Her first glimpse of Macon came from a car window on Interstate 16.
Marilyn Malloy was not impressed.
She had just become the wife of Frank Malloy. They were married on a Friday, but Frank was sports director at a TV station in Columbus and had to work the next day.
On Monday, they left for Hilton Head on their honeymoon. It was 34 years ago this week.
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“We crossed the bridge at the Ocmulgee River,” she said, “and I remember thinking, ‘What is this God-forsaken town? This is awful. Who would want to live here?’’’
Their wedding day marked the two-year anniversary of their blind date on July 11, 1978. When Frank pulled up in his baby blue Volkswagen, it was love at first sight.
Marilyn looked at the boy with the Bug.
“I’m going to marry him one day,” she announced to a friend.
Frank took her to a Braves game. She had grown up in Atlanta, but she didn’t care much for baseball. She knew the name of only one Braves player, Hank Aaron, and he had retired four years earlier.
So she had to pretend to like sports. The chemistry was there, even if this was a match between a Southern girl raised in the Methodist church and a Yankee Catholic from Pennsylvania who had rather reluctantly left Penn State to move South with his family.
After graduating from journalism school at the University of Georgia, Frank’s first job was with WRBL in Columbus. The newlyweds lived in Columbus for two years until Ernie Johnson Jr., the son of the legendary Braves broadcaster, called his friend about a job opening in sports at WMAZ-TV.
“We’re going to Macon,” Frank told his bride.
“Well, OK ...” Marilyn said.
Upon closer examination, that “God-forsaken” place has been a “God-send” for Mrs. Frank Malloy.
The place she never thought she would want to live has become the place she has never wanted to leave.
All four of the Malloy children -- Brad, Meredith, Nick and Matt -- and grandson Tyson were born here. (Matt, the youngest Malloy, is now a freshman at Georgia Southern University.)
The family has made lifelong friends in every neighborhood where they have lived -- from Lake Wildwood to subdivisions off Wesleyan Drive and Rivoli. (The Publix on Tom Hill Sr. Boulevard could be considered a second home.)
After 11 years as the station’s sports director, Frank switched chairs in 1993 and began anchoring the WMAZ news.
Marilyn had her own audience. She spent 26 years as a teacher and director of the preschool program at Ingleside Methodist Church.
Two years ago, on his 23rd birthday, their son Nick was involved in a single-car accident near the northbound exit ramp on I-75 at Bass Road. The local musician sustained spinal cord injuries that left him paralyzed and in a wheelchair.
The Malloys were moved by the tremendous outpouring of community support for Nick. They never dreamed they would witness it again two years later.
Six weeks ago, Marilyn was seriously injured when her car went down an embankment near the corner of Rivoli Drive and Wesleyan Drive.
She was on a respirator for two days. She spent 10 days in the hospital and a week in rehabilitation. She suffered a broken sternum, broken ribs, lumbar fractures in her lower back, a fractured hip and lacerations on her forehead.
Marilyn is now recovering at home, along with Nick. The mother and son affectionately refer to the back of the house as the “recovery unit.”
In the 46 days since the accident, the Malloys have had hundreds of folks reach out to them. People have called, sent get-well cards and brought over potato salad. Marilyn’s name has turned up on the prayer lists of almost every church for 50 miles.
“I have never felt so loved in my life,” she said. “I appreciate their support and prayers. It’s overwhelming how many people care.”
She doesn’t remember many details about the accident June 2, and the week that followed is hazy, too. She had been battling a chest cold for several days and had a breathing treatment the week before.
Marilyn thought she might feel better if she sat out in the sun for a couple of hours. It was a Monday. She drove to a nearby pool.
Still feeling miserable, she left after only 30 minutes. When she turned onto Rivoli, and approached a dip in the road, her Chevy Malibu veered to the right and down a bank. She was 2.2 miles from home.
She doesn’t recall if she was distracted or became light-headed and passed out. The next thing she remembers was regaining consciousness at the hospital and ordering a “medium Diet Coke from Nu-Way with lots of flaky ice.”
It was Marilyn’s second surgery in eight months. In October, she had shoulder surgery, which she attributes to lifting children in preschool for almost a generation.
In a reversal of caregiver roles, she said Nick is now helping take care of her.
“I have a greater appreciation of what he went through because I see it in myself,” she said. “Of course, mine isn’t the extreme that he went though. But I haven’t been able to walk or do anything for myself. I think it has also opened his eyes seeing me. I’m a go-getter. I want to get well.”
Needless to say, she and Frank didn’t exactly go dancing on their anniversary last Friday. They had a nice quiet evening at home with a cake from the Dairy Queen.
Marilyn went to the doctor Thursday and got the nod to start walking again.
She expects the road back will be a long one. She has plenty of people to thank along the way.
She will need to look up a lot of addresses.
Gee, it’s amazing how many good folks live in such a God-forsaken place.
Contact Gris at 744-4275 or email@example.com.