We began our series, For the Love of Lexington, with a visit to the Junior Order Home…an appropriate first glance at Lexington, where my grandfather’s love of this town really began. To conclude this series, I’m getting a little personal, friends. I’m taking a stroll down memory lane.
My Mom often told me that she hoped I’d wait to enter the world on September 13th, Georgie’s birthday. But as my family often says, this personality was too large to share a day. I was born on September 12th, 1984, in Lexington (just a few weeks after my parents moved from Raleigh, making me a true, born and raised Lexingtonian!) I spent the first 10 years of my life in a small house just up the street from my grandparents and moved 1.5 miles down the road (to the other side of my grandparents’ home) for the remaining 8 years of my time in Lexington. Life on one street was beautifully familiar and simple.
Our birthdays, celebrated at National!
Before I started kindergarten, days were spent in Georgie’s office at National. My activities included playing hide and seek in the warehouse, stuffing envelopes and placing stamps on outgoing customer letters, and listening to his business wisdom. To my sister and me, he was heroic…almost mythical. He was a family man, a philanthropist, a business genius, and a prayer warrior. After his three mile morning run, he’d whip up the perfect southern breakfast, all with a side of education (of course). For every play, field hockey game, and school awards ceremony, he was front and center. He balanced building a business with loving a family, all while keeping Lexington’s community top of mind. More than anything, he celebrated life…every moment of it.
Our birthdays, (and my 13th! The big one!), celebrated at the Edward C. Smith Civic Center ballroom!
I followed him relentlessly, for as long as I can remember. I dubbed myself his trusty sidekick, always up for a drive through the countryside, a UNC basketball game on a Saturday, or a few days off from school for a “business trip.”
When I came home from college, first stop was a lunch date with my granddad. We’d catch up on college lessons and business challenges, reminisce on adventures with Gaga (my amazing grandmother and his cherished wife, whom we lost unexpectedly in 1998), talk boy drama and career goals, and discuss the Tar Heel’s potential for another championship banner.
When I came home to visit, lunch dates at Childress Vineyards were a must!
To this day, I drive past his house and recall the best Saturday afternoons spent in his front yard – climbing trees, playing tag, swimming in the pool. A few minutes down the road, I find the same bait & tackle shop we’d visit before our Sunday fishing trips. In that small shed off the side of the road, he’d let me pick the minnows while he ordered up a few scoops of homemade strawberry ice cream. With the top off of his favorite ol’ Jeep Wrangler, we’d stroll down the dirt road to our “honey pot” for a few hours of guaranteed large mouth bass (with a side of catfish).
It didn’t matter where the car was going. With Georgie driving, every minute was an adventure. He woke up with a roaring engine of love, and he lived it out at 100 MPH. He set his sights on what was possible, never what was probable. He believed in the potential of others, and he worked diligently to draw it out and impact change. He taught me the fundamentals of business, the most important one being “treat every customer as if he or she is your only customer.” With commitment and integrity, he lived out that motto both personally and professionally. While he was often the biggest personality in a room, he had a gift of drawing you in – making you believe you were the only one that mattered. And trust me, dear friend. In that moment, you were.
There will never be another Georgie. But there will be a lifetime of memories cultivated with his spirit in each and every one.
For you, Georgie. Love you always.