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A life well-lived

Last Saturday, Trousdale County lost long-time resident and advocate Eleanor Ford who left an indelible mark on many in the local community.

Her influence and unending energy made a lasting impression on Trousdale County that isn’t expected to soon fade away.

Although Ford was born in Louisville, Kentucky, on Nov. 30, 1924, Hartsville became the home that she tirelessly worked to better.

“She did so much for our town and all the people around her,” said Trousdale County Mayor Jack McCall. “I have never known anyone like her.”

Trousdale County Director of Schools Clint Satterfield added, “Mrs. Ford was a very special lady who did a lot for our community.”

According to those who knew her best, Ford approached life with youthful energy and purposed to make a difference in the lives of young people.

“She was my champion,” said First National Bank Senior Vice President and family friend Robert Thurman. “She was a wonderful mentor for me, and she really encouraged me when I was just an insecure little kid.”

Wilson Bank & Trust Manager and family friend Seth Thurman added, “She was the youngest person you’d ever meet.”

For many years, Ford was the executive director of the Hartsville-Trousdale County Chamber of Commerce and the owner of the local florist, Flowerland. Additionally, she was the first president of the Hartsville Parent Teachers Association (PTA), a Brownie scout leader, a Sunday school teacher, the first Ms. Senior Tennessee, and host of a weekly radio program.

“She and I started doing a radio show on Fridays to talk about what was going on in Trousdale County,” said radio host Jerry Richmond. “She did that show up until the last Friday in April of this year. The show was called ‘Lunchtime with Eleanor.’ ”

Because Ford loved her community, she advocated for many projects that she believed would enhance the life of the community.

“She was a great advocate for our community,” said Seth Thurman. “She would either wear you down, or go toe to toe with you to get what she needed, especially for Trousdale County.”

Richmond added, “She called herself a professional, shameless beggar for Hartsville. And she didn’t mind asking anybody for something if she thought it would benefit Hartsville.”

The building of the Hartsville walking track and the auditorium at Trousdale County High School are two of the many projects that Ford threw herself behind that have benefitted the local community.

“She had wanted an auditorium for the county for quite a while,” said Satterfield. “When they built the new high school, she advocated for the auditorium to be built there. That way, the community could use it as well as the school.

“Then, the board of education decided, because of her efforts in getting the auditorium built, to name it after her, the Eleanor Ford Theatre.”

But rumor has it that Ford went head to head with the Army Corp of Engineers in a battle to get the Hartsville walking track built.

“It is quite unusual to touch the Corp of Engineers, but Miss Eleanor, she wore them down,” said retired Trousdale County High School Principal Toby Woodmore. “She was persistent. She got a lot done for Trousdale County because she was persistent. Miss Eleanor just didn’t take no for an answer.”

Ford married her husband, Dean Ford, on Dec. 24, 1941, and together they had one son, Stephen.

“She adored her husband, Dean, and he adored her,” said McCall. “But they were so different. He was really laid-back and quiet, and she was flowery and loud and vivacious.”

Ford is survived by her son and daughter-in-law, two grandchildren, four great-grandchildren, four great-great-grandchilden, and her sister.

And through her tireless efforts and a life well-lived, Ford leaves behind a vast legacy for her family and the community that she loved.

Just getting started

Hartsville business owner Regina White first began the Trousdale County Christmas for Kids program nearly 40 years ago, which since, has faithfully served local children and their families who are experiencing financial hardship.

Since 2015, the program has been run as a joint venture between the Hartsville Rotary Club and the nonprofit organization Just Hope to help deliver a merry Christmas to local children in need.

“Rotary does the program in conjunction with Just Hope,” said Hartsville Rotary Club President Chris Gregory. “Just Hope basically provides the financial oversight, and the Rotary Club provides the manpower.”

But each year, the undertaking depends on the generous donations of local businesses, individuals, and volunteers who are willing to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged children.

“The volunteers are amazing people,” said Hartsville resident and parent Alyssa McDonald. “These people are genuine. They are people who really want to help kids.”

Gregory added, “We couldn’t make it happen without the volunteers from our community.”

With six children, McDonald and her husband know all too well the difficulties of making ends meet while trying to provide a nice Christmas for their family.

“I signed up for Christmas for Kids again this year, because, honestly, we’re struggling right now,” said McDonald. “We’ve participated in the program for six years. The struggle is real for many people.”

Christmas for Kids not only provides children with toys, but it also provides much-needed clothing items.

“Parents are given a bag (for each child) with brand new clothes, shoes, and a coat in it,” said McDonald. “Then, the parents get to shop for toys for their kids. You get three or four toys a per child. It’s really awesome.”

In the past, children who were signed up to participate in Christmas for Kids were taken to local stores to shop for gifts before Christmas. But in recent years, the program has had a paradigm shift and now has parents pick up donated items for their children at a central location so that the presents can be placed under the Christmas tree.

“Many other organizations choose the toys that the children receive, and sometimes, the toys may not be appropriate for the child,” said McDonald. “With Christmas for Kids, parents get to shop for their kids. And with parents picking up the presents, they can all be put under the tree for Christmas morning. I think that’s awesome, because Christmas presents should be for Christmas morning.”

As a parent, McDonald had kind words for the many Christmas for Kids volunteers and sponsors, and for the program itself.

“This is a really great program, and the volunteers truly want to help others,” said McDonald. “They give their time, their gas, and other expenses and never say a word ... they just do it. They are so amazing.”

This year’s Christmas for Kids gift distribution will take place on Dec. 20 at the Trousdale County High School auditorium, located at 262 McMurry Blvd. in Hartsville. Parents can pick up their children’s items between 9 a.m. and noon.

Next stop ... Hartsville

The train has left the station, and the next stop will be at the Hartsville Church of Christ on Dec. 17.

The Polar Express makes another round this Christmas, featuring special guests Santa and Mrs. Claus.

Tickets for the event will be handed out during the Hartsville Christmas parade on Saturday, but tickets will also be available at the door.

“All tickets are free,” said Hartsville Church of Christ minister and Polar Express conductor Jerry Burchett. “You don’t have to have a ticket to come, but you do have to have a ticket to get in. So, if you did not get a ticket beforehand, magically, you will receive a one at the door if you come.

“As the conductor, I will walk around with a clicker in my hand, like the one Tom Hanks used in the (“Polar Express”) movie, and when the guests first come through, they will get their ticket punched.”

Each year, the Polar Express draws a sizable crowd, as the church serves the community.

“We do it as an outreach ... just giving families an opportunity to come and do something fun,” said Burchett. “It’s free to everybody that wants to come. So, if there are families that may not be able to afford to go to other Christmas events, we’ve taken (the issue of cost) out of the equation.”

This year’s Polar Express will feature various kid-friendly activities including reindeer games, prizes, ornament making, pictures with Santa, refreshments, and a special mailbox in which to mail letters to Santa Claus.

“(Guests) will see Santa Claus first and get their picture taken,” said church member Linda Adcock. “Then, they’ll circle around to the back and have refreshments. We’ll have a section roped off to sit down and eat and visit, and then, they can finish going around the room to all the activities. By then, their pictures with Santa Claus will be ready for pick-up on a table.

“There will be a lot of fun activities. The children can make bags of reindeer chow and Christmas ornaments. They can stop and write a letter to Santa Claus, and then put their letters in a big mailbox.”

And although not required, children are encouraged to wear their pajamas while enjoying a cup of hot chocolate and other treats at the event.

“We will serve hot chocolate with brownies and cookies,” said Adcock. “We will also give out little brown bags with toys and candy in them.”

The Polar Express is free and will be held on Dec. 17 between 2 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the fellowship hall of the Hartsville Church of Christ, located at 108 Halltown Road in Hartsville.

Trousdale County Schools receive "strong scores"

The Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE) released the 2021-2022 State Report Card on Nov. 28, detailing how well local public schools and districts performed statewide.

The report card contains general information in multiple categories, including achievement, growth, chronically out of school, graduation rate, ready graduate, and overall success rate.

“With the release of the state report card, Tennessee continues our firm commitment to providing families with clear, actionable information on how our districts and schools are serving students,” said Tennessee Commissioner of Education Penny Schwinn. “The report card allows stakeholders to access years worth of meaningful data through an interactive, easy-to-navigate online platform, and now, the latest data is available to help Tennesseans to explore and learn about their local schools and districts.”

According to Trousdale County Director of Schools Clint Satterfield, the Trousdale County School District received strong scores on the state report card, which Satterfield feels is indicative of the hard work of many throughout the year.

“We had a good year,” said Satterfield. “Administrators, teachers, and parents have work really hard, and we have held our students to a high level of expectation.”

On the state report card, in the areas of achievement, growth, and graduation rate, Trousdale County received scores of four out of four.

However, in the chronically out of school category, the district only received a three out of four.

Other categories on the report card received percentage scores. In the overall success rate category, Trousdale County received scores of 45.4% (in elementary school), 49.4% (in middle school), and 39.8% (in high school) as compared to the state average of 33.8%.

The school district received a score of 75.9% in the area of ready graduate (students who are post-secondary ready) as opposed to the state average of 39.7%.

“Ready graduate students are those who performed well in high school by making either a 21 or higher on the ACT (college-entrance exam) or have completed at least two dual-enrollment courses and two industrial certifications, or have completed four dual-enrollment courses,” said Satterfield. “This is an area of which we are quite proud. That means 75.9% of our students are post-secondary ready.”

Additionally, Trousdale County fell below the state average in per-pupil expenditures as compared to the state average.

“We are funded lower than the state average — our local funding is less — but our scores are exceeding the state,” said Satterfield. “How is that for value? It’s all about economy and value. We had perfect scores everywhere else, except in the two places, per-pupil expenditures and chronically out of school.”

Nevertheless, the Trousdale County School District received several distinctions from the state last year recognizing all of its positive work.

“If you filter through that report card, you will find that we were a Best for All district ... we were a mentor district for Reading 360 and Tennessee All Corp,” said Satterfield. “We are an Exemplary School District, and 100% of our schools are Reward Schools.

“Overall, I think it was an excellent report card. I think it highlights the hard work of our administrators, our teachers, our kids, and their families. You don’t get those kind of results just by chance.”

Trousdale County High junior Jake Fergusson elevates for a first-half layin as Red Boiling Springs junior Chris Hackney challenges.