A former TV anchorman with a weed eater in his hands.
A high school kid with a skateboard under his feet.
A Good Samaritan in the parking lot who was brought up to do the right thing.
Its time for them to take their bows.
Over the past year, Ive filled this space with columns about preachers, teachers, musicians, actors, physicians, historians, firefighters, entrepreneurs, restaurant owners and prisoners of war.
They have shared their lives with me. It has been my privilege to share their stories with our readers.
Since 1998, I have called a few of them back on stage for a curtain call. It is part of my annual True Gris Awards. Drum roll, please. ...
Clyde Cunningham, Warner Robins. When it comes to helping others, 84-year-old Clyde Cunningham is a first responder. His outreach to the homeless and his work with Houston County Habitat for Humanity and local nonprofits is as legendary as his cinnamon rolls. (He makes them with mashed potatoes.) It was no surprise he was honored with Operation Honor Clyde Cunningham at the Robins Air Force Base chapel in January.
Jessie Coley, Lizella. She brakes for dollar stores. Thats why her home in Lizella is filled with everything from toothpaste to linens, shoes, clothes and stuffed animals. A humble lady, she digs deep in her own pockets to help others. In April, she was recognized as the Salvation Armys Volunteer of the Year.
Ron Wildman, Macon. He retired as the hardest-working broadcast journalist in city history, but he hasnt let the grass grow under his feet. On Saturday mornings, you might find him with a weed eater in hand, patrolling Macons sidewalks, curbs and medians. In March, he was recognized as Volunteer of the Year by the Keep Macon-Bibb Beautiful Commission.
Hazel Colson, Warner Robins. Hazel has been a nurse since Jan. 1, 1945. She has brought babies into the world, given shots, taken temperatures and patched folks back together. As a hospice nurse for the past 27 years, she has been there for patients at the end of their lives. She believes hugs are the best medicine on the planet. At Heart of Georgia Hospice, her nickname is Huggin Hazel.
Wayne Perry, Macon. I treated Wayne to lunch at Red Lobster the week after he turned 50 on March 30. But it was not a birthday present for the longtime employee at the Macon Water Authority. It was to show my gratitude for finding my wallet in the parking lot at Eisenhower Crossing and returning it to me. It was proof positive there are still honest people in the world.
Linda Cannon, Warner Robins. Linda volunteered as a Big Sister in 2008 at Big Brothers/Big Sisters of the Heart of Georgia. Through the agencys Hispanic Mentoring Initiative, she was matched with Nayshla Garcia, whose family moved to Warner Robins from Puerto Rico and spoke limited English. In November, Linda was named Big Sister of the Year for Georgia.
Andre Jones, Macon. Likewise, Andre, better known as A.J. the D.J. was named Big Brother of the Year for Georgia for mentoring a young man named Vidual Futch. Andre was hesitant about volunteering in 2007. He was married with three children and was a successful entrepreneur with his entertainment business. But Vidual shared the same interests, and they bonded.
Onie Sanders, Macon. The world is a better place because Onie keeps throwing birthday parties for herself. The 52-year-old radiographer from The Medical Center of Central Georgia hosted her seventh annual Onie Sanders Big Birthday Bash at the Terminal Station, and more than 500 people attended. She raised $6,000 for Macon Habitat for Humanity, to go with the $55,000 she collected in previous years.
Joseph Watwood, Macon. He gave up his spring break as a senior at First Presbyterian Day School to ride his skateboard 307 miles from Macon to Panama City Beach, Fla., at an average speed of 8 mph. He raised $3,000 in pledges for Childers Children, a charity started by FPD classmate Garrett Childers. Stories like this restore our faith in young people.
Andrea Seagraves, Crawford County. A kindergarten teacher in Roberta, Andrea was one of five teachers nationally to receive the Excellence in Teaching About Agriculture Award in June. Raised a self-professed city girl in Atlanta and Macon, her cellphone ring tone now plays the theme from Green Acres. And she is not afraid to get dirt under her fingernails.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org