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Spring Chickens


Photos courtesy of the Fitzgerald Area Convention & Visitors Bureau

Tis the season to celebrate anew the prized poultry of Fitzgerald, Georgia.

For the last 24 years (excluding 2020 because of the coronavirus pandemic), the small town of Fitzgerald in south central Georgia has strutted its stuff with its annual Wild Chicken Festival.

While event organizers aren’t counting their chickens before they hatch, they plan to hold the festival, as long as conditions allow, on March 19 and 20 this year.

“We’re diligently planning as if we’re going to have it, and we’re praying that fate, luck and God shine on us,” says Barry Peavey, the festival chairman.

Even if the town has to cancel the festival again this year, every self-respecting Georgian should know about this one-of-a-kind event because it will be back – sooner, hopefully, rather than later.

First, though, a little history.

Fair or Fowl
The forerunner to the Wild Chicken Festival was the Rattlesnake Roundup, which lasted 30-some years, but that’s another story for another day. (Let’s just say the nice folks at the state Department of Natural Resources asked the fine citizens of Fitzgerald to please refrain from catching the snakes.)

Instead, chickens have ruled the roost in Fitzgerald since the 1960s when the Georgia DNR stocked Burmese wild jungle fowl, native to India, all across the state as an additional game bird to be hunted like pheasant or quail.

Flocks of these tiny colorful birds, which resemble fighting game chickens with their orange and yellow ruffs and black tail feathers, were released several miles from Fitzgerald at the Ocmulgee River.

Populations of the bird never took hold in other parts of the state. For some reason, however, they left the river site and made their way to downtown Fitzgerald, where they have propagated and prospered ever since.

“One of the DNR employees hatched eggs under bantams and started the whole population. They just walk around downtown,” says Peavey. “The population has ebbed and flowed through the years. The red-tailed hawk also has made a comeback as a predator, particularly for the chicks.”

Predators such as foxes and bobcats likely had something to say about the presence of the interloping chickens as well, but the exotic jungle fowl might be smarter than the average bird.

After all, if drawn into a fight, these chickens are known to channel their inner Muhammad Ali and think out their moves. Other birdbrained breeds step straight into the ruckus.

Peavey estimates that the current wild chicken population is more than 500 but less than 1,000, and Fitzgerald residents have a fair or “fowl” attitude toward their Burmese chicken brethren.

According to the festival website, “Some folks buy seed and feed them regularly; others chase them out of their yards and gardens with a broom and a few choice words.”

The chickens wake up residents in the morning and create minor traffic jams, but some people claim that they also keep away bugs. For several years, the local Humane Society even had a fundraiser where people could drop donations in a love jug or a hate jug to express their sentiments about the chickenss

“The love jug always won,” says Peavey.

So, naturally, Fitzgerald wants to celebrate its favorite feathered friends.

“They’re way more interesting than squirrels,” Peavey says. “To my knowledge, no one eats them for food. That’s not to say that one of them hasn’t landed in a pot.”

Something to Crow About
Fitzgerald will have something to crow about when the Wild Chicken Festival kicks off Friday night with a dance party and a concert featuring The Bushmen.

However, if you’re going to a festival in praise of prized poultry, then you might as well wake up with the chickens for the 6 a.m. pancake breakfast on Saturday as well.

Other activities include a 5K and 1-mile fun run; pine wood derby; an artisan market with upscale, handmade wares; a juried art exhibit called Wild Chicken Soup (because, why not?); classic car cruise; street vendors; bungee jumps; kids’ characters and of course, a chicken crowing contest.

Judged by local dignitaries, the crowing contest has a children’s and an adults’ division.

“You should see some of the adults get into it, complete with theatrics and strutting,” says Peavey. “And there’s nothing like seeing a five-year-old girl with curly blonde hair walk out on stage and say, ‘Cock-a-doodle-doo.’”

The Poultry Palace, a traveling trained chicken “Eggzibit” based in the Albany, Georgia area, will be on hand as well. “They will bring a portable chicken coop full of exotic chickens that you don’t see in the barnyard like silkies and a Rhode Island red rooster,” Peavey says.

People can have their pictures made with the chickens and watch the birds peck out tunes on a piano.

This year, to lessen the chances of transmitting covid-19, vendor booths will be more spaced out. Masks and social distancing also will be encouraged. Otherwise, the festival should carry on as usual.

“We’re going back to our roots and have some local musicians and a good, old-fashioned downtown street festival,” Peavey says. “Folks seem to be shifting their travels to smaller towns. We’re going to celebrate small town life, get together and have fun, and eat funnel cakes and sausage dogs.”

Small Town Charm
Families and their broods can perch overnight at one of several area motels or a variety of Airbnbs. In the future, a giant chicken topiary that is under construction also will include a rentable room for overnight stays. At more than 62 feet in height, the steel-framed chicken with a copper wattle and crest will be the world’s tallest topiary upon completion.

“He hasn’t grown in yet,” says Peavey, “but he’ll put Fitzgerald on the map.”

Rich in history and small town charm, Fitzgerald isn’t just chicken-centric.

“Fitzgerald has brick streets in the historic district and varying architectures because the founders were from all different parts of the United States,” says Brandy Elrod, the director of Tourism, Arts & Culture. “We also have a lot of cute Mom and Pop shops downtown.”

Visitors can take a self-guided walking, biking or driving Architectural Treasures Tour or see the 1936 art deco Grand Theatre. The Depot houses the Blue & Gray Museum, which has been renovated and redesigned to tell the founding story of Fitzgerald and its Civil War roots. The Vintage Kitchen Museum displays kitchens from the mid-1800s to the present day.

“Fitzgerald is a quirky little town. The people are friendly, and there is a lot to see and do here,” Elrod says. “It’s worth the drive.”

The Wild Chicken Festival just might be the perfect catalyst for a road trip.

“I want to see friends and neighbors and strangers. Eating a funnel cake in a mall just isn’t the same. It’s way more fun to spill powdered sugar down the front of your shirt at a festival,” Peavey says. “After 24 years, we’re an overnight success.”

If You Go:

What: Wild Chicken Festival

When: 7 p.m. – 10 p.m. Friday, March 19 and all day Saturday, March 20

Where: Historic Downtown Fitzgerald, Georgia

How Much: Free admission

More Info: wildchickenfestival.com or fitzgeraldga.org

By Morgan Davis




Open House

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

Designed for equal parts of entertainment and R&R, this recently remodeled contemporary home in Martinez is a place where family and friends are always welcome.

When it comes to home renovations, one thing often leads to another. And another. And another. Just ask Amy and Bryan Tuschen of Martinez. They started renovating their home in Highview Acres in October 2018 and didn’t finish until March 30, 2020. The process began simply enough, however.

“This whole renovation started as ‘Let’s get rid of the wall-to-wall carpeting and popcorn ceiling,’ and then it went way beyond that,” says Amy.

‘Hospitality Bug’
The Tuschens completely changed the look of the house, where they have lived since 1998, from traditional to contemporary by following a carefully orchestrated plan.

“We established the color scheme with lots of grays and whites first,” Amy says.

They purchased new furnishings for the house before they started the renovations, giving away most of their previous furniture to family members.

Decorative elements such as wallpaper and tile are repeated in different places in the house. In addition, Amy says, “All of the hardware and all of the cabinets are the same throughout the house. It simplifies everything.”

Instead of draperies they opted for darkening, pull-down shades to cover the windows. And, even though the Tuschens – parents to three grown children, Maygen, Morgan and Matthew – are empty nesters, the house still needed to accommodate a crowd.

“We entertain regularly, so it’s nice to be able to share the house with friends and family,” says Amy. “We have that hospitality bug.”

Their home has been the site of retirement, graduation and murder mystery parties – some of which Amy has written herself. In December, they had a rehearsal dinner and wedding reception for Morgan and her new husband, Tim, and drop-ins on three different days so the get-togethers could be properly social distanced.

Their affiliation with Fort Gordon keeps them busy as well. Amy, who served in the U.S. Army and was stationed in Germany from 1990 to 1998, is the Fort Gordon Historical Society director. Bryan, a financial advisor and self-described South Dakota “farm boy” who loves singing and karaoke, volunteers as the national director for the Signal Corps Regimental Association.

“We host a lot of events because of the Signal Corps,” he says.

To accommodate their guests, the Tuschens have two different driveways on their three-acre property that overlooks a lake. The rear driveway is for their personal use, and a ramp leads to the lower level of the house.

The long drive in front of the house serves notice that people are arriving someplace special. American flags are mounted on a wooden privacy fence alongside the driveway, and another American flag is raised on a pole by the house.

The exterior of the home features a double cupola, and pre-fabricated rock separates the brick of the original house from the brick of their new addition.

“We wanted to bring the house forward and tie in the rec room,” says Amy.

Travel-Inspired Décor
Statement-making features continue in the entryway where wallpaper from China, which has stacked triangle shapes, covers a wall that extends to the lower level of the house. (The same wallpaper is used on accent walls in the prayer room and the rec room.) Three pulleys with an Edison lightbulb hang in front of the wall.

The bedrooms are upstairs, which is the street level of the house, and they open onto a covered deck. The Tuschens converted the former master bedroom into an office for Bryan, and before the renovation, the two walk-in closets with built-in drawers in the now master bedroom were two of their children’s bedrooms.

The master bedroom is furnished with a suite of distressed white furniture and a Singer sewing machine – exhibiting another one of Amy’s talents.

As part of the addition, the master bath also includes a spa area. The bath features ceramic tile flooring, a tile walk-in shower with two rain showerheads and two rectangular vessel sinks.

“We travel to Cancun and Mexico a lot, so this room was inspired by our travels,” says Amy. “We bring our vacations to our home.”

Seems only natural. In addition to their “hospitality bug,” the Tuschens, who have been married for 30 years, also have a “travel bug.” After all, they met in college on a spring break trip to South Padre Island, Texas in March 1989.

Amy and Bryan, who attended different Midwestern schools, were among a busload of students that got stranded in Dallas because of snow – yes, snow – and mechanical problems on one of the buses.

“We were stuck at a Denny’s Restaurant for 18 hours, so we had a lot of time to talk,” says Bryan. “Our ninth time together, we got engaged. Our 13th time together, we got married.”

To commemorate their various excursions, they have a Tuschen Family Travels map, where small round-headed pushpins mark the places they have been, in their new garage. The garage, also part of the addition, features an epoxy floor that allows them to expand their entertainment space, and it adjoins the rec room.

The house originally had a detached garage, which they never used as a garage, and the Tuschens converted it to a rec room in 2001.

“We knew we still wanted the play space. We just had to attach it,” Amy says. “It’s been a great hangout for kids and adults.”

Some of the artwork in the room features two girls and a boy, representing the Tuschens’ children. One of their teachers painted a picture of the three children that hangs on one wall. Another painting, which they found in Asheville, North Carolina, shows two girls and a boy from behind walking on a beach. “They literally could have been our kids,” says Bryan.

The rec room also includes a pool table, ceiling fan, tile flooring and a sitting area with a TV and an electric insert fireplace.

Functional & Fun
However, the rec room isn’t the only entertainment area in the house. Open stairs lead from the main entryway to the living and entertainment space downstairs.

“This was the last open staircase built in Columbia County,” Bryan says. “They don’t allow them anymore, but it was pre-approved.”

To take advantage of every bit of available real estate, a built-in wine rack and a small wine fridge are tucked behind the stairs.

The open living room, dining area and kitchen offer plenty of room for guests – even in this day and age of social distancing. Before opening up the spaces in the renovation, walls divided them into separate rooms.

The living room previously featured a stone wall with a gas fireplace. However, instead of ripping out the stone, they covered it with a blue accent wall where the wood is placed on the diagonal. They installed an electric fireplace, which features a marble tile surround, on the wall. Depending on the occasion and the mood, the Tuschens can change the colors of the flames and the rocks in the fireplace.

A grandfather clock that the couple got when they were married fits perfectly into a wall nook, and a cuckoo clock from Germany hangs on a wall in the living room.

Other décor includes Leyk Lighthouses, handmade ceramic houses that are fashioned after the famous German Fachwerkhaus, or half-timbered house. They are referred to as “Lighthouses” because they hold tealight candles.

The dining area separates the living room and kitchen. “We can seat up to 12 people at the table,” says Bryan. “We just turn it longways.”

The kitchen features a large island with a built-in microwave and a sink with filtered water, a warming drawer, a stainless steel farmhouse sink and a confection stovetop. Cabinet doors to the refrigerator blend into the wall, and horizontally stacked subway tiles make up the backsplash. While the island countertop is quartz, the perimeter countertops are ceramic tile.

Doubling as a catering area for parties, the walk-in pantry features a fresh coffee maker where Bryan grinds his beans every morning, a second refrigerator and an ice machine. For variety, the subway tile in the pantry is arranged in a staggered, or running bond, pattern.

Two sets of double doors, which provide plenty of ventilation when they’re open, replaced sliding doors in the living space. The doors lead to the outdoor kitchen and sitting area of the covered patio.

Constructed with individual stones, the outdoor kitchen includes a Kamado Joe grill, gas grill, compact outdoor refrigerator and ceramic tile countertops.

The sitting area, where the Tuschens watch football games in the fall, features wicker furniture and an antique chest. A double-decker, raised-hearth, stacked-stone, wood-burning fireplace extends from the lower to the upper level, which are connected by a spiral staircase with wide wooden steps.

Quiet Time
As much as Amy and Bryan enjoy company, they relish their quiet time as well. And their house is full of spots to take in a little R&R.

A prayer room includes two comfortable chairs, a small refrigerator, cabinets and a window that overlooks their gardens.

“I like to sit there with a cup of tea,” says Amy. “It’s a nice way to start my day with the quiet.”

Her late mother made the angel quilt that hangs on one wall. She also cross stitched an angel for each of her four daughters, and Amy’s framed angel hangs on another wall in the prayer room. Porcelain angels in the family room, artwork and vases also belonged to Amy’s mother.

A sliding barn door leads to the spa area, which includes a sauna, steam bath, exercise room and massage table. “We have massage therapists that come to the house,” says Bryan. “When we work out, we can head to the steam room afterward.”

They also relax outside in their backyard gardens or by the pool. Amy enjoys working in the raised beds that include a berry, an herb and a vegetable garden. She grows blueberries and blackberries as well as mint, parsley and rosemary.

The Tuschens renovated the outdoor area for their 25th wedding anniversary, adding the outdoor kitchen and redoing the swimming pool, which is 4 1/2 feet deep from end to end. They also added a raised deck and built a hot tub, which is illuminated by a pair of solar-powered lights.

A statue of two girls and a boy, which they found in New Orleans, sits beneath a pine tree near the pool. Several potted plumerias, tropical trees whose flowers are used to make Hawaiian leis, are placed around the pool. A tea olive tree grows by the deck.

They added a waterfall feature to the koi pond and replaced a wooden bridge between the two with a metal bridge. A deck by the lake, where they keep their kayaks, includes a gazebo and benches.

“We’re so close to everything. But when we’re in the back, we feel like we’re all alone,” says Amy. “Even with just the two of us here, there’s not a lot of unused space.”

By Betsy Gilliland

A Love Story to Remember


(From left) Abigail Johnson, Abigail Jessee and Georgia Martinez share the bonds of friendship and the appreciation of a good love story. Through their businesses, they held a contest, which was open to all CSRA residents, to highlight the love stories of four local couples. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot from the business owners and the opportunity to tell their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

As the brainchild of Abigail Jessee of Abigail Marie Creative, “A Love Story to Remember” tells the love stories of four local couples. She started her business to share people’s lives, and particularly their love stories, through photography.

“I love a good wedding photo, but I started thinking, ‘Where are all of the other love stories?’” she says.

Enlisting the aid of her friends, Abigail Johnson of Rosilie’s Rentals and Georgia Martinez of Georgia Miller Photography, they launched the project with a contest to showcase the love stories of local residents. The winners received a complimentary photo shoot and the opportunity to share their stories in Columbia County Magazine.

Abigail Jessee and Georgia shared photography duties; Abigail Johnson provided vintage props for the photo shoots.

“The best part about this process was reading all of the submissions,” says Abigail Jessee. “I was so encouraged that every story was unique its own way.”

With her camera, Georgia loves to peek behind the scenes. “Taking part in this project was an enriching, beautiful experience for me. Although I am often photographing what is visible to the eye, I truly believe it is the story behind a photograph that gives it meaning and life,” she says. “Our love stories are timeless, unique, and they connect us all.”

Abigail Johnson is fascinated by every detail of people’s lives. Her interest in their histories grew out of the mementoes and memories that her grandfather saved of her late grandmother, Barbara Roselie, whom she never met.

“I’m so thankful my PaPa kept their love story alive through her things, photos and his memories. It made me realize how captivating history and memories can be,” she says. “It was through my grandparents and their epic love story that my love for all things sentimental, unique and antique really began.”

The contest was open to all CSRA residents. Couples could nominate themselves or be nominated by someone else.

The featured couples include an engaged pair that is getting married in May – pandemic or not, a husband and wife that finally admitted their true feelings for each other and eloped after a 12-year friendship, fun-loving empty nesters who make the most of every moment they spend together and mentor other young couples, and great-grandparents (and great dancers) who have been married for 51 years. Enjoy.

Near Misses


Augusta residents Brynn Allen and Nick Woo don’t plan to let covid-19 or anything else stop them from getting married on May 8, especially after a lifetime of near misses.

Both of them attended elementary school at St. Mary on the Hill Catholic School. Even though each grade had only two classes, they never were in the same one. Growing up, they knew lots of the same people, but not each other. “When we got older, we continued to just barely miss each other,” says Brynn. “Nick and I had so many mutual friends and were at so many of the same events together, it is almost laughable how we just kept missing each other.”

Those circumstances finally changed after a day at Clarks Hill Lake with friends the summer before their senior year in high school — Nick at Greenbrier High School and Brynn at Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School. “I think we might have been the only two that didn’t know each other,” Brynn says.

For their first date—which ended up being spread over two days—they sat on the dock at Savannah Rapids Pavilion and talked for hours. They had planned to get takeout food from Toki, but it didn’t work out. When they went back to the dock the next day to “finish” their date, they had Toki to-go boxes in hand.

Once they finally started dating, they also had to overcome the challenges of a long-distance relationship. Brynn went to Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville, while Nick recently graduated from Augusta University. The separation wasn’t easy, they agree, but it allowed them space to grow as individuals.

Nick and Brynn have been together six years, but after a few months, she knew he was the man she wanted to marry. He proposed to her in July by recreating their first date with another Toki picnic on the Savannah Rapids dock. “To pop the question, there couldn’t have been better spot to do it,” he says.

They call communication the foundation of their relationship.

“You need to be vulnerable with that person you care about, open up and have the hard conversations,” Nick says.

“She pushes me to be the best I can be, and she supports me  in any endeavor.”

In addition, they simply have fun together and enjoy each other’s company.

“Every single year we have been together has been like a new year and a new adventure,” Brynn says.

At Last


All it took for Kayla and Jake Sasser to elope to Edisto Beach, South Carolina in December 2018 was a dozen years as best friends and a “what if?” or two along the way.

They met in 2006 when Kayla moved from her native West Virginia to Statesboro to pursue her master’s degree. She later moved to Millen to supplement her income with a job at BB&T after a bank employee – who is now her mother-in-law – told her about an opening there.

Kayla, who also taught gymnastics, and Jake met at a community talent show where she went to watch one of her students and he went to see his brother play in a band. Afterward, they ran into each other at a gas station.

“We ended up riding around together that night,” says Kayla. “What a small town thing to do.”

They remained friends, even after she moved back to West Virginia and then to North Carolina. Whether they talked every day for a week or went for a month without talking, they always picked up where they had left off.

“At some point in our friendship, I realized that if we ever dated and got serious, that would be it. And that’s why we never dated,” says Jake. “I didn’t want to commit to anything — I had to grow up.”

In February 2017, while living in North Carolina, Kayla emailed Jake and told him how she felt about him. Once she hit “send,” she knew they would be together or their friendship would end.

When he received her email, Jake says, “My first thought was, ‘I don’t know how to deal with this right now.’ I knew if I responded, that was going to be that. I wasn’t ready for that.”

“That,” of course, was a lifelong commitment.

After he didn’t respond, Kayla thought she had her answer. She eventually heard from Jake, and he said, “You’re my best friend, but I’m not good at relationships.”

Kayla started dating someone else that summer, and they got engaged. She kept wondering “what if,” though, and two months before the wedding she called Jake to tell him she was having doubts.

“She caught me off guard with a phone call one afternoon. And that was that,” says Jake. “You can avoid the inevitable for two years before it really starts to nip at your heels.”

Taken aback or not, this time he was ready. He told her, “You aren’t supposed to marry him because you’re supposed to marry m

Covid & Campus Life


Four university freshmen from Columbia County share their experiences of going off to college during the coronavirus pandemic.

The first year of college can be a time of excitement, anticipation, adventure, challenge, trepidation, self-discovery and personal growth all at once.

For the college Class of 2024, however, the worldwide coronavirus pandemic added one more layer to these students’ introduction to campus life. Not only did they have to finish their senior year of high school online. They also had to start their freshman year of college amid the uncertainty, rules and regulations of the pandemic.

These freshmen approached their first semester with strength and resilience, however, to make the most of their college experience. If life as we once knew it hasn’t returned by the end of their freshman year, here’s hoping they can start their sophomore year under more normal circumstances.

In this Q&A, which has been edited for space and clarity, they described what life on campus was like during their first semester of college.

Sara Blake Tully
Augusta University freshman, business major

Did covid influence where you decided to go to college?
Covid didn’t affect my decision to go to AU. I want to transfer to UGA next year, but with everything being so crazy, I’m glad I decided to stay home and live at my parents’ house.

What kind of rules or restrictions did you have to follow on campus because of covid?
We had to wear masks in every building we went in. If we were walking outside, we could bring our masks down. The majority of time that I was on campus, I had to have my mask on.

In the classrooms, the chairs and desks and tables were set up six feet apart. There were a lot less people in class than usual. At the food court, we had to stand in line six feet apart. We had tables, but only a limited number of people could sit at each table.

What happened when someone tested positive for covid-19? And did you have to isolate or quarantine for any reason?
I am not quite sure what would happen if a student tests positive for covid-19, but I did not have to quarantine or isolate for any reason.

Were your classes online or in-person?
I had two online classes and two in-person classes. I went to campus every morning. I took biology and history online, and public speaking and pre-calculus in-person. For biology, we got handouts to answer questions that went along with videos.

Did finishing high school online help you adjust to online classes in college?
It kind of helped. When we first went online in high school, no one knew what to do at first. It’s different now. Teachers are better at doing online lectures and working with all of the technology. 

Have you had to adjust your learning style because of online classes?
Online learning for me is a lot harder than in-person because I can’t grasp the information as well. I had to study more and change my focus. It was all on school. I was juggling two things at once with online and in-person classes.

What were you most looking forward to about going to college?
Getting a fresh start, being more independent and meeting new people.

What was reality like?
It was very isolated because of the masks. It wasn’t as personable. You couldn’t meet people in class. You couldn’t really talk because of the masks. It made things a little lonelier since most of my friends went off to school. Corona didn’t make it any easier.

I rushed, though, and joined a sorority – ADPi. It was supposed to be in-person, but we did it over Zoom. It was awkward because you’re talking over a computer screen. Sometimes there were awkward silences because of the internet connection.

We had chapter meetings over Zoom, but we did some sisterhood events. We wore masks for them. We had to have a limited number of people at the events, but I could still hang out with some of the girls. We did things outside. We would go to a park or have a picnic. We social distanced.

How do you date during covid?
(laughing) You don’t. it’s really difficult to do that.

What has been the biggest disappointment or challenge about going to college during covid?
It’s not getting the full college experience. I still went to campus, which I loved. But it was not the same because there was hardly anyone there.

Was anything better than you expected?
Deciding to stay home for school has been better than I thought. It’s been nice living at home. It’s been a good stress reliever from school.

Ten, 15 or 20 years from now, how will you look back on this experience?
I’ll definitely have many stories I can tell my kids. And it has been character building. I had to learn how to interact with people and teachers differently. I have learned not to take anything for granted. I know everyone wants to go back to how life was before corona.

Bryant Thomas
Clemson University freshman, pre-business major

Did covid influence where you decided to go to college?
No. My dad went to Clemson, so I’ve always wanted to go to Clemson.

Where are you living this year?
In a dorm with my roommate. We can only have a limited amount of other people in our dorm. And when they come in, they have to wear a mask. We don’t have any rules with our roommate because we’re around each other so much. But if we have other people in, they have to wear a mask.

What kind of rules or restrictions did you have to follow on campus because of covid?Any building you went into, you had to be wearing a mask. When you were outside, if social distancing couldn’t be guaranteed, you had to wear a mask. You had to make appointments to go into the campus gym or the library.

There weren’t as many dining options. Some of the dining halls were closed because of covid, and there were a lot less food options than there normally would be. For football games, they didn’t give out as many tickets to students, and there was social distancing. I didn’t get to go to any games.

What happened when someone tested positive for covid-19? And did you have to isolate or quarantine for any reason?
Anyone who tested positive for covid-19 at Clemson had to enter 10-day isolation, and his or her roommate had to enter 14-day quarantine, even if they tested negative. I did have to isolate around the beginning of October because I tested positive for covid-19. I had a fever and body aches for about three days, and then a cough and a sore throat for about a week.

Were your classes online or in-person?
Most of them were online. For some, I only went in-person on certain days of the week. I had an economics and a geology class that were all online. My sociology, math and business classes and an entrepreneurial elective were online and in-person. The professors posted video lectures.

How did taking classes online work with a roommate?
We just ignored each other, I guess. 

Did finishing high school online help you adjust to online classes in college?
It helped. It was still kind of frustrating, though, having to sit in your dorm all day.

Have you had to adjust your learning style because of online classes?
I think of myself as more of a hands-on learner, and that’s just difficult to do through Zoom. I’ve had to switch to a more visual, auditory learning style.

What were you looking forward to most about going to college?
I was looking forward to being independent, living on my own and making new friends. That’s been a lot harder this year because of covid, but I still found ways to meet new people by getting involved in campus organizations and through my dorm.

I didn’t join a fraternity. I might next semester, but I’m not sure. Because of covid, we’re all hesitant. They can’t really do many events. We would have to go through rush on Zoom. But everyone here is sick of Zoom calls because that’s what we do for most of our classes.

How do you date during covid?
As long as you keep your group small, there isn’t really any problem. And a lot of the businesses and restaurants are still open.

What has been the biggest disappointment or challenge about going to college during covid?
I guess not really being able to go out and do anything. There are, of course, restrictions on gatherings or parties. I only saw a few situations where big groups got busted up. It was frustrating that we couldn’t have people in the dorm or go to class in person.

Was anything better than you expected?
Despite all of the covid, I think the university tried really hard to make this semester as normal as it could be. By not sending us home when our cases went up, that made it easier to go out and make new friends.

Ten, 15 or 20 years from now, how will you look back on this experience?
It’s like being part of history. I think a lot of things are going to change even after covid goes away. If I can live through this, I can make it through anything.

Sanders Hackett
University of Georgia freshman, civil engineering major

Did covid influence where you decided to go to college?
No. I told my mom when I was 4 or 5 years old that I wanted to go to UGA, and that’s what I worked for all throughout school. When I got accepted – worldwide pandemic or not – I wanted to go to UGA.

What kind of rules or restrictions did you have to follow on campus because of covid?
At UGA, the rules are pretty strict. Anytime you’re inside any sort of building, even at the gym, you have to have a mask on. Everywhere is marked off with little dots six feet apart. Anywhere you go, there’s always hand sanitizer and wipes. If you touch something that other people may touch, you wipe it down afterward.

In the dorm, it’s you and your roommate. Other than that, there are no visitors and no guests. Not even people from your own hall are supposed to be in your room.

The meal plan and the dining halls have been one of the biggest changes. When we started school, it was takeout only and the options were limited. The lines were long. Some people dropped their meal plan, but I didn’t.

I give UGA a lot of credit for asking students what they could do to better serve us. It became a more efficient process, and there were some dine-in options. The food variety got much better.

What happened when someone tested positive for covid-19? And did you have to isolate or quarantine for any reason?
When someone tested positive at UGA, they were immediately sent to isolation in a specifically designed dorm for people who test positive for covid-19. They were then given the option to go home or to stay in the isolation dorm. However, they were not allowed to return to campus for a minimum of 14 days after a positive test. This proved to be extremely effective in getting those who tested positive out of the general student body and allowing them to return to full health. I have not had to quarantine or isolate for any reason yet. I been extremely blessed and fortunate that I have been able to stay healthy.

Were your classes online or in person?
I had two classes that met in-person once a week and one that met in-person every other week. The other two were online. Calculus and world geography were online. I took two different introductory engineering courses. One met in-person once a week, and the other one met in-person every other week. My public speaking class met in-person once a week.

How did taking classes online work with a roommate?
That was one of several struggles we had. Luckily for us, we only had one class at the same time. We usually weren’t trying to do Zoom classes at the same time. It was a lot of headphones in and “please be quiet” from the other side of the room.

Did finishing high school online help you adjust to online classes in college?

As terrible as it is and was – yes. The way that we had to end high school in an online forum, it did help with the transition to online classes in college. For me, it helped with time management for online classes. You don’t have to go to class every single time it meets, but there are still deadlines for quizzes, tests and other assignments.

Have you had to adjust your learning style because of online classes?
Yes. I like being in-person and having that interaction with the teachers. I like being able to ask questions or go up to them after class.

What were you looking forward to most about going to college?
I envisioned I would be living out my dream and participating in some of the great things Athens has to offer – dorm life, going to football games and making new friends. I have been able to do some of that, but not on a large scale.

I have gotten involved in Greek life. I joined Theta Chi, and we were able to have some small events as long as we followed all of the state rules and school rules and regulations.

But with covid, I knew that the social aspect was going to be hard. I had prepared myself for this and for the challenge of earning a degree.

I also am employed part-time at RW Allen as an intern in project management and estimating. I carried that piece of home with me, but we have limited in-person interaction.

How did you go through rush?
It was a lot different. There were not any big events. When we did the house tours, everybody had to wear their masks. Only a limited number of people could be in a house at one time. We had to social distance for everything. 

How did covid affect your social life?
It tore apart my social life. I am an extremely, extremely social person. I haven’t had some of the social gatherings I thought I would have when I came to college. It has affected going on trips.

I have only been to two football games, and it was very, very different. I’ve been to UGA games all my life. I’m used to being there with 100,000 people. It’s usually loud with lots of energy. It’s hard to recreate that same experience with only around 20,000 people there.

How do you date during covid?
It’s tough. I’m not going to lie. My roommate has a girlfriend, but they have been dating a long time. You can’t date traditionally. There are not as many opportunities to go out to eat or go to a football game. There are limited social opportunities right now.

What has been the biggest disappointment or challenge about going to college during covid?
For me, I’m a very social person. There have not been very many social events or as many social gatherings as we would normally have. It’s been nothing like what I used to hear about from my other friends or when I would visit. That has been the hardest aspect for me.

Has anything been better than you expected?
The bathrooms in my dorm. Friends had told me the bathrooms are awful. I’m not saying they’re nice, but they are not as awful as everyone made them out to be.

Ten, 15 or 20 years from now, how will you look back on this experience?
That’s a tough question. Looking back on it, I hope I’ll be able to say I made the best out of the situation. I want to be able to say I had a good, positive freshman year, but I also followed the rules and regulations that are in place.

Everybody here understands that we all want to have a good time, and we all want to be able to have the normal freshman experience. But we’re not able to do that right now. The only way to get back to normal is to follow the guidelines and rules from the government and the school.

Grace O’Neal
Georgia Southern University freshman, nursing major

Did covid influence where you decided to go to college?
Not really. It hasn’t made me change my mind about my major, either. Not yet, anyway.

 What kind of rules or restrictions did you have to follow on campus because of covid?
We always had to wear a mask on campus and in class or when we went in any building. We were not allowed to have any visitors in our dorms. We had limited capacity in our classrooms, and it was optional for us to go to class in-person. If we were uncomfortable, we could go on Zoom for our classes.

What happened when someone tested positive for covid-19? And did you have to isolate or quarantine for any reason?
We have an online Georgia Southern portal with a CARES (Covid-19 Answers Resources Evaluation and Self-reporting) Center, where we were supposed to report our sickness and let our professors know. The dining hall had to-go boxes, and you were allowed to get two of them. So, if your roommate was sick, you could get one for them.

For the first couple of weeks of school, most of the people I know had covid, including me and my roommate. We had it at the same time. It wasn’t that bad. The only thing that happened to me was I lost my taste and smell, but we couldn’t do anything then.

Were your classes online or in-person?
I had three classes in-person – universal justice, government and English. One was only half a semester, though. I took chemistry and a first-year experience class that all freshmen have to take online.

How did taking classes online work with a roommate?
In our dorm, we each have our own room. I could sit in my room and shut the door.

Did finishing high school online help you adjust to online classes in college?
To a certain extent. It made me realize that I had to wake up every day and see what I had to do. At the end of our senior year in high school, they were pushing us across the finish line. It has been a lot harder in college, though. The load of work is definitely a lot more, and it’s a lot more difficult.

Have you had to adjust your learning style because of online classes?
I definitely have had to adjust my learning style due to online classes. I’ve had to get used to emailing my professors often with questions and figuring out a lot of things on my own by googling videos to explain topics I don’t understand.

What were you looking forward to most about going to college?
I was really excited to get away from home, branch out and meet new people, and live on my own. I have been surrounded by the same people my whole life.

What was reality like?
At first it was super difficult because of covid. I didn’t get to meet as many people as I thought. Over time, things got better, and I met new people. I’m in a sorority, but we weren’t getting to do anything at first. Later we could do more activities, but we had to have our masks on.

I joined ADPi, and we did rush on Zoom calls the whole week. We had a different Zoom call for each sorority every day.

How do you date during covid?
I have a boyfriend, so I’ll go to his house and hang out there and eat dinner there. Most of the restaurants in town are still open, so we can go out to eat.

What has been the biggest disappointment or challenge about going to college during covid?For me, I wanted to rush, and I was really excited about the things we would get to do with our sorority. But we haven’t been able to do much. And my parents can’t really come to visit me.

Has anything been better than you expected?
The number of friends I have been able to make has been better than I expected. I wasn’t sure I would be able to meet new friends at first.

Ten, 15 or 20 years from now, how will you look back on this experience?
It’s definitely going to be something I’ll remember. I’m glad I’ll have this story to tell that I was a freshman in college and a senior in high school during covid. Those are two really big years, and covid has altered them.

‘The Language of the Heart’


Photography by Sally Kolar

A Jones Creek couple celebrates the spirit of the season with string instruments, song and the occasional surprise at their annual Christmas party.
When people move from one city to another, it’s customary to pack up their belongings and bring them to their new place. Then there are Evans residents Monica and Paul Dainer.

Each time they have moved through the years, they have taken their annual Christmas party, featuring live music, with them. Last year the Dainers, who live in Jones Creek, held their 38th annual party.

“It’s something we’ve always done,” says Monica. “It always comes together.”

Unfortunately, they had to change their tune this year and cancel the party because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, they still might find a way to strike the right note for the times.

“We’re so disappointed that we can’t have the party, but we may do something virtually,” says Paul. “And we hope to have the party again next year.”

Traveling Show
Paul started the Christmas party tradition in the late 1970s when he was single, serving in the U.S. Navy and stationed in San Diego. In 1979 Paul, a hematologist and oncologist at Georgia Cancer Center, was transferred to the naval hospital in Charleston, South Carolina, where he first met Monica and told her about the party.

“I thought it sounded like a lot of fun to celebrate the season with live music,” she says.

Paul, who also played viola for the Charleston Symphony, enlisted some of his symphony colleagues and the organist/pianist from St. John’s Lutheran Church to play with him at the party. He also had bought a new baby grand piano just in time for the occasion, so he couldn’t let that purchase go to waste.

He made an even better family addition when he and Monica married shortly after the second party.

They took their party with them when they moved to Bethesda, Maryland and Jacksonville, Florida, where Paul played in their symphonies.

In Maryland, Monica says, “We attracted musicians from local orchestras and had already begun adding vocalists to the parties.”

They held two parties in Jacksonville with fellow members of the Jacksonville Symphony and other local musicians. “The first chair of the second violins delayed her Christmas vacation a day just to play first violin in a piano quintet with us,” Monica says.

From Jacksonville, the Dainers moved to Greenville, North Carolina, where their daughters, Erin and Caroline, started singing and performing on the piano and violin, respectively, during the four parties they had there. Monica began singing at the parties as well.

The Dainers settled in Evans in 1992, and they started hosting their annual Christmas party here the following year. Until this December, they had skipped the party only three times – the years they moved to Evans and Greenville and in 2009 when they had to cancel it after Paul had an accident a couple of days before the event. In 1982, the party was subdued after Monica had a miscarriage the night before and a heavy snow fell on the day of the party.

“We couldn’t reach everyone to cancel the event. In spite of the snow, a few people arrived, only about 10. We couldn’t turn them away,” Monica says. “It was a quieter and somewhat somber evening. However, we did manage to sing some favorite Christmas carols.”

Strings Attached
The black tie-optional party is a Christmas highlight for many of the Dainers’ friends, and the guest list has grown through the years.

“We started out with about 30 guests and have increased to over 70. We never know who will come because many of our friends have family commitments or have travel plans formulated months before the invitations have been sent,” says Monica.

Several years ago, more than 100 guests attended the party during a three- or four-hour time period. Some people stay for the entire evening; others drop in.

No wonder the party, which includes Christmas, religious, classical and popular music, is one that people don’t want to miss. With their ties to the local arts community, the Dainers can invite any number of talented musicians and vocalists to perform.

Paul, who plays viola for Aiken Civic Orchestra (and played with Augusta Symphony for 15 years) has enlisted many of his fellow musicians to appear at their parties.

Monica, a former nurse who now presents programs at the USC Aiken DuPont Planetarium, also has been active with Augusta Players as a performer and board member. “Through my connections with that organization, we have invited a number of very talented singers over the years,” she says. “And we always like to invite children and young people as guests and performers.”

Last year, for instance, Laura Doss, organist at Christ Church, Presbyterian and accompanist for Augusta Youth Chorale, played the piano and was accompanied by her three sons (ages 15, 10 and 9 at the time) on the violin and cello. The played “Good Christian Men, Rejoice” and “See Amid the Winter‘s Snow,” both arranged by Kristen Campbell.

Other performances included a piano solo by Moscow native and Columbus State University adjunct faculty member Ksenia Kurenysheva, who also accompanied Taiwan native Sho Ane Seaton as she sang the arias “Ombra Mai Fu” by Handel and “O Mio Babbino Caro” by Puccini.

Melissa Schultz, a voice and piano teacher who has performed throughout the United States and Canada, sang “Gesu Bambino” by Pietro Yon and Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum (k.339).” Members of the Christ the King Lutheran Church choir sang “O Little Town of Bethlehem.”

Mark Dickens, who has played the piano and organ in many area churches, and Stacy Reynolds, who has played piano for local musical theater groups and contemporary Christian music for churches for decades, also played the piano at last year’s party.

The Dainers pulled double duty as hosts and entertainers for the festivities. Monica sang with her choir from Christ the King, and she sang an Austrian Christmas carol, “Es wird scho glei dumpa,” with their daughter, Caroline Dainer Osburn, in Austrian-German dialect. Paul played the viola both as a soloist and in a chamber group.

He played Hoffmeister’s “Viola Concerto in D major”, third movement (Rondo) with Mark Dickens on piano. He performed “String Quintet No.4 in G Minor” (k.516) by Mozart with Adam and Andrew DePriest on violin, Janis Krauss on viola and Robert Gibson on cello.

He also played the fourth movement (Minuet) by Dittersdorf, a duet for a viola and string bass, with Adam DePriest. Finally, Paul played Christmas carols, arranged by Stan Pylant for three violas and the audience, with Stan and with Carl Purdy.

The program offered plenty of levity as well. Steven Hansen – a local actor, Greenbrier High School music and theater teacher, and Christ the King choir director – brought some fun to the occasion by singing “We Need a Little Christmas” and “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch.”

Tyler Cook, a Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance graduate of Augusta University who has won numerous state, regional and national musical theater competitions, sang the Christmas folk song, “River,” by Joni Mitchell and James Taylor, and “She Used to Be Mine” from the musical, Waitress.

Rabbi David Sirull of Adas Yeshurun Synagogue in Augusta, another performer at last year’s party, received classical training in the art of Eastern European Chazanut and Yiddish folk music. However, he sang several “redneck” songs from his collection, some of which can be found on YouTube.

The guests got into the act as well. After the scheduled performances, they joined in singing Christmas carols.

Expect the Unexpected
The Dainers never know what to expect at their party, except that it will be one for the ages – all ages, in fact. Last year, three babies were in attendance, which Monica says is unusual.

“They ranged in age from 5 weeks to 8 months, and they were perfect angels. We never heard them cry,” says Monica. “I guess they were mesmerized by the music.”

One year Paul’s 93-year-old father came to the party shortly after losing his wife. However, the music lifted his spirits. “He even was inspired to play some familiar songs on our piano as the party concluded,” Monica says.

On occasion, the Dainers have been surprised by the people they have found on their front porch. About 15 years ago, the doorbell rang during the party and they opened the door to a group of about eight college students singing Christmas carols. Naturally, the Dainers invited them inside to sing.

The couple loves to share the joy of the holiday season, and some aspects of the evening are entirely predictable. For instance, fellowship with good friends and good food from Silver Palm Catering Company – plus sweets, cookies, cakes and other treats made by Monica – are the perfect accompaniments to the party.

Still, the music is the star of the evening.

“Music transcends spoken language and has the power to bring people from diverse backgrounds together,” says Caroline. “You don’t have to sing or play an instrument to understand this language, because music is the language of the heart.”

By Sarah James


A Little Fitness, a Lot of Fashion

Community Groups in Action

Photos courtesy of Emma Kohtanen, @emmakohtanen

A local Instagram influencer has built a loyal following with her savvy sense of style and creative content.
At first glance, a flair for fashion, a penchant for walls and a tiny dormitory mailbox would seem to have little in common.

Well, not so fast. The unlikely combination has played a role in the success of Instagram influencer Emma Kohtanen of Grovetown.

An Instagram influencer is someone who creates content about a particular topic (say fashion, food or travel) to share on the visually driven social media platform and builds a community around that niche.

In the last five years, Emma. a 23-year-old Augusta University graduate who works as a marketing coordinator in Evans, has built an Instagram following of 20,000-plus and counting. Her content, like any good influencer, reflects her passions – a little fitness, a lot of fashion.

She uses the social media platform to promote clothing brands and to provide her followers with a source of inspiration for quick outfit ideas.

“I have clothing crises a lot,” says Emma. “I don’t know what to wear sometimes, and I want to eliminate that problem for other people.”

Sense of Style
Emma got her start as a fashion blogger as an 18-year-old when she wrote her first post about her personal style while sitting on her parents’ living room couch.

“I really love clothing and pulling pieces together,” she says.

She always has had an interest in fashion, but her style has evolved in the past several years.

The native of Finland, who moved to Georgia 10 years ago with her family because of her father’s job, used to wear a lot of simple black, white and gray clothing. Her tastes have changed, however, after living in the American South.

“My style is simplistic. It’s a mix of Southern and European,” Emma says. “I like florals, bright colors and girly clothes.”

She has shifted her social media preference as well. Once she started posting photos on Instagram, she never looked back. “Nowadays, people don’t feel like reading long blog posts,” says Emma.

One thing that has never varied, however, is her love of shoes – especially statement heels.

“I like simplistic outfits, but I like to wear shoes that bring the look altogether,” she says. “Accessories can dress an outfit up or down.”

It took Emma about six months to get her first Instagram collaboration, which was with HandPicked, a jewelry store in Augusta. “I styled outfits with their jewelry and got to keep a piece,” she says.

(For the uninitiated, a collaboration is when one Instagram user teams up with another for promotional purposes to increase their audiences or reach in a mutually beneficial arrangement. It can be paid or unpaid.)

To find collaborators, Emma exchanges emails with companies and constantly posts photos to attract the interest of clothiers. About 80 percent of time, however, retailers contact her first to see if she would like to wear their outfits in her posts. Companies pay her to model their clothing.

In addition, she says, “I get to keep the clothes, which is a nice bonus.”

Emma typically tags the products in her photos and links the outfits or accessories she wears to the LIKEtoKNOW.it app, where people can shop the looks of influencers, stylists and celebrities. She gets a commission when someone buys a piece of clothing from that app.

The collaboration is a win-win-win. The retailer makes a sale; the influencer gets a cut of the profits; and the followers gets access to items they otherwise may not have known about.

“There are so many online boutiques,” says Emma. “The clothing companies give me discount codes, and my followers can use them.”

She usually takes photos on weekends, and she tries to post something two or three times a week. Her younger brother, Eemeli, and her fiancé, Brent Pruitt, are her photographers.

“When I first started, I didn’t know anybody. They’ve been a huge help. I just go with it, and they click the button,” says Emma, who was interested in modeling when she was younger but has no formal experience.

They do photo shoots at random locations such as business buildings, Augusta Mall and downtown Augusta. However, the settings typically have one element in common.

“Wherever I see a wall,” says Emma. “I like the whole urban look with no trees.”

Relatability & Authenticity
Emma first realized she was on to something when she was a freshman in college at Kennesaw State University in 2017. Since tiny dormitory mailboxes can’t really accommodate large packages, she had the clothing from her collaborators mailed to her parents’ house.

“I would get 20 packages a day, so I realized I had to move back home,” says Emma, who transferred to AU.

Her influencer status also gave Emma a leg up on her education. “When I was taking marketing classes in college, especially digital and social media classes, I already knew 70 percent of the material,” she says.

Now that she has graduated and joined the work force, her side gig helps her in her marketing coordinator position as well.

Her Instagram audience is made up primarily of college coeds and clothing shoppers on a budget, and they can interact with her by sending her direct messages or commenting on her posts.

“I want to be relatable,” says Emma. “I don’t post $200 shirts. I post $20 clothes.”

She also has found a foolproof way to build her social media community.

“You have to be yourself and have a passion for whatever you do,” Emma says. “Followers can tell if you’re authentic.”

She posts Instagram stories nearly every day as well.

“I try to post something in live time to keep it relevant,” she says. “I’ll post things from my daily life like walking my dog or going to the gym. I want my followers to know that I’m not only about fashion.”

While free clothing has been a tangible benefit of being an influencer for Emma, she has enjoyed intangible perks as well.

“I get to be creative,” she says. “If I have an idea, I don’t have to run it by somebody else.”

She hopes to build on her success as an Instagram influencer in the future.

“I definitely want to have my own clothing boutique one day,” says Emma. “I would want to make the experience at the boutique relate back to my blogging and integrate my experience into the boutique.”

In the meantime, though, expect to see more of Emma and her fashion sense on Instagram. After all, she says, “My stories and posts have been good to me.”

By Leigh Howard


Ivey Homes

Faces of Success

Mark and Matt Ivey of Ivey Homes have long been trusted names in residential, multi- family and development in Columbia County. The award-winning builders are committed to constructing 100% Energy Star Certified new homes and townhomes, and their cutting-edge Ivey Wise homes, developed exclusively by Ivey Homes, are healthier for the families that live in them and for the environment. More cost-efficient to operate, an Ivey-Wise home reduces monthly utility cost to save homeowners money each month. Ivey Homes have communities in Evans and Grovetown, GA and North Augusta, SC.

672 Industrial Park Dr Suite 200
Evans, GA 30809
(706) 868-9363

Augusta Plastic Surgery

Faces of Success

Introducing the faces behind Augusta Plastic Surgery. Board Certified Plastic Surgeons, Dr. Christopher Ewart and Dr. Michael Tarakji, specialize in transforming patients’ lives and providing amazing results. You will find them perfecting their craft in Augusta Plastic Surgery’s onsite operating rooms at their new, state-of-the-art surgery center.


569 Furys Ferry Rd • Martinez
(706)  724-5611

Magic Touch

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

A Grovetown couple deftly weaves wit and whimsy, texture and timelessness into their eclectic Grenelefe Park home.

A place for everything, and everything in its place. Just don’t expect to find things where you think they belong in the Grenelefe Park home of Imogene and Chuck Ford.

Imagination reigns in this Grovetown house where the Fords have a piano in the breakfast room, a hutch in the master bath and a sideboard in the master bedroom. And why not?

After all, the breakfast area doubles as a game room where the Fords play cards and board games; a hutch can hold towels just as easily as it can hold dishes; and the sideboard is the perfect complement to the other bedroom furnishings.

“I like to take pieces and use them in a different setting,” says Imogene.

Right Place, Right Time
The Fords were ready for a different setting of their own after living in the same house for 28 years, so they decided to build a larger house with a smaller yard. They fell in love with Grenelefe Park and built one of the first houses in the neighborhood six years ago.

“We had never built before. I had heard nightmares about building, but it was fun. We thoroughly enjoyed it,” Imogene says.

Chuck agrees. “This was our one and only house to build, and we hit the jackpot,” he says.

The Fords feel blessed to have found the neighborhood, and they gave the home their own special blessing as well.

“When the house was going up, my cousin gave me the most wonderful idea,” says Imogene. “She suggested we write scriptures on the framework.”

The scriptures include two of their favorites – Philippians 4:13 and Micah 6:8. Although they can’t see the writing on the walls, many cherished mementoes – from Imogene’s cross stitch pictures to Chuck’s collection of clocks –  are on full display in the house.

The 102-year-old – and still functioning – clock on top of the chest in the foyer belonged to Chuck’s paternal grandmother. “She kept it on the mantel in their house in downtown Augusta,” he says. “My grandfather gave it to her on their second wedding anniversary.”

Imogene and Chuck gave each other a clock for their 10th anniversary, and it hangs in the living room. Chuck’s father bought the Ridgeway grandmother clock in the back hallway 60 years ago. “I had it redone and got it back in shape,” says Chuck. “It has a beautiful sound to it.”

In his study, he has a replica of an old DuPont clock like the ones in schoolhouses along the Delaware River in the 1800s. Chuck winds the clocks about every four days, and when they start chiming at night, the Fords don’t even notice.

The Fords also have lots of insects in the house, but they’re no cause for alarm. In fact, they’re a feature, not a bug. “I like little creatures,” Imogene says.

Of course, her little creatures – from dragonflies to bumblebees to grasshoppers – aren’t real. The bugs might be strategically placed decorative metal pieces, or their likenesses might appear on pictures or pillows.

“The house is very eclectic,” says Imogene. “I like the cottage-y, garden look. I don’t do formal at all. I like a little whimsy.”

Other common features in the house include heart pine flooring and five-paneled doors. “Chuck picked out the doors because the doors in his grandmother’s house were like this,” says Imogene.

The arched front door, which is framed by an arched, stacked stone entryway to the front porch, makes a statement as well. “We designed the porch around the door,” Imogene says.

With the potted plants, mixed textures and charming décor of the porch, some visitors might feel content to stay put and never go through the front door. Two black rockers offer the perfect place to sit a spell, and a round wrought iron table is sandwiched between the chairs.

A distressed lantern and a lamp with a tan and beige buffalo-checked shade sit on the tabletop. Greenery spilling out of a planter catches the attention of a metal turtle and a metal dragonfly.

A black turtle-shaped footstool rests between the two rockers. “That is a treasure for me,” Imogene says. “My Uncle Charlie made it for me when he was 93 years old.”

The front porch also features shake shingle walls, a bead board ceiling and acid-washed concrete flooring – a fond reminder of Charlie, who passed away last year, as well.

When he saw the “stains” on the concrete floor, he generously offered to find a pressure washer to clean it. “I said, ‘I think we paid good money for that,’” Imogene says.

Defined Spaces
Inside, the charm and creativity continues from the foyer to the screened-in porch on the back of the house. Although the Fords didn’t need a lot of new furniture for the house, they bought something for the foyer.

Imogene, who likes to shop at consignment and antique shops, found the perfect piece – a wood chest, which features drawer pulls carved into the shape of grape clusters. She also made a decorative “F” out of Styrofoam and faux boxwood and hung it above the chest with a ribbon of burlap. A spindle chair with a low, rounded back is tucked at the end of the hallway.

The adjoining living room features a raised hearth fireplace with a slate surround. “There were two things I wanted that I never had – a fireplace and a screened porch,” says Imogene. “We use both of them a lot. We use the whole house.”

Two woven seagrass chairs and a matching footstool are mixed in with an upholstered couch and a leather chair, and a natural woven rug lies on the floor.

The Fords have a number of paintings of rural churches throughout the house, but the one in the living room has special significance for them. This painting depicts their church, Liberty United Methodist, which was built in 1804.

“To put that in perspective, Thomas Jefferson was president at the time, and a year earlier, he sent Lewis and Clark on their expedition,” Chuck says.

An Appling man, who made furniture in the 1980s and early 1990s, built the pine coffee table in the living room. In fact, the Fords have several pieces that he made for them.

“We could take him a picture of a piece of furniture that we liked, and he would build it,” says Imogene.

A wide entryway leads from the living room to the dining room.

“The original house plan called for this to be an open space,” Imogene says. “But I like defined areas, so we put up walls with big openings so the house still flows.”

In the dining room, an old farmhouse pine table is lined with a trio of Windsor chairs on each side. A woven seagrass chair sits at each end, and another woven natural fiber rug lies beneath the table. A pinewood server with a drawer and two open shelves provides plenty of storage space, and Imogene made the hydrangea wreath that hangs above it.

A striped wing chair with a dragonfly pillow is nestled in a corner of the room, and the iron chandelier features branches, crystals and six candle lights.

“I just love the branchy, woodsy look of the chandelier,” Imogene says. “And I love pillows. You can change a room instantly by putting different pillows in it.”

Open-Door Policy
The kitchen features granite countertops, stainless steel appliances, a tile backsplash and a walk-in pantry.

“I like the open area of the kitchen. So many people can be in it at the same time, and we love the bar,” Imogene says. “I like people sitting and talking to me when I’m in the kitchen, but Chuck is more of a cook than I am.”

Baskets for everything from dish towels to pairs of glasses line the countertop. “I love baskets. I love woven things. I love texture,” says Imogene.

Her cousin painted the oil still life of pears in the kitchen and gave it to them as a housewarming gift.

More artwork can be found in the breakfast room, where a trio of oil paintings by their late friend and Augusta artist Maggie Meldrum is stacked on a wall. The scenes were painted on cutting boards that are hung by a loop of thick rope. Another “Maggie” on pegboard, a scene from the corner of Broad and Eighth streets in Augusta, was a wedding gift to the Fords.

A church painting hangs above the piano in the breakfast room, and Imogene made the hydrangea arrangement on the piano.

“I’ve always enjoyed decorating. When I was growing up, our house was always nicely decorated,” she says. “As a girl, I loved looking at house and garden magazines.”

The Appling furniture maker built the pine sideboard in the room, which also features a natural woven rug. A green wreath hangs on one of two double doors leading to the screened-in porch, but the Fords usually keep the door open.

The study, which includes a built-in desk and built-in book shelves, is Chuck’s favorite room. A Civil War buff, Chuck has two prints of the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse and another print from the war on a wall. The shelves are full of biographies and Civil War books.

Furnishings include a leather recliner and a TV. “This is the most utilized piece of furniture in the house,” Chuck says of the recliner. “A chair, a remote and a television. That’s all I need.”

Imogene made sure she got what she needed from the room as well. “He can close the door, but I put glass panes in it so he can’t hide too much,” she says.

Quiet Places
One of the guest bedrooms includes a pine two-poster bed and a pine desk that were crafted by the Appling furniture maker. A wicker storage trunk sits at the foot of the bed, which is covered by a yellow and white buffalo-checked comforter.

A wheat sheath wall hanging is behind the bed, and more “Maggie” paintings hang on other walls.

A second guest room features a four-poster bed with a black and white buffalo-checked skirt and a gray and white floral comforter. A chair upholstered in black and white buffalo checks and a floor lamp occupies one side of the bed, and a chest that belonged to Chuck’s mother sits on the other side.

“Chuck painted the chest black for me, and I put glass knobs on it,” says Imogene. “His nephew couldn’t believe that we painted it black. Now the joke in the family is that Joey will not be at my funeral because he will be stripping the chest.”

A pocket door from this bedroom leads to the guest bath, which includes tile flooring, a vessel sink, an oil-rubbed bronze faucet and a transom window above the shower/tub. A chair rail tops bead board on the walls.

Another rural church painting hangs across from the sink, and rolled towels fill a vintage metal laundry basket on wheels.

The master bedroom features a four-poster bed and a sitting area with a couch and a butler’s table. Prints of Squeaky’s Tip Top and Augusta Coca-Cola Bottling Company hang above the couch, and Chuck’s bronzed baby shoes stand on the sideboard.

In the adjoining master bath, the Fords installed the walk-in tile shower where a garden tub was supposed to be. The pine hutch, also made by the Appling furniture maker, occupies the original spot for the shower.

“In our old house the hutch was in the kitchen and filled with dishes,” says Imogene, “but I always imagined it with towels in it for some reason.”

With hardy board walls on two sides, the screened-in porch also includes wicker furniture, a ceiling fan, acid-washed concrete flooring and lots of plants. Chuck’s daughter painted the floral acrylics on canvas that hang by green ribbon on one wall, and a “man” made out of terracotta pots occupies the top of a wicker plant stand.

“The screened-in porch is one of my favorite places in the house,” says Imogene. “We can use it year-round.”

The Fords have a beautiful backyard garden enclosed by black wrought iron fencing, and they call it “Sadee’s Yard” in honor of their Jack Russell and rat terrier mix that died in January at age 13.

Filled with plants such as hostas and zinnias, the garden also features a brick patio, brick pathways, a bistro table and chairs, a red Adirondack chair and a tall white birdhouse.

Chuck enjoys taking care of the yard. “I’m meticulous about everything. I like for it to be neat,” he says. “Doing the yard is a real joy for me. I can do it in 30 minutes. The responsibility is small, yet we have a nice, roomy house.”

By Betsy Gilliland

‘All About the Storytelling’


Photos courtesy of Mark Albertin

Regardless of the type of camera he has in his hand, a local documentary filmmaker and photographer loves to preserve special moments in time.

Growing up in Wisconsin, Augusta resident Mark Albertin knew little about the South other than the often distorted portrayal he saw of it on film and television. However, his maternal grandmother was born and raised in Augusta, so he had a connection to the region.

He moved to Georgia in 1986, but he strengthened his ties to the South even more when he made his first video – a tribute to his grandmother – as a birthday gift for his own mother years ago.

“It all comes back to the roots of where it started,” says Albertin. “I never met my grandmother, but I wanted to know who she was. My mother talked about us like we were soup. She said we came from good stock.”

As it turns out, that dive into his ancestry was a gift to himself as well. After making the video, Albertin started Scrapbook Video Productions in 2000 to produce documentary films. He made a $30,000 investment in equipment, including a high-end video production camera and editing equipment, to start the business.

“I was bitten by the bug, and I wanted to do bigger and better things,” he says. “It allows me to do the projects that I want to do.”

Many of his productions, which range from stories of towns to noted individuals, have aired on PBS and received awards from film festivals across the country. His newest film, Finding Home – 20th Century Voices of Augusta is slated to premiere late this year or early next year. Albertin had planned to hold the premiere in August at Imperial Theatre, but it has been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

This film is a revised version of Augusta Remembers, which aired on Georgia Public Television in 2000. For the original documentary, Albertin interviewed his grandmother’s contemporaries about life in Augusta from the early 1900s to the 1940s. In Finding Home, Albertin has added interviews with local residents about living in the area from the 1950s through the 1980s.

“The documentaries that include oral histories are essential. We need as a nation to listen to our older people,” Albertin says. “It gives us comfort and support and makes us feel better to know that other people lived through hard times.”

School of Hard Knocks
Albertin, who also is a professional photographer, is a self-taught filmmaker. His original skill set is in color separation for the four-color printing process. That process is flat and two-dimensional, he says, so he started attending video boot camp training classes in Atlanta and Charlotte in his spare time.

In addition, he says, “I went to the school of hard knocks where you’re up until three in the morning trying to figure something out.”

Like many documentary filmmakers, Albertin says, he followed the lead of celebrated documentarian Ken Burns, who uses archival footage and photographs, to transform a film from a product with boring narratives and static images into something more compelling.

“Ken Burns showed us that you can use voices, sound effects and music from the time period,” says Albertin. “The key is to pull people in, and you can do that with writing, sound effects, voiceovers and real people. The audience needs to engage with the film and feel a connection to the people and the subject matter.”

Albertin enjoys every aspect of filmmaking from adding movement, sound and sound effects to conducting interviews and writing the scripts. “It’s a blast to do this stuff,” he says. “It allows me to really be creative.”

He spends 80 percent of his time on video, 15 percent on photography and 5 percent writing. “I love all three of those things, and I find ways to mesh them together,” Albertin says.

He also likes to meet people and talk to them, and he has learned firsthand from people’s oral histories what it was like to live through trying times such as the Dust Bowl or the Holocaust.

“If these people are good storytellers, they take you somewhere you’ve never been,” says Albertin. “I can feel their pain when they tell me their stories. People in the twilight of their lives want to talk about their experiences for posterity.”

He spends a lot of time doing research and tracking down people, and he wants those he interviews to feel like they have been heard and respected.

“The people that know that history are the ones that are going to come and watch a premiere,” says Albertin. “The main audience that I’m appealing to is age 70-plus. To capture their stories and preserve them is a wonderful thing to do. The feeling that I get in my heart and soul is something I can’t explain.”

He often relies on narration early in his documentaries to set the stage, and he says the narrator can “make or break” a film.

“Each film has a different formula, depending on what the storyline is,” Albertin says. “Sometimes you start with the ending first. They’re not always chronological.”

Feeding the Senses
Some of his other documentaries include Displaced: The Unexpected Fallout from the Cold War, about the development of the Savannah River Site that displaced more than 5,000 residents in rural South Carolina communities, and Discovering Dave: Spirit Captured in Clay, about a literate slave potter who lived in Edgefield, South Carolina and wrote verse and poetry on his pots. He also has done a Remember series about various towns such as Augusta and Savannah in Georgia, St. Augustine and Jacksonville in Florida, Beaufort, North Carolina and Topeka, Kansas.

He made the award-winning War Stories – Augusta Area Veterans Remember World War II, in which he spent four years interviewing local veterans from all branches of the military to highlight their World War II experiences.

This project began as part of the Veteran’s History Project, which was undertaken by the Augusta Richmond County Historical Society to add to the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. To collect these oral histories, Albertin went to Brandon Wilde and interviewed 20 veterans a day.

“You’re not going to get rich making documentaries,” says Albertin, who also does promotional spots and commercial videos. “It’s the satisfaction of preserving something and creating something that makes people laugh or cry.”

The reaction to his work is something that Albertin usually experiences secondhand, however. He says he never sits in the theater when his films premiere. Instead, he dispatches his wife to join the audience while he settles in the lobby.

Maybe he should rethink that plan, however, because his wife usually tells him he should have been in the theater to see the positive reaction to his films.

“When I’m gone, I will have hopefully left something behind that people can learn from,” says Albertin. “Film was, and hopefully one day, will become a social event again. I love film because you’re seeing two things happen. You hear and see, so you’re getting two senses fed at once.”

Documentaries need to be fair and balanced, he says, and he covers difficult issues such as racial injustice in his films.

“It’s something we need to see and hear. We need to understand that it can happen again, and we need to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” says Albertin. “Everybody has their own angle on what happened.”

Blending In
When he photographs a subject, Albertin approaches it from different viewpoints as well.

“Photography is an extension of video,” he says. “It’s trying to tell a story with pieces in an artistic manner. It’s all about the storytelling. Sometimes one picture is all you need. Sometimes you need multiple pictures with multiple angles.”

His love of photography dates back to his childhood when he would borrow cameras from his father, who was a medical illustrator. And that interest “never went away.”

“I love going out and playing with old cameras. The results you get are totally different from digital,” says Albertin.

He prefers photographing landscapes to people because he finds it less stressful. “Those places are where I find peace,” he says of landscapes. “They’re getting harder and harder to find.”

He says it’s pleasant to go outside – other than having to lug all the gear around. He likes to capture the light or early morning dewdrops on leaves. When he goes into the woods, he usually is alone.

“You have to sit still for a while to blend into a setting,” Albertin says.

He is just as likely to shoot in black and white as he is in color, depending on what he wants to accomplish.

“To me, color is really at its best in the spring,” says Albertin. “Black and white is a more spiritual medium. I use black and white when I want people to notice the object and the composition. Black and white can do amazing things if you use the right filter.”

Whether he is making films or photographs, Albertin hopes his work provides people with an escape.

“I want people to be able to leave their stress, their worries and their problems behind and get into another place and see what I saw,” he says. “To me, that is another way to do something good.”

By Leigh Howard

Take it to Heart


Photos courtesy of University Health Care System

While covid-19 is a known respiratory syndrome, evidence is emerging that the virus can affect heart health as well.

The novel coronavirus has its name for a reason. From devising improved treatments to understanding its effects on the human body, the medical community is discovering more and more about covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. While covid-19 is a known respiratory syndrome, evidence is emerging that the virus can affect heart health as well.

“In cardiology journals we have seen volumes about the development of the relationship between covid and cardiovascular issues in the past six months,” says Dr. Mac Bowman, medical director, cardiovascular practices at University Health Care System. “That’s the acuity and majesty of an organized, scientific approach. We continue to learn.”

An Ounce of Prevention
People who are most at risk for cardiovascular ailments can be susceptible due to genetics or to lifestyle choices. However, Bowman emphasizes that the best way for people to avoid cardiovascular issues is to mitigate the risk factors that make them prone to heart disease.

Genetically susceptible people have a family history of heart disease, heart attacks, stroke and diabetes. While family history cannot be changed, other risk factors, which Bowman calls the “big four” — elevated blood pressure, tobacco use, abnormal lipid status and blood sugar levels — are modifiable.

Blood pressure readings should not rise above 134/84, Bowman says. As for tobacco use, regardless of the form, he says, “The appropriate amount is zero.”

Levels of HDL cholesterol (the good one) should be higher than 40 – 45 milligrams per deciliter – “the higher, the better,” and levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad one) should be below 85 mg/dL. “That has changed,” says Bowman. “It used to be below 100.” And finally, triglycerides should be below 150.

A fasting blood sugar should be 100 mg/dL or less, or a normal A1c, the average blood sugar level for three-months, is 5.7 percent or less.

Other modifiable risk factors, which have become more prevalent with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, are a sedentary lifestyle and stress that, in turn, exaggerate risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

“This has turned most individuals, most households, most work places and most hospitals askance to the direction it was before,” says Bowman.

With more people working from home, lifestyle habits have changed. “Home is supposed to be a safe space where we do the things that make us feel warm and fuzzy,” Bowman says.

However, some people who have been spending increased time at home are more isolated or are juggling work, school and childcare responsibilities. They have gained weight because they’re eating more and making poor nutrition choices. They don’t sleep well, and their heart rate and blood pressure are higher. In addition, Bowman says, homebound people are watching coronavirus news coverage that can be “depressing, disheartening and frightening.”

“If you don’t have an effective way to deal with that, it can have adverse consequences,” he adds. “It’s important to face concerns honestly and forthrightly and face them with a plan.”

In Control
First and foremost, Bowman recommends that people focus on the things they can control to safeguard themselves from covid and other health problems.

“Social distance. Wear a mask. It’s not a political statement. It lessens your ability to infect somebody else, and it protects you,” he says. “Keep yourself in the best physical and mental shape that you can. Get fresh air; go outside; walk; dance; and take your medications.”

Even people who naturally are tightly wired can find ways to dissipate stress, and physical activity is a good way to relieve tension.

“Exercise in a fun and healthy way helps blood vessels relax and helps people burn off energy in a positive way,” Bowman says.

Since the coronavirus pandemic began, people have postponed or skipped doctor’s appointments. However, Bowman stresses the need for cardiovascular patients to keep their regularly scheduled appointments.

“We try to identify evidence of a problem, and most importantly, we try to help them rectify that problem,” he says. “We do it as a team.”

At his office, like other medical practices, the staff has taken precautions to make patient visits as safe as they can. Social distancing and masks are required, and patients’ temperatures are taken. “We try to make them feel as comfortable as possible,” Bowman says.

For patients who are apprehensive about going to the office for an in-person visit, his practice offers video visits, telemedicine and phone calls to discuss lab results and medications.

“We try to give them options,” he says.

Patients’ family members currently cannot come with them to office visits, but the patients themselves often are the best advocates for their health.

“If you have a pre-existing condition, it’s important that you listen to your body,” says Bowman. “Especially if you’re in a high-risk group where you have high blood pressure, diabetes or you have felt pressure in your chest before, you can’t stay home and talk yourself out of being seen by a doctor.”

Cardiovascular patients that avoid treatment can suffer serious consequences. When people suffer a heart attack at home and delay treatment, Bowman says, they lose heart muscle and don’t get it back. This also could result in congestive heart failure later.

“People need to take care of themselves. Don’t delay if you have an issue. There are ways to be treated,” says Bowman. “The later we see you, the less we can do.”

However, taking precautions doesn’t take the risk factors down “to zero.”

“Just because you’re high risk doesn’t mean you’ll get covid, but you need to be more hyper-vigilant,” Bowman says. “And there’s twice the possibility you’ll have cardiovascular involvement.”

Covid and Cardio
The cardiologist says 20 percent of covid patients will have some enzyme elevation, which indicates that the virus has affected the heart muscle. For those who are at greater risk for heart disease, the probability of enzyme elevation jumps to 35 percent to 50 percent.

“The heart very early on identified itself as a strong player in this situation,” says Bowman.

The higher the cardiac lab abnormalities such as cell damage, inflammation or heart wall stress, he says, the greater the potential for cardiac adversity, including death.

“With covid, inflammation of the heart doesn’t mean it has irrevocable damage, but some people could have less stamina,” he says. “There are questions about the residual effects of people with moderate inflammation.”

If the virus attacks blood vessels, it can increase the possibility of a stroke. In addition, blood clots can form when small vessels in the extremities become inflamed.

“Because covid affects the blood vessels and everything traveling to the heart, it can cause life-threatening blood clots to the heart,” says Bowman. “Multiple organs can become affected, and they don’t show improvement.”

Research has shown that even athletes who have been infected with the coronavirus could be at risk for heart complications, he says, and there is a question of “how soon is too soon” for them to return to action.

Meeting the Challenge
Of covid patients, Bowman says, 75 percent to 80 percent feel bad for two to three weeks, and 10 percent to 15 percent require hospitalization. Another 5 percent to 8 percent go on a ventilator, with a minimal likelihood of getting off of it. 

Covid-19 has challenged physicians to try new strategies, the cardiologist says, and treatments have changed since March.

Initially, patients on ventilators laid on their backs. Now, however, they are put in a prone position on their stomachs, and they are improving faster. “In the covid age, it’s a routine part of pulmonary maintenance,” says Bowman.

In addition, he says, covid patients are being treated with the medications remdesivir and dexamethasone as well as blood plasma that has been donated by people who have recovered from covid-19. Patients also are put on blood thinners earlier now to treat complications of the disease.

Physicians are still learning about the virus, Bowman says. For instance, they have found that some people have T-cell lymphocytes that fight the virus and protect them from covid.

“The cells stay in the blood and have memory to attack covid, but we don’t know why,” he says.

However, Bowman calls herd immunity “potentially dangerous.”

The science is unclear if those who have contracted covid-19 are immune to future infection, and the intermediate and longer term consequences of the coronavirus are unknown. And, under a herd immunity strategy, those who are affected less severely by the disease still can pass the virus to the elderly and others who have a higher risk of mortality.

Bowman, who has been practicing medicine since 1977, believes testing and a vaccine are key to battling the pandemic.

“Getting quick testing is the next big thing we need to do, with results available in 15 minutes to two hours. Contact tracing goes out the window when it takes a longer time to get results,” he says. “Quick testing would be a usable weapon. We ought to have it. I don’t understand why we don’t.”

He is optimistic about the development of a vaccine as well.

“I believe as we get a vaccine, and we will, it won’t be an instantaneous answer. But it will be better,” he says.

The cardiologist believes people should have no reservations about getting the vaccine, but that people in high-risk categories should be the first to receive it. He also says he has never seen anything like this virus in all his years of practicing medicine.

“It’s real. It’s real. It’s humbling. It’s eye-opening. It’s challenging in every way, shape and form,” Bowman says of covid-19. “Everywhere you look, it has changed a norm. Doctors are no different. We need a level of insight, energy and humility. There is no comfort zone.”

Nevertheless, he is quite comfortable with his mantra to remind people to try to stay as healthy as possible until the pandemic ends.

“Six feet apart. Avoid crowds. Sunshine when you can. Regular exercise. Good nutrition. Wear your mask,” says Bowman. “And say your prayers – before, after, in reverse and upside down.”


By Betsy Gilliland

Orthopedic Associates of Augusta, P.A.

Resource Guide

Providing quality, comprehensive, orthopaedic care in the C.S.R.A. since 1969
• Now offering out-patient total joint procedures
• Board-certified physicians – American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery
• Single-specialty surgery center for out-patient procedures
– Sports medicine – Arthroscopic surgery – Hand and upper extremity surgery – Spinal disorders – Foot and ankle surgery – Total joint procedures – General orthopaedics

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(706) 722-3401

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