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Longtime Tyler Countian to turn 100

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3 Old Photo FranFran with her baton and her brother with his trumpet during high school days.

By Chris Edwards

Each trip around the sun is a cause for celebration, but for those who hit the century mark, that achievement is definitely worthy of a big celebration.

Centenarians are becoming more common nowadays, with all of the advances in healthcare and nutrition available. According to the most recent numbers from the Census Bureau, there are around 97,000 centenarians in the United States, and nearly 573,000 around the world.

Yet, still, many of those who reach 100 years young are not without some complications. Longtime Colmesneil resident Frances Ellen “Fran” Wyche is the exception. Wyche, who recently moved to Zavalla, to live with her son on his small farm, still finds a great deal to enjoy from life and activities to keep her mind, body and spirit young and free.

Wyche will celebrate her 100th year on Monday, Jan. 18, and according to her younger sister Mary Ann Kittell, of Colmesneil, she has kept busy all of her life.

Wyche was the first-born child of Herman Walton and Ila Lee. Her father, a WWI combat veteran, had started his family in Detroit, where he had returned after the war to re-settle into his old job as City Electrical Engineer.

4 young Fran 011420A young Fran Wyche.

Her father was always encouraging of her pursuits growing up, and chief among them was twirling. According to Kittell, their father managed to find the best twirling teachers and even fashioned her batons in his metal shop, perfecting balance and innovation.

Wyche was also the first to use a fire baton, which features materials at each end with a chemical mix to ignite blue, yellow, green and red at the right moment.

She spent her childhood growing up in the Beaumont area, and became the state baton-twirling champion in 1939. Later, she won the national title. Her little brother Tommy was no slouch as a twirler, himself, and took the second-place honors toward the state title in 1939.

Kittell, who is nearly 89, herself, remembered when she and her sister, their parents and other siblings moved to Texas. She recalls it like it was yesterday. “There was no electricity out there in, and it was a shell road. We lived off the old Highway 90 in Amelia,” she said.

Wyche’s talents and lust for life and adventure took her far outside Southeast Texas. After years of ballet and tap dancing, she came home from Baylor to perform in shows that promoted the sale of war bonds and other benefits at the start of the U.S. involvement in World War II.

She married her high school sweetheart, who was a U.S Air Corps pilot, and traveled around the country, as well as into Okinawa, Japan and through China, and beyond. After spending time in Beaumont and Houston, and raising her son, Robin, and surviving two husbands, she worked a variety of jobs, including a stint as a receptionist at NASA. She also managed her brother’s restaurant in Colorado for a time, and later returned home to be with her aging mother and to help her sister at the BBB with public relations and memberships for a decade.

When she moved to Tyler County in 1974, she joined the Round Dance club at the Opera House and helped out as a hostess at the Friday night dinner dances and for many other occasions, her sister noted.

2 Drum Major FranFran as a drum major in high school. Her talent for performing took her far when she was young.

Last year, Wyche moved from her home on Frog Pond in Colmesneil to Zavalla, where she enjoys being around the animals on her son’s farm. “She’s always loved horses,” said Kittell.
Kittell said Wyche still enjoys her half-mile walks each day and enjoys visiting with neighbors and gardening. Her grandchildren and great-grandchildren are frequent visitors, and although her eyesight is dimming, her mind is still sharp, and she enjoys reading and watching television, and good conversation.

She also still looks much, much younger than her years. Kittell joked that she could still pass for her little sister. “She was my baby sister until she turned 90,” Kittell said with a laugh.
Although the pandemic has curbed most celebrations, Kittell has put forth a challenge to Booster readers to surprise her sister with cards to commemorate her milestone.

1 Fran Wyche Recent 011421A recent photo of Fran Wyche

Anyone who would like to wish this remarkable lady a happy birthday can send a card by way of the Tyler County Booster. Just send them to Frances Ellen Wyche c/o 205 West Bluff, Woodville, Texas 75979.

NOTE: All photos are provided courtesy of Mary Ann Kittell

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Jasper man indicted on child rape charges

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MUGSHOT Anibal VillasanaAnibal Mauricio Villasana Courtesy of the Tyler County Sheriff’s Department

WOODVILLE –  A Tyler County grand jury handed down an indictment to a Jasper man on child rape charges.

Anibal Mauricio Villasana, a 61-year-old Jasper resident, was indicted by the jury on two counts of Indecency with a Child by Sexual Contact. Villasana’s indictment came after an investigation regarding incidents alleged to have occurred in Tyler County. The information was submitted by Tyler County District Attorney Lucas Babin and his staff following the investigation.

Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford said that the Texas Rangers worked on the case.

Villasana, according to a news release, has worked for the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department for more than 20 years. He has worked in various capacities within that county’s jail, including as head of kitchen staff, head of maintenance and jailer.

A statement made by Jasper County Chief Deputy Scotty Duncan to Jasper-based radio station KJAS affirmed that Villasana had been places on leave with pay, pending the case’s outcome.

Villasana reportedly turned himself in to the Tyler County Justice Center on Tuesday morning, and was released after making arrangements to post his bail, which was pre-set at $100,000, or $50,000 per charge.

The charges handed down to Villasana are a second-degree felony, punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 per charge, between two and 20 years in prison, or both.

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Colmesneil suspends in-person learning

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Remote Learning graphicFILE PHOTO Remote Learning graphic

By Chris Edwards

COLMESNEIL – As of Monday, Colmesneil ISD will forgo all in-person learning until Jan. 5 of 2021.

The announcement was issued on Friday by Superintendent Eldon Franco, who cited potential exposures to COVID-19 since Thanksgiving break. “The cases on campus have been very minimal and have not affected large numbers. Regardless, the process that we must follow, as dictated by state and local governments, creates a great deal of worry and stress for those both directly and indirectly involved,” Franco wrote in a letter addressed to parents and community members on Friday, Dec. 11.

Franco said that the number of cases has surged in the community, and attributed it to outside sources, and that it was expected to occur due to holiday gatherings.

At present, the COVID numbers, countywide, include 49 active residents who have tested positive from the PCR testing and 86 active tests from the rapid, or quick testing.

In going to the remote mode of learning, all CISD students will still be expected to participate in remote learning for the remainder of the semester by using district-provided or personal devices to access instruction.

Students are also expected to check-in with teachers each day from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m, and breakfast and lunch will continue to be provided by the CISD cafeteria for pick-up from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

“Our goal is to keep everyone safe and healthy and continue the educational process,” Franco said.

With the announcement that CISD will suspend its in-person learning, Colmesneil eatery The Rustic Grill announced that it will offer its facility and Wi-Fi capabilities to anyone in need. “We would like to help out. If you don’t have Wi-Fi at home to do virtual school please don’t hesitate to come here and do your work,” a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page stated.

The Rustic Grill is typically closed on Mondays but will open its doors for anyone who needs to access the restaurant’s Wi-Fi to do schoolwork.

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Flannery presented with TEA award

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Payton Flannery 111920CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Woodville High School senior Payton Flannery (left) was presented with the Student Hero citation from the Texas Education Agency. Matt Robinson from TEA (right) presented her with the award. It recognizes students in pre-kindergarten through high school who do outstanding volunteer service. One student from each of the 15 State Board of Education districts is recognized with the award. Flannery started a group at WHS called Eagles for Christ. Flannery is involved in a variety of other clubs and activities, including the WHS Interact chapter and Future Farmers of America.

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Judge Blanchette fights COVID

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Blanchette 2CALEB FORTENBERRY | TCB File photo - Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette swearing in Warren ISD board members in November, 2020.

By Chris Edwards

WOODVILLE – Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette found himself among the 13 million Americans who have been diagnosed with the coronavirus this year.

Blanchette received a positive result from a COVID-19 test administered on Friday, Nov. 28. He said he had begun feeling ill the day before Thanksgiving, and by Friday was very sick. He is currently staying confined at home. His wife, Leeza, had also fallen ill with the virus and is recuperating.

An update from the Tyler County Emergency Management Facebook page noted Blanchette’s announcement and that he appreciates the prayers and support from the public in his recovery.

As the pandemic has experienced a nationwide surge in the past month, the likelihood of infection has increased, and anyone is fair game for the virus.

Several other elected officials in the area have tested positive for the coronavirus. According to a recent story from KJAS out of Jasper, the Jasper ISD School Board President Mark Durand and the county’s Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Raymond Hopson were both diagnosed with the virus last week.

Hopson was elected to fill the seat held by Judge Jimmy Miller who died from coronavirus complications during the summer.

In Tyler County, the total number of confirmed cases has surpassed 300, and at press time is at 320. This number represents the total number of positive cases in the county since reporting began in late March with the first confirmed case.

Two recent deaths were also reported as COVID-related. Last week, Ruby Moore, of Warren, died from complications, and the week prior, Ethel McGough’s passing was linked to the virus.

Those two deaths brings the COVID death count to nine in the county.

In other COVID news, the county’s Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe recently addressed the methodology for reporting the county’s number of cases and added reportage for the number of quick tests administered. Jobe said those cases are not listed by public health as active, but they are tracked, investigated and logged in the system as “probables.”

In addressing questions about the seeming lapse in reporting cases, Jobe said “The public health numbers and my numbers don’t always match,” which he attributed to a timing issue.

Additionally, the numbers from public health sources use the test date as the starting date for active cases, and then county 10 days and remove from active if they do not receive the result, Jobe said. Those cases are posted to the recovered category. “Several counties where we have residents go test are slow to get results to our public health group,” he said.

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