And so much so that the county is requesting a bridge on KY 215 be named in his honor.
Members of the Harlan County Fiscal Court approved a resolution on Thursday requesting the state name a bridge near Black Mountain the Dustin Mefford Bridge.
Mefford died in an ATV crash near the bridge after his four-wheeler collided with a van Aug. 2. Not long after the accident, family and friends created a memorial site at the bridge, placing wreaths and flowers near painted phrases that still read “Rest In Peace” and “We Will Always Love You.” His football number at Evarts High School - 88 - along with his nickname, “Uncanny Catman,” are also painted on the bridge.
Mefford's mother, Cindy Mefford, said she's still uncertain exactly how plans to fly an American flag in Iraq on the day her son was buried came about. She learned about the honor when she received the flag, along with a certificate of authenticity, in the mail.
“I couldn't believe that my son had touched so many lives that they'd fly a flag over Iraq. ... He was only 18.
“It was more than likely in honor of what he wrote about them,” said Cindy Mefford, explaining that her son had written an article about his appreciation of those in the armed services, including his older brother, Derek, a member of the National Guard's 149th Infantry Battalion. The article was published in the newspaper the day Mefford died.
“I don't know if he ever saw it,” his mother said.
Cindy Mefford said she has been overwhelmed by the response from her youngest son's death, and the gracious words and flowers sprawled on the KY 215 bridge have been comforting to her.
“Even if they spray over it, it wouldn't surprise me if they paint it again,” she said. Coming home late one night, she said she even noticed lanterns near where so many have already crafted a memorial site for Mefford.
“It took my breath,” she said.
It is estimated that at least 1,000 visitors attended Mefford's funeral, his mother said. And while many in attendance didn't sign the guest book, it still had 797 signatures, she said.
“His happiness would bounce off him and onto you. He never failed to make me proud,” Cindy Mefford said.
Having a permanent memorial in the community just “seemed fitting,” said District 2 Magistrate Chad Brock, who told fiscal court members Thursday that state representatives are also supporting the county's request.
Brock made the motion to support the resolution, which received a second by District 1 Magistrate Paul Caldwell. The county will send its request to the state's Transportation Cabinet.
In other news from Thursday's meeting of the Harlan County Fiscal Court:
-- Don Tucker, of Codell Construction, reported that construction of the new Harlan County Detention Center in Verda is nearly complete. Harlan County Jailer Curt Stallard said construction could be finished in a month and a half. The county has recently suggested that the city of Harlan, which is currently extending sewage lines to Ages, further extend sewage lines to reach the detention center and what will be the new Hope Center, a drug recovery facility for women. According to the proposal, which was discussed at Monday's Harlan City Council meeting, the county would fund the extension from Ages.
n Representing the Cumberland Valley District Health Department, Roger Sizemore requested $2,000 on behalf of the local health department's mosquito spraying program. Harlan County Judge-Executive Joe Grieshop said funding for the program was not included in this year's budget, but the court will consider the department's request.
-- Dan Mosley, Harlan County E-911 and special programs coordinator, said the county is considering two architectural firms from Lexington - Fitzsimons Office of Architecture and James W. Potts Architects - for the preservation of the Putney Ranger Station. He said a recommendation will be made once references and financial aspects of the project have been reviewed. Mosley said logs on the outside of the station will need to be restored due to damage from moisture, and the station's roof has been replaced.
-- Fiscal court members agreed to declare several vehicles from the sheriff's department surplus property. They also agreed to allow a “trade” of those vehicles and vehicles used by the detention center if the sheriff's department's vehicles are more suitable for the detention center's use.
-- Fiscal court members accepted the county court clerk's 2005 audit report.
-- Jack Lundy, chairman of the Sunshine Neighborhood Watch program and chief of Sunshine's fire department, requested that fiscal court members consider a curfew in Sunshine similar to the city of Harlan's, which is 11 p.m. on school nights and midnight on the weekends, he said. Lundy presented a petition to the court of residents who are in support of a curfew due to excessive noise, “drinking, robbing and stealing.” Grieshop said a curfew may be required countywide if one is implemented in Sunshine.
“We'll have to have public input. We'll look into it. ... There might be other areas in the county with the same problem,” he said.
-- Fiscal court members called a lengthy executive session to discuss legal matters.
The Harlan County Fiscal Court will meet in special session Aug. 24 at 10 a.m. in the fiscal court conference room of the Harlan County Courthouse. The next regular meeting will be Sept. 21 at 10 a.m.