An evening of fun making fun

Published 10:14 am Friday, January 20, 2012

WILL THE REAL DR. WALKER sign in please?

Dr. Charles A. Walker graciously endured a thorough “roasting” from friends and colleagues Thursday evening, as the Pilot Club of Bainbridge held its 28th annual roast at the Charter House Inn. The roast is the club’s major fund-raising event in support of its charitable projects; a roast is an event where a figure is good-naturedly mocked and made fun of, by friends and colleagues.

The room was filled to capacity with the many friends of the local surgeon as the good-natured ribbing began with comments from the Mistress of Ceremonies, Glennie Bench. She didn’t reserve her teasing abuse for the subject alone, but heaped it equally on the other presenters and members of the audience.

Prior to introducing the first speaker, Bench pointed out that Walker was such a busy surgeon she feared the possibility he would be called to perform an emergency procedure and not be able to be at the dinner. Just to be on the safe side, Bench had a life-size cutout of Dr. Walker brought in as a “stand-in,” and enlisted humorous comments from others on why the stand-in might actually be better than the real man — one reason that the cut-out was 6 inches taller than Walker.

MYSTERY ROASTERS, Royce Cannington, center, and Billy Williams, right, were childhood friends of Dr. Walker’s in Seminole County.

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Walker was repeatedly jabbed for his Donalsonville roots, his hunting and fishing prowess, his conservative political views, his indecipherable handwriting and even his fear of flying.

Dr. Don Robinson, the first roaster, commented that Walker, as a man of faith and a doctor, calls on his faith in the Great Healer to take over and help with the patient. “One thing that I don’t understand is why someone who believes that way is scared to get on a plane,” he continued. He then proceeded to tell how Walker had recently stubbornly driven his truck for three days to get to Montana to elk hunt, then driven three days to get back home rather than fly in a plane.

In his rebuttal, Walker challenged Robinson, “Have you ever thought the reason I don’t want to fly is because of people like you who were in the Air Force?”

The raking rapport continued when Charles Tyson, chairman of the Hospital Authority, took the stage and told how hard it had been for him to come up with any “dirt” on Walker. “I was delighted to agree to help roast him. He is a good friend of mine, but I didn’t realize what a dull guy he was. I called his family members and folks at the hospital and they all said, “He’s just dull.”

He did, however, proceed to recount several family stories about Walker and his love for his alma mater, the University of Georgia, adding that he knows more about Georgia football than anyone — including the coach.

DR. CHARLES A. WALKER, with plaque of recognition.

Tyson, a former Bainbridge City Manager, chided Walker for his lack of tolerance for government. Tyson said he had been trying to educate Walker on the environmental benefits of the city’s master sewer plan and the Lake Douglas extension, at which point he presented Walker with a section of sewer pipe.

In conclusion, Tyson conceded Bainbridge is very fortunate to have Charles Walker practicing here.

“He is one of the finest surgeons in South Georgia and wants to help people,” he said. “He loves it all and everyone loves him.”

Two mystery guests — childhood friends of Walker’s from Seminole County, came to share in the story-telling.

Royce Cannington, now a nurse anesthetist, told how they first met. “He was 10 and I was 21. I was working in Seminole County Hospital and young Charles walked in with his father, Dr. Charles O. Walker. He walked up and shook hands and introduced himself. He was the most developed 10-year-old I ever knew.”

Cannington went on to tell how their mutual love for fishing and duck hunting secured their lasting friendship. Anywhere Cannington went, young Charles went with him. “I tried to teach him everything I knew,” but he found the young Walker the most aggravating kid ever because of his bragging, especially about his bass fishing abilities.

One time he and his cousin took Charles fishing and they caught nothing, but Charles caught two big ones. “All day long I heard, ‘I beat you. I’m the best bass fisherman,’” Cannington said. Finally, when Cannington could take it no longer he reached over and threw Walker’s fish back in the water.

One day they loaded two bird dogs into the Walker family Cadillac to go quail hunting. After an unsuccessful hunt, they were about to leave when they heard a mallard duck call in the woods. They put the dogs in the car and went in pursuit of the ducks. When they returned to go to lunch they opened the car to find the dogs had torn all the foam rubber off the back seat of the Cadillac. Charles said, “ I’ve gotta go tell my Daddy and you have to go with me.” When they arrived at the house, no one was home.

“That was when I took my gun and took off,” Cannington said. “And that was when Charles learned responsibility.”

The second mystery roaster was Billy Williams, a pharmacist from Donalsonville who told how young Walker had become a trekkie, as a result of his being a big fan of the Star Trek series and had even learned to write in “Klingon,” the language of an alien race in the series.

“I recently received a prescription from him that he wrote in Klingon,” quipped Williams.

Williams recounted as a boy going to the Georgia football games in Athens with Charles and his father. “We would get up at 5 a.m., go to the 1 o’clock game, be home by midnight and be in church the next morning.”

On a serious note, Williams said when you have a childhood friend who grows up to be a respected doctor, it is hard to see him in that light. He recalled when tragedy struck one of Williams’ son’s classmates and Walker used all his skills to save that dying boy.

“I saw him in a new light then and I was proud to be his childhood friend,” he said.

The evening closed with Walker telling how his father had always told him at any time in your life you may have only a few good friends. He recounted how Billy and Royce had been dear friends all his life, then added, “Every vice I have is from Royce.”

Bench closed the evening with gratitude and thanks to Walker, saying “You are near and dear to our hearts, our colons, our appendix and whatever else.”

Pilot Club President Carolyn Thompson presented Walker with a plaque, recognizing him as the honoree of the evening.