Stay vacays, long-distance travels mix with days to remember

Published 4:56 pm Saturday, June 3, 2017

Goodness; summer is almost here, though not officially and the gnats are swarming – I’ll never become accustomed to these pesky pests. I have no idea how people dealt with them before the days of air conditioning. Big fans I suppose and some folks still rely on this type of cooling. It works.
What’s on my mind though is the annual Memorial Day service at Andersonville National Historic Site when we, as Americans, have the privilege to pay tribute and honor the men and women that served,  continue to serve and who gave their lives for our nation. It’s an honorable and meaningful occasion that’s become a tradition for me and I’ve missed only a few in the past 40 decades, reporting on most through the pages of this newspaper.
Through this time, I’ve observed the crowd ebbs and flows like the tide with some years higher and other years lower and consisting of fewer young people, an age group that should understand the true meaning of Memorial Day and the price some have paid to keep us free. Our nation’s past and the sacrifices we’ve endured throughout our 241-year history are of ultimate importance.
Sumter County is fortunate to have two National Historic Sites separated by mere miles that stand as living history for all the people and to educate future generations. History can’t be erased and we continually need to be reminded of our past.
Coming on the heels of Memorial Day is another milestone in our nation’s history. The 73rd observance of D-Day is Tuesday, June 6. On that date in 1944, during World War II, American, British and Canadian troops landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, to fight for the liberation from Nazi Germany’s control of Western Europe. The accounts of that era are preserved for posterity in oral histories and books.
On a lighter topic, many Sumter Countians took advantage of the long weekend to venture out of town while others enjoyed their own backyard.
Jami and Casey Shivers and daughters, Clara Grace and Jenna Kate, are among the “stay vacay” group. They graciously hosted 20 of their friends for summer fun at their pond-side home near Buena Vista.  Joining the Shivers were Jody Hagerson and son, Harper, Chris and Katy Hagerson and children, Greer, Hays and Cole, Mitchell and Jennifer Smith and children Mary Thomas, Myles and Neal, and Ben and Pam Buchanan and Barrett. They enjoyed swimming, kayaking, paddle boarding and fishing in the big pond. All this fun in the sun worked up appetites that were satisfied with a Mexican fiesta one evening and low country boil the other.
Sue and George Hall traveled to Tybee Island off Georgia’s east coast for a mini vacation with daughters Amy Hall of Gainesville, and Juliana Hall Smoak, her husband David Smoak and daughters Susannah, Salley and Elizabeth of Athens. Sue says they had a “blast.”
Beth Alston spent a week at “an undisclosed location,” but admits it was a beach, looking well rested and slightly sun-kissed. She said she read three magazines, three books, ate great seafood, shopped, and generally enjoyed being lazy.
Georgia Gatewood Ledbetter and brother, Crisp Gatewood of Tifton, flew to Ponte Vedra, my favorite place in Florida, to sun and visit with his son Layton Gatewood and daughters, Lili and Ginger Gatewood.
Dr. Ben and Michelle Andrews had a glorious time in New York City and enjoyed the city by day and night. Manhattan is another favorite place of mine.
Among the highlights were the 9-11 Memorial that Michelle says is so powerful it moved her to tears And they attended three Broadway plays: the musical “Hamilton,” “The Book of Mormon” and Broadway’s revival of “Cats” that included  a delightful backstage reunion with Americus’ own Christopher Gurr, a principal actor in “Cats,” and among Michelle’s schoolmates. Chris got his start in acting here with Sumter Players’ children’s theater and since then has gone to the top. Michelle says Chris is fabulous throughout the play, performing the role of three cats: Peter, Bustopher Jones and “Gus” Asparagus, the theater cat in which he enthralled the entire audience. Michelle says despite his stardom Chris is still the kind and talented person everyone knew growing up. He is the son of Steve Gurr and Ann Westbrook Gurr.
The Andrewses enjoyed sightseeing on the double-decker bus and dined at some great restaurants, including Rosie O’Grady’s, the Red Flame Greek at the famed Algonquin Hotel and Gallagher’s Steakhouse, which they agreed was exceptional.
Earlier this month, a group of long-time friends: Ed and JoAnn Pope, Bobby and Terry Duncan, Mara and Arnold Durham, Betty Hewitt and Bill Capitan were among a party of 29 who went on a Roads Scholar trip to Montenegro and Croatia, visiting places of interest in these scenic countries and the tiny islands off the coastline of the Adriatic Sea. JoAnn says among the many highlights was visiting a very large and beautiful Croatian national park that has hundreds of lakes and picturesque waterfalls.
Livvy Barry is extending a warm welcome to her baby brother, Beau William Barry, who was born Thursday, June 1, weighing in at a whopping nine and a quarter pounds. Beau is the son of Christy and Scott Barry and grandson of Laura and Jimmy Faircloth.

Leila Sisson Case lives in Americus.