PILOT MOUNTAIN — When Ethan McBride was faced with the decision of choosing a senior project, his thoughts turned to his grandfather. And with the recent completion of that project, the East Surry senior has found an opportunity to pay tribute to his late grandfather while also sending an important message to his peers.
As a child, McBride had grown especially close to his grandfather, Bobby Cromer. With both parents working full-time jobs, the two were given the opportunity to spend an abundance of time together.
“He was very important to me,” McBride, now 17, noted. “We had a good relationship. He was more or less a second father to me.”
In 2005, Bobby Cromer lost his battle with small cell lung cancer at the age of 72, when Ethan was 10.
His grandfather, McBride pointed out, was a heavy smoker who had worked paving roads. In dealing with the difficult loss, he began to search for ways to help others learn from his experience.
“When he passed,” McBride remembered, “it was devastating. I didn’t want anyone else to have to go through that, not the suffering or having to watch a loved one suffer. It was a hard thing to go through.”
As an East Surry freshman, McBride made the decision to erect a billboard with a strong anti-smoking message as his senior project.
When the time came to follow through on his plans, he pursued the project with a passion, seeing it as a way of commemorating his grandfather’s memory. Saving money from birthdays and a part-time job, he gathered the almost $700 needed for completion.
He created and drew the powerful graphic that would help to pass on his message to others in his community and wrote an accompanying slogan. Using his graphic and wording, a vinyl printout was prepared and purchased.
With the help of his father, McBride erected the 8-by-8-foot billboard on Feb. 10 on land adjacent to his home, alongside Old U.S. 52 South.
“It’s a good place,” he explained. “There’s a good straight stretch of road with plenty of traffic.”
The finished project features a smoking cigarette at its base with a trail of smoke leading up to a skull. Alongside, in green lettering, are the words, “Quit – One more could be your last!”
“I wanted to do something to that would commemorate my grandfather,” McBride said, “and also help the community, especially my area. There are a lot of smokers in this area. And it’s especially for young people who’ll see it when they pass by.
“A lot of smokers start young,” he explained. “I know a lot of people my age who smoke. It’s against school policy to have cigarettes on campus but people go to the bathroom to smoke. They’re open with me where they may not be with adults. I guess it is trust among peers. I hope this helps.”
McBride voiced appreciation to his project mentor, Lewis Carol, a 30-year veteran sign-maker. “He showed me the process. He helped with the layout and putting it together.”
Ethan is the son of Denise and Matthew McBride of Pilot Mountain. He has a brother, Bryson, 8, and a sister, 6-year-old Maddie.
“Now that it’s done,” he said of the project, “I’m pleased with it. I wanted something that would get out the message about smoking.”