Winterville’s Mary Whitehead, My Favorite Pianist

Winterville United Methodist Church’s newly retired pianist, Mary Whitehead, has filled the church on the square’s sanctuary and our small town with music for 75 years. That’s a lifetime of tapping the keys for Jesus and for Mary’s neighbors and friends. I got a chance to visit with Mary briefly the other night while standing in line at the funeral home visitation for her late sister-in-law, Latrelle Carney. Mary didn’t look 91 that night. She radiated ageless beauty and charm as she spoke to me in that smooth, warm, Southern-accented voice.
Mary now lives about 15 miles away from Winterville, but she’s still very much a part of our town. If I close my eyes and let my mind drift back to scenes of Winterville in years past, I see Mary in many of my memories. Her distinctive piano playing is the sound track as she plays hymns in the Winterville Methodist’s sanctuary on a Sunday morning. I see her fingers tapping the ivories of a piano in the park gazebo on a hot June day, playing Dixieland songs with the Merry Makers at an early Marigold festival. And who could forget Mary riding in festival parades, beside her husband, the late Wesley Whitehead, our mayor for 23 years, and more recently as parade Grand Marshall in our newly-revived festival?

There are many other women, and men, who can tap the keys of a piano and make it sing and create instant feelings of happiness in those who listen. But I’ve never met anyone else who has the charm and the by-ear natural gift for music that Mary Whitehead possesses and who shares her gifts so graciously. There is music and there is Mary Whitehead. Put them together and you have pure joy.

Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog, Winterville Writer, Feb. 28, 2011.

Christmas in Winterville

One of the most popular events in the little town of Winterville, Georgia, where I’ve lived for many years, is the Christmas in Winterville celebration. This year, this event takes place on Friday, December 3. It begins with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus. In Winterville, they don’t fly in on a sleigh pulled by reindeer. These holiday dignitaries cross the city limits line in style in the locally famous Marigold Express train! After all, Winterville began as a railroad town many years ago, called Six Mile Station. One of our landmarks is our historic train depot on the square. Why not have Santa and Mrs. Claus roll in on the Marigold Express?
Christmas in Winterville begins at 6 PM in Pittard Park and on the town square. The event is sponsored by The Commercial Bank, with contributions by other community groups and individuals. Visitors to Christmas in Winterville will enjoy free cookies, candy, hot dogs, hot cocoa and cider. The Winterville Express train will provide free rides to children (with adult supervision). Santa will arrive on the Marigold Express just after 6 PM and will then be under the gazebo in the park for pictures. Bring your cameras! Other Christmas happenings in Winterville include The Mayor’s Christmas Motorcade 52nd Anniversary Celebration to East Central Regional Hospital in Augusta, Thursday, December 9, 2010. Winterville also will collect Toys for Tots. For more information on supporting these programs, call city hall: 706-742-8600.

Note: This post originally appeared on my blogspot blog, Winterville Writer, Nov. 28, 2010.

Winterville Historic District Heritage Walk

Here’s an opportunity to learn more about the city of Winterville, Georgia, the town I’ve lived in since 1992. I also lived in the Winterville community, outside the city limits, for several years as a child and young adult, starting at age 11, and attended sixth grade at Winterville Elementary School, in the old building that presently houses RESA.
There are two tour dates: Sunday, September 6 @ 2 pm and Saturday, October 10 @ 10 am. Here’s more information about the tours and the tour guide, my friend, Mary Quinn, daughter of our former longtime Winterville City Clerk, Helen Williams. Winterville grew up around the 6-mile station of the Georgia Railroad between Athens and Union Point, a route known as the “Athens Branch” which began operating in 1841. The station was a water stop and the beginning of a bustling community of banks, mercantile stores, doctors and, of course, a cotton gin. Incorporated in 1904, the City of Winterville is a circle, one-mile in radius, located entirely within Clarke County, but its 1,061 citizens are only a small part of the larger zip code known as Winterville which includes portions of three counties—Clarke, Oglethorpe, and Madison.

The tour includes numerous and diverse historical structures such as the recently renovated train depot; the Carter-Coile Doctor’s Museum; a blacksmith shop; the old Winterville High School—home of the state’s first home economics program; and several period homes all located within an area included in the National Register of Historic Places. Tour goers will walk portions of the abandoned railroad designated to become “The Firefly”—a 38-mile walking and cycling trail extending from downtown Athens to Union Point. This tour will last approximately 1½ to 2 hours. Tour Guide Mary Quinn resides on Main Street in Winterville, her residence a nineteenth-century home built by the Georgia Railroad. Born just a mile away in neighboring Oglethorpe County, Mary’s family moved away from the family farm and into Winterville and Clarke County in 1960 where she attended Winterville Elementary School, Athens Junior High and High Schools and the University of Georgia. Quinn retired from a career in accounting in 2000 and enjoys various public service roles. She is a council member and mayor pro tem for the City of Winterville, director and volunteer of the Winterville Marigold Festival, Friend of the Winterville Library, trustee and treasurer of the Winterville United Methodist Church, volunteer with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life, and a volunteer in the Athens to Union Point Rails-to-Trails Collaborative. Quinn also served as a member of the SPLOST2005 Citizen’s Advisory and Oversight Committees.

Tickets: ACHF Member: $12 / Non-member: $15. 10 or more series tickets: $10. Pre-purchase 10+ tickets and make reservations later. No refunds.

Order forms are at Please Note: Tours are generally limited to 25 people and paid reservations will be accepted on a first come/first serve basis. All sales are final. Tours will be held rain or shine. Please provide an e-mail address in order to receive tour updates, instructions and your order confirmation. No tickets will be mailed.

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