Sometimes we use the word "family" with an extra descriptive word, like church family. Or we classify friends and acquaintances with definitions like neighborhood or childhood friends or schoolmates, even co-workers or fan club members.
When the MOTH (Man of the House) went to work for Georgia Power in 1957, neither of us had any idea that we had just been born into a huge family. We slowly came to discover that kinship, a relationship that was fostered by management and perpetuated by employees. The company sponsored get-togethers... picnics, Christmas events... occasions where employees and their families could gather with each other to get acquainted and do some serious bonding.
Upon our move to Canton in 1961, we began to see this Georgia Power family idea at its best. Strat Pressly was the local manager, and he was like a jolly old St. Nicholas. The office staff and the service, sales and operating department personnel became household names to us, and looking back upon those two-and-a-half years, it seems like they did nothing but manufacture stories, tales that are still being told today. But it could not last, and we had to move on. But just two years later we would be back in Cherokee County, at a different work location, but still connected with old friends.
It was around this time that a group of ladies, with company approval, organized the Women of Georgia Power, an organization that eventually grew to become a civic organization, carrying the banner of the company's motto, A Citizen Wherever We Serve. One of its early objectives was to assist employees and their families as they re-located around the state. Because of the family atmosphere already in place, it was not uncommon for a family to move to a new city and find the wife of an employee camped on the doorstep when the moving van pulled up in the driveway. But with an organization in place, the gals could quickly embrace a newcomer and nourish a new friendship with monthly meetings and socials.
The Canton Chapter of WGP (including surrounding offices as well) organized in 1971. It was like we suddenly gained a dozen new aunts and uncles and cousins as we came to know more and more company folks. Not long afterwards Bill Wester came to Canton as local manager, bringing with him his wife, June. She soon became a vital part of the very active WGP group.
Her death last week prompted me to drag out photo albums and files to refresh my memories. And oh, what memories. I guess she made everybody feel like "best friends," but she always made me feel special. I loved being with her. Aside from the main tie we shared (the company), she was filled with a love of history and her genealogy expertise inspired me to begin my never-ending search for my own ancestors. She was involved in the early years of Cherokee County Historical Society when her skills were especially needed. She was always willing to do family tree classes and programs. She had that special knack for bringing dead history to life.
She wore many hats and walked in many shoes, but always she brought enthusiasm to the table. Ever a willing participant in WGP projects, she believed that being married to the local manager didn't give her a free pass from the dirty work.
WGP members' favorite memory of June concerns the program she presented at meetings that were baby showers. She became Dr. Westerluv, and went into precise details about cabbage patches and other mystical aspects of babies. These skits proved to me that she was a comedienne at heart (or Hart, her maiden name). That great sense of humor is contagious in these folks.
I found a clipping about a WGP Womanless Wedding in which Walt Haley was the bride's baby. Fiddlin' Mack Cagle and his brother Polecat Mountain Mike rendered the music ("Faded Love"), and Bill Wester was the Best Man. (He probably refused to wear a dress, but wouldn't June have had fun dressing him up!) How much fun can you have in one day?
I still can't find a word for that family/friend relationship, but whatever it is, it includes June Wester. We count our blessings. We will miss her.
Juanita Hughes is the retired manager of the Woodstock Public Library.