The fourth quarter of 2023 showed us though tragedy may still happen, we can regain that strength through each other. October through December saw many residents coming together for several community events.
• Okmulgee High School senior Sadie Cloud was crowned Homecoming Queen at halftime of the homecoming game. Her escort was Josiah Harrison.
• The Okmulgee Junior Football program was suspended mid-season from their league, Red Dirt Football, following cheating allegations and concerns around player age and grade level.
• The Muscogee Nation celebrated Indigenous Peoples’ Day on the grounds of the Creek Council House in downtown Okmulgee. There were dances, shared stories, hymns and food.
• Members of Aglow International held a prayer gathering at Deep Fork Bridge in remembrance of the Okmulgee Four, who tragically lost their lives in October 2022.
• Dr. Bill Path was joined by family and friends at a retirement party following 12 years as president of OSUIT.
• Muscogee Nation’s Oak Comprehensive Healthcare made history as the first Tribal healthcare facility in the lower 48 United States to perform minimally invasive surgery utilizing the da Vinci XI robotic surgery system.
• The Okmulgee County District 1 barn was renamed the “Ballard Barn” in dedication to former county commissioner Ron Ballard. Ballard, who was present for the ceremony joined by family members, the current board of commissioners and other city officials.
• OPD continued to investigate a shooting incident that occurred near Randolph and Ohio on Oct. 17 that left one injured and an- other deceased.
•Tyler Wieland was named the new chief for the Henryetta Fire Department. He succeeds David Bullard, longtime chief, who is now the city manager for Henryetta.
• The new advisory Parks Board Committee held their first meeting, with Jill Francis being named the chair, Laura Goodner as vice-chair and Patty Van Meter as secretary. Other members of the Parks Board include Jeremy Roberts, Nita Robertson, Keith Hair, James McCullough and Steve Sanford.
• Justin Been was named VFW Post 539 Teacher of the Year by the organization.
• The Henryetta Education Foundation surprised HPS staff and teachers with over $13,000 in grants to fund their various projects and activities.
• Henryetta FFA student Andrea Smith was the recipient of the first Jerry Shoemake All-Around Champion Award after her outstanding showing at the Okmulgee County Free Fair in September.
• Luv Ford presented three area residents $100 awards for their winning entries for the drawing during October’s Breast Cancer Awareness Month.
• The Henryetta Lions donated hygiene bags once again to Dewar and Henryetta Schools.
• Winners of Okmulgee Main Street’s Harvest Spoon Chili Festival were announced, including Spike Casey (individual), First Family Federal Credit Union (business), American Legion Auxiliary (non-profit), Deborah Motte (people’s choice) and Miss Mary’s Market (table décor).
• The Okmulgee Education Foundation visited several campuses awarding over $16,000 in grants to Okmulgee Public School educators.
• Okmulgee Times and Henryetta Free-Lance Editor Patrick Ford launched part one in a series of articles discussing rising homelessness and the community response to it.
• Rick Sturman, LPN with Muscogee Nation MAT, hosted an informational at First Baptist Church in Okmulgee to tell residents about the increase in opioid-related overdoses and what community members can do to mitigate some of the dangers.
• Okmulgee Elks Lodge #1822 served breakfast to over 100 local veterans and their guests on Veteran’s Day. Local schools also took time in the week to honor those who served and continue to serve our country.
• An early morning apartment fire at 6th and Taft claimed the lives of three individuals. By the time firefighters were called to the building, the fire had reached an “advanced” stage.
• Community members gathered for Thanksgiving dinners hosted by various groups around town. First United Methodist Church, the Men and Women of Okmulgee and Sister Love Community Outreach hosted a dinner at the Rowe Family Life Center, while the Metcalf father and son duo delivered meals to homes around town.
• Tonya Stretch’s OHS Yearbook class went around town with the Okmulgee Bulldog to spread kindness as part of World Kindness Week.
• Morris Native Joe Berryhill was sworn in as the new Mayor of the City of Morris.
• A 100th anniversary celebration was held for Henryetta’s Doughboy statue, located in front of the Henryetta Public Library.
• Henryetta Hallmark Christmas brought the holiday season to life as the community gathered for a day of celebration, fun, food, shopping and more during the second annual event, held adjacent to City Hall.
• Morris High School class of 2012 alum Hailey Robinson announced a new children’s book, Malahia’s Magical Twists.
• In an effort to assist first responders, Windy Chevrolet made donations to both the Okmulgee Police and Fire Departments.
• The Muscogee Nation held a groundbreaking for a new Citizens Service Building. The over 160,000-square-foot structure marks the first phase in a project that will transform the campus.
• An emergency injunction filed by the Oklahoma State Department of Health against the Okmulgee County Criminal Justice Authority was dismissed after Judge Pandee Ramirez said they did not bear the burden of proof. Reps for the OSDH felt the OCCJA was “obstructing or restricting OCDH inspectors’ access to the entire facility, all detainees, and records.”
• Representatives from Harlan Ford in Okmulgee hauled ten truckloads of toys to First United Methodist Church during their 8th annual Harlan Ford Toy Drive.
• The Viersen Family Foundation donated $83,500 to the Landmark For All Generations, LLC to complete the replacement of windows at the historic Okmulgee Black Hospital.
• Muscogee Nation, OCCJA and OPD Chief Prentice each released statements following an incident involving Lighthorse officers and jail staff on Dec. 18.
• OADC Executive Director Court Newkirk bids farewell to the departments he’s served for six years. Dawn Carter sat down with Newkirk as he talked about his experiences.
• Henryetta Lions Club, with the assistance of organizations and churches, held another successful food and gift distributions for those in the community.
• Jason Price was named the new superintendent of Henryetta Public Schools following a search by the board. Price will take the top post for the district for the 2024-25 school year, replacing Dwayne Noble, who will retire June 30.