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Skate park being renamed for Hovis

 

A Cherryville skate park is renaming its facility this weekend to honor the memory of one of its founding members and avid skateboarders, Andy Hovis, nearly a year after he was involved in a head-on collision that claimed his life.

However, 20-year-old Andy was more than a skater to the Cherryville community. He was a Gaston College student who was nearing completion of a broadcasting degree and a beloved employee of a local drug store where he would often take medications to elderly people who were confined to their homes.

“It didn’t make a difference if you were two or 102,” Mark Hovis, Andy’s father, said.

“The elderly people loved him.”

Mark noted how his son would even take time while delivering medications to walk someone’s dog or take out the trash.

“We still get people who come up to us and tell us they can’t believe he’s gone, and they remember talking to him,” Mark said.

Andy was on his way to a class at Gaston College last November when his Honda was struck by a sports utility vehicle that had crossed the centerline on Dallas-Cherryville Highway. Hovis was rushed to a local hospital where he died a day later from head trauma.

Taras Maurice McGirth, 46, of Fort Mill, S.C., was driving the vehicle that hit Hovis, authorities said. In June, McGirth was indicted in the incident for felony death by vehicle and placed in the Gaston County jail under a $25,000 unsecured bond, according to the county’s jail website.

Authorities noted that McGirth had a medical condition that made him drive “erratically.” Several drivers also told authorities that his vehicle had been driving similarly earlier in the morning. McGirth has since been released from custody and is awaiting trial.

Andy’s funeral proved to be yet another testament to his outgoing and well-liked personality.

“Over 750 people came,” Mark said. “It was amazing.”

The Hovis family first requested a name change for the skate park in April when they met with the Cherryville City Council. Because the family didn’t officially live within the Cherryville city limits, there was some “controversy” throughout the petitioning process, Mark noted.

However, on July 25, they finally learned that their request to rename the park had been approved. After setting up the petition at various local stores, a majority of which were in Gaston County, the family obtained 3,700 signatures, 2,000 of which came from Cherryville residents alone.

Following Saturday’s name dedication at the park, family and friends can participate in skateboarding and cornhole competitions and even hear a special safety presentation from Caromont Trauma Center medical authorities.

In addition, because Andy died from head trauma injuries he sustained in the wreck, his family teamed up with skateboarding brand, Bern, to han out 50 helmets to skateboarders who don’t have them.

“We don’t want to see any of them get hurt,” Mark said.

Andy’s family has also created a resource known as the “A.N.D.Y. card.” The card is useful for listing emergency contacts in the event that someone is involved in a serious wreck or other tragic accident in which a friend or family member needs to be immediately contacted. In Mark’s opinion, the card serves as a more reliable source than a cellphone.

Andy’s family particularly designed the card because they were unable to even find out about the crash until nearly five hours after the event. Mark’s wife Donna spotted Andy’s car on the front page of the Gaston Gazette’s website while she was researching information in the Zahra Baker murder case.

Mark said his wife immediately called him and asked him to go out and search the roadways for their son. After scouring Gaston College and all the area highways, Mark finally received a call from a trooper with the tragic news.

Authorities had been unable to locate Andy’s phone after the wreck. Days later, the family located it jammed between the car seats, Mark said.

“His phone was demolished,” he said.

Instead, the “A.N.D.Y. card” is a more sturdy way to carry your contacts.

“You might bend it, but you’re not gonna break it,” Mark noted.

He also thinks it’s more than fitting that the skate park be renamed to honor Andy, whose dedication to the facility has been unprecedented.

He both helped build the park and attempted to keep the grounds clean.

Andy’s love for the extreme sport quickly blossomed after his older brother, Mark Jr., gave him his first skateboard at just 8 years old. In the years that followed, his enthusiasm for skateboarding only grew.

“He would try anything,” Mark said. “He loved life and always had a smile on his face.”

In 2005, Andy even won a trip to a skate competition in Lake Forest, Calif., where he got to meet a number of pro skaters.

Saturday’s event is from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cherryville Skatepark on East First Street in Cherryville. The dedication ceremony will start promptly at 10 a.m.

 

JENNA-LEY HARRISON, Staff Writer

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