By Harley Nefe
The past week has no doubt been a difficult one for the High Country, as community members are mourning the loss of neighbors, coworkers, friends and family.
On April 28, Sgt. Chris Ward and K-9 Deputy Logan Fox responded to a welfare check and died in the line of duty. The individual suspected of killing the two officers, Isaac Barnes, is also suspected of killing Michelle and George Ligon. Barnes, who is the son and stepson of the deceased civilians, also died at the scene.
As the High Country continues to grieve over the tragic event that resulted in five deaths, there has been an outpouring of support from community members to get through the hard time.
Blue Ridge Diner
Tina Watson, who has been the owner of Blue Ridge Diner, has been serving members of police departments, sheriff’s departments and fire departments for 15 years.
“They eat with me two to three time a week, and we love having them here,” Watson said. “They mean so much to me. I’ve always supported them. This is their hang out when they come. When they come in, 95% of the time they don’t pay for their food.”
She further explained, “We do all that we can for them. Anything we can do to help them.”
When Watson heard about the news, it was devastating.
“It’s just really affected us because we get so attached to them and then something like this happens,” Watson said. “What we try to do is just embrace them and be there for them, and we will continue to do that.”
She further talked about how law enforcement personnel have been by the diner recently.
“We hugged them and were there for them and talked to them, so they could just have the opportunity to talk about whatever they wanted,” Watson said.
Watauga County Schools
Another opportunity for law enforcement personnel to enjoy a meal is at any Watauga County Schools campuses.
WCS Superintendent Scott Elliot announced that all local law enforcement officers are invited to drop by one of the WCS campuses this week for a complimentary lunch with students and staff.
“We always enjoyed seeing Chris and Logan drop by our schools and visit with our students,” Elliott explained. “In their honor, I would like to invite the deputies from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office and officers from all other local law enforcement agencies to drop by one of our schools any day this week to enjoy lunch.”
Back the Blue
Back the Blue NC, Inc. is a non-profit organization that supports law enforcement, as their mission is to give back to those who are willing to give their all. Their main goal is to show law enforcement that the majority of local communities respect, honor and need law enforcement officers.
They are extending their thoughts, prayers and deepest sympathies to the families of the victims. To help the cause, Back the Blue is raising donations for the families of Sgt. Ward and K-9 Deputy Fox.
There are currently two GoFundMe pages set up, one for each officer: https://gofund.me/229363bc and https://gofund.me/bff157d2.
The Back the Blue organization from Caldwell County is also doing something for the fallen deputies. They are organizing a benefit ride. Line up begins at 9 a.m. on Saturday, May 8 at Xcel Fitness Hickory located at 2008 Clement Blvd NW. There, donations will be collected for the families. Then the convoy will leave at 11 a.m.
A map and directions can be found below:
Hwy 321N into Boone
Turn RIGHT onto Deerfield Rd follow to the end
Turn LEFT onto Bamboo Rd follow to the end
Turn RIGHT onto Hwy 221 travel approx .3 of a mile
Turn LEFT onto Old 421 S travel approx .1 of a mile
Turn LEFT onto Cabbage Row Rd
The convoy will end at Hollar & Greene Produce Company at 230 Cabbage Row Dr. in Boone.
Run of the Son Christian Motorcycle Club is having a BBQ fundraiser scheduled for the same day and time. A portion of the proceeds of their BBQ sales will be donated to the families. BBQ plates will be cash only and are $10, and they will sell until they run out.
Questions can be directed to Kim Watson-Pitts, who is one of the founders of Back the Blue in Caldwell, at 828-228-2722.
Community Day of Remembrance
Several local business, organizations and citizens have rallied to create a Community Day of Remembrance, set for Monday, May 10.
Community members can sign up via this link to receive information about a special kit that includes a blue LED lightbulb to honor Watauga County Sheriff’s Deputies Ward and Fox, and the hundreds of law enforcement officials and first responders from across the state that aided the community during the tragedy. The kit will also include a red ribbon to honor George and Michelle Ligon.
Once pick-up details are finalized, those that wish to receive a kit will be able to visit one of several pick-up locations throughout Watauga County late this week. A small number of light stands will be available, on a first-come-first serve basis, for businesses that do not have a traditional light socket outside of their location.
Then, on May 10, the High Country will unite in solidarity to honor the lives lost with a day of reflection with family, friends and neighbors. Community members are called to wear the red ribbon, or red clothing throughout the day in honor of George and Michelle Ligon, then light up their homes and storefronts blue that evening in a tribute to Deputies Ward and Fox. Those who feel lead can share experiences through social media using the hashtag #WataugaStrong.
Quiet Givers is an organization serving the people of Watauga, Ashe and Avery counties, by encouraging the act of anonymous giving to help fill needs that other organizations are unable to fill, and they are organizing a fundraiser for the family of George and Michelle Ligon.
“George and Michelle were longtime supporters of our organization,” said Executive Director Matthew Lucas, “and this is our way of giving back to them by supporting their family during this difficult time.”
All funds raised during this fundraiser will be given to their family to help cover funeral costs, time off from work, and other unexpected expenses they may encounter.
“She was a quiet, fierce, brilliant soul that gave so much more to this community than anyone really realizes,” said Quiet Givers treasurer, Amber Robinson. “She was so graciously helpful.”
While Quiet Givers fundraisers are usually anonymous, the organization felt that the magnitude of this tragedy warranted a unique approach to help the families of the victims. As always, donors’ names will remain confidential.
“Michelle was our very first monthly recurring donor; she’s been there for us since the very beginning,” Lucas said. “Whenever we needed someone to test out new features on our website or social media – Michelle was our go-to, helping us make sure everything was running smoothly before passing them on to the public. And there was rarely a need that we posted that George wouldn’t swoop in and top off to make sure it got filled.”
Donations to the Ligon/Barnes family can be made at Quiet Givers’ website by visiting https://quietgivers.org/needs/113.
A memorial service for both George and Michelle Ligon will be held this Saturday, May 8 in Boone. The service will take place starting at 2 p.m. at Boone United Methodist Church. Jenkins Funeral Home and Cremation Service in Newton has been entrusted with their arrangements.
The funeral services for Sgt. Ward and K-9 Deputy Fox will be conducted together this Thursday, May 6 at 3 p.m. at Appalachian State University’s Holmes Convocation Center, according to Austin & Barnes Funeral Home & Crematory. Doors will open for public seating at 1 p.m.
Pictures by Ken Ketchie from the Watauga County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday
showing memorials for the two fallen sheriff deputies:
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