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Oakwood family recovering after double disaster
Community, West Hall athletes help out after storm takes man's life
West Hall High student-athletes clear brush from fallen trees from around an Oakwood home Wednesday afternoon. The group joined together to help Kevin and Sharon Combs after a recent storm dropped trees in their yard.

Donate to the Gofundme account for the Combs family

Woken by wind, Kevin Combs paced around his home in the small hours of April 5.

The Oakwood mechanic was alone that evening while outside a storm bent the trees around his property.

A new fear of storms had taken root in Combs, who two weeks earlier lost his son, 29-year-old Jason Lee Combs, to a falling tree.

A devoted member of the Church of Latter Day Saints, Jason Combs and his family had a habit of sitting together in a bedroom and singing hymns before bed, his father explained to the Times at his home on Wednesday. On March 21, Combs — who followed his father into mechanical work — was killed when strong winds took down a tree and sent it through the roof of his home in Winder.

His child was in his lap and suffered only scratches.

And on April 5, as he paced alone in his home for fear of falling trees, Kevin Combs heard a crack and the crunching of metal as trees on his lot began to come down.

“I heard this one fall and hit my truck, a big crunch,” Combs said, gesturing across his driveway to a stand of trees uphill, “and then at the same time the lights went out.”

The wind was strong enough to blow down two of the trees on his lot, one crushing his pickup truck and the other cutting power to the house.

Word of the incident spread through the Combs’ church, and it stirred an old friend of Jason Combs, Cade Burke, into action.

Burke grew up with Combs — the two became Eagle Scouts together and Burke even took Combs’ sister to their high school prom.

“He was an amazing person,” Burke said of Combs. “There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for somebody.”

So his friend began collecting donations from within the church and from friends of Combs, and in a few days had enough cash, some $3,000, to pay for removal of the downed trees from Kevin and Sharon Combs’ Covey Trail home.

On top of that, Sharon Combs works at West Hall High School, and shortly after the damage at their home the community within the school was talking about how to help the family.

At about 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, a busload of West High boys pulled up to the Combs’ front yard. A couple dozen football players made short work of the logs, clearing most of the yard in about half an hour.

A few of the athletes — left guard Jackson Bartlett, running back Jeremiah Prather and cornerback Joshua Barnett — said they just wanted to help people in the West Hall community who needed it.

“This is part of the character-building that we try to do,” said offensive coordinator Krofton Montgomery. “On top of football, we’re trying to teach them to be men.”

Watching the boys work, smiles broke on the faces of both Kevin and Sharon Combs.

“I’m just so humbled,” Sharon Combs said. “I’m just in awe of all of the support we had.”

Community members have turned out in force for the family since the end of March, helping Jason Combs’ parents get their property back in order and raising tens of thousands of dollars for Combs’ survivors. As of Wednesday, 273 people had donated $21,870 for Combs’ memorial on a Gofundme page.

It’s been a horrific time for the family — for Kevin Combs, who lost not only a son but a “best friend,” he said, who helped him rebuild engines and vehicles.

“I don’t know how you get past it,” Combs said. “I’m still working on that.”

For Burke, he’ll remember Combs every time he gets in his pickup.

“That truck there was the last one he fixed,” gesturing to the pickup parked in front of the Combs’ garage. “I have my days, you know. Every time I get in that damn truck I get pissed off. It was the last one — we worked on it for six hours on Monday. I got the last quality time with this guy.”

But Combs’ memory also helps him through the bitterness.

“I know he wouldn’t want me to be upset,” Burke said. “With his demeanor and his attitude — just take it on the cheek and keep on going.”

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