Tuesday, January 06, 2015

James Henry Mathews - He Did it Right

It seems like another lifetime ago.  I graduated from UGA and then Mortuary College and came home to join my older brother and my dad in the family business …or should I say businesses.  There were a couple of funeral homes, an ambulance service and we built a brand new grocery store - leaving the building my family had occupied for over 100 years.

I learned a lot.  When I think I was only 23 years old at the time amazes me.  I actually learned a whole lot.  The hard way.

I learned about making payroll.  I learned about borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. I learned about responsibility.  I learned about stress.  I learned about people and leadership.  It was the worst of times.

But was the best of times.

There is no doubt all I learned by jumping into the fire  at a young age in the business world helped me later in life and in what I do today.

These memories came rushing back to me this morning when I read on Facebook that James Henry Mathews had passed away.

I’m not sure the year we hired him at Goddard Red & White Grocery Store, but I would guess it would be 1978.   His dad (Son Buddy Mathews) brought him in the store and asked us if we would consider hiring him.  My brother and I gave him a shot.

James Mathews seized the opportunity.

I don’t think I ever knew anyone who tried harder than James did.  He was never late to work.  And he never stopped until he punched the clock when he was leaving.  He made a few mistakes along the way but we didn’t care.  He made up for it with his determination.

Determination to do well.  Determination to keep the first real job he ever had.  

It wasn’t long before he knew every customer who came in the store.  He would speak to them and call them by name and thank them for shopping with us.  The entire community loved him.

And we loved him.

We sold the store after about four years of operating it.  James stayed with the new owners for a year or so.  But others in the business community had also noticed him.  He was soon offered a job at Flint Electric Membership Corp and ended up working there until he retired.

My brother and I had nothing to do with James having a great career and life.  I am very glad we gave him an opportunity. .  He earned his career by his own determination to do well that came from a strong faith in God that was instilled in him by his parents.   All I can do is tip my hat to him.

Tonight I also thank God I had the privilege to know him and at one time be a part of his life.

RIP buddy.  You did it right.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chris Borders - It Just Doesn't Get Much Better

As you all know by now, I  have always been amazed at the launching pad called Reynolds, GA.  There is a relatively long list of folks who came out of our little town that made a major impact in their world.  Maybe growing up in Reynolds had nothing to do with it.

Or maybe it did.

Either way, Chris Borders is a name that should be on the launching pad list.

Although Chris was born in Perry, he  grew up and spent his formative years in Reynolds where his dad was another executive that Flint EMC brought to Reynolds.  Chris was a few years older than me but I remember him spending many hours on our little 9 Hole Golf Course.

Actually there was a period of time when he was a young teenager that he was pretty much running it.  He was a notch above most of the other golfers in Reynolds and would not hesitate to give us younger kids a lesson or two when he saw an opportunity to help us improve our game.

If there was a nicer guy than Chris Borders hanging out at the Reynolds Golf Course, I am not sure who that would be.

Chris went on to receive a golf scholarship at Mercer University.  He later served as an officer in the US Army in Vietnam.  Along with putting his life on the line for his country, he also had the opportunity to oversee several golf courses in Hawaii and even constructed and operated a driving range in Vietnam.

L-R Bonnie Brannin, John (Butch)Thornton, Chris, Rusty Lane, Grady Trussell
After serving his time in the Army,  Chris served a couple of years as GM at Houston Lake Country Club before heading to Florida State University to further his education.  After graduation, Chris served in various capacities at the Atlanta  Athletic Club where he helped host the 1976 US Open, 1981 PGA Championship, 1982 Junior World Cup and the 1984 US Mid-Amateur Championship.  He later became General Manager at Horseshoe Bend Country Club in Roswell.  After a couple of years there, he came back to Atlanta Athletic Club and was involved in the 1990 US Women's Open, the 2002 U.S. Junior Amateur and the 2001 and 2011 PGA Championships.

When he retired as General Manager of Atlanta Athletic Club in March 2013, he had served 35 years at the club.  One of the highlights of his career was in 1992, when he was named Club Manager of the Year for his professional development and mentoring with the Club Managers Association of America.

In January 2014, Chris was the first club manager ever to be inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame.  

He was also the only member of the Reynolds Golf Club to be inducted. 

Imagine that.

Despite all his accomplishments in golf and in life, Chris never forgot his roots.  In fact, about a third  of his graduation class from Reynolds High School showed up to celebrate with him at the induction ceremony.   Interestingly, part of that group included his teammates from the  Reynolds High School Golf Team (pictured above).

It just doesn't get much better than that.

Disclaimers:  Much of information for this post came from a post at patch.com by Stan Awtrey.  Picture posted of RHS Golf Team came from FB page of Sara Fountain

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Have It Your Way, Burger King.

I evidently need the Christmas spirit.  

My excuse is I had a very busy and hectic week.  It included several airplane rides and visits to  four different states.  I probably should also say those visits included standing in front of relatively large groups of people talking about such things as  engaging people, investing in people and overall being a good person.  Anyway, I found myself driving late at night from the Atlanta airport to home.  I was tired and hungry.

Against my better judgement, I stopped at a run of the mill "Have it Your Way" Burger King.  

I was pleasantly surprised that there was no line in the drive-thru lane.  That would be the last of my pleasant thoughts.  I heard a  voice come through the speaker asking for my order.   I plainly said that I would like a Whopper with only Ketchup and Cheese, fries and a diet coke.  Not too difficult.  When she came back on the speaker incorrectly confirming my order,  I repeated again I only wanted Ketchup and cheese on the burger, fries and a diet coke.  As I stated my order again, she ordered me to drive around to the window.

Although I followed her orders, I was wondering where they find these people to interact with other people who are willingly spending money with them.  Surely there are congenial  folks out there who would like a job.  Anyway, she opened the window and told me what I owed.  I paid her and she handed me the bag and the drink.   Before I pulled away, I opened the bag to get the burger out so I could eat it as I drove the rest of the way home.  

The first thing I noticed was the burger was somewhere on the scale of  less than warm.  I opened the bun and noticed the tomatoes, onions, mayonnaise, pickles and whatever else you could possibly include on a burger.  I looked back at the window and the "lady" was nowhere to be seen.   I could see a guy working in the kitchen so I honked the horn.  Just for the record, I saw him glance at me but he was obviously pretending he did not see me. I honked the horn again.  

No response.

Getting angrier by the second, I knocked on the sliding window.  In fact I knocked a few times.  The "lady" who gave me my order had disappeared.

I had two choices at that point.  I could pull up to a parking spot, get out of my car and walk in the restaurant so they could get my order right.  Or I could just take the lukewarm burger with all the stuff I didn't want on it and deal with it.

Unfortunately, I chose neither of those two options.

I opened the burger up and methodically threw the tomatoes, lettuce & pickles (mixed with mayonnaise) at and on the sliding window. I did a fairly good job too.  Most of it stuck.  If I could have figured out how to stuff it all "where the sun don't shine," I would have done that.

I will admit I was looking in my rearview mirror for a blue light  the rest of the way home on I-75.   I'm sure they have video surveillance equipment and my tirade was captured for someone's viewing enjoyment - or maybe for evidence.  But as I thought further, that would really would be impossible because there was no one employed there who would have enough gumption to watch the video.

The good news is by the time I got home, I was laughing about it.  I told the entire story to my wife and she laughed hysterically - while I ate pimento cheese and crackers.

But you can have it your way, Burger King.  As a former POTUS once somewhat said, you won't have me to screw up my orders anymore.   I'm done.

Merry Christmas.

Friday, August 01, 2014

The Greatest of All Games

Vin Scully once said that his thermometer for his baseball fever is a goose bump.  If that is true, my youngest son and I had a really high fever this past weekend in Cooperstown at the Baseball Hall of Fame Induction Weekend.

When I was growing up in the early sixties in Reynolds GA,  baseball was the only game I knew.  Basketball would come later and I would spend much more time playing that game later – but at the beginning – it was baseball.

It was truly the only game in town.  We were fortunate that a group of parents thought enough about the kids in the community to organize a league.  There was no such thing as a recreation department.  The parents organized it.  The local business owners and farmers financed it.  And off we went playing baseball.

We learned the game of baseball.  We learned about catching fly balls and ground balls.  We learned how to bunt and when to hit and run.  We learned to pitch and when to take a pitch when the pitcher was behind in the count. 

In the process, we learned a lot about life. We learned the importance of investing in kids.  We learned how to listen and how to be coachable.  We learned what it was like to be overwhelmed.  We learned about the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. 

Real lessons.  Important lessons.  Life lessons.

On Saturday afternoon, it was the Game of the Week on television with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese.   The Yankees were on  TV every Saturday I think.  Our heroes were guys by the name of Mantle, Maris, Berra, Kaline, Koufax,  Banks, Mays, Aaron, Ford … and the list goes on.

We traded baseball cards.  Actually we were serious about trading baseball cards.  Some players were “hard to get” and others were seemingly in every package.  Because we read the back of the cards, we knew about almost every player in the league.  We knew their batting averages, homerun totals, RBI totals and, if a pitcher – his earned run average and number of wins and losses.

The image of each player was permanently inscribed in our heads …. and in our hearts. And we can still see those images that were on those cards today.

I have always had respect and love for the game of baseball.  Maybe it’s because it connects me to a wonderful childhood.

This past weekend, Luke and I did a lot of talking about baseball.  Almost every display we saw and every old timer we met brought back a flood of memories that I had not thought about in years.  I constantly shared my memories with my son.  We met Maury Wills and I explained he was the first player to steal 100 bases in a season.  I hadn’t thought about Denny McClain in years but was able to quickly remember he was the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season.  And I explained to Luke that I saw Pete Rose play at Luther Williams Field in Macon, GA with my grandfather when I was about 8 years old.  And the stories went on and on all weekend.

And so did my connection to my past.  And to my son.   The game of baseball has a way of taking you back and connecting dots... and daddys and sons.

Luke said an interesting thing to me when we were on the plane returning to Atlanta.  He said thoughtfully, “I went to Cooperstown a Braves fan.  I’m leaving a baseball fan.”

Hopefully one day Luke will be able to take his son to Cooperstown.  Luke will be able to relay some of the baseball stories to Hines that he heard this weekend.  And maybe he will even be able to create some mental pictures for Hines of an unforgettable trip he and his dad took in the summer of 2014.

Baseball is the greatest of all games.

Roger Hornsby said it best:  People ask me what I do in winter when there's no baseball.  I'll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring. 

Check out this 12 minute video of our unforgettable weekend.


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Legend of the Hippo Brothers

If you look up the word “legend” in a dictionary you will read these words: “A nonhistorical or unverifiable story handed down by tradition from earlier times and popularly accepted as historical.”

In simple terms it means that a legend may be true or may not be true but everyone happily accepts it as truth anyway. 

But we all feel better because we do.

L-R Jimmy Childre,Jr, Big Will, Ruth Jones (our 6th grade teacher)
and me. Picture taken in 2012
My lifelong friend, Will Crawley, died this morning.  There will be a noticeable increase in tall tales told in the next days and weeks about Big Will and his twin brother Mike, many of them nonhistorical and unverifiable. They are stories in which the legends were made but stories that we who loved them desperately need to hear. And stories that will somehow make us all feel better.

I was born less than a month before Big Will in the fall of 1954.  We grew up on Macon Street in Reynolds, Ga.   In the fall of 1959, I attended Kindergarten at Mrs. Crawley’s Kindergarten.  Thad and Mary Louise Crawley built a small Kindergarten building on their property, across the street from the Methodist Church.  It was at that very young age and in that little Kindergarten building that my first memories were made of the Crawley twins who always stood out from the other kids. After all, they looked exactly alike and always dressed exactly alike. 

And they were bigger than everybody else.

The next year we started the first grade together just a block over at Reynolds Elementary School.  There were two first grade teachers that year - Mrs. Ogburn and Mrs. Verna.  We had Mrs. Verna. For the next eight years we had every class together, attended Sunday school together, attended church together and eventually MYF (Methodist Youth Fellowship). We even sang (if you call that singing) in the children and youth choirs together. And there were more than a few birthday parties in the backyards of friend’s parents along the way. 

I remember standing behind the gymnasium at school one day after we had begun to learn about the birds and the bees.  I vividly remember Big Will being really bothered by what we were saying.  His comment I never forgot was, “There is no way my mama and daddy do that!”

After those eight years, we went to high school together. In May 1972, we graduated from high school together.

 After high school, we went our separate ways to different colleges to further our education but we always stayed in touch. 

It was during those years that the legend began to grow. The Hippo brothers they were called – although for some reason I never called them that.   Big Hip (Mike) and Little Hip (Will) became known throughout the state for their many and wild escapades. Friendships increased exponentially. Some knew them in person.  Some knew only by reputation.  For several years they hosted an annual Hippo birthday bash in October.  People came from all around to be entertained by the Hippo brothers. The stories that came from those parties are now accepted as historical but some are thankfully unverifiable.

I remember introducing them to my fraternity brothers at the University of Georgia.  It was homecoming and since I was a freshman and a pledge, I was part of the group that had to build our homecoming float that was displayed at the fraternity house on the front lawn.  It would also be our job to tear the huge display down after the homecoming festivities were over.  Late that Saturday night, the Crawley twins appeared at my fraternity house and quickly made friends with everyone there.  Next thing I know, they tackled the Homecoming display and took it completely down to the astonishment and loud applause of my pledge class and other brothers looking on.  Admittedly, a little alcohol was involved that night.

The story of them getting banned for life from a certain “all you can eat” catfish restaurant has been told many times.  One sat at the table while the other went to the restroom.  After a few plates of fish, they would swap out.  After more than a few visits, the manager finally caught up with them.

As they grew in years, they begin to settle down as most of us do.  Big Mike became well known and respected as a paramedic and Registered Nurse.  Big Will owned a landscaping business. 

Then trouble came.

Big Will's liver began to fail.   Many of us watched and were inspired as the brother Mike looked after the brother Will.  Through Big Mike’s connections in the medical world, he was instrumental in getting Will on the transplant list and eventually getting him a new liver and a new life. 

During that very difficult time and illness and thinking his time was at hand, a very sick Will begin to look deep inside himself and made peace with the God of his youth.  Mike saw Will’s renewed faith and the same transformation took place in him.  Everything changed for both of them after that.  They now looked at life through different lenses.

Incredibly, Will’s life was saved when he was literally given a new life after the transplant.  Ironically, Big Mike, the new man with the new faith became sick and died of liver cancer.

Mike saved Will’s life in getting Will a new liver.   But in doing so, Will just might have saved Mike’s life for all eternity. 

For the past seven years, Will has existed on earth without his best friend and twin brother. Since Mike’s death, Big Will admirably went back to school and received a couple of degrees, including a Masters in Public Health. But the truth is, when Big Mike died half of Will died with him.

Their older brother, Charlie, has been looking after Will since his stroke in December and making sure all his needs were met.  Big Will gave Charlie very little guidance in preparation for his death.

He told him only two things:  He wanted to be cremated. And he wanted to be buried next to his twin brother.

For those of us who knew Big Will so well, we are certainly saddened at the news of his death.   But at the same time we are smiling because the Hippo brothers are together again. 

On earth as it is in heaven.

But make no mistake; the legend of the Hippo brothers has only just begun.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Simply a Gift

Randy and Paula Jacoby moved to Reynolds, GA in 1993 when Randy became Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Reynolds.  The next year they became the proud parents of two beautiful little twin girls – Ahnna and Abigail.  Although the family left Reynolds in 1999 when Randy accepted the call at First Baptist Church of Folkston, GA – I have stayed in touch through the years.   I just have a thing for remarkable families – and this family is definitely one of the remarkable ones.

A few years ago, the Jacoby’s adopted a little girl from China.   Addie is now a huge part of this family and because of the magic of Facebook, I have watched her grow with this family.    I have also thought many times as to where Addie would be if not for Randy, Paula, Ahnna and Abigail.   They gave this little girl a wonderful life.  They forever changed her present and her future.

Today the entire family  (including Addie) is back in China.  For certain, they are not taking Addie back. But they traveled during the holidays to bring back another little girl with them.   I have been following them the last few days from Jacksonville to Detroit to China and watched as they did a little sightseeing.  This morning I saw pictures for the first time of little Mia, who is the latest addition to this amazing family.

In looking at the pictures, maybe Mia looks just a little scared.  This little girl has no idea what is in store for her.   The truth is, just as it was for Addie, her present and future has been forever changed.  She will be loved unconditionally and all her needs will be forever met - beyond what she can even imagine.   She doesn’t know all that yet but from our perspective, it is very easy to see.

Her life will not be perfect.  She will laugh much but she will also cry along the journey.  Like the rest of us, she will experience disappointments and bumps in the road along the way.  She will experience illness from time to time and even separation from people she loves as time goes on.  But there is no way she could ever compare her new life to what her old life might have been.  And she did nothing to earn her new life.  It is simply a gift.

And that, my friends, is not only the story of Mia Jacoby but it is the message of the Bible.

Thanks to the Jacoby family for reminding me of that as we begin a brand new year.  Our present and our future have been forever changed.  We didn't earn it or deserve it.  It is simply a gift.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Go Get 'em Girl

We asked for it.

In fact, we raised our hand and willingly volunteered. “Nothing to it,” we said. We had done it three times before.

This time, it actually happened at a local BBQ restaurant. We knew the teenage waitress and her family through our church. We knew her mom and step dad were moving to Florida and we knew the girl would soon begin her senior year here. We also knew all were trying to figure out a way for the girl to stay here and not disrupt her senior year in high school.

We asked her a few questions while she was taking our order. While the ribs were being prepared, my wife and I talked. By the time she brought the food to the table, we popped the question. "Why don’t you live with us this year,” I think is how the question was asked.

Long story short, she did. Kylee Gallavan moved in with us in June 2011. A week from today, she graduates from high school. The following Monday the gig is over. Kylee will move to Florida for the summer and then on to college.

To say the year has been eventful would be an understatement. We are not as young as we once were. There have been some great times for sure. I don’t think Kathy and I would have ever gone to a Taylor Swift concert, if it weren’t for Kylee living with us. What a blast we had that night! We have met a lot of great teenagers that have been in and out of the house this year, causing us to have a new faith in the next generation that will be taking over when folks like us fade away. And the great memories go on and on.

But there have also been a few of what the Bible calls, “trials and tribulations,” along the way. There have been boyfriends and break-ups , long talks about life and the future and shorter normal teenager talks about cleaning your room and getting out of bed. There has been cozy love and there has been tough love. She’s seen us at our best and she has seen us at our worst. And we have had the same opportunity.

Our goal was a simple one. We strongly believe the greatest investments in life have nothing to do with money. We simply chose to invest a year of our lives in Kylee. As in all long term investments, potential dividends will come later.

Our prayer as she leaves is also a simple one. That she would know more and more as she lives out her life how high and wide and long and deep is the love of God.

I put this little slideshow together as a parting gift to Kylee.

We love you Kylee and wish you the very best life has to offer. Go get 'em girl.