The People of Georgetown
I went in to talk with the new owner and proprietor of 700 Modern on Front Street. I had spoken with her on the phone a few times already as we set up a day and time to meet. She sounded so petite, but I know from experience that most people do not match how they sound on the phone. Boy was I wrong! Gigi is a sweet petite young lady with the prettiest eyes ever.
Some of my interviewees will ask if I can just send them some questions, but that is not how I do things. Like always, I explained what I do and how I do it. I am more personable than a list of questions so when I arrived, the interview began.
Gigi and her husband, Jamie, have been married for 25 years and have two children. “One of each,” Gigi said of her children, “A boy and a girl.”
We started off talking a little about many things like the restaurant, her career, what role her husband is going to play in this business. Although, Gigi is straightforward, but more reserved than her husband is, she does strike me as a person who can handle things with a no-nonsense, yet, gentle personality.
One thing she did share with me was that she’s always wanted her own restaurant since she was a young 14-year old girl. I believe she has the right personality to be in the restaurant business. It’s taken her about 30 years to make it happen, and at 45 years old, she finally managed it.
I asked her to tell me about herself as this was her story, but she explained to me that she felt uncomfortable talking about herself. Instead, we talked mostly about the business...that seemed to be her comfort zone. I noted that her beautiful green-hazel eyes lit up when she talked about it, too.
“I didn’t even know it was on the market,” I commented casually.
“Well, we heard about it from someone,” Gigi explained, “So we checked into it and it turned out that the previous owner really was looking to retire.”
I glanced in Jamie’s direction. He shrugged a little and reconfirmed, “She’s always wanted this, it was her dream to have her own place, and it was our chance to get it.”
“What about you?” I asked Jamie. “What will you be doing here?”
“I’ll be doing whatever she needs me to do,” he answered quite frankly. “I don’t have a title here like waitress, or manager; I’m just here to help her make it work.”
I turned back to Gigi. “You said you’ve always wanted your own restaurant; why?”
“I don’t know. It’s just something I like to do. I even started out as a server, waiting tables and things. I guess I just enjoy making people happy like my customers. It’s like...they’re family. I remember them, their special events, and what they like to eat and drink,” she explained. With a laugh she added, “I just sometimes draw a blank with their names, but everything else I can remember well.”
I nodded and said, “That’s like Andrea Johnson at Aunny’s. She’s always worked in restaurants and it’s been her passion to one day own her own place, as well.”
We did talk for a little while longer about the future of the business, past and present alike. In closing, I want to say that one thing I feel is unfortunate is that 700 no longer serves sushi. They had stopped long before Gigi bought the place.
Apparently, when Rollin Local opened, they naturally became the competition in the sushi department, but when the previous owner’s sushi chef retired, he just decided to stop serving it completely. No matter. The rest of the menu is just as good as it ever was.
However, on the up side of their recent purchase: Gigi is planning to reopen during lunch hours again. “We’re just working on a lunch menu and making a few changes and adjustments and then we’ll be open for lunch, too.”
Before I left, I asked her to share a funny story story with me from her personal life or work experience. She thought a minute, laughed, and then answered, “On my first job, the first time I ever poured someone a glass of tea, I poured it into his lap.”
“How did that happen?” I asked.
“The pitcher had a top on it and I misunderstood how it locked on and when I poured, it came off and poured the tea into his lap. He was okay about it, but I thought for sure I was history. I thought to myself that this wasn’t going to work out so well. He laughed about it, though.”
I finished making my notes and closed my notebook. Personally, I cannot wait for the lunch menu. I love having lunch on Front Street so I’ll definitely be waiting in anticipation to check out the new menu. I may even have to do a follow up on this just to update.
Until then, thank you Gigi Avant for taking time out of your busy schedule to sit down and talk to me. Georgetown wishes you the best of luck with your endeavor.
I have completely enjoyed doing these articles for Valentine’s Day. I cannot express my gratitude enough to all of the beautiful couples who helped make it possible. Not only have I enjoyed it, I learned from it. Even though my husband and I will be married 35 years as of June, we still have a lot of years to go before we catch up to my Valentine Couples.
I believe I have written before (I know I’ve said it out loud) that when Scott Harper first mentioned writing a Valentine special, I didn’t think it would go over so well. I truly felt I might get one or two couples to choose from, but that couldn’t have been farther from the truth. The response was so overwhelming that I decided to write about everyone I could up to Valentine’s Day.
I think my original opinion was largely influenced by the many young couples who put their personal business on Facebook and then complain that people stick their noses into their relationships. I quickly learned that these couples, who have been married for 50 plus years, do not ever do that, with emphasis on ever.
Long-term marriages do not succumb to social media. Take Scott and Rebecca Harper for example. They’ve been married for only 20 years and they don’t put their personal business out there and he’s a reporter. It’s his job to run his mouth...So to all you new couples just starting out, take notes and learn, just as I did about how to stay married to the one you love.
For the most part, they all had the same recipe (just about anyway) so apparently it works. Nonetheless, I am going to choose one thing from each couple’s recipe to bring back home to my own marital cookbook. Here are some of the things I’ll add:
1. First and foremost, all of the couples have said that God is important.
2. From Harriet and Frankie Davis, I bring with me: “Do things together as a couple, vacation as a family and not separately.”
3. From Jeanne and Tom Rea: “Try not to argue a lot. Bad days are going to happen so don’t take everything to heart.”
4. From Mary and Ronnie Cavalieri, I will sprinkle a pound of: “Marriage is not 50/50, it’s 100/100 – you have to put your all into it and not just a piece.”
5. From Marilyn and Lenair Altman, I will add: “Humor. You have to able to laugh together and enjoy life. No one is getting out alive.”
6. From Evelyn and James Wragg, I will put in my mixing bowl: “Honesty. If you cannot be honest with one another then you cannot trust one another and vice-versa.”
7. From Connie and Wesley Owens, I will add a pound of: “Not going to bed angry. Respect each other, always.”
8. From Ruthie and George Dugan: “You should be best friends so you can talk to one another and tell each other everything.”
9. From Catherine and Joe Lawrimore, I bring with me: “Values and sharing them with my husband so that he knows, when the chips are down, I won’t be,”
10. From Weezie and Jeep Ford, I will add 100 pounds of: “Kisses and affection. Every day, kiss one another and tell them that you love them.”
When you put all of those ingredients together, it bakes a huge pie of the vows we took before God and everyone to love, honor, and respect one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, and in sickness and in health, until death do we part.
Holy guacamole! I just met the most amazing couple of all. These two take the cake, the pie, and the whole doughnut shop. They’ve been married for 72 years, 73 as of 2019! I know people who feel fortunate enough to live that long, much less be married this long.
Jeep Ford is 94 years old and his blushing bride, Weezie, is 91. They have a lot of stories to tell. As Jeep astutely put it, “I’m a walking history book.” He wasn’t kidding either.
As I sat down and opened my notebook, Jeep said, “What do you want to know? I’ve loved her since she had long curls in her hair and riding her tricycle.”
“Her tricycle?” I stammered.
With a laugh, he said, “Yes, we’ve known each other most our lives. I was born and grew up on Screven Street and she moved here when she was about two years old.”
“No, I’ve lived here all my life. I was born over on Broad Street,” Weezie corrected with a laugh.
“Well, I know that,” Jeep stated, “I just meant you moved to Screven Street when you were about two years old.”
Still in awe of his original comment, I asked, “How old were you when she was riding her tricycle?”
“I was about 8 years old, she was about 6. I thought she was the prettiest thing and I’ve loved her ever since.”
“Tell her about the birthday party,” Weezie encouraged laughing jovially. Obviously, Jeep is the storyteller of the two. “Go on, tell her about that.”
“What happened at the birthday party?” I asked as I feverishly wrote notes. “Did he try to hold your hand?”
“No, that was the hay-ride when we held hands for the first time,” Jeep started. “Well, with the birthday party story, I was old enough to drive; I was fourteen...”
In anticipation, Weezie picked up the thread, “...My girlfriend and I were talking about who Jeep would be interested in more; her or me.”
“It was her,” he confirmed. “We dated on and off through high school, and we kept going together even after I went off to the war and she went off to college. I would go visit her and we’d go to dances and dates and different activities.”
Weezie nodded, agreeing. “Most of it was church activities, too. It was during World War II and I was in Winston-Salem while Jeep was in the service. I was a music major.”
“World War II?” I thought that was amazing in itself.
“Yes, World War, II,” Jeep confirmed. “I got drafted in when I was 18 years old and sent to the Pacific for about 23 months and then I came back and was sent to Washington DC for 13 more months. I was happy about that because then I was closer to her while she was in college.”
They talked a little back and forth about how they dated secretively, how Jeep was frustrated that he never got to further his education with his G.I. Bill, their three children, grandchildren, then back to eloping, and Jeep working at the hardware and grocery store on Front Street, then working fifty years at Parrish Motors.
Wait...eloping? Park the Model-T!
“You two eloped?”
Both were laughing now, “Yes, we sure did,” Weezie answered. “The funny thing is one of my girlfriends needed a ride so I asked Jeep if he would mind giving her a ride. It was after we’d gone and eloped and he said it was okay so we gave her a ride and never said a word to her about what we’d just done. When she found out she said, ‘oh my! I was with you on your honeymoon’.”
Jeep talked about working on President Teddy Roosevelt’s yacht while he was stationed in Washington, DC. “The smoke stack had an elevator in it, but you’d never know it. It was so Roosevelt could ride his wheelchair up to the upper deck. After Roosevelt, Harry S. Truman took over the yacht.”
“You worked for Truman?” I asked.
“Yes, I did,” he confirmed. “I was one of four men to work on that boat. I liked Harry. I could talk to him just like I am talking to you and he was a man of decisions, too. I liked that a lot about him.”
I knew Jeep wanted to get his nap and I was holding him up. At 94 years old, he was entitled to it so; I finished up with my final question: “What is your recipe for a successful marriage?”
Weezie answered first – “God is first, always, but outside of that, I’d say communication is a big factor. You should talk to each other about everything; you need to have a mutual respect for one another; and, generosity. I think that’s important, too. If you can’t be giving to other people, you can’t be a giving person to each other so; you should be kind and giving to all. The last thing is you should always be loving and affectionate to one another. Every morning, Jeep gives me a kiss good morning.”
“That’s because she’s still so beautiful,” he said of the curly haired girl who stole his heart while riding her tricycle.
“Now you tell her what you think a good marriage needs,” Weezie instructed. “Those were my thoughts, you tell her yours.”
“God is first. Your faith is the most important,” Jeep began. “Like Weezie said, ‘communication is important, too’. Compliment each other and hold hands and such”
“Responsibility, too,” Weezie added. “You have to be responsible in your life.”
With passion, Jeep included, “And live by your vows! Love one another for better or worse, richer or poorer, and sickness and in health, until death do you part!
“I know that if it wasn’t for Weezie being as strong a woman as she is, I wouldn’t be here today. We both feel very blessed to have lived this long and been together as long as we have. We’re very blessed.”
I closed my notebook and with a sense of reverence at this amazing couple, I said my goodbyes. Before closing, though, I have to say that when I first posted on Facebook about writing these articles for Valentine’s Day, these two became a big focal point. Now, I see why. They are a hoot! I loved meeting them and I will always cherish what they gave me.
Happy Valentine’s Day, Jeep and Weezie. I hope you have many more good-morning kisses to share with each other.
As with all of my Valentine couples, I began by explaining that Scott Harper, of GAB News, likes for me to write these type of articles because I am not a reporter or a journalist and I write from a personal perspective. I’m not there trying to dig up dirt to write a story, as they are my story. That being said, Joe and Catherine Lawrimore have become my next subject.
This lovely couple has been married for 53 years. They met in the 10th grade at Pleasant Hill High School. “Pleasant Hill and Choppee High have become Carver’s Bay now. They’ve combined the two schools,” Catherine explained.
“So you’ve both grown up in the same community then?” I asked looking from one to the other.
“Yes and no,” Joe answered.
Catherine picked up and elaborated, “Joe grew up near William’s Hill, which is at the edge of the county. If you walk through the woods you’ll run into the Pee Dee River. So he grew up there while I grew up on the Rhem’s side of the county, the other side. We often tell people, ‘Joe grew up in the woods, but I grew up in the country,’ since I was across from him.”
“Did you say Rhem?” I asked. “I featured a story for Halloween last year and it was about a Rhem House that is haunted.”
“Yes, it’s the only one left, too,” Catherine stated, knowing the property I wrote about. She even knew the previous owners.
We talked a little more about the Rhem House before I asked (getting back to the article), “Tell me what happened after high school, where did you go?”
“I went to college in Columbia,” Joe answered. “I took a two-year business course and Catherine worked at Baxter Laboratories.”
“Yes, I moved to Columbia and took a job up there. We married a few months later. It was March of ‘66,” she shared. “A few months after we married, Joe enlisted into the Air Force.”
“You enlisted?” I asked, “Not drafted? You did that by choice?”
Joe nodded in agreement. “I knew I was going to get drafted and I wanted to decide which branch of the service I went into so, I enlisted into the Air Force after college. By then, Catherine and I were already married.”
“We didn’t know it then, but when you got drafted they’d line you up and go down the list of names putting people in different branches so as not to flood just one branch,” Catherine explained. “They’d count off, Navy, Air Force, Army, and so on.”
I did not know that, either. To Catherine, I asked, “What did you do while he was away?”
“While he was in the service, I worked on Broad Street in Charleston. I was pregnant at the time...,” she started.
“...I came home from Labrador, Newfoundland from the Air Force after the baby was born,” Joe added.
Catherine nodded, “Yes, our first daughter was a year old when he got out of the service. After Joe got home in 1970, we traveled a little for his work. We lived in Greenville, Atlanta...you know, the bigger cities.”
“What brought you home to Georgetown?”
“Family. Our parents were getting older and ailing so we just thought it was time to come home and we’re very happy we did. We love Georgetown,” Catherine gushed. “It’s our home.”
During their marriage, they both worked at Georgetown Steel Mill while raising their two daughters. Joe worked in Production Planning before he retired and enjoyed farming afterwards (he has a family farm). Catherine also retired from working in the sales office at the mill. At 72 years old, they both lead very active lives with family, grandchildren, and just with each other.
I asked what their Valentine plans were (I think I caught them off guard). They look at each other, shrugged, and said they didn’t have any. Like my husband and I, they’ve been married for so long that it’s just another day. We don’t make plans, either.
“Who knew it first?” I asked throwing it in the midst of the Valentine plan conversation. “Who knew first that you were meant for each other?”
“I did,” Joe answered without hesitation.
Catherine glanced at her husband. “I believe it was you because you had told someone that you were going to ask me to marry you.”
“And what would you say is your recipe for a lasting marriage?” I asked as I wrote some notes down in my notebook.
Like past couples that I’ve interviewed, without hesitation, they said the first thing any marriage needs is, God.
“Children,” Catherine added. “Children are great for a marriage. They keep you going. We have a very close family here.”
Joe thought a minute and then added, “Values. You should both share the same values as one another and communication.”
“That’s right,” Catherine agree. “Talk to each other every day.”
I set aside my notebook as we talked for several more minutes. My husband had come back to pick me up. I wasn’t allowed to drive myself over there. Since driving to George and Ruthie Dugan’s around the corner, he has grounded me from driving and hid the car keys until my eyes get better (he can be so unreasonable!).
We talked about our kids and grandchildren and then Catherine pulled me into another room to show me the pictures of their two daughters. On the wall hung two very beautiful young women in portrait pictures. I noticed the radiant smile on Joe’s face. His eyes lit up as he gazed upon his lovely daughters.
Yup. I know they are daddy’s girls...no doubt. He probably spoiled them rotten!
When I got out to the car with my husband, I was sharing with him some of the information. One thing I mentioned is their age (72 years old). He did not realize they were one of my Valentine Couples.
“They’re really in their 70s,” he marveled. “I thought they were about your age (50s) and younger than me! Man, I gotta find out which brand of Wheaties they eat.”
On a side note: Before I go, I want to write about this. I usually refused to write about anyone’s health when I feature people. I feel it is not my place to put their privacy out there; it is the families’ place. However, Catherine has expressed that she wanted me to write it and I agreed to.
As a nurse, I can tell you that very few people make it back from brain cancer and/or tumors and most that do survive the surgery and treatments are not necessarily out of the woods, yet. It doesn’t just affect one’s ability to think and process information, but sometimes their ability to walk, or even speak, can be affected.
Joe is a walking miracle. He’s one of the few that have survived and that in itself is amazing and worth mentioning. He’s able to think, process, participate, walk, and speak. If no one had told you, you probably would never know.
I mention this because as he stood admiring his daughter’s pictures on the wall, just the look of pride on his face told me that in addition to Catherine’s love, his daughters were also his inspiration. With that being said, I want to wish Catherine, and especially Joe Lawrimore, a very special Valentine’s Day. Joe, you’ve got this and I think you will see many more.
I was so adamant about writing this couple’s story that in spite of my poor vision; I took my son’s truck and headed over there. You should have seen the look of horror on my husband’s face when I told him what I did. That’s nothing compared to the looks from other drivers.
I was excited to meet George and Ruthie Dugan, and likewise, about this interview. Not because there was anything particular about their story that I was aware of in advance (or because I got to drive myself there), but because I have discovered these marriages that have lasted over half a century are completely amazing, and each one is a beautiful, yet, unique story.
As of December of 2018, they have been married for 50 years. Ruthie is 69 years old, while George is a young 71, soon to be 72 in June. They’ve been blessed with two children and several grandchildren, two of which are twin boys.
“We’re very fortunate to have most of the family close by,” Ruthie said of their family. “I mean like they haven’t moved far from us. Sometimes, my twin grandsons, who are in college now, will come to Georgetown and visit. If they stay at our house on Black River, they’ll call to let us know that they’re there, even though they don’t have to do that.”
“They’re all good kids,” George said of his grandchildren.
“George was in the Army when we first got married, and he had an R&R in Hawaii,” Ruthie shared. “We didn’t have a honeymoon and so, that’s where we went. For our 50th anniversary, we went back to Hawaii. Our son lives there so it was a wonderful chance to visit with him, as well”
“I bet that was nice!” I exclaimed. “I heard it was really pricey there.”
Ruthie nodded. “It is. Things cost more there than here. Not long after we came back home from the first time in Hawaii, George got his orders to go to Vietnam.”
“Yeah, it was the last nine months of my tour, too,” George stated recalling those many years ago in the service. “When I got out of the Army, I did a lot of small home repairs and yard maintenance until I finally retired.
“What kind of work did you do in the service?” I asked of George.
“I was a medic,” he answered. “I worked in a hospital in New Mexico before I got sent to Vietnam.”
I thought that interesting. I know several male nurses who first started out as a medic in the armed services. It’s rare that the people don’t stay in the medical field when their tour of duty ends.
The question begged to be asked. “Why didn’t you stay in the medical field?”
“I don’t know. Just dumb, I guess,” he said thoughtfully.
“What kind of work did you do, Ruthie?”
“Well, the first year George was in the Army, I went to business school and then afterwards, I worked as a secretary at Georgetown Steel Mill,” she answered. “I eventually retired after 42 years, but before then I had been promoted to the store room manager.”
Before I could ask what that meant, George spoke up, “She kept the mill running in parts. That was her job.”
I made a few notes before asking, “How did you two meet?”
Ruthie laughed a little and said, “He was best friends with my brother and he was working for my dad; that’s how I met him. We dated in high school a little before getting engaged, though.”
Hmm. Trying to be slick since Ruthie said she’s read some of my articles. I’ve written about some of their friends, Frankie & Harriet Davis, as well as Tom & Jeanne Rea. As casually as I could, I asked, “So, since you’ve been reading my articles, you know what’s coming next.” They nodded their heads in agreement. “Who knew first?”
George looked over at his wife to see if she were going to answer. When Ruthie didn’t say anything right away, he said, “It just sort of happened. She was 19 and I was 21 when we got married.”
Ruthie picked up from there and elaborated. “We both just knew that we would eventually get married. Our families put the wedding together in six weeks so; it was really fast once we got engaged.
“Was it a big church wedding?”
They shrugged before Ruthie answered, “Mostly it was just close friends and family. We got married in our church here in Georgetown. We were the first ones to ever get married in our church, too.”
By this time, I knew I wasn’t going to surprise them with any sudden questions, so I just brought everything around to the close and asked, “What is your recipe for a lasting marriage?”
Without hesitation, they both said the first thing is, “God. Second, being best friends.”
“You need to be friends,” Ruthie explained, “So that you can talk to each other; communicate and be honest with one other.”
I closed my notebook and set it aside. I turned to George and said, “So what do you think, George? Are you ready for a divorce, yet?”
George shook his head no. “I think I’ll keep her another 50 years,” he answered.
Spoken like a good husband. Thank you both for allowing me to come into your home and write about you. It was a pleasure, indeed. Happy Valentine’s Day George and Ruthie. I know you’re looking forward to many more of them.