June 1, 2022

Hometown connections bring smiles

           Our three-seat golf cart was maxed out with six passengers.  The sun hadn’t started its orange-glow descent below the tree-lined horizon. That’s why the trio of photographers was trusting me to pick the perfect spot—down by the lake—in the shade.

            I wanted the folks holding cameras to be happy, but I was more intent on the couple holding hands—on the back seat—to be happier.  After all, this was their wedding day at Pam’s venue, Historic Smithonia Farm.  And the bride has a very special hometown connection.

            During the half-mile ride from the barn, I was reflecting on how the bride’s dots connected to mine.  In 1953, at T.G. Ritch Elementary School, her paternal great-grandmother, Mrs. Aletha Poppell, was my first-grade teacher.

            But there’re more Wayne County connections.

            Rachel’s paternal grandparents, Beth Hatton and the late Pat Hatton, have been our family’s friends for years.  Their daughter was one of Alan, Emily and Eric’s babysitters.  I had a chance to visit and laugh with Elizabeth H. Roper, as if the 1980s were last week.  Jacob, a senior finance major at Georgia State University, accompanied his mom.

            The wedding gave me a chance to reconnect with Elizabeth’s brother and father of the bride, Robert, a Valdosta pharmacist.  About 11 p.m. on May 28, I shook hands with Robert and gave his wife, Kim, a hug.  Their smiles lit up the faint-moon night as he drove his F-150 into the Oglethorpe County darkness.

            Perhaps the longest reunion was with George and Susan Hirvela, along with their son Steve, who live in Carrollton.  George’s late mom, Glenna, was an O’Quinn, a sibling of Judy O. Burke, the late Maxine O. Partin and the late Lonnie O’Quinn.  As my early-career banker, Lonnie trusted me to sign enough 90-day notes to wallpaper my office.  Glenna, Judy, Maxine and Lonnie’s dad, George, was Wayne County’s sheriff, 1950-1954.

            Sheriff O’Quinn’s sister, Aletha O. Poppell was my first-grade teacher.  Her daughter, Beth, is Rachel’s grandmother.  See how all these hometown links weave together to make a multigenerational quilt of friendship?

            And the wedding went one step further. Rachel’s maid of honor, Amy Gail Wooley, will marry attorney John Lex Kenerly on July 16.  The connections with both sides of his family—Kenerly and Bland—were established with the NeSmiths decades ago.


Thinking about all these hometown connections —215 miles from Jesup—is why I was determined to find the perfect place to photograph Mr. and Mrs. Reed Dillard.

And who would have imagined that in 1953?