A tornado had just ripped through Tractor Supply and Hardee’s, jumped Horner Boulevard and demolished Lowe’s Home Improvement in Sanford when a few Sanford Herald editors, reporters and I happened upon the chaotic scene minutes after the destruction. Sirens blared, emergency crews milled through the confusion to find those who had been hurt and we talked to as many witnesses as we could to get an idea of what just happened.

A few minutes into it, I ran into fellow editor Jonathan Owens to talk about what we had and how we were going to get the news out, when I felt a tap on my shoulder in the Umami parking lot. Standing there was a fully bearded, long-haired guy wearing all orange, holding a camera and sporting a grin. 

“Y’all want a video of this?” the guy asked. 

“Uhm, hell yeah we do,” we likely answered at the same time. 

The man was Donald Pardue. I finally had a face to the name of a man who for the previous four years of my tenure at The Herald had provided me with photos (pretty good photos, I’ll add) and news tips on a regular basis. And on this day, like a good journalist, he was excited to have footage nobody else had. He was in the right place in the right time. The photos he’d supplied me over the years showed this wasn’t the first time. 

He didn’t ask for money (and he was pleasantly pleased to learn we’d give him a byline for the video). He was glad to help. 

parduePardue died this week, according to his friends on social media. I haven’t learned the cause or when he died exactly, but it was recent. He left the world with a message on Facebook that he was blessed. For those that knew him — either as a close friend or as a guy who worked for a newspaper who occasionally dealt with him when news broke — it was a nice final message. It even made me smile. 

RIP, Donald. 

— by Billy Liggett