Saturday, January 05, 2008

I'm Glad I Know the Whatley's

When I was about 10 years old, which would have been many years ago, my family was visiting my grandmother in Ft. Myers Florida. Her long time friend was at her house one night while we were there and I mentioned something about the Whatley’s. I could not believe it when she asked, “Who are the Whatley’s?

I quickly exclaimed, “You mean you don’t know the Whatley’s?!”

As a 10 year old boy I thought everybody in the world knew the Whatley’s. As a 53 year old man, I still think everybody in the world who doesn’t know them have missed out.

My wife and I attended Dr. Ed Whatley’s 85th birthday party tonight. As a kicker, we also helped his daughter, Lynda, celebrate her 60th birthday. Dr. Whatley now lives in Rome, GA and Lynda lives in New Jersey. But both of them and their siblings and their families converged on Reynolds this weekend for the big event. And we were fortunate enough to be part of the celebration.

Dr. Ed Whatley was the oldest of the five sons of Dr. and Mrs. Clifford Whatley. All five sons are alive and well and it was much fun watching them enjoying the moment together tonight. Their ages range from 75 – 85. All retired now, the group includes a doctor, an architect, a pharmacist and two business entrepreneurs. Their success in life was at least one of the reasons their mother was chosen Georgia Mother of the Year over 40 years ago. They just don’t come any better than these brothers. And fortunate for me, they all have been a big part of my life all my life. (L-R, Leonard, Cliff, Ed, Bill and Julian).

A few of Lynda’s childhood friends also showed up for the party tonight. They had absolutely no trouble picking up where they left off over 40 years ago. I captured the very neat moment for these life-long friends. (L-R, Caroline Brady Tilley, Linda McRee Hale, Lynda Whatley Armona and Peggy Childree Herbert.)

What struck me tonight was on January 3 of last year (almost exactly a year ago) I wrote a blog here about Dr. Whatley and his wife Rosemary. Both were patients in the same hospital. He had suffered a stroke – she had suffered a broken hip. It was a dark time for this close knit family.

Rosemary passed away on August 11. Dr. Whatley has been fighting not only the loss of the love of his life but also the ravages of a stroke.

The home that has been somewhat lifeless in the past year came to life again tonight and I am glad I was there to witness it. There has been a heap of living in the Whatley house over the years and I’ve been fortunate enough to be in on a lot of it having grown up next door.

There was a heap of livin’ in that house again tonight. I saw a lot of smiles and even more conversation and laughter. I also saw a few tears.

2007 was a tough year for this family but 2008 has started with a bang. I have noticed that the great families always find a way to rise above the circumstances of life. This family is definitely one of the great ones.

I have a strong feeling Rosemary was watching the celebration tonight from a different vantage point. And I am positive she had a huge smile as she watched.

I was reminded again tonight that I am very glad I know the Whatley's.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad I know the Whatleys, too....and quite honored to have been at this momentous occasion. Beautifully reported, Bruce. PCH

Dufer said...

I've only had the privilege of knowing Cliff Whatley after he retired to Hilton Head. I was his Minister of Music for a few years. One pleasure was spending time with him always willing to help in any way that he could. I only had the joy of hearing stories about his brothers. Thanks for sharing about this birthday celebration.

Anonymous said...

I have great memories of Rosemary and Edwards'home. When we use to visit Reynolds, it was one of our first stops. You were always greated by a very warm "Whatley/Reynolds" welcome, several hugs and kisses, some hand shakes and plenty of cold ice tea. Aunt Rosemary and Uncle Ed would want to hear everything that was going on in your life no matter how small. They always made you feel so special.
Seems like things continued this weekend - family, hugs, kisses, hand shakes, some ice tea, and plenty of stories.
Wish I could have been there. Happy Birthday Uncle Ed.

Judy S said...

I too, have had the great priviledge of knowing the Whatley's. Jimmy (Jim) and I attended 12 years of school together. I have many memories and that is something that time and distance can't take away.I wish that everyone could have experienced life growing up in Reynolds with so many good people.

Anonymous said...

Although I had never heard of Reynolds, GA until I read your book, I continue to be impressed with the people you write about who came from there. Thanks for reminding me about the strength that comes from being connected to friends and family.

A reader from Kansas

Liza said...

My mother, Linda McRee Hale, is from Reynolds. I am her oldest daughter, Liza, and I can remember Mrs. Whatley as well from when I was a very small child. She and my grandmother, Elizabeth McRee were good friends, as I also hear "GranPill" was a good friend of your father. And your brother a good friend of Johnny. I found your topics quite entertaining. Oh, and Mama very much enjoyed seeing you Saturday.

Liza Hale Smith