Families of four Jaycees who had ballfields, football field overlay named for them sought
By Mark Wineka
The Salisbury Parks and Recreation Department is trying to contact any family members of the four Jaycees for whom three ballfields and a football field overlay were named for at the Sports Complex almost 40 years ago.
The department also is looking for Salisbury Jaycees (and Salisbury Optimists) from that time period who were friends with Bob Felton, Randy Gabriel, Henry W. Turner and Clint Cheney.
The Parks and Recreation Department would like to formally invite these friends and family to a rededication of the renovated Sports Complex, located off today’s Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue.
The ceremony, open to the public, will be held at 10 a.m. Sept. 27.
If you are one of those people or know a family connection to any of the men, contact the Parks and Recreation Department at 704-638-5291.
Felton, Gabriel and Turner were killed almost 40 years ago in a traffic accident on U.S. 601.
The trio ó all riding in Felton’s new Javelin ó died on the night of March 6, 1969, after their car skidded sideways on wet pavement north of the Wagon Wheel Dance Hall and slammed into an oncoming tractor-trailer.
The men were headed to a Jaycees meeting in Cooleemee and were several minutes behind another carload of Salisbury Jaycees.
Cheney was a murder victim in 1968. He was a well-known town figure whose murder shocked the community.
On Sept. 16, 1971, between games of the Rowan Junior Football League, the Salisbury Jaycees led a dedication ceremony at the Sports Complex during which the three ballfields were named for Turner, Gabriel and Felton and the football field overlay was named for Cheney.
The Jaycees and Salisbury Optimist Club joined forces in the late 1960s and early 1970s to raise much of the $80,000 needed to build the “Junior Sports Complex” off what was then South Boundary Street.
Those ballfields lasted decades until the city’s recent major renovation of the Sports Complex, where two new softball fields have been created as part of a broader master plan for the recreation facility.
In the Sept. 27 rededication, one of the fields will be named for Felton and Gabriel and the other for Turner and Cheney. It’s hoped that family members can participate in unveilings.
The facility’s first-phase renovation also includes a 3,000-foot walking trail, bocce ball and horseshoe areas, three-on-three basketball courts, a new playground structure and a new creek crossing to a picnic area.
Future development will add a restroom/concessions building and shelter.
Bob Bailey, who was in the other car of Salisbury Jaycees that traveled to Cooleemee that night in 1969, is trying to help the Parks and Recreation Department in locating family and friends who knew the men.
Turner and Felton were members of the Jaycees’ board of directors. Felton, a Rowan County forester, served as the club chaplain.
Turner, a chemist at Republic Foil (now Norandal USA), was chairing the upcoming Soapbox Derby, with Felton as his assistant.
Gabriel, who had just joined the Jaycees four months earlier, worked as a Duke Power lineman.