Legacy of love: West Texans remember flash flood victims, pillars in communities

Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 11:11 PM CDT
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LUBBOCK, Texas (KCBD) - West Texas communities are grieving after a mudslide killed three people from Hale County last week in New Mexico.

Jane Cummings, 62, from Hale Center, and her mother, 84-year-old Betty Greenhaw, from Cotton Center were found dead in the Tecolote Creek channel near Las Vegas.

The San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office confirmed the deaths Friday but did not release the names of the victims. Monday, Cummings’ daughter, Michelle Post, confirmed that it was her mother and grandmother who died in the flood and that her father, 62-year-old Chris Cummings, was missing. Chris’s body was found on July 26, 2022.

The communities of Plainview, Hale Center, Cotton Center, and Lockney along with staff at Camp Blue Haven in New Mexico have all chipped in to support the family during this time.

Chris and Jane lived in Hale Center, where they were pillars in their community. People who knew them say their support stretched much further, though. Their daughter, Michelle Post, and daughter-in-law, Jamie Cummings, teach at Plainview Christian Academy, so administrator Vickie Young says they were always involved. Jane often served as a photographer and Chris supported Ag field trips to his job, and donated money for scholarships.

“We’re honored that we have his legacy to continue through the donations and the generosity that him and Jane were able to give to our school,” Young said. “We realized that we’ve lost some very, very important people in our community in such a tragic way.”

Jane’s mother Betty lived in Cotton Center. Her long-time friend Cynthia Walden says the small town doesn’t have a mayor, but that’s what you could call Betty.

“She would meet and greet everybody and she was at every event, to every ball game, every PTA event, every concession stand. She was always a big part of the community,”

The Pre-K teacher called Betty her ‘go-to girl.’ She says Betty would visit her classroom and talk about her coin collection and how she survived two tornadoes.

“She would tell stories and she would tell the kids what to do, how to protect themselves, and how to stay safe and and she would tell them, love on your family and love on the people around you,” Walden said.

Young calls it a ‘blessing’ they all took their last breath ‘this side of heaven’ at their family cabin.

“They won a lot of people to Christ at this cabin. It was just a haven for them. And Michelle said they would not have wanted to pass away anywhere else except somewhere like that,” Young said.

Walden says Betty, the matriarch and community grandma, would encourage people to cherish family time and friendships.

“She loved our town. she loved every one of us, and she would want us to to be happy,” Walden said.

The family’s cabin was on the Camp Blue Haven property in San Miguel County. Dan Burdette, the president of the board of directors for the camp, released a video after the flood expressing his support for the family. He says camp staff will continue to communicate with -- and work closely under the oversight of the county sheriff.

“He continues to be supportive of our plan of action for the continuation of 6th session. We’ve communicated with great transparency to the parents of 5th and 6th session campers regarding the tragic events that occurred in Tecolote canyon,” Burdette said.

Burdette says the camp has modified daily operations and established physical barriers to ensure campers don’t have access to the creek along the lower boundary of the property. He says activities have been relocated to areas far away from the creek. In the unlikely event evacuations are required, he says there are exit paths out of camp that haven’t been affected by the flooding and have remained passable even during rising water.

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