My daughter and I had taken my husband, her father, the Rev. Grover D. Jones to Macon, Ga., for a 3:30 p.m. appointment with a dermatologist who specializes in MOHS surgery for skin cancer. The waiting room was full to overflowing because Dr. Kent was ill and his patients had been rescheduled to another doctor in the Dermatologic Diseases Group. My cell phone rang. When I answered, my sister Louise said, “Our Cousin Otis died a little while ago.”
We both knew he had been very sick and his death was expected. But Otis was only a month away from being a centenarian. He, his close family and cousins had hoped he would live to reach his 100th on December, 1, 2005. He died one month and one day shy of ten decades of a very good life. Somehow we though wise, good, gentlemanly Otis would be with us on and on with his sage but quiet advice, his encouragement, his genuine concern for people.
Otis Cecil Dyer was the first and only child born to Herschel Arthur Dyer (1880-1974) and his first wife, Sarah Rosetta Sullivan Dyer (1882-1920). Otis’s parents married January 5, 1904 and the next year, December 5, 1905, Otis came into their home. Early on, his parents told him of his ancestors who had been early settlers in the Choestoe Valley where the family lived. On his paternal Dyer side he went back to Elisha Jr. and Elizabeth Clark Dyer, James Marion and Eliza Louisa Ingram Dyer, and Bluford Elisha and Sarah Evaline Souther Dyer and on his paternal Souther side he descended from John and Mary “Polly” Combs Souther, John Combs Hayes and Nancy Collins Souther.
Otis’s father, Herschel, was a teacher, educated in county schools near his Choestoe home, and Young Harris College.
Otis’s mother, Sarah Rosetta, Sullivan, had descended from John and Elizabeth Hunter, builder of the Hunter-England old cabin. One of their sons, William, had married Margaret Elizabeth “Peggy” England and they were parents of Margaret Eliza Hunter (1852-1919) who married William L. Sullivan (1856-1897).
When Otis started to elementary school about age 5, he went to whichever school his father was teaching. Some of them were the Henson School (often known as the Wild Boar Institute), Old and New Liberty Schools, Track Rock School, and Choestoe School. When Otis was ready for high school, he attended the Blairsville Collegiate Institute and then Young Harris College. Later he would graduate from Piedmont College, Demorest, Ga., (BA.), the University of Georgia (MA). He did post-graduate work at the University of New York.
When Otis was 15, his mother died on February 27, 1920. She was buried at the Old Choestoe Cemetery near her parents. His father married, second, to Lillie Collins (1888-1975), a sister to his sister-in-law, Azie Collins Dyer, married to his brother Jewel Marion Dyer, and a sister to his brother-in-law, William Harve Collins, married to Herschel’s sister, Northa Maybell Dyer Collins. His stepmother was a loving mother to Otis and always treated him as she did her own children (and Otis’s half-siblings), Valera, India and H. A. Jr.
As a young man, Otis met his bride-to-be at the Blairsville Collegiate Institute. She was Margie Lee Cagle, daughter of Strawbridge and Edith Smith Cagle of Union County. Otis and Margie married November 5, 1927. With the Great Depression a near reality at the time of their marriage, they survived and built a strong home based on Christian principles and commitment.
Otis, the son of a teacher and seeing the example of a good teacher from his father, entered the teaching profession. At first he was a teacher in the Habersham County, Georgia School system and later a principal there.
In 1942, just as America was entering World War II, Otis became an employee of the Georgia Department of Education in the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation. He was a counselor and later supervisor of Training and Placement Services. Otis retired from his position with Vocational Rehabilitation in 1969. Otis and Margie lived in Atlanta. She preceded him in death and was interred in the West View Cemetery, Atlanta.
Otis Dyer and Margie Cagle Dyer had three children, Harry Vaughn, Sarah Edith and Cecil Otis Jr. Sarah and Otis Jr. were twins, but the little boy lived only about 11 months. Otis delighted in his grandchildren, Margie Rose Dyer and Sarah Estelle Adams. He lived to enjoy five great grandchildren.
As his first cousin more the age of his son and daughter than Otis himself, I appreciate the encouragement Otis gave me at tough times in my life. When my mother died, I was one year younger than he had been when his own mother died. He knew how to give love and empathy, because his experience had been similar to mine. When I was struggling to get a college education without much money to support me, Otis encouraged me to keep my goals and press forward. When I became Dyer-Souther Family Historian, he told me many stories of our common ancestry, helping me to see and appreciate what a rich legacy we shared. If I could summarize Otis’s almost 100 years of life, I would use the adjective STALWART. He was a Christian gentleman always, serving as a deacon and in many other capacities in the church. He was a teacher and counselor, a lover of family, and a friend whose loyalty did not waver. Chaucer wrote in his Canterbury Tales: “And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.” And Henry Adams, American educator, wrote: “A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” These quotations characterize Otis Cecil Dyer Sr., stalwart to the end.
c2005 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published Nov. 3, 2005 in The Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.