Notable local deaths in 2013

mrice@ledger-enquirer.comDecember 30, 2013 

Blue turned black this year in Columbus.

And the city's collective heart was bruised black-and-blue with the loss of four veteran police officers only 74 days apart.

In a mournful stretch from July to September, death took these public servants in different ways: Capt. Jackey Long by cancer, Cpl. Thomas Keith Slay by accident, Capt. Vince Pasko by suicide, and, less than month after he retired, Lt. Lynn Joiner by natural cause.

Combined, they served public safety for more than 125 years in Columbus.

Police across the Chattahoochee River weren't spared such grief. Phenix City Officer Daniel Davis died Nov. 10, when he apparently shot himself accidentally.

"The brotherhood we share is something we can't explain to the average person," Muscogee County Sheriff's Maj. Randy Robertson, president of the local Fraternal Order of Police, said after Pasko died Aug. 27. "The brotherhood develops in those situations when we go into places with each other to get bad people. … So it breaks my heart, but we'll pick up and move forward and keep doing the job until we can't anymore."

As we pause on the final day of 2013 to remember the year's notable local deaths -- lives that left a legacy of improving our community and country -- Robertson's words are worth repeating: "… We'll pick up and move forward and keep doing the job until we can't anymore."

Here are some of those who died this year:

Precious Bryant, Jan. 12

Bryant, 71, grew up in a family of musicians and honed her craft at country get-togethers. She took her music throughout the Southeast, as well as to England and France. Some of the popular sounds from Bryant include "Black Rat," "I Can't Stand To See You Go," "You can Have My Husband But Please Don't Mess With My Man," and a version of "When the Saints Go Marching In."

Kenneth Eugene White, Jan. 18

White, 81, was a former director of the South Columbus Boys Club and past president of the Columbus Board of Realtors. He spent more than 50 years in real estate, contracting and land development. He won a state doubles championship while playing tennis for Columbus High, then played for Auburn University, and won the 2010 Super Senior Combo Georgia State Championship.

Billy Brescia, Jan. 24

Brescia, 95, sold homes for 65 years. The Georgia Association of Realtors awarded him Realtor of the Year in 2011, and the Columbus Board of Realtors named its headquarters in honor of him. His volunteer work included the Boy Scouts, Little League, Columbus Public Safety Board and American Legion.

Allen F. Davis, Jan. 26

Davis, 95, served as chairman of the Marion County Board of Education and the Marion County Draft Board. He coached baseball and softball, from Little League to middle and high school to adult church league. He was a U.S. Navy veteran of World War II and retired from the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 1986.

Dr. Zsolt Koppanyi, Jan. 29

Koppanyi, 77, directed the West Central Georgia Health District in Columbus before retiring in September 2010. Known affectionately as "Dr. K," he was passionate about promoting immunization and prenatal/neonatal healthcare programs.

Tony Pierce, Jan. 31

Pierce, 67, was a youth baseball coach and former major league pitcher. Approximately 300 mourners were invited to sign his casket during the service on the Babe Ruth League field off Psalmond Road. He played for the Athletics in Oakland and Kansas City, appearing in 66 major league games, including nine starts from 1967-68. He compiled a 4-6 record with an 3.24 earned-run average. A torn tendon ended his pro career, but he stayed involved in baseball by coaching numerous local teams and forming the Young Guns Baseball Travel Organization.

Lawrence Smith, Feb. 10

Smith, 84, was a Ledger-Enquirer photographer for 27 years, including 21 years as photo chief. He was known for his crisp shirt and tie as well as sharp images that captured life in the Chattahoochee Valley. He also was renowned for his service to the Exchange Club of Columbus. He was club president and honored as Exchangite of the Year in 1991. He also helped produce the L-E's Page One Awards, which honor outstanding local high school students and teachers.

Maretta Taylor, Feb. 17

Taylor, 78, was a retired educator and member of the Georgia House of Representatives from 1990-2002. Before representing District 134, Taylor worked for 28 years as an educator, serving as a school teacher and librarian. After 2002, she served on the county's Board of Elections and Registration.

Dennie Trotter, Feb. 25

Trotter, 87, was a former coach, teacher and assistant principal at Jordan Vocational High School, as well as principal at Daniel Junior High School and executive director of the Columbus YMCA. In 2011, Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp awarded Trotter the Georgia Citizen of the Year award.

Ret. Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell III, March 17

Caldwell, 87, was awarded three Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars and one Purple Heart in a 32-year military career, including the Korean and Vietnam wars. He was commander of the Fifth Army in San Antonio and lived in Columbus after retiring in 1980.

Dr. Floyd Cannon Jarrell, March 17

Jarrell, 90, was a founding member of West Georgia Eye Care Center, past president of the Medical College of Georgia Alumni Association and helped start the college's foundation. As a member of the St. Paul United Methodist Church administrative board, he oversaw the church's move from downtown to Wildwood Avenue in the 1950s.

Jere Richardson, March 23

Richardson, 85, directed Columbus Technical College when it began and was known as Columbus Area Vocational-Technical School in 1961 and operated by the Muscogee County School District. He previously taught at Baker High School and ended up as administrator of the district's vocational programs. He also served more than 25 years as a poll worker and was the precinct manager at Reese Road Elementary School. As a member of the Columbus Woodworkers Guild, he made toys for the Salvation Army and provided pieces for children to make birdhouses at the Valley Rescue Mission;s Camp Joy.

Jimmy Hightower, March 30

Hightower, 83, coached the Americus High School football team from 1954-71, compiling a 103-16-4 record and two state titles. He also coached three state championship teams in golf and one each in basketball and baseball. He moved to LaGrange in 1972 and went 47-34-1 in eight football seasons. He went on to the college ranks in 1982 and became Georgia Southwestern's first football coach, notching five straight winning seasons before retiring in 1989.

Arthur G. Springer Jr., April 1

Springer, 94, was executive director of the Chattahoochee Valley Fair from 1962 until his retirement in 1991. He previously was assistant director at the Columbus Chamber of Commerce. He served as president of the local Kiwanis International chapter and as lieutenant governor of the state chapter. His great-great grandfather, Francis Joseph Springer, built the Springer Opera House, where Arthur met his wife, Shirley, on stage and he delighted audiences with his baritone voice.

Bill Nichols, April 8

Nichols, 92, had a varied career in the Phenix City Parks and Recreation Department, including as superintendent. He was a past president of the Alabama Parks and Recreation Society and the first state softball commissioner. He also was an accomplished musician, playing at venues such as the Ralston Hotel and Country Club of Columbus.

Greg Domin, April 10

Domin, 46, was Columbus State University associate provost. He came to CSU from Mercer University to be chairman of the political science department in 2009, then was promoted a year later to associate provost for graduate education, distance learning and international affairs. He also was president-elect for the Georgia Council of Graduate Schools.

Joe Robbins, April 14

Robbins, 75, became in 1970 the first black officer promoted to sergeant in the Columbus Police Department -- and he was known for giving speeding tickets to high-ranking government officials. "Joe was a great police officer and a great supervisor," said former Columbus Mayor Jim Wetherington, who was police chief when he and Robbins retired in 1995.

Daniel B. Bridges, May 5

Bridges, 61, was on the Harris County Commission for 12 years and managed the county for five years. "He was a great commissioner, a great county manager," said county clerk Nancy McMichael. "He served the people of Harris County very well."

Robert C. "Bob" Jackson, May 13

Jackson, 79, was instrumental in helping bring Dixie Youth Baseball to Smiths Station, where he also filmed football games for the high school. After a fire destroyed a friend's home, he and friends converted a gasoline tanker into a fire truck and started the Friendship Fire Department. He also was part of the group that built Smiths Plaza Shopping Center and served on the advisory board that designed the Lee County Justice Center in Opelika. Following retirement from Green's Propane Gas Co., he was a charter member of the River Cities Model A Club.

The Rev. William Oliver Powell, May 24

Powell, 76, erved the South Georgia Conference of the United Methodist Church for more than 50 years. His 10 appointments included Sherwood United Methodist Church and St. Paul United Methodist Church. He also was superintendent of the Columbus district before retiring in 2001.

Mary Jane Riley, May 26

Riley, 66, produced a 40-year career and countless admirers in the Phenix City Public Schools. Spanish teacher, guidance counselor, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent were her official titles, but she also volunteered with Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, Rotary Club, Columbus Symphony Orchestra, Children and Family Connection of Russsell County, and the Russell County Child Advocacy Center.

Dr. Phyllis Jane Rivers, May 26

Rivers, 87, began her career at the Columbus Health Department as resident pediatrician in charge of the Head Start program. After working at a state clinic in the 1970s, she led the drug/alcohol war at West Central Georgia Regional Hospital before retiring in 2000. She also was a founding member of St. Thomas Episcopal Church and played the viola and recorder and performed with the Columbus Symphony Orchestra.

Robert Stanley Alston, May 27

Alston, 65, of Hamilton, Ga., was a financial consultant and started a home-based marketing businesses, but he was better known as the publisher of "Faultless Freddie's Football Forecast," a humorous prognostication of college football. He also published a series of booklets called "Quotable Treasures." In 20 years, he traveled to 37 states as a Southern humorist. He volunteered with the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Harris County Young Life and Park Elementary School.

Lee Roy Grogan, July 1

Grogan, 82, was president of the Columbus Lawyers Club and member of the Board of Governors of the State Bar of Georgia. His community service included president of the local and state Jaycees. He also served the Georgia Ports Authority, Georgia Democratic Executive Committee, Muscogee County Department of Family and Children Services, Musocgee Mental Health Association, Columbus Rehabilitation Residence, Mercer University Alumni Association and the Columbus Country Club.

Francis John Brooke III, July 20

Brooke, 84, was president of Columbus College from 1980-87. He initiated a multimillion-dollar fund drive and long-range site development which guided its transformation into Columbus State University. He led the college during a difficult period of declining enrollments and shrinking state budgets. His reorganization of the college forged its modern structure but was unpopular with the faculty, and he resigned after a no-confidence vote.

Eldridge W. Perry, July 24

Perry, 90, of Buena Vista, Ga., was a state legislator, serving in the House (1957-58, 1963-64) and Senate (1959-60). He was a merchant, farmer and insurance agent and worked with the Department of Agriculture for more than 30 years. He chaired the Marion County-Buena Vista Development Authority, taught vocational agriculture at Marion County High School and was president of the Buena Vista Lions Club.

Constance Johnson, July 28

Johnson, 89, was a former Ledger-Enquirer city government reporter. Jack Basset, who was a Columbus Councilor for eight years, said, "Everybody thought of her as the last word in local political coverage."

Ofelia Maria Mullen, Aug. 5

Mullen, 67, founded the Columbus chapter of the League of the United Latin American Citizens. In 1988, as founder and owner of La Lady Products, she created a nail-care method still being used by salons. She also founded and owned the first bilingual newspaper in Columbus, "La Voz Hispana."

Jack Slayton Copelan, Aug. 11

Copelan, 74, owned Team Sports Supply Inc. from 1969-2011. He was a coach and past president of Peach Little League, one of the founders of Clubview Youth Football and a member of the Fred Haskins Award Commission.

Eddie T. Lindsey Jr., Aug. 12

Lindsey, 81, was a pioneer educator in the Muscogee County School District: the first black assistant superintendent; the first administrator to integrate the system's headquarters; and the first black recipient of a six-year certificate in leadership. He developed the district's policy manual and student behavior code. He is the father of two other school district leaders: Carver High School principal Chris Lindsey and Edgewood Student Services Center coordinator Eddie Lindsey III.

The Rev. Claude Walton McBride, Aug. 23

McBride, 81, was known in Columbus for helping the Ledger win the 1955 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service, but he followed another calling and became a pastor. He was chaplain for the University of Georgia football team and associate director of the university's alumni relations. He also influenced crowds as "Happy Calhoun from Possum Gap," dressed in tattered overalls and flashing a gap-toothed grin.

Cason Jewell Callaway III, Sept. 19

Callaway, 60, as the grandson of Callaway Gardens founders Virginia and Cason Callaway Sr., he worked in family businesses, but his true passion was volunteering for the South Georgia Canine, which trains dogs for search and rescue operations, and the Northwest Harris Volunteer Fire Department.

Lovick Pierce Corn, Sept. 26

Corn, 91, was vice chairman of the W.C. Bradley Co., where he worked for more than 50 years. He and his wife, Betty, turned 1,000 acres of family and timber land into what now contains the Bradley Park Drive commercial corridor, the Brookstone and Tree Tops subdivisions, Brookstone School and the Brookstone Centre office park. Two buildings named after him show his generosity: the Salvation Army Lovick P. Corn Community Center and the Columbus State University Corn Center for the Visual Arts, which also honors Betty.

Joe C. Meriweather, Oct. 13

Meriweather, 59, was inducted into the Chattahoochee Valley Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. He was a high school basketball standout in Phenix City, starred at Southern Illinois University and was selected in the first round of the 1975 NBA draft by the Houston Rockets. He earned all-rookie team honors and completed a 10-year NBA while also playing center for the Atlanta Hawks, New Orleans Jazz, New York Knicks and Kansas City Kings. After two seasons in Europe, his coaching career included 13 years with the women's team at Park University in Missouri. He collected the most wins in program history, 128, and led Park to its only NAIA national tournament appearance in 2006. He resigned in 2010 to help form the 3C's Fatherhood Education Partnership Inc., whose mission is to teach young men how to be responsible fathers.

Irvin "Brother" Rosenberg, Oct. 14

Rosenberg, 70, owned Brother's General Store. "He's been such a fixture on Broadway, standing in front of his store, talking to customers," said Richard Bishop, president and CEO of Uptown Columbus Inc. "Especially children, he had such a good way with children. We're really, really going to miss him." His store also didn't survive the year, closing Dec. 21.

Louise Tennent Smith, Oct. 15

Smith, 84, was a grand dame who held court wherever she went, especially the Ledger-Enquirer newsroom as food editor from 1985-93. The Columbus Historic District also was blessed by her spirit as she acted as its caretaker. "She was the most giving person in the district," said neighbor Joe Price.

Elizabeth "Beth" Claire Holmes, Oct. 26

Holmes, 65, was Fort Benning early childhood development director, consultant for IBM on early childhood educational software, Columbus State University Technology Center director and worked in the Georgia Department of Education.

D. Abbott Turner II, Oct. 29

Turner, 52, was a member of the W.C. Bradley Co. board of directors and the 2009 campaign chairman for the United Way of the Chattahoochee Valley. "He put his heart and soul into the United Way and other organizations," said Scott Ferguson, president of the United Way. "He made us a better organization and me a better person."

Robert H. "Bobby" Rowe, Nov. 25

Rowe, 84, was president of the Georgia Association of Realtors and the Columbus Board of Realtors. He helped bring the multi-listing service to Columbus and was instrumental in developing the Realtors Political Action Committee.

The Rev. Gilbert L. Ramsey, Nov. 28

Ramsey, 85, has the distinction of being the only pastor to serve the St. Luke and St. Paul congregations in Columbus. He also was superintendent of the Columbus and Savannah districts for the Methodist church.

J. Smith Lanier II, Dec. 19

Lanier, 85, ran one of the nation's oldest insurance agencies for more than three decades out of West Point, Ga. J. Smith Lanier & Co., which started as the Lanier Insurance Agency, began in 1868. Lanier also helped launch ITC Holding Co. and Powertel, the cellular phone business bought by T-Mobile's parent company.

Retired Lt. Col. Richard "Dick" Adams Munn Jr., Dec. 23

Munn, 93, was a past principal of Hallie Turner Private School and a past commander of the local chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars. He also served on the boards of the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the local chapters of the American Cancer Society and Girls Inc. Known for a sense of adventure, he went whitewater rafting on the Chattahoochee River at the age of 92.

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