Originally created 02/22/98

Newsmakers of past years remembered



A year ago, she lay on her back at Brandon Wilde retirement home wondering when the cancer in her colon would kill her.

Still, Betty Munn relished the days as her husband, Bill, faithfully read to her from diaries she kept during their courtship in the '30s, diaries he never knew existed until he found them tucked away in a box the summer before.

Now, her biggest worry is her burgeoning appetite. Tests last summer showed her cancer was in remission, and in August she tried physical therapy. Her desire for food came back with a vengeance, and she has gone from 79 pounds to 118. Her face is fuller; her arms and legs no longer rail thin.

"She's got nice full legs again," Mr. Munn says, patting her knee through her purple robe as she sits in a wheelchair next to her bed.

"I'm beginning as of today to cut down," she declares. "I'm going to tell the cafeteria workers that I want half portions."

"She's watching her weight again," Bill says incredulously. "Can you believe it?"

She was kept on hospice care for nearly two years, when doctors thought she wouldn't last six months. Finally, they took her off.

On Thursday, the Munns will celebrate their 60th anniversary.

"Sixty years ..." Mr. Munn says wistfully.

"Sounds like forever," Mrs. Munn answers. "It doesn't seem like it, though."

Featured in a series of stories in The Augusta Chronicle almost a year ago, the Munns are proof that the story doesn't end when the glare of the spotlight turns away. Whether politicos or the common man, facing tragedy or triumph, Augusta-area newsmakers held readers spellbound, and many still have stories to tell.

The Chronicle has tracked some of them down again.

Virgil "Buddy" Price

Buddy Price still wears his name on his shirt.

It's stitched neatly on the right-hand side of the Amoco pullover the million-dollar lottery winner puts on each morning before heading out for a day of truck-driving.

Not much has changed since September 1993, when Mr. Price won the "Georgia Millionaire" instant game's top prize of $1,000 a week for life - about $2,800 a month, after taxes. He and his wife, Jeanette, bought a small home outside their hometown of Washington, Ga., and Mr. Price has land he'd like to plant orchards on someday so he can grow cherry trees and Virginia pines. They don't have a problem paying their bills.

But there have been few extravagant purchases. And Mr. Price still rises before 4 a.m. to drive his truck to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Tennessee or down to Sandersville, Ga.

"Everybody asks me how come I don't quit work," Mr. Price said with a chuckle, pausing as he tinkers in the engine of his car. "I enjoy what I do - I've been with it for 20 years now."

Rett Sechler

Rett Sechler is just a few months away from his 16th birthday, and his parents are teaching him to drive.

Though he's only been playing for a year, he plans to try out for the golf team at Westside High School. He's a guitar player who is fond of alternative music. His favorite things in the world are sports and the animated television show South Park.

It's a good life.

Best of all, the cancer that once threatened Rett's life has been in remission for 41/2 years.

When he was 8, Rett was diagnosed with Ewings sarcoma after doctors found a cancerous tumor on his spine. The rare cancer recurred when Rett was 11, and physicians gave him only a 1 percent chance of survival. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., removed the tumor in 1994, and Rett beat the odds.

As part of his ongoing treatment, doctors at the Medical College of Georgia examine him every six months, and he visits the Mayo Clinic once a year, his mother, Shirley, said. Last Monday, Rett had another checkup, and doctors gave him a clean bill of health.

"It feels really good. It's a relief to be able to do things I used to be able to do," he said. "I can be more of my old self now. I don't have restrictions on my back." established a trust fund, which paid for the family's travel and some medical expenses. Mrs. Sechler said the family is still grateful for the community altruism. The Sechlers still owe some money to MCG and Physicians' Practice Group, but the trust fund has been converted to a savings account for the teen-ager. Every three months an anonymous donor deposits $100 in the account, Mrs. Sechler said.

"We wish we knew who it was so we could thank them," she said.

Frank Wills

Frank Wills lives a simple life now in North Augusta. But 26 years ago, he contributed to the downfall of a presidency.

Working as a security guard at the Watergate Office Building in Washington in 1972, Mr. Wills helped police catch burglars who had broken into the office of the Democratic National Committee.

The arrests set off a string of events that led to the resignation of President Nixon and the imprisonment of some of his top aides.

Mr. Wills, 50, who lives in a modest one-story house, earns money by doing odd jobs for neighbors.

He says he rarely reflects on events of the past.

"I can't stay locked onto it for ever," he said during an interview at is home last week. "I do believe (it) happened for a reason."

Mr. Wills chuckles at the irony of the Watergate complex being involved in another presidential scandal. Monica Lewinsky, who is accused of having an affair with President Clinton, lives at the Watergate.

"Every time I hear of people like Bill Clinton, I become nauseated," he said.

Once mildly intrigued by politics, Mr. Wills now says it's something he can live without.

"As far as politics is concerned, it really took me 50 years to realize that I'm above it - it's all a big scam," he said.

"All this you see in politics is only temporary, because there is a higher order."

Mr. Wills, a native of Savannah but who spent several boyhood years in North Augusta, returned to the North Augusta in 1990 after his mother suffered a stroke.

He said he probably will move back to Washington this summer.

William Perry

William "The Refrigerator" Perry, former defensive lineman for the Chicago Bears, lives quietly in his brick mansion in north Aiken with his family.

Mr. Perry, who got his nickname from his 300plus-pound size, retired from football in 1994. He began his career leading the Aiken High School Hornets to three state playoff appearances and one undefeated regular season before announcing plans to go to Clemson University in 1980.His most famous game was Super Bowl XX in 1986, when he and the rest of the Chicago Bears beat the New England Patriots 46-10. The defensive lineman scored a touchdown and threatened to throw a pass. His performance in the Bears' only Super Bowl win landed him a role in the Super Bowl Shuffle music video.

Christopher Jeburk

Christopher Jeburk - who made headlines when he used a hostage ploy to rob a bank and twice escaped from a Columbia County jail - is in the country's most secure federal prison.

Although a spokesman at the Florence (Colo.) U.S. Penitentiary said officials would not discuss Mr. Jeburk's conduct at the prison, he did confirm Mr. Jeburk, 21, is there.

Mr. Jeburk is serving a life sentence without parole for masterminding a bank robbery by holding a teller's family hostage. While awaiting sentencing, he escaped from the Columbia County Detention Center on March 27, 1996, and - after his May 9, 1996, recapture - escaped again June 23, 1996. Although Mr. Jeburk didn't make it out of the area on his second, five-day fugitive run, during his first time on the run, he and another escaped inmate held up a series of banks from North Carolina to New Jersey.

Edward Bryant Gillom

Edward Bryant Gillom, 20, acquitted of murder in the shooting death of a fellow student in a hallway at Harlem High School in March 1993, is sitting in McDuffie County jail after his arrest Dec. 11 on cocaine-selling charges.

He had 11 months of probation left on a weapons charge from the shooting when he was arrested. No date has been set for his hearing. Bond is set at $100,000.

Reports of weapons in area schools dropped sharply in the years after the Harlem High shootings, in which Ronricas "Pony" Gibson, 15, was killed and Rico Lee, 17, was wounded. Aiken has had seven reports this school year, after 35 in 1993-94

In Richmond County, offenses dipped to 58 in 1994-95 after 126 in 1993-94. About 80 cases have occurred this school year, said Capt. Dan Parson, assistant director of public safety.

Wendy Oglesby

Blamed for the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center's woes and forced out by the Coliseum Authority in 1995, Wendy Oglesby sued the city and recently settled for $63,000.

She is now director of marketing for the Charlotte (N.C.) Coliseum, Independence Arena and Ovens Auditorium.

"It's not as high ranking a job as the one I had in Augusta, but it's in a bigger market, and I'm responsible for three venues," she said. "I don't know that I'm in a market to be a general manager again. The experience in Augusta kind of soured me on it."

The Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center has continued to lose money, operating at a loss of more than $1 million in 1996, the last full year figures are available.

Gary Bussey

Gary Bussey is home again.

His job security threatened by consolidation and city layoffs, Augusta's former economic director went to work as an economic development specialist in East Point, Ga., and then as a private consultant to DJ Miller and Associates in Atlanta.

He jumped at the chance to return to Augusta as executive director of the CSRA Business League.

"I had a 10-year-old son in Augusta who was not living with me in Atlanta, and this is home," he said.

As director of the minority business development agency, Mr. Bussey has spent three months getting the group's office up and running. He presided over its first Saturday brunch meeting Feb. 7. The agency plans to offer workshops and seminars as well as to help small minority businesses with loan proposals, feasibility studies and procurement, he said.

Elizabeth Byus

Elizabeth Byus is back where she started, sort of.

In the summer of 1995, Ms. Byus was just weeks away from being named principal at Westside High School, a job she'd long coveted and that many Westside parents and students were eager for her to get. Then, news broke that Ms. Byus and another assistant principal, Donald Williams, had assigned grades to students who worked as their aides - violating Georgia teacher ethics rules.

Her promotion nixed, Ms. Byus was transferred to a teaching job at A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering High School. She and Mr. Williams agreed to two-year transfers to classroom work and two-year probations.

Last fall, she returned to the administrative ranks when Superintendent Charles Larke recommended her transfer to an assistant principal's job at A.R. Johnson. Dr. Larke has not ruled out recommending Ms. Byus for a principal's job in the future.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis

The former commander of Dwight D. Eisenhower Army Medical Center is still living and working in Augusta, but the Army won't release details about misconduct allegations against him.

Brig. Gen. Stephen Xenakis, a 25-year veteran, was relived from command in May amid "unspecified and unsubstantiated" misconduct charges, according to the Army. He was reassigned to work on special projects for the Army surgeon general's office.

, a spokesman for the U.S. Army Medical Command in San Antonio.} The Army has released few details about the investigation, citing the Privacy Act. Information about any nonjudicial punishment the general received, such as a letter of reprimand, could not be released without his consent, which he has not given.

Lynn Cadle

Though she retired from the school system in 1996, former Columbia County School Superintendent Lynn Cadle hasn't adopted a laid-back kind of lifestyle.

Dr. Cadle formed her own business, Educational Diagnostic Services, which tests people with learning disabilities and provides assistance with special education programs. During the summer, she helps her husband, Fred, with his farm, Blueberries U Pick.

"It's more his business than mine," she said, "but we do a lot of it together. It's a lot of fun."

Chick Hernandez

During his three-year stint as sports anchorman for WRDW-TV (Channel 12), Chick Hernandez was best known for "Chick's Challenge," a segment in which he tried his hand at various sports.

In May 1994, the Maryland native went to work for WTTG, the Fox television affiliate in Washington, where he's a weekend anchor and weekday reporter. During the fall, Mr. Hernandez, 34, travels with the Redskins.

"It's been great to be back home and be with my friends and family," he says. "The cool thing is that people still call me that I went to grade school with."

In 1995, he won a reporting Emmy for his story about Tom Brown, a Salisbury, Md., teacher who was one of the first athletes to play football for the Green Bay Packers and played baseball for the Washington Senators. He married in June, and he and his wife, Mary Ellen, are expecting their first child in April.

Butler Derrick

Democrat Butler Derrick's political career began in the South Carolina House of Representatives and continued through his election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1974. It ended when he decided not to run for re-election in 1994, the year of the Republican sweep of Congress.

Mr. Derrick now divides his time between Washington, where he is a member of the Williams and Jentsen law firm, and his home in Charleston. He has received criticism for his work in a law firm whose clients include the Hanford nuclear facility in Richland, Wash., a rival of the Savannah River Site for government funds. He has maintained that the complaints are unfair, saying that he never received any money from Hanford nor lobbied against SRS.

Reached at his Washington office, Mr. Derrick said he preferred not to comment.

Staff writers Todd Bauer, Kevin Bonsor, Tom Corwin, Kelly Daniel, Alisa DeMao, Sandy Hodson, Amy Joyner, Kent Kimes, Virginia Norton, Tracie Powell, Emily Sollie and Pat Willis contributed to this report.