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Family from California happy to be in Model City, even without their belongings

KINGSPORT — Monique and Don Perrier and their daughter Catherine moved to Kingsport from California just the other day.

Folks in our area have been friendly, their neighbor actually mowed their yard, and the family absolutely loves its Cooks Valley home.

Now, they just need their possessions to go in it.

The Perriers moved from the northern California town of Brentwood to the Model City, arriving in town July 4. Don is a retired police sergeant, and when the couple did some traveling after retirement, they fell in love with Tennessee and decided to move.

California simply had too many people for the Perriers, and the couple wanted a slower pace of life.

At first, they looked for homes in the Maryville area, but according to Monique, there were still too many people there.

“I talked to a Realtor here, and we actually bought our home over Zoom,” Monique said.

When the couple found a house, all they needed to do was box up their belongings and have them shipped 3,000 miles to their new home. That’s where the story gets messy.


The Perriers enlisted the help of a broker — Sunflower Transit — to move all of their belongings from California to Tennessee. The company originally quoted them a price of $17,000 for the job, but after going over the list of items, the price went up to $21,000.

Sunflower then subcontracted the moving job to Home Run Moving of California, something that’s fairly common in the moving industry.

“The foreman showed up, looked at our things and said, ‘Sunflower is wrong. We’ll have to take two trucks,’ ” Monique said, which upped the price again. “They put everything in two trucks, but said they needed a third truck to pick up our smaller items.”

Another truck meant more money.

In the end, Monique said she was quoted a final tally of approximately $9,600 from Home Run, thus bringing the total bill to more than $30,000.

Last week, Monique spoke to Home Run and was told the company would deliver their possessions in 14 to 30 days from the day the family declares they are ready to receive their items: July 5.

“I did look at the back of the contract and it does say they have 30 days to deliver. I missed that. I admit it,” she said. “We just want our items. Our lives are in that truck.”


The Times News reached out to Home Run Moving for a comment on the Perriers’ situation and when the company would be delivering the family’s items. Jason Fernandez, the company’s senior customer care manager, said the items are in a climate-controlled warehouse in California.

“We have hundreds of customers in storage, the same as all moving companies do. It’s the busiest season for everyone and we’re doing our best, but it takes some time,” Fernandez said. “Contractural-wise, we have 30 days to deliver the items. It was a big move, so we’re trying to give her priority.”

Subcontractors are put in a tough situation at times, Fernandez said, saying Home Run doesn’t know what was promised or told by the sales representative at Sunflower.

When it’s not the busy season, Fernandez said it would likely take two weeks to make the move. The company also applied a $3,000 discount to the bill.

“Cross country moves are the most challenging. You’re dealing with a lot of people under stress, and we understand and respect that,” Fernandez said. “Moving is a very stressful situation and when things don’t go well, we tend to apologize.”


Two hours after the Times News spoke with Home Run, the company called Monique and told her they were canceling the contract and would be refunding all of the Perriers’ money. Monique said she would enlist another company to deliver their items.

“If we can’t, we’ll take off in the U-Haul and go get it,” she said.

Watch now: Native American exhibit at new Surgoinsville museum almost complete

SURGOINSVILLE — Although an extensive Native American artifact collection is almost installed, organizers of the new Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum (SAAM) say they’re still a couple of months from hosting a grand opening.

Johnny Greer, who chairs the museum’s board of directors, told the Times News he’s finding out there’s a lot more to starting a museum than acquiring exhibits.

Although an extensive Native American relic collection is almost installed, organizers of the new Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum say they're still a couple of months from a grand opening.

The SAAM received state grant funding to acquire office equipment, including a computer and software for archiving what’s on display.

It’s a tedious and time-consuming process to document every item in detail, especially when you’re archiving a Native American collection loaned by local relic hunter Ural Ward that includes more than 14,000 pieces.

Fortunately, the museum has some dedicated volunteer archivists including Cheryl Barton and Carolyn Caldwell, and mom and daughter team Eileen and Alice Queener.

The archiving is an important part of the process because it’s a requirement for future grant assistance from the state.

A state official was supposed to visit the museum site Friday to inspect its progress but had to reschedule due to another obligation.

Mom an daughter volunteer archiving team Eileen and Alice Queener were at the Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum Friday continuing the tedious process of documenting every item in detail from local relic hunter Ural Ward's 14,000 piece Native American artifact collection.

Volunteers who were there to greet the state official and offer a tour instead continued working toward their eventual grand opening.

“It’s tedious,” said Eileen Queener, who along with Alice was archiving artifacts at the museum Friday. “We photograph it, measure it and have to transfer the photos.”

Alice added, “Then label it, then label the object, then a description with all the measurements in it, and then the notes, which is the case it’s in, and the row it’s in.”

“If you want to be a real museum, you have to do this,” Eileen noted.

Greer told the Times News on Friday that once the Native American exhibit archiving and installation is completed, work will begin on the rest of the exhibits. Museum officials had hoped for a September opening, but Greer said if that doesn’t happen, the facility is on track to open later in the fall.

“We’re not where we want to be,” Greer said. “This (Native American exhibit) was the most major thing we had to do. Other things will come pretty fast because we’ve got them. They’re not here. They’re in people’s closets and basements. We’re telling (contributors) to just hold tight until we get ready so we can just bring them in and display them properly.”

Aside from the Native American exhibit, there will be displays on local churches, schools, the Holston River, pioneers, farm life, family life, sports, local businesses, the community’s musical heritage and an homage to a couple of local physicians.

Retired Marine Capt. Charlie Grow, who is the former curator of the National Museum of the Marine Corps in Triangle, Virginia, is part of the SAAM volunteer team.

A Surgoinsville native, Grow moved back home after his retirement from the military.

Jeff / Jeff Bobo — jbobo@timesnews.net 

This shadow box display created by Johnny Greer honors area musician and radio personality Eddie Skelton and will be part of the Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum collection.

“I’ve been advising and assisting,” Grow said. “They asked me to help them. I took their story points and boiled it into individual areas and laid out a floor plan.”

Among the higher profile exhibits are a guitar signed by musician and radio personality Eddie Skelton, who scored multiple hit records in the late 1950s and is still performing at the age of 89.

Local artifact hunter Ural Ward's final discovery is also one of his more treasured items in his collection. About four years ago, Ward found this large completely intact pot buried in the ground near Christian’s Bend. It is now part of the collection at the Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum.

“I guess the first live band I heard probably was Eddie Skelton at a fall festival in Surgoinsville in the late 1950s,” Greer said. “He’s touched a lot of lives around here with his live music, even before the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.”

The top attraction of the Native American collection is large, completely intact pot that Ward found four years ago buried near Christian’s Bend.

Another prized piece in the SAAM collection is Auburn University basketball star Bill Kirkpatrick’s Surgoinsville High School sweater from the team’s 1951 state championship contender season. Greer said the sweater is in pristine condition.

Renowned local artist Jimmy Caswell has a piece going into the museum that he created in collaboration with Ural Ward, which features Native American sketches in a glass covered case with some of Ward's artifacts.

Renowned artist Jimmy Caswell has a piece going into the museum that he created in collaboration with Ward, which features Native American sketches in a glass-covered case with some of Ward’s artifacts.

Another interesting exhibit is an actual copy of the Knoxville Journal from 1939 featuring a special section on all the Tennessee Valley Authority dam work that created flood control and access to electricity throughout the region and state.

SAAM board of directors member Teresa Greer said she recently found that newspaper in the Bellamy Hardware antique shop she operates on Main Street in Surgoinsville.

Surgoinsville Area Archive and Museum board member Teresa Greer recently found an actual of the Knoxville Journal from 1939 featuring a special section on all the dam work and creating access to electricity that the Tennessee Valley Authority had completed to that point.

“It really fits in with everything we are focusing on about the Holston River, and the area rivers, and how TVA took us from a poverty flood zone and really helped us control the waters,” she said.

Johnny Greer said the museum is still looking for contributions of historic items pertaining to Surgoinsville, Hawkins County and the region.

The SAAM board of directors has a collections committee to review potential contributions. Anyone interested in making a contribution can call Johnny Greer at 423-335-5718.

Grow noted, “The committee looks at it and applies due process to make sure that it will all match with our mission statement and our collection’s rationale.”

Billionaire Richard Branson reaches space in his own ship

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. — Swashbuckling billionaire Richard Branson hurtled into space aboard his own winged rocket ship Sunday, bringing astro-tourism a step closer to reality and beating out his exceedingly richer rival Jeff Bezos.

The nearly 71-year-old Branson and five crewmates from his Virgin Galactic space-tourism company reached an altitude of 53.5 miles over the New Mexico desert — enough to experience three to four minutes of weightlessness and witness the curvature of the Earth — and then glided back home to a runway landing.

“The whole thing, it was just magical,” a jubilant Branson said on his return aboard the gleaming white space plane, named Unity.

The brief, up-and-down flight — the space plane’s portion took only about 15 minutes, or about as long as Alan Shepard’s first U.S. spaceflight in 1961 — was a splashy and unabashedly commercial plug for Virgin Galactic, which plans to start taking paying customers on joyrides next year.

Branson became the first person to blast off in his own spaceship, beating Bezos, the richest person on the planet, by nine days. He also became the second septuagenarian to go into space. Astronaut John Glenn flew on the shuttle at age 77 in 1998.

Bezos sent his congratulations, adding: “Can’t wait to join the club!” — though he also took to Twitter a couple of days earlier to enumerate the ways in which be believes his company’s tourist rides will be better.

With about 500 people watching, including Branson’s family, Unity was carried aloft underneath a twin-fuselage aircraft. Then, at an altitude of about 8 1/2 miles (13 kilometers), Unity detached from the mother ship and fired its engine, reaching more than Mach 3, or three times the speed of sound, as it pierced the edge of space.

Spectators cheered, jumped into the air and embraced as the rocket plane touched down on Earth. Branson pumped his fists as he stepped out onto the runway and ran toward his family, bear-hugging his wife and children and scooping up his grandchildren in his arms.

Mike Moses, a top executive at Virgin Galactic, said that apart from some problems with the transmission of video images from inside the cabin, the flight was perfect, and the ship looked pristine.

“That was an amazing accomplishment,” former Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, a one-time commander of the International Space Station, said from the sidelines. “I’m just so delighted at what this open door is going to lead to now. It’s a great moment.”

Virgin Galactic conducted three previous test flights into space with crews of just two or three.

The flamboyant, London-born founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways wasn’t supposed to fly until later this summer. But he assigned himself to an earlier flight after Bezos announced plans to ride his own rocket into space from Texas on July 20, the 52nd anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. Branson denied he was trying to outdo Bezos.

Branson’s other chief rival in the space-tourism race among the world’s richest men, SpaceX’s Elon Musk, came to New Mexico to watch and congratulated Branson for a “beautiful flight.”

Bezos’ Blue Origin company intends to send tourists past the so-called Karman line 62 miles (100 kilometers) above Earth, which is recognized by international aviation and aerospace federations as the threshold of space.

But NASA, the Air Force, the Federal Aviation Administration and some astrophysicists consider the boundary between the atmosphere and space to begin 50 miles (80 kilometers) up.

The risks to Branson and his crew were underscored in 2007, when a rocket motor test in California’s Mojave Desert left three workers dead, and in 2014, when a Virgin Galactic rocket plane broke apart during a test flight, killing one pilot and seriously injuring the other.

Ever the showman, Branson insisted on a global livestream of the Sunday morning flight and invited celebrities and former space station astronauts to the company’s Spaceport America base in New Mexico. R&B singer Khalid performed his new single “New Normal” — a nod to the dawning of space tourism — while CBS “Late Show” host Stephen Colbert served as master of ceremonies.

Before climbing aboard, Branson, who has kite-surfed the English Channel and attempted to circle the world in a hot-air balloon, signed the astronaut log book and wisecracked: “The name’s Branson. Sir Richard Branson. Astronaut Double-oh-one. License to thrill.”

But asked afterward whether he is planning any more adventures, Branson said he will “definitely give it a rest for the time being” because “I’m not sure it would be fair to put my family through another one.” He said he thinks he holds the record for being pulled out of the sea five times by helicopter.

Virgin Galactic already has more than 600 reservations from would-be space tourists, with tickets initially costing $250,000 apiece. And upon his return to Earth, Branson announced a sweepstakes drawing for two seats on a Virgin Galactic jaunt. Blue Origin is waiting for Bezos’ flight before announcing its ticket prices.

Kerianne Flynn, who signed up in 2011 to fly with Virgin Galactic, had butterflies ahead of the launch Sunday.

“I think there’s going to be nothing like going up there and looking back down on the Earth, which is what I think I’m most excited about,” she said. She added: “Hopefully the next generations will be able to explore what’s up there.”

Blue Origin and Musk’s SpaceX both fly Apollo-style, using capsules atop rockets, instead of an air-launched, reusable space plane.

SpaceX, which is already launching astronauts to the space station for NASA and building moon and Mars ships, plans to take tourists on more than just brief, up-and-down trips. Customers will instead go into orbit around the Earth for days, with seats costing well into the millions. The company’s first private flight is set for September.

Musk himself has not committed to going into space anytime soon.

Colonial Heights Middle School Spotlight: Virginia Sumner

Editors note: This is part of a series of Teacher Spotlight articles about educators nominated by principals in and around Kingsport.

KINGSPORT — Colonial Heights Middle School Principal Bill Dunham nominated sixth-grade language arts teacher Virginia Sumner.

“Mrs. Sumner has taught language arts at Colonial Heights Middle School since 2011. She is currently teaching sixth-grade language arts. Mrs. Sumner received her Bachelor of Arts in English from East Tennessee State University and her Master of Arts in education from Milligan University,” Dunham said.

“Mrs. Sumner has the gift of creating strong relationships with her students. In her classroom, her students feel welcome and loved. She provides opportunities for students to make real-life connections with what they enjoy reading,” Dunham said.

“Outside of the classroom, she attends student extracurricular events to show support. Mrs. Sumner works with yearbook staff and has served as a mentor to first-year teachers. Mrs. Sumner’s students know that she will protect them, advocate for them, and make learning fun and exciting.”

Colonial Heights Middle closed in May, and its students, along with those from Sullivan North Middle and the middle school portion of Sullivan K-8, will attend Sullivan Heights Middle in the former Sullivan South High building.

Teacher Spotlight 

Lucas Armstrong tees off on the No. 4 hole at Ridgefields Golf & Athletic Club on Sunday in Kingsport. The 29-year-old from Church Hill closed with a 2-under 70 to finish at 8-under 208 and win his second Ridgefields Invitational championship.