Joyce Ross is not the first in her family to retire from Columbia County.
"We were all dedicated public servants is exactly what we said," Ross said. "All through the years, it has really given me good feelings to be able to help people in whatever possible way... That has always been my philosophy, my attitude working in county government. If I can help you, I am willing to do it if I can. Not only will it benefit you, it benefits me as an individual because it gives me good feelings."
Ross fell into the position in the Clerk of Court's office vacated by her sister, Florence McGlamery on Aug. 1, 1959. Ross worked with her baby sister, Mary Reeves, for 37 years in the clerk's office - 12 of those years Ross actually worked for her sister as Clerk of Court. Her father, Alf Whitaker, retired from the Columbia County Roads and Bridges department. Ross's oldest brother worked with her father on a roads and bridges crew and her other sister, Marge Linnenkohl, retired from the county health department.
After 43 1/2 years of service, Ross retired last week. By the end of her last day, her desk was covered with plants and gifts and she clutched a tissue while hugging each of the many people who came to wish her well.
"We are going to miss you, lady," Bonnie Newman, the county planning coordinator, said to Ross at her retirement reception. "I know we are all a big family."
Ross has worked under four clerks beginning with Jake Pollard Sr. Back then, the office would close for an hour-and-a-half lunch and only a few people worked there.
"You learned everything." Ross said. "You knew a little bit about everything that was done in the clerk's office."
As the department grew, Ross has been involved in real estate and criminal and civil supervisor aspects of the clerk's office. But, most people will remember her infectious smile and generous nature.
"She is a beautiful person and we are really going to miss her," Clerk of Court Cindy Mason said. "She is so gracious and she is as sweet as can be."
Ross said she believes helping people is the job's reward and also the part of it she will miss the most.
"To me, I always felt like a public servant in this," Ross said. "If I am helping someone, it gives you such good feelings. I am going to miss all of it. The people here are my everyday family. I am going to miss seeing the people. It gives you such a good feeling to be able to help people. I stayed on because I thought if I could be of help during the transition or move, then I wanted to be there to help."
Now Ross says she looks forward to spending time and traveling with her sisters, who have been waiting for her to retire.
She's also going back home to Appling. When Camp Gordon was built, Ross's sharecropping family was forced to move. Her father purchased 323 acres on Columbia Road, where Ross' son built his first home years later.
"I have moved around and finally came right back to part of Dad's original homeplace," Ross said. "I feel part of the 323 acres that Dad bought to begin with. The Lord has led me back to Appling."
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