It has become customary to mark the end of one year, and the beginning of the next, with an array of awards.
Man of the Year. Woman of the Year. Song of the Year. Newsmaker of the Year.
I get wrapped up in this, too, in an attempt to carry on a long-standing tradition of our Telegraph forefathers.
I call it my annual “True Gris Awards.” (Not to be confused with the remake of the movie, “True Grit.”)
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So, I present ... drum roll, please ... the 12th annual “Grissies,” a well-deserved encore and special tribute to some of the folks I wrote about in 2010.
Home Improvement Award: Debra Rollins
For the past 12 years, Debra, the executive director of Rebuilding Macon, has recruited a vast army of local volunteers and proceeded to mend everything from roofs to porches, wheelchair ramps, leaky kitchen sinks and rickety bathroom floors. This past year, Rebuilding Macon repaired its landmark 2,000th house since the organization was formed in 1992.
Profile in Courage Award: Dick Frame
Dick has long been one of Macon’s greatest ambassadors for high school sports. He has served as a volunteer track coach at First Presbyterian Day School for the past 32 years and has held the duties of official starter at GISA state track meets since 1982. Three years ago, he was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It has slowed his body but has not crushed his spirit. He displays one of the most positive attitudes of anyone I’ve ever been around. He truly is Mr. Sunshine.
Happy Trails Award: Connie Thuente and Janice Marshall
These ladies have done so much for this city that two words come to mind: indispensable and irreplaceable. Connie spent seven years as a volunteer with the Cherry Blossom Festival before working for 20 years as senior event coordinator and tourism director. Just about everything she owns is pink. Janice literally put our city on the map during her 27 years with the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. They both deserved their retirements, but we really miss them.
Living Large Award: Tiny Smaha
Tiny is a self-professed “people person,” and it’s easy to see why. For years, she was known as the “Soup Lady” at Carlyle Place, where she would make soup for residents three times a week. She was such a hoot when I interviewed her after she won the title of 2010 Mrs. Georgia Nursing Home at age 93. I know she had the judges rolling on the floor with laughter, too. It was the first pageant she had entered since finishing runner-up in the 1933 Miss Barnesville Pageant.
John Wayne Tough Guy Award: Fred Johnson
Fred is 95 years old and one of the most delightful men I have the pleasure of knowing. I first interviewed him a few years ago after he bought a Toyota Prius hybrid car. Last month, I wrote about him being one of only two remaining Pearl Harbor Survivors living in Macon, and one of only 34 in Georgia. Spending time with this former Willingham High principal, a member of the Greatest Generation, was a special treat.
Great is Thy Faithfulness Award: Anne Self
In September, Anne was honored for her 60 years of service as the pianist at New Heights Baptist Church. She has played for thousands of weddings, funerals, revivals and morning worship services at the church, formerly Cherokee Heights Baptist.
Proud Papa Award: Ernest Penley
His son, Steve, has become a well-known artist on the national scene, whose paintings are turning up everywhere these days. But the most special display is on the walls at Georgia Music, where Ernest has been selling pianos and other musical instruments for the past 40 years. He is very proud of his talented son, and it shows. Ernest goes to work everyday in a wheelchair after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis 15 years ago.
Team Spirit Award: Natalie Barfield
Natalie has been teaching exercise classes longer than anyone else in Macon, starting at the old YWCA on Second Street in 1963. She continues to be one of our community’s tireless volunteers, offering free exercise classes for senior citizens twice a week at Vineville Methodist. She is also very involved in local community theater.
Points of Light Award: Jeff and Misty McAfee
Joanna McAfee was a 6-year-old from Warner Robins who died of cancer a few days before Christmas in 2005. After their daughter’s death, Jeff and Misty started the Joanna McAfee Childhood Cancer Foundation to raise awareness and provide support for families with children diagnosed with cancer. They opened an office on Watson Boulevard in September. A silhouette of Joanna is featured on special state license plates, and the University of Georgia football team wore the emblem on the back of its helmets during its game with Arkansas on Sept. 18.
Scouts Honor Award: Schuyler and Christopher Sandusky
The two brothers, both members of Troop 51 in Forsyth, were among the 2.8 million young men who celebrated the milestone 100th anniversary of the Boy Scouts of America, which was incorporated on Feb. 8, 1910. The Sanduskys also made a bit of history, too. On the Super Bowl night of Feb. 7, Schuyler was sworn in as an Eagle Scout at 11:59 p.m., making him the unofficial final scout to receive his Eagle badge during the first century of scouting. Then, a few seconds past midnight, younger brother Christopher was also sworn in to become the first scout to join the Eagle ranks in the new century.
Incredible Journey Award: Andrea and Jarrod Sells
On the evening of June 27, 1996, Andrea and Jarrod placed a note in a champagne bottle and tossed it overboard while returning from a cruise to Mexico. In July 2010, the Perry couple received a letter from a man from Austria who had found the bottle along a rocky coast in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa. The incredible journey lasted 14 years and covered an estimated 4,000 miles.
Mayberry Fan Club Award: Eddie and Peggy Jones
Eddie and Peggy may be best known as the parents of WMAZ-TV chief meteorologist Ben Jones. But you won’t find two more devoted fans of the show that comes on Channel 13 a half-hour before the six o’clock news. “The Andy Griffith Show” celebrated its 50th anniversary in October as one of television’s most beloved series. Every fall, they make the trip to Mayberry Days in Mount Airy, N.C., the hometown of Andy Griffith. The Jones family once owned a pet cockatiel who could whistle the show’s familiar theme song.
Reach Gris at 744-4275 or gris @macon.com.