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Year in review: Saying goodbye to loved ones

Profile image for By Karina Ramírez and Matthew Zabel / Staff Writers
By Karina Ramírez and Matthew Zabel / Staff Writers

In 2012, we said goodbye to many who were leaders in the community in several ways. Here is a look at some of those people and their contributions to the community.


Ema Ruth Russell

Ema Ruth Russell touched many lives and made many friends during her long life.

She died Feb. 5 at age 103.

Born in Texoma in 1908, the former Ema Ruth Lindsey grew up in Memphis, Texas, and moved to Denton in the 1920s. She graduated from Denton High School in 1925 and obtained a double bachelor’s degree in music and music education from what is now Texas Woman’s University. She then completed her master’s degree in music education and began teaching in New Gulf.

She married Lawrence “Larry” G. Russell in 1942, and they decided to make Denton their home. After the birth of their daughter, Marie, she went on to teach elementary school from 1950 to 1956. She later accepted the challenge of starting a choral program at Denton High.

But it was after her retirement from the school district in 1971 that she really got busy, her friends said, and she pursued a passion for the arts that would burn brightly for 40 years.

She was a founding member of the Denton Community Chorus and the Greater Denton Arts Council and a co-founder of The Arts Guild. She also worked to raise funds for the Center for the Visual Arts, where the rehearsal space was named the Ema Ruth Russell Rehearsal Hall in 1985.


Alice Kelley Sidor Appleton

Alice Kelley Sidor Appleton, a champion of women’s rights and longtime local volunteer, died April 5 because of complications from emergency surgery.

Sidor Appleton came to Denton from Dodson, La., where she was born on July 21, 1920.

Sidor Appleton and her first husband, Andy, were married for 43 years until his death in 1993.

His job required them to move about the country, and they settled in Denton in 1961. Sidor Appleton attended Texas Woman’s University and the University of North Texas. She worked as secretary of St. David’s Episcopal Church and later in TWU’s department of speech and hearing. She served as director of the Denton County Chapter of the American Red Cross, and worked with the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

She also was a champion of women’s rights and volunteered at the Denton County Friends of the Family for a number of years.


Tom ‘Pops’ Carter

Locals in Denton remembered blues legend Tom “Pops” Carter, 92, as a man who dressed to the nines, flirted without apology and sang for the rafters.

Carter was born June 6, 1919, in Shreveport, La. He died April 22 at the intensive care unit of Cypress Medical Center in Houston.

He is survived by his son, Tommy Lee Carter of Houston, and his daughter, Shayla Berry of Denton. The musician is also survived by six grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

Though the bluesman loved jazz and old country music, the blues was his first love. He especially liked slow, soulful ballads that he’d style with an original mix of exuberance and a little sorrow.


John Lee Cook Jr.

Former Denton Fire Chief John Lee Cook Jr. died unexpectedly May 5 at his home in Georgetown.

Cook, 62, served in Denton from 1987 to 1995.

After leaving Denton, he served as director of fire safety in Loudoun, Va., until 1998.

He was fire chief in Conroe before he came to Denton and an assistant chief in Dallas between 2006 and 2007.

At the time of his death, he was a public safety and fire consultant, and was a frequent speaker on fire safety and wrote articles on the subject.

He was an adjunct faculty member at the National Fire Academy.

He became a volunteer firefighter at 19 and was a fire and police dispatcher in Huntsville while attending Sam Houston State University. Later he earned a master’s degree at Southwest Texas State University.

He taught fire protection courses at various academies along the way and always volunteered as a firefighter until he became a paid chief.

He was remembered by Georgetown Fire Chief Robert Fite as a friend to the Texas fire service.


Thomas J. Pidcock

Double Oak Mayor Thomas J. Pidcock, 72, died July 16 of complications from lung cancer, leaving the town in mourning over the loss of a man officials called one of the best leaders and mentors to have ever served there.

Pidcock was elected mayor in 2011 and his term was scheduled to expire next May. Days before his death, several residents visited his hospital room, taking turns sitting by his side.

“It was just amazing to see the community support,” said Mike Donnelly, mayor pro tem and acting mayor. “It showed him and his family that we cared for him and that he was well liked by the people.”

For more than 16 years, Pidcock served on and off as an elected official in Double Oak. He was elected to the Town Council for multiple terms, and last year was elected as mayor for the first time.

Since his death, town leaders have begun discussing placing a monument for Pidcock. Ideas have included a flagpole with an inscription or a pavilion. A committee was established to plan for that.


David ‘Dave’ Krause

The owner of several former Denton car dealerships, J. David “Dave” Krause, 82, died Oct. 21 at his home in San Jose, Costa Rica.

After a short career in the oil and gas industry, Krause became a beer distributor for Bee County in southeast Texas. In 1965, he began selling cars, eventually becoming a general sales manager for Menger Oldsmobile in Corpus Christi, according to his son, Kurt Krause of Denton.

In 1975, he and his family moved to Denton, where he bought a Pontiac dealership from Monk King in 1975.


Robert ‘Rusty’ Patton

Sanger Mayor pro tem Robert “Rusty” Patton, 66, served on the Sanger City Council for more than six years and was re-elected to his fourth term in May. He died Nov. 30 from injuries sustained in a car accident in Young County.

Patton was born in Sanger and graduated from Sanger High School in 1964.

He served in the U.S. Navy as a radio mechanic on a submarine from 1968 to 1972. He also attended the University of Texas and graduated from what was then North Texas State University.

He is survived by his wife of 28 years, Terri Patton; a sister, Patricia Harberson; a daughter, Lisa Diane Patton Bell; and a son, Casey Ray Patton.


James ‘Jim’ Dotson

Precinct 1 Constable James “Jim” Dotson, whom many call a “fixture” in Denton County, died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Denton on Dec. 19.

Dotson, 70, first elected as constable in 1996, had been battling cancer for more than a year and a half, family and friends said.

Following his 28-year career with the Denton police, Dotson spent his last 16 years serving Denton County as a constable.


Mike Bell

Denton firefighter Michael Bell died Dec. 23 after a struggle with a rare form of brain cancer.

Bell, 49, received public recognition in November when friends and co-workers rallied at the Denton Central Fire Station to raise money to help him and his family cover medical expenses.

More than 83 people — including three women — committed to shaving their heads during the event to show their unwavering support for their fellow “brother.”

Organizers said the November fundraiser brought in $4,300.

Bell was diagnosed with gliosarcoma, a form of brain cancer, a little more than a year ago.

He had undergone four surgeries and several rounds of radiation.

KARINA RAMÍREZ can be reached at 940-566-6878. Her e-mail address is

MATTHEW ZABEL can be reached at 940-566-6884. His e-mail is