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Local_news
Commentary
JUDD: Cutshaw's Legacy — 'If Somebody Was Hungry, He’d Feed Them'

The young woman had just been released from the county jail. The night was late and the weather bitter cold. And she was about eight months along in her pregnancy, and had no place to go and no one who could pick her up until morning.

She wandered down Depot Street toward the only place with lights still on: Tipton’s Cafe. Inside, co-owner Jim Cutshaw was at the grill, as usual, and working with him was grandson Tyler, who told me this story Thursday morning, shortly after Jim passed away.

Shivering and deeply worried, the young woman soon found she’d come to the right place. Jim gave her a hot meal and told her she was welcome to stay in the warmth of the cafe until the morning. She gladly and gratefully accepted the shelter and the food, and the next morning connected with her people and was on her way.

Jim’s grandson Tyler says he saw a lot of that kind of compassion on the part of his grandfather. Tyler’s mother, Paige, was one of Jim and Edna Cutshaw’s daughters, and passed away when her son was little. Jim and Edna stepped in to raise him. He’s now 30 years old and at the moment badly missing his grandather. Tyler came by the newspaper office to tell us something we knew and he knew even better: Jim Cutshaw was a special man, a man with heart.

“I know I’m family saying this, but I really believe he was an inspiration to a lot of people,” Tyler told me and Artie Wehenkel. Both Artie and I have been known to partake of Tipton’s Cafe fare. And both of us were able to confirm to Tyler that, yes, Jim was inspirational to many. And he inspired in the best way: by personal example and action.

The man made his living selling hot food, yet also spent his life giving a lot of food away, to such people as that young pregnant lady, to people without homes and resources who drifted in off Depot Street, and sometimes just to people with momentarily empty wallets. “Pay me next time you’re able,” Tyler would hear him say.

Many of those people did pay later. Some never did. According to Tyler, it didn’t matter much either way to Jim. Sometimes his kind heart mattered more than his cash register.

“If somebody was hungry, he’d feed them,” Tyler said, eyes moistening.

That kind of compassion extended to more than human beings. Jim made the pages of The Greeneville Sun way back in September 1981 when Bob Hurley told the story of how Jim joined with another Depot Street business operator help out a neglected, abused dog.

The dog, shy and scared of people, had received some help from the late L.E. Cox of Vogue Cleaners. He provided the nearly crippled dog, whom he called Tiger, with a place to sleep and food. She began to trust him – and him only – and seemingly see him as her master. When he’d go down and have breakfast at Tipton’s Cafe, she’d wait at the door for him to come out.

Naturally enough, she received a sample or two of Tipton’s famous sausage biscuits – addictive substances, those. Before long, Jim started providing Tiger with a daily breakfast, and she would come to the door for it even if Cox wasn’t inside. Jim would place a bag with a sausage biscuit or two outside the cafe door, and Tiger would pick up the bag, carry it to Vogue Cleaners, and enjoy her meal there.

Tyler remembers that the dog was smart enough to pick up on the cafe’s schedule. Tiger would show up every day except Sunday.

Former Greeneville Police Chief Terry Cannon, like Tiger and me, has enjoyed a few Tipton’s biscuits over the years. Cannon has fond memories of Jim, and appreciation for his help to local law officers. Because he read and signed so many warrants, Jim often knew more about what was going on with local police at a particular moment than Cannon did, he said. “He’d tell me things I didn’t know about yet,” Cannon recalled Friday.

Cannon enjoyed “aggravating” Jim in a good-humored way. “We’d call his place the ‘grease pit’ and tell him we were ‘sliding in,’” Cannon said. If Jim took offense, it wasn’t serious.

“He was always a good one,” Cannon said. “He’s going to be missed.”

County Mayor Kevin Morrison, who had been busy in meetings almost all of Thursday, had not heard of Cutshaw’s death until I asked him if he’d like to make a comment about it. The news, he said, was a “shock,” adding that Jim “was as close to a living Greeneville-Greene County must-visit human institution that we’ve had when people came in from out of town.”

Governmental visitors at the level of congress members and governors had to visit Tipton’s Cafe and Jim Cutshaw when in town, the mayor said. And among local citizens, “You couldn’t find a finer, more service-minded and community-minded couple than Jim and Edna.”

Some who have visited Jim Cutshaw’s cafe over the years carried famous names through its windowed door. Tyler reeled off several during his Greeneville Sun visit: Red Foxx, Ricky Skaggs, actor Paul Giamatti, one of the Mandrell sisters (he couldn’t recall right off which one), a singer from the band Foreigner and members of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.

There’s one celebrity visitor Tyler recalls particularly well: famous moonshiner and reality television star Popcorn Sutton. Tyler traded the bearded Sutton “two cups of coffee for an autograph.”

Lorie Waddell, purchasing assistant for Greene County government, knew Jim Cutshaw from her girlhood on up. In her mid-teen years, she worked for the late Max Douthat’s tire company down Depot Street from Tipton’s Cafe.

She and Douthat usually walked together to Tipton’s for lunch, where Jim was sure to tease her from behind the counter by calling her “Lorie Douthat.”

Apart from his well-known friendliness, sense of humor, and accommodation of newcomers, one of the traits that Greene County Sheriff Wesley Holt most appreciates about Jim Cutshaw was how seriously he took his duty of signing warrants for law enforcement officers. Both he and GCSD Chief Deputy for Finance Ray Allen recalled how officers who showed up at Tipton’s always received a friendly greeting, some back-and-forth joking, and usually something to eat. And Jim would provide his signature on their documents no matter how inconvenient … and if he didn’t happen to be at the cafe, officers were welcome to head up the Baileyton Road to his house and he’d sign there.

Holt told a touching story that clearly shows Jim’s dedication to helping out law enforcement.

“I went to his house just to visit with him about a couple of weeks ago,” Holt said Friday. “He was in bed and weak, feeling bad, but before I left, he told me, ‘If them boys need a warrant signed, you tell them to come here to the house, and I’ll sign it right here in this bed.”

Holt paused, then added, “That says a lot about Jim Cutshaw, him saying he’d do that for our officers even feeling as bad as he did.”

The sheriff’s anecdote lends support to a comment from The Greeneville Sun Publisher Gregg Jones: Jim was “gracious to a fault.” Gregg went on to describe the man as “the leader of a multi-generation family whose work-ethic and commitment to share a kind word was an essential part of Tipton’s and the way they live ... Greene County has lost one of its most ardent supporters, downtown Greeneville has lost one of its indisputable anchors, and I have lost a great friend. Like all fortunate enough to have crossed Jim’s path, I will never stop missing him.”

What was the greatest lesson Jim taught his grandson Tyler? Tyler said it was “work ethic.” Growing up in Jim’s household, Tyler recalls that there was no “lying around watching cartoons on Saturday morning. Instead it would be: ‘Get out of that bed … there’s work to be done!’’

Tyler continued, “He taught me that if you want something, you have to work for it.”

Yet another lesson hard-working Jim Cutshaw taught by example.

They’ll bury Jim this weekend. And like Cannon said, he’s going to be missed.


Local_news
Holston United Methodist Home For Children
Holston Home Dedicates New Christian Life Center

Holston United Methodist Home for Children dedicated its new Christian Life Center at a ceremony Thursday.

The Christian Life Center, 1014 Wesley Ave., “is a long time in the making,” said Bradley Williams, president of Holston Home.

To have a freestanding church on the Holston Home campus has been a goal since 1944, Williams said. In March 2014 the concept was approved, and construction began in December 2017.

The building will serve not only as a church, but also as a space for activities, recreation, and events such as performing arts and school assemblies.

It will be called “The Rock,” Williams said, because God “is our rock and the foundation for the work he has called us to do in the lives of young people and families.”

The dedication service took place in the sanctuary and was well attended by Holston Home’s board of trustees and facilities committee members, members of the design and building team, donors, and members of the community.

“God gave us the vision, the design, the like-mindedness, the talented design team, and the funding to add this facility to our campus,” Williams said.

The service opened with music and a worship service led by Director of Christian Life Abel Carrico. Carrico compared the building to a safe, saying that the valuables are the people who will occupy and use the building. He led a prayer that Holston Home staff never “miss the point” of the Christian Life Center.

Williams led the dedication, beginning with a reading of Solomon’s Prayer of Dedication from 1 Kings 8:22-24 and 27-29.

Williams said he could not think of a better way to dedicate the building than with faith in what it will be used for.

Bryan Jackson, board of trustees chairman, and Kent Bewley, facilities committee chairman, also spoke, followed by representatives of Thomas Weems Architect and J.A. Street, who expressed pride in having contributed to the project.

The service was closed with a prayer led by Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor of the United Methodist Church Holston Conference.

Williams said the day was “an amazing display of joy in the Lord.”

“Being led in worship by our gifted Christian Life team, seeing our youth and others expressing their hearts for the Lord, and sharing the moment with so many friends was an indescribable blessing,” Williams said.


Local_news
Tenn. Division Of Forestry
State: Burn Permits Required Starting Monday

NASHVILLE – With hot and dry weather leading into the fall fire season, Tennessee’s State Forester is requiring a burn permit for all open-air outdoor fires beginning Monday.

Typically, burn permits are required statewide Oct. 15-May 15. While Tennessee has not seen an increase in the number of wildfires, and indices right now don’t suggest a high fire danger, the Tennessee Department of Agriculture Division of Forestry is putting burn permits in place early as a precaution. If current weather conditions continue as leaf fall begins, fire danger may escalate.

“This precautionary measure will be beneficial as we continue to monitor fire risk,” State Forester David Arnold said in a news release. “The burn permit system focuses attention on safety, and it’s important for citizens to know when, where, and how to safely burn debris. Caution and conservative judgment should always be used when working with fire.”

For residents planning to burn a leaf or brush pile smaller than 8 feet by 8 feet in size, the state’s online system provides a way to apply for a permit. For a larger burn, call the local Division of Forestry burn permit phone number 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The online system and phone numbers, as well as tips for safe burning, can be found at www.BurnSafeTN.org.

In Greene County, the phone number for burn permits is 638-7841.

More than 300,000 permits are issued each year, and they are only issued when conditions are conducive to safe burning. There may be additional restrictions for residents living inside city limits. The state agency advises them to check with the municipality before burning.

In Greeneville, a ban on open burning inside town limits took effect Wednesday. The ban will be in effect until adequate rainfall improves conditions, according to a news release issued by the Greeneville Fire Department. Residents will be notified as soon as conditions improve and the ban is lifted.

For a list of materials that may not be burned statewide, check the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation’s open burning guidelines at www.tn.gov/environment/program-areas/apc-air-pollution-control-home/apc/open-burning.html.

Burning without a permit is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 30 days in jail, a fine or both. Wildfires caused by arson are a class C felony punishable by three to 15 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.

Anyone with information about suspected arson activity should call the state Fire Marshal’s Arson Hotline at 1-800-762-3017. The hotline is answered 24 hours a day, and callers may remain anonymous when providing information. Cash awards are offered for information leading to an arrest or conviction.

To report illegal burning, call 1-888-891-TDEC.


Local_news
Opioid Epidemic
Anti-Drug Coalition To Benefit From Grant

Additional public health education to address the opioid epidemic is forthcoming through a federal grant, members of the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition were told Thursday.

Dr. Lisa Washburn, an associate professor and community health specialist with University of Tennessee Extension, explained what the two-year grant will mean for Greene County.

Washburn said the University of Tennessee received notification of intent to award grant funds by the U.S. Department of Agriculture-National Institute of Food and Agriculture. The Greene County-targeted grant will be administered through the TN PROMPT program, which stands for Preventing Rural Opioid Misuse through Partnerships and Training.

The grant will enable health professionals to address the opioid epidemic “by providing professional development and training opportunities designed to increase knowledge and understanding of the opioid crisis and related issues,” Washburn said.

Pending final grant approval, the TN PROMPT program is expected to get underway in January, she said.

Getting those at risk to “be more empowered” to prevent opioid use and misuse is the grant’s ultimate goal.

“We know there is a large stigma,” Washburn said. “If they don’t talk about it, there is nothing we can do to help it.”

Washburn said East Tennessee State University, the state Department of Health, county health councils and other local coalitions could potentially be involved.

The grant will enable the implementation of the Communities that Care program in Greene County.

CTC “is a community-driven, effective prevention program to decrease risk factors and increase protective factors to prevent opioid misuse.”

She said CTC will conduct a community needs assessment to assess feasibility for implementation of the program in rural Tennessee counties.

The grant makes Greene County a “guinea pig” of sorts to test effectiveness of the program, Washburn said.

“What’s really important is that what works in urban communities (may) not work in rural communities, so you guys are really key in helping us figure out what we need,” she said.

Planned partners of the CTC include the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition. Knoxville-based Washburn said grant funding will enable hiring a part-time community facilitator to coordinate the program locally.

Another component of the program is “to identify factors increasing opioid misuse and abuse risk in rural communities to provide decision-makers and community members with new data-driven tools to address the epidemic,” Washburn said.

Economic impacts of the problem will be determined through use of existing data. Analysis will include “risk-return tradeoff of prevention programs, estimating economic impacts of opioid use and overdoses in terms of jobs, salaries and wages and contributions to the local community,” Washburn said.

The CTC process has five planning phases ending with implementation and evaluation, she said.

“What we got the grant for is to try out the process,” Washburn said. “We can learn so it will function better elsewhere.”

Tenicia Clark, a family health practitioner with the county health department, said the need for mental health and other counseling services for addicts to help make them productive members of society is “tremendous.”

Without accessible help, many people “just go back into the same circle,” Clark said.

“Here, there’s nobody to help them facilitate that next step,” she said. “Without somebody holding their hand, they don’t do that.”

The grant amount was not announced Thursday.

Washburn said the TN PROMPT program “will pull people together to generate their own solutions to address the (issues) here and this grant will provide the support to facilitate that process.”

Getting leadership on the county level involved will be an important component of the program, she said.

About 35 people from diverse elements of the community attended Thursday’s meeting at the Greene County Health Department, an indication of the coalition’s growing commitment to work cooperatively to find solutions to the opioid epidemic.

Health care professionals, educators, law enforcement, the court system, pharmacies and the faith-based community were represented. Coalition Secretary Wendy Peay, executive director of the United Way of Greene County, said one goal is to get the employers and the business community more involved through the Greene County Partnership.

Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr. said upcoming meetings of the Greene County Anti-Drug Coalition will include a presentation in October by the Greene County Sheriff’s Department about the Law Enforcement Against Drugs program being implemented in county schools and a presentation in November by Frontier Health about services offered by the agency.