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Friends, colleagues make roast special

I am truly blessed.

That was my feeling after my roast last Thursday night at The Charter House Inn.

For many years, I have had a special place in my heart for the Bainbridge Pilot Club, which each year sponsors a local citizen to roast.

That special heart-felt feeling about the club and the charitable work they do comes from working side by side with late fellow journalist Mary Frances Donalson for many years. Mary Frances was a charter member of the Bainbridge Pilot Club.

The Pilot Club is made up of successful business and professional women like Mary Frances.

While her major loves were her Attapulgus United Methodist Church, the Pilot Club and the Daylily Society, Mary Frances also enjoyed doing some sports coverage from time to time.

For a number of years, she was by my side in the Centennial Field press box on Friday nights assisting me with coverage of Bainbridge High School Bearcats football games.

Turning to the roast itself, it was great to see former Bearcats and Rabun County High School Wildcats head football coach Sonny Smart again. I told him to please tell his son, Kirby, defensive coordinator of the national champion University of Alabama Crimson Tide football team and winner of the Frank Broyles Award as the top assistant college football coach in the country how proud everyone in Bainbridge and Decatur County is of him.

Kirby, son of Sonny and his dear wife, Sharon, was the 1993 Region 1AAAA defensive player of the year when he led his father’s team to a 10-3 record, the Region 1AAAA championship, a 10-7 victory over the perennially powerful Valdosta High School Wildcats and a berth in the State Class AAAA Semifinals. He went on to earn All-Southeastern Conference (SEC) honors as a defensive back with the University of Georgia Bulldogs. He also was an SEC All-Academic team selection.

I want to thank Sonny, Stan Killough and mystery roaster Col. Gary Breedlove for not being too rough on me. All in all it was a great night, and it really meant a lot to me to have so many friends and colleagues in attendance.

To have my brother, Tom; my nephew, Billy; my dear friend, Billy Simmons Jr., The Post-Searchlight managing editor Carol Heard; Father Roberto, Father Rudy and so many of my St. Joseph’s Catholic Church family there was also special.

I especially want to thank Bainbridge Mayor Edward Reynolds for presenting me with a proclamation of appreciation from the city and the Pilot Club ladies for a beautiful plaque recognizing me as Roastee of the Year and an all-around good sport.

Saving the best for last, I had an opportunity to thank master of ceremonies and former Post-Searchlight publisher Sam Griffin and his dear wife, Mary Ann, who I love dearly, for all the support they have given me through the years. We have seen each other through many happy and sad times.

I am eternally grateful to Sam, Mary Ann and Sam’s dear late father, former Georgia Gov. Marvin Griffin, for giving a young man just out of college with no experience a chance some 40 years ago.