November 25, 2013

‘Never forget the things individuals have done’

Murray County High School recognizes long-time residents; those gone

By Christopher Smith

— CHATSWORTH — “They impacted our community.”

“They gave to this community.”

“They made a lasting impression on this community.”

That word — community — was used time and time again when talking about five Murray County High School students inducted into the school’s 2013 Hall of Fame Sunday afternoon. The induction ceremony was at the school central office in the Old Rock Building on Green Road.

The closeness of the Murray County High alumni community was perhaps made most evident when those speaking at the ceremony cried or laughed as they honored those living and gone.

Greg Shoemaker, a member of the Murray Board of Education, said while the nation was reflecting on the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination Friday, he hoped “we also never forget the things individuals have done who have impacted this community.”

David Loughridge, 1969 graduate

“There are few occasions in life when you meet someone who truly lives to serve,” Mary Beth Cole said about her father, David Loughridge, a 1969 Murray County High graduate and 2013 inductee.

“He never expects anything in return,” Cole said between crying. “He is one of the most self-sacrificing people.”

And he’s not alone in his induction, joining his mother Nell Ruth Loughridge, inducted in 2003, and family members Carl Davis, 2002 inductee, Michael Davis, 2007 inductee and Ruth Ann Pannell, 2001 inductee.  

“This is the largest family group to be inducted into the hall of fame,” Cole said, adding that her father “is a truly rare and special person.”

“If you don’t know him already, I hope life brings you someone as altruistic as David Loughridge,” she said.

Loughridge said he was “really quite honored,” pointing to teachers Carolyn Jinkins, Linda Lunsford and G.I. Maddox, among others, as major influences on him when he was a student.

“Those days were fun,” he said. “This is quite an honor. Thank you very, very much.”

Loughridge currently works as a veterinarian at Murray County Veterinary Services on     344 Duvall Road, which he founded as the first vet clinic in Chatsworth in 1978.

Loughridge was also recently recognized with the 2013 Georgia Cattleman Association’s Veterinarian of the Year Award.

Mary Ruth Stevenson, 1954 graduate

When Mary Ruth Stevenson heard she would be a 2013 inductee, she said she “wasn’t surprised.”

“I was shocked,” she said. “It took awhile for it to sink in.”

Stevenson has been busy being “that part of your life” that unexpectedly affects you, said Toby Westmoreland, who spoke about Stevenson.

Westmoreland said Stevenson, a 1954 Murray County High graduate, has been part of the school system and community for a long time, teaching piano and helping with cheerleading, Beta Club, French Club and Glee Club, among other activities.

“As a young child, there were two things that I desired,” Westmoreland recalled. “One was to be a teacher and (God) has given me that. The second thing was to play piano. She (Stevenson) was part of my answer to that prayer. ... I want to tell Mary Ruth just how much I love her.”

Stevenson said being involved in the community has given her “very good friends, lifetime attachments.”

“In thinking in what I was asked to do (with my life), I thought about a song I love to play called ‘My Tribute (To God Be the Glory),’” she said, crying. “And there’s a line that goes, ‘just let me live my life and let it be pleasing, Lord, to thee. And should I gain any praise, let it go to Calvary.’ And that’s my testament and I think you all for recognizing my efforts.”

Erik Gallman, 1998 graduate

A sasquatch named Ted, a creepy mannequin and a fake severed hand were among his possessions.

A love of God, painting, carpentry, history and community were among his passions.

Erik Gallman’s “warped” and “morbid” sense of humor, mixed with his “hard work ethic” made him a “witty, smart and amazing friend” and a “good-natured prankster,” said Misty Watson-Wheeler, a friend of Gallman’s who knew him since the two were children.

Gallman, 33, unexpectedly passed away on Friday, Feb. 13, 2013, and was inducted posthumously as a Murray County High graduate of 1998.

He made a lasting impression on Murray and Whitfield counties, Watson-Wheeler said, working at Bagley Middle School, the Whitfield-Murray Historical Society and opening Fiddleheads Garden Center with Sam Brown on Walnut Avenue in 2011.

“"No matter where I go in Whitfield or Murray counties I’m reminded of Erik Gallman’s lasting impact on our community,” Watson-Wheeler said of his many accomplishments in his life. “Many people live a long life and do not accomplish as much or make as big of an impact in the world as he did in his short life.

Augustine, Gallman’s mother, said she was “very proud of Erik.”

“This is hard for me, being his mother and him gone,” she said, crying. “Erik always had a pretty smile everywhere he went. He was a wonderful son. All his life, he never gave us any trouble.

“He was a loving, compassionate person. He never said anything bad about anyone. Nothing ever made him mad. Maybe frustrated, but never mad. He was just a kind person.”

Watson-Wheeler said Gallman didn’t relish the spotlight.

“He didn’t ever want praise or honor for anything,” Augustine said, agreeing. “He just did it out of the goodness of his own heart. He loved God. He loved people. Old people, young people. I’m proud to call him my son and I’m proud of this honor you’ve bestowed upon him.”

Edward Tankersley, 1954 graduate

Speaking openly and positively about Edward Tankersley, who died in a plane crash in 1970 with his brother Tim, might have some ramifications in the afterlife, Tom Patterson, a cousin of Tankersley, said.

“Some day in my afterlife, I will be confronted by him and he won’t be pleased,” he joked about the 2013 inductee. “He was a very private person. Getting recognition was a low priority in his life.”

Tankersley, a 1954 Dalton High School graduate who spent much of his education in Murray County, served in the U.S. Air Force during the Korean and Vietnam wars. He is laid to rest at Cool Springs Baptist Church in Chatsworth.

His time in war won him the respect of many men, Patterson said. One particular pilot, Patterson remembered, told Patterson how important Tankersley was to the Air Force.

“The pilot said he wanted to give me an example of how much they thought of (Tankersley),” Patterson said. “This would be a hypothetical situation. He said, ‘If you could imagine my commander coming to me one day and saying he wanted me to do a mission and it’s going to be extremely dangerous and there’s 95 percent chance you won’t return. You have to pick someone to go with you.’ And, of course, the pilot said he would pick Edward. And the first thing Edward would have said was ‘when do we leave?’”

Patterson said hearing that kind of trust for the late Tankersley wasn’t uncommon.

“At the funeral, one of the pilots said the only reason he was alive was because (Edward) rescued him and his crew under heavy fire (during the Vietnam war),” Patterson said, adding that Tankersley “dearly loved Murray County.”

“Each time he would come home to visit, it was something he really, really treasured,” Patterson said. “He always gave in everything and every way.”

Tom Ramsey, 1963 graduate

Most times Tom Ramsey talks, “there’s a a big tale being told and laughter going on,” said Lamar “Pete” Adams, a friend of Ramsey.

Ramsey, a 1963 graduate from Murray County High, is the kind of person who is “always willing to help in anyway he can,” Adams said.

“He’s one of the most polite people you’ve ever met,” he added. “He talks to anyone who listens and he’s learned well how to tell time.”

Ramsey joked that he was surprised to be inducted into the 2013 hall of fame because he struggled with academics during his young adulthood.

After a time in the U.S. Navy, Ramsey got his bachelor’s degree at Shorter University in Rome in 1975 and master’s degree in business administration at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro in 1984.

Then began a wide range of careers for him, ranging from college instructor to vice president of governmental affairs for the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. Ramsey served in the state House of Representatives for 12 years followed by two years in the state Senate from 1991 to 1993.

All those accomplishments didn’t come without “a little help,” Ramsey said.

“Thank you for the nomination and thank you for the selection,” he said. “I am honored.”