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Mimi Jo Butler honored for golden deeds

From her work counseling countless students through the decades to her work preserving  old buildings for future generations, Mimi Jo Butler was honored last week by members of the Pickens County Retired Teachers Association as the 2010 Golden Deed recipient.

“God has blessed this community with volunteers, and Mimi Jo is central to that,” said Vivian Murphy, chairman of the PCRT Golden Deed committee. “She has led a tremendous and unselfish life.”

After graduating from Emory University with a double major in history and sociology, Butler worked in child protective services in DeKalb County before beginning her education career in 1965 in Cobb County. In 1996 she moved to Etowah High School and into Pickens County schools in 2000. She worked at Jasper Middle School and Pickens Elementary before retiring in 2008 from Tate Elementary.

Along the way she touched many lives.

“Educators make a really positive influence on students, and I can tell you Mimi Jo made a positive impact on me,” said Mike Robertson, CEO of Piedmont Mountainside Hospital and former Etowah High School student. “She truly is the epitome of what an educator is: she loves, she cares, she supports. I wouldn’t be here today before you as a professional in the health care environment if it weren’t for Mimi Jo.”

Robertson is one of three people who nominated Butler for the Golden Deed this year.

Upon receiving the award, Butler praised her parents’ community service work through the years as well.

“I didn’t do anything like they did for the community. There was not much they didn’t do. Dad was more well known for (his work) because he wrote articles for the Progress, and mother was more a behind the scenes person.”

Butler said she thoroughly enjoyed working with students and seeing them develop into accomplished adults, but, as every educator will tell you, she has seen her share of hardship and tragedy in the eyes of her students.

“When I came to Pickens in 2000, I was not prepared for the poverty that had happened in Pickens County since I left,” she said. “I mentored whole families that didn’t have running water or electricity. Every day in education is an opportunity for something to happen. Education affords you an opportunity to give kids opportunities they never would have had. Working with kids is fun.”

Butler praised the efforts of the local mentoring program and the wonderful volunteers who’ve worked with children over the years.

“I love teaching kids about preservation and teaching adults to care about their past.”

Though she has worked in schools and behind desks her entire career, Butler has never been afraid of getting her hands dirty to accomplish things she deems important. While restoring the old Tate Gymnasium, Butler said things got a little sticky.

“Jackie Howell and I worked under the bleachers in that gym for two days, and it was built in 1923-24, and let me tell you, it seemed like it had never been cleaned under those bleachers. There was an entire history underneath those bleachers.”

Butler, a 36-year veteran educator, is an officer for the Marble Valley Historical Society. She scripted the downtown walking tour of Jasper and won the Spirit of 1812 Award in 2010.

She has written four books of history, edited the Cobb County Genealogical Society quarterly for 10 years, and written historical nominations for the Tate Gymnasium, the whole village of Tate and the marble company, and the Pickens County Courthouse.

Butler established the museum at the old county jail in downtown Jasper and was chairman of the building committee at Tate Methodist Church, where she oversaw the building of a new fellowship hall.

A proud friend and co-nominator, Barbara Cline, thanked Butler for all she has done for others throughout the years.

“Mimi Jo and I go way back – for 64 years probably,” Cline said. “Shortly after school started we became friends, and shortly after that we became best friends. We’ve kept that up forever. I just want to say thank you for what you’ve done for me and thank you for what you’ve done for others.”


Jasper fighter to take on tough man competition

You get the impression of controlled power, a fighter who carries himself like a gentleman. Eagle Scout and Army veteran, Jimmy Darwin of Jasper, age 23, is to compete in a Tough Man boxing competition at Asheville, North Carolina near the start of February.

Darwin began boxing in the Army at organized bouts between units. "Between platoons and companies," he said. "Things like that. Company fights."

He served as an Army specialist with the Third Infantry Division 324th Company out of Fort McPherson. A training exercise damaged an eardrum and put Darwin out of the service with a disability just three months before the scheduled end of his four-year enlistment. "I've probably lost about 60 percent of the hearing in my left ear," he said.

His training as a boxer began with instruction from his platoon sergeant in boot camp, Darwin said, where he learned hand-to-hand combat as a recruit. When he found he had a knack for it, Darwin sought extra training in hand-to-hand technique.

"Everybody is required to do some hand-to-hand," he said. "I just decided to pursue it a little further than everybody else did."

And he continued the pursuit after exiting the Army. "Once I got out of the military, I was training with Greg Gaddis and a few people over here at Bodyplex," Darwin said, "and at Gracie Barra Jiu-Jitsu in Holly Springs. Gaddis, he did a lot of Muay Thai, a lot of kick boxing, Jiu-Jitsu, and a lot of Taekwondo," Darwin said.

Gaddis has more than a decade of experience training fighters in martial arts, Darwin said, and training with Gaddis has improved his fighting ability. In amateur cage fighting nearer Atlanta, Darwin managed to vanquish one opponent after another as they came against him.

"Cage fighting is actually mixed martial arts, where you're mixing all kinds of martial arts," he said. A cage fight takes place inside an octagon-shaped ring bound at the edges by chain-link fence with padding on the fence posts, he explained.

"The Tough Man [competition at Asheville] is strictly boxing," Darwin said. "And it's pretty much anybody that's willing to enter. There may be people with limited experience. There may be people with extensive experience. May be people that just walk in off the street."

From gut health to ginger: Fight winter illness with these health tips

             It is more or less common knowledge that washing your hands, exercising, and eating nutritious foods are excellent ways to sidestep illness.

            But did you know about the healing power of garlic or probiotics, or that eating in season provides you with the vital nutrients your body needs when it needs them?

            That’s according to Sandy Gerhardt, owner of Jasper’s Natural Market Place. Gerhardt recently spoke with the Progress about some of the holistic approaches she says will help keep your family out of the doctor’s office this winter and all year round.

            Here’s what she recommends:


            Gerhardt says stress is one of the primary imbalances that causes the immune system to weaken and that being aware of this is a big part of prevention.

            She also says that during the wintertime our bodies have to cope with a more stressful environment which puts our immune system on the chopping block.

            “Dealing with ice, bundling up, clenching your muscles, all of that is stressful to the body,” Gerhardt said. “I think that’s one of the fundamental reasons we get sick in the wintertime more than in the summer. Being aware of that and taking better care of yourself, whether it’s taking time to relax and take a hot bath or getting the right amount of sleep, is very important.”

            If you have a rough day, she says, don’t overextend yourself with unnecessary tasks.

Murder-for-hire suspect arrested

            Pickens Sheriff’s Deputy Michael A. Flynn arrested Ray Mountain Road resident Johnnie Melissa Burmeister Monday on charges of Criminal Solicitation to Commit Murder and Family Violence stemming from a warrant issued in Muscogee County, Georgia.

            Flynn received information of a lookout for Burmeister during morning roll call. Later, Deputy Flynn spotted a vehicle matching the description of the one Burmeister was believed to be driving. He stopped the vehicle, and Burmeister was arrested without incident.

            Burmeister is being held at the Pickens County Adult Detention Center awaiting transport to Muscogee County.


Courthouse renovation still coming; no construction date set


In 2008 voters gave the county permission to spend $17 million to renovate and expand the Pickens County Courthouse by way of a one-cent sales tax.

Now it’s 2011 and most Pickens residents, especially those who have been inside the courthouse, have likely noticed that work has yet to begin on the outdated, dilapidated building.

While Commissioner Robert Jones says he has no estimate for when construction will start, he spoke to the Progress about what’s going on behind the scenes and why he chose to construct the SPLOST-approved Pickens County Community Center first, a building which cannot be funded with SPLOST money until renovations on the courthouse are completed first.

The courthouse is a SPLOST Tier I project, while the community center, which falls under the recreation heading, is a Tier II project. By state regulation, all SPLOST projects must be funded in order.

Above, a window in the courthouse is sealed with clear tape to cover cracks in the glass and damage with the frame.