As older women, we are bombarded with ads for anti-aging serums and make-up. Anti-aging commercials, in general, are incessant. And what about the many insulting birthday cards in the store aisles or the receptionist who addresses us as “sweetie.” Comedians have long made hay about older people. We, ourselves, joke about senior moments.
There’s a name for all this and it’s being studied. It’s called “everyday ageism,” and there are indicators that it’s associated with poorer health outcomes among older adults. To explore the impact of these commonplace types of age-based prejudices and stereotypes, researchers at the University of Michigan conducted a study using the 10-point Everyday Ageism Scale. In their analyses, they found three major themes: 93% of the 2,035 older adults (aged 50 to 80) experienced some form of ageism every day but it differed based on age (65 to 80 reported more); gender (women reported more) and area (adults in rural areas reported more everyday ageism).
Most significant, the higher the person’s score on a scale of everyday ageism experiences, the more likely they were to be in poor physical or mental health, to have more chronic health conditions or to show signs of depression. The researchers conclude that while everyday ageism is not as abrasive as major episodes of ageism, it may be so chronic and pervasive that it affects older adults negatively. They note that changing societal attitudes around aging may prove difficult but doing so could be life altering. I hope we’re doing our part here at Boom.
Need to Know
New mental health crisis line
The new national three-digit number, 988, is a resource for people who are experiencing a mental health or substance abuse crisis, with the goal of diverting people away from law enforcement. The Atlanta Journal/Constitution reports that in the first 45 days 476 calls resulted in rescues of people whose lives were believed to be in danger. The state recorded 37, 561 calls, texts, and chats from July 16 to Aug. 29. State officials said much work needs to be done yet to publicize the number and to make it accessible to the many different foreign populations in the state.
Key General Election Dates
Oct. 10: Last day to register online
Oct. 11: Last day to register by mail or in person
Oct. 17: First day to vote early, in person
Oct. 28: Last Day to request absentee ballot
Nov. 8: Election Day
New start dates for Medicare coverage
Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, when you sign up for Medicare the month you turn 65, your coverage starts the first day of the month after you sign up.
Important Medicare dates
Oct. 15 to Dec. 7: You can join, switch or drop a Medicare Advantage plan or a Medicare drug plan during this Open Enrollment Period.
Jan. 1 to March 31: Those in a Medicare Advantage Plan can change to a different Advantage Plan or switch to Original Medicare (and join a separate Medicare drug plan) once during this time.
Get help paying for Medicare health and drug costs
If you have limited income, you may be able to get help from the state to pay some Medicare costs through resources like Extra Help or a Medicare Savings Program. A single person with less than $20,385 annual income or a married person living with a spouse who makes less than $27,465, may qualify for Extra Help. Call the Athens Community Council on Aging at 706-549-4850 with your questions.
Good to Know
Walk to End Alzheimer’s
The annual fundraiser for the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association is scheduled for Saturday, Oct. 22 beginning at 8 a.m. with the opening ceremony at 9. There is no registration fee for the Walk although participants are asked to make a donation. So far, there are 477 participants and 38 teams; the goal for the Walk is $160,500 and as of Oct. 1, $68,741 had been raised. Walkers need to register and get directions at act.alz.org. For more information, email Anna Scott at email@example.com.
Historic Athens reaches out to black community
A new initiative of Historic Athens, the local preservation organization, aims to broaden its programming and its projects to include the African American community. To that end, “One Story Athens” will be documenting, archiving, centering and amplifying Athens’ diverse voices through special programming, according to Hope Inglehart, Director of Engagement and African American Heritage.
It will include 52 weeks of one-hour live casts curated by Iglehart in coordination with Christian Lopez, head of the Russell Library’s Oral History Program.
These programs will take place every Friday from 12 noon to 1 Live Cast on Facebook and will be on Facebook for review after the event. In addition, twelve in-person History Hours will take place every third Tuesday each month from 12 noon to 1. These will feature panel discussions on interesting public history and Places in Peril.
Asset Protection: How to Get Good Advice
Asset protection sits at an interesting junction of professional expertise. Here’s how to build your team so you get the best advice.
- Start with an estate planning lawyer. You will get better guidance from a specialist.
- Most asset protection strategies have tax consequences, so choose an estate planning lawyer who has a background in tax law.
- Find someone whose skills are current. If the firm is putting on seminars for the public or providing continuing education for other attorneys, that’s a good sign.
- Connect your estate planning lawyer with your CPA and your financial advisor.
With the right team, you can create an asset protection plan that does what you want when you’re alive—and after you’re gone. Kimbrough Law
Help ACCA keep older adults warm
The Athens Community Council on Aging and Hughes Subaru are accepting donations of blankets (regular and electric), hats, and socks to care for Meals on Wheels clients. You may donate through ACCA’s Amazon wish list or purchase your own items and drop them off at ACCA or Hughes Subaru.
Bathrooms top aging-in-place renovations
In a recent survey of remodelers by the National Association of Home Builders, more than eight out of 10 reported that installing grab bars (80%), higher toilets (85%) and curbless, or zero-entry showers (82% were the most common aging-in-place projects. Widening doorways, the next most common project on the list, came in at a distant 59%.
Fun to Do
Einstein Explains It All
Spend an evening with Dr. Albert Einstein on Thursday, Oct. 13, 6:45 p.m., at the Lyndon House Gallery when the Athens Chautauqua Society presents actor Larry Bounds as the genius physicist who will share his ideas with wit and humor. This is a free event but due to Covid, it’s open to the first 100 people. Doors open at 6:45 p.m.
Then, on Friday, Oct. 14, Bounds will be on the auditorium stage at the Athens Library at 2 p.m., portraying “Harry Houdini: A Journey into His World of Secrets.” Be amazed at Houdini’s tricks and how easily the public can be fooled. Admission is first come, first serve, up to 152 attendees.
Wild Rumpus Halloween Parade and Spectacle
This annual Halloween festival, which includes music, a dance party, and the aerial arts, takes place downtown on Oct. 29, beginning at 5 p.m. The Parade starts at 8 p.m. in front of Creature Comforts on Hancock with dancing on Washington Street afterward until 11. Come in costume!
Athens Symphony Schedule
The all-volunteer Athens Symphony has released their schedule of concerts for the 2022-2023 season, which will be held at The Classic Center. Tickets are complimentary but required for admission. Check ClassicCenter.com two weeks prior to each concert.
- The Fall concert on Nov. 6 at 3 p.m. will feature Peter and the Wolf with narration by celebrity chef Alton Brown.
- Christmas Concerts, Dec. 10, 8 p.m. and Dec. 11, 3 p.m. will feature the Athens Symphony Chorus and narration by Seth Hendershot.
The Spring Concert will be held March 26 and Picnic at the Pops on April 28 and 29. For more information, go to athenssymphony.org.
Women’s Chorus back in business
After a two-year break, the Meridian Women’s Chorus has resumed rehearsals in preparation for its Winter concert. Women in the Athens area are invited to join – no audition is required. Rehearsals are on Thursdays from 12:30 to 1:45 at Holy Cross Lutheran church. For more information contact the Director at Stacie.firstname.lastname@example.org or go to Meridianwomenschorus.org.
Smooth Jazz Concert
John Dunn and The Jazzman Band will join DJ Segars at The Rialto Club downstairs at Hotel Indigo on Sunday, Oct. 9. Doors open at 5 p.m.; the Segar Jazz Affair portion of the show begins at 6 p.m. and the Jazzman Band starts at 7:30.
Butterflies on display
The exhibit “The Birdwing Butterflies of Papua New Guinea” is on display through the fall at the Odum School of Ecology Gallery, 140 Green St. Illustrations, photographs, and specimens are featured.
“Reckonings and Reconstructions: Southern Photography from the Do Good Fund” is on exhibit at the Georgia Museum of Art through Jan. 8. Show includes photos made in the South from the 1950s to present day, containing 100 photographs by 63 different artists.
Images of modern-day farms
The Madison-Morgan Cultural Center is featuring the FARM 2022 exhibition, showcasing original works from seven Georgia artists. The exhibit runs through Oct. 29. For hours and admission, visit mmcc-arts.org.
Seated yoga at the Museum
The Georgia Museum of Art is offering a free session of seated yoga in their galleries on Thursday, Oct. 27 at 10:30. Class will include restorative stretching, deep breathing and mindfulness. All levels and abilities are welcome. Spots are limited so email email@example.com to reserve a seat.
Let’s Get Scared!
It’s that time of year again – early darkness, eerie shadows, flickering candlelight, and a little imagination combine to create some nighttime fun. First up are the Haunted History Walking Tours, conducted by tour owner Jeff Clarke, who leads visitors and locals through nighttime streets in Athens. The two-hour tour intertwines historical facts with stories of hauntings and tales of supernatural encounters.
“There are so many wonderful stories to tell, and people are encouraged to share their thoughts and beliefs about ghosts. And if they are so inclined, to share their encounters with an otherworldly specter,” Clarke says. But whether you believe in ghosts or not, this tour has something of interest for everyone.
The tours, begun three years ago, recently earned TripAdvisor’s Travelers Choice Award 2022. By reservation only, get more information at Athenshauntedhistory.com or call (706) 521-2556.
When it’s time to get cozy and curl up with a good book full of intriguing ghost tales, check out Tracy Adkin’s new 475-page tome, “Ghosts of Athens and Beyond: History and Haunting of North Georgia.” Just released in September, the book is full of captivating historical details and tales of the supernatural from sites and houses in Oconee, Oglethorpe, Wilkes and White counties as well as Athens and Clarke County, and even further into north Georgia.
If you’d like to meet Tracy and hear some background and some excerpts from the new book, mark your calendar for Café au Libris at 7 p.m. on Oct. 20th at the Athens Clarke County Library.
Like more and more Americans, Larry King, 75, decided in 2018, to take a DNA test through Ancestry.com, a consumer DNA company.
“I’ve always been interested in my people beyond north Florida and south Alabama,” says the former Pensacola native. Plus, several of his friends had already gone through the testing process and learned more about their heritage.
What King learned was that things were not as he’d grown up believing. His DNA results were puzzling. They showed the name of one first cousin he had never heard of – “I thought I knew all of my cousins.” And all the other results pointed to his mother’s side – “I couldn’t find any Kings.”
Later that year on a trip back to Pensacola to visit his brother, Larry asked him if he’d take a DNA test if Larry bought the kit. He readily agreed and the puzzle pieces began to take shape.
His brother’s test results clearly showed they were half-brothers. In the meantime, Larry had tried reaching out through Ancestry’s messaging platform to the mysterious cousin, but he was getting no response. By Googling him, Larry was able to identify the cousin’s parents, who he also Googled. He found their obituaries, which, in turn, led to finding the parents’ siblings, one of which should be Larry’s father.
The cousin’s mother had three brothers, one, in particular, seemed to be a likely candidate for the paternal puzzle piece because one scrap of information Larry found indicated he had been in the Navy. This man also had two daughters, one of whom Larry found on Ancestry in a Family Tree profile but with no DNA. Meanwhile, Larry continued to send messages and receive no response from the unknown cousin. Until…
You found us!
In June 2019, while competing in a national seniors pickleball tournament in Albuquerque, N. M., Larry finally got an email from the mysterious cousin, who had been in the hospital for months of cancer treatment.
When he and Larry talked, Larry explained the situation and speculated that John Hussion was the likely paternal candidate, not one of his two brothers. The cousin, Bill, confirmed that John had two daughters, Karen, 66, and Brenda, 63, and at Larry’s request, he agreed to reach out to Karen. But he said that’s all he was prepared to do. Sadly, he would die three weeks later.
Within a week, Larry got a long, three-page email from Karen, with the most surprising message: “We’ve known you were our brother for a long time,” she wrote, “and we’re so happy you have found us.”
“I was just flabbergasted because I thought I’d have to talk her into having a DNA test to prove we’re siblings,” Larry recalls. Instead, “She said they were happy to be as close as I wanted to be.”
Karen said she even had a picture of Larry she’d kept in her jewelry box since she was a young teenager. As it turned out, Larry’s biological father, John Hussion, had told Karen’s mother when they were courting that he had a son. Once they married, she had even wanted Larry to come live with them.
The two sisters found out about Larry as children when they were snooping around in their father’s closet and found the Christmas cards and photos Larry’s mother, Mattie Ethel, sent to John every year. One of which has written on the back: “He looks more like you every day.” The affection between the two must have lasted a while because John did not marry until 1955 and there’s an old, blurry photo of a bedside table, likely in his officer’s quarters, that shows a photo of Mattie Ethel with John’s photo stuck into the corner of the frame.
In November 2019, the three families met for the first time at Brenda’s New Jersey home.
“I was kind of apprehensive, staying with people I’ve never met,” Larry recalls. But there was an immediate bond. “We had a wonderful weekend.” Throughout the pandemic, the three siblings stayed in touch virtually, and met again in August 2021 followed by the most recent gathering in May at the North Carolina coast.
Like many Boomers, Larry’s life was affected by the upheavals of World War II in that his parents would never have met otherwise; they each moved from small, rural areas into the larger world, and met because of the war. Mattie Ethel and her husband, Bob King, were raised in a rural area of northwest Florida. They eloped when she was 17, but then six months later, he was drafted and shipped out to the Pacific in 1942 and didn’t return until 1946.
After he left, she moved to live and work in Pensacola, which was humming with activity around the flight training school at the Naval Air Station. It was there she met John, originally from West Virginia, who had transferred from the Coast Guard to the Naval flight school toward the end of the war. In time, he would retire as a Navy pilot and then go on to train as an air traffic controller for the Army. Interestingly, Larry spent his career as an engineer with the Federal Aviation Administration. He discovered they had both spent significant time at the FAA’s Oklahoma training facility.
King says he was not close to the man he thought was his father and says his mother’s marriage to him was not happy. They divorced in 1962; he died in 1967. Mattie Ethel died in 2009 and John died in 2013.
Larry’s wife, Iva, says the two of them are closer to the two sisters than to any other family members, except their children. “We share the same values, the same education, the same financial status,” she explains.
Their daughter and grandson just spent 10 days in Maine with the two sisters and called to tell Larry, “Dad, you found a great couple of sisters!”
Adoptee finds an unexpected abundance of family
Madison county resident Sandy Venable, 55, has always known she was adopted at birth through an adoption agency in Miami, Fla. in 1967. Although her adoptive parents encouraged her to seek out her birth parents, it was never a priority until she had two children in the early 2000s and had no medical history to share with them. At the time, though, it was going to cost thousands of dollars to do a search, with no guarantee of useful results.
Knowing Sandy’s longstanding concern, her husband bought her an Ancestry DNA kit for her 49th birthday in 2016. But when the results came back, no close relatives showed up, only 3rd or 4th cousins. She lost interest and had forgotten about it until Labor Day 2020, in the midst of the pandemic, when she got a message through Ancestry from someone identifying herself as Jennalynn, living in Daytona, Fla.
“I see we’re closely related and I’m wondering what information you may have. Please respond at your convenience.”
“I was stunned,” Sandy remembers, so she looked at her results again and they now showed not one, but two close relatives: this Jennalynn and a Glenda in Texas. She immediately responded to Jennalynn that she knew nothing about her background and couldn’t help her.
Over the course of texts and phone calls, Jennalynn, 25, explained that she knew her parents, although they had separated when she was a child so she lost contact with her father, and he later died. She was using Ancestry to try to connect with paternal relatives. However, now she was enthused to connect with Sandy and after a series of phone calls, said she wanted to help Sandy find her parents.
“We’re closely related and that’s all that matters,” she said, adding, “I think we’re related through my Dad.” They also exchanged photos, which showed Jennalynn closely resembled Sandy’s youngest son.
Given their age difference, “she could have been my daughter,” Sandy thought. “Maybe she’s my niece.”
Who is Glenda?
They both wondered about the other close relative showing up on Ancestry but Jennalynn reached her first and called Sandy, bursting with excitement.
“Girl! Have I got news for you!” were the first words out of her mouth, followed by “The man I thought was my Dad was not my Dad. Glenda is our aunt.”
Jennalynn had pressed her mother about Glenda and wondered how she could be her aunt. That’s when her mother confessed that she had had a brief affair in Arizona before she married.
So, the only working hypothesis in that phone call between the two women was that Glenda’s brother David might be Jennalynn’s father – he had been separated from his wife at the time of Jennalynn’s conception. However farfetched, could the deceased Gordan be Sandy’s father?
Sandy immediately called Glenda who asked Sandy when she was born. Counting back, she said there was no way Gordan was her father; he was in Japan in May of 1966. But David was in Miami around that time. “You and Jennalynn are sisters!”
She further explained that as a young man he had been footloose and fancy free but now he was married, had three sons and a daughter-in-law, and lived in Avondale, Az. Call him, she said. With trepidation, Sandy did.
David, 76, in 2020, received two phone calls in two days from two women, each purporting to be a daughter. When Sandy explained her situation, he asked when she was born, and confirmed he was in Miami in 1966. He remembered dating a young woman a couple of times before he moved to New York. He remembered her first name: Vanna.
Following his phone calls with the two women, his three sons encouraged him to take a DNA test, which confirmed the suppositions about the two women. After that, communication and connections picked up steam.
“Everyone was very accepting,” Sandy says. “Bobbi was glad to have girls in the family.” By March 2021, after numerous Zoom calls, the group began making plans for everyone to meet up in Georgia over Labor Day weekend, including Jennalynn and her girlfriend. But before that, David made a surprising decision.
“The water is drying up out here – let’s all move to Georgia,” he declared. He told Sandy later, “The kids say I need to live near one of them, but they will be in Atlanta. I don’t want to live in a city. What if I lived near you?”
One big happy family
Before the big reunion in September, Sandy’s adoptive mother had become ill and died in August. She knew about Sandy’s discovery; “nobody was happier.” Her adoptive father had died in 2016.
Sandy met David and Bobbi at the Atlanta airport, holding a big sign with everyone’s picture on it.
“I was a nervous wreck – it was very emotional,” she recalls. “Seeing Dad was like seeing my kids right after they were born.”
Within a week of the reunion, David bought the one house listed in Madison County last fall, which is where they all gathered for their first Thanksgiving together.
“It was chill,” she says. The one sad note in the whole endeavor is the failure to hear from her biological mother. The name David remembered was unusual enough that using Ancestry’s search engine and Google, Sandy was able to identify her and where she’s living now. Sandy sent a certified letter that she signed for. In it, Sandy gave a brief outline of the facts as she knew them and asked her to respond if she wanted to or if the facts were incorrect. Sandy reassured her that if she didn’t hear back, Sandy would never bother her again. She’s never responded.
“It’s her loss. It’s been a ride.”
At a certain age, taking a selfie takes bravery
And I’m not brave! Inspired by the selfies that various women took of themselves and shared as part of My Aging Face, an online project developed by Allyn Rippin at the Athens Community Council on Aging, I tapped my iPhone camera the other day to reverse the lens, and then quickly tapped it back again. Yikes! It’s so hard not to critique ourselves as we age.
Allyn, barely in her 40s, has the right idea though. Take the selfie and think long and hard about what you see – maybe you won’t be so critical of yourself, and you’ll find a way to appreciate what your face conveys about the life you’ve lived. Here’s a selection of those selfies and how each woman feels about what she sees. Be inspired – try it and think about it.
PS. Best of luck to our previous editor, Tracy Coley, who has decided she needs to finish her family memoir as she promised herself when she retired.
I don’t always feel good about my aging face, especially since the pandemic. I feel some of the lines have deepened, more grey dances on my head and my face can appear a little thicker at times. So I got a haircut. But not any haircut. A cute, short, scraggly haircut that feels young and scary for me. I took this picture just after the cut. At my age, I am starting to feel like I can do anything with my looks, and it doesn’t matter. So why not go all the way and do something really crazy? Why not scare myself into feeling and looking beautiful?
As I age, I see more and more of my mother’s face when I look in the mirror. When I was young, I tried so hard, sometimes perhaps too hard, to assert my individuality, though I was often told that I looked and sounded like her. Now that fact is a bit bittersweet as I miss her very much, and regret important conversations that we might have had as well as missing the conversations we did have and the laughter we shared. Mothers and daughters: relationships fraught with the tensions of each needing her own space, each shaping the other in some way, each often a mystery to the other. When I see her in my face, I am happy to see her, and I hope she knew that I am grateful for all that she gave me and all that she taught me.
Get up early and keep yourself going. Even if it’s very few steps at a time. The more you lay in the bed, the more it affects your health. I believe in trying to go and help someone else. It’s something I’ve enjoyed all my life. Always help each other.
Growing up as a child in my grandmother’s house, I was taught that a child was to be seen and not heard. I had to eat what was put before me, and my style was whatever the adults thought was appropriate. For me, aging is good because now as an adult I can take the masks off. I’m enjoying my freedom. The freedom of “me.” I’m 60 and enjoying life. I am free to dress in my style, eat whatever I want, and I have a mountain of built-up opinions that sometimes come out at the wrong time, and I just say “Oh, well.” Getting older means that I don’t have to walk around holding my stomach in because who cares if I have a pouch. I’m just thankful to be alive and walking around with my 3 1/2-inch heels on and saying to myself, “hello gorgeous.” I glory in my 60 years because Psalms 139 tells me that I am “fearfully and wonderfully made.”
I remember my mother saying, sometime in her 80s, “I may be old, but I still feel like a young girl on the inside.” I share with her that enduring spirit of youth, for in many ways I am still that same person. Yet my portrait against an old tree reveals more about the kinship I feel now with these quiet sages. I seek their wisdom as fellow inhabitants of the vast universe, acknowledging my own that has come only through time and experience. My bark is as wizened as theirs, but it is spring and my sap, too, is rising.
It’s not all about when you’re born
It’s not all about when
BY BETSY BEAN
There’s a new book out that caught my eye — “The Generation Myth: Why When You’re Born Matters Less Than You Think,” by Bobby Duffy, who’s British and identified as a “generational analyst.” He writes it’s shallow thinking to see everything through a generational lens, that in fact, there are three separate mechanisms that mold our attitudes and our society. Along with the era we’re born into, there are also “period effects” that are experienced by everyone (think 2008 or the coronavirus) and “life-cycle effects” (leaving home, marriage, children, even gaining weight as we age).
As publisher of a magazine for Baby Boomers, I naturally had to have it. It particularly resonated right now because I had just been thinking about one generational quality that I do think defined Boomers during our youth and middle-age — our infatuation with movies and their meanings in the 1970s, ’80s, and part of the ’90s. Those were the days of must-see movies, and now I think it’s over, truly over, and it makes me sad.
This particular season particularly brings back those memories. Christmas Day movies were a big deal back in the day. “Tootsie” in 1982; “Broadcast News” in 1987; “Schindler’s List” in 1993. The theaters would be packed. It was great to laugh or weep with a big group of people who had been similarly affected. Oh, the times I would walk into the lobby and see other people filing out, teary-eyed like me.
Don’t get me wrong — I like streaming but some things need to be seen on the big screen and shared with a lot of others. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you think truly defines the Boomer generation and is not a period or life-cycle effect. You can post your comments online at the end of this article or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, My Daddy Wasn’t My Daddy?
It all began in 2009 during a lakeside weekend and a random conversation among friends and family about blood type.
“I think I’m AB,” I said. My younger sister later whispered in my ear, “You can’t be — Mother was A and Daddy was O.” Oh.
The irony is my AB statement would have passed unnoticed if Bonnie hadn’t remembered a lesson from her early ’70s freshman biology class. Plus, she was the last of us four siblings still living at home in Brunswick where the topic of Daddy’s rare blood type would come up whenever there was a blood drive.
The week after, I made a beeline for the bloodmobile at the farmers’ market, and sure enough — my AB blood type was confirmed. Well, well. Mother took that secret to her grave. She and Daddy had died nearly 20 years before.
The four of us pondered the new information. Bonnie always thought my hands were very different from everybody else’s. My older sister Ann, 10 at the time of my birth, and my main babysitter, recalled that she used to joke that they’d brought the wrong baby home from the hospital. She had dark coloring; I was blond as a baby.
Interestingly, my two sisters seemed to think I, the third child, was Mother’s favorite. In retrospect — while I never noticed any overt favoritism — if I had thought about it, I would have said yes, that she and I have more of a bond.
What now? We were all curious, but none of us were shocked. In hindsight, Daddy might have had Asperger’s, a type of autism that can affect a person’s ability to form close relationships and to insist on rigid routines. Whatever it was, Mother could only endure — divorce was not an option at that time.
As we pondered this revelation, Bonnie and I recalled talking with Mother after she’d had a stroke, playfully asking if she had ever considered stepping out. Mother chuckled, like the cat who swallowed the canary.
At the end of the day, our only clue was that my older sister remembered mention of a Mr. Burch, the manager at J.C. Penney’s where Mother worked after the war. We confirmed the manager’s name through a much younger friend who had worked with her at the store.
In the meantime, life interfered and I didn’t get around to following up on that clue until after I moved to Athens in 2013. I hired a genealogist, but our one clue was a dead end. The man wasn’t in Brunswick in 1946. At the same time, my younger sister, older brother and I had our DNA analyzed by 23andme, one of the consumer genetic testing sites. It showed we shared only half of our DNA. More frustrating, a female couldn’t trace paternal heritage through 23andme because the service only analyzed mitochondrial DNA, which is inherited only from our mothers.
Ancestry.com analyzes autosomal DNA, which is inherited from both parents, but the service cannot track maternal and paternal heritage independently. Again, I was at a dead end.
Although I accepted that I’d never know my biological father, I couldn’t resist thinking about the differences between me and my three siblings. For one thing, all of them had stayed in one community their whole adult lives, and committed to one employer, compared to me and my peripatetic career. And that’s where it stood until I read an article in 2018 about The Golden State Killer.
Cold case murder solved with genetic genealogy
It was all over the news. A man responsible for numerous rapes and murders decades before in Sacramento, California, had been tracked down using a new methodology called genetic genealogy. It’s been used many times since. Using multiple DNA databases and traditional genealogical methods, law enforcement has been able to infer a genetic relationship between certain individuals and identify the perpetrators of violent crimes and sexual assaults.
When I read about this, I decided it might be worth a try to solve my own mystery. I did some Googling and came up with the International Society of Genetic Genealogy (ISOGG), where I found three people on the site who did consulting work for a fee.
I e-mailed Phil Goff in Durham, North Carolina, on April 10, 2019, with my meager clues: The mystery man had to be in Brunswick in the summer of 1946; my mother was working at Penney’s at the time; my parents were living in war apartments on the south end of town.
He answered back on April 12 that he had been successful in similar cases to mine and that he could do the work for $500. That was a reasonable risk to me. He then directed me to download my raw DNA data from 23andme, and then upload it to four other databases. He ran that data through a software program that kicked out a probability tree of 20 DNA kits in which some segments of my DNA matched some parts of the DNA of the people in those kits.
By April 22, he had solved the mystery. A first cousin once removed in Virginia had submitted her DNA to one of the databases and built out her family tree in a public profile. She and I shared the most DNA. Her grandmother was my biological father’s sister.
Part of the clincher was that my biological father’s wife worked at J.C. Penney, and the couple lived not two blocks away from my parents’ apartment complex. Unexpectedly, the city directory showed my parents living in separate apartments. Were they separated or was it a clerical error?
I learned through his obituary that my biological father had owned a popular restaurant, which he started the year I was born; incredibly, although I passed it thousands of times, I never ate there. He owned a plane and flew all over the country and South America. I would learn more about him through inquiries to a 1960s high school email group. He was known to be “a ladies’ man,” and, in fact, would marry four times. His one son and one granddaughter pre-deceased him, apparently suffering from alcoholism.
I’ve met with his adopted daughter who is the repository for family memorabilia, and we plan to go through her storage unit, perhaps this year. She shared photographs, and there’s a definite resemblance.
Since then, I’ve had one second cousin from the paternal side reach out to me through Ancestry, wondering why I’m showing up as related to her. She thought she knew all her cousins!
Surprise paternity unites son with father and siblings
Athens retiree Chris Young, 65, got a Facebook message in June 2017 that looked like spam: I have a correspondence I would like to send you regarding a family matter and I would rather not type it out on FB messenger. Do you have a physical address I could mail it to?
He was suspicious. “I wasn’t sure English was her first language, so I wrote back, ‘Give me a short synopsis.’”
She explained that she did genealogy as a hobby and that she was helping a friend find his birth parents. I think that either you or one of your brothers is his father.
“In the second message, she identified my grandparents and parents, and the child’s birthday, concluding, The DNA evidence, along with your age and geographic location makes you my top candidate for his birth father.
“In the third message she named the mother and the dates of possible conception.”
You have my attention.
It was Christmas, 1981, as Young recalled, and he was planning to travel from Alabama to South Carolina as part of his re-forestation job. When a co-worker invited him to spend the holiday in Atlanta with his family, he accepted and met the man’s younger sister. They hung out together over three days and on the last night went to her apartment together.
A little later, on the way back to Alabama, he called her for a date, but she declined, saying she was headed to Germany. He assumed it was a brush off, but she actually did move to Germany where she found out she was pregnant despite being on birth control. At that time, Germany didn’t allow abortion, so with the help of a for-profit adoption agency, she flew back to Atlanta to give birth. The records were sealed.
When contacted 34 years later by this amateur genealogist, she was livid and wanted no part of the endeavor, saying, “Don’t contact me again.”
Young felt differently. He gave permission for his son to contact him, if only to share medical history. He then told his wife and messaged his four daughters: Are you sitting down? You have a brother!
“We had a field day with it, speculating that if he wanted money, I didn’t have any to give him.”
Jonathan, 39, was raised in Gainesville but now lives in Opelika, Alabama. He was an only child and always knew he was adopted. His mother is still alive; his father, who suffered with PTSD from Vietnam, is dead.
“I had made efforts through the legal system, but the adoption agency was long closed, and it would have cost thousands of dollars to get the records unsealed with no assurance of finding out anything,” he said.
His mother had given him the adoption paperwork in 2004, but all that showed was his biological mother’s medical history and listed paternity as “unknown.”
“At no point did I ever think I would meet him,” he says. But then for Christmas 2016 his relatives gave him an Ancestry.com DNA kit. And then his sister-in-law, Hannah, did more sleuthing using the new techniques of genetic genealogy, which involve multiple databases and family trees.
She came back to him with names and contact information. In fact, she made the contact with Jonathan’s mother, whose rejection he said, “was hard to hear.”
After that, he was anxious about meeting his biological father. “He was this imaginary character in my head, and I couldn’t know how good or bad it would go.”
Father and son began messaging and texting. “I wanted to be open, to be low pressure and not come on too strong,” Jonathan said. Then he began to get friend requests from his new sisters. Chris was too excited to wait and reached out by phone pretty immediately.
“When we talked, he wasn’t guarded, and he had no expectations. He said he liked adventures,” Chris recalls.
Less than three months later, they all made plans to have dinner at the home of Chris and his wife Tracy in Madison County. “I figured if it was bad, it would only be two hours,” Jonathan says.
But it wasn’t bad. There were blue balloons tied to the mailbox. “I got out of the car, and we were dressed exactly the same — cargo shorts, red shirt, barefoot,” Jonathan remembers. “We’re the same height, the same nose — I was looking into my own eyes!”
Chris remembers, too: “He wouldn’t let go.”
As an only child, Jonathan relishes the relationship he has with his four new sisters. “We have some of the same personality quirks, and there’s that comfort of being with someone you feel you’ve known forever.”
Kyleah Young, 31, is a twin. When she read Chris’s Facebook message, she immediately called her twin. “We’ve always hung out together,” a dynamic shared among all four, and now shared among the five.
“We didn’t have to get to know this stranger — it was like we already knew each other.”
Jonathan is a social worker and one of his sisters is a therapist so there’s an inclination to share that seems baked in. The siblings maintain their relationships with each other, and make plans to get together, apart from parental gatherings.
After their first dinner in June 2017, the two families vacationed together in August. Only three hours away, they now spend holidays together, see each other about every other month, and stay in regular communication.
Jonathan’s adoptive family was small but Chris is one of four siblings, which provides lots of uncles and cousins for the newfound son. Jonathan’s mother lives with him, and he’s kept her abreast as things evolved.
“Her feelings may have been a little hurt,” but Jonathan thinks it would have been very hard on his father were he still alive.
Chris has visited Jonathan to help with his youngest grandchildren; he’s now Paw Paw. And most rewarding according to Chris — Jonathan asks for “Dad advice.”
A Football Story and Other Updates.
Over the last five years, we’ve introduced you to a variety of interesting people from Athens and the surrounding areas, Boomers who’ve overcome (and are still overcoming) adversity, reinvented themselves and inspire us to just be better. Often a story is left for the annals of history, and like most longtime friends with whom we lose touch, we wonder what happened to them years later. In honor of Boom Magazine’s fifth anniversary of publishing, we bring you updates on six such stories.
Out of the over 80 stories and profiles we’ve published in the last five years, the one that garnered the most comments, and continues to get comments, is a reprint of an article first published in Zebra Magazine and written by Walter Allen Jr. The original article in the Fall 2018 issue of Boom described the racism Allen Morse, Stan Coleman and Maxie Foster encountered as some of the first black students to attend Athens High School in the mid-60s. All three were stellar athletes but encountered abuse from both coaches and fans.
Many of the online comments are from white men who were in high school then or knew one of them a little later. One comment from Mike Castronis Jr. stood out. Mike was on the 1966 team with Allen and expressed his remorse that he didn’t do more at the time.
“[Our head coach] made him catch punts while eleven of us chased him with no blocking. Incredibly, on a few of those he eluded us all and scored…had Allen been allowed to play, I think we’d have won the state.”“Many of my teammates and I have talked since about it and not a one disagrees with me. What happened was a travesty and it could have been a miracle…not just for a football team but for race relations in Athens…My silence made me complicit in the injustice.”
In 2017, Mike self-published a book he titled “A Football Story,” which he describes as “an apology.” In it he has the hero do the right thing and stand up for his black teammate. We thought an interesting follow-up to such a popular article would be to have the two men meet.
On Dec. 13, the shadows from the tall pines lengthening around the Clarke Central sports complex, Allen and Mike met for the first time in over 50 years and shared their thoughts on that long-ago time and filled in some gaps in the story.
Allen said he loved football from an early age, but his musical talents were getting in the way of playing the game at Burney Harris, the black high school. Walter Allen Sr., the band director, had nurtured his talent in trumpet for several years and recruited him to play in the high school band when he was in junior high.
That first year of high school, “I was out on the football field practicing, and Mr. Allen came out there and told me, ‘You can’t play football — you’re in the band.’” Later, when black leaders chose Allen as one of a small group of the first blacks to attend the all-white high school in 1966, Allen readily and happily agreed. “It was a way to play football!”
Fast and strong, nicknamed “Night Train,” Allen felt sure he would receive plenty of playing time. Initially he didn’t pick up any animosity from the coach. “We lifted weights together and ran every afternoon … He was tough but I didn’t mind that.”
But as the brutal summer practices continued, the coach daily tried to break his spirit with drills that would pit Allen, a running back, against an array of defensive players instructed to attack and tackle him.
“He wanted to run me off, but I was determined not to fall down — I would just run over whoever was in the way. I wasn’t about to let them tackle me to the ground,” Allen remembers. He took some hard hits and once, completely collapsed after a practice, but behind the gym, not in front of anyone. Still, he doesn’t and didn’t hold the other team members responsible. “Everybody was doing what they had to do, and I knew that.”
And Mike confirms, “As football players we were always taught to do what the coach said — we never argued.”
Finally, the Friday came when the coach said he was going to pick his team after the scrimmage based on how each one performed that night. “He wouldn’t let me touch the ball. He put me on defense, but I returned three punts, two of about 40 yards and one 65 yards for a touchdown.”
Afterward in the gym the coach called up each pick to give him his jersey for the season. When Allen was called up at the end, the coach told him “You can be on the team, but I don’t have a uniform for you. If somebody gets hurt, you can have one.”
That was it for Allen. He’d had enough. “I wasn’t going to put in all that time and do all that practice, then sit around and wait for somebody to get hurt.” On Monday he told the coach he needed to work on his studies and wouldn’t be coming to practice anymore.
Not one to stay down, Allen joined the track team where he excelled and graduated from Athens High in 1967. He played organized football one more time when he competed in the Black high school All-Star Game, a consolation arranged by black community members. He says he never again went by the football field that year.
Allen went on to college at Savannah State University and retired from the Athens-Clarke County fire department. Mike followed his father, Mike Castronis Sr., into coaching and later, the Presbyterian ministry. Mike’s own experience of coaching black players and his father’s efforts to sign the first black athletes for grants-in-aid at UGA, caused Mike to think more deeply about his high school experience.
In retrospect, Mike describes himself at the time as “a knucklehead. When I thought about it later, I told myself, if I get the chance, I’ll apologize.”
In December, he and Allen had animated conversations on the old football field, now a practice area, and at dinner about Allen’s experiences. Mike got to apologize. Allen replied, with no bitterness, “It was the times.”
>> See The Beat Goes On for five more story updates
Gosh, seems like yesterday that the first issue of BoomAthens (now re-branded Boom Magazine) rolled off the presses. I had no idea how many moving parts there were to a magazine. While I had lots of experience in writing, marketing, public relations, and newsletter publishing, I hadn’t published a magazine. I discovered it’s like keeping 12 plates spinning in the air—so many moving parts!
Interviewing, writing, photographing, editing, proofing, pagination (what goes where), directing layout and design, printing quotes, distribution (arranging distribution sites and keeping them filled). Perhaps the biggest aspect is advertising sales, which involves lots of networking, phone calls, emails, ad copy and design, and then approvals. These days, you can’t publish in print without also having a website and social media presence, uploading, downloading, and that’s a whole other column.
You get the point. Over the years, I’ve worked with some terrific freelancers and small businesses. Noteworthy, writer Kelly Capers always delivers just what I want; designer Allyn Jenkins was exceptionally patient with my last-minute changes; web designer Carolyn Marquez never expressed dismay at my lack of digital knowledge. I’ve had great contributors who’ve come up with wonderful ideas for stories—Myrna Adams West, Jim Marshall, and Tim Dondero, as well as Larry and Kay Petroff, Becky Parker, Sharron Hannon and Doug Monroe.
I always get two questions or comments from readers. Are you a franchise? No, there are other magazines with Boom in the title, but this is my baby. Then, it must be hard to come up with ideas for articles. Not in the least—it’s the easiest part of the work. Everywhere I go, almost every conversation, I discover a story. Enough for another five years!
Luckily, absolute serendipity, I also encountered the perfect partner last year. Tracy Coley can do it all—write, edit, design, manage the website, and she’s easy to work with it.
You, our readers, have been so supportive, always free with compliments and useful feedback. The biggest shout-out goes to our advertisers who make it all possible, so let me mention that the most significant way to support us is to support Boom’s advertisers. We’ve listed all their websites on p. 27.
Thank You! Thank You! And stay tuned for some exciting new initiatives in 2022.
In the Spring issue of Boom, I asked for feedback on what makes a community age friendly. As Athens applied for and received age-friendly designation from AARP in 2019 and must now evaluate itself across several metrics and then develop a strategic plan, we hope Boom Magazine can help provide ideas and feedback to city government.
One of the first responses I received came from Lucille Howard, which I think is worth quoting in its entirety:
“An age-friendly community needs to be friendly to all members— families with and without children, young adults, seniors who are retired or working. No segment of the community flourishes when “isolated” from other segments of the community.I love Athens—seeing university students, as well as middle and high school youth walking, running, biking.On my cul de sac with 20 homes, three families have children from ages one to 17; 5 are working adults with no children; another 6 are retired with no children at home and six homes are rented to graduate students.Daily I see young mothers in the yard with their children or pushing a baby in the carriage; hear the older ones playing hide and seek; basketball at all times of the day. At the same time, they see me and others walking our pets, gardening, and enjoying each other. On occasion, I have asked for help lifting something heavy or when I needed help with my garden.The one thing we do not need is separated or segregated areas where all ages do not mingle, see each other, enjoy each other, tolerate each other, and encourage and help each other.”
The neighborhood Ms. Howard describes probably sounds familiar to many Boomers. She says it’s similar to the one she lived in during the 1940s in Glen Falls, N. Y. My own Brunswick neighborhood in the 1950s and ‘60s included a combination of modest rentals and fine owner-occupied houses, judges, doctors, teachers but also secretaries and mechanics, lots of kids everywhere but retirees also. Ancient Mr. Dubignon stood at the end of his walk and handed out candy as we walked home from school. It was all just happenstance back then by the nature of the street grid and lack of building codes.
Now we will have to make conscious decisions for intergenerational, mixed-income neighborhoods but with a vibrant student community and growing retiree population, Athens is perfectly positioned to increase its all-ages friendliness.