Tuesday, August 30, 2011

TOP STORY >> Landmark letters taken

Leader staff writer

“It breaks our hearts. It’s frustrating, and it makes us angry!”

Those were Daniel Gray’s thoughts about the people who took all the letters off both sides of the landmark Bart Gray Realty sign on T.P. White Drive along U.S. Hwy. 67/167.

Gray said it happened a week ago. The sign had messages on both sides and the next day all the letters were gone. “We still had some letters in the office, but only one A and just a few of the other vowels. It makes it hard to put up a message,” he said.

But the third-generation realtor said the company did put up a message Tuesday on one side of the board honoring the recent death of Zelma Riddle, a former agent.

Sadly, the other side, for lack of letters, remains blank.

“The sign’s messages were always relevant and we changed it almost daily,” Gray said.

Former Mayor James Reid, who was an agent for the company, made it a point to keep up with the message board seven days a week, rain, cold, heat or any kind of weather, explained Rick White, another member of the realty company.

Gray remarked that the company’s been in busy for 60 years and the signs been there for at least 40 years.

“And we’ve always put birthdays, anniversaries, welcome homes and other community message on it and never charged anyone,” Gray said.

“Everybody in town always comments about the sign and the messages. Everyone likes it,” he said.

“What a shame our opportunity to convey a personal or community message has been interrupted. It seems the person responsible had just one purpose and that was to disrupt the benefit of others,” said White.

The company has never had the letters taken before.

“We’ve had people come and rearrange the letters a time or two, just to be cute, but that’s tolerable,” Gray said.

He said the letters, many which are as old as the sign, run about $5 apiece, meaning the thieves took a couple hundred dollars worth when they yanked them off the sign.

“Thank goodness for Google,” Gray said. “We were able to find one company that still has them and have ordered some letters. But we would really, really like our old ones back.”

A police report has been filed and the department is taking the theft seriously. “We’ve not gotten any leads yet,” Gray said.

But the company simply wants the letters back.

Anyone with any knowledge of the theft should call Bart Gray Realty at 501-982-2159.