Monthly Archives: March 2013

Model trains for sale at auction, collectors remember hobby fondly

By Stephanie Butzer

Don Starling and Robert Stockard collected model trains for the same reason: They were amazed by them. But the collectors’ trains and layout accessories will be sold at an auction in late March with different motives.

When Starling, a Burlington city councilman, passed away Oct. 27, 2008, his wife, Priscilla Starling, had his trains and train accessories in her hands — over 1,000 pieces. Some trains were brand new and had not been removed from their boxes and others were used.

Robert Stockard has been collecting model trains since he was a young boy and received one for Christmas. Photo from The Times-News.

Robert Stockard has been collecting model trains since he was a young boy and received one for Christmas. Photo from The Times-News.

Starling decided to sell the collection because they were not being used in her house. She did not turn the switches on to run the trains around the tracks, she said. The stillness was uninteresting to visitors.

She gave a few of the two dozen sets to friends and family, including Stockard.

The Stockards and Starlings were good friends and would take trips together as couples, Starling said. She worked as a principal under Stockard, a previous Alamance County school superintendent.

She said her husband and Stockard were almost like brothers; many people thought they were.

Both men received their first model train on Christmas — Stockard got his as a child and Starling received his about 25 years ago.

Priscilla Starling said she thought it was humorous that her husband asked for a model train that year, but she bought one for him.

“He just wanted that one toy train,” she said. “He didn’t like anything else. I guess it just got his fancy.”

The first model train Starling received kick-started his interest into collecting them. He went to train conventions and joined the Train Collector’s Association and Lionel Collectors Club of America. He also traveled to York, Pa. to attend the Train Collectors Association’s biggest meeting.

auctStockard also has gone to the convention in York.

“It’s the Mecca,” he said.

When he moved with his wife to a new house in Elon, they had an empty space above the garage. Stockard had created a small layout with his model trains at his previous house, but with this additional space he was able to expand his collection to be 8-by-21 feet.

“I had it in the back of my mind that I would like to build a layout,” Stockard said. “I had the space outside and I was retired so I started on it.”

Robert Stockard collects trains from the 20s and 30s, all the way up to modern ones students would see on Elon University's campus. Photo from The Times-News.

Robert Stockard collects trains from the 20s and 30s, all the way up to modern ones students would see on Elon University’s campus. Photo from The Times-News.

When Stockard heard Starling was going to sell her late husband’s model train collection in an auction, he asked her if he could sell his at the auction as well.

“I reached my limit,” Stockard said. “If I do anything further, I’m going to have to take (the layout) apart, reorganize it and rebuild it differently. I really didn’t want to do that.”

Stockard said he will use the extra space to display his new hobby — model ships he has built from scratch.

Stockard and Starling are working with auctioneer Joel Isley from Gibsonville. The auction will take place March 29 and 30 at 7 p.m. at the Ramada Convention Center in Burlington.

The men loved trains but Stockard said it was time to move on and Starling said she felt that her husband’s collection could be put to better use.

“He loved trains and anybody who knew him knew that,” she said.

Stockard said his years with the model trains have brought him happiness but he is ready to explore other interests, such as his ship models.

“I did what I set out to do — build a layout and run it — and now I’m ready to move on,” Stockard said.

Joel Isley can be reached at 336-263-6141


Parents embrace miracles of child with Down syndrome

By Stephanie Butzer

Kassidy Pennington’s parents, Kim Martin and Charley Pennington, describe her as an average child: She gets up early, loves all her toys and enjoys watching cartoons in the morning.

But two mornings a week, the television is off because Kassidy has either physical or occupational therapy. She has Down syndrome and her parents said she is lucky to be alive after all she has gone through.

Feb. 29, 2012, when Martin was still pregnant with Kassidy, she had an appointment with her doctor. If she had missed this meeting, her daughter might not be alive.

Kassidy was lying on her umbilical cord and, as a result, her heart rate and breathing were at very low levels. The doctors at Women’s Hospital in Greensboro had to do an emergency Caesarean section March 1 at 8:34 a.m.

“I knew something was wrong the day I went,” Martin said. “I hadn’t felt her move and they couldn’t get her to move off the cord so that’s when they did an emergency C-section.”

Kassidy Pennington, just four hours after birth, was put on a ventilator. Photo submitted.

Kassidy Pennington, just four hours after birth, was put on a ventilator. Photo submitted.

Just hours after birth, Kassidy was on a ventilator. Her parents were not allowed to hold her for six days. The airway through her nasal passage was completely closed. She had to have a feeding tube, although Pennington said he wouldn’t let them do a tracheostomy.

“You’re there and thinking, ‘God, I want to hold her,’” Martin said.

Kassidy was at Women’s Hospital in the neonatal until the end of March. Martin and Pennington had a place to stay nearby but, because they did not have transportation, they had to walk almost five miles to the hospital to see their daughter, and then five miles back home.

The doctors sent Kassidy to Chapel Hill to see a pediatrician. She underwent a choanal atresia, an operation in which doctors opened her airways and inserted stents to help her breathe. For two weeks after that procedure, she was in the neonatal center. Then, she was sent to Alamance Regional Hospital to be closer to home.

Two weeks later, Kassidy had to go back to Chapel Hill to have the choanal atresia procedure done again.

“When she was in Chapel Hill, we had to go through churches to set us up in motels and stuff,” Martin said. “It had to be 35 miles from your door step to Chapel Hill before you required a Ronald McDonald House.”

Their house was 33 miles away.

Kassidy just celebrated her first birthday. Photo from The Times-News.

Kassidy just celebrated her first birthday. Photo from The Times-News.

“It’s the hardest thing to do – not be there with your kid,” Pennington said.

Kassidy was hooked up to all sorts of tubes and he didn’t know if she was going to make it, Pennington said.

Martin kept tabs on how long Kassidy was in the hospital; after 79 long days her daughter was able to come home.

But when they left the hospital, the treatments didn’t end. Martin said she has to use a suction machine to clear Kassidy’s airways a few times every day.

“With the Down syndrome, the nasal is smaller than ours so with that she will always stay stuffy,” Martin said. “I will always have to suction.”

Kassidy is Martin’s second child; her other daughter is 20 years old. She is Pennington’s first child and he said she has completely turned him around.

“She’s changed me a lot. I’ve been to prison three or four times and the stuff I have done and used to do… I’ve changed and it’s all different now. She really settled me down.”

Kassidy’s parents said she just started clapping and a few weeks ago she said, “da-da.” They had over 40 people come to their house Feb. 29 for a party to celebrate her first birthday. As she continues to make progress, her parents have started to mull over ideas for her schooling.

“I was seriously thinking about home school because it would simplify it,” Martin said.

Pennington said he also hopes Kassidy could go to schools to talk to kids about Down syndrome.

“Maybe she can be some kind of person that shows how lucky you really can be in life,” he said. “It’s a proven fact that she’s here and that maybe she can tell a story about herself one day. Maybe she can go around and tell the story that people have to hear.”

For now, each day is a challenge, but Pennington and Martin embrace it.

“She’s a special little angel,” Pennington said. “She’s an angel gift from God.”

Burlington girl puts a spin, twirl on the average fundraiser

When somebody announces a fundraising activity, it usually means a bake sale, car wash or community auction.

But when Taylor Thomas, 17, began brainstorming ways to raise money so she could participate in a mission trip to Romania, she thought outside the box.

“We definitely wanted to do a spaghetti dinner and at first I thought about doing a talent show with it,” Fundraising ideassaid Thomas. “I was talking about it with one of my friends and she gave me the idea to do a womanless beauty pageant.”

She decided to ask if the firemen at the Swepsonville Fire Department would be willing to partake in a pageant to help her raise the money.

Thomas and her mother, Rene Lefler, are close friends with a few of the men at the fire station.

Thomas has a rare syndrome called Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (also known as POT Syndrome) that prevented her from having a normal teenage life, Lefler said. Now that she is feeling better, her cardiologist said Thomas should go on the mission trip.

“Our community is a very strong, put together community,” Lefler said. “Since she had been so sick, (the firemen) had been her guarders and looked after her.”

Tony Massey, one of the firemen at the station, has known Thomas for about six years. He described her as a warm-hearted, caring and giving individual.

“She’s always been a good girl,” he said. “She’s always done activities through the church. I know of four or five mission trips she has been on.”

Thomas said it did not take a lot of convincing to get the men to dress up as women for the fundraiser.

“Once I got a few of them involved, the other ones wanted to do it as well because they thought it was fun and a few of them just wanted to help me raise money,” said Thomas.

Lefler will cook spaghetti and homemade dessert and Texas Roadhouse has agreed to donate salad and bread for the dinner. After the meal, the beauty pageant will begin.

Each man will dress up, some with the help of their wives, in an evening gown and then later in a bathing suit. As in other beauty pageants, there will also be a talent portion.

“Each person is taking over their own thing,” Thomas said. “There’s no telling how it will turn out looking.”

The fire chief, Drew Sharpe, and two other firemen will be the judges. They will ask the contestants questions, just as in other pageants, Lefler said. The winner will receive a $50 gift card.

Thomas’ fundraiser will be at the Swepsonvile Fire Station on March 9 at 6 p.m. Tickets can be purchased for $10 through the event’s Facebook page.