AMERICUS — Octogenarian reflects on life ties to Souther Field
Winston Churchill once said, “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often.”
Frances Restagno, who will be 83 on her January 12 birthday, has seen a lot of change in her life - not just personally but politically and in the community in which she resides.
Frances Restagno, mother and wife of the late Rusty Restagno, “a most good looking Italian from Pennsylvania who could cook,” will tell you, she is not perfect yet, and nor is the world around her.
And she will tell you that she is not always a fan of change, but she knows that what Bruce Barton, orator, once said to be true, “When you are through changing you are through.”
Restagno is not ready to be through yet.
Sitting on the only pier connecting her river front property to her home, with a mess of cane fishing poles dangling in the water, Restagno admits to her heart being heavy over a number of issues in Sumter County, including her taxes and now most recently, the changing of the name of Souther Field Airport.
Shaking her head, Restagno, surrounded by a cool breeze from the flowing river, and a plethora of greenery -ranging from fruit trees to regular trees to trees with Spanish moss dangling from the branches and hanging baskets and plants - reflected for a moment on her life
It is a life that started in a little off shoot community close to Andersonville called Cutoff. “I was born in Americus City Hospital and my doctor was Dr. Hershel Smith. He is the grandfather, I think, of the judge we have, what is his name? Rucker Smith. Dr. Smith was such a good man.”
She and her brothers and sisters enjoyed a rural life that most children dream of - playing in the fields, running, jumping, and not worrying about the infestation of what city life brings. That is until her father died.
“We moved to the city, and I was about thirteen at the time,” said Restagno.
And that is where her memories of Souther Field began.
“Souther Field was the first thing I remember seeing. And we visited there quite often. So many of our boys were stationed there because of the war ...”
Including her future husband, Rusty Restagno. “I was going on a double date with a friend of mine. We were going to pick up her date from the airport, and then we saw this good looking young man walking through, and he was whistling Moonlight Serenade.”
She laughed, “My friend and I looked at each other, and we were like who is that. She knew it wasn’t her date, and mine wasn’t coming. He crawled in our car and said that Dante had guard duty and couldn’t come, so he told him too.”
Smiling, Restagno said, “And after that I saw him coming up McGarrah Street a lot.”
The couple was married for over 64 years before his death four and half years ago. They enjoyed a good life together, first as co-owners of Americus Collection Agency, and then later with Happy Basket -a plant and flower gift shop.
“He was the best and he did most of our cooking. He would tease my mother a lot about the fact that people would starve down here if they didn’t eat turnips, and she would tease him about his spaghetti. Mother lived with us for over thirty years and the two of them just got along great ...(laughing) They had their little arguments and debates, but it was a good thing.”
Since building their little home, the couple enjoyed many a night, “sitting down here, catching fish, drinking a cup of coffee and just enjoying “being together.”
And with their Shih Tzu canine companion, Little Bloom. At the mention of her name, the gray and white Bloom, sometimes called Bloomer, turned her head and gave a wide eyed stare.
“We had just lost our other dog and it was a really sad moment. He wanted to get another one and so we visited a kennel in Ellaville. The lady said all she had in a female of this breed was one that was pregnant, but that we were welcome to one of the puppies.”
Restagno stuck her hand on top of the dog’s head, “She is such good company, and is someone comes up, she will let me know it. She acts up.”
“We went every Sunday after the puppy was born until she was about seven weeks old to visit it,” said Restagno rolling her eyes, though her hand, still offering Little Bloom affectionate pets told different.
Restagno said, “I never thought I would have paid $500 for a dog ... She was the ugliest thing I ever saw right after she was born.”
And it all started because of connections to Souther Field Airport. “I have nothing against Jimmy Carter or his family. I like them both. We dealt with them on the business side as well as Rosalynn and I serve together in different clubs through the years.”
Of the community opposition, Restagno said, “I don’t think it has anything to do with anyone’s personal feelings toward Carter ... I hope not ... it is about memories.”
“And sometimes, that is all we have.”
Restagno won’t be at the renaming ceremony Sunday, but not because she is making a stand. She will be going on to church - a place that she cherishes and has found great peace in, and later spending time with her family, and then maybe do a little fishing with Little Bloom, or some of her neighbors.
Or working with the multitude of plants - including the peace lily and the cactus that at one time had over 64 blooms.
“Life goes on,” said Restagno who holds dear to her heart the words from Psalm 23.
“It was my and Rusty’s favorite and got us through so much ...” Even the changes that life brings ... including the renaming of an airport that brings a change to history.
AMERICUS — Octogenarian reflects on life ties to Souther Field
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