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Leila S. Case: Their joie de vivre makes your heart sing

Americus residents Sparky Reeves and Ralph Harvey, dedicated educators at separate educational institutions, have something else in common: Their joie de vivre that makes your heart sing.
Their cheerful personalities, infectious laughter and keen enthusiasm for experiencing life to the fullest are perhaps the common denominator for successful careers. Reeves and Harvey are two of the happiest people I have ever had the opportunity to know. Their positive outlook on life and desire to make a difference encourages others to do the same.
Reeves and Harvey were recently recognized at separate events for their outstanding work in higher education. Reeves, president of South Georgia Technical College (SGTC) for the past 13 years, was honored on the occasion of his retirement this week at a reception at the John M. Pope Center on the SGTC campus attended by hundreds of dignitaries, educators, friends and family from near and far. “It was overwhelming,” said his wife Allene, afterwards. “It made a difficult time happy. We are very blessed and grateful.”
Among out of town friends and relatives attending Reeves’ reception were Kendall and Connie Blanchard of Kansas City, Danny Faulkner of Atlanta, Dick and Brenda Robbins of Centre, Alabama, Rodney Saunders of Peachtree City, George Dieckman of Newnan and Cheryl Dieckman of Kennesaw, Mathew Sandlin, Newnan, Bob Bacon, Birmingham, and Eucle Vickery of LaGrange.
On the opposite side of town at Georgia Southwestern State University (GSW), Ralph Harvey, a renowned artist best known for his studio glass art, was the “man of the hour” at the opening reception of the Ralph Harvey Retrospective: A History of Studio Glass Education in the Rural South, at the Albany Museum of Art last Saturday night. The exhibit continues through Jan. 24, 2016.
Four galleries of the museum are curated with more than 150 examples of his art spanning 50 years. “There was enough (art) left over to have another show,” says Harvey. “I worked in every media: glass art, clay, painting, drawing, weaving and jewelry. It’s exhibited except the jewelry, but Nancy, my wife, and I wore that,” he added with a laugh. He praised the GSW art department faculty — Keaton Wynn, Chuck Wells and Phil Vinson — for their work to organize, curate, install the exhibit and write the catalog. “They put in thousands of hours,” says Harvey, “and thanks to Nancy, too, where would I ever be without Nancy?”
Though now professor emeritus, Harvey still works at his art. He commented that his 26-year-tenure at GSW “was like one big happy day.”
Reeves and Harvey touched the lives of hundreds upon hundreds of students in vocational technology and art education. Best of all they had fun every day and continue to make hearts sing.
Colleagues and friends attending the opening reception of the Ralph Harvey Retrospective were Jerry Houvanec, who twice collaborated with Harvey in two major art glass pieces, one of which is the entire cast of more than 25 characters in Mozart’s classic opera “The Magic Flute.” Fritz Dreisbach of Whidbey Island, Washington, and Gary Noffke, retired UGA metal artist, who conducted a glass blowing workshop at GSW’s art department earlier in this week, attended along with former students Rich Fizer, now a professional glass blower from Fort Myers, Phil Taylor, Cincinnati, Jesse Durham, Washington state, Kirby Gregory of Albany, Chris Fiertner of Warner Robins, Gretchen Greene Gabrielle and daughter Val Gabrielle, Donna Hatcher, Michael Murray, and Americus friends Pam Davis, Beth Alston, June and David Ewing, Charlene McGowan and her daughter and son-in-law, Betty Hewitt, Mary Beth Rogers, Bill Dragoin, Bobby Ellis and daughter Micah, Jean Deriso, Pat Turner and her husband, Patsy Knotts, Nema Etheridge, Hugh and Anita Peacock and Robin Humphries, and I’m sure many more Sumter Countians will visit Harvey’s exhibit at the Albany Museum of Art during the next four months.
Out and About: Valerie and Ken Moates went separate ways last weekend. Valerie was in New Haven, Connecticut, where their son, Christopher Moates, is a senior at Yale University and team captain of the university’s softball team, going especially to watch him play in the special Yale vs Wesleyan exhibition game that commemorated the 150-year baseball rivalry between the schools. The first game both teams ever played in collegiate competition was Sept. 30, 1865, when baseball was in its infancy. Meanwhile, while Valerie was in New England, Ken traveled to Auburn University to join their daughter, Ashley Moates, to be with her for Alpha Gamma Delta’s parents’ weekend; meanwhile back in Sumter County Carey Wooten and her sister-in-law Elizabeth North of Savannah ran the 5K in last Saturday’s Plains Peanut Festival road race. Though they did not bring home any trophies, they stayed around to see Carey’s daughter, Grace Wooten, collect second prize and Katie Lowe, her UGA roommate, collect first prize in the 1-mile fun run. Grace was accompanied by her rescue dog Jane, who also ran the race, but did not receive a prize. Grace and Katie were very excited to receive their award from President Jimmy Carter, something they will remember always; James and Nancy Gaston have returned touring the Republic of Ireland, which Nancy said was very interesting and informative. Even though Nancy is healing from foot surgery and wearing a medical boot, she met the challenge like a trouper. They visited historic museums, toured a sheep farm in Aran Islands, enjoyed Galway Bay, the Cliffs of Moher, which Nancy did not attempt to climb, the Ring of Kerry at Blarney that James did climb and toured a weaving factory in Avoca that has been in continuous operation since 1750; hats off to the Rotary and Kiwanis Clubs of Americus for their outreach in the community last Saturday. They volunteered at Furlow Charter School and painted the curbing red at the student pick-up and drop-off zone. Participating were Kiwanians Jimmy Poole, Roland Kauffman, Chet Crowley, Bill and Meda Krenson (school board member), Sam Peavy, and Rotarians Mary Ann Crowley, Jimmy Whaley, Julie Higgins and Gem Morris; grandson Beau Barrett was home from Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, last weekend; and let’s sing happy birthday to President Jimmy Carter, Rick Powell, who will celebrate the big day with his wife Genie and children, Walker, Cooper and Hannah; and moving to new digs this weekend are Laura Faircloth and her team at A Cut Above.

Leila S. Case lives in Americus.