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Braxton resident is Vandalia Award winner

Joni Hoffman hand-quilts one of award winning masterpieces.

By Shirley Shuman

Although many area residents may be unaware of the fact, Braxton County is home to the 2016 Vandalia Award, the greatest honor bestowed by the Vandalia Gathering. Joni Hoffman, a resident of Duck, received the award on May 29. The award ceremony took place on the stage of the Cultural Center.
The highest folk life award presented by the state, the Vandalia Award “celebrates the heritage, spirit and wonder of West Virginians who are dedicated to the preservation, promotion and presentation of folk life traditions.” Hoffman met these criteria through one of the oldest folk traditions in Appalachia—quilting. Not only does the 2016 recipient quilt, but she has also dedicated much of her life to ensuring that the tradition she loves so much lives on.
Her initial interest in quilting began when she was a teenager. Hoffman tells the story of what she terms “the spark.” She explained that one day in the summer of 1969, she went to a high-school friend’s house, which featured what she termed “a big ole wrap around porch.” She said, “Janet’s mom had a quilt set up in an old-fashioned floor frame on the porch. I stopped to admire the quilt and watch what she was doing. Like any good quilter, [she] saw my interest and coaxed me into sitting down beside her for a while.”
Hoffman continued to say that her friend’s mother gave her a thimble and a needle and helped her make a few stitches. “Her mom got me to quilt just a little bit, and even though I’m sure she took out those uneven beginner stitches, she was actually the first person who really exposed me to quilting.” Although she did little quilting for the next few years, she truly has never stopped.
She noted that, after some time in Europe, where her husband was stationed, they returned to the states, and she “began to quilt in earnest.” To begin, she joined quilting guilds and “learned everything [she] could” from the experienced quilters. She “read books and went to quilting shows,” and she quilted. During that time, a group of women, who called themselves the “All Thumbs Quilters,” began meeting at her house once a week to quilt. “I taught all but one of them to quilt from the ground up,” she said. The group included a woman from Sweden and another from India.
Hoffman’s skill in quilting became known, and she began participating in various activities to teach and promote quilting. Twice she spoke to the DAR about the history and development of American quilting. She also “developed a program for teaching a paper and fabric Log Cabin quilt block to elementary-school students.”
Involved with the West Virginia Heritage Quilt Search, she became coordinator for Region IV. As coordinator, she ran Quilt Documentation Days in her seven-county region and helped with others within the state. Around this time, Hoffman quilted a top designed by designer Martha Offutt from Fairmont, for a raffle quilt. She also quilted the Sesquicentennial Quilt that featured pieces made by men, women, and children from throughout the state. Her efforts in all of these activities led to her being featured in an article in the Washington Post sometime during the early 1980s.
As her work continued, Hoffman won many awards for her own quilts and for those she quilted for other people at shows such as the Mountain State Arts and Crafts Show at Cedar Lakes and the Three Rivers Quilt Show in Pittsburgh. Twice she won the Best Hand Quilting Award at the West Virginia Quilt Festival, held annually in Summersville. One of those quilts, she said, had won the Viewers’ Choice Award.
Hoffman had a story about an experience during that show. “In that show, one lady was loudly decrying the lack of any hand-quilted quilts among the Winners’ Circle,” she said. “This woman,” she added, “was adamant that the quilting I had done [on the winning quilt] was too small and perfectly even to have been done by anything other than a machine.” Hoffman went on to say that she tried unsuccessfully to find “imperfect, uneven stitches” to prove that she had done the work by hand. Here the award-winning quilter emphasized that her work is always done by hand.
Another phase of Hoffman’s quilting definitely contributed to her winning the Vandalia Award. She noted that she has worked diligently “to ensure that this art which [she loves] so much and is part of the most basic definition of who [she is] is nurtured and passed on to future generations.” Here she added, “Or to anyone that I can cajole, buttonhook, or grab by the arm and get a needle and thimble into their hand.”
Hoffman summarized part of her work in teaching hand quilting, especially the importance of the thimble. “I give a person a thimble and tell them to wear that thimble for three days, except when showering, going to the bathroom, or washing their hands. At the end of that three days, they will have problems doing even the simplest acts without the thimble,” she said.
In her efforts to preserve the art of quilting, Hoffman has taught classes at numerous sites. She is also co-chair of the yearly West Virginia Quilters retreat at Cedar Lakes and “frequently helps individuals informally. An active member of the Vandalia Festival Committee, Hoffman works “through the year with this major project” and has served in various other positions.
Although Hoffman’s daughter Rachel isn’t a quilter, she did interact with her mother during many quilting sessions. “She used to play under the quilting frame and even napped under there sometimes,” she said. Hoffman also used the quilt tops on which she was working to teach her daughter colors and counting.
Actually, the daughter did quilt a wall-hanging for a college class, and her mother says, “She did every single stitch herself.” Now, the daughter designs and makes labels for the backs of her mother’s quilts. “The labels are absolutely beautiful,” Hoffman maintains, “and take a lot of time.” She added, “I’ve had people tell me they are too beautiful to be put on the backs of the quilts, and they are.”
Looking at the evidence, it’s rather obvious that quilting is not a task for Joni Hoffman, and she is quick to explain its importance to her. Saying that she wants her quilts to be a legacy, she adds, “This is a gift. I have to quilt.”

Brown crowned county
Spelling Bee Champion

These students participated in the final round of this year’s Spelling Bee.

This year marked the 42nd annual Braxton County Spelling Bee competition, held at Days Inn in Flatwoods, last Thursday, January 12. Students in grades four through eight spent months preparing for the event, and being a finalist in the county competition is quite an honor. At the end of a long and grueling competition Chesney Brown, a 6th grade student from Sutton Elementary School, emerged as this years champion. Chesney is the daughter of Tom and Kasey Brown of Exchange.
According to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, the purpose of the bee is not only to help students improve their spelling, but also increase their vocabulary, learn concepts, and develop correct English usage that will assist them throughout their lives.
Scripps offers several tips to help improve your child’s spelling and vocabulary. Have a family movie night and watch the movie Spellbound, a 2002 documentary that follows eight competitors in the 1999 Scripps National Spelling Bee. Keep a “great words” journal for new and interesting words or designate a spelling wall in your home. Jump rope spelling is also an engaging and healthy activity. Internet clubs, such as Word Club or Word Club Season Pass, can assist your child on his or her spelling bee journey. However, one of the most important tips to increase spelling and vocabulary is to read great books and make literature a part of your child’s daily routine. If you are interested in learning more about your local, regional, and national spelling bees, visit the Scripps website at: www.spellingbee.com.
Braxton County Schools thanked Days Inn for working with them to make this event possible and successful. They also extended a special thank you to Denver Drake for serving as the pronouncer, and Barbara Adams for her role as Master of Ceremonies. A special thank you is extended to parents and students for their hard work and proudly representing their schools and county in this year’s bee.
Teagan Huff, a 4th grade student at Sutton Elementary School, was the runner-up. She is the daughter of Philip and Shannon Huff of Sutton.
Jackson Davis, a 6th grade student from Frametown Elementary, will serve as an alternate. He is the son of Caleb and Rebecca Davis of Frametown. These winners will participate in the Gazette-Mail Regional Spelling Bee competition in Charleston, WV, on March 11, 2017.
Fourth place honors went to Owen McCallister a 4th grade student from Davis Elementary and Alex Dillion a 7th grader at BCMS. Fifth place was claimed by Drew Wyne a 5th grade student at Sutton and Drew Duffield an 8th grade student at BCMS. Sixth place honors went to Lauren Kepinger an 8th grade student at BCMS and Lakyn Nottingham a 5th grade student at FRES.
Individual grade winners and participants for the 4th grade were: Winner - Owen McCalliser – DES, Runner-Up - Teagan Huff – SES, Allie White and Aurora Andritsis – BES, Zoey Moore – DES, Kaytie Sargent and Robert Stewart – FLES, Hunter James and Joseph Wood – FRES, Chase Fisher and Rory Given – LBE, Lucas Rogers – SES. Alternates: Levi Allen, Emily Garrett, Nivia McCourt, Matthew Fritz, Charlie Williams, and Brian Davis.
5th grade: Winner - Lakyn Nottingham FES, Runner-Up - Drew Wyne SES, Logan Helmick and Kaden Kennen – BES, Robin Post and Ivan Vagott – DES, Sawyer Bleigh and Brianna Stancati – FLES, Erin Amick – FRES, Riley Martin and Bredyan Riffle – LBE. Alternates: Riley Hunt, Waylon Jordan, Dakurtis Kirby, Ethan Sharp, Lindsay Tetrick, and Emily Loftis.
6th grade: Winner - Jackson Davis – FRES, Runner-Up - Chesney Brown – SES, Chandra Christian, Dreyven Luzader – BES, Kendall Bender and Heidi Payne – DES, Zachary Monford and Quinton Wine – FLES, Tempest Loyd – FRES, Emily Jackson and Heidi King – LBE, Devin Loyd – SES. Alternates: Titus Madison, Natalie Rose and Haley Butcher.
7th grade: Winner - Ming Mei Hopen – BCMS, Runner-Up - Alex Dillon – BCMS, Savannah Bender, A. J. Copenhaver, Dalton Hardway, Jesse Hernandez, Larry Jackson, Lane Martin, Kylie Olszewski, Bryson Spell, and Kiara Williams.
8th grade: Winner - Lauren Keplinger – BCMS, Runner-Up - Drew Duffield- -BCMS Elissa Coffman, Daniel Desper, Haley Fincham, Alec Harper-Flinn , Wylie Skidmore, and Madeline Tusing.

Third person arrested in
connection with Copen burglary

Rodney Jason Hershman, 40, of Gassaway has been arrested in connection to a burglary that took place in the Copen area on December 27. Previously two individuals, Justin Page Campbell and Jason Currence were charged with nighttime burglary, robbery, and conspiracy following the initial investigation by West Virginia State Police TFC L.D. Mohr.
According to the criminal complaint, the female resident stated three individuals had entered their home. She informed the Trooper, Campbell had demanded money and when she told him she did not have any, they left. Currence stole a rifle which was near the front door of the home. Campbell then stole two chainsaws which were on the front porch of the residence.
The female attempted to stop Campbell and struggled with him. He struck her and threw her to the ground before fleeing. The male resident stated Hershman had pushed him to the ground during the altercation.
On January 1, WVSP CPL P.A. Huff obtained a statement from Campbell saying that Hershman was the third individual involved with this case.
Hershman was arraigned by Braxton County Magistrate Beth Smith and placed in the Central Regional Jail on a $25,000 cash only bond. He was charged with nighttime burglary, conspiracy, and first degree robbery.

Accused Wood Co. murderer apprehended
in Braxton

Jeffrey Lyle Sampson, 46 from Mineral Wells in Wood County was arrested near the Sutton Dam on Tuesday, January 10 after a multi-county high speed chase.
Sampson allegedly opened fire on Shawn Michael Hardman, 43, and Brandy Lynn Hardman, 40, both of Waverly. The couple had been called to the residence of Sampson’s ex-wife, Karen Sampson, 30, where it was reported that an altercation occurred.
According to the criminal report, it was during that altercation that Sampson used a firearm to shoot the Hardman’s. Brandy Hardman died at the scene and her husband was pronounced dead later at Camden Clark Medical Center in Parkersburg. Karen Sampson was not injured.
Jeff Sampson fled the home and the area leading law enforcement across several counties. The pursuit was joined by multiple agencies including the Sutton Detachment of the West Virginia State Police and the Braxton County Sheriff’s Department. According to reports, Sampson was traveling north in I-79 when he abruptly turned south near the 91 mile marker. The chase continued when Sampson left the interstate at the 62 mile marker and headed into Sutton. The Chevrolet truck, driven by the suspect, traveled up Main Street in Sutton before Sampson took a wrong turn and continued past the Flatwoods Canoe Run Water Plant which is a dead end. More than twenty law enforcement units were involved in the pursuit.
Sampson has been charged with two counts of first degree murder and is currently in the North Central Regional Jail in Greenwood. He was arraigned by Braxton County Magistrate David R. Singleton for the Wood County court system on Tuesday afternoon. He had a bond hearing Friday, January 13 at 11:45 a.m. before Judge J.D. Beane in Wood County Circuit Court. At press-time, Sampson was being held without bond awaiting further court proceedings.

Michael Motor Ford donates to BCHS

On Tuesday, January 10 during half time of the BCHS Boys’ Varsity Basketball game, Gary Rexroad of Michael Motor Ford presented a check in the amount of $3,820 to Braxton County High School Principal Jessica Pierson and Band Director Courtney Elmore. This donation comes from the Drive 1 for Your School program held on Saturday, October 15, 2016. The public was invited to come to the high school and take a short test drive for free and a donation was made to the band. Over the years Michael Motor has been able to donate thousands of dollars to the Braxton County High School Band with the program and this year was no different. The Company has been a proud supporter of the Braxton County school system, both in the classroom and in sports for over 33 years.

The winter months...

One step outside last weekend instantly reminded me that the winter months are here. The thermometer hovered in the single digits with wind chills below zero. Fresh snow covered the ground as well as fresh tracks from the all of the critters that stirred the night before.
The air was brisk and cool to say the least while running the trap line. I really don’t mind the cold weather and snow as it’s to be expected this time of the year. I enjoy the peace and serenity that the winter woods provide. There’s a stillness and calming effect that comes over me when I’m roaming around out there in the snow.
I’ve never been a fan of large crowds of people and prefer woods full of streams and trees instead. Loud noises seem to be more obnoxious as the years pass by. I guess that’s one of the signs of old age. On my daily trips through the woods I noticed a rub line from a nice buck that avoided me and made it through deer season. He’s going to be a really nice mature buck next year and I’ll know where to be on the lookout for him now. Some of the sumac trees he rubbed were the size of my calf muscle.
It’s like putting together pieces of a puzzle when the snow is on the ground. There are 4 less coyotes hunting the same ground that I do and I’m sure the deer, turkey, and other prey are thankful for my efforts. It’s amazing at how much the coyote population has grown during my lifetime.
Over 20 years ago coyote sightings were pretty much unheard of. I had my first encounter with one while deer hunting in Lewis County in 2000. That coyote is hanging over the back of a rocking chair in my den now as I had a rug made out of it.
Since then I see and hear coyotes every year now. It’s not unusual to hear them howling from my back porch on any given night. Sometimes they’re a little too close for comfort which prompted me to start trapping them. In the past 3 years I’ve eliminated 11 coyotes from my property.
That’s a lot of coyotes and there are still more as I saw fresh tracks this weekend. Every year more move in as their population continues to grow. January and February is the perfect time to follow tracks and help the prey species out by taking a few predators. I never dreamed there would be this many coyotes roaming around in West Virginia 20 years ago.
The forecast is calling for the temperatures to warm back up and thaw everything out this week. It’s been a rollercoaster of up and down temperatures so far this winter. This will no doubt kick mud season into full swing as they’re calling for rain as well.
I’d rather have snow this time of the year but you can’t control Mother Nature and she seems angry nowadays. With warmer weather in the forecast my thoughts have shifted towards fishing once again as I’ve missed being on the river. It will all depend on how much rain we get as to when I’ll get a chance as the rivers will rise with the snow melt. I’ll keep a close eye on it as fishing during the winter is relaxing and oftentimes you’ll have the whole place to yourself.
Whether you’re a fan of winter or not there are still plenty of opportunities to get out and enjoy the great outdoors. It’s also a great time to go through gear and replenish the fly or tackle box on those days it’s too cold and nasty to make it out. There’s always something productive to do when you’re an avid outdoors person. Winter is here for the next 3 months so make the most of it and stay warm and dry.





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