Held at Choestoe Baptist Church that some of our ancestors helped to found in 1832, the gathering of 163 people rejoiced at being together, at seeing new faces joining our number, at the sheer pleasure of family and roots and heritage.
The theme of this year's reunion was "Meet Our Authors." We invited those we knew in the "clan" who had written books. Seven were present to sign their books and to talk about the stories that had inspired them to write history, comedy and poetry.
Absent was president of the association, Bill Collins, whose book, The Last Deer Trapper, also was featured, by vice-president Keith Jones reading a story from "The Deer Trapper." Dr. Joe Turner, Dr. Eva Nell Mull Wike, Dr. Tom Lumsden, Sylvia Dyer Turnage, Charles Souther, Keith Jones and Ethelene Jones were present and folks enjoyed talking to them and getting signed copies of the author's books. Reports coming in by e-mail since the reunion term the event "fun and enjoyable," and "I loved hearing the authors."
All the long journey back to my present home in Milledgeville gave me four hours to reflect upon the reunion. Many thoughts went through my mind.
I thought of the "In Memoriam" period of our reunion program. Each year the list of our honored dead who have passed in the last year seems to increase. It is a solemn time of remembering. We recall going to school and church together, keeping in touch spasmodically as the years roll by, enjoying a once-a-year reunion when family ties are renewed. Maybe seeing them as "looking over the windows of heaven" to see us below is only a fanciful idea I have of re-identification with our beloved departed. But I imagined that "great cloud of witnesses" Paul the Apostle writes about. I see them applauding us. They are happy that we still remember the important virtues of family togetherness. The reunion was a little preview of heaven right here on earth.
Our honored dead who passed during the last year were James Perry Dyer (1923-2008), Anna Mae Dyer Burnett (1922- 2008), Harry Vaughn Dyer (1929- 2007), Carolyn Collins Kelly (1950-2008); James Vaughn Dyer (1916-2008), Connor Andrew Brock Carmichael (3 months, 2007), Dr. Howard Van Ness Morter (1916-2007), Opal L. Sullivan (1917-2007), Clara Belle Collins Duckworth (1919-2008), Raymond Sullivan (1919-2007), Robert Edward Moose (1970-2008), John Chester Dyer (1932-2008), Clinton Samuel Kelly (1927- 2007), Pearl Souther Smallwood (1919-2007) and Francis Homer Hunter, Jr. (1922-2007). These had a relationship to members of the Dyer-Souther family: Mildred Ensley Brown Turner Haigler (1930-2007) and Ruby Gibson Shook (1916-2008). We sang together "Amazing Grace" after standing in tribute as names were read.
I missed people who were not present. Mrs. Dora Hunter Allison Spiva has been our "oldest present" since the death of our historian emeritus, Watson Benjamin Dyer. Had she been present this year, at age 103, she would have received again the "eldest present” certificate. Mrs. Dora, Aunt Dora, Teacher Dora, know that we missed you. The reunion just wasn't the same without you. Several of her nieces and nephews, usually present, were not in attendance. This segment of our family line was sorely missed.
The oldest present was Mrs. Irene Coker Brown, widow of Emory Brown. At age 99, she amazed us all by her keenness and ability to walk on her own. She is a tower of fortitude and inspiration.
The youngest present was little Maddox Kidd, two-and-one half week old infant of Jessica Kidd. Proud grandmother Deborah Rich Leach and proud great grandmother Ann Rich were present to see this newest member of the clan receive a certificate. This family descends through Nancy Dyer Rich.
Roma Sue Turner Collins, having recently sustained a fall and serious bone breaks, was in the Northeast Georgia Medical Center at Gainesville in intense therapy section. Her husband Clyde, and her son, Bill (president of our Association) were in Gainesville visiting Sue. We missed you - and prayed for you. Edna Ruth England Rich was thoughtful enough to bring a huge "get well" card to be signed to take to Sue.
The "farthest distance" people were from Hawaii- our cousin Linda Nahser Beadle and her husband Wes. They came by way of Wetumpka, AL where Linda's sister, Sandra Nahser Gilley and her husband, Scott, joined in the entourage to bring the girls' mother, beautiful Kathleen Dyer Nahser to the reunion. I needed a camera in hand when mother and daughters stood together talking to me. They formed a trio of classic beauty, poise and love. Thank you, Linda, for traveling so far to the reunion!
My "children" from Liberia, West Africa were present, Magdalene and David Sunday-gar. But we could not count them as "traveling farthest." They have lived in Gainesville since 2000. David earned an AA from Gainesville College and a BS in Business Administration from North Georgia College. He is now in seminary working on his master's degree. They plan to return to Africa after David completes his education. Ethelene and Grover met David when they went to Africa for a mission trip in the summer of 1986, and they have kept in close contact with David since. "It's a small world, after all."
Many were present for the first time, and we heartily welcomed them to the gathering. We expect to hear from them and to see them back in forthcoming years.
The food was unbelievable. Thanks to those who volunteered to get the tables spread with the most delectable-looking food imaginable. Somehow, a food serving committee was not appointed this year. Volunteers, you know who you are, thank you! You came through with flying colors.
In business session, Reid Dyer was elected vice-president. The other officers remain the same: Bill Collins, President; Janice Lance, Secretary; Marie Knight and Lee Knight, Treasurers of New Liberty Cemetery Fund; Ethelene Jones, Historian and Newsletter Editor; and these named officers are also trustees, as is Keith Jones, who has served for several years as vice-president. Joe Dyer remains as an advisory member of the Trustees. A committee appointed to draw plans and implement the monument honoring Elisha Dyer, Jr. was given to Reid Dyer, Harold Dyer, Lee Knight, and Ethelene Jones, Historian. We heard that $11,000 is now in the cemetery fund drawing interest for upkeep and care of the cemetery, and the newsletter/ reunion fund has a balance of $2,600, with some bills current for postage and newsletter distribution. Edward Dyer reported that the Dyer Family Bible is now on display at the Union County Historical Society in a lovely display case. Edna Ruth England Rich told the group of the Historical Society's latest project, the "history cards."
The miles rolled away and I left the beloved mountains of Choestoe behind. But the reflections of a day at the reunion will remain as a sweet aura surrounding me for the next year. I will bask in the afterglow- until we meet again.
c 2008 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published July 24, 2008 in The Union Sentinel, Blairsville, GA. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.