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COVID-19 kills mother of 8, GoFundMe page started for family

On the morning of Sept. 12, Stephanie Jackson woke up struggling to breathe. She was quickly checked into The Medical Center at Bowling Green. Hours later, she was dead.

The Bowling Green native was only 42.

She had been ill for more than two weeks.

Her husband, William Jackson, had tested positive for COVID-19 and had been diagnosed with pneumonia. He overcame the sickness. His wife died from the same complications.

Stephanie Jackson is survived by her husband and eight children – three of whom are young teenagers who were adopted by the couple this summer.

“She was always donating stuff to the homeless shelters,” William Jackson said of his late wife. “I just don’t understand. We gave so much just for this to happen.”

The Ohio native first met his wife in 2013 after serving in the Army. Stephanie Jackson grew up in Bowling Green and met her husband after ending a previous relationship. He retired from the Army after meeting her.

“We didn’t stay apart since that day,” he said of meeting his wife. “We have been together every day since then until the 12th. She was just so loving. She was trying to hold out (going to the hospital) as much as she possibly could. She wanted to spend as much time with me as she could.”

Before she fell ill, they were preparing to celebrate their first wedding anniversary Oct. 10. Stephanie Jackson was buried after a graveside service Wednesday at Fairview Cemetery.

The loss has left the family reeling and looking for answers while William Jackson attempts to cover the cost of the funeral.

That’s when Melissa Lynch decided to step in and help the Jacksons financially.

Lynch created a GoFundMe.com page titled “Help the Jackson’s memorial fund” in an effort to crowdsource funding for payments such as the funeral and headstone.

“I’ve known Stephanie since middle school,” Lynch said. “I’ve known her basically my whole life. She has always been there. Basically, I just wanted to help. I don’t know their financial business. I just really wanted to give her something she deserved.”

Lynch said her friend was “strong-willed” and a great mother who loved her children dearly.

“Stephanie always seemed to be happy and positive,” Lynch said. “She will be missed. She was also a foster parent and has been one for several years now. It’s just so unexpected. If you happen to get sick, stay on top of it.”

That sentiment was also echoed by William Jackson.

“Don’t let your loved ones hold out,” he said. “You need to get them to the hospital. It’s really a sad thing that these hospitals won’t let more than one person go in so they aren’t dying by theirselves.”

The GoFundMe account has a stated goal of $10,000, and the page has already raised more than $2,000.

“I was actually really impressed,” Lynch said. “There was one donor who donated $500, which is very generous. I’m glad the story is out there and the story has some passion.”

Family friend Julie Perry said the Jacksons had been foster parents for several children in recent years. She called Stephanie Jackson an “amazing person” and said the couple were fun, patient people.

“They have lost someone who was helping bring them money,” Perry said of the family. “Now it leaves the husband taking care of these children. I don’t even know how he is going to do this. It’s going to be very hard. They have helped out so many people. I just think it’s right for the community to help them.”

– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.

Arson suspected in second string of barn fires

For the second consecutive week, local volunteer fire departments have rushed out in the dead of night to put out multiple barn fires.

Authorities suspect three structure fires reported early Tuesday on Rich Pond Road and a fire at a site in a developing subdivision off Matlock Road were set intentionally.

Those fires occurred six days after two barns less than a mile apart in the area of Plano Road and Dye Ford Road caught fire under suspicious circumstances.

No injuries have been reported from any of the fires.

Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower said the more recent fires were reported between shortly before 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. Tuesday, and the three fires on Rich Pond Road were within about 1 to 11/2 miles of one another.

“We’ve got an arsonist out there who’s causing a lot of damage and destruction to different people’s property,” Hightower said. “There’s definitely evidence that somebody had tried to use an accelerant in one of the locations.”

Multiple fires occurring close in proximity and in time also suggest the blazes are suspicious, Hightower said.

Chief Bob Skipper of the Woodburn Volunteer Fire Department said his agency was called to one of the barn fires on Rich Pond Road sometime after 4:30 a.m. Tuesday.

As Woodburn firefighters battled that fire, they saw smoke and flames coming from a second structure about 150 yards away, and discovered that fire coming from a structure behind an abandoned house, Skipper said.

The third fire, which turned out to be smaller and more easily contained, was reported over dispatch just after 5 a.m., and the fire reported on Matlock Road was also contained in a short amount of time.

For any structure fire in the county, four volunteer fire departments are dispatched and respond.

Skipper said a truck from the Alvaton Volunteer Fire Department was diverted from the larger blaze on Rich Pond Road to the nearby structure fire.

“We were fortunate in that the other two fires never really got going,” Skipper said. “Had those actually turned into working fires it would have definitely taxed our resources and we would have called for additional help, which strips the rest of the county of resources.”

Hightower said the sheriff’s office has received some tips and is following leads in an effort to learn about how the fires came to be set and who may be responsible, but he is encouraging residents in the area to be observant and report anything suspicious.

“If you can get a vehicle description or a license plate number or a description of any person or persons involved, that will certainly help,” Hightower said.

Skipper said at scenes like this, first responders are concerned for the safety of anyone who might be in the structures as well as the safety of firefighters and the general public.

“It’s very concerning, not only for the loss of property, but just the dangers these fires pose,” Skipper said.

– Anyone with information about the recent fires may contact the WCSO at 270-842-1633.

– Follow courts reporter Justin Story on Twitter @jstorydailynews or visit bgdailynews.com.

Capilouto tours UK College of Medicine, touts homegrown physicians

Students at the University of Kentucky’s College of Medicine at Bowling Green left a strong impression Wednesday on visiting UK President Eli Capilouto, who later described his tour of the campus to members of the Bowling Green Rotary Club.

“Here’s the profile: I grew up in this town or a community nearby. … I went to Western (Kentucky University) or Murray (State University). I want to live here, and I met somebody who I’m going to marry!” Capilouto told the Bowling Green Rotary Club.

With the UK College of Medicine at Bowling Green steadily approaching graduation for its inaugural class of students, Capilouto said it’s already embodying the vision so many set out with when the school opened in 2018.

Several Rotary Club members praised Capilouto for bringing the medical campus to Bowling Green, but Capilouto credited other stakeholders who worked to help make it a reality.

“The whole intention was you educate people closer to home … be part of the community,” Capilouto said. “Walking through those study rooms this morning, I felt so good about the dreams of others who really came before me.”

As the headliner at the Bowling Green Rotary Club, Capilouto discussed his university’s values, along with its ongoing response to the pandemic.

In all its endeavors, Capilouto said, the University of Kentucky is striving to inspire ingenuity, take care of its workforce, put students first and build trust.

“This pandemic has, in many ways, sharpened what we do,” Capilouto told the group.

Describing UK’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, Capilouto touted the university’s effort to open a high-volume vaccination site at Kroger Field.

At the campus football stadium, the university administered about 250,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine, Capilouto said, a project that would not have been possible without the work of dedicated volunteers whom he said wanted to be a part of history.

UK continues to encourage vaccinations, even amid criticism from some of its faculty, staff and students that it’s not going far enough on that front.

Last week, more than 2,000 faculty, staff and students at UK signed a letter urging Capilouto to endorse a vaccine mandate for the campus community, the Courier-Journal reported. It was accompanied by a resolution adopted by the campus’ University Senate.

Speaking to reporters Wednesday following the Rotary Club meeting, Capilouto extolled the university’s high vaccination rate in proportion to its population size. It’s now as high as 86% vaccinated, Capilouto told reporters.

Capilouto went further, contending that if the University of Kentucky were its own county it would easily be the most vaccinated in the state.

Capilouto stopped short of saying the University of Kentucky would make coronavirus vaccines mandatory for students, faculty and staff, however.

The university, like many others, also continues to study a recent testing or vaccine mandate from President Joe Biden’s administration and what the impact is for UK. The university already has a similar model in place, however.

“We’re making incredible progress through the ways that we are encouraging people to make a good choice to be vaccinated,” Capilouto said, adding that the university has a vaccine incentive program and tests those who remain unvaccinated weekly.

“If we detect that you are COVID positive, we’re going to immediately wrap services around you, isolate you, quarantine those people who you may have exposed – It’s about stopping the spread of this disease,” Capilouto said.

– Follow education reporter Aaron Mudd on Twitter @NewsByAaron or visit bgdailynews.com.

Aviation Heritage Park museum progresses

Like the military aviators it will honor, Bowling Green’s Aviation Heritage Park museum is finding a way to adapt and overcome.

Despite delays related to fundraising and building-supply shortages brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, leaders of the park at Three Springs Road and Smallhouse Road are soldiering on toward the goal of building the 11,000-square-foot museum to house aviation artifacts and memorabilia.

An addition to the static display that now includes seven aircraft with ties to southcentral Kentucky military aviators, the museum will have the look of a 1930s-era airplane hangar and will house many smaller items that can’t be displayed outdoors.

With work being done now on the roof and walls, the museum is taking shape.

“We made the decision about two months ago to move forward with phase two, which will completely enclose the building,” said Joe Tinius, president of the AHP board of directors. “We have enough money in hand or pledged to complete this phase.”

Tinius said this second phase of the museum’s construction will include all the siding and masonry work, along with windows and doors.

“When this phase is finished, the building will be airtight and enclosed,” Tinius said. “We’ll then be ready for the final phase, which is the interior work.”

The AHP board has raised about $1.5 million of its original goal of $2.5 million. Tinius said efforts to come up with the final $1 million are continuing, with that money going toward the interior work.

Tinius said AHP’s relationship with the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association (“River Rats”) has helped with fundraising.

Founded as an organization to commemorate fighter pilots from the Vietnam War era, The River Rats group has broadened its reach and is now planning to establish its home base in the AHP museum.

“That relationship (with the River Rats) is growing,” Tinius said. “They made a significant pledge that helped us finance the second phase of construction.”

A link on the River Rats’ website refers to the AHP museum as the “future home of the River Rats” and indicates the museum will allow the group to collect, preserve and exhibit artifacts, documents, patches, flight suits and other items.

Tinius said plans are in the works for the River Rats to hold a national reunion in Bowling Green in 2023.

That relationship isn’t the only avenue the AHP board is utilizing to help with fundraising.

Tinius said the museum will have memorial walls on two sides, and the AHP board is selling memorial bricks that allow people to honor military veterans with personalized brass plates attached to a brick.

“We held off on doing that until we had bricks going up,” Tinius said. “We feel like we’re at that point now.”

He said brick sponsorships are $100 and can be in recognition of any military veteran, not just aviators.

– More information about AHP and the museum construction can be found at aviationheritagepark.com.

– Follow business reporter Don Sergent on Twitter @BGDNbusiness or visit bgdailynews.com.