealership by owners Bill and Marinda Sweatt and others, and a firefighters training facility by the Houston County Firefighters Association and the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2.

Land for the car dealership was cleared some time ago and the owners have received a commitment to provide 85-percent financing from Chrysler Capital, according to Gentry. He said the future dealership's proprietors are seeking to obtain a commitment for the other 15-percent of financing from a Crockett-area bank.

Muscles & Curves Gym is currently located on North 4th Street in Crockett and will be relocated to the Crockett Industrial Park site when construction of the new building is completed.

Cement for the concrete slab for the new facility was poured on Sept. 15 and erection of the steel frame of the building's structure began on Oct. 2.

"Building of the structure is coming along just exactly the way we planned," said Eunice Martinez-Kitchen, manager of the gym. "Our target opening date is mid-January or late January at the latest.

"This is our investment in Houston County and Crockett, Tex., to hopefully motivate economic development and better mental and physical well-being."

Martinez-Kitchen added, "When you're physically fit and you feel good about yourself, then you have a more positive attitude. It improves your attitude toward life in general. You're just generally a happier person.

"We've been in business 26 years, so we've seen from personal experience what physical fitness—the benefits of it—for many, many people who have been customers and have become friends.

"We look forward to many more years of service to our community. This facility is not just for those of us who own it. It's our gift to Crockett and Houston County. Everyone can enjoy this. This is our gift, as in a partnership, with the county. This is our investment.

"We encourage local residents to support local businesses. The owners of Muscles & Curves are local people—residents of Houston County and Crockett, Tex.—and support local businesses. They live here. They bank here. They shop here. And we support our local economy."

Gentry said, "They (Muscles & Curves Gym contractors) laid the pad several weeks ago and started steel going up on it last week. That (Muscles & Curves Gym) is the one that's going right now. I'm very happy and optimistic seeing that happening. And the impetus of getting started across the street (on the building of the dealership) will make my heart happier right now.

"I realize this is all a part of a process, so it's just a matter of getting the process complete."
Concerning the dealership, Gentry said, "We're just waiting for a follow up from the dealership (proprietors). They're just finalizing all their financing. They've got 85 percent of the financing pre-approved by Chrysler.

"And for the remaining portion, they want to try to do something with the banks here in the area. So, they've been in the process of negotiations with banks in the area here for the other 15 percent.

"I got a text (message) from them that they were in the process of just following up with some of the banks here in the area in my last communication with them last week.

"They're trying to do some investments in the area because they're looking at some potential for other business work in the area and want to be part of the community as well."

Concerning improvement of the rest of the Crockett Industrial Park land, Gentry said, "I'm hoping to do some development—clean up of the rest of the park—in such a way that we can present it in such a positive a way that will increase interest in the property.

"As a whole, we have right at 90 acres all together—all the way from 4th Street to 5th Street. And one of the things we are planning to do within this year is some manicuring and cleanup on some of the areas that need to be addressed on both of those streets so that people can see a vision of utilization of those properties."