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Lenoir woman dies in head-on crash
  • Updated

TAYLORSVILLE — A Lenoir woman was killed Friday afternoon along U.S. Highway 64 in Alexander County after a driver crossed the centerline and hit her car head-on, according to the N.C. Highway Patrol. Around the same time troopers were investigating a triple fatality in Wilkes County.

Jessica Wallace, 39, of Lenoir, was driving a 2005 Kia Sedona east on U.S. Highway 64 near Caldwell Pond Road when she crossed the centerline and struck a westbound 2014 Mazda 5 Sport driven by Health Regina Hanck, 34. Hanck ran off the road and overturned. Hanck succumbed to her injuries, according to Master Trooper Jeffrey S. Swagger.

Wallace was also serious hurt in the 3:20 p.m. crash. She was transported to the hospital by EMS, Swagger said.

Investigating troopers are conferring with the Alexander County District Attorney’s Office about possible charges.

In a separate crash Friday, the highway patrol responded to a triple fatality in Wilkes County on Boone Trail near Purlear Road. A 2001 Ford F-350 pickup was traveling east on Boone Trail, ran off the road to the right in a curve, overcorrected, crossed the centerline, and collided head-on with a westbound 2013 Toyota Camry. As both vehicles ran off the road, the Toyota overturned and was pushed into an embankment, Swagger said.

Sherry Elaine Aderhold, 45, of Purlear, driver of the Ford, succumbed to her injuries. She was not restrained by a seatbelt. The driver of the Toyota, Ellen Huffman Roten, 79, of Purlear, and passenger Pearl Bullins Huffman, 81, of Purlear, both dies as result of their injuries. They were restrained by seatbelts, Swagger said.

Troopers were on-scene for nearly three hours during the investigation of the Wilkes County crash.

Hudson First Baptist Church will serve free lunch on Christmas Day
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HUDSON — On Christmas Day, one local church will be providing free Christmas meals for residents of Caldwell County.

Hudson First Baptist Church at 345 Main Street will be serving Christmas Day Lunch from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m. this Saturday, Dec. 25th. Meals will consist of ham, green beans, corn, apples, rolls, and desserts such as cakes and cookies. Last year, 1,050 meals were served, and 1,100 are planned for this year.

Thirteen years ago, Hudson locals Don and Happy Austin suggested the event to their fellow churchgoers, and the Sunday school class at Hudson First organized the event for its first few years.

Tammy Bradshaw, the current coordinator, has been volunteering for this event for about seven years. She is in charge of organizing the different groups of volunteers in order to maintain efficiency and accuracy.

In previous years, guests who attended this event could sit inside and eat their meals surrounded by other people in the community.

“It’s nice not only feeding those who need it, but being able to eat and visit with somebody,” said Bradshaw.

This year, however, because of COVID-19 shutdowns and restrictions, residents can either pick up their meals from the church in a drive-through formation or call and request free delivery to their homes.

The church number is 828-728-4297 for those who are interested in free meal delivery.

Volunteers for this event will follow COVID-19 restrictions by wearing masks and gloves at all times and by separating the two food preparation tables so everyone can maintain proper distance.

All residents of Caldwell County are welcome.

State confirms hepatitis A infection with KFC worker
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HUDSON — The State of North Carolina notified Caldwell County late Friday (Dec. 17) about a confirmed case of hepatitis A in an individual who works at Kentucky Fried Chicken in Hudson.

According to state guidelines, transmission to patrons is unlikely, so vaccination for restaurant patrons is not recommended at this time.

“We are working closely with the restaurant, the State of North Carolina, and the CDC to ensure the health and safety of our community,” said Anna Martin, Caldwell County Public Health director.

The individual diagnosed with hepatitis A is being treated. Individuals who came in close contact with the patient have been notified.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hepatitis A is a vaccine-preventable liver infection caused by the hepatitis A virus (HAV). HAV is found in the stool and blood of people who are infected. Hepatitis A is very contagious. It is spread when someone unknowingly ingests the virus — even in microscopic amounts — through close personal contact with an infected person or through eating contaminated food or drink. Symptoms of hepatitis A can last up to two months and include fatigue, nausea, stomach pain, and jaundice. Most people with hepatitis A do not have long-lasting illness. The best way to prevent hepatitis A is to get vaccinated.

The nation is experiencing a large hepatitis A outbreak, and everyone is encouraged to check their hepatitis A vaccination status. Anyone who wishes to be vaccinated for hepatitis A can call the Caldwell County Health Department at 828-426-8400 for a vaccination appointment. The health department is open Monday through Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Whitnel teacher set to transition from male to female
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LENOIR — Students at Whitnel Elementary School are faced with a contemporary life lesson as one of their teachers prepares to transition from a man to a woman.

Will Rudicil, a physical education teacher at Whitnel Elementary School and former tennis coach at Hibriten High School, plans to change gender en route to becoming Waverly Rudicil. This change could begin as soon as the holiday break with students discovering the transition by the time they return to school after the holidays.

News of the planned transition has been met with both support and criticism, though it’s not known how many parents of Whitnel students are aware of Rudicil’s gender change. Sources familiar with faculty activities say teachers at the school, however, have been made aware of Rudicil’s planned transition.

Libby Brown, spokeswoman for Caldwell County Schools, declined to answer questions about the matter, citing personnel confidentiality.

Rudicil has created a Facebook page where she is identified as a woman named Waverly, instead of the male name Will. Rudicil also included a photo of herself on the page that identified with a woman.

Rudicil declined to talk about the planned transition citing concerns related to his family and career. Instead, Rudicil referred the News-Topic to Lee Crissman, a friend of Rudicil and project coordinator for the Trans Informative Network and Support (T.I.N&S).

“People need to let people live their life. Everyone deserves the chance to be happy in life and to love themselves. If you can’t love yourself you can’t love anyone else,” said Crissman, who identifies as a trans male.

Those opposed to Rudicil’s decision used social media to criticize the teacher. One post urged parents to remove students from the school system, while another asserted that parents have requested that Rudicil be transferred within the school system. The later post indicated that the timing of the transition over the Christmas break is a concern because the topic of sex, gender, and sexuality is complex and may be confusing for children. This led to critics questioning, “why now?”

According to Crissman, the decision to transition is often made following a lifelong struggle to reconcile one’s gender to their assigned sex. For some, the decision is not just life-changing, it is life-saving.

“You feel like you are behind bars when what you see in the mirror does not resonate with what you see in your mind and have in your heart,” Crissman said. “You get to a point where you either take your life yourself, or you move into someplace that will make you happy.”

Trans/transgender is a broad term used to describe individuals whose gender identity does not correspond with the sex assigned at birth. It is an evolving process that is unique to each individual and involves taking gender-affirming social, medical, and legal steps, according to John Hopkins University and the nation LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center.

“There is not enough education out there,” Crissman said of Rudicil’s critics. “People hear these terms and they don’t understand them. Sexuality is one thing, gender is another.”

Not all posts have been critical of Rudicil. In fact, most social media posts have been supportive.

Supporters contend Rudicil’s success as a teacher is not determined by gender. Supporters also argue individuals have the right to be happy. One parent stated, “My child is a student at Caldwell County schools and will continue to be so,” wrote Amber Skye Frazier.

Crissman shared that Rudicil has also received positive interaction and support from her co-workers and the school community.

“Trans people exist and you can get — over it. This teacher deserves support in their transition not some bigot who wants to shame them for being who they are. Grow up. It’s 2021 almost 2022 TRANS PEOPLE EXIST…” Kaycee Clark posted on Facebook.

“Mind your business this is supposed to be the ‘land of the free’ or does that only apply to people who do what YOU like?” Sam Madruga posted on Facebook.

“Transsexuals have rights, too. Rights to exist. Rights to not be harassed or badgered,” Lisa Manion posted on Facebook.

“Happy for her that she’s finally living her truth.” Bri Melt posted on Facebook.

“Hope this teacher gets all the love and support from their students and the staff members at the school and I hope it isn’t too late for your children to unlearn the ignorance you’ve taught them.” Skylar Russell Norris posted on Facebook.

“Wow. I transitioned during COVID, came back to the same students I have worked with for years. Not a single one was upset, questioned, confused or angry. Every parent I see each day and give feedback didn’t care, nor pushed or removed their children. You underestimate the ability of children to be open and understanding.” Shay Nic posted on Facebook.

Rudicil is the father of two children, ages 13 and 6, and shares custody with the mother, according to court records.

According to the 2015 U.S.Transgender Survey (USTS), 46% of trans/transgender surveyed reported being verbally harassed, and 1 in 9 have experienced physical violence.

The USTS, conducted by the National Center of Transgender Equality, offers trans/transgender individuals the opportunity to share life experiences in ways that educate the public and may shape public policy. The last survey was conducted in 2015 and had 27,715 respondents nationwide; 686 were from North Carolina. The 2022 USTS is open for responses. Trans/transgender individuals wishing to participate may visit