By Kay S. PedrottiThief, you have ruined the start of a new year for a whole family.The Ray and Margie Brinkley family is not only upset that an antique Coca-Cola sign has been taken from their partly enclosed carport but also because ‘we’ve never had to worry about this kind of thing before,’ says Margie.Also taken was a brand-new air compressor stored in a different place. Whoever took the sign, Margie says, had to work at it ‘“ the 3’x5’ metal sign was nailed to the wall.’The sign was situated on a carport wall where you couldn’t see it readily. Someone knew where that sign was and took it,’ she adds. Ray was unhappy enough to write a letter to the editor of The Herald Gazette asking for the return of his sign.The incident is under investigation by the Lamar County sheriff’s office. Some leads are being followed but as of press time no one had been charged with the theft. Resellers in the area have been notified, Margie notes, of the sign theft ‘so they’ll know if anybody tries to sell it to them, it’s stolen property.’Margie says Ray, a former county commissioner and community leader, has been offered as much as $500 for the sign but didn’t want to part with it. They have other Coca-Cola memorabilia and commemorative bottles, ‘but that stuff is hidden,’ she adds.Some 30-plus years ago, the Brinkleys’ daughter Rhonda Toon and her sister Deanna Turner (both were unmarried at the time) secured the big sign as a surprise for their father. He had been to a yard sale and had seen the sign but thought the price was a little steep. The two young women took off on a faked errand to see whether they could get the sign and surprise Dad. Rhonda bought it.The seller helped them fasten it to the roof of Rhonda’s car and they brought it home.Rhonda said, ‘He was really tickled when he saw us drive up with the sign attached to the roof of the car. He hung it between the windows of the carport and for all these years whenever I’ve pulled into their yard the sign has been there as a happy memory of a day when I was able to surprise my dad.’At that point in my life I hadn’t had a job for very long, but I learned quickly how much pleasure can come from using my resources to do something for someone else. The empty wall just makes me sad. It sounds silly to say the sign is priceless because it is after all just a painted piece of metal. But that sign brings back a very good memory, so to me it is priceless. I have always seen this community as a place that was special, so the idea that someone could just go on my parents’ property and remove something is really hard for me to accept. Who could do such a thing?’ Margie says the family has loved being in Barnesville. Their house was built on Warner Road in 1964; they say they have not had problems with crime until recently.’What scares me,’ says Margie, ‘is that this could have happened on Friday night (Jan. 3) while we were sleeping. What a shame it is that now we can’t feel safe anymore.’If anyone has information about the sign call the sheriff’s office at 770-358-5159.