Finding a gem on a rooftop

Published 5:17 pm Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The night was delightful, much less humid than the day before. Mary Lou & I enjoyed the setting sun as a breeze blew up the Savannah River, cooling us as we sat at the table on a rooftop bar.

We discussed a variety of things that came to mind, including an article that ML had read that day about the proper classification of cousins. Since we both were Ponders before we married, this cousin thing is pretty important to us.

A ship starting pulling away from the dock upriver and we watched as the massive vessel maneuvered into the middle of the river before going under the Talmadge Memorial Bridge. As it passed by us in the river, sitting as high as we were on the 6th floor rooftop, I walked over to the edge to take a picture.

Email newsletter signup

“Where are you from?” the lady sitting nearby said as I checked my photograph on my phone. “Donalsonville”, I replied. The elegant older lady sitting at the same table asked me if I knew J. B. & Laurie Clarke. “Very well”, I responded adding that we went to the same church and they had been friends for 40 years. “Laurie is my first cousin”, the lady said as she smiled.

ML and I unexpectedly spent some time this past weekend visiting with Lois Wooten. She has been a fixture on the Savannah society scene for decades and along with her deceased husband, Frank, has been a benefactor and supporter of more causes than this column has room to print.

Her husband was the former President of Kaiser Agricultural Chemicals. When I told her that my father had been a Kaiser Chemical dealer at Beall Peanut Company, it just further made the coincidence of our chance encounter more special.

Lois told stories of growing up with Laurie in Vienna, Georgia. I plan to verify some of these tales before teasing the Clarkes too much. The stories speak of a bond formed 80 plus years ago that endures to this day. Lois even told stories of attending J.B. & Laurie’s wedding over 60 years ago.

In a shift in the conversation, Lois asked if we had ever heard of a golf tournament in Dothan for junior golfers. “Something like the Little Masters”, she said. Given that our nephew, Thomas Ponder, had just won the 15-16 year old division of the Future Masters on this past Saturday, this truly proved that this conversation was meant to be.

I read more about Frank and Lois before I wrote this article. They were visionaries and leaders in Savannah for decades. Their legacy will continue long after we are all gone.

I wasn’t aware of Lois’ storied past as we talked on that rooftop bar. I just knew that she was the cousin of a longtime friend. I knew that Lois was a lady of extraordinary class, just from our conversation and brief time together. On another day and with more time, I am sure I would enjoy talking with her for hours about her journey through life.

Life seems overwhelming at times. The problems of the world make us cynical about our future and where our nation is headed. Then, when you least expect it, a random moment in life occurs that show us how connected we are with those we don’t even know. They make us feel good and give us hope.

This past weekend, Mary Lou and I found a gem on a rooftop bar in Savannah. Her name was Lois Wooten.