When I was a young teen living in middle Tennessee in 1960, my older brother was in college at Georgia Tech. Whenever we went to visit him, we traveled the state highways to reach Atlanta. The only interstates at that time were somewhere other than the south.
My father would make sure he timed the trip so that he could have one of his favorite meals served at a restaurant in Rome. I can’t remember the name of the establishment, but I can tell you the meal was beef tips on rice and it was delicious.
When life took another turn and our family moved to LaGrange two years later, I never visited the town with the great little restaurant again.
I lived in LaGrange for the better part of 10 years while attending high school and LaGrange College. Life’s road produced a few more twists and turns including moves, divorce, three children and a 43-year career as an interior designer in Atlanta. I married again in 2005 and finally retired in 2015 for one short day.
After my one day of sitting on the sofa, the Good Lord decided I had enough rest and I started my writing career. I wrote a story for my old hometown newspaper, The LaGrange Daily News. Within two weeks I became a weekly columnist writing about most anything that has to do with life, and soon became syndicated for senior publications throughout the county.
Two years ago, a lifelong friend gave me an exceptional book signed by Lee Walburn. “Just My Type” was a compilation of his columns with beautiful illustrations by Michaele Flynn Prince. For some reason, once I finished the book it never found its way to the “already read” bookshelf. Instead it found a home on the corner of my desk.
Every week as I wrote my column, Lee would stare at me from the cover of his book. The more he stared, the more I thought about writing my own book of columns and thoughts. “Was that a crazy thing to do?” I thought. Probably.
Lee Walburn grew up in LaGrange. Many of my readers, as well as my friends, knew Lee, and many would ask me if I did. I felt like I should have met Mr. Walburn since we had crossed paths many times over the years, but I never met the esteemed journalist.
When my son met his best friend, Evan, in the ’80s as a ten-year-old, I was introduced to the young man’s parents. When Evan’s dad found out I was from LaGrange, he asked immediately, “Do you know Lee Walburn?” Evan’s father was the then publisher of Atlanta Magazine, working with Lee Walburn as editor.
When my husband and I moved into a community in Roswell in 2005, my neighbor, upon finding out I was from LaGrange, inquired, “Do you know Lee Walburn? I worked with him for a few years.”
When I would visit LaGrange, friends who knew Lee would say, “You remind me of Lee Walburn, do you know him?”
After answering “No” for 30 years, I decided to send Lee a letter along with several examples of my work and asked him if he thought there was enough talent in this old girl’s words for me to contemplate writing a book. It was time to meet Lee Walburn.
To make a long story very short, I have a book sitting beside Lee’s on my desk. The title is, “it’s all WRITE with me!” The author is me. The illustrator is Michaele Flynn Prince, and the editor is the same person Lee used for his book, Dekie Hicks, all from Rome.
Sometimes there is a road that leads you to a special destination. Along the way are clues and signs you need to follow to arrive at a place which can fulfill a dream. God put me on the road to Rome, and along the way I found folks who are full of talent, encouragement and giving spirits.
Now, here is the funny part … I have yet to meet the man whose face still stares at me from the corner of my desk. He wrote an endorsement on the back of my book cover, he sends me funny notes and tells me how to drive down the road. On Nov. 17 we will finally meet at Dogwood Books, where I will conduct a book signing with the venerable Mr. Walburn, Michaele and Dekie.
After that, ask me if I have ever met Mr. Lee Walburn.
Lee Walker Gendusa is a columnist for The LaGrange Daily News and author of “it’s all WRITE with me!” She will be at Dogwood Books in Rome on Nov. 17.