Peter Mayhew, actor who played Chewbacca in ‘Star Wars,’ dies at 74

Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Chewbacca in the “Star Wars” films, has died at 74, according to a statement his family posted to his Twitter account.

According to a statement, Mayhew died at his home in Texas on Monday with his family by his side. The statement did not say what the cause of death was.

“He put his heart and soul into the role of Chewbacca and it showed in every frame,” his family said.

The actor played the Wookie warrior Chewbacca in the original “Star Wars” trilogy, Episode 3 of the prequels and the new trilogy. He also assumed his role in “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” after being wheelchair-bound, according to the statement.

He is survived by his wife, Angie, and three children.

The family of Peter Mayhew, with deep love and sadness, regrets to share the news that Peter has passed away. He left us the evening of April 30, 2019 with his family by his side in his North Texas home.

— Peter Mayhew (@TheWookieeRoars) May 2, 2019

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Oak Grove improvements unveiled

New restaurants, shops, better transportation and improved intersections are just some of the ways Roanoke city and county officials want to improve the Oak Grove area along Electric Road from Oak Plaza to Keagy Village near the city-county line.

Christopher Luby just moved to the area last year and he’s excited for what’s in store.

“Vital,” Luby said. “Vital to the growth of the community.”

Abdou Hassan opened Highlander Pizza in Oak Grove Plaza 10 years ago.

“This is in the middle of Salem and Roanoke. So, this is a good spot, a good neighborhood,” Hassan said.

He’d like to see the shopping center grow.

“When you make upgrades to this area and you make more places here, that makes people more interested to come to Oak Grove,” Hassan said.

Plans also include landscaping and improving Oak Grove Park.

“If we have parks and we invest in these parks,” Luby said. “We make them central to our identity as a community. Our kids want to be there. Our kids want to be outside.”

The Reimagine Oak Grove plan is a long term vision for the area using feedback from the community for the community.

“I think this is going to be a good idea. I think it’s going to be good for business too,” Hassan said.

“It’s a neat opportunity and I think it should be embraced,” Luby said.

There is another open house at Oak Grove Elementary on Saturday, May 4 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The public is welcome to attend.

Officials are still tweaking the Oak Grove Center plans and you can still give input online until May 31.

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Leave the fawns alone, better raised by its mother

It’s fawn season and as cute as they are, the Southwest Virginia Wildlife center says you should keep your distance.

Until they’re strong enough to keep up with their mothers, deer fawns are left alone several days in a row. If the fawn comes in contact with human scent, it may be abandoned by its mother.

“As long as the fawn doesn’t seem injured, as long as it’s not calling repetitively, as long as you don’t see any fly maggots on it, if it’s ears aren’t very, very curled, then it should be fine on it’s own,” said Haley Olsen Hodges, staff naturalist.

It’s OK to watch and observe from a distance. Call the wildlife center if you have any questions.

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Roanoke area faith-based safety summit focuses on keeping people safe during worship

Keeping church members safe during times of worship was the topic of discussion Thursday during a faith based safety summit with Roanoke City and Roanoke County police departments and religious leaders.

Training focused on creating safety teams, addressing security concerns and active shooters.

A pastor we spoke to says situations like these make it hard for people to worship without worrying.

“Our motto is open hearts, open minds, open doors, and we love having people come in. Anyway we put a barrier to that it stops somebody that might want to come hear the word of the God. We’re trying to find the balance between being safe and reaching out to the community,” said the Rev. Pastor B. Failes Thrasher – UMC/ Vinton

Multiple church leaders say they’ve created a safety team and have put plans in place in case they are faced with a emergency situation.

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10-year-old battling rare form of leukemia to throw first pitch at Salem Red Sox game

A local 10-year-old battling a rare form of leukemia is taking a swing at baseball.

Cameron Claussen will be throwing Thursday night’s first pitch at the Salem Red Sox game.

On April 15, just before his 10th birthday, Cameron’s mom took him to the doctor for what she thought was strep throat. He ended up having strep, but that wasn’t all.

A full blood test was ordered and the results shocked Cameron and his family — he had leukemia.

Cameron was immediately admitted to the hospital where a spinal tap and bone marrow aspiration confirmed a diagnosis for acute myeloid arthritis.

As of April 30, Cameron was able to go home and had completed his first round of chemotherapy. Round two will start in a few weeks.

The community has rallied around Cameron. His friends started a lemonade stand to help with hospital bills, his coach visited in the hospital and Olde Salem Brewing Company organized a fundraiser for him.

A GoFundMe campaign has been started to raise money for Cameron’s medical expenses.

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Exhibit for preschoolers opens at Danville Science Center

For the first time in over 20 years, the Danville Science Center has a new permanent exhibit.

A ribbon cutting ceremony was held Thursday morning.

The new, 1,800-square-foot exhibit is called Crescent Crossing.

I t uses trains to help preschoolers learn about science, technology, engineering and math.

The science center’s executive director, Adam Goebel, said this is one of four new exhibits expected to open by the end of 2020.

“I think per capita, once these spaces come online, the Danville Science Center will be one of the nicest and best equipped museums in North America,” he said.

For information about the science center, click here.‚Äč

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South Boston seeking grant to help flood-prone businesses in town move

The Riverdale area of South Boston has been under water multiple times over the past two years.

Now, the town plans to apply for a grant from the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to buy the businesses in Riverdale and demolish them, leaving the land empty.

It’s a plan the owner of Mac Ragans Auto, who has had his business in Riverdale for 55 years, said has been talked about before.

“Thei judgment of what the business is worth and our judgment is quite different,” Mac Ragans said, referring to the assessment of his property by the town and the Army Corps of Engineers’ assesment of his property.

If he gets what he believes is a fair price this time, he’ll sell and reopen somewhere else.

He said his business has been closed for five weeks so far this year because of flooding.

“The floods are getting worse and worse and worse,” Ragans said.

At Brian Jones Motorsports, finance manager Kevin Kernodle doesn’t expect the dealership’s property owner to sell because he’s had the property for over 50 years.

“It’s kind of iconic for Riverdale,” Kernodle said of the property.

Kernodle would like to see the town do something to reduce flooding so the businesses don’t have to move.

“If it’s not dredging the river, being more proactive and prepared when storms come through to let water out at the dam,” Kernodle said.

The grant application has to be submitted by May 30, and the town will find out sometime between November and next May if it’s approved.

Sandi Cooper is the Southside Planning District Commission representative working with the town to apply for the grant.

She said how much money the town could receive was unknown Thursday.

“There’s no maximum amount to apply for, but we are working on cost estimates right now. So it’s too early to provide a total project cost,” Cooper explained.

As of Thursday, she said, 11 of the 15 Riverdale property owners had indicated they are willing to sell.

Property owners have until Wednesday to decide if they want to sell or not.

Those wanting to sell have to fill out paperwork with the planning district.

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