Twelve years ago this month, I spent a Friday night riding around Thomson with John Holiman.
I was 18 years old, cutting my newspaper teeth with the McDuffie County Chronicle and finagled my way into a ride-along with Thomson's Assistant Police Chief.
The officer known in police radio jargon as "109" had been with the force about 11 years then and filled his Friday nights with Hardee's coffee, patrolling along Main Street and serving as the catch-all for various calls.
I had known John for years -- he, like a lot of other folks in Thomson, thought a lot of my father and we'd been out to his house to practice shooting.
My night on patrol in December 1992 still stands as one of my favorite newspaper assignments. In fact, John and I talked about it earlier this year as he worked a security detail at the Tom Watson Watermelon Festival. It was the same conversation that he mentioned this would be his last year as assistant chief. After 22 years as a Thomson policeman -- following stints in the Air Force, postal service, and security at SRS -- it was time, he said, to move on to other things in life, like hunting, fishing, grandchildren and golf.
It was a little strange earlier this week as I stopped by the law enforcement center and saw John's Explorer backed into a parking space.
There's a void there for me, and one in the city's police force. At some point, after an application process, they'll fill John's position, but they'll struggle to replace him. He was one of a kind, and I'll be forever indebted to him for taking me under his wing on a cold December night and showing me the inside of police work.
Good luck, old friend. May your fairways be wide, fishing lines wet and family forever close.
Last week also marked the end of our 2004 Angel Tree campaign. And what an effort it was.
We were able to fulfill more than 20 wishes for kids across the area, plus funnel a stack of presents from the Toys for Tots Trail Ride to Agape Ministries.
Special thanks needs to go to the following people who adopted an angel (or, as in several cases, a couple of angels): Mary Ann Coussons, ReBecca Cavnor, Judy Garrison, Judy Candler, Mary Ashley Gibson, The Mirror staff, the Thomson-McDuffie Chamber of Commerce board, Shelena Bentley, Emily Cranford and the McDuffie County Sheriff's Department. Also, in something that truly touched my heart, someone anonymously adopted an angel in memory of Bobby Crosby.
It's things like that that warm your soul and make you forget the sleet and the freezing weather. Thanks to everyone who helped make Christmas a little brighter for our community.
Meanwhile, thanks for your support of The Mirror during the last year and here's hoping to an even better 2005. Happy new year everyone.