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A top-10 list of our favorite stories from the Life section in 2018
School Bus Graveyard
Bennett Bryan walks past the school bus painting he contributed to during the annual painting at the School Bus Graveyard in Alto on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

Over in the life section, we like to have a little fun. That’s why this year was filled with stories about a barber making things happen at Atlanta United, a new bakery in town, a local who thinks Elvis never died, artists spray painting school buses and why in the world there’s a fudgery on Green Street that doesn’t actually sell fudge.

If you’re new to the area, recently subscribed to the Times or are simply wanting to sit back and read a few good stories in the new year, here are some of our favorite stories from the life section in 2018.

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Felix Zuñiga gives client Kevin Mederos a cut Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018, at the Ivan Dominican Barbershop in Gainesville. Zuñiga travels to Atlanta United’s training facility once a week to cut the players' and the coach’s hair. He’s the only barber that cuts at the facility and has quickly become a favorite here in Gainesville, too. - photo by Scott Rogers

How one Gainesville barber helps shape the look of Atlanta United

Sitting outside Inman Perk Coffee on the downtown Gainesville square, Felix Zuñiga scrolled through his Instagram messages, all the way to the beginning of his conversations with former Atlanta United forward Yamil Asad in early 2017.
That’s when Zuñiga first went out on a limb, sending a bit of a fan message to a Major League Soccer player about cutting his hair.
As a local barber working at Ivan Dominican Barbershop, he honestly didn’t expect a response.

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Birds Of A Feather Estate Sales owners Carol Moore, left, Rebecca Yarck and Teresa Syfan, right, are preparing for a sale at the former home of Frank and Lillie Mae Green, lifelong residents of North Georgia and Gainesville, and the original owners of Green's Grocery Tuesday, Aug. 28, 2018, as they prepare for an estate sale of the items.

Peek inside a cluttered attic of Gainesville history in the Green family home

Tucked behind a few pine trees on Blue Ridge Drive Northeast in Gainesville sits a brick, ranch-style home. Five small, white columns support the awning over the front porch. There are black shutters on either side of the windows and a carport protecting a 1992 Cadillac.

It’s the home where Frank and Lillie Mae Green, Gainesville business owners and philanthropists, modestly lived before they died in 2008 and 2018, respectively. That house is empty now, except for all of the items they left behind.

Giving their personal wealth and belongings away to make the community a better place seemed to always be the plan for the Greens. Now, even after death, they are pushing that plan along even further at an estate sale at the home off Riverside Drive planned for Sept. 6-8.

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Kelsey Bishop is celebrating five years Sept. 19 since a bone marrow transplant saved her life following a cancer diagnosis. She recently took a trip to Denmark and visited her donor and wants to raise awareness for the Be The Match registry. - photo by Scott Rogers

Kelsey Bishop’s leukemia was treated with a German man’s bone marrow. Five years later, she got to ‘hug his neck and thank him’

After years of battling leukemia, Kelsey Bishop found hope, and life, under a red cap.

In the midst of her recovery, the 29-year-old Gainesville resident was on a trip to Denmark. She learned the German man who had donated the bone marrow stem cells she needed for treatment was also vacationing nearby on the Baltic Sea coast, a short ferry ride away.

They arranged to meet; he told her he would be wearing a red cap.

As she searched for him near their agreed-upon meeting place, her mind raced back to the time when she nearly lost hope of finding a donor.

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Gru the dog has been seen on television and movies such as "Ozarks" and "Black Panther". Gru's scruffy looks has earned him roles playing a stray without a home. - photo by Scott Rogers

Stealing scenes with a howl: Rising dog star appears in ‘Black Panther,’ movies, TV

Imagine a dog in the middle of a war. He’s scraggly with a pretty thin build. He’s dirty. Army soldiers are all around him searching for the Taliban.

That’s what Gru’s first day on the job was like. Except it wasn’t real; it was on a movie set.

Things are pretty much the same now for the four-legged, sport-breed dog who lives in Gainesville. Appearing primarily as a stray without a home, he’s been in films like Marvel’s “Black Panther” and TV shows like Netflix’s “Ozark.”

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Baguettes are available at Braselton Fine Bakery on Thursday, Nov. 8. - photo by Austin Steele

For this new bakery, it’s back to school in Braselton

Sergio Ramirez walks through the back doors of an old, now-unoccupied primary school, through the cafeteria and to the kitchen, every morning around 4 a.m. He’s there to do what he does best and what he says he fell in love with 30 years ago: Bake.

As the master baker at Braselton Fine Bakery, which had its grand opening in October, Ramirez makes sure there’s fresh bread, pastries and cakes every morning.

“Baking, everything starts so early,” Ramirez said. “I want to make sure the store is full before noon. By 8 o'clock, all the Danishes and croissants are there, still hot, and by 10 o'clock, I’ve got the bread.”

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Local writer Gail Brewer-Giorgio thinks Elvis Presley didn’t die Aug. 16, 1977. She has what she calls “explosive evidence” to prove her theory. - photo by Scott Rogers

Did Elvis die Aug. 16, 1977? Gainesville author says no

Elvis Presley died on Aug. 16, 1977. At least, that’s what most people think and what news reports indicated.

Gail Brewer-Giorgio, a writer and Gainesville resident, isn’t one who believes so. While she’s not certain if he’s alive today, she is sure Presley didn’t die that day 41 years ago.

Brewer-Giorgio, 79, said she was never a fan of Presley’s, like the rest of world. To this day, she still isn’t. There aren’t photos of Presley plastered on her walls. There aren’t Presley tunes filling her home either.

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A 1993 Diedrich Roaster has been restored by Barbara Cole for use at North Start Coffee Company, a business started by herself and husband Michael Caruso. The roaster was used for years at local coffee roaster St. Ives in Gainesville before falling into disrepair. - photo by Scott Rogers

This coffee roaster from a local shop, once featured on Food Network, finds new home

St. Ives Coffee Roasters used to sit on the corner of Riverside Drive and Green Street. It was one of the only coffee shops and roasters in the area. Many Gainesville residents relied on it for their morning cup of joe and it was where many met with friends or did work.

St. Ives left that prominent location across from City Park after the owner, Don Wilson, left the business. It relocated in Gainesville under new ownership but ceased operation in August 2017.

Some of the parts that made St. Ives a favorite around town have hung around though, and still get use today.

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Artists gather to paint buses during the annual painting at the School Bus Graveyard in Alto on Tuesday, Nov. 20, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

A junkyard, a graveyard, an artist’s mural — check out the School Bus Graveyard near Alto

Every time Nick Morris rode down US 23 in Alto with his family, he’d see a line of old, broken down school buses — a graveyard, you might say — just off the road that intrigued him.

Morris eventually moved away from Habersham County and traveled from city to city as an artist painting murals and creating other commissioned works.

But something always brought his mind back to Habersham County and the line of busted buses seen from the blacktop of US 23. Eight years ago, it finally got the better of him — Morris went back to those buses and asked the owner of the junkyard they surrounded if he could paint them.

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Devon Gales, left, and Whit Marshall, CEO of Paran Homes, pose at the site where Gales' home will be built at Traditions of Braselton on Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2018. - photo by Austin Steele

UGA community banding together to help Devon Gales, Southern University receiver paralyzed in 2015

Whit Marshall laid down a map on a table before Tish and Devon Gales showing the Traditions of Braselton neighborhood that would become their future home.

Though months in the making, the Gales family still couldn’t believe they were actually looking into the prospect of living in Braselton — and they could pick whichever lot they wanted.

“That right there was a blessing from God,” said Tish Gales, Devon’s mother. “People don’t just volunteer to do this.”

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Jessica Reeder runs the front desk at The Fudgery corporate offices Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018, on Green Street in Gainesville. The offices do not make or sell fudge, but get plenty of inquiries. - photo by Scott Rogers

Why The Fudgery on Green Street calls Gainesville home

A Bavarian-style home catches the eye on Green Street, but the one thing that piques the interest of passersby each and every day is the sign out front: The Fudgery.

To most, it’s a mystery. Many have ventured into the building — a few each month — to satisfy their sweet tooth, only to be disappointed: There are no sweets to be had in the Gainesville shop.

That’s because on Green Street, The Fudgery only has its corporate offices, not one of its shops. In fact, the Fudgery doesn’t even have a shop in all of Georgia.