Pernell woman takes the plunge for Special Olympics

By Lindsey Temple

News Star Reporter


Plunging into icy cold water in the middle of winter is not what most of us would consider a good Saturday afternoon but for Pernell fire fighter, Jennifer Riley it’s all too easy, for a cause that she believes in.

After battling the blazing grass fires of our county over the past summer months and now taking a chilly plunge that makes most of us shiver at just the thought of it, one might say Riley is fearless.

On Saturday, February 5, at 10:00 a.m. Riley will participate in the Oklahoma City Polar Plunge, jumping willingly and without hesitation into the frosty waters at White Water Bay in Oklahoma City, in hopes of raising $500.00 for Special Olympics.

A Polar Plunge is a fundraising challenge made to an individual or group challenging them to dive into a cold body of water in order to raise money for Special Olympics.

Each participant collects pledges from family, friends and businesses in the hopes of raising money for Special Olympics.

“I have a special place in my heart for handicapped people, my love for these AMAZING individuals is what prompted me to do this.” explains Riley.

Throughout her life, Riley has seen the effects of Down syndrome on many people she loves and has always been a voice for those who are affected by the condition.

From a very young age Riley’s best friend and cousin was affected by the condition and through her relationship with him, Riley witnessed firsthand the hardships he faced.

It was her cousin that first introduced her to The Special Olympics and how beneficial the event can be to an individual facing certain physical and mental disabilities.

Since moving to the area Riley has meet and become increasingly close to several individuals who are living with this and other disabilities and conditions, furthering Riley’s mission to help in whatever way she is able.

Riley wouldn’t call herself an advocate; she is far too humble for all that but it is clear to see that this is certainly something she is passionate about.

Riley is asking citizens of the area to give what they can to this very special cause.

“I encourage people to come out on Saturday, February 5 at 10:00 a.m. and see me take the jump, oh and bring some coffee,” laughed Riley.

To help Riley reach her goal, either visit her online collection site at or call her directly at 405-268-2073.







Stratford Chamber Banquet set for Jan. 26

By Susan Stone

News Star Reporter


The Stratford Chamber of Commerce Banquet will be held on Thursday, January 26, at 6:30 p.m. in the Freewill Baptist Church.

There will be free dinner, entertainment and door prizes. Please RSVP with Fred Stephens at 580-759-2116 or Crystal McNew by email at

Everyone is encouraged to fill out the 2011 Chamber of Commerce Awards ballot. Let your voice be heard and vote for the most deserving business or person of your choice.

Return your ballots to the Garvin County News Star Stratford office located at 101 N Pine. The News Star office is open Monday, Tuesday and Thursday from 9:00 am to 3:00 p.m. All ballots must be returned by Monday, January 23, at 3:00 p.m.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars and RSVP for a night of fun with great food, friends and entertainment.

Assessor to make annual tour of county

Garvin County Assessor Beverly Strickland will be making her annual tour of the county to inform taxpayers of the various exemptions they can take advantage this year.

Strickland’s first stop will be on Thursday, January 12, at the Lindsay Senior Citizen’s Center from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

The remainder of her schedule is as follows:

January 19 – Maysville Senior Citizen’s Center – 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

January 24 – Wynnewood Senior Citizen’s Center – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

January 26 – Elmore City Senior Citizen’s Center – 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

January 27 – Pauls Valley Senior Citizen’s Center – 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

January 31 – Stratford Senior Citizen’s Center – 10 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

February 2 – Paoli Senior Citizen’s Center – 11 a.m. – 2 p.m.

According to Strickland, Garvin County Property Owners can apply for the following exemptions beginning on January 3 until March 15, 2012.  These exemptions will be effective for the 2012 property taxes.


Homestead Exemption can be filed if a document has been filed with the County Clerk’s Office prior to February 1st 2012. You must be living on this property as of January 1st 2012 to qualify.  You can only receive homestead on one property in the State of Oklahoma.


Double Homestead Exemption is based on a total household income of $20,000.00 or less per year. You must qualify for regular homestead to apply.  This exemption can only be applied to your HOMESTEAD property. There is no age requirement on the double homestead exemption. Please bring proof of income.


Property Valuation Limitation is for anyone 65 years of age or older.  You must qualify for regular homestead to apply.  This exemption can only be filed on your HOMESTEAD property. Your household income must be $46,000.00 or less per year. Please bring proof of income. This will only freeze the real property valuation of your HOMESTEAD property, not the levy.


Disabled Veterans Exemption is available to 100% disabled veterans.  To apply you must bring your qualifying letter from the Veteran’s Administration stating you are 100% disabled with effective date.  Also you need to bring your Veterans ID card.  This exemption can only be applied to your HOMESTEAD property.


Farm Sales Tax Exempt Numbers also can be renewed before they expire.  If you card expires June 30, 2012 you need to renew your farm card prior to the expiration date.


Business Personal Property Renditions must be filed before March 15, 2012.


If you have any questions about any of these exemptions please contact us. The Garvin County Assessor’s Office is located in the Garvin County Courthouse at 201 West Grant Ave., Room 16 Pauls Valley, OK. 405-238-2409 office hours are 8:00 to 4:30.

Mock election to be held in Garvin County

By Jeff Shultz



A mock election meant to test new voting equipment as well as familiarize voters with the new equipment will be held next week at the Garvin County Election Board Office, County Election Board Secretary Cathy Brinley announced Thursday.

The mock election, Brinley said, will be held on Monday, January 9, and will end on Thursday, January 12.

“Voters who plan on visiting the Garvin County Election Board office should use the west door of the courthouse to gain access to the office and be prepared for the ongoing construction you will find,” she said.

The new voting machines are being implemented statewide and will be used for the first time during the February 14 school elections.

Voting times for the mock election will be from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. during the four day mock election.

“The new voting system keeps the best parts of the old system – uniform equipment, standard procedures, and paper ballots counted by scanners – while utilizing technology to improve security and efficiency,” Brinley said.

Voters still will mark a paper ballot by hand and still will be able to depend on reliable and accurate scanners to count their ballots, she added.

“The new machines are also accessible for voters with disabilities.  An audio tactile interface allows voters with disabilities to cast audio versions of ballots independently and privately,” Brinley said.

The Garvin County Election Board is located at the Garvin County Court House, 201 W Grant Room #8.

County officers stay busy during New Year’s weekend

By Jeff Shultz

This past New Year’s weekend provided some excitement for area law officers while others reported a quiet holiday three-day period.

Most importantly, according to Garvin County Sheriff Larry Rhodes, the weekend was a true test for the Garvin County 911 system as the countywide call center fielded a number of calls for various law enforcement agencies over the holidays.

The 911 Center has recently started dispatching for several law enforcement agencies in the county, including the Garvin County Sheriff’s Office.

The biggest test, Rhodes said, came when the 911 Center started getting a multitude of calls of a driver on I-35 driving north bound in the south bound lanes.

“The calls started coming in around 3:30 a.m. Sunday. The driver of the car had been spotted near the Pauls Valley exit driving northbound in the southbound lanes. He was finally stopped near mile marker 83 on I-35,” Rhodes said.

Arrested for Driving Under the Influence and possession of marijuana was 48-year old Mark Carlton of Pauls Valley.

According to Rhodes, this was Carlton’s second DUI arrest in 10 years, thus making the offense a felony.

Rhodes commended the 911 operators during the whole ordeal, noting the operators kept him and his deputies apprised of the situation as the calls were coming in from motorists on I-35.

There were three other DUI arrests made over the holiday weekend, Rhodes said.

A Garvin County Sheriff’s Deputy witnessed a 4-wheeler wreck while patrolling near Erin Springs.

The driver of the 4-wheeler fled on foot and was later apprehended after a short pursuit.

Levi Robinson, 21, of Weatherford was arrested for DUI. He also had an outstanding warrant out of Stephens County.

Shortly before midnight Saturday night, Deputy Brian Stuckey attempted to stop a vehicle south of Stratford on a county road.

A pursuit followed and ended when Robert Lynch, 55, of Stratford crashed his vehicle into a nearby field.

Lynch was arrested for DUI. He suffered some minor injuries in the accident and was taken to Norman Regional Hospital to be treated for his injuries.

Another DUI arrest was made around 10 p.m. Saturday, Rhodes said.

Weston Brooksher, 31, of Wynnewood was pulled over and charged with DUI near Klondike Road and Airline.

While Sheriff’s deputies were busy with DUI suspects, other law enforcement agencies in the county reported a quiet New Year’s weekend.

Maysville Police Chief Adam McMillen told the News Star he had three officers on duty during the holiday weekend.

“Actually, it was very peaceful. We didn’t have any problems at all,” he said.

A small bar ditch fire Monday night provided the most excitement for emergency responders, he said.

“The fire was in front of Mark Roberts’ house. It was contained mostly to the ditch it was in,” McMillen said.

Meanwhile, Stratford Police Chief Scott Collier reported a peaceful New Year’s as well.

“We had several officers out and we mostly had traffic stops but no arrests. All in all, I’d say it was a very quiet New Year’s,” Collier told the News Star.

Drought, weather head up 2011 top stories

By Jeff Shultz

2011 is now behind us. Here’s a look back at some of the top stories of the past year as reported in the pages of the Garvin County News Star.

Click here to read full story

Deadline to register to vote is January 20

Friday, January 20, is the last day to apply for voter registration in order to be eligible to vote in the February 14th, Wynnewood and Maysville Annual School Election and Whitebead Special School Bond Election, according to Garvin County Election Board Secretary, Cathy Brinley.

Brinley said that persons who are United States citizens, residents of Oklahoma and at least 18 years old may apply to become registered voters.

Persons who have never been registered to vote before or who are not currently registered in the county of their residence and persons who are registered but who need to change their registration information may apply to register or to change name, address or political affiliation, by filling out and mailing an Oklahoma Voter Registration Application form in time for it to be postmarked no later than Friday, January 20, 2012.

Brinley said that applications postmarked after that time still will be accepted, but the applications will not be approved until after February 14, 2012.

The County Election Board will respond in writing to each person who submits an application for voter registration.  The response will be either a Voter Identification Card listing the new voter’s precinct number and polling place location or a letter that explains the reason or reasons the application for voter registration was not approved.

Brinley said that any person who has submitted a voter registration application and who has not received a response within 30 days should contact the County Election Board office.

Meanwhile, voters in Garvin County who want to have absentee ballots mailed to them for the February 14, 2012, Maysville and Wynnewood Annual School Election and Whitebead Special School Bond Election should apply now, Brinley said.

Although the County Election Board can accept applications for absentee ballots until 5 p.m. on Wednesday, February 08, 2012. Brinley urged voters that want to vote by absentee ballot to apply early.

Application forms are available at the County Election Board office located at the Garvin County Courthouse, First Floor, Room 8.

New Toy Museum Director named

By Jeff Shultz

Pauls Valley’s top tourist attraction will have a new captain at its helm as a new director for the Toy and Action Figure Museum was announced this week.

Ryan Peacock will take over as the museum’s new director, replacing Lisa Driskill who recently resigned from the position to pursue other interests.

The Museum’s Board President, Kahn Nirschl, told the News Star Tuesday that Peacock was the right choice to lead the museum.

“He has a lot of passion for the museum and wants to see the museum as well as Pauls Valley continue to be a destination point for tourists in the future,” Nirschl said.

“He’s had a lot of experience in managing employees through the Marines and other positions he’s held in the past and we know he will be a good addition to the museum,” Nirschl added.

Peacock actually began his duties on Wednesday, January 3, and will be working closely with Driskill over the next few days to insure a smooth transition, Nirschl said.

“The museum’s board of directors is very appreciative of the work Lisa has put into the museum during her tenure and we wish her the best of luck in the future,” Nirschl added.

PV Health Coalition ready for healthier 2012

By Lindsey Temple
News Star Reporter

With the overall wellness of our state declining and the back and forth battle for health care on Capitol Hill at a standstill, grassroots efforts like the Pauls Valley Health Coalition have set out to raise awareness and lend a hand in making healthy lifestyles easier to maintain.

The Health Coalition is trying to improve health and wellness around the county through a series of projects focused on nutrition and fitness, healthy businesses and substance abuse help.

At the forefront of these projects is the possibility of a community garden for the Pauls Valley area.

With obesity on the rise in our state and Garvin County looming dangerously close to being a “food desert” the Health Coalition has proposed the possibility of a community garden.

“The Oklahoma obesity rate is growing and if we keep this up Oklahoma will be the nation’s fattest state by the year 2015,” explained D.J. Gentry, a member of the coalition.

The garden would provide much needed fresh fruits and vegetables to families in the area while giving area residents something to take pride in, as tending to the garden would be solely a community effort.

Another project the Health Coalition is working on is the second annual Wellness Fair.

The Wellness Fair is scheduled for Saturday, April 14, and will hopefully have a 5k run added to the morning’s events.

The coalition is also concentrating on helping businesses throughout Garvin County improve the overall health of their employees in hopes of making Garvin County businesses certified healthy businesses by the State of Oklahoma.

“We would like to make Pauls Valley and Garvin County a standard for the rest of the state,” said Gentry.

The coalition currently consists of approximately 45 members, including business owners and individuals.

These topics and others will be discussed at the next Health Coalition meeting on Tuesday, January 10, at 5:30 p.m. at the Reynolds Recreation Center in Pauls Valley.

The meeting is open to the public and area residents are urged to attend. For more information on the Health Coalition call Julie Selman at the Garvin County Health Department at 405-238-7346.

Holidays hard for victims of drunk and drugged drivers

Weldon Ward

By Susan Stone
News Star Reporter

He was a wonderful husband, a great father to his four children and a loving grandfather to his seven grandkids.

He was a hardworking man who built houses all of his life then started his own custom home building business with his wife.

He was a quiet man who most everyone around town knew and liked.

Today if you mention his name people are often heard saying, “What happened to him is awful and should have never happened.”

His name is Weldon Ward and what happened to him was senseless and could have been prevented.

It was March 6, 2006, and that day Weldon was at his business, Ward Custom Homes in Stratford, framing up the last house he would ever build.

“He always wanted me to feel important. I remember he would come in and ask me questions that he knew the answers to just so I would feel involved and needed. He was the love of my life,” Ward’s wife, Lisa, recalled.

“The last five years of our marriage we grew so close because all the kids were out of the house and it was just the two of us. The only time we were apart was on Monday night,” Lisa said.

The evening of March 6 Lisa had plans to go out with her sister like she always did on Monday nights. That evening Weldon had delivered a load of lumber to a jobsite and was going to make a quick stop at his office before heading home.

While waiting to turn into the driveway Weldon was hit from behind by a vehicle driven by Mark Wayne Hampton.

Hampton was traveling at 96 mph when he hit the trailer Weldon was pulling, causing his vehicle to fly through the air and shear off the cab of Weldon’s truck.

Hampton’s blood alcohol level was .18, more than twice the legal limit in Oklahoma, when he hit and killed an innocent man.

“When someone got to Weldon’s truck the motor was still running and the radio was still on everything else was gone,” Lisa said.

The holidays are especially hard for one Stratford mother.

Amanda Bennett

In 2002 Amanda Bennett had just graduated from high school and was planning on going to school to get her license to do hair and nails.

She was your average, fun loving teenage girl with her whole life ahead of her. She had a smile that could light up any room she walked into.

Amanda was the oldest daughter of Rene Hudson and a big sister to Michael, then age 11, and Summer, then age 5.

“She was the best daughter and most loving big sister,” said Hudson. “Amanda was my best friend we talked about everything.”

“I remember Amanda always gave great big hugs and always said, ‘I love you mom,’” Rene recalled.

December 17, 2002 would be the last time Rene ever heard Amanda say, “I love you mom.”

After Amanda got off work that night she went out to her cousin’s house to just hang out and have some fun.

She called her mom to let her know she made it and she loved her. Rene would never hear her daughter’s voice again all because 17-year old Billy Farnham chose to smoke marijuana and take two other prescription sedatives before getting behind the wheel of his vehicle.

“Amanda and Billy were dating and on the night of December 17 she told me she was going to break up with him,” Rene said. “Amanda called me later and told me she was at her cousins and she had broken things off with Billy.”

Amanda was at her cousins when Billy showed up and forced her into his car. They then took off down a county road at a high rate of speed.

A couple of miles down the dirt road Farnham lost control of the car. The vehicle flipped twice and threw Amanda 30 feet from where the car landed.

Rene recalls hearing her mother screaming, “Amanda’s been in a wreck! Amanda’s been in a wreck” as she ran into Rene’s house.

“My uncle is an EMT and he went out on the second ambulance to Amanda’s wreck. He was the one who identified her,” Rene said.

Rene went to the hospital where she was met by her Uncle. Rene asked how her daughter was she heard the words no parent ever wants to hear, “she didn’t make it.”

“My body had no feeling. I couldn’t walk or talk they carried me to the grieving room where all my family was,” Rene said. “I started living my nightmare at that moment and I’m still living it today.”

“The whole month of December is so painful because Christmas was Amanda’s favorite time of the year,” Rene said.

Farnham was charged in 2003 with first-degree manslaughter, unlawful possession of marijuana, unlawful possession of a controlled drug without a valid prescription and unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia.

“I just want everyone to think about the choices they make in life,” Rene said.

These are just two examples of how a drunk or drugged driver forever altered a family.

Don’t be that person who destroys lives and kills innocent people. If you choose to drink then you need to make the decision not to drive.

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