Wednesday, July 30, 2008

May This Sundial Never Mark the Time When Love Has Grown Cold

I’ve tried my best to communicate for a couple of years now on this blog that the little town of Reynolds, GA is an incredible place. Maybe some of you are beginning to believe me. As I have written before, Reynolds, population 1200, is incredible because of the people it has produced.

Case in point is Bill and Ann Howard Whatley pictured here with me at the Whatley reunion last weekend in Reynolds. Bill is a retired Atlanta architect. The Whatley’s still live in Atlanta but also have a house in Reynolds where they visit often. Somewhere around the city limits of Reynolds there must be a huge magnet that keeps attracting its natives back.

Ann Howard Whatley, Bill’s wife, is also a native of Reynolds. She was a 1947 graduate of the University of Georgia. Her dad (another Reynolds native), J. Howard Neisler, was a 1908 graduate of UGA. He also happened to be the President of the Class of 1908. In case you don’t have your calculator close by, that was exactly 100 years ago.

And exactly 100 years ago, Howard Neisler presented a sundial to the University on behalf of the Class of 1908. As president of the class it was his job to oversee the erection of the sundial. And he did and was proud that his class was responsible for it. A sundial, by the way, is a device that measures time by the position of the sun. You don’t see many of those being made anymore. And that is exactly what makes this story interesting.

In 1971 the sundial was stolen. It was probably some college prank or maybe it was someone who felt like they really needed a sundial. But for whatever reason the sundial that was placed by Howard Neisler where the famous Tombs Oak once stood has been missing for the past 36 years.

Over a year ago the descendants of J. Howard Neisler, led by Bill and Ann Howard, decided they would purchase a new sundial in memory of their loved one. They quickly found out that would not be an easy task. As you might imagine, there are very few people who design and create brass sundials these days. Billy and Ann’s son, John Whatley, who happens to be an American Airline pilot, finally found a sundial designer by the name of Tony Moss in Bedlington England. Moss took a black and white photograph of the original and created a face similar in size and appearance to the original but much richer in detail. But the newly created one incorporates modern scientific knowledge that makes it almost as accurate as a clock.

They were fortunate to find Tony Moss. When John flew to England to bring the new sundial back to the states, Mr. Moss said that would be the last one he would produce.

The sundial is being donated by Ann Howard Whatley, her sister Frances Persons, Bill and Ann Whatley’s three daughters, Laura, Fran and Judy; their son, John ; and Frances Persons’ two sons, Bob and Steve.

On Friday, August 8 at 10:30AM, there will be a ceremony in front of the Chapel on the University of Georgia Campus. The sundial that was originally placed on that spot 100 years ago but has been missing for 36 years will finally be replaced.

Interestingly Howard Neisler died a couple of years before the sundial was stolen. But the memory of this remarkable man did not die. Nor did this family forget the sundial that was a symbol of an important part of his life.

In his original speech presenting the sundial, Mr. Neisler said, "This year the class of 1908 will leave as its testimonial a sundial. It selects this as a symbol that, as the dial's pointer traces the sun's course from its rise to its setting, so shall the memory of the University ever exert a beneficent influence on us throughout our whole lives. And may this sundial never mark the time when our love for the University will have grown cold, or our services in her behalf have ceased to be a pleasant and a sacred duty."

And so shall the memory of J. Howard Neisler ever exert a benficent influence on his children and children’s children and all who knew him and who will learn about him. And may the sundial placed in memory of him never mark the time when our love for those who have gone before us and blazed the path for us will have grown cold.

If anyone needs a ride to Athens on Friday, August 8, let me know.


Anonymous said...

Great story! I'll check it out next time I'm in Athens.

Courtney said...

Uncle Bruce!
Are you really coming to Athens tomorrow? Surprisingly, I will be at that ceremony. Panhellenic asked the Presidents to attend! Let me know if you are in Athens!