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A deep freeze was felt throughout Refugio County as Winter Storm Uri wrecked the Coastal Bend. (Photo contributed by Chrissy Gray)

With the book closing in 2021, it is time to take a look back at five of the top stories that made up the news cycle for the year. 2021 certainly was not any less eventful than 2020 judging by the large number of interesting stories that made their way to the Refugio County Press.

Meacham vaults into the history books

As detailed in the May 20 issue of the Refugio County Press, Woodsboro High School track phenomenon Anthony Meacham achieved his personal vault record of 17 feet at the Texas State Track and Field Championships.

This 17-foot pole vault broke a Texas state record that had stood for 26 years, putting the then junior among the greats of the sport. This mark put Meacham among the top pole vaulters in all of Texas high school athletics and the seventh best pole vaulter in the United States of America.

Meacham worked hard to reach this goal, though he notes he never imagined he would make it as far as he had.

“It’s a real blessing because I never thought I would be here,” said Meacham.

He won the state gold medal pole vault, beating second place by nearly three feet.

During the event at the Mike A. Myers Stadium, home of the Texas Longhorns track unit, Meacham also participated in the long jump competition, which only aided in his pole vaulting conquest further down the line. Meacham placed third in the long jump.

“It’s an everyday thing for me I guess,” said the Woodsboro native. “Everybody has pushed me to where I am today and the community is great. They always know everything that you’re doing, no matter what’s happening. They always try to keep up. They always try to be where you are.”

Meacham began his athletic career as a lineman in pee-wee football before branching off into other sports.

Soon Meacham found his calling in pole vaulting. It just felt right, he recalls. Meacham dedicated much of his time to perfecting the sport, even winning state in 2019 and placing top in the nation for his class. Meacham drew the attention of universities throughout the county.

In November, Meacham at last declared that he would be attending the University of Kansas following his senior year at Woodsboro High School before attempting to reach the Olympic level.

“I really try to keep to myself a lot,” said Meacham. “Try to just stay as humble as I can. Not try to show off or do anything like that. ... I stay in my own little bubble and I try to do what I can to just be the best part of me.”

Famed Refugio journalist Galloway dies

Not all of the top stories that came from 2021 were quite so cheerful. Joe Galloway, a Refugio native who went from local name to world wide fame died, as reported in the Refugio County Press’s Aug. 26 issue.

Galloway was one of the most noted war journalists in American history. He died at the age of 79 on Aug. 18.

Galloway’s work has been featured across the globe through print and the big screen, even inspiring the 2002 film “We Were Soldiers.”

Galloway was born in Bryan on Nov. 13, 1941, before his family relocated to Refugio due to his father’s new job with Humble Oil.

As an adult, Galloway started his journalism career in Texas before moving to United Press International in Kansas City and Topeka. While there, Galloway covered the Vietnam War, quickly being recognized as one of the finest war journalists in the U.S.A.

Galloway had boots on the ground in Vietnam, even putting his own life at risk to rescue a wounded soldier during the Battle of La Dang. Thirty-three years after the fact, Galloway was awarded the Bronze Star for this act.

The movie “We Were Soldiers’’ was inspired by the book “We Were Soldiers Once ... And Young” which Galloway co-authored with Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore. The 1992 book sold over 1 million copies, gaining praise for its precise accounts.

General H. Norman Schwarzkopf, commander of the U.S. Coalition Forces during the Gulf War praised the book for its writing. The book has also been on the Marine Corps Commandant’s Reading List for Career Level Enlisted since 1993.

Galloway’s storied life took him to Tokyo, New Delhi, Singapore and Moscow. It included coverage of the 1971 India-Pakistan War and the Gulf War.

“... Joe was an outspoken, irascible, and usually unfiltered advocate for the Vietnam veterans. We will miss his voice, his unique perspective, and his kindness to our troops,” said the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund in a social media post following his death.

Deep freeze hits county

One thing many Texans will never forget about the beginning of the year is just how cold it got in the middle of February.

On Feb. 25, the Refugio County Press reported on the aftermath of Winter Storm Uri, which brought the entire state of Texas to a standstill.

Uri was supposed to be a light winter storm, but as it blew through the Coastal Bend, it knocked out power throughout the entire area. The below freezing temperatures caused mass power outages as thousands were left without light and heat for an extended period of time. Due to the cold, plants began to trip offline. In response, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) directed electric utilities to interrupt services to mitigate further damages to the power grid. By Feb. 16, a little over 34% of the county was out of service.

It was not until Feb. 18 that power began to slowly be restored to Texas customers. By Feb. 19, only 51 Refugio County customers were shown to be without power.

The town of Woodsboro was hit the hardest, with approximately half of the town without power on Feb. 14.

The storm also caused major damage to the water lines and roads, with Woodsboro forced to shut off its water supply. The local schools were also forced to shut their doors.

Warming centers were set up at Woodsboro ISD’s Dome and at the Refugio County Community Center to serve as a refuge. The storm also hampered the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

Although the storm has long since passed, Texans will not soon forget the biting cold they faced for days on end.

Refugio cheerleaders perform in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade

Three Refugio cheerleaders performed in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as reported in our Dec. 9 issue. Lia Ramirez, Alanna DeLeon and Presleigh Barber went to New York to participate in the nationally televised parade.

This was in no small part thanks to Spirit of America Productions, which organized two performances during the parade. Ramirez, DeLeon and Barber were part of the cheer performance, consisting of cheerleaders from around the county.

According to Refugio cheer coach Hannah LaFond, she receives a certain number of invitations every year that she offers to the cheerleaders. LaFond marched in the parade when she cheered during her senior year.

The cheerleaders had to raise the money to go on the trip themselves, as the trip was not paid for by the school. This was done through events like bake sales and raffles.

Over 500 cheerleaders participated in the parade. Participation is on a first come, first serve basis. To qualify, cheerleaders must be in their senior year and be in good standing.

All three of the cheerleaders were nervous about the experience, however, in the end, they all enjoyed their time in New York.

Upon returning home, they all agreed that the memories they made participating in the parade are memories they will never forget.

Woodsboro teens indicted, arrested

The final, top story for the Refugio County Press started under tragic circumstances. An unnamed Black juvenile was allegedly harassed and assaulted by three Woodsboro high school students. At the time, attorney Matthew Manning stood up to represent the unnamed alleged victim. After a little over a month, Noel Garcia Jr. and Rance Bolcik were charged with organized criminal activity and tampering with evidence, both of which are felonies. The indictment was further enhanced due to evidence that they allegedly selected their victim due to a bias or prejudice against African Americans.

Following the indictment, Garcia and Bolcik were both arrested. If convicted they could face between two and 10 years in prison, as well as a $10,000 fine.

In response to the arrest, Manning said he was happy to see the justice system working through the process of indicting the perpetrators, though Manning notes that he felt distressed that these events happened at all.

“Thanks to my client standing strong, the diligence and professionalism of the Texas Rangers and the 24th Judicial District Attorney’s Office and the support of and information provided by citizens, two of the three perpetrators of this crime have been indicted and arrested for their assault on my client.

“... I do not revel in criminal charges brought against anyone, particularly having represented many accused people over the years, however, I am thankful that those involved in this hate crime are being held to account.”

Garcia and Bolcik await arraignment on the charges.

Honorable mentions

While these five stories stood out as the top stories of the year, many others were in the running. Honorable mentions go to:

• Christmas in Refugio

• Officer of the year arrested

• Dukes, Skrobarcek vie for mayoral position

•mtamez@mysoutex.com•

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