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Dorothy Adkins remembered as leader in Denton on education, equality
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Dorothy Adkins’ family and friends can name countless qualities while reminiscing over her century-long life, be it her dedication to church, investment in equality or her passion for teaching and learning alike. But all of them come down to one constant: loving everybody.

Adkins, who died Dec. 16 at her home at Good Samaritan Society Denton Village, was six days away from turning 102. She was born in Lubbock and moved around often, teaching school in both Texas and Colorado during World War II — completing a master’s degree on top of it. She married Roscoe Adkins in 1946, and the two ended up raising their five children in Denton.

In Denton, Adkins would become a staple of the community. She spent years as a Denton ISD teacher and school board member, and was an inaugural member of the well-chronicled Denton Women’s Interracial Fellowship in the 1960s. Perhaps her biggest recognition came in 2014, when DISD opened a school named in her honor: Dorothy P. Adkins Elementary School.

Courtesy photo 

A newspaper clipping shows a photo of the Denton Women's Interracial Fellowship members. From left: Jean Kooker, Jewell James, Pat Gulley, Dorothy Adkins, Robbie Donsbach, Catherine Bell, Katherine McGuire, Betty Kimble, Willie Frances McAdams, Norvell Reed, Pat Cheek, Trudy Foster, Evelyn Black, Mae Nell Shephard, Lovie Price, Euline Brock, Billie Mohair, Mable Devereaux and Carol Riddlesperger.

Rosca Toulouse, one of Adkins’ daughters, recalled a “well-run” household while growing up with her mother. Adkins’ father was a Presbyterian minister, whose values seemed to rub off on her.

“We went to church — that was a big, big thing,” Toulouse said. “It didn’t matter what you did. Even if you were a teenager out late on Saturday night, you went to church.”

Also of critical importance to Adkins, Toulouse said, was educating her children on the integration of Black students into their schools. Toulouse was in her last two years at Denton High School when integration began and said Adkins prepped her well in advance, including meeting with her future Black schoolmates.

“This is in the ‘50s and ‘60s when I was growing up, and we weren’t really all that aware of the disparity between how Black people were treated and how white people were treated,” Toulouse said. “One of the things she did is help us be aware. … I was ready to just say, ‘OK, here’s another person.’”

Adkins spoke on the issue in 2019, as she celebrated her 100th birthday at Trinity Presbyterian Church of Denton.

“When desegregation became law, my friends and I were worried about our kids and if it would go smoothly,” Adkins said. “A way to fight [racism] was to get the children acquainted before they went to class.”

Adkins was one of several women in the interracial fellowship, and her fellow group members speak highly of her contributions to this day. Ann Barnett, another inaugural member, said she absolutely believes Adkins made a difference in desegregating Denton.

“She definitely made a very positive impact through the interracial women’s group, through her church and through her teaching in the schools,” Barnett said. “She was just a true leader and a wonderful woman, who sincerely cared about all people.”

Carol Riddlesperger, now 103 herself, spent years living with Adkins at Good Samaritan Denton. Riddlesperger said she became friends with Adkins when their families each moved to Denton and helped each other get settled into the city. She was also an original member of the interracial fellowship.

“It was just part of her nature,” Riddlesperger said of Adkins’ advocacy. “She was admired and recognized as a leader in the school system.”

Toulouse said Adkins remained active as long as she could. She made it a tradition to visit the first day of school at Adkins Elementary each year and “had an opinion on everything.” She kept up with her exercise — even if it came down to chair aerobics in her later years — and sang in the Good Samaritan choir until recently.

Toulouse said if she had to pick one lesson for people to take away from Adkins’ life, it would be her mindset toward equality.

“I think if she could make one wish for the world right now,” Toulouse said, “it would be for everyone to remember that God loves everybody.”

Adkins was preceded in death by her husband, Roscoe, her parents, her brothers and a grandson. She is survived by her children Rosca Toulouse, Sara Cox, Judi Adkins, Tom Adkins and Karen Faunce and their partners; 10 grandchildren; 10 great-grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.


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New entrance ready at I-35 and U.S. 380 in time for holiday traffic

A few changes have come to the northbound Interstate 35 and University Drive intersection over the last few months, and the final completion date is set for February 2022.

The new entrance ramp to get onto the highway at U.S. Highway 380 opened Wednesday morning, ahead of schedule. The new entrance ramp is now closer to the U.S. 380 intersection. The previous entrance ramp at Oak Street closed permanently in September and was turned into an exit to give motorists more space on the frontage road.

“The new ramp did open this morning so those are ahead of schedule,” Tony Hartzel, a Texas Department of Transportation spokesperson, said Wednesday. “We were looking at doing those early next year, but the contractor got those done early. It was an important project to get done as quickly as possible. We’re happy to open it early.”

TxDOT I-35 Graphic

For the interim solution, TxDOT and city of Denton representatives met to discuss options in early 2021 and found that switching the former exit and entrance ramps on I-35 was the best solution to alleviate congestion. That change was proposed after a traffic study.

“What we did is pull the entrance ramp back further south and it does take motorists a bit of time to learn where the new ramps are, but this will help get traffic onto the frontage road earlier and not have them stacking in a queue at the 380 traffic light,” he said. “It gets them on the frontage road without the potential for backup on the highway.”

Although the new entrance opened early, completion for this interim improvement isn’t expected to be completed earlier than February, which is still in line with the previous expectation of finishing in early 2022. No further construction will happen during the holidays between Dec. 23, 2021 to Jan. 3, 2022.

A mile of highway between the I-35E/I-35W merger and just north of the University Drive exit is a hot spot for car crashes in Denton. Initiall…

TxDOT contractors will complete median and signal work the weekend of Jan. 7, 2022.

Further construction will also create an additional left turn at the northbound U.S. 380 intersection and an extension of the intersection’s existing right turn lane.

“We’re finishing some work at the intersection itself to add a left turn lane, but in doing so, we need to tear out some median area to provide that lane,” Hartzel said. “We also need to move a signal box and pedestrian activation pole for the signals in that area.”

This means the traffic lights at this intersection will be flashing red from 12 a.m. on Jan. 6 through 6 a.m. on Jan. 9. Hartzel said law enforcement will help direct traffic.

The $1.8 million improvement project is meant to be an interim solution for motorists who were worried about safety at this busy intersection. Hartzel said the plan to widen I-35 from North Texas Boulevard to U.S. 77 is tentatively set to begin in late 2023. Right now, it’s estimated to be a $116 million project.


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Unhappy holidays: Texas endures another COVID Christmas

Brandy Thompson’s tradition of spending Christmas with family has fallen apart this year.

Over the past several days, three of Thompson’s family members have tested positive for the virus. Her 77-year-old mom, who has metastatic breast cancer, was the most recent.

“We’ve all gone two years without getting COVID and all of a sudden it’s exploded,” said Thompson, a retired 50-year-old who lives near Liberty, outside of Houston. “This has kind of put a wrench in everything.”

Across the state and country, the omicron variant of COVID-19 has upended the holiday season for many, with some second-guessing plans with loved ones — and others canceling them altogether.

After nearly two years of navigating life during a pandemic, many Texans thought the first holiday season after vaccines became widely available would be relaxing and filled with friends and relatives. But for families like Thompson’s, it has so far included scrambling for COVID tests, delaying plans and worrying about relatives who have been exposed to the virus — or already tested positive for it.

Early evidence suggests omicron may be milder but spreads faster, compared to the delta variant. Medical experts expect that people who have been fully vaccinated and recently gotten a booster shot will still be much better protected from serious illness or death. Still, medical researchers are trying to determine how severe omicron-related infections are for unvaccinated individuals or even the less recently vaccinated.

Just days before Christmas, people are getting tested before they travel or see family. Some haven’t been exposed to the virus but are getting tested out of precaution, especially with the omicron variant rapidly spreading.

While her entire family is fully vaccinated, Thompson said a close relative was the first in the family to test positive for the virus about two weeks ago — but that loved one quarantined and did not transmit it to other family members.

But, after a family gathering Saturday, a young relative tested positive for the virus after someone from their school got it, Thompson said. Soon after came the positive test result for Thompson’s mother, who is so far doing well.

Still, Thompson said in an interview with The Texas Tribune that some family traditions, like cooking soup with one another on Christmas Eve, have been canceled. And while Thompson said she has tested negative for the virus twice so far — once on Monday and again Tuesday — it’s still unclear whether her own adult kids will come to her house over the holiday. She plans to take a third test sometime Wednesday.

“It’s very strange how our whole family is falling apart right now,” Thompson said.

The new variant was detected in Texas for the first time earlier this month. Outbreaks and surging case counts have since been tied to the latest strain. While hospitalizations across most of the state have so far remained relatively low, health experts say they fear the health care system may be overwhelmed by cases caused by omicron within weeks.

In Austin, Chuck McDonald is worried about infecting his 85-year-old mom over the holidays.

McDonald, who works for the University of Texas at Austin’s housing and dining department, said he is concerned about last week’s rise in cases on campus before students returned home. Even though both he and his mom are fully vaccinated, McDonald said, he does not want to run the risk of passing the virus to her.

“At her age a smaller illness could turn into something major,” McDonald told the Tribune on Tuesday, adding that he plans to take a test Wednesday before isolating himself until he leaves to visit his mom, who is about a two-hour drive away.

“I wear my mask at work and when I go to H-E-B or wherever, and it’s so annoying that so many people don’t think even this simple act is worth the effort in order to keep others from getting sick,” McDonald said.

In El Paso, 49-year-old Albert Rangel was getting tested on Tuesday afternoon. He said his 68-year-old mother, who is prediabetic, wanted Rangel to get tested before he arrives at her house on Christmas night for dinner.

He said he currently doesn’t have any symptoms, but “it’s better to play it safe,” he said.

Rangel, who is vaccinated, said he canceled Thanksgiving Day dinner because his girlfriend had tested positive for the virus a few days earlier. Because he was with his girlfriend when she had symptoms, he didn’t join the rest of the family for Thanksgiving dinner, even though he tested negative. He said he suspected the vaccine helped him avoid contracting the virus.

“It’s scary,” he said. “I’m hoping all this goes away soon.”

Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Lisa Martinez says she will not be celebrating Christmas this year the way she thought she would. Some of her family was set to come over, but her daughter tested positive on Sunday. So she and her daughter have been stuck in a room for the last four days, secluded from her mother and son, both of who are high-risk individuals.

“I’m disappointed,” she said. “I myself have let my guard down a little bit.”

Martinez got tested at a San Antonio COVID-19 rapid testing site Tuesday. Because she’s been with her daughter, she’s almost sure she has the virus.

Her holiday plans now consist of taking care of her daughter and making sure her other high-risk family members don’t get exposed.

Diana Garcia, another San Antonio resident, got tested Tuesday because she has the sniffles. In any other non-COVID year, Garcia said, she would have probably just taken an over-the-counter medication and resumed normal business.

But because her holiday plans consist of traveling to her hometown of McAllen and being around a lot of people, she wanted to make sure she doesn’t have the virus.

The pandemic has almost made people paranoid, she said. One of the biggest challenges navigating the pandemic is wondering if she travels, will she get someone sick? Is her family going to be OK?

“Everything is a little scary,” Garcia said.

Just northeast of Houston, Thompson said given her mom’s breast cancer diagnosis, the family hopes to celebrate the holiday in January.

“Every visit with her is important,” Thompson said. “You never know when it’s the last Christmas you might have.”

Thompson is also optimistic that omicron will be one of the last variants of the virus — and if future variants do arise, they might be less severe.

“Hopefully omicron is the end of it,” she said. “I think that’s what is probably going to happen: It will just end up being a watered-down version of itself.”

The Texas Tribune is a nonpartisan, nonprofit media organization that informs Texans — and engages with them – about public policy, politics, government and statewide issues.


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64 firearms stolen from Denton pawn shop last week

Two unknown men stole 64 firearms from a pawn shop in Denton last week, and investigating agencies are offering a $10,000 reward for information that would lead to their arrest.

On Dec. 15, the Denton Police Department responded to a burglary at All State Pawn, 1116 S. Woodrow Lane, around 12 p.m. Earlier that morning, two men entered the building by destroying multiple layers of the exterior, took the guns and fled in a white Ford Fusion.

The Dallas division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives first posted about the reward Tuesday.

“Recovering these firearms quickly before additional crimes are committed remains a top priority for ATF. We are asking the public to please let authorities know if you recognize these individuals,” said ATF Dallas Special Agent in Charge Jeffrey C Boshek II.

Asked why Denton police didn’t notify the public sooner about the stolen firearms, a spokesperson said they wanted to wait to release information alongside the Dallas ATF since they’re working together.

A call to the Dallas ATF wasn’t returned by Wednesday afternoon.

The Police Department, Dallas ATF and National Shooting Sports Foundation are offering a $10,000 reward for information leading to the men’s identifications and/or arrests. An initial report with the Denton Police Department didn’t include a breakdown of what kind of firearms were stolen.

Surveillance footage of the burglary shows one of the men began to gather the firearms inside the store, which were stored in the back of the building, while the other man backed a white sedan up to the parking lot.

According to a news release, law enforcement believe the Ford Fusion is either a 2015, 2016 or 2017 model.

Anyone with information should contact the ATF by calling 1-888-ATFTIPS, email via atftips@atf.gov, or visit the bureau’s website.


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