They could have written their own stories. They might have typed them out or jotted them down.
Instead, they shared them with me and allowed me to share them with Telegraph readers.
They lived it. I wrote it.
“If you cannot be the poet,” the late actor David Carradine once said, “be the poem.”
So I would like to thank the hundreds of interesting and inspirational people I have interviewed during the past year. You did all the work. All I did was take dictation.
In keeping with tradition, I have moved a few of you to the front of the line for recognition in my annual “True Gris” awards.
MEN OF THE YEAR: Papa Joe Bullard and Dr. Bill Terrell.
Bullard, 75, is an institution at the Methodist Home for Children & Youth in Macon, where he has served as a father figure to hundreds of young people. He had two tours of duty in Vietnam with the Army and is a former ROTC director at Georgia Tech and Central High in Macon.
Terrell grew up in Macon and is now an orthopedic surgeon in Marietta. He is one of only 15 doctors in the world qualified to perform a special kind of deformity correction surgery and limb-lengthening. Last June, he operated on a 7-year-old Iraqi boy named Mohammed “Babou” Mustafa, whose left leg was severely infected and 4 inches shorter than his right. He had surgery a dozen times back in Iraq, where the doctors had wanted to amputate the leg at his hip.
WOMEN OF THE YEAR: Patti Jones and Lawanna Prescott.
Jones, one of Macon’s unsung heroes, was honored this past year for her longtime work with the local Parkinson’s disease support group she started in 1989. She also serves as president of Central Georgia C.A.R.E.S., an animal advocacy group that stands for Critter Advocates Requesting Ethical Standards.
Prescott is one of the most courageous women I have ever written about. She has battled systemic lupus, an auto-immune disorder, since she was 13. She has had almost 100 surgeries, including nearly 20 times on her heart. Yet she is an avid runner in local races and works as the coordinator of the vascular and cardiac lab at The Jones Center in Macon.
SENIOR SPIRITS OF THE YEAR: Jack Owens and Bill Bina.
At age 92, Owens still goes out with his karaoke machine and sings everything from Frank Sinatra to Perry Como at local nursing homes, retirement communities and church senior groups. On his business card, he claims to be the “Oldest Voice in Georgia.” He has brought great joy to this community.
Not to be outdone, Bill Bina Jr., one of his neighbors at the Cottages at Wesleyan, is also 92 and a wonderful spirit. He still rides a bicycle that is almost as old as he is. Bina’s son, Bill III, is the dean of Mercer’s School of Medicine.
SUPERFANS OF THE YEAR: Elliott “Ed” Fuller and Tim Wilson.
Fuller is 87 years old and has been around so long most of the students at Macon’s Windsor Academy call him “Papa.” He has rarely missed a sporting event at the school since 1976.
Wilson, of Fort Valley, reached another milestone when he attended his 400th consecutive Peach County football game in October, a streak he has maintained during the past 35 years. His 409th straight game was especially peachy sweet, with the Trojans winning the Class AAA title, the school’s third state championship in the past five years.
GOOD SPORTS OF THE YEAR: Benjamin Marsh and Beau Slocumb.
Benjamin, who was born with cerebral palsy and weighed only 1.8 pounds at birth, became the first player in the history of the Macon Miracle League to hit an over-the-fence home run in April. Ben is now a senior at Rutland High. The Miracle League at West Macon Park is a special league for children with physical and mental disabilities.
Slocumb, who grew up in Juliette, celebrated his 25th birthday Saturday, the day after Christmas. He has come back after surgery from a rare form of lung cancer last year to resume his career as a race car driver. One of the sport’s truly good guys, he has a lot of folks pulling for him.
GRADUATE OF THE YEAR: Donnella Williams.
When she was 5 years old, Donnella Williams was hit by a car in her Fort Hill neighborhood in Macon. It crushed her larynx, and she was unable to talk until she was 16. She has endured more than 100 surgeries in her lifetime. After years of perseverance, she received her diploma in May from Macon State College at age 35.
MUSICIANS OF THE YEAR: E.Z. Cleghorn, Ernie McDaniel and Kody Lucas.
Cleghorn, 23, has been blind since birth and has been a singing prodigy around Warner Robins since he was 4. When he was 10 years old, he performed at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Now a music major at Mercer, he advanced to the second round of the “American Idol” auditions at the Georgia Dome this past summer. I call him “Sunshine.”
McDaniel, who is deaf, works at the main post office on College Street and plays bass in a band at Gateway Fellowship Church. In July, he had the opportunity to perform at the Georgia Association of the Deaf’s Biennial Convention in Atlanta and later at the Music Masters Guitar Recital at the Douglass Theatre in Macon in November.
Lucas plays the saxophone and is a member of the performance and jazz bands at Perry High School. Two years ago, he had surgery for a brain tumor. This past July, he invited the community to his 17th birthday, where volunteers held a blood drive, registered potential bone marrow donors and collected toys for children at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tenn., where he has received treatments for the past two years.
YOUNG HERO OF THE YEAR: Rhett Lee.
Rhett, an eighth-grader at Telfair County Middle School in McRae, saved his longtime friend Allie Holland from choking in the school cafeteria in October.
He had never been taught the Heimlich maneuver, but he knew what to do after Allie got a bite of hamburger steak lodged in her windpipe. His quick response saved her life.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or firstname.lastname@example.org.