And then there were none

Published 9:24 am Wednesday, March 31, 2021

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Last week, I wrote about the loss of childhood friends and the many ways we find friendships in our lives. Sadly, this week I will write for the final time about one of the friends at the other end of the spectrum.

Alfred Joel “Alf” Greene passed away this week at the age of 92. He was one of a group of men that somewhat adopted me after I moved to Donalsonville at the age of 21 to manage Beall Peanut Company. I have faithfully written about their impact on my life as they have passed away. Alf, known to many as “Uncle Alf”, was the last of these men, to whom I owe so much.

Alf was born in 1928 in Iron City, Georgia, just down the road from Donalsonville. He was still living in that same house, along with his wife of 62 years, Geanette, when he died. Geanette is as sweet a woman as I have ever known.

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Though they had numerous nephews and nieces, Alf and Geanette had no children of their own. However, they had children all over the community, particularly in the First Presbyterian Church that we both attended. Alf served as treasurer when churches really needed a strong steward of the funds. He was a quiet leader most of the time, and a vocal leader when times called for it.

Together with his group of friends, many from this same Presbyterian Church, I was privileged over time to join them for regular dinners. Many were World War II veterans, and I heard their stories so many times, I felt like I was there. They came from a different era than I did but they openly shared their good times and bad. I was a kid in the presence of men. In hindsight, it was such a gift to me.

Alf, along with all the others, supported me in politics. Alf knew a little bit about politics since he served as Mayor of Iron City for many years. More importantly, these guys supported the local communities in more ways than I could name.

Alf had known my grandfather as a young man, even though they lived in different states. We talked about it many times. It was like a mirror to a time I had never known, and I never tired of hearing the stories of their trading for chickens or feed.

Alf operated the oldest business in Seminole County, Greene Poultry, which was started by his father. He also operated Alf Greene Farms and Alf’s Farm and Garden. He was working hard up until he turned 90. He saved most of the pennies he earned and believed in hard work and fair trade.

Alf was an early graduate of Mercer University, but his business skills were born of his work ethic and sense of fair play. His word was his bond. He reminded me of my grandfather, and I mean that in most positive way I can say.

Last week, I wrote of the death of yet another childhood friend. This week, I write of the death of the last of the older men who have meant so much to me. Though this will be the last column celebrating the life of one of this group, they have collectively left a legacy on Southwest Georgia, on their respective families, and on their friends.

They have certainly left their legacy on me. I was honored to know Alf Greene. Uncle Alf to many. A friend to all. Alf was the last of these older great friends who took me under their wing. I was privileged to know them all.

And then there none.