Black History Month
The Town of Waxhaw honors individuals who have had a significant impact on our local history for Black History Month. Below we have chosen a couple of residents who have continued to make a difference in our community.
Edna Drakeford, a woman of distinction in the Waxhaw community, has had a lasting impact on local history. If you have attended any of Waxhaw’s patriotic ceremonies, chances are you’ve seen Edna in action. Edna is the founder of the Waxhaw Quilts of Valor Program, a local program affiliated with the National Quilts of Valor Foundation. She has made it her mission to cover local area service members and veterans that have been touched by war with comforting and healing quilts. The hand-sewn quilts unequivocally say, “Thank you for your service, sacrifice, and valor in serving our nation. The sacrifices you and your family made in service to our country will never be forgotten.”
Edna began the Waxhaw Quilts of Valor program in 2016, presenting her first quilts at the Veterans Day Ceremony that year. Each Memorial Day and Veterans Day since, local veterans have been recognized by the program. In 2019, Edna was the Grand Marshal of the Waxhaw Independence Day Parade, which highlighted her spirit of true patriotism in our community.
Over the last five years, Edna and the ladies who assist her have covered over 200 Waxhaw area veterans with hand-sewn quilts to wrap them in love and to show them that we care and appreciate them. The group started out with just two ladies, and now is up to ten quilters who come over to Edna’s studio on Tuesday evenings and Wednesday mornings to create the quilts.
Edna credits her love of quilting to her mother who taught her how to hand quilt around the age of 10. In high school, she then learned how to machine sew. Edna is originally from Kershaw, SC and graduated from Hillside High School in Heath Springs, SC. Her husband, Al, is a Vietnam U.S. Army veteran, and once he finished his service the family moved to the area (about 30 years ago now), where Edna went to CPCC at night and worked at General Electric during the day. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and also received an Associate Degree in Fashion Merchandising. Originally Edna wanted to make garments, but something kept bringing her back to quilting, and she has been quilting for the public for over 10 years now.
Thank you Edna Drakeford for making an impact on local history here in Waxhaw. Your local community applauds your efforts and our local veterans thank you for always remembering them! The Quilts of Valor are truly works of art that have touched the lives of so many local veterans.
Denise Truesdale is a woman of faith and a Waxhaw native with a passion to help those in need in our local community. Her efforts with the Waxhaw Back to School Bash over the last 5 years and her work with her husband, Rickey, as co-pastors with the Faith Community Church on Howie Mine Road, have had and will continue to have a long-lasting impact on our local history.
Denise calls herself “the world’s greatest mom.” As the community has witnessed her love and dedication, we think she may be the greatest mom, not just to her own four children, but to all Waxhaw children in need as well. While her children were in school, Denise was an avid volunteer for the local school system. “I would see children in my community that needed encouragement and support and I wanted to help them. Goodwill starts at home. We need to take care of our own first,” said Denise.
The Back to School Bash was the creation of Denise Truesdale and Sharon Miller. It started out as a community cookout on a vacant lot on Howie Mine Road as a way to feed neighborhood children in need and to give them school supplies and a day filled with fun. One year, the organizers thought to ask the Waxhaw Police if they could help them grow the event to assist more children throughout the community. Through the Waxhaw Police Department’s DARE program, the community officers have regular interaction with children in the schools who may need assistance. With their help, the program has expanded to include the schools of Western Union Elementary, Waxhaw Elementary, and South Providence School, along with others in the community that have been identified as children in need. Over 450 plus children are assisted each year and sent back to school on a positive note.
2020 marked the 5th anniversary of the Back to School Bash. Today, many volunteers come out in support of the effort including numerous local ministries and local community organizations who help provide lunches, groceries, household supplies, hygiene products, clothing, inspirational products, shoes, school supplies, and an outpouring of love for the children of Waxhaw.
“It is a rewarding and mind-blowing experience to see kids who remember you, all grown up now, and to realize that we were able to make an impact in their lives and help them stay off the streets,” said Denise, “It is always about ministry for me.”
The 2021 Back to School Bash is scheduled for Saturday, August 7th.
Photos below showcase Denise's impact in the community.
David G. Barnes
If you are lucky enough, you can think of that one teacher during your school years that made a lasting impression on you and impacted your life today. If you're double lucky, you also had that special role model in your life who was an experienced and trusted mentor who supported and advised you and always had your best interest at heart. For many here in Waxhaw that is David G. Barnes.
Many new residents know the name because the downtown children’s park is named after him. But, for those who were part of Mr. Barnes’ 28-year career as a teacher, Mr. Barnes is a name synonymous with teacher, mentor, cheerleader, helper, and gentleman. To this day, he remains one of the most highly respected educators in the history of Waxhaw. He also was active in town government serving from 1979 – 2006 on many town committees, as commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem.
Retired Town Clerk Bonnie McManus recalls Barnes being an exceptional public servant and fair in his government decisions. “He always wanted to know all the facts and weigh both sides of the story before making a final decision.” He was instrumental in several town projects including the railroad overhead bridge reconstruction, the Harvey Clay Nesbit Park dedication, water and sewer system discussions with Union County, and several annexations and subdivision developments, among others.
His spirit comes to life and the room lights up with laughter through the stories they tell. Mr. Barnes truly has had an impact on the lives and history of Waxhaw.
Jane McNeely, Joni Nash Case and Susan Nance LaMarre recall teaching with Mr. Barnes. “David was such a presence in the community,” said McNeely, “He came to work to teach the children not just books. He taught respect and manners and the kids respected him. He tried and succeeded in leaving a great impact on our lives.”
Joni Nash Case recalls that during Mr. Barnes teaching career, he was “a teacher always, not just from August to June.” He helped out at summer camps and would pick up the children so they would be able to get to the camp. He loved the children. He made sure every child got a good start and a fair chance in life. He loved his community. “I remember him giving the elderly rides to the election polls,” said Case. “He gave everybody 100% of his time and would do anything to help the kids and the community. He taught me a lot about teaching and about people…that we are all the same no matter who we are or where we come from. In a world where people can be so nasty and accusatory, I never heard him say a bad word. He was a gentleman. A mentor.”
Susan Nance LaMarre had the privilege of teaming with Mr. Barnes during his last years of his teaching legacy. “What an inspiration he was to me, as a young teacher just beginning my career. It is very fitting that a park was named in his honor because upon reflection of my time spent with him, the involvement that he had with the kids on the playground really stand out the most to me. I can still see “Barnes” (as we called him) dressed in his dress shirt and tie, rolling that kickball to the next kicker as he simultaneously, and VERY enthusiastically, coached both the offense and defense during daily recess. He loved those kids as if they were his own. He definitely made a difference to all that were fortunate to have been taught by him and by those of us impressionable young teachers who he inspired along the way,” said LaMarre.
A few of his students recall loving Mr. Barnes. “Mr. Barnes was my 4th grade teacher,” said Robin Hedspeth. “He was not a teacher that just was interested in making sure we were ready for 5th grade. He wanted us to be good people, good citizens of our community, and take responsibility for ourselves. He taught us so much more than the 4th grade curriculum. I became a teacher and now run a non-profit tutoring center. He is definitely one I want to emulate in my own relationships with my students,” said Hedspeth.
Heather McLaughlin Breedlove remembers Mr. Barnes as being the most patient teacher and making learning fun. “I don’t remember every being bored in his room. He even found a way to make math fun. Such a kind man. He never forgot my name or my family members that he also taught. Anytime I would see him around town he always smiled and knew my name right away, stopped to chat and ask about the family. Even 30, 35 years later, I have had other good teachers, but he will always stand out and be special to me.”
Gay Diller laughs and smiles sharing special memories of her time in Mr. Barnes’ classroom. She remembers what an impression that he made on her. “He always dressed in a 3-piece suit. That made us feel he was very important. He made us feel very important too. We learned a lot about how to present ourselves.” She recalls Mr. Barnes taking time to teach the students art when it wasn’t taught in school at the time. “He really was a Renaissance man of his time.”
Diane Midkiff thanks Mr. Barnes for paving the way for who she is today. “He taught us how to be a good human being and to think about the world outside of Waxhaw. If you think about it, Waxhaw was very progressive for that time. He showed us the world from the African American point of view as well as our own. He taught us to be kind to everybody.”
Mike Whitmire, Sports Announcer at WIXE Radio, says, “Any lesson learned is only as memorable as the mentor that taught it. Like thousands of Waxhaw children, I had the privilege of having Mr. Barnes in the 4th grade.” He explains, “Over the last few days I have reflected on the things I learned that year. I learned about as much Science, Math, and History as my 10-year-old mind could hold. But, the greatest lesson I learned from Mr. Barnes that year was to strive for your best in all, during all, a personal best that transcends academia and reaches the hearts of those whose paths you have crossed. Mr. Barnes was the first teacher that truly reached me. It was 1990 and my father passed away just before Christmas that year. On Christmas morning a little before 8 AM came a knock at the door, it was Mr. Barnes. He asked if we were ok, he spoke a few words with us and he prayed with us. His visit that morning has always meant a great deal to me as I realized even then he had given his time with his family to comfort mine. As a grown man now of 40 years and a family of my own, it means even more. He provided me an education that year that I'm not sure many other teachers could have given. He kept me on track for the rest of that year, holding me to the same high standards he expected from every student, my circumstance was not an excuse to not perform to my ability. That year I learned compassion through accountability and developed the ability to not only survive but thrive. While three-piece suits are not my thing, I also learned appearance is important if you want to be taken seriously, even if you are climbing through a window to get to class on a spring morning. Mr. Barnes is truly a Waxhaw Icon and it is truly an honor to say I was taught by one of the finest educators not only Waxhaw has ever seen, but North Carolina has ever known!”
There are certainly many more accolades that could be shared from students, teachers, government leaders, and community members for Mr. Barnes as he has impacted so many in his 28-year career. One message rings true though, if a man’s worth is measured in how many lives one has positively impacted, Mr. Barnes is worth a million!
Photos below showcase David's impact in the community.