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Community honored deserving leaders last week
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Last week was a week for big honors and our community showed its gratitude to some of our best.

There was a little bit of irony that made it interesting.

The Girl Scouts honored Frances Mathis, who raised three fine sons, while the Boy Scouts honored Nell Wiegand, who has two wonderful daughters.

Of course, let me point out that the Girl Scouts had already honored Nell in 2003 with its Woman of Distinction award.

And the Mathis family has long been associated with Boy Scouts, with all three sons reaching the coveted level of Eagle Scout.

Zell Miller, Frances Mathis’ cousin, pointed out that Frances’ job description involved carrying out many of the ideas of her husband, James.

"Some of them bordered on genius," Miller said. "Others didn’t."

James and Frances Mathis, who celebrated 63 years of wedded bliss this week, are one of those couples that you don’t think of one without the other.

In the old Home Federal days, James cooked up ideas like giving out cherry pie on George Washington’s birthday. Frances cooked up the cherry pie or biscuits or lemon squares.

Her prowess in the kitchen is legendary and I’ve enjoyed a few samples of her culinary work on a few occasions. We are blessed by both of them.

Nell Wiegand brings an extra measure of joy to everything she’s involved in. She has one of those delightful faces that just smiles from chin to forehead.

She has done everything at Northeast Georgia Medical Center, from making sandwiches to making vital decisions that gave us cutting edge medical services.

She, too, was part of one of those seemingly inseparable couples with her late husband, Frank, who is deeply missed. But she continues to carry on and the mark of her work is indelibly etched on the very cornerstones of our community.

Others honored by the Boy Scouts last week included Gus Whalen, who is the very picture of determination. If Gus gets a concept in his head, then look out because it’s going to happen. When Gus is driving the idea bus, you better get on or be left behind.

The Scouts also honored Gene Beckstein, who has helped feed the stomachs and souls of more people than any of us will every know.

Good News at Noon has set an example for what ministry really should be. Some of us may forget about those who are facing struggles in life, but Gene Beckstein never has and I think I’m safe in saying he never will.

Zac Brown Band up for top new artist

What a year it has been for the Zac Brown Band. Their single, "Chicken Fried," scored big on the country charts.

Now, they’ve been nominated for Top New Artist by the Academy of Country Music. The award is voted on by fans and will be announced on the awards show on CBS on April 5.

The band, which has hometown ties to Gainesville and Dahlonega, has also been nominated for Top New Duo or Vocal Group. That will be voted on by members of the academy. But we can do our part to support our local guys by voting at

Let’s vote for them and hope they come home with a couple of pieces of shiny hardware.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays. He can be reached at 770-718-3423.