Aycock family grateful for community, outreach programs

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By Ann Cipperly

For the Jima and Tony Aycock family and many others in our community, this holiday season is a difficult time. Empty seats around the table are a reminder of lost loved ones. In many cases, the table and setting are new and don’t feel like home. While the holidays will be different this year, Jima and Tony are thankful for the prayers and care of their church family, the community and outreach programs, including the EAMC Mend Foundation, Samaritan’s Purse and Eight Days of Hope, among many others.

Jima and Tony’s son Cameron and his wife Carmen were enjoying a relaxing Sunday afternoon, March 3, at home with daughter Angela, a junior at Beauregard High School, while the other daughter Andrea was working at East Alabama Medical Center.

Carmen, the assistant director of Nutrition Services for the Auburn Early Education Center, adored being home in their new five-month-old double wide mobile home. After moving from Mexico five years earlier and marrying Cameron, it was the home of her dreams.

Generally, if there were tornado watches, Cameron and Carmen would take the girls to his parents’ home since their house had a basement. They knew the weather was going to be stormy that afternoon but were not aware of the possibility for tornadoes.

As they were getting ready to sit down for lunch, the alarm on Cameron’s phone suddenly warned of dangerous weather. Ten seconds later, the sky went black, and Cameron knew it was a tornado, sounding as though a 747 was heading toward their home.

They rushed to the hall. As soon as they huddled together, the trailer began bending. The last thing Cameron remembered was seeing the floor bending up before he blacked out.

As soon as the tornado passed, hunters in the area stopped to search for survivors. Cameron woke up and started pushing debris off. He heard a man saying, “Hey, I’m coming.” The hunter got Cameron who was in shock.

Angela had also blacked out. She woke up for a few moments and screamed, then passed out again. The hunters began pulling debris off her. When they first found her, they did not think she was alive. When Angela began moving and moaning, one of the hunters, who was a retired paramedic, performed CPR. They were able to get her on a door to carry her out.

They took Angela to the fire station down the road where the ambulances were picking up the injured. First responders and officers were at the area as soon as possible, as well as Sheriff Jay Jones. Those who lived nearby were busy removing trees from the roads so the ambulances could get into the area.

Carmen was found about five feet from her daughter, but she did not survive.

The other three mobile homes near the Aycocks were also picked up and blown into the woods. Residents who were in the other mobile homes did not survive. A brick house across the street was also blown away. Fortunately, no one was home.

Jima and Tony had gone out for lunch after church. Once they returned home, Tony turned the television on. When regular programming was pre-empted for the weather, he became concerned about Cameron and his family. He tried to call their cell phones but could not get an answer. He was hoping they had gone out for lunch.

When he saw on television that a tornado had touched down near where Cameron lived, he left to check on them. He was on Geneva Street when Jima called to tell him to come back that their son was in the hospital. Since Cameron had his wallet and cell phone in his pocket, the hospital was able to identify him.

When Jima and Tony arrived at the emergency room, they found the area filled with hundreds of people. They were thankful to find their ministers, Sean Rezek, Earl Ballard and Steve Bass from Trinity United Methodist Church.

About an hour later, a staff member took Jima, Tony and Andrea, who was working at the hospital, into the chapel. Tony was expecting to hear the worst. They were told Cameron had been severely injured and was in ICU waiting for surgery. He had one arm broken in two places, a collapsed lung and a cut that would have killed him if it had been deeper.

Soon afterwards they learned that Angela was in the hospital and was being taken to UAB. When she arrived at the hospital, Angela was not breathing. The doctor said if they had not gotten her there when they did, she would have died. Angela had a severe concussion, a fractured skull, her back broken in two places and one leg badly cut-up.

They were all worried about Carmen. When she was not found at the hospital, Tony and Jima went to the staging area at Samford School at midnight and talked to Coroner Bill Harris to see if anyone had been found that matched her description. It was complicated since Carmen’s name is Mexican, Irma Del Carmen Gomez Moran.
“We were calling every hospital,” says Tony. “We didn’t want to lose hope.
“About 24 hours later, on Monday night, they got us together and told us that Carmen did not make it. Steve Bass was with us. Cameron kept asking about Carmen and told me not to lie to him that he wanted to know. Steve went with us to tell him.”
When Angela and Andrea’s father and grandmother in Mexico were notified, they flew to Birmingham to be with Angela. When she was released from the hospital, the sisters, their father and grandmother stayed at Oak Park in an apartment provided by EAMC until their new home was built. Their new home in Opelika was built through donations from the EAMC Mend Foundation and local volunteers.
After Cameron came home from the hospital, he lived with his parents for three months. His employer, Aflac, was very helpful. Cameron has three children, Alexandra (Alex), Liam and Amelia (Mimi), from his first marriage, who live in Opelika.

Jima and Tony have four other sons: Shanon and his wife, author Anna Hubert, live in Fort Wayne, Ind. and have two children, Aria, 5, and Madelyn, 2; Shaun, a banker, and wife Becka reside near Rome, Ga. and have two children, Aiden, 10, and Maddox, 5, and one on the way; Tristan, who is in the Air Force, and wife Kayla are near Destin and have one daughter, Kendall, 5; and Ian is single and lives in Opelika.

Tony and Jima both grew up in Greensboro, N.C. They met in high school and began dating. After high school, Tony joined the Air Force. When he graduated from technical school, they were married and lived in various places.

In 1985, Tony was sent to Auburn University to receive a degree in aerospace engineering. After graduating, he was assigned to Colorado Springs and then to Maxwell in Montgomery as an instructor at the college.

Since they had loved Opelika and still had a house here, they moved to Opelika. He retired in 1992 from the Air Force and has worked for the City of Opelika as the GIS director for 16 years.

Tony and Jima are active at Trinity United Methodist Church. He has taught Sunday school for many years, as he took over the Mike Spain class when he passed away.

“I am so proud of our community and churches,” says Tony. “Everybody in the community, our church and all the local churches helped so much. We would not have made it without the community.

“When I went out Monday where Cameron and his family had lived, I couldn’t help but cry,” says Tony. “It was as though they had been in a blender with pieces of the trailer shredded through the woods. I was heart-broken that Carmen had died. When I saw the devastation, I knew it was a miracle from God that Cameron and Angela survived.

“Every day I went out to Cameron’s place, and there were teams of people working and going through debris. Robert Ham was always in the field helping clean up.

“It was the entire community,” Tony adds. “We would not have made it without all the help and God.”

Cameron is going to his brother Shanon’s for Thanksgiving. While the family has been together at holidays in the past, Tony and Jima are not sure about Thanksgiving this year but will be with Angela and Andrea during the holidays. Jima is sharing recipes the family has enjoyed during the holidays over the years, including cake recipes that her mother baked and sold.

Cipperly can be contacted at recipes@cipperly.com.

Recipes:

Red Velvet Cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cake:
½ cup shortening
1 stick butter
1 ½ cups sugar
2 large eggs
3 small bottles (or 3 oz.) red food coloring
1 tsp. salt
1 cup buttermilk (whole or non-fat)
2 ¼ cups cake flour
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 level Tbsp. cocoa powder
Mix 1 Tbsp. vinegar and 1 Tbsp. baking soda. Stir to dissolve. Set aside.
Sift all dry ingredients together.
Cream butter, shortening and sugar together until fluffy. Add red food coloring and eggs.
Alternately add the dry ingredients and the buttermilk and mix well.
Mix in the vinegar and soda last.
Bake in two 9 inch or three 8 inch greased and floured pans for 25 to 30 minutes or until an inserted wooden toothpick comes out clean.
Icing:
1 cup milk
¼ cup flour (any kind)
1 cup sugar
½ cup shortening
½ cup butter
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cook milk and flour together until thick while stirring constantly. Let cool completely.
Cream together the sugar, shortening and butter. Add the cooled flour mixture and beat until the sugar has dissolved. Add the vanilla last. Frost cake.

Pumpkin Roll
2/3 cup pumpkin (squash can also be used)
1 tsp. lemon juice
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
¾ cup all-purpose flour
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. nutmeg
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. salt
¾ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup freshly chopped nuts (your choice – optional)
Cake:
Beat eggs for 5 minutes, add sugar, pumpkin and lemon juice.
Mix all dry ingredients together well and then fold into pumpkin mixture.
Note – The less you work this the better.
Spread mixture into greased and floured 15 x 9 inch pan.
Add the nuts on top if desired.
Bake at 375 degrees for 15 minutes.
Sprinkle powdered sugar on a clean towel and then turn out cake onto prepared towel.
Roll cake and towel together and let cool.
Filling:
1 cup powdered sugar
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
4 Tbsp. butter
½ tsp. vanilla extract
Beat all ingredients together until smooth.
Carefully unroll cooled cake from towel.
Spread filling onto cake and sprinkle with powdered sugar and then carefully re-roll.
Sprinkle with finely chopped nuts and chill in refrigerator.

Palmetto Cake
6 eggs
1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. lemon flavoring
1 tsp. vanilla extract
12 oz. box seedless raisins
1 grated fresh coconut
1 cup green candied cherries
1 cup red candied cherries
Cream together butter, sugar, eggs, flour and flavorings.
Mix together coconut, raisins and cherries.
Mix both mixtures together well.
Bake at 250 degrees 2 ½ hours in a tube pan.
DO NOT OPEN OVEN for the entire 2 ½ hours.
Remove from oven and let cool before serving.

Hearty Carrot Cake
Cake:
2 cups sugar
1½ cups oil
4 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 rounded tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 ½ lbs. grated carrots (This recipe uses lots of carrots – trust me, it will turn out great.)
3 ½ cups chopped pecans
Beat eggs well and set aside.
Mix sugar and oil together. Add eggs and mix well.
Mix dry ingredients separately and then add to wet ingredients.
Add the grated carrots.
Add the pecans and stir well.
Pour into a greased and floured tube pan.
Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until cake springs back when touched.
Remove from oven and set for 10 minutes then turn out onto cooling rack.
Allow to fully cool to room temperature before applying icing.
Icing:
1 box powder sugar
1 stick softened butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Cream all ingredients together until smooth and fluffy.

Black Eye Pea Soup
1 lb. ground sausage
1 chopped green pepper
1 chopped large onion
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
Two 16 oz. cans black eyed peas
1 rounded Tbsp. rosemary
1 lb. grated cheddar cheese
Brown sausage in large pot and drain excess fat. Return to medium-high heat.
Add green pepper and onion to sausage and continue cooking until vegetables are soft.
Add tomatoes and black eye peas along with all their liquids; mix well.
Tie rosemary into sachet bundle or use commercial tea ball. Place rosemary into mixture.
Let simmer 30 minutes or longer stirring often until bubbling hot.
Serve in bowls with grated cheese topping to your liking.

Deviled Puffs
Prepare ahead and fill just before serving
1 cup water
½ cup butter
1 cup All Purpose flour
4 eggs
Filling:
3 small cans deviled ham
1 Tbsp. horseradish
¾ tsp. pepper
¾ tsp. onion salt
1/3 cup sour cream
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
In a large saucepan heat water and butter to a rolling boil. Stir in flour stirring vigorously over low heat until mixture forms a soft ball. Remove from heat and beat in eggs all at once until smooth and glossy.
Drop dough by rounded tsp. onto ungreased baking sheet. Bake 25 minutes or until puffed, golden brown and dry. Remove puffs to wire rack and allow to cool slowly.
Blend all other ingredients together thoroughly. Refrigerate until time to serve.
To serve, cut tops off puffs and remove any filaments of soft dough. Fill each puff with rounded tsp. of filling mixture.
Makes about 6 dozen puffs.

Persimmon Pudding
1 cup sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
Pinch of baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ tsp. allspice
¼ Tbsp. cinnamon
1 cup pulped persimmons
2 eggs (beaten)
1 cup milk
5 Tbsp. melted butter
Mix all ingredients well and cook in oven at 300 degrees for 30 minutes.

Lazy Man Sweet and Sour Green Beans
4 cans cut green beans, drained
1 medium finely chopped onion
2 rounded Tbsp. bacon grease
¼ cup balsamic vinegar (or to taste)
¼ cup pancake syrup (or other syrup to taste)
Heat altogether on stovetop until green beans are softened and mixture is hot.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Snacks
1 stick butter
12 oz. bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup peanut butter
12 oz. box Crispix cereal
1 lb. powdered sugar
Heat butter and chips and peanut butter together in microwave for 1 ½ minutes on high.
Stir in cereal until well covered. Place mixture into large bowl with top cover. Add powdered sugar and shake vigorously until sugar coats pieces.
Sweet Potato Casserole
2 large cans sweet potatoes
1 ½ cups sugar
1 stick butter
½ cup canned milk (evaporated milk)
2 tsp. cinnamon
Heat sweet potatoes in saucepan on stove until hot. Then drain and mash until smooth.
Add all other ingredients and beat until butter is melted and mixture is fluffy.
Place into casserole dish.
Caramelized Topping:
Before cooking, cover potatoes with about ½ inch light brown sugar then about ½ inch chopped pecans over the brown sugar. Dot the top with small amounts of more butter (about ¾ stick of butter).
This will melt and caramelize while cooking.
Bake in oven on 300 degrees just until topping is melted and caramelized.

Pecan Pie
Use two 9 inch or one deep dish pie shell(s).
3 eggs
1 cup light corn syrup
½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. melted butter
1/8 tsp. salt
½ tsp. vanilla extract
4 cups pecan halves
Slightly beat eggs together. Stir in corn syrup. Add brown sugar; beat well.
Stir in melted butter, salt and vanilla.
Add pecans and mix well.
Pour into pie shells.
Bake in oven on cookie sheet at 375 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes or until inserted knife blade comes out clean.
Remove and let cool before serving.

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