“Noon — Lunch with T.W.”
That recurring entry has appeared on my Monday calendar for close to two years now.
For me, every lunch with T.W. Lord was a Cobb County history lesson. Not just the events that shaped the community, but the personalities that made Cobb what it is today, T.W. Lord, himself, among them. The sessions were as fascinating as they were invaluable to a newspaperman new to the community.
Thomas Watson Lord, 91, passed away in the early hours of this Independence Day.
T.W. had been a Mariettan since 1944 when his father, T.W. Lord Sr., moved the family from Washington County to work at the Bell Bomber Plant where the planes that led the Allied nations to victory in World War II were built. The younger Lord was 16 at the time.
Later in life, he built the T.W. Lord and Associates insurance firm, where he dutifully reported to the office every workday. (For the record, wife Hazel who just turned 90 is just as diligent, working daily in the room adjacent to T.W.’s office.)
Outside his business interests, T.W. loved politics. And the politicians — regardless of party or persuasion — loved and trusted T.W. They knew him to be a man of his word who gave everyone a fair shake.
While active in many arenas, he preferred to work hard for this community from behind the scenes.
One notable exception was his tenure on the Marietta Hospital Authority. It was front-page news when, on Dec. 18, 1970, when he was elected chairman of the organization.
It was a case of the right man in the right place at the right time. Lord was at the helm when the authority began to discuss the possibility of merging the city’s Kennestone Hospital and the county’s Cobb General.
Lord’s easy-going manner and willingness to listen to all sides of an issue smoothed a potentially prickly consolidation.
“There were a lot of personalities that had vested interest in the outcome,” T.W. would say in recounting that time. “Doctors, administrators, staff and the authority members themselves” had to be assuaged. He made sure everyone had a seat at the decision table.
In the end, the union was successful and formed the precursor of today’s WellStar Health Systems. Aside from business and community interests, T.W. loved his Atlanta Braves. He first purchased season tickets in 1969 — before man walked on the moon. He cheered the Braves in Fulton County Stadium (think Niekro, Aaron, Alou and Cepeda), through the years at Turner Field and in his home county at SunTrust Park.
Just three months ago, he made the 550-mile trek to southwest Florida to attend the inaugural game at CoolToday Park, the Braves new spring training ballpark.
He’s recognized as the longest Braves season ticket holder. This is his 50th consecutive season.
Braves Senior V.P. considers T.W. much more than a veteran customer.
“T.W. was not only a longtime Braves season ticket holder, but was a true friend. I always enjoyed getting together to talk about the current team and other Braves memories. I was so glad he was able to make the trip to North Port, Florida, in March to see our team make its debut at our new spring training facility. He will be missed.”
T.W. greatly enjoyed sharing his Braves tickets and would often save them up to host a group of a couple dozen Cobb Countians.
Whether it’s at lunch (Piccadilly’s Cafeteria, West Cobb Diner and Marietta Diner were three of his favorites) or at the ballpark, when you’re with T.W., you’re hanging with a rock star. Everyone knows his name and many would stop by the table or his stadium seats to say hello, share the latest news or ask his advice.
Family friend, former congressman and another frequent lunch partner, Buddy Darden said their friendship spanned for more than 50 years.
“T. W. And I became friends shortly after I moved to Marietta in 1967. He sought me out since we were originally from middle Georgia and our families were acquainted,” Darden said. “Throughout the years, he has been a trusted and loyal friend. Many people confided in him because they knew he would keep their confidences. He was very generous but avoided the limelight — always preferring to stay in the background.
“He was a shrewd businessman and had a special talent for financial management and deep knowledge of politics. He and his wife, Hazel, were true pillars of the community for more than 50 years,” Darden continued.
When he turned 90, wife Hazel, son Tommy and daughter Mary Grace and a passel of other family members feted him in the Lord backyard on a Sunday afternoon. An overflow crowd of friends gathered beneath a sweltering Georgia sun to honor the man and his accomplishments. Mayor Steve “Thunder” Tumlin read a city of Marietta resolution proclaiming “T.W. Lord Day” and gave him a key to the city.
Even at age 91, T.W. lived life to its fullest until the very end. On Sunday, he threw a surprise 90th birthday party for his wife, Hazel. Daughter Mary Grace said Thursday that her mother told her, “I can’t remember ever seeing him happier” because he was able to pull off the event without his wife’s knowledge.
The next day, Monday, started out routinely, with T.W. making calls and giving away tickets to the Braves’ upcoming home games. Later he was home on the treadmill when he took ill, calling for Hazel’s help. He was transported to Kennestone Hospital.
Two years ago, when this newspaper asked him for some profound words on the occasion of his 90th birthday celebration, T.W. shared his gratitude.
“Everybody has to work with the hand that’s dealt them. I’ve been dealt a pretty good hand and been blessed with good health. I’ve been blessed with a lot of good friends and family.”
“You’ve got to be thankful to live this long and Cobb County has been a great place to live.”
Services are pending at Mayes-Ward funeral home.