When you hear someone use the phrase, "It couldn't happen to a nicer guy," they easily could be talking about Pierce Blanchard.
Monday, when the Columbia County Chamber of Commerce presented Blanchard with its prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award, it really could not have gone to a nicer guy.
A long-time and now (somewhat) semi-retired executive with Georgia Bank and Trust, Blanchard is a home-grown Columbia Countian with a tremendous family pedigree.
That pedigree extends to his first and last name. He's the son of legendary school superintendent John Pierce Blanchard, and the grandson of county physician Pierce Gordon Blanchard.
But Pierce Blanchard is more than just an accumulation of important names. He's a genuine community treasure in his own right, and infinitely deserving of such recognition.
Citizen of the Year
Speaking of community treasures, Harlem got it right last week in naming Mary Sanders as the community's Citizen of the Year.
I'm not sure there is anyone in Columbia County whom I personally admire more than Mrs. Sanders. And it's not just because of her lifetime of service in our community and her dedication to education; it's also because of the remarkable grace with which she carries herself.
As a person with little patience and generally low tolerance for frustration, I am in awe of Mrs. Sanders. There must have been some point in her life in which she felt sadness, perhaps even anger, as she persevered during the Jim Crow era. But you'd be hard-pressed to see the signs of it now.
Sanders is the daughter of a farmer, and started teaching in segregated schools in 1932 at the depths of the Great Depression in McDuffie County. She was brought back to Columbia County by John Pierce Blanchard (there's that name again) to teach at Pollard Academy near Harlem in 1954, and became the school's principal four years later.
Columbia County's schools desegregated in 1970. This means of the 56 years Sanders spent in public education before her retirement in 1988, the first 38 of those years were in a very-separate school system that, until Blanchard began a series of wholesale facility improvements in 1958, was anything but equal.
Yet there isn't a shred of bitterness about her. Never have I known Mrs. Sanders to be anything but kind and gracious, with the gentle and accepting demeanor of someone who patiently has guided thousands of children of all stations in life.
I'm sure our community is much brighter thanks to the spark that she lit in all those pupils.
Dad's on the mend
And speaking of people I admire, I've heard from quite a few people in the past week asking about my dad.
Lee Paschal is the hardest-working man since Sisyphus. (You know, the figure of Greek mythology, doomed to spend eternity rolling a stone up a hill.) But now he has to stay off his feet after breaking a leg in a logging accident in Evans Jan. 5.
He's mending just fine since the good folks at the Medical College of Georgia Hospital put his broken bones back together. Many thanks to them, and to the emergency services staff of Gold Cross EMS who took him there.
If there is even a dollar of state funding available this year, there is no longer any excuse whatsoever for Columbia County not getting at least a few pennies of it.
State Sen. Bill Jackson, of Appling, has been appointed to serve on the Senate Appropriations Committee. State Rep. Ben Harbin already serves as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee.
The Legislature went into session Monday, and Gov. Sonny Perdue today will give his budget address. With expected cuts of $2 billion coming, it won't be pretty.
But at least with Jackson in the Senate and Harbin in the House, Columbia County shouldn't come out worse than any other county.
(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. E-mail comments to barry.paschal at newstimesonline.com.)
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