It would take way too many adjectives to properly describe George Smith. In his own special way, he contributed with words to the pages of The Anniston Star in the same way that Ken Elkins contributed with photographs. Both were masters at disarming everyday people to the point of giving up their stories, and I counted both as good friends. It was obvious that George was also a master observer of people, and he knew how to paint their stories with simple language, just as Ken did with his camera.
We visited over the phone just last week, and, amid telling me about his most recent medical adventures, he talked about people we both knew and had known. He talked fondly about his longtime buddy, Jerry Pinkston, who was a co-worker of mine at Alabama Power Company. He recounted his longtime friendship with Ken Easterling, the “peach man” from Chilton County (another mutual friend), and his dad, the late Leon Easterling, who brought peaches to Anniston for many years and had many friends here. He shared that his column the next day would be about Ken's wife, Faye, who had just recently passed away. It was important to him to share his memories of her, and them, with his readers.
We talked about how things have changed at The Star, and most newspapers, over the last several years. He mentioned changes that he liked, and others he found less than pleasing.
I commented to George about how much I enjoyed reading his columns, even when they were about much of nothing. “Pal,” he said, “ they're always about much of nothing.” Such was his self-deprecating nature, while still taking pride in being able to share his stories with his readers.
George's absence will be duly noted by many, and in what may seem to many like unlikely places. The back pew at church, a yearly fish fry at a garage in Randolph County, Jack's on Quintard after Sunday services, an annual yard sale that stretches from Etowah County to the Tennessee line, and other places where he was likely to just show up. Such was his style.
Farewell, “Pal,” and we'll toast you with Blue Bell homemade vanilla just as soon as the peaches are ready.