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From finding lost rings to winning title rings, our favorite stories of 2022
UGA Parade
UGA football players and fans celebrate the team's first national championship in 41 years. - photo by Kelly Whitmire

2022 was a year of memory-making, and the staff at the Forsyth County News reported on many stories that left impacts on us all. From funny to serious, tragic to jubilant, these are our reporters’ favorite stories of the year.

Ashlyn Yule
Ashlyn Yule
Tattoos and diving for diamonds

As someone who loves earrings, I’ve made a few trips into Fulton County to get safe, lasting piercings. I’ve grown up in Forsyth County and always known that to get a tattoo or piercing, you had to go elsewhere. It wasn’t a big deal; Forsyth just didn’t have any tattoo shops.

What I didn’t know, however, was how big of a deal Forsyth County’s unified development code rules about tattoo shops were to artists and business owners until I sat down to chat with Russ Abbott, who lives in Forsyth County but works in Roswell at his shop, Ink & Dagger Tattoo.

tattoo overlay
Tattoo shop owner Russ Abbott stands in front of the space in Vickery Village that he hopes to someday lease for a new tattoo studio in Forsyth County. Photo courtesy Russ Abbott.

I love living on Lake Lanier, and I love sharing stories about the lake with folks around the county. In the past year, I’ve gotten the chance to work with locally famous Richard Pickering of Lake Lanier Recovery Divers – the man anyone calls when they’ve dropped something in the lake.

This year, Pickering hit his goal of recovering 30 lost rings from the bottom of Lake Lanier. I got the opportunity to chat with the lucky lady whose engagement ring Pickering found. And within the few days it took to speak with the source, Pickering called me saying he was already on ring No. 32.

Kelly is kool
Kelly Whitmire

A tragic loss, a thrilling victory

One of the most impactful stories of the year, and likely my career, was coverage of the passing of Central EMS EMT Gina Ayres, who was killed in a three-vehicle wreck involving her ambulance in November and is one of only a few first responders who have died in the line of duty in Forsyth County.

While the crash and her funeral were tough stories to cover, they did show the support of the community and the connection between first responders as firetrucks, police cruisers, ambulances and more showed up at her memorial service. The death also hit closer to home than other fatalities I’ve covered as I had, unknowingly, taken a picture of Ayres at the scene of a fire a week before the wreck.

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Two Forsyth County Fire Department fire trucks cross their ladders in memory of Central EMS EMT Gina Ayres, who died in a crash while responding to an emergency call on Thursday, Nov. 17. - photo by Kelly Whitmire
The death also hit closer to home than other fatalities I’ve covered as I had, unknowingly, taken a picture of Ayres at the scene of a fire a week before the wreck.
Reporter Kelly Whitmire (Ayres is seen at left below)
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Forsyth County firefighters responded to a fire at a west Forsyth storage building the morning of Monday, Nov. 7.

I finally had a chance to cover one story I’ve waited a lifetime for this year as the Georgia Bulldogs celebrated their first footballnational championship in 41 years with a parade in Athens, where I was even able to snap a picture of 2021 Forsyth County News Boys Athlete of the Year Dylan Fairchild, now a Bulldog lineman, celebrating with teammates.

As a UGA alum and a lifelong Dawgs fan, I was one of the thousands to make the pilgrimage to Athens ahead of a snowstorm to celebrate the champions. Based on the experience, I wrote one of the only sports-themed stories in my career, one in which I was also able to mention the Atlanta Braves World Series victory -- and throw in a few barbs at UGA’s rivals.

Sabrina Kerns
History lessons, life lessons

As someone who had no idea Forsyth County even existed before I started working here in 2020, I love learning more about this community. From the insane growth to supposed hauntings on Lake Lanier, it feels like I learn something new every day.

But, surprisingly, my favorite tidbit of history I discovered this year was about a restaurant. This past summer, I had the chance to talk with Bill Norman, former owner of Norman’s Landing, going through old photos and memories of what was once so many people’s favorite place to eat — and play ping pong.

Norman's Landing
Mark Reid and his daughter, Cara, enjoy a last lunch at Norman’s Landing. - photo by Jim Dean

Coming out of the pandemic this year, it has been amazing to see the outpouring of support for better mental health care. Headlines across the nation have touted stronger conversations in board rooms, classrooms and capitol buildings alike about an issue that has affected so many.

But the impact of that support didn’t quite hit me until I went out to the county’s first Out of Darkness suicide awareness walk at Forsyth Central back in March. More than 400 people came out to share their struggles and stories of a loved one they had lost. But more than anything, they shared hope that change would, inevitably, come.

Nick Sullivan
Sports Editor Nicholas Sullivan
Partners at home, foes on the court

I received an email with a story pitch regarding someone’s relative, which typically doesn’t lead to anything fruitful. The pitch involved middle school basketball, again, not a typical area that garners intriguing stories. The subject matter piqued my interest, though, as it centered around a unique coaching matchup.

I’ve seen parents coach against their own children. I’ve seen siblings coach against each other. I’ve even written about a husband and wife coaching together, but I had never heard of spouses coaching against each other. Until I met the Stephens family.

Otwell's Kyle Stephens and Liberty's Julie Stephens meet after facing off against each other in a seventh-grade girls basketball game Nov. 14 at Liberty Middle. (Photo by Jay Rooney Photography)

Forsyth County is known for producing amazing athletes in a wide range of sports. One of the strongest pedigrees resides in cross country. It’s a sport I didn’t have much experience covering, and I had never made the trip to Carrollton for the state meet until this fall. I wound up making the trek on back-to-back days.

On a Friday morning, I arrived to cover the Class 7A championships, which included a restart in the boys race after an early pileup. Local teams performed incredibly well, as usual. But following a long night of football coverage, the highlight of the weekend came that Saturday, when East Forsyth senior Alex Arrambide made school history.

Derrick Richemond
Derrick Richemond
Comebacks and smackdowns

Who doesn’t love a Friday night football thriller? One of my favorites was when the North Forsyth Raiders overcame a 24-7 deficit in a rivalry game against West Forsyth. I’ve covered a lot of football and even played some in my high school days, but I’ve never seen a greater defensive performance by both teams. Sacks, forced fumbles, interceptions, you name it. And most of it in the rain. Luckily, I was in the press box.

Forsyth Central softball pitching

On a different field, I’d never seen a team get to home plate so many times, especially not right out the gate, before I watched the Forsyth Central Bulldogs softball team pour on 11 runs in the first inning against Roswell that ultimately led to a 15-0 victory. I captured so many great photos of the Bulldogs that it was hard for me to pick which ones to use with the story.

I went to Forsyth Central and never attended a softball game. As an alumnus, I was thrilled to see my former school get a resounding victory.