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Part 1: 2019 was year of growth for Jackson, surrounding area

Before we go rolling full steam ahead into 2020, let’s take a gander at the year that has just passed. It was definitely a year of growth and change for Jackson and the surrounding area.

Obviously, we can’t mention everything that happened in 2019, but here are some of the highlights that were reported in The CBJ:

As the new year dawned a year ago, there was a “changing of the guard.” Several longtime office-holders were replaced with new faces.

Ruth Ann Dickerson was sworn in as the first female sheriff in Cape Girardeau County. The former captain in the Sheriff’s Office replaced John Jordan, who had resigned the previous August after almost 24 years as sheriff, to take a position as a federal marshal.

Frank Miller replaced Judge Gary Kamp on the bench as associate circuit judge in Division 3. Kamp had held that position for 24 years before retiring Dec. 31.

Charleen (Charlie) Biester was sworn in as circuit court clerk, replacing Patti Wibbemeyer, who retired Dec. 31, after eight years in that position, which capstoned her 37 years in the circuit  clerk office.

Two new developments on East Jackson were nearing completion as we placed new calendars on our walls a year ago. A four-unit retail center on the site of the old Basic Fuel gas station was having its concrete parking lot laid, and bricklayers were working outside of Dexter BBQ’s new location.

The new police station which is now under construction next to the old one, was just a gleam in a designer’s eye as 2019 began. On Jan. 7, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen accepted a proposal from Penzel Construction Co. Inc., for $6.5 million to design-build the new facility.

On Friday, Jan. 11, all Jackson schools were evacuated because of a bomb threat posted on Instagram. All students were evacuated safely and no bomb was found.

First Baptist Jackson welcomed a new senior pastor, Troy Richards, on Sunday, Jan. 13.

A record-breaking attendance of 540 people at the Jackson Area Chamber of Commerce annual banquet on Jan. 18 saw City Attorney Tom Ludwig receive the 2018 R.A. Fulenwider Award for service to the Jackson community. Sara Gerau won the first-ever Woman of the Year award.

During that same weekend, Jackson wrestlers won their third straight conference title and their seventh in the past decade.  (The team later finished third at districts and sent five to the state meet. The Indians finished in a three-way tie for 12th at the state meet in early February. It was  the first time in four years they had finished in the top 15 at the state meet.)

On Saturday, Jan. 26, a couple was found dead on the 5700 block of County Road 203. Joseph A. Job, 66, shot and killed his estranged partner, Lana A. Durham, before shooting himself in a murder/suicide.

A carport fire destroyed a car and the north side of a home on West Lane across from R.O. Hawkins Junior High on Monday evening, Jan. 28. Firefighters brought the flames under control in 23 minutes.

Jackson’s own ice cream stand at 221 S. Hope St., changed hands after 61 years. Jack and Kim Thompson purchased the store from Jim Thompson, who retired  when he closed the store for the season in 2018. Jack and Kim opened for the new season in February 2019.

As February began, the Cape Girardeau County Commissioners approved an agreement with the City of Jackson for a consolidated 911 dispatch center that will be located in the Sheriff’s Office. The target date for completion was Jan. 1, 2020, but the dispatch center is behind schedule.

Construction on the new county courthouse was in its early stages. The County approved a $210,700 change order to Penzel Construction because drilled piers needed to be drilled deeper than expected.

On Feb. 4, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen heard a report from David Christen-sen of Cochran Engineering regarding plans for a second roundabout to be constructed at Shawnee Boulevard and East Main Street.  Now, a year later, construction has begun. It is expected to be completed by June 30.

Russell Heights Cemetery in Jackson saw improvements in 2019. It began with a $40,056 gazebo by Boulder Construction that was approved by the Mayor and Board of Aldermen Feb. 4. Later, three columbaria (to hold cremation urns) were installed near the gazebo, and a $104,450 storage building was constructed.

On Feb. 18, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen approved a special use permit for a service and education facility for individuals with disabilities at 2245 Old Toll Road. This opened the door for people to be served locally instead of being bused to a Blue Sky Community Services facility in Cape Girardeau. “I’d like to welcome Blue Sky to Jackson,” said Mayor Dwain Hahs.

On Friday night, Feb. 22, the Saxony Lutheran girls basketball team made history  by winning its seventh-straight district title. (Unfortunately, the team lost 65-67 in overtime in the state quarterfinals on March 2).

On Saturday, Feb. 23, crowds welcomed back Jackson native Roy Thomas, who made a career in comic books as a writer and editor for Marvel and DC comics. He spoke to a sold-out crowd at the Montgomery Bank Conference and Training Center before meeting fans at the History Center. Windows in Uptown Jackson were filled with Marvel Comics themes created by JHS art students for the event.

Meanwhile, over at Riverside Regional Library in Jackson, a reception was held for Children’s Librarian Lynn Farrow, who retired after 26 years.

On Thursday, Feb. 28, officials signed an agreement at Southeast Missouri Hospital to bring a $33 million 102-bed
behavioral health hospital to the area. Construction has now begun on Southeast-HEALTH’s west campus, adjacent to I-55 at exit 95. The facility is slated to open in the fall of 2020.

That night at the JHS Event Center, the Jackson boys and girls basketball teams both defeated Poplar Bluff to win their Class 5 District 1 titles.

Meanwhile, the Notre Dame girls basketball team defeated Cape Central to win their first district title since 2010.
Ground was broken on Thusday, March 7, for the new Jackson Police Station.

Gov. Mike Parson visited Signature Packaging in Jackson on Friday, March 8. He was promoting Fast Track, one of his top workforce development priorities.

On March 15-16, the JHS speech and debate team took third place overall in the district championship tournament and brought home two individual district championships.

Members of the American Legion Post 158 in Jackson celebrated the 100-year anniversary of their organization on March 21. The American Legion was founded in 1919 to support World War I veterans.

The following week, on March 26, the Jackson Rotary Club celebrated its 90th anniversary with a dinner at the Jackson Civic Center.

The next day, a former pillar of the community died. Marvin Proffer, a former businessman, city alderman and state representative, died at 88 years old. Along with Joyce Peerman, Proffer co-owned the Jackson Post & Cash-Book. (Peerman followed him in death on Dec. 19). They merged their newspaper with Gerald Jones’ Jackson Journal in 1977 to form The Cash-Book Journal.

The Uptown Jackson Revitalization Organization hired Steve Turner as its first executive director. He started work on April 1.

As the basketball season was winding down, Saxony Lutheran High School hired a new boys basketball coach, Justin Callahan. The team had won only two games all season.

City leaders were disappointed April 2 when voters turned down a request to charge use tax on out-of-state purchases. This was the third attempt to get voter approval.

Paul Stoner and incumbent Brian Thompson were elected to the Jackson R-2 Board of Education. Stoner had served one three-year term years ago.

The Oak Ridge R-6 School Board gained two new members in the April 2 election: James Urhahn and Ronald Tracy. They beat out Chris Layton and Robert Eisen-hauer. The two incumbents did not run for reelection.

Last year was a bad year for Mississippi River flooding. On the morning of April 3, Route 177 near Kenco in Cape Girardea County was closed due to rising floodwater. The flood gates in Cape Girardeau remained closed all spring and summer as the river remained above flood stage.

Strickland Engineering in Jackson celebrated 40 years of business in 2019. Another longtime Jackson business, Ross Furniture, opened a discount furniture store Friday, April 5, at 1809 N. Kings-highway in Cape Girardeau.

A week later, on Friday, April 12, SoutheastHEALTH held a groundbreaking ceremony for its primary care clinic at 2600 E. Main St. in Jackson. The building was already under construction at the time. It officially opened its doors with a ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house Dec. 10.

Missouri voters had approved medical marijuana in November 2018. On April 15, 2019, the Mayor and Board of Aldermen began discussing zoning for the growing, manufacturing, testing and selling of medical marijuana within Jackson city limits. It was necessary for Jackson to have ordinances in place before the state began issuing licenses Aug. 3.

The JHS girls softball team began a new season under a new coach; Shawn Wilding replaced Josh Roach. He had served as assistant coach the previous two years.

Healthcare took a leap forward in May. On Wednesday, May 1, Villas of Jackson broke ground for an 18-bed memory care facility. Five days later, Southeast Hospital held an open house for its Heart & Vascular Services Pavilion.

Traffic signals were installed at East Main Street and Oak Hill Road May 7. They officially began operating with a ribbon cutting on May 22.

The Jackson R-2 Board of Education on May 14 approved improvenents in the JHS “C” building (new carpet, paint and ceiling tile) and LED lighting for the football stadium.

United Way of Southeast Missouri held its first ever “Over the Edge” fundraiser May 17. For a fee, participants rappelled 147 feet down the outside of the 12-story Towers South dormitory at Southeast Missouri State University.

The Blue Angels returned to our skies during the Cape air festival May 17-19.

The JHS girls soccer team completed its season with only two losses and was seeded first in the Class 4 District 1 Tournament for the first time since 2016.

During Public Works Week May 19-25, the City of Jackson kicked off a “Walk Jackson” program to help residents get to know their ward and the city. Certificates of completion were awarded during Homecomers.

The Jackson Boys golf team ended its season by winning its first state title. Also in sports, the Notre Dame girls soccer team won its fourth straight class 2 District 1 championship Tuesday, May 14, and the JHS girls soccer team won its third straight Class 4 District 1 Championship May 15.

High school graduations highlighted the end of May. Oak Ridge High School graduated 32 students on Friday, May 17; Saxony Luther-an had 59 graduate on Sunday, May 19; and JHS graduated 353 seniors on Friday, May 24.

On Monday, May 20, a new Best Western Plus hotel broke ground at 3003 S. Old Orchard Road in Jackson. Construction continued for the remainder of the year on the four-story 80-room hotel that is expected to open this summer.

A conflict broke out between some Uptown Jackson merchants and the American Legion, sponsors of Homecomers, over closing High Street during the five-day celebration. It was finally decided that Homecomers would remain the same for 2019, but changes were considered for 2020, including shortening the event or moving it south one block away from the courthouse. The American Legion remained opposed to any changes.

On a beautiful summer evening, the crack of wooden bats came to the area as the Cape Catfish of the Wood Bat Prospect League held its home opener before 1,200 fans at Capaha Field in Cape Girardeau. The fans were treated to a 9-4 win. The Catfish had a successful season, making the playoffs, but falling short of winning the league championship.

About 20 Cherokee bicyclists from Oklahoma trekked through Jackson June 11 as they retraced the steps their ancestors took on the “Trail of Tears” 180 years ago.

On June 11, the Jackson R-2 School Board approved its 2019-20 budget with $62 million in expenditures and $58 million in revenue. The Board also approved the purchase of 830 iPads for kindergarten and first grade use. This was the final phase of the District’s one-to-one initiative.

The Missouri Public Defenders office in Jackson moved from the Sheriff’s Office to 2360 N. High Street. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at the new location on Thursday, June 20.

On Friday, June 21, a windstorm blew through Jackson, downing trees and power lines and ripping shingles off of roofs on many homes. The roof of the American Legion Hall in Jackson was damaged and had to be replaced.

(To be continued.)

Gregory Dullum has worked for The Cash-Book Journal for more than 25 years. Prior to becoming the editor in May 2017, he was production manager, circulation manager and reporter. Before moving to Cape Girardeau in 1988, he was editor of the Saint Louis Park Sailor, a weekly community newspaper in suburban Minneapolis, MN. A native of Minnesota, he returned there after graduating with distinction in 1978 from Ambassador College in Pasadena, CA, with a degree in mass communications. His wife, Marie, whom he met in college, is a native of Zalma, a small town in southeast Missouri. They have two grown daughters and five grandchildren. Gregory may be reached at

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