2018 is now a distant memory and with its passing comes a time of
reflection as I do with each new year. Remembering
all the good things, the not-so-happy events, the making of new friends, the
loss of others and every so often the opportunity to reunite old Monroe families
with both friends and family.
Those residents of Monroe, both in town and those out of town who called
Monroe home for ever how many years, had the wonderful opportunity of seeing a
once in a lifetime event; the celebration of our city and county’s 200th
birthday. Prior to the actual day,
the town was awash in birthday events and celebrations and the city never looked
better. Ancient history was dug out
from archives and posted in the form of letters, photos, articles and
remembrances from many of Monroe’s “Old Guard”, which only added further
enjoyment for the event.
Whether or not it was “divine intervention” or whatever you wish to
label it, this year found me getting the best gifts of all; helping three
families with old Monroe connections learn more about their families thanks to
those big notebooks of Monroe history I have been compiling for years.
First came the grandchildren of the late Mr. and Mrs. Joe C. Greer, who
wanted to know more about their grandparents; who they were, what they did in
Monroe and where they were buried. The eldest son contacted me in the early
summer wanting to know if I could be of help.
That contact led to many phone calls and visits culminating in a
gathering with the other two siblings at my house on October 5th for
an enjoyable time sharing stories of their memories of their grandparents,
looking through old photos and the excitement of leafing through my notebooks
gleaning articles and columns referencing their grandparents, their father and
uncle. The following day the four of
us drove to Monroe for the consecration of the two new makers in the family plot
to honor their father and uncle. After
a lunch at the Cotton Café, a drive around Monroe seeing sights familiar to the
three as children brought smiles and a few tears. Upon the return to Atlanta, a
promise was made to make a return visit in a year or so.
Later in October I mentioned to one of my co-workers where I volunteer of
my exciting weekend involving members of a family from my hometown when she
asked, “Did you say Monroe, Georgia?” I
said that was correct and she replied, “My grandparents used to live there and
owned a restaurant called The Manhattan Café.”
I looked at her with astonishment in my eyes. “Do you mean Charlie
& Rena Tregone,” I asked. “My
father and grandfather were great friends of Mr. Charlie and my father was a
pallbearer at his funeral.” Seems
the lady I only knew as “Rena” was in fact a granddaughter of this esteemed
and dearly loved Monroe family and had many memories of visiting the old home
place, now the home of Mrs. Betty Hearn.
After quite a lengthy conversation, we each looked upon the other with a
new regard and appreciation having deep Monroe connections.
While only a child when her grandfather died, she had scattered memories
of his funeral. I made copies for
her of the obits of her grandfather, her grandmother along with a copy of the
article from the Walton Tribune in 1955 announcing the close of The Manhattan
I mentioned to Rena of the approaching 200th birthday of
Monroe and we are planning a day to drive down and let her revisit places she
knew and remembered from her childhood along with visiting her grandparent’s
graves in Rest Haven.
Rena visited my home during the holidays and got to glimpse some of my
Monroe notebooks and saw articles which triggered memories for her.
We now consider ourselves “family” with the newfound knowledge of our
Perhaps the most poignant of the reuniting of folks with Monroe ties came
in December. Strange, isn’t it, the dates of events we all have that are
indelibly etched in our minds which we recall yearly.
Late in the afternoon on December 20, 1962, Monroe suffered a great loss
in the sudden death of Mrs. Kate Harris Stewart, wife of prominent Monroe
physician & surgeon, Dr. Philip R. Stewart.
Kate was one of the most active, creative and talented neighbors of the
Walton Circle group. Active in all
areas of Monroe civic and social circles, Kate’s unique talents endeared her
to friends and family in Monroe, Atlanta and Alabama.
The reason her death remains so vivid was my parents were called to help
out that afternoon Kate was stricken at her home and taken to the Walton County
Hospital where it seemed every doctor in town was in the emergency room trying
desperately to save her without success. The morning following her death cars
lined the street with friends calling to pay their respects to Phil, Louie &
The Stewart’s daughter, Louie, led a fulfilling life as an elementary
school teacher for nearly 40 years. In 1977 she married Randall Thomas and
settled in Eatonton, Ga. In 1979 they had a son, Stewart, named after Louie’s
father. By the time of Stewart’s
birth, Louie’s father had died, so growing up Stewart never had the
opportunity of knowing either of his maternal grandparents, only things told him
by his mother and other relatives. Louie died from cancer on June 22, 2008 at
the age of 67.
Approaching the 56th anniversary of Kate’s death, I wrote a
tribute to her, something I should have done years ago.
I sent it to one of Kate’s cousins who immediately sent it to Stewart,
Kate’s grandson. He sent a nice
note saying how much he appreciated having this as it filled in a lot of blanks
about his grandmother. He mentioned
he often wished he had the opportunity of knowing both his grandparents before
their deaths. Remembering the tribute to Dr. Stewart I wrote some years ago, I
sent him that article so he would have as complete accounting of two of
Monroe’s best loved citizens as I could compile and in closing told him even
though he never knew them, he had the privilege of being a part of an highly
respected and loved Monroe family for which he could always be proud and the
legacy he could carry forth.
Sometimes it is not the gifts you get but the gifts you give which make
life so meaningful. Having the
wonderful opportunity this past year of bringing families with Monroe
connections together and helping them appreciate their past through other Monroe
folks is a part of what makes the town and its citizens so very special for me.