By David Leestma

Well, it’s 2021 and here we are anxious to move forward.

With Covid continuing on, vaccines already being distributed give us a strong sense of hope for a bright New Year.   As a neighbor said, “We are weathering the same storm but paddling different boats.”  We are learning to live with the virus better and hopefully wiser.

Entering our 34th year serving the Hickory Nut Gorge communities and neighboring counties, we’ve been paddling the Mountain Breeze boat through some uncharted waters. Thanks to our dedicated writers and loyal advertisers, we clearly see calmer waters ahead. The Breeze cover page reflects our anticipation of annual town activities and community events to return with ever stronger success this year.  Our business community shares that same anticipation, see “Your Chamber at Work” page 6.

 This winter Breeze edition brings to you a variety of stories, tips for good health, good business sense, some common sense, inspiration and local news.  Breeze columnist Jean Gordon tells of a Chimney Rock couple’s legacy to the community as she notes the recent passing of Ackie and JoAnne Okpych, page 14.

In addition to content listed on the cover, visit Chimney Rock State Park and enjoy its spectacular winter beauty, page 31. Our new columnist, Dr. Mattie Decker, would agree as she writes about “The Forest in Winter”, page 28. 

Something is always in bloom at Lake Lure’s Flowering Bridge, page 15. With daily news about Covid and vaccine distribution, don’t forget your flu shot, see “Health Matters”, page 13. Some inspiration will do you good, see Mary Reitano’s column, “Good for the Soul”, page 27 and Pastor Everette Chapman’s column, “From the Pastor’s Desk”, page 29.

On a personal note, Bill’s Creek Fire Department Fire Chief Jimmie Howell, a friend to the Bill’s Creek Community serving in that position for over 35 years, passed away last November. He was 72. A Navy veteran, Jimmie was kind, generous and dependable.  In every emergency large or small, he was there.  Peace to his wife, Jane, family and to his memory.

The Breeze is written by readers like you. Do you have a story to tell or a photo to share?  Email me at

This may be a winter like no other, but like the little engine that could, let us all keep chugging up and over the mountain into some breath taking territory this New Year. Stay safe and well.