As years normally go, this year flew by way too fast. Too many friends left this world. On this Christmas Eve, I am thankful for them and many more things as well.
I am thankful for those who take charge and give back, for old photographs and new visions, for losing weight and gaining jobs.
We lost a lot of fine Southern gentlemen in 2013. State Senator Hugh Gillis moved on up to the golden dome of Heaven on New Years Day. Gillis was one of the longest serving state senators in Georgia history. Two days later, my fellow historian, Milo Smith, Jr., left his earthly home to visit his beloved heavenly family. A week later, Curtis Beall, the oldest living male UGA cheerleader, a Semper Fi Marine, and an agricultural leader also died.
We lost a true friend and the epitome of compassionate judge when Judge William M. Towson died. Judge Towson served longer than anyone as Judge of Laurens Superior Court. The stands of Bush Perry Field will always be a little emptier after Perry Edge, a long time Irish baseball booster, passed away. His spirit will be sitting by the Irish dugout for years to come.
I am grateful for the patriotic dedication of Louise Purvis, one of the last Gold Star mothers, who rarely missed a Memorial Day or Veterans Day service at the VA Hospital following the death of her son Jimmy Bedgood in Vietnam. And here's a toast to the late Patricia Belcher, who in her last years became the "Crazy Old Lady" in the commercials for Pitts Toyota. Mrs. Belcher was anything but that, she was one of the most caring and kind women I have ever known.
I am grateful for the simply fantastic photography of the late Irene Claxton, whose lifetime of magnificent images will soon be available for the world to see and enjoy.
Then there was my hard working friend, Buddy Williams. Buddy worked for thousands of hours every year and counted at least that many friends. That's why they called him "Buddy."
The man who taught us, "It's Nice To Be Nice" has moved on. Duggan Weaver's endless stories and works of community spirit are gone, but the memories of his smile and public deeds of charity will never leave our minds.
And here's to the late realtor Robert Hill, who accompanied me to my first World Series game in 1991. The Braves won on the last play of the game. It would be the only time I would see the Braves win a World Series game in person.
And, for the craftsmanship of the late Deonard Sanders, whose artistic carpentry schools are rapidly disappearing.
We lost another Vietnam vet in 2013. "Tee" Holmes, whose impish grin endeared him to a league of friends in his nearly 70 years, left us all too soon. Without "Tee," our world will always be a little bit sadder.
This past year was sadder for those of our friends and family have left this Earth. But, it was much richer you see for the gifts they gave to you and me.
And, I am grateful for the life of Montrose's Jeralean Kurtz Talley, who turned 114 years old this year. She hasn't left this world yet. Mrs. Talley is the oldest person in the world outside of Japan.
I am thankful when I hear a Jim Croce song on the radio. If you ask yourself who is Jim Croce, then you are part of a generation who missed the greatest music of all time.
A big hand goes to the wheel chair ramp guys of the Dublin Civitan Club, who give up their evenings to build ramps for those who can't leave or enter their own home without help.
I salute my good friend Pete Tyre, who serendipitously found himself as a medic in Vietnam, quietly and compassionately saving many lives along the way.
I am grateful for the opportunity to commemorate with 15,000 others General George Pickett's failed grand and glorious charge at Gettysburg, 150 years later to the moment on the same ground. For the opportunity to watch the play, "The Lost Colony" on Roanoke Island on the same exact spot where the first American colonists came in 1587 and to walk on the exact spot where Orville and Wilbur Wright led humanity into powered flight.
I am grateful for those who give with no expectation of any reward, those who serve with no hope of recognition and those who have the ability and desire to help others and do so.
I am grateful for the smell of daffodils on a early spring morning, the smell of fresh rain drops on a hot July evening, the aroma of fat lightered smoke floating the brown autumn countryside and the smell of evergreen in the early winter.
For old memories remembered and new thrilling experiences, I am grateful.
For educators, who strap on their bent, but not broken, hearts every day or for as many days as the politicians will allow them to teach. I will be grateful for the politicians when they finally learn that education is the most important thing in our country. Speaking of education, I am grateful for the new Career Academies. Finally someone in Atlanta realizes that technical education is critical in our ever increasingly technological world.
For those who hold on to hope, keep their faith and try to love one another right now. For heroes, those who give all of themselves to others just when they need it most. For those who are simply grateful for what they have, I am grateful.
To my readers in print and to the third of a million times people who have read my articles online in the last five years, I say a great big thank you. My greatest compliment is from those who cut out my articles and keep them to share with others or read over again. My greatest joy is when I can make some one laugh or think back and smile and yes, even cry with the words I have been blessed to write.
And, on this Christmas Eve, may I repeat the sounding joy that I am grateful for the wonders of His love. May your Christmases be merry and bright and the days of your lives be filled with goodness and everlasting light.
And to my wife and best friend Kathy, my kids, Vicki, Scotty and Mandy, and our dogs, Bertie, Charlie, Sugar, Winston, Maggie and Emma, our cats Kit Kat and Tiger, and all of my friends, my life is much more wonderful with you in it.