The value of any community often is measured by its institutional memory. There is a wealth of information stored in the people who have long been a part of any community; and death, though inevitable, damages the institution.
By this measure, Columbia County has suffered greatly in recent days.
The loss of George Kelley, owner of Kelley Appliance and a long-time community leader, is first on the list.
Columbia County not so long ago was an agricultural community. When the county began to make the transition toward residential growth and urbanization, Kelley was involved at nearly every step.
As a key member of the former Jaycees program and, until his death, of Columbia County's Merchants Association, Kelley was a key figure in the county's small-business community.
Columbia County's phenomenal growth isn't built on sand. It's built on the solid foundation laid by leaders like Kelley, whose passing is a tough loss for the community.
It's hard to imagine a small appliance store like his surviving in the midst of giant, big-box retailers, but Kelley Appliance held on to a comfortable niche thanks to George Kelley's business sense.
He was a nice guy, too.
Speaking of nice guys, I hated hearing about the passing of Buddie Bennett of Appling.
I first got to know Buddie as my rural mail carrier when I was a kid, as the father of my fifth-grade teacher, and later as the brother of my stepfather.
Here is a string of coincidences: Buddie was the long-time next-door neighbor of Mack Bartles, of Appling, who passed away in February. Bartles was the father-in-law of Tommy Norris, of Martinez. And Norris' mother, Ann Kirbo Norris Cross, also passed away last week.
It's significant to note that Cross, who had since remarried, was the widow of former Columbia County Commission Chairman Lyn Norris.
Another former County Commission chairman, Larry Prather, also lost a cousin recently when Camilla Prather passed away.
Prather was a retired Harlem High School home economics teacher, and educated generations of children on cooking, etiquette, sewing and other practical pursuits.
All these folks weren't just old-timers; they represented old times in a county that rapidly is outrunning its past. Their web of relationships formed the fabric of the strong community that newcomers now enjoy.
May they all rest in peace. And may we never forget what they meant to Columbia County.
Congratulations to former News-Times publisher Bill Kirby on another successful run in the Peachtree Road Race.
Kirby ran the race in a T-shirt from Augusta's Alzheimer's Association, wearing a ball cap from The News-Times.
Other Columbia County residents also participated, with three of them fast enough to be listed with the 4,756 timed finishers.
Jonathan Payne, Michael Caudell and Russell Vaughn, all of Evans, came in 2,010th, 2,736th and 4,547th place, respectively.
Even without the rising temperatures lately, skyrocketing gas prices are enough to make anyone hot under the collar. It looks like we'll soon exceed $3 a gallon again.
By that measure, things were much cooler 62 years ago in Salisbury, Md.
Brooks Handy, an Evans resident, stopped by with a receipt he'd found in some of his late father's papers. Dated Aug. 31, 1944, the receipt was from the Clifford L. Cannon Tydol Filling Station, showing Oscar Handy's payment for five gallons of gasoline.
The price: a cool $1 bill.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to email@example.com.)
The Columbia County News-Times ©2013. All Rights Reserved.