Dickey earns title of both dad and real life hero

Local father of two (pictured here with his wife, Debra, and two sons, Max and Macon) is a hero to more than a few kids in both Lynchburg and beyond. {Photo Provided}

Webster’s dictionary defines hero as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities and according to our sources, at least one local dad fits this description to a tee. He’s a hero at home, in the classroom, and even while on vacation.

Many people know Lynchburg native and father of two, Dusty Dickey, as different things. To some, he is a dedicated fourth grader science teacher who brings adventure into his classroom every day. To others, he’s the life-of-the-party DJ who often donates his time and disc jockeying skills to non-profit events like Halloween in the Hollow. To others, he’s the aw shucks seasonal distillery tour guide with a lineage that connects directly to Jack himself. But on a recent family vacation to Broken Bow, Oklahoma with wife, Debra, and two sons, Macon and Max, Dusty earned the title of modern days hero.

“We were floating on the Mountain Fork River,” Debra says. “Just enjoying a family day on the river when we suddenly heard kids screaming in the distance.”

Debra says at first, all four of them assumed the kids were just enjoying their day on the water too … then they noticed the look of panicked fear in their eyes and Dusty jumped into action.

“He didn’t hesitate,” Debra says. “He jumped right in. When he reached the boys, they clung to him for safety.”

With a little patience and encouragement from the banks by Debra, Macon, and Max, the trio slowly edged down river until they found a safe spot to climb back onto the shore. Apparently, the boys had been playing up stream when the current dragged them under the bridge and towards the rapids. Luckily, they were both wearing life jackets.

“I was so proud of my family for jumping in a helping,” Debra said. “Dusty truly saved those boys.”

Hero in the classroom as well

Though Dusty can spin a good yarn on a Jack Daniel’s tour, the river rescue isn’t a story he’d likely repeat. Known as an outgoing, big personality, he’s not much for tooting his own horn. That’s okay, there are lots of others willing to do that for him, like Holly Burton, the mother of a special needs student at Lynchburg Elementary.

Her son, Avery, who suffered a stroke In utero, learns in the special needs classroom of Debra at LES. Dusty makes a point to show Avery at every opportunity that he is “differently-abled” not disabled, Holly says.

“When he made soup in the classroom, he let Avery pour the veggies from the can. When they planted peas, he let Avery get his hands dirty and feel like all the rest of the kids and have fun,” Burton says. “He’s made a difference in Avery’s school life and there’s not a day Mr. Dusty isn’t mentioned at our house.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic forced local schools to shutter, not only did Dickey post weekly science experiments on his Facebook page, he also called Avery everyday to check in on him.

When we asked Dusty’s sons recently to describe their dad … they both used the term hero. Macon, who is a rising fourth grader, really hopes he gets to be in his dad’s home room this upcoming year.

“Not because he’s my dad,” he says. “But because science is my favorite subject and I’d like to start my day with him.”

Max’s favorite thing about his dad is the fact that he’s always planning adventures and playing with them just like a big kid.

“He plays corn hole with us and we go fishing. When my favorite song comes on, he always turns it up loud so we can sing … stuff like that.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is the only independently owned and operated newspaper in Moore County … covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, the Lynchburg Music Fest, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Essential: Patsy Kennemer and the Moore County school nutrition staff

{Editor’s Note: This is the sixth of a multi-part series highlighting all the essential folks in Moore County. Readers nominated each interview subject. To nominate someone, email editor@lynchburg-times.com.}

School nutrition staff (from left to right) Edde Warwick, Patsy Kennemer, Sybil Dye, Tammy Weddington, Helen Neece, Lisa Locke, Lynette Ivey, JoAnn Bean, Susan Thomas, and Joy Byrom have prepared over 9,000 meals since March 17. {Photo Credit: Stacy Preston}

For School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer and the Lynchburg Elementary school nutrition staff life looks very different today than it did just two months ago. Before, their weekdays typically filled with the sounds of student chatter and the comfort of daily routine. They’d come in early, get their tasks accomplished, and then reset for the next school day. Then the COVID-19 health crisis hit and local officials closed Moore County schools after a recommendation from Tennessee Governor Bill Lee.

Today, no students roam the halls of Lynchburg Elementary. There are no filled classrooms, no recesses, and no buses lining up in the afternoon. Even so, Kennemer says the school nutrition staff is busier than ever. They went from preparing just 60 meals each day to over 200. Students pick up meals on Mondays and Thursdays. On those days, student receive not only a hot lunch but also pre-wrapped meals for the following days.

“It feels surreal now going to work and not hearing the laughter of the children echoing through the cafeteria,” says Kennemer. “But our day-to-day tasks are still about the same at the school.”

School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer
School Nutrition Supervisor Patsy Kennemer {Photo Credit: Stacy Preston}

For many students, lunches to go are an opportunity to get out of the house, see familiar faces, and maintain a sense of normalcy. For others, it’s a saving grace during these uncertain times.

“I have heard many parents say they are so thankful for this service because they have lost jobs or income just isn’t coming in like it used to,” says Kennemer. “This helps people who normally don’t have issues with feeding their children.”

Kennemer says LES cafeteria changes aren’t just for students. She’s also working hard to keep her staff safe. They reworked their kitchen layout and the meal pick up area to keep staff separated.

When we ask her about the moment she felt most essential, she demurs and instead gives much of the credit to her dedicated staff.

“There are truly many people who are deserving of the title of hero,” she says. “Since we began serving meals on March 17, we have served over 9000 meals. I know firsthand the amount of time, dedication, and preparation that it takes to make it all happen.”

She says some of her staff stand out front offering a warm smile and a hot meal … even in the pouring rain … while others works behind the scenes preparing food as quickly as possible but they all deserve recognition for the outstanding public service they are doing.

When we asked what part of “normal” life she and her staff miss most, she answers immediately.

“The daily interaction we have with kids … it’s great to start your day with a smile from a child.” •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

LES Student Council helps support homeless veterans

LOCAL NEWS — According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, over 37,800 vets across the United States face homelessness … many go without shelter and live on the streets. The Lynchburg Elementary School Student Council hopes to support those men and women with a personal care items drive happening now through November 26.

Students will collect new toothbrushes, toothpaste, mouthwash, deodorant, shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, socks, t-shirts, and blankets. Items may be sent to LES with students or dropped off at the LES office until Tuesday, November 26. All donated items will be delivered to the Tennesssee Department of Veteran Affairs. For more information, contact the school at 931-759-7388. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Nearest Green Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}

Car Rider Parents: No blocking Mechanic Street and no cell phones

LOCAL NEWS — With over 200 car riders this year at Lynchburg Elementary School (LES), some afternoons at around 2:45 p.m. are organized chaos around Mechanic Street. It can be frustrating for parents, law enforcement, and school officials.

Over the past year, Moore County school officials and Metro Moore County Sheriff’s Department Student Resource Officer (SRO) Mike Rainey, who is assigned to LES, collaborated solutions to make things run as smooth as possible considering the larger number of vehicles. Together, they painted four car rider lines in the bus parking lot to accommodate parents and enough space for two additional lines on the days there is overflow, according to Wendy Hart who administers transportation and school safety for the Moore County system

The first parents to arrive should line up in the far left lane. When that lane is full, vehicles should fill into the next line to the right … and so on.

“Parents who get there after the lanes begin to empty, are supposed to fall in line beginning left to right, but those late cars aren’t allowed to cut in front of the cars that were already lined up,” said Hart.

Once all car rider lines are full, no car should park or idle blocking Mechanic Street. It’s a public road that must remain clear in the event that an emergency vehicle needs to respond to the school or an area home, SRO Rainey explained in a letter distributed to parents prior to the school year. Instead, parents can line up at the Lynchburg First Baptist Church parking lot if there is not a church function happening. In the event that that area becomes full, parents should turn left on Spriggs Avenue and form a line at the Lynchburg Cemetery until the buses leave.

SRO Rainey also reminded parents not to show up until after 2:45 p.m. to allow time for school buses to clear. School dismisses at 2:45 p.m. and it usually takes students another five minutes to gather their things and load onto buses. It takes an additional few minutes for the buses to clear LES. In reality, even the the first car riders parents won’t reach kids until closer to 3 p.m.

There are a couple of other details car rider parents should remember. One, there is a new 10 mile per hour speed limit in the school zone, which will be strictly enforced. Two, as of July 1, Tennessee now bans hand-held cell phone use while driving. This includes while at red lights, when parked, or idling. If a violation occurs in a school zone when warning flashers are present, the fine is $200.

Officials added additional signage this week. MMCSD deputies are usually present to help direct traffic unless they get redirected to an emergency.

Anyone with questions or concerns can direct them to Hart in the Moore County School Central Office at 931-759-7303. •

{The Lynchburg Times is an independently owned and operated newspaper that publishes new stories every morning. Covering Metro Moore County government, Jack Daniel’s Distillery, Tims Ford State Park, Motlow State Community College, Moore County High School, Moore County Middle School, Lynchburg Elementary, Raider Sports, plus regional and state news.}