Columbus native Cecelia Seiler, the wife of attorney Sonny Seiler and owner of the University of Georgia Uga Bulldog mascots for more than 50 years, died Thursday in Savannah, Ga.
She was 80.
“My heart goes out to Sonny and the Seiler family on the passing of Cecelia,” Georgia football coach Mark Richt said. “I know that my thoughts and prayers and those of the entire Bulldog nation are with the family.”
University of Georgia President Jere W. Morehead said, “Cecelia’s devotion to the University of Georgia was surpassed only by her devotion to Sonny and the family. We all mourn her passing and are so thankful for her faithful love and care for the Bulldog tradition.”
Uga V was perhaps the most famous in the line of Ugas, with a role in the movie “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil,” which was based on the book. The book told the story of Sonny Seiler and one of his high-profile cases.
Clint Eastwood directed the movie. In the book “Damn Good Dog,” Sonny Seiler recounts when Eastwood met Uga V and told the dog, “Uga, I am going to make you a celebrity.”
Cecelia Seiler told Eastwood, “Mr Eastwood, Uga is already a celebrity.”
The former Cecelia Gunn married Seiler while both were students at Georgia. The Seilers received a wedding gift of an English Bulldog puppy from Frank Heard of Columbus in 1956.
Sonny complained at the time that he didn’t have enough money to feed the family much less a pet. But Cecelia told Cox News Service in 2005 that Sonny had plans for the puppy from the start.
“From the get-go, Sonny Seiler had in his mind someday this might be the mascot,” she said in the documentary “Damn Good Dog.”
Cecelia fit the dog with a children’s T-shirt, to which she stitched a Black “G.”
On Sept. 19, 1956, she brought the dog to its first Georgia football game against Florida State.
“We took him into the stands, and he attracted a lot of attention, including some from some photographers,” Sonny Seiler said during a 2003 tour for the book “Damn Good Dog.”
The sports information director at the time, Dan Magill, saw a photo of the dog in a newspaper. Magill asked Seiler if he could have his dog serve as the team’s mascot.
A short time later, the dog was named Uga I — a suggestion by Columbus’ Billy Young III — and was made the official mascot of the football team.
Ceceila Seiler graduated from Columbus High and attended Mary Washington College in Fredericksburg, Va., before transferring to Georgia, according to her obituary.
“Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny and the family,“ former Georgia football coach Vince Dooley said. “Cecelia was truly the matriarch and a force behind the Uga tradition. God bless her and the family.”
She is survived by Sonny; children Swann Seiler and Charles Seiler of Savannah, Bess Thompson of St. Simons and Sara Storey of Athens; and seven grandchildren.
Visitation will be held from 9-10:30 a.m. Monday at the Savannah Golf Club. The funeral will be at 11 a.m. Monday at the Lutheran Church of the Ascension on Wright Square in Savannah with burial to follow in the Greenwich Section of Bonaventure.
Uga I 1956-66
Uga II 1966-72
Uga III 1972-80
Uga IV 1981-89
Uga V 1990-99
Uga VI 1999-2008
Uga VII 2008-09
Uga VIII 2010-11
*Uga IX 2012-present
Russ, who is Uga IX, served in an interim role from 2009-12 after the death of Uga VII, his half-brother. Uga VIII was collared in 2010 but died from lymphoma in February 2011. Russ was officially installed as Uga IX on Sept. 15, 2012.
Source: UGA sports information department