Carolina Moment: News 13 tip leads to emotional reunion
HENDERSON COUNTY, N.C. -- Time can't possibly heal all wounds.
Sometimes it takes something special to bring loved ones together to find closure.
In the case of a late East Henderson sports legend, loved ones found a surprising source of healing nearly five decades after Denny Pace's death.
He was inducted into the the school's athletic hall of fame earlier this month, but the school was unable to contact his mother who had moved out of the state.
News 13 viewer and genealogist Harvey Morse of Waynesville contacted us after tracking down information about the Pace family.
"Found one of the cousins who called me and everything started coming together," Chuck Roper said, a former teammate who pushed to make sure Denny is never forgotten.
Thanks to that tip, Norma Pace drove with her family from Winston, Ga. in search of solace.
A plaque in honor of her son inspires thoughts of what could have been.
"He was a good boy, a very good boy," Norma said, glancing at that plaque at the school gym. "And I loved him."
Denny was a multi sport star who dreamed of playing for Tennessee.
He was 225 pounds, with strength and speed to burn.
"We get to share the great memories of Denny," Roper said, who was joined by ten members of the family.
In August of 1970, a Time-News headline story about Denny's death put sports in perspective.
After a tractor-trailer wreck off 25 near Lake Summit, Pace was at the scene and wanted to help.
He stepped on a power line and was electrocuted.
Pace was just 17, right before his senior year.
"Until his death, one of East Henderson's best athletes," sister Linda read.
One-hundred and two words summarize his incomplete story.
"And you think about well, he's gonna walk through the door and he's gonna come back," Linda said with tears in her eyes. "And he don't."
It's Roper's mission to put Denny in the hall of fame.
"Very emotional, but very rewarding," he said.
Denny's mother and sister are in awe of the accolade.
"Cause you'd think after all these years, he'd be forgotten," Linda said. "So it's really an honor they'd remember him."
Forty-six years after Denny's death, they take pictures of the plaque with pride.
"Cheese!" Norma said, posing with Linda.
After decades of mixed emotions, the bittersweet memories give them a complicated sense of peace.
"I knew it'd be a sad, happy day," Roper said.
Denny's father passed away just a couple of years after his son's death; family members say he died of a broken heart.