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CLINE: A look back at the people (and columns) of 2013

Todd Cline

Todd Cline

This business is full of tough and sad stories, some you can rehash by reading our Top Stories of 2013 compilation that begins on the front page of today’s paper. The world can be a rough place, something we are reminded of on a daily basis, especially if you work for a newspaper.

That’s one of the reasons I tend to lean toward the fun, positive and uplifting when it comes to my personal column. We can all use a pick-me-up at times, and I hope relaying occassional feel-good stories achieves that (for me and the readers).

This past year, John Scallon provided one of those stories. His name came to my attention for having been honored for working 50 years with the same company — Price Industries. The idea of that kind of longevity and loyalty to one employer had all the makings of a good story. But Scallon’s personality made it a home run.

One of those people who you feel like you’ve known for ages after talking to them for 10 minutes, Scallon told me stories of his youth in Winnipeg, Manitoba and of his secret for success:

“Just getting along with people, for the most part,” he said. “(And) just be honest. If you’re not honest, someone will find out eventually. And then you’re done.”

In another example of longevity, I wrote about Jean and Buck Brownlee, a Grayson couple who this past June hit the 50-year mark for delivering cakes to the inmates at the Gwinnett County Correctional Center for them to eat with their meals on Father’s Day.

It was a pleasure speaking with Mrs. Brownlee, and the remarks I heard after the column appeared backed up the high standing I had for her and her husband. Her answer of how it was possible that the project could last so long still stays with me:

“The love of God did it,” Jean Brownlee said. “God loves all people equally, whether you are behind bars or in the President’s office.”

Joe Marelle is a guy I have known for ages, going on 20 years plus. I always enjoy getting to talk to the former Duluth High boys basketball coach. This year I wrote about him giving a speech to the board for Coaches vs. Cancer during the Final Four, which was held in Atlanta.

Heady stuff, considering the board includes national champion coaches such as Roy Williams of North Carolina and former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. The speech went well, and even better, for me, was that our talk led to Marelle joining me at the American Cancer Society’s Tournament of Hope golf fundrasier.

There were plent of other interesting folks I got to write about this past year: Lilburn City Manager Bill Johnson and his unbelievable story of having recorded 26 holes-in-one, Sweetwater Brewing co-founder Freddy Bensch (who may regret being stuck in an airport shuttle with me), the father-son team of Don and Thor Neff who paint the football field at Mill Creek High School, David Sumner, the grandson of Norcross founder John J. Thrasher, and Isaac Penman, who put on a 5K road race for his Eagle Scout project.

Then there was the return of column favorite Don Magee, better known now as the Push-up King of Lilburn. Magee, who made last year’s year-end column for his prowess with push-ups, returned this year after achieving the goal he had been shooting for — 4,000 push-ups in one day. Oh, and did I mention Don is 80 years old?

But the one column that most stands out most to me this past year was one in which I was the subject instead of the writer. Unbeknownst to be, my friend and co-worker Nate McCullough wrote a piece about my impending nuptials.

It was a very kind gesture and a reminder of how blessed I am to have great friends, the best of which now shares my last name. It will be hard to top marrying the girl of my dreams, but I’m looking forward to the upcoming year and the stories (and columns) it will bring.

Email Todd Cline at todd.cline@gwinnettdailypost.com. His column appears on Wednesdays.