By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
For the last decade-plus, our last Ronnie of each year has had a “looking-back-looking-ahead-and-celebrating-everything” type of flavor, and it seemed that this year was especially so. As far as tough things in the land of Marks, first Ronnie suffered a broken arm when he took his grandson, Quinton, to the batting cages and took a line drive right to his arm. Because he hadn’t wanted the boys to feel bad, he quietly wrapped his arm so they wouldn’t see the blood, dropped the boys off, and took himself to get it taken care of. The pain was daunting and the healing most welcome.
On another rather scary note, Mayor Ronnie had some surgery, and while the surgery went well, his kidneys did not like the anesthesia and decided they might just shut down. In a word, it would not have been an exaggeration to say that the Grim Reaper had his eyes on Sgt. Marks, and Sgt. Marks and the Lord said, “Not today.” That was indeed a cause for celebration for all of us, and an answer to prayer.
Tornadoes had just struck, both in Birmingham as well as the Nashville area, and six people had perished. We talked about how fragile life is, and how it is incumbent upon everyone to settle it in their hearts that “If we live, we are the Lord’s, and if we die, we are the Lord’s.” He then grinned and said, “We’ve got 20 months,” meaning that in 20 months his last term as mayor of Athens will be up, so let’s get after it and work like crazy until then. “We have a shot,” said the mayor with regard to making sure that the “campground” is handed off better than when we found it. “We always have to think about public safety and quality of life,” he said.
I asked the mayor, “Tell me quick, without too much thinking, what was one of your favorite things that happened this year, and what do you want to accomplish in 2024?” He said, “I would have to say Ella’s Gingerbread House Contest,” which indeed was a smash hit and will hopefully continue to be an annual event. He then said, “All the activities at the Activity Center,” which was refurbished and re-opened. It has also been popular, and the community has really gotten behind it to make it what it is today. As far as looking ahead, Mayor Ronnie indicated that his concern was to get infrastructure finished, and to hopefully get the kids’ playground finished through the partnership with Make-A-Way Foundation.
Steve Carter’s retirement party, after 48 years with the Utility Department, was waiting in the wings, and Mayor Ronnie said, “He started off in the ditches almost 50 years ago, and worked hard. It’s hard to believe he is actually going to retire.”
We talked about the “season and the reason,” and he said, “Keep the vulnerable in mind, from the elderly to the young, and simply added, “Merry Christmas to all.” There was nothing left to do but to pray and celebrate, and then it was time for Ronnie to roll.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner