It's too bad Shirley Morris couldn't be there Saturday to see her two sons uncover the marker renaming Appling Park for her late husband, Lonnie O. Morris Sr.
She came down with a case of Strep throat the day before -- the first time in 20 years, she said. So she couldn't be there on that bright, sunny morning to see the crowd, old and young alike, turn out to honor her family.
She would have been proud, and so would Mr. Lonnie.
Mr. Lonnie and Miss Shirley have long been pillars of the Appling community. It really showed in the turnout of admiring home folks who just wanted to be there, felt compelled to be there, for a simple little ceremony.
It was a rush of nostalgia for them, me, everyone; there is really nothing like the atmosphere of a little baseball park on a fine spring day, with the athletes' new uniforms as yet unstained as their childhood cares.
"This is such a good age," said an admiring Steve Beasley, the coach of a team of 11-year-olds. Many long years ago, like me, Steve played baseball at Appling park, for Mr. Lonnie and the other rec department coaches. I was most competent in baseball when riding the pine, but Steve was a real talent. It's an inspiration to see him now, like Mr. Lonnie, sharing his love of the game with kids, teaching them the gentlemanly art of baseball and helping hone their athletic skills.
"People who give their time for young folks do one of the most important things for their community," said state Rep. Barry Fleming, R-Harlem, during the dedication ceremony for the renamed park.
Fleming, too, was once one of those boys of summer, not only playing on rec league teams that faced off with Mr. Lonnie's Appling teams, but going on to play at Harlem High School where he was coached by Mr. Lonnie's son -- known all his life as Lonnie Jr.
Until Saturday, Columbia County had three parks named for residents who have passed away:
Kelley Field, the privately owned Little League park, named for the late George Kelley, the land's donor;
Blanchard Park, named for the late Jim Blanchard Sr., a former Columbia County Commission chairman and father of Superior Court Judge Jim Blanchard Jr.; and,
Goodale Park in Grovetown, named for Grovetown soldier Danny Goodale who died in Vietnam.
Ed Richey Field, named for a Martinez Fire Department board member, no longer exists; the park is now the site of the department's new headquarters.
We could also include Evans High School's Blanchard Stadium, named for the late School Superintendent John Pierce Blanchard, and Lazenby Field at Columbia Middle School, named for the late Charles Lazenby, former principal of the school, though both of those sites are football fields.
Mr. Lonnie's park is all about baseball: two fields, gravel parking and portable concession stands, the bleachers much improved from the saggy painted wood that parents sat on so many years ago.
Surrounded by flowers, the granite and bronze marker at the park's entrance is its newest feature, remembering Mr. Lonnie as "a true friend to all children of Columbia County... a true friend to Columbia County for life."
Here's hoping Miss Shirley gets well soon, and maybe has a chance to see a few of those friendly neighborhood kids play at her husband's park. Guiding those children are men, many of whom once were boys on those same fields, now carrying on a legacy of service by volunteering as some of the county's hundreds of youth coaches. By following that tradition, they're the real, living monuments to Mr. Lonnie's memory.
He'd probably like that even better than the granite marker.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
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