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Nash native, radio talk show host Valentine dies of COVID

Nash County native Phil Valentine, a well-known conservative radio talk show host based in Nashville, Tenn., died Saturday after a weeks-long battle with COVID-19.

Phil’s brother Mark Valentine said Monday in an interview that Phil Valentine wanted to encourage others to get vaccinated before he died. Though many media sources have characterized Phil Valentine as being against the COVID vaccine, Mark Valentine said that was not an accurate representation of Phil’s position.

“He was never anti-vaccination. He told people on his radio show to consider their own situations and to talk to their physicians about vaccination. But he made it clear that he was not going to get the vaccine. He felt the likelihood of him getting COVID was low and the likelihood of him dying from COVID was even lower,” Mark Valentine said.

However, Phil Valentine died of COVID-related pneumonia at the age of 61.

“Phil realized that the fact that he did not get vaccinated may have encouraged other people to avoid the vaccine. By the end, Phil wanted his death to act as a reminder to encourage people to get vaccinated. He wanted to take the politics out of the issue. He didn’t want anyone else to suffer the way he did,” Mark Valentine said. “That is why I have been encouraging people to get vaccinated over the past few weeks.”

Mark Valentine, who is a trial consultant based in the Wendell area, said he and his family are feeling the loss of his brother.

“We were very close,” he said. “This is like losing a brother and a best friend on the same day. Phil was such an extraordinary, multi-talented guy. He was a radio talk show host. He was an author. And he took part in several movies,” Mark Valentine said.

Phil Valentine was well-known in Nash County in his youth. The son of former U.S. Rep. Tim Valentine, a Democrat who represented the state of North Carolina for six terms, Phil Valentine graduated from Northern Nash High School before attending college at East Carolina University. He then launched a career as a political talk show host and writer with Republican leanings.

“Phil led an extraordinary life,” Mark Valentine said. “He went to Nashville, Tenn., in the early 90s by himself to make his way in the world out from under the shadow of his father. He was a completely self-made man. He had three sons and his family was more like a team than a family.”

Mark Valentine said he and his brother had a conversation recently that indicated that Phil was satisfied with the life he lived.

“He told me, ‘I feel like I have lived the life of 10 men. I feel like I am in the bonus round now,’” Mark Valentine said. “But his bonus round was cut short because of COVID.”

The Valentine family was close to the family of Gov. Roy Cooper when they were young, Mark Valentine said. Cooper’s office confirmed that Monday in a statement.

“The governor has known the Valentine family all of his life, having grown up, played and gone to church and school with Phil and his brothers and sister,” Cooper’s press secretary, Jordan Monaghan, said Monday in a statement to the Telegram.

When Cooper last officially visited the Town of Nashville on July 29 to oversee a vaccination effort at the McDonalds in Nashville, he mentioned Phil Valentine’s battle with COVID.

“His family is pleading with people to get the vaccine because they’ve seen firsthand the damage that this virus can do,” Cooper said. “We pray for Phil. We pray for everyone who is in the hospital and who is sick right now to pull through with this.”

In a statement Monday, Cooper’s press secretary said that Cooper was saddened to hear of Phil Valentine’s death.

“The governor extends his deepest sympathies and prayers to the Valentine family,” the statement said.

Back-to-School Bash aims to educate

The N.C. Cooperative Extension on Saturday hosted a Back-to-School Bash at the Nash County Farmers Market.

Adrienne Williams, program assistant for the Empowering Youth and Families Program of Nash County 4-H Development, said she aimed to use the event to educate people about the opioid epidemic rather than focus on rehabilitation.

The 10-week Empowering Youth and Families Program brings together families and kids to learn skills on how to better communicate with one another.

“We want to educate families about how this epidemic begins and how communication between families is key to preventing problems from occurring to begin with,” Williams said. “We want parents to be aware of what’s going on around them, especially in the home, because many kids begin using from medicine cabinets in their own homes. Throughout the course of the program, we review the latest news in opioid addiction and prevention, as well as share with the families more knowledge about where things currently stand in Nash and surrounding counties.

“We’re proud of this program and look forward to seeing how it unfolds. Our third class will be graduating soon,” she said.

Blondell McIntyre and her 11-year-old son, Frankie, are recent graduates of the program.

“This program opened my eyes to the crisis and how it really can affect any child. I’m grateful that communication was a key component in the program because I want Frankie to come to me for anything,” Blondell McIntyre said. “However, it’s my job as a parent to make him feel safe by doing so. This will be a work in progress for the both of us, but now I’m more alert as to my son’s behavior and that of his friends.”

When asked what he learned from the program, Frankie McIntyre said, “I want to take care of my body and after hearing how opioids can destroy your insides, it really bothered me.”

“To keep myself healthy, I know I’ve got to surround myself with drug-free people,” he said. “I don’t want to end up a statistic.”

Williams said her hope is to empower the community one family at a time.

“If we learn to communicate with one another and take the time to take care of each other, we’re all the better for it,” she said. “We want the people in our communities we learn to share information with their neighbors, and vice versa, so we can protect each other.”

Representatives of Trillium Health Resources, Nash Community College and the Nash County Sheriff’s Office were on hand to answer questions. The sheriff’s office also offered a Pill Take Back Station and a drug goggles activity for kids.

City responds to complaints about dilapidated former nightclub

A resident who has long been complaining to the City Council about the rundown location of a former nightclub along North Church Street recently received a response from municipal officials.

Morrie Minges approached the speaker’s podium during the public input phase of the Aug. 9 council regular meeting to again bring up the subject of what had been the Ebony & Ivory.

“Who owns it?” Minges asked. “Is there anybody on the council or in the City of Rocky Mount that gives a flip about that nasty looking, now-burned-out piece of nothing?”

The former Ebony & Ivory is in the 2700 block of North Church and is a short drive north of the Rocky Mount Sports Complex and the relocated state Division of Motor Vehicles headquarters.

Minges called for the council to give notice to the property owner and added she is sure the property owner probably does not live in Rocky Mount.

Minges also asked the council members whether any of them knows the property owner.

Councilman Andre Knight replied in the affirmative.

“Well, call him and tell him to clean up his area,” Minges said.

In a brief back and forth with Knight, Minges said, “He (the property owner) has not done anything. He has burned it up, but now it just looks just as crappy as it did before.”

Minges also told the council if she provides a petition to speak during a council regular meeting, then why does the council not include the council ward she is from.

“And then since nobody ever responds to anything you say, maybe that person could get that piece of paper with that concern and then they might be able to call you or find out if they could help you out,” she said. “That follow-up stuff — y’all must not know my number because nobody calls me.”

Knight signaled he wanted to be recognized to speak and when Mayor Sandy Roberson did so, Knight told him, “Well, I defer to you to answer that question, sir.”

Roberson told Knight that he did not know who owns the property.

“You don’t?” Knight asked.

“No,” Roberson said.

“Oh,” Knight said.

Councilman Richard Joyner said that the city responds to requests as they come before the municipality and that there is a process of responding.

City Manager Rochelle Small-Toney said that she does not know if the municipality has a formal process.

Small-Toney said that sometimes the municipal staff is present during a council regular meeting to speak with the person who has a complaint and that the ones she knows her office responds to do subsequently get in contact with people.

Small-Toney also made clear that she and her team are aware of the former Ebony & Ivory.

Knight said that Kevin Jones owns the property and that he thinks when Jones purchased the property he probably did so at a public auction.

“But the building was in worse shape than what it is in now,” Knight said. “And I think some demolition has occurred.”

And Knight told Minges, “I haven’t spoken with him about that, but just by seeing it, some demolition has occurred — and I know that you’ve been here several times.”

Knight also told Minges that her inquiries should have been answered and that the matter of the former Ebony & Ivory belongs to the office of City Development Services Director Will Deaton.

Councilman Reuben Blackwell said, “We’ve discussed for years these issues about dilapidated commercial properties.”

Blackwell said if the city moves to act against an owner of a dilapidated property, then the municipality has to be ready to do a cleanup.

Blackwell also said he is certain by that point calls have been made and letters have been issued to and fines have been assessed against the property owner.

“But our power to go and take that property or demolish it or fully clean it up comes to the tune of budget that would take away from what we also are trying to do on the residential side,” Blackwell said. “So it’s not as if we ride by and close our eyes.”

He also noted that he worked during the mid-1990s in the Planning Department inventorying properties in dilapidated neighborhoods in the city and that the municipality has cleaned up thousands of properties through the years.

“Our eyes only rest on what’s left yet to be done,” he said.

And he made clear he believes people who assume the city is not doing anything are incorrect.

“It’s just that our hands are limited by general statute and by budget,” he said. “And there are some things we can do — and would eagerly do — if we had the money to get it done.”

Blackwell more specifically spoke of dilapidated former commercial and industrial locations being problematic.

And Blackwell spoke of owners of those properties having already written those properties off and having received tax benefits “and then left it for us to deal with and live with, which is unfair.”

“And I completely agree with you on that particular matter,” Blackwell told Minges.

Nash County property tax records said the location of the former Ebony & Ivory has since March 2020 been listed in the names of Kevin B. Jones and Talia A. Jones. The records said the purchase price was $18,000.

Kevin Jones, reached Monday by the Telegram by phone, said that he has always wanted to have a part in the revitalization of Rocky Mount.

Jones said that he has done a considerable amount of demolition at the former Ebony & Ivory location relative to what he has been able to afford, that he is keeping the grass mowed and that he is working on getting the structure torn down.

Jones said that he believes Minges’ concerns and complaints are well-placed.

“But I think that somewhat of an indictment has been built up on that property — as it should be,” Jones said, emphasizing he is not minimizing Minges’ concerns.

He said that he does not yet have specific plans for the location, but that the bottom line is that he is going to demolish the entire structure.

The former Ebony & Ivory location had previously been listed in the names of Jack E. Medlin and Linda B. Medlin.

Jones finished third in a four-way 2019 contest for mayor and served as Roberson’s transition director after Roberson defeated Bronson Williams in a runoff.

One man killed, six others injured in car crash

A 21-year-old Durham man was killed and six other people were injured late Saturday night in a car crash in Edgecombe County.

The collision occurred about 11:16 p.m. Saturday on Bulluck School Road, Trooper Phillips of the State Highway Patrol said Sunday in an interview.

Jaylin Dixon, 21, was driving a Toyota Camry heading west on Bulluck School Road toward Rocky Mount when the collusion occurred, Phillips said. Dixon was driving near the intersection of the railroad tracks near Arlington Road when he crossed the center line and collided with a Buick Lacrosse travelling east on the same road.

Phillips said that Dixon’s car was so far over the center line that the two vehicles collided head on with the passenger side of Dixon’s vehicle striking the passenger side of the other vehicle.

Shortly after impact, Dixon’s car caught on fire, witnesses reported. Both cars were totaled.

Dixon died at the scene. Two other men inside his car also were injured.

Two women and two boys were inside the Buick. All of the people in the two vehicles were harmed with injuries ranging from minor to severe, Phillips said. Most of the victims of the accident were transported to Nash UNC Health Care and at least two were then life-flighted to other hospitals for treatment of more serious injuries, Phillips said.

Early social media reports suggested that victims had been directly air-lifted from the scene of the accident.

While that plan had been under consideration at one point, it was changed, Phillips said.

Phillips said the cause of the accident is still under investigation, but alcohol has not been ruled out as a factor.

Police seek gunman who robbed local grocery store

Police are asking for the public’s help finding a man who, armed with a handgun, robbed the Food Lion this weekend in the Maple Creek area on the southwest side of the city.

The man entered the supermarket late Saturday morning and took $250 in cash before fleeing in an unknown direction, a police incident report made available on Monday said.

The report described the man as 28 to 30 years old, 5-feet, 6-inches tall to 5-feet, 8-inches tall, white, weighing 190 pounds and being of a medium build.

And a still image of security footage from the supermarket showed the man was wearing a beige toboggan, a dark long-sleeved shirt, baggy jeans and tennis shoes.

Officers received the call at 11:51 a.m. to go to the supermarket, which is in the 800 block of Harbour West Drive just off the South Wesleyan Boulevard corridor.

Police Cpl. Ricky Jackson told the Telegram in an email on Monday that no one was injured and that the man is the lone suspect.

Anyone with any information about the robbery is asked to phone the police at 252-972-1411 or Twin County Crime Stoppers at 252-977-1111.

Tips also can be texted to police via Text-A-Tip at 274637 by beginning messages with RMPOL and typing up to 155 characters about the information.