By Walter GeigerDuring Christmas break 1969, my family moved from Savannah to the metropolis of Ailey, Ga., population 350. We became proud Aileans, renting P.O. Box 58 in the town’s tiny post office.It didn’t take us long to find our way to the equally tiny Ailey Baptist Church which was in the capable hands of Rev. Bob Brewer. We became members of the church. My Dad ran the Sunday School department. My Mom had her hand in everything.It wouldn’t have taken long to meet everyone in Ailey but we met them much more quickly through the church. The Methodist church held services every other week so introductions would have taken twice as long there.At some point, Bob Brewer opened a little trap door in the front of the church and baptized my two brothers and me in the hidden pool below. At 15, I was absolved of my sins just as those sins were getting interesting.Bob Brewer was one of a kind. A native of nearby Lumber City, he had a whole slew of degrees, including master’s degrees in liberal arts and theology. He taught English and literature for 39 years at Brewton Parker College which sits astride the line that separates Ailey from its twin city of Mount Vernon.Bob was equally comfortable quoting Shakespeare or scripture. His students at Brewton Parker adored him. His church flock was not very large but he ministered to it well, officiating over funerals and weddings and faithfully visiting the sick.Bob married Faye DeLoach of Macon in 1960. Faye played the piano and organ at the church and directed the choir. If you could halfway hum a tune, you got pressed into service in the tiny choir loft. We learned classic hymns like ‘˜It is Well’ and ‘˜Precious Memories’. As long as Faye’s masterful fingers were on the keys, we sounded great.Faye was also the toughest teacher at Montgomery County High School. She was the teacher you feared when her name appeared on your schedule and the one you loved and respected when you finished her class. She demanded ‘“and got ‘“ your best.Bob liked to fish and, as the Baptist preacher in a rural community, he had a ring full of gate keys beyond which lay farm ponds. The Geiger boys often went with him. He enjoyed a ‘˜chaw’ of tobacco and the occasional cigar.He drove a land yacht ‘“ an immense, yellow Olds Delta 88. He would propel that thing down rough farm roads to ponds with dust trailing behind like an approaching tornado. The trunk was full of fishing rods and a large tackle box. The back seat held containers of worms, caged crickets in boxes, bloody chicken livers wrapped in wax paper and the occasional sloshing bucket of minnows. Bob could skin a catfish faster than anyone I ever saw, nailing its head to a board, slicing it at the gills with a sharp filet knife and pulling the skin off with vise grips.In case of trouble, the Delta 88’s glove box held a Smith & Wesson .38 revolver and a pint of Scotch. The preacher man was not averse to using either.I went off to college in 1972. My brothers followed. My parents and little sister moved away from Ailey but we all remained close to the Brewers. They were part of the family.Bob and Faye had one daughter, Celia, who died in 2013 at age 51. After a long illness, Bob Brewer died April 7, Celia’s birthday. He was 83.The night before his memorial service at Saliba Chapel at Brewton Parker, Faye fell ill and was flown by helicopter to a Savannah hospital. She never regained consciousness and died after being removed from life support on April 19.It was as if an entire chapter of our family’s history had been ripped out of the book.Only memories remain.Precious memories.Walter Geiger is editor and publisher of The Herald Gazette and Pike County Journal Reporter.
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