Category Archives: Aurora

Aurora officials ‘accept’ economic recommendations

But failure to ‘adopt’ plan concerns many town residents

Lavonde Hardy and her daughter Maria attended the Monday night meeting

AURORA – Monday night, a huge turnout for a meeting of the Aurora Town Board signaled growing impatience among citizens over the economic plight of this small Beaufort County town.

Their frustration came through loud and clear from a young mother, Lavonde Hardy.

“We need a grocery store,” pleaded Hardy, while holding her one-year-old daughter Maria. “How can we call ourselves a town without a grocery store? Right now, with the closest grocery store 20 miles away, I can’t even buy what I need for my daughter. It would generate jobs. It would generate income.”

Hardy’s comments followed a presentation by Chuck Halsall, with the North Carolina Department of Commerce, who submitted an ambitious “Economic Development Implementation Plan” for the town.
Elected officials voted unanimously to ‘accept’ the plan, but avoided the opportunity to fully ‘adopt’ its recommendations.

For more details, please see a thorough report on Page B-6, written by Eve Hemby, who represents People for a Better Aurora – a volunteer advisory group, which seeks to identify solutions to enhance growth and long-term prosperity for the community.

N.C. Department of Commerce recognizes PotashCorp-Aurora

At far right, N.C. Secretary of Commerce, John E. Skvarla III, and Will Collins, Assistant Secretary of Commerce, present Kim Toler, PotashCorp-Aurora Training Manager, with the Apprenticeship Program award.

AURORA — PotashCorp-Aurora recently received recognition from the North Carolina Department of Commerce for using an innovative approach to apprenticeships for workforce training.

Kim Toler, site-training manager for the phosphate-mining behemoth, accepted the Outstanding Innovative Registered Apprenticeship Program award on behalf of PotashCorp-Aurora, at the recent NCWorks Apprenticeship Conference in Greensboro.

The Aurora facility has integrated the apprenticeship program in every facet of operations. Since 1984, PotashCorp-Aurora has trained accountants, lab technicians, mine operations personnel and emergency responders — among several trades available for apprenticeships.

Since its inception, 1,938 workers have entered the program and 1,510 received their Apprenticeship certificate and an additional 272 completed the Mastercraftsmen program. PotashCorp-Aurora currently has 123 apprentices enrolled, including 22 in the Mastercraftsmen program.

“Apprenticeships help businesses like PotashCorp-Aurora find the specific talent they need to grow in a competitive environment,” said N.C. Commerce Secretary, John E. Skvarla, III. “We recognized PotashCorp-Aurora during our NCWorks Apprenticeship Conference, because investing in workers is instrumental in the company’s success and the growth of our economy.”

According to the Department of Commerce, “You have improved the skills, talents and capabilities of your employees … and revealed how to build and sustain success by including training in all aspects of your business.”

Earlier this month, in special ceremonies held at the site, PotashCorp-Aurora and the N.C. Department of Commerce recognized 62 employees who have earned Apprenticeship certification and recognition.

“Continuous improvement is a core value at PotashCorp-Aurora,” said General Manager, Mark Johnson. “We are honored to have received this award and recognize the efforts of our many apprentices who have developed skills to grow their careers for our mutual benefit.”

‘Aspiration For A Better Tomorrow’ issues challenge to mayor (and others)


mimeAURORA – Give Clif Williams, mayor of this town, some credit. Saturday afternoon, he quickly accepted a challenge from Zina Ham, outreach coordinator of New Growth Unlimited Ministries.

The well-publicized event, which included mime ministry artist Nick Stokes, was designed to spur citizen involvement in the lives of at-risk youngsters. Ham – quite congenially – interrupted the mayor’s remarks to ask: “If we were to identify a child over the next year or two with a GPA of at least 2.7 would you, Mr. Mayor, offer an incentive of $100 for that young person to purchase supplies and schools items?”

Williams nodded enthusiastically but then countered: “Aren’t you setting the goal a little low at just 2.7? Why don’t we give that child a $100 gift for those things, but if he or she gets it up to a 3.0 then they will receive $200 from me?”

Thus an already ambitious program – quite unexpectedly — received a quantum leap of energy. Accolades are also in order for the Aurora Recreation Department and Aurora’s other churches that have embraced the ‘Aspiration’ challenge for the town’s youngsters.
Another active participant is Joy Dunn. If you – or anyone you know – would like to accept the challenge, e-mail Dunn at:

Burroughs Wellcome Fund underwrites ambitious program at Aurora Fossil Museum


burroughs-wellcome-fundAURORA – The Burroughs Wellcome Fund announced this week a generous grant to the Aurora Fossil Museum Foundation, as part of the fund’s Student Science Enrichment Program.

Museum director Cindy Crane said the popular museum, located in downtown Aurora, will use the funding to partner with East Carolina University and PotashCorp-Aurora. The triumvirate — in conjunction with Burroughs Wellcome Fund — have plans to offer ‘IMAGINE-NC’ – an initiative designed to ‘Integrate Mathematics and Geology In Eastern North Carolina.’

“This is HUGE news for the Aurora Fossil Museum, the families of the Town of Aurora, and Beaufort County,” explained an ecstatic Crane during a brief telephone interview.

Officials say that content-rich and engaging out-of-school activities can improve students’ in-school performance in mathematics and science – which is what popular student trips to the Fossil Museum are all about!!

To address low end-of-grade test scores among students in grades 3 through 8 in Beaufort County — and increase interest in STEM careers (which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) — the IMAGINE-NC project developed jointly by the
Aurora Fossil Museum; the geosciences and education faculty from East Carolina University; and staffers with nearby PotashCorp-Aurora.

According to Crane, IMAGINE-NC consists of three components:

1) Two week-long, non-residential summer camps, serving approximately 60 students in grades 4 through 8.
2) Four weekend activities during the school year for parents, students and teachers
3) Support for teachers during the school year with inquiry-based, integrated, science/mathematics activities.

Crane and her staff at the museum are expected to provide recruiting, the camp venue, financial oversight and management of the project, website design and maintenance, and avid participation by:

• Crane, the museum’s director, who doubles as a paleontologist experienced in science outreach!
• ECU science faculty, providing science expertise and access to equipment, such as a research vessel and drill rig.
• ECU education faculty, offering experience with problem-based learning techniques, curriculum, and integration of science and mathematics activities.
• PotashCorp-Aurora, providing transportation for students, their lunches, and use of company facilities and grounds.

Crane explained that all activities are to be developed collaboratively by the IMAGINE-NC staff. For more information, contact Cindy Crane at (252) 322-4238, or e-mail:

The Voice of the People for a better Aurora/Richland Township


Hello, Aurora/Richland Township!

Welcome to our first issue of the “The VOICE of the People for a Better Aurora Richland Township”. My name is Eve Hemby and I serve as a Community Or- ganizer for the People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township. Our role and purpose in this community is simple. We organize activities that bring people together to help make our community better economically. The “People” are anyone in the community working toward common goals. So then, if you are a “People” mak- ing Aurora better, then you are a People for a Better Aurora/Richland Township. All the work we do is geared toward that end.

Now you may look around our community and say, “Ain’t nothing happening in Aurora! They don’t even have a grocery store. Aurora is GOING DOWN!”

But I am here to tell you that you have never been more wrong in your entire life. The truth is THE Aurora/Richland Township is on the cusp of greatness. Even in spite our losses, our setbacks are not an anomaly. When other communities face loss, they come together and work toward being great again. We can do this as well. We are a town with great and tremendous resources, from our rich phosphorous laden land that is great for growing crops to the beautiful waterfront area full of osprey, Canadian geese and the best fish you’ve ever eaten, There is no reason why we cannot promote this greatness.

Now, do we have challenges? ABSOLUTELY! Just like any other community.

But that’s where we all come into play. There are solutions to our problems. Some solutions might require us to grow as people in skill sets and leadership, other solu- tions might require for us to be courageous enough to ASK and RECEIVE help from others. EITHER WAY….there are solutions.

And so, this is why the “PEOPLE” are here and will be here in this paper over the next few months. We want to help inform the community of the solutions available to the challenges we face and encourage you to GET INVOLVED. Articles are written and composed by YOUR local community leaders, designed to empower, compel and enlighten you on what is available to you and in your community.

I would love to hear your feedback if you have any. Feel free to visit our page: http://www. gro wauro ra. o rg for updates on current Township-Wide events, the schedule of activities and happenings in our communities. Also, you may access information on our facebook page. Type in People for a Better Aurora in your search field and it should take you there.

hembryAgain, we are open to suggestions and feedback. So feel free to reach out to me directly as I can be reached at (252)228-1730 or

Happy Reading!,
Eve Hemby

Faith & Family

By Elder Barry Squires

In 2010, the call of Christ on my life brought me back to the small church community I left 20 years prior. What began as a journey to continue the spiritual legacy of my father, has become a drive to save and revitalize a valuable, but struggling community. In the six years that I have collaborated with local faith-based organizations to nurture the spiritual health of our community, it has become evident that our spiritual efforts are only one part of the work. Our community requires economic development and strategic planning as part of the transformation into a healthy, whole community. More important- ly, economic development can be a part of the work of the church and is not in conflict with our spiritual work.

We have the ability to support and promote local entrepreneurship. It is my hope that faith-based or- ganizations can begin to use our resources to spark economic growth. Some opportunities may include offering small business grants to potential local entrepreneurs, accessing our community for goods and services and buying local, collaborating with local governments to create school-to-business pipelines to sponsor high school graduates in technical programs and provide local business opportunities for them in the community.

Our spiritual work in the community is on-going and is a priority of the church, but our work can no longer be confined to the physical church and traditional outreach.

I believe the churches’ support of economic development enhances our reach to the community we serve and leads us to wholeness.

Elder Barry Squires is the Senior Pastor of St. Peter Baptist Church located in Aurora, NC. St. Peter Baptist Church supports the community through its hosting of collaborative community wide events (Community Health Fair, Forum, Tent Revival and Back to School Bash) that helps promotes the spiritual and natural health and well being of the Richland Township. For more information on how you can connect to the work of this ministry, Elder Squires can be reached at (919)410-7803.

2016 Aurora Fossil Festival Schedule, Sponsors

Fossil Festival Field & Main St. Aurora

Fossil Festival Field & Main St. Aurora

Schedule of Events


Download and print the schedule

2016 Fossil Festival Sponsors


Rich Olsen: 2016 Fossil Master

Fossil Museum opens amazing new exhibit

Rich Olsen, with magnificent emeralds, discovered in 2011.

Rich Olsen, with magnificent emeralds, discovered in 2011.

AURORA – Rich Olsen is our 2016 Fossil Master! A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Olsen attended Penn State University. Upon graduation, he relocated to southeastern Louisiana where he spent a 27-year career exploring for and developing oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico. In the mid-1990s the Olsen family moved to eastern North Carolina, where he became involved with various fossil and mineral groups. Olsen has served as president of North Carolina Fossil Club, and as volunteer, curator and Board Chairman of the Aurora Fossil Museum Foundation. He is still actively involved with the museum board and has placed his collection of fossils from throughout the world on permanent loan at Aurora Fossil Museum. In the photo, Olsen displays emeralds found in April 2011 at Hiddenite, N.C. by his friends, the late Terry Ledford and Mark Randall. The emeralds have been placed at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh.

An impressive diorama at Aurora Fossil Museum — originally built over 30 years ago – recently received a modern facelift thanks to funding from PotashCorp-Aurora. The facility opened last Friday, just in time for the Fossil Festival

On hand last week for the opening of an enhanced diorama, from left: Jeremy Pierce, mine manager for PotashCorp; Steve Paschall, engineering consultant; AFM Board member Maria Gerber, mine room project manager; Ray McKeithen, public relations manager for PotashCorp; Clif Williams, Aurora Mayor (and mine room manager assistant); and state House Rep. Michael Speciale.

On hand last week for the opening of an enhanced diorama, from left: Jeremy Pierce, mine manager for PotashCorp; Steve Paschall, engineering consultant; AFM Board member Maria Gerber, mine room project manager; Ray McKeithen, public relations manager for PotashCorp; Clif Williams, Aurora Mayor (and mine room manager assistant); and state House Rep. Michael Speciale.

Now visitors to the museum — who come from all 50 states and a number of foreign countries – can get a feel for what it is like to be in an actual phosphate mine. AFM board member Maria Gerber said: “Now thousands of school children and others will have an amazing teaching venue to learn about the mine, its production, and the layers that have been uncovered, which have revealed some of the most important fossils on our planet.”

Community takes first step in long, long journey


Approximately 50 people attended the meeting organized by “People for a Better Aurora & Richland Township”

Approximately 50 people attended the meeting organized by “People for a Better Aurora & Richland Township”

Eve Hemby chats with former Aurora Town Commissioner Lewis Leaming.

Eve Hemby chats with former Aurora Town Commissioner Lewis Leaming.

RICHLAND TOWNSHIP – An incorporated town (Aurora) and its surrounding township are on the ropes in this rural part of Beaufort County. The area’s only grocery store closed last summer, buildings along Main Street resemble the dilapidated, vacant storefronts of some post-apocalypse, and far too many working age adults appear to be unemployed.

That is the scenario confronting a group of approximately 50 – mostly white, mostly senior – citizens who turned out Tuesday night for a Clarion call of sorts, organized by Eve Hemby, a young black woman, who has resolved to do something “otherwise there may not be an Aurora in 10 years, if that long!”

“The reason why is because I want to live here,” Hemby told the crowd, most of whom were 25 to 30 years older. “And, it’s not going to happen if I have to go to a grocery store that is 30 miles away!”

Hemby has organized a small group known as ‘People for a Better Aurora & Richland Township.’ Her enthusiasm rubbed off – at least a little bit.

Former Aurora Town Commissioner Lewis Leaming, a retired Marine from Camp Lejeune who has lived in this area for the past 39 years, was among the first to describe his view of the community’s dire straits.

“You’ve got all your young people leaving,” he said. “They want to be able to go out for that quick meal, that quick resource. You’ve got to have young people in order to grow. Right now, we’ve got to go to Pamlico County to play ball, or we go to New Bern for things.”

Hemby appeared to obtain consensus that some type of strategic plan must be developed. And, she repeatedly stressed that any plan would be doomed without a committed, proactive force of individuals to implement its mandates and provisions.

“It’s so important that Aurora and Richland Township people go to meetings outside of Aurora,” urged Hemby. “If you don’t make noise, if you don’t keep pushing, if you don’t keep meeting, then nothing will happen.”

PotashCorp-Aurora, a huge phosphate mine just north of town, and one of eastern North Carolina’s largest employers, received both accolades and brickbats:

“Wow, at 7 a.m. when the shift changes, who’s monitoring the business potential of all that traffic?” asked Hemby.

But later, resident Michelle Oros suggested one reason outside investors are reluctant to put money into the community is “the hot rumor that always circulates – PotashCorp has bought up all the mineral rights under our homes. I don’t know how real that is, but it would be a reassurance to know if the mineral rights have been sold.”

Hemby said she intends to solicit assistance from the state’s Department of Commerce, with that initiative to begin as early as next month. Look for announcements in this newspaper as events unfold.

Reuben Peed, 87, honored by Hooker clan

Ceremony marks Peed’s retirement from CMF & special relationship with four generations

Reuben Peed, 87, accepts a gold watch from Joe Hooker, president of CMF, while John Hooker Sr., CEO of CMF looks on.

Reuben Peed, 87, accepts a gold watch from Joe Hooker, president of CMF, while John Hooker Sr., CEO of CMF looks on.

Reuben Peed and John Hooker Sr., 80, have been friends since childhood. Peed first worked with Nathaniel Hooker, John’s father.

Reuben Peed and John Hooker Sr., 80, have been friends since childhood. Peed first worked with Nathaniel Hooker, John’s father.

AURORA — There are two well-known and respected families in Aurora whose lives have been intertwined for at least four generations dating back to the 1930s: The Hooker Family and the Peed Family.
Though most people count the days until they are able to retire, Reuben Peed is the absolute opposite. Born in 1928, he is 87 years young, always has a smile on his face, and will absolutely miss going to work because he thrives on the daily interaction with others.

The Hookers, who own CMF on Highway 33 in Aurora, had a surprise retirement barbeque on July 9 for Reuben and all CMF employees. Reuben’s daughter, JoAnn, was able to attend, where her father received a gold watch, engraved with the following words:

To: Mr. Reuben Peed
From: The Hookers, 2015

Joe Hooker, President of CMF, said an appropriate phrase that would not fit on the watch would be: For 75 years of devoted friendship and hard work.

At the BBQ, every man who stopped to say hello to Reuben also mentioned how much he would be missed. For a split second, it appeared that Reuben might be reconsidering his decision to retire!

Reuben Peed is seen here with eight of his nine daughters, from left: Johnnie, Lucy, Mollie, Linda, Charlotte, Carolyn, JoAnn, and Clarine (Glory was not present).

Reuben Peed is seen here with eight of his nine daughters, from left: Johnnie, Lucy, Mollie, Linda, Charlotte, Carolyn, JoAnn, and Clarine (Glory was not present).

The relationship between the families began with Nathaniel Hooker (grandfather of Joe Hooker, current CMF president) and Charlie Peed, father of Reuben.

They began farming and raising families as neighbors and friends in the days when Aurora was known as the Potato Capital of North Carolina. In the 1930s and 1940s, cooperation among farms was paramount. Every farmer knew that getting their products to market was essential; and the Hookers and Peeds — along with others – worked together to achieve that goal.

Reuben and John Hooker, Sr., age 80 (current CEO of CMF) grew up together. Reuben has been employed by the Hooker family on and off for 75 years. In that time, he has worked with four generations of the family:

1) Nathaniel
2) John Sr.,
3) John Jr. — Senior Vice President and General Manager,
Bill — Vice-President, Transportation and Certified Crane Operator,
Joe — President
4) And two of Joe’s sons: Robbie and Matthew.

Peed, about 1946, with his wife, Mollie B. at the Aurora carnival.

Peed, about 1946, with his wife, Mollie B. at the Aurora carnival.

John Sr. and Reuben have a mutual respect for each other and a camaraderie that has developed over time. When asked to describe Mr. Peed, Mr. Hooker, Sr. said “He is honest and hard-working; one of the best Americans I have ever known or met.”

There is something unspoken that passes between the two gentlemen that allows a glimpse into the special bond that decades of friendship and trust have built. They share a sense of humor and stories; the need to “fill in the blanks” is not there — it is understood.

Two words that have deep meaning for Reuben and ones that he takes very seriously when asked to describe a person are: Honorable and Trustworthy. These are the words he used to characterize John, Sr.

The depth of friendship that these two men share goes far beyond the number of years they have known each other. It is evident after spending just a few hours with them.

Reuben and his wife, Mollie B, were married for 52 years. She died several years ago from complications due to diabetes. They had 10 children – a son who is deceased, and nine daughters including a set of twins! Reuben’s daughters are: Glory, Mollie, Linda, Clarine, JoAnn, Johannie, Carolyn, Charlotte, and Lucy. Reuben also has 21 grandchildren, 18 great grandchildren, and 8 great, great grandchildren.

Reuben never asked for help. He always took care of his wife during her illness, and looked after all of his children, and at no time took a day off.

Reuben worked for the Hooker family until he decided at one point to farm his own land. He grew tobacco, corn, and grain, but after about 12 years, he gave this up because farming 50-60 acres became too much. Other jobs that Mr. Peed held over the years (when he was not working for the Hooker family) were as a carpenter, a truck driver, and he also worked in a crab processing plant.

Peed is an ordained Baptist minister.

Peed is an ordained Baptist minister.

When John Sr. purchased a combine in 1954, he asked Reuben to return. And, in 1956 Reuben came back to run the new machine for him. By this time, the Hooker family began to expand into other areas of industry in addition to farming. John Sr. said that the companies at different times were in the business of selling and delivering oil, disposal of waste oil, were industrial suppliers, had a service station, and even built a diner (now the Wayside) for daughter, Nancy to run.

(Nancy is now a Safety Specialist at PCS Phosphate.)

Over the years, Reuben was a valuable asset for CMF. Mr. Hooker explained that his work ethic, positive attitude, and dependability served as an inspiration to all of the other employees. Reuben did not have a specific job title; he did whatever was necessary. One job that was entrusted to Reuben was sorting “scrap metal.”

John Sr. said, “When I have someone like Reuben, I don’t need to be everywhere.”

The sorting job was imperative to the company — it made the difference between profit or losing money on scrap metal.

Joe Hooker, a former Mayor of Aurora, added that their corporation has also had subsidiaries that included building fiberglass skiffs and fish farming. The company now works with its primary customer, PotashCorp–Aurora, building structural steel industrial catwalks, stairways, and pipe work.

Peed was accompanied at the ceremony by his daughter JoAnn.

Peed was accompanied at the ceremony by his daughter JoAnn.

Love of family is something else that the Hookers and Peeds have in common. John Sr. has been married to his wife, Lillian, for 62 years. They have four children, eight grandchildren, and nine great grandchildren.

Reuben became an ordained Free Will Baptist Minister in 2000, and is now a Missionary Baptist Minister. He officiated at the wedding of John Sr.’s grandson, James Tyndall to his wife Yuki, four years ago.

A description of Reuben Peed that recurred over and over during interviews was, “any extra he has he gives to others,” and “he is faithful to God, his family, and his community.” His daughter, JoAnn, said that having his family around is what makes him happiest, and they all try to come home for Christmas.

When asked what he was going to do now that he has retired at age 87, Reuben said that he would take care of his garden. Most people would assume this means a few vegetable plants – but not a Reuben Peed garden!

Peed shares a laugh with Johnny Hooker Jr. of CMF

Peed shares a laugh with Johnny Hooker Jr. of CMF

His consists of collards, potatoes, sweet potatoes, okra, tomatoes, squash, string beans, butter beans, cucumbers, and cabbage. It also means at least a half-acre!

The only concession to age Reuben said he may have to make is to take a few breaks during the day while tending the garden. Reuben: This is your retirement! Take breaks, enjoy gardening for pleasure, and take advantage of visiting with family and friends. You have earned it!

2015 Aurora Fossil Festival

AURORA – The locked, secure display case of the Aurora Fossil Museum is always packed this time of year, as various fossils show up for the hugely popular Fossil Auction, which begins at 3 p.m. on Saturday, May 23rd, in downtown Aurora – a highlight of the three-day Fossil Festival.

If you’ve never attended, trust us – this is one fascinating extravaganza, even if you don’t know an ancient shark’s tooth from even older dinosaur poop!

Aurora Fossil Festival

22nd Anniversary

May 22-24, 2015

Fossil Festival Field & Main St. Aurora, NC




Schedule of Events







Quirky, fun Fossil Auction huge part of Festival