Two South Georgia Tech alumni from Emanuel County returned to their alma mater recently as part of their 42nd wedding anniversary celebration. Christine Padgett Gay, a 1968 LPN graduate, and her husband, Harry L. Gay, a 1971 graduate of the Diesel Equipment program, visited the South Georgia Technical College campus recently to reminisce about their college years.
“We both attended South Georgia Tech, but we actually met at the Americus Sumter County Hospital, where she was working as the medicine nurse. You might even say that I ran into her,” laughed Harry Gay. I rounded the corner and there she was with the medicine cart, so I literally ran into her.”
After that encounter the two began to date and were married on December 6th, 1970. They lived in Americus until after Harry graduated. Then they moved back toward his home town of Garfield. He went to work for a business in Statesboro. While he was in school and living in Americus, he worked for Fox International.
Both Christine and Harry were very pleasantly surprised by how much the campus had changed since the early 1970’s. “We really almost didn’t recognize the place,” said Christine Gay. “It has changed a lot since we were here.”
They came back to the campus in 1990 for an alumni event and were able to visit with their former instructors. Jack Busby, who still lives in Americus, was the diesel instructor for South Georgia Tech when Harry Gay was a student. Joyce Dunmon and Sara Matkowsky were the LPN instructors while Christine was a student.
“I mean we really had to know our stuff in the diesel program,” said Gay. “Jack Busby taught us well. This was the only school in the southeast United States that had a thorough diesel department at the time. In fact my brother, Ben R. Gay, had come down here two years before me and graduated from this program as well.”
Harry and his brother, Ben, both returned to Emmanuel County and began running their own diesel repair shop in 1983. “We took over a diesel repair business that our daddy started in 1962. We had both worked for other people and we thought if we could make them a living, we could make a living for ourselves,” said Gay.
The two of them are still running that business today and they cater to heavy diesel trucks as well as some farm equipment. “We can repair anything from the front to the back of a diesel truck,” explained Gay. “In fact, we get a lot of business or repairs that no one else wants to work on. We always take pride in making something run and run right.”
Gay worked at Fox International in Americus while he was attending South Georgia Tech and worked there until 1971. He left and went to work for International Harvester in Statesboro and stayed with them until he and his brother opened up their business in 1983.
Christine Gay has also made the most of her South Georgia Tech nursing diploma. “I worked at the hospital after I graduated and then when we moved to Garfield, I went to work at a Nursing Home in Twin City and later worked as a home health nurse,” said Mrs. Gay, who is a native of Telfair County.
The Gay’s had a small apartment located close to the Americus Sumter County Hospital. “I could walk to work,” she laughed. They were both saddened when they learned of the tornado that struck Americus in 2007 and destroyed the hospital. They visited the site of the new Phoebe Sumter Hospital that has since been rebuilt across town.
Americus was the site of another disaster in 1994 when it was hit by a 100 year flood. At that time, the Gays contacted Harry’s former instructor Jack Busby and told him that their church would like to help out. Jack Busby connected them with a small church that had been destroyed by the flood waters and members of their church in Emmanuel County sent donations and helped restore the building.
“We had some good times here,” they both said. “I worked at the canteen on campus for a little while and lived in the dorm with Dean Harold Moore and his family for one quarter,” said Harry. “I found out I was not cut out for the dorm.”
Christine also lived on campus and was pleased to learn that two of the dorms at South Georgia Tech have been renovated to include private baths. The two were given a tour of the campus and were invited into the different program areas to see all of the improvements made on the campus since the 1970’s and 1990’s.
“We had planned to do this last year but we didn’t make it,” said Harry. “I am so glad we came this year.”
The Gay’s have two daughters, Annette Merier and Enola Godwin. They also have four grandchildren.
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