Several years ago, a few Long County ladies started getting together to celebrate one another’s birthdays. At the time, none of them could have predicted their gatherings eventually would morph into the Steel Magnolia Club. Before they knew it, the women had bonded and the 12 dear friends frequently made plans to chat over coffee and keep one another company on other occasions.
In 2007, one club member, Amanda Parker Brown, passed away. Jerri Garrison Flourney followed in 2010.
On Tuesday, the remaining Steel Magnolia Club members gathered at the Ludowici Well Pavilion Rose Garden and planted two trees in remembrance of their late friends.
"We all had such a good time together and we miss them so very much that we thought we would plant these two trees to honor them and to remember them," club member Betty Smiley said.
A crowd of about 40 spectators gathered for the ceremony and watched the friends plant the trees and reminisce about good times.
"Amanda was a good friend and a fine lady. She did a lot for the community. When Brown’s grocery store was open, you could buy just about anything you wanted in there. It was the meeting place for the town," club member Ann Parker said.
Brown was raised in Long County and graduated as salutatorian of her class in 1958. She and her late husband, Marlin, opened Brown’s Grocery and Hardware Store in Ludowici and it was a focal point of the community for more than 25 years, Parker said. Brown is survived by her daughter, Melissa Kennedy, and brother, Bobby Parker.
Jerri Garrison Flourney moved to Long County in 1960 and became one of the most active women in the community, ceremony attendee Randy Wilson said. She served as the president of the Long County Chamber of Commerce and as chairwoman of the Long County Development Auth-ority. She is survived by her husband, Richard, and their three children, sons, Rich and Matt, and daughter, Leslie Johnson.
"Mrs. Flourney was a well-respected lady in this community. She was a great person and did a lot to make Long County and Ludowici better places," Wilson said.
Richard Flourney talked about his late wife’s dedication to her friends and community.
"She loved this area and had a lot of friends in Long County. We were here for 37 years and we talked about leaving a few years ago but then she told me, ‘I can’t leave because I can’t take all my friends with me,’" Flourney said.
Brown’s brother talked about his relationship with his sister.
"Amanda was the best sister that anyone could have. When she died, it was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through in my life. Now don’t get me wrong, she could be aggravating but that was only because she always looked out for me and made me do what was right," Bobby Parker said.
After the trees had been planted, Smiley talked about the club members’ commitments to one another.
"We always look out for each other and stick together, and we’ll keep doing that until we all can be together again in the future," she said.
The remaining Steel Magnolia Club members are Claudine Chesser, Tammy Ballance, Peggy Nobles, Gaynelle Garrison, Mary Anne Odum, Debbie Wilson, Elise Stafford, Miriam Murray, Ann Parker and Betty Smiley.