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2017 brought growth, sadness, success

The year 2017 included several historic moments and was a year of growth, renovation, loss and stormy days for many in Pike County. See the Journal Reporter’s special Year in Review section on pages 1-8B. Thousands from the Pike County community and across the U.S. took part in welcoming home Lt. Robert Eugene Oxford of Concord as he returned to his hometown in June for burial – more than 73 years after he was killed in action during World War II. His remains were discovered high in the Himalayan Mountains where the bomber plane he was aboard crashed on Jan. 25, 1944. A packed out memorial service was held at the Pike Auditorium and hundreds of citizens lined the roads from Zebulon to Concord during the funeral procession to Magnolia Cemetery where he received full military honors, including taps and a rifle volley. The CrossPointe Cavaliers and the Pike County High School Pirates both made history for their teams, setting many team and individual player records in the football season. The Cavaliers became Division I GICAA Champions and played in the first ever GICAA Divisional Bowl. The Pirates ended their historic season in the third round of state playoffs and made a good showing against the undefeated, defending championship team. They set a school record for the most points scored in a season with 408 points. In addition to new Dollar General stores, the Georgia Military College announced they would open a campus in Zebulon, with classes to start in 2018. A new food bank, Collier’s Community Services, opened toward the end of the year and it was announced that the Pike Firefighter’s Museum Inc. will soon be open to the public. The Zebulon City Park was rededicated after many new additions and renovations. The iconic Vietnam-era helicopter in Williamson was repaired and repainted by volunteers and returned to the city with a new structure built to house the historic aircraft. Many families lost loved ones in 2017, including the Pike County Elementary School family and loved ones of the late coach Brandon Brown. The Enders family was lost in a tragic airplane crash during spring break in Florida, including parents Nathan and Laura Enders and sons Jaden, 7, and Eli, 5. Playground equipment for the primary school was purchased and installed in honor of the Enders boys. A celebration of life service was held in March for the late Ron Alexander and Peachstate Airport in Williamson was renamed as the Alexander Memorial Airport. The life of Brandon Brown was celebrated with a concert and festival to fund a college scholarship for local students. At the elementary school, the lives of late students Leland Shoemake and Allison Renee Smith were honored with the installation of Buddy Benches in February – a place for students looking for a friend to sit. The year started out with heavy rains causing flash floods and washed out roads, culverts and bridges. Locals first stepped up to help those in south Georgia who were devastated by a round of January tornados. Helpers also stepped up in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma as many local residents collected and delivered supplies to victims of the vicious storms. High winds and rains from Hurricane Irma hit Pike hard, downing at least 73 trees over roadways and leaving thousands without power – some for many days. To read more about the top news stories of 2017, see the special Year In Review section on pages 1-8B.

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