Before the turn of the century, Nana Dot and George were chosen to be the Grand Marshall’s of the Brooklet Peanut Festival, started by Dot many years ago. As children, my sister Beth and I rode with The Roebucks, going through the streets of Brooklet as thousands of people lined the streets. While we rode, it seemed like she knew every last one of them and taught them all. Though I had accompanied her to so many other community and regional events, it was in this moment that I realized how important Nana Dot was to her community.
From a very young age, she instilled the value of community in me, and often in the context of its historical importance. We would go to visit historic sites in the region, be it a church, house, or cemetery, and Nana Dot would provide the entire backstory for why it was important.
And boy, did she ever have stories. Some of them were funny. When George began classes at what was then Georgia Teachers College, Nana Dot made her first impression on Statesboro by getting a speeding ticket on her first day in town. Only a few hours later, George’s housemother stopped him on the way to class to say, “I’ve heard that girl of yours is a fast talker.”
Others were more serious. When she was a postmistress, it was her duty to inform families that their loved ones had died on the front lines of World War II, even when that news reached her own household with the death of her brother Charlie. These tales and many others taught me something about the world, the places she had been and the extraordinary people she had known.
As the youngest of eight children, she understood the value of family and cared very deeply for the well being of her own. Nana Dot was my biggest cheerleader when times were good and the best shoulder to cry on in times of trouble. When my own father was sick and dying in the hospital, it was Nana Dot that was there for hours on end, just to sit and reassure me that we would be okay.
Throughout my life, she showed just how much she cared, hosting every birthday party and coming to every event, while spending countless hours just enjoying our company. Often, this was done while eating a delicious meal. Now I know that everyone says their Grandma is the best cook in world, but in Nana Dot’s case, it was true. I don’t think I will ever eat better Hoecakes, Pot Roast or Dressing again in my life. Even now, I can almost taste it.
A few years ago, Nana Dot took me to the recently purchased Roebuck plot in the Brooklet City Cemetery. Situated only a few yards from what was the Brooklet Elementary School, she told me that they had picked this spot for a specific reason. When she was laid to rest, she wanted to hear children playing for all eternity. A mother to all, she found joy in nurturing other people’s happiness. She never gave up on anyone, helping them grow into the best person that they could become.
On that Peanut Festival morning so many years ago, it was a bright, sunny day, perfect weather for a parade. As we waited for the festivities to begin, I sat in her lap as she held me tight, telling me all about the events that were going to take place that day. I sat and listened attentively in her embrace, because more than anything, she was important to me.