Published Saturday, January 12, 2013

Ladies plan a cruise to celebrate friendships



MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) – A group of women, all originally from Marietta, credit their decades-long friendship to Girl Scout Troop 46.

Dora Embry Partain, Bonnie Ayers Goldthorpe, Beverly George Painter, Diane Gillespie Eubanks, Dorothy "Dot" Sosebee Blum, Judy Clay Brown, Sandra Glass Rackley, Glenda Castleberry Cook, Barbara Ayers Fischer and Sherrill Linville Stanford all met at Robert L. Osborne School when they were about 6 years old.

Many of them are celebrating their 70th birthday in 2013.

The group, minus the only other surviving member, Rima Ford Vesilind who lives in Virginia, met on a recent Friday for lunch at Shillings on the Square. Three of them - Bonnie LaMons, Cathy Young and Sunna Williams - have died.

"It's an amazing group of girls," said Cook, who now lives in Woodstock. "They are always there to support you."

They all first met around 1948 while in first grade at Osborne School, which at that time served first- through 12th-grade students off Joyner Avenue in south Marietta, where Oakwood Digital Academy is currently located.

They all lived in the Fair Oaks area.

"Cobb County was still very rural, with lots of farms," said Painter, who lives in Acworth. "We would have to go into town to do things, which was Marietta then."

"We lived close enough to throw rocks at each other's houses," said Brown, who also lives in Acworth.

The same year, a majority of them also joined the same Girl Scouts troop, one they stuck with through their senior year of high school.

Together, they would take annual camping trips to places like Callaway Gardens and Roosevelt State Park west of Atlanta, host formal dances in their teen years and spend lots of time together flourishing their friendship.

Many of them also marched in Osborne's first marching band or sang in the chorus, worked as some of the first volunteers at WellStar Kennestone Hospital in Marietta and graduated from Osborne in 1961.

Since then, they've had nearly 90 children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren collectively, attended each other's weddings, significant others' or parents' funerals and just been there for a shoulder to laugh or cry on.

Painter attributes Scouting ethics to their long-lasting friendships, in addition to a "common connection based on our history" and Christian upbringings.

"This group has just stayed very, very close," Blum said, who many members said works the hardest to keep them all connected. She lives in Smyrna.

Added Stanford, who lives in Douglasville: "We all have our lives, but we find time to get together."

They try to get together at least three times a year and this year are planning a "Girls Weekend" trip on a Caribbean cruise to celebrate their 70th birthdays at the end of March.

The most recent trip was this fall when a few of them went to Virginia to visit Vesilind for the 100th Anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America.

"We sat up until 1:30 and 2 a.m., catching up on everybody and what they are doing and what we have done that we hadn't confessed to," Cook said. "It was a pajama party."

"They told a lot of things that I don't ever remember even happening," Brown said with a big smile.

"We laughed, caught up, reminisced," added Fischer, who lives in Neeses, S.C.

"We're in such a mobile society now-a-days, having that bond is maybe unusual," Painter said. "People are amazed when I talk about this group, that we still have contact together."

They stay connected through phone, email, Facebook and snail mail and while they love the get-togethers, it saddens them when not everyone in the group is around.

"I'm really sorry Rima's not here because she is such a driving force of this group," said Partain of Statesville, N.C.

"I'll give you a description of Rima," Blum said. "If somebody else's cup is half full, Rima's is always full and tipping over. She's got more energy and optimism than anybody you'll ever know."

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