As I begin to complete my 60th year on the face of this beautiful Earth and the beginning of my 20th year of writing this column, indulge me as I take a personal  look back at the people and events of 2015 and how they touched my life and in many cases,  your lives as well.

This year, in our household, was the year of the dogs - saving poor, pitiful dogs, feeding thin, starving dogs, healing seriously sick dogs, taking pictures of homeless dogs  and posting them all over the Internet; hauling puppy dogs to Macon and on many Saturday mornings watching my wife Kathy packing the back end of her SUV with several of the blessed canines headed for North Augusta on the first leg of the freedom trail to the Northeast and Canada.

I am truly grateful for Kathy, who has never met a dog that she could not or would not love, especially the sick, old, broken and emaciated ones.  She likes cats too, but is quite allergic to them. She tries to show them the love that they show us. You know, the love they freely give as they greet us at the door - barking, howling, wagging their tails and licking our hands.   And, most of all, she feels the same about all of God's creatures people who have no one else to love them.

One of our foster dogs, Smoochy, was left behind when her cold, no-hearted owners left town. Returned by her first adopter, Smoochy rode the train to freedom, only to wind up being adopted by a physician who lives in the Hamptons in Long Island, New York. What wonderful summers she will have running along and playing in the ocean while she sleeps in  a soft bed in a warm house filled with love!

We adopted, "Daisy Mae," the ugliest dog on the face of the Earth.  Picture if you will - but you don't have to - a dachshund head stuck on the body of a short, stocky blue tick constantly chewing coon hound.

Then came Peter and Woody, the bonded Mutt and Jeff duo of a large, black, galoot lab and a  small bronze impish Chihuahua.

      They  joined "Old Man Earl," the happiest dog on the planet.  Earl was set to be put down thirteen months ago  with a severely broken leg. We tried the splint and with lots of love and the finest medical treatment, Earl is still with us, sleeping, wagging his tail, and eating. He never barks, not even for his regular treats.  This old, fat black lab, with all of his medical problems, just keeps on smiling, thumping his tail to keep a  count of every day as yet another day of being loved.

As time went by, we all lost friends and loved ones.  This year we lost  several of the most beautiful and gracious ladies of Dublin, ladies who I was blessed to know.  It will be hard to imagine a church service with the Rev. Jack Key in the pulpit and  without his dear Ruth Ann sitting in the congregation.  The stands of the Shamrock Bowl will be a lot emptier without Kathryn Willis cheering on the Irish with her husband Bob sitting at her side.  Thanks to my sixth-grade teacher, Carolyn Rountree Odom, who tried her best to make me a neater and more organized student. We all said good bye to too many mammas and daddies, grandparents and friends this year. I regret that I cannot mention them all.

Hail and farewell to Tom Stewart, Mr. Dublin High School for a quarter of a century.  Mr. Stewart helped in a great way to mold several generations of Dublin's youth for the successes and contributions they made to our state and our country.  And to the quiet man, Dr. J.W. Zetterower:  You always checked and pulled our teeth with a soothing smile on your face. You got four  of mine, but only to make room for my braces.

What a year it was for downtown Dublin.  The completion of the skyscraper at the dawn of her second century boosted Dublin and Laurens County upward and onward. Our foreign owned industries are making us the envy of counties around the state.   The Carnegie Building, the Bicentennial Plaza and the Farmers Market of Dublin have become the focal point of our city as it soars through its second Golden Age. The Dublin-Laurens Museum, through the gracious donation of Kathrine Clark and the City of Dublin, moved into its new quarters on Bellevue.  A great big thank you to those who volunteer there and give up your days so that others may see and appreciate our county's deep and abiding heritage.

This was the year when the lost people of "Across the Creek" cemetery came home. Through the efforts of the City of Dublin, the City Wide Mission and the Laurens County Historical Society, nearly a thousand former residents finally received the respect and dignity they deserve as they rest in eternal peace.

We also lost a lot of old friends and faces who made us laugh, cry and watch in wonder and awe.  It will be hard to imagine a world without two of its greatest philosophers; Leonard Nimoy and baseball's Yogi Berra.   Nimoy, through his defining character Mr. Spock, made us look inward to see our inner souls to help guide us through  a our most illogical world.

"The miracle is this: the more we share the more we have," Leonard Nimoy

Berra made us laugh at ourselves and think as well with his seemingly nonsensical, but true maxims of life.  Yogi was the manager of my very first favorite baseball team, the 1964 New York Yankees.

"You can observe a lot by just watching," Yogi Berra

And goodbye to the Beverly Hillbillies' Donna Douglas, soul singer Percy Sledge and country music's gentleman, Jim Ed Brown.  Thanks for sitting a spell with us here in Dublin during the journeys of your lives.

All of baseball will miss "Mr. Cub," Ernie Banks.

 I  salute  John Smoltz, a 2015 member of the baseball hall of fame and the most genuine gentleman-athlete I have ever  had a conversation with.  Thank you for taking the time to stay to sign an autograph formy then  eight year old son Scotty.  You will always be my hero.

And here's a toast to the late Gary Owens, the nicest celebrity I ever met.  You probably don't know his name nor recall his face, but as the emcee of "Laugh In" and the voice of the cartoon hero Space Ghost you will remember his voice.  I will always remember his genuine kindness in a historic Hollywood ballroom filled with aloof, elitist actors.

         Speaking of voices, so long and adieu  to ESPN's Stuart Scott (left) and Senator Fred Thompson. I would gladly claim kin to both and am grateful to have heard their voices.   And to Frank Gifford, whose smooth voice  made pro football a fun thing to watch.   Thompson

There will never be another Three Dog Night after the death of  Cory Wells, whose strikingly-soulful voice made the group a legend in the late 60s and the early 70s.  They were once my brother's favorite rock band and the first one I ever saw live in concert when I was 16 and drove him to see them at the Macon Coliseum.

And, a sad so long to Maureen O'Hara, the most beautiful red-headed woman I ever saw, next to my mother.

It was a year for making new friends.  Thanks Mrs. Augusta Howard for sharing the memorabilia of your son Randy's God-given  gift of fiddling with the people of Laurens County.

As the new year begins, I am grateful for those who care about others. And, for new beginnings and happy endings.   I am grateful for the Laurens County library, which  give me the ability to travel online  back in time to discover many more of the pieces of our past.

So as we start anew, if you will,  a few words of wisdom from a soon to be old man:

         Let us pray for and lift up the spirits of those who suffer, especially the children and the disabled. 

         Let us share our blessings with those who are in need, including the poor little dogs and cats which are too often tossed away like broken toys.  

         Reflect upon the good things.

         Look to your dreams. 

        Remember to thank those who love you and tell them how much you love them.

        In a world filled with hypocrisy and  hate, let there peace on Earth and let it start with you and me.

Last and mostly, I  am grateful for my grandson. From far away, I say "Hey, Jude!" I  hope you can take this cold world and make it better.

What are you grateful for?  Take a moment and count your blessings.