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Leila Case: Accentuate the positive of 2016; welcome New Year with gusto

Happy New Year.
Wow, how time flies. It doesn’t seem like an entire year has melted from one day into another as the world turns on its axis.
Looking back at the past year, it’s the positive experiences I want to remember and not the negative.
So, let’s take the late lyrist Johnny Mercer’s advice, and “Accentuate the Positive” in life. No one gets out without a bag of rocks lying around somewhere and somehow a bigger bag than usual landed at our doorstep so I am crushing it right here and now.
Throughout the year, I enjoyed meeting so many fascinating people through various free-lance writing assignments and peeking inside their lives and achievements. The encounters ranged the gamut from serious, funny, and a few sad. I learned so much and enjoyed relating what I learned to readers.
In early January I met an intriguing, ambitious, and positive couple, Elena Carne and Rene Vzcategui who moved here from Miami with their young daughters, Angeline, Penelope, and Samantha, especially to establish a new home and their manufacturing business TePuy Activewear on North Dudley Street. Venezuelan natives and now proud U.S. citizens, they say they have found their home in Americus and find this is a great location for the activewear designed by Elena. During the past year, the company has grown and spread its wings. It is still in the same location but the facility was recently upgraded by the property owners, John Stovall and Bill Harris Jr.
Also in January, I traveled to Thomasville to gather information about the city’s annual Rose Show Festival that celebrated its 95th anniversary last April, a significant milestone in its history and to interview Miss Rose Queen 1958. Cecelia Chesnut Lockerman. Her remark when asked if she was surprised when tapped Festival Queen? “I intended to get it!” That’s positive thinking.
Another noteworthy event I covered was the visit of U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) of Marietta, who spoke at the Americus Rotary Club last winter. He is a knowledgeable man and great senate leader. I, for one, am thankful he was re-elected to the seat and I know he will be a valuable asset in this new presidential administration.
In February I met and interviewed Americus City Manager Steve Kennedy and heard his plans to develop and implement future city improvements and work with the elected officials and staff.  His proposals are going into place and good things are happening citywide. I am thrilled.
Meeting with the Kinnebrew family, native Sumter Countians, on two separate occasions, I was captivated to learn how Hulme and Janet Kinnebrew, along with their son Easton, turned two ugly duckling grain silos on their farm in the New Era community into a charming guest house. I was impressed. Then last fall, I was equally impressed when Easton harvested his first olive crop from a portion of the 13,000 olive trees he raises over 20 acres; he had the fruit cold pressed, and turned into delicious olive oil for cooking or making salad dressing.
One of the “feel good” stories was about Americus resident Lorena Sabbs and the generous donation of her incredible collection of almost 400 audio books to the Lenora G. Lambert Community Center on North Jackson Street. I enjoyed rekindling my friendship with Lorena, meeting some of her friends and touring the Community Center. It is an ideal place for seniors to visit and enjoy one another’s friendship.
Then there were the authors: Virginia Willis, nationally-known cookbook author from Georgia, and new author Alison Inhulsen of Ellaville, who has written a charming children’s book.
Then there were the more serious stories: the annual Memorial Day ceremony at Andersonville National Cemetery and the impressive National POW/MIA Recognition Day, again at the historic site, an observance filled with moving and heart-rending accounts of courageous acts of bravery and tributes. I won’t soon forget the remarks made by former POW Lt. Don Peppard, U.S. Navy retired, who along with 82 shipmates aboard the USS Pueblo were taken prisoners of war by North Korea on Jan. 23, 1968, and endured 11 months of torture before being released. I recall the silence that fell over the large audience as they listened intently to Peppard’s eye witness account.
But we’ll end 2016 on a cheerful note about the successful art show and sale at Calvary Episcopal Church; the exceptional live productions at the Rylander Theater; the beautiful weddings we attended; countless family celebrations; the delicious meals at local restaurants; the downtown festiveness at First Fridays, and the two book clubs I meet with as well as more events – too many to name.
Most of all I’m thankful for our dear families, friends, and that I have the great opportunity to tell you all about it through the pages of this newspaper.
Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.