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Living In Savannah And Loving It

Unlike my wife at , I am a Savannahian by choice, not by birth. Suzana was born at a former maternity hospital that is two blocks from our home downtown. I was born at a hospital about 800 miles away in Ohio. I was a Midwestern boy on his own until I came south to go to journalism school at the University of Georgia where all the pretty girls, warm weather and year-round golf were.

General John Fremont
I have been asked to dress in costume by The Georgia Historical Society twice for Savannah’s Georgia Day. On one occasion I attended festivities dressed as Count Casimir Pulaski. More recently I went as General John Fremont (pictured). On both occasions it was part of my job to thoroughly research the characters. The toughest question I got was from a second grader who asked me, “General, Fremont, what was your horse’s name?’

After I got my UGA degree in four years (I couldn’t afford to be on the five-year plan), I had two job offers to work at newspapers. The first was for a general assignment reporter in Anderson, S.C., for $175 a week. That was decent money back in 1978 to a kid who had been living on ramen, mac-and-cheese and Bud Light. The second was for a police reporter at the former Savannah Evening Press for $185 a week – a hefty $10 more per week, or an additional six-pack and a pound of ground round. I put my college education to good use, comparing the two offers and choosing to point my ’67 Chevy and drive myself, my brown bean bag chair, my set of Titlelist golf clubs and orange shag carpet to the lower latitudes of Savannah in what was then derisively known as the Free State of Chatham, because of Savannah’s deserved reputation for its strong independent streak and desire to be left alone and have nothing to do with the rest of Georgia. Ah, for the good old days.

Two apartments, two houses, and one near-death stroke episode later, I’m still in Savannah, and have retired after working 39 years at the newspaper. But I’m still putting my UGA education to good use, as I’ve learned that Savannah is a great place to retire. First, there’s a lot of free and low-cost stuff to do here, which is good to know if you’re on a fixed income and paying some of the highest property taxes in the state.

Forsyth Park is decorated to delight during the holidays.

It costs nothing to stroll the city’s parks and squares or to admire the restored buildings in the

National Historic Landmark District, the nation’s largest. Nearly every watering hole in town has

a long happy hour and bartenders known for their generous pours. If you get tired of history, museums and culture, the Atlantic Ocean and the beaches of the Redneck Riviera at Tybee

Island are only a hop, skip and a jump away. Recreational opportunities abound – golf,

tennis, cycling, running, sailing, boating, fishing, birding, hiking, camping, and dog-walking to name but a few.

You can even work out a combo of the above. My wife and I love to hike down to the waterfront for a boat ride.

One of our favorite things to do is to load up our little white puppy Valen-Tino on our bicycles and bike to the riverfront for an ice cream cone, then board a free ferryboat for the ride across the Savannah River to Hutchinson Island where we can take a quick invigorating spin around the island before stopping for a tall cool one in the shade of the Westin Hotel.

Man boarding ferry with dog
Only in Savannah. Good luck attempting something like this in New York City or San Francisco.

Savannah also is a great place for first-class health care, which is important for those of us of a certain age or who have a history of health problems and don’t want to risk being too far away from help. I suffered a stroke caused by a blood clot in 2015 and I’m convinced the prompt and professional care that I received from emergency medical technicians and emergency room doctors saved my life. Doctors say I’m still not out of the woods so I need to live where help is a quick 911 call away. The white sands and blue waters of the South Pacific may sound like a tropical retirement paradise. But you can keep all those mai tais served by those warm island beauties. Good luck finding a tropical island angel who can administer a shot of the clot-busting TPA drug when you need it to save your life.

Savannah is naturally flat out gorgeous in it own right and most views don’t cost a dime. The views across the salt marshes that line Georgia’s coast are stunning, particularly at sunrise and sunset. Shorebirds abound. Even the Bald Eagle, one of Mother Nature’s most accomplished fisherbirds, is making an impressive comeback at the area’s wildlife refuges, which are other places to spend a fun, interesting day on the cheap. More places in Savannah to spend an interesting time bebopping around and soaking up the history and the beauty of this lovely city are Bonaventure Cemetery, Bluff Drive at the Isle of Hope, the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, the Georgia State Railroad Museum, Bethesda Academy, Fort Pulaski and Fort Jackson. Among the many noteworthy house museums are the Owens-Thomas House, the Davenport House, the Scarborough House and the Juliette Gordon Low House, the birthplace of the founder of the Girl Scouts. That’s another low-cost blessing of living in Savannah, timely access to Girl Scout cookies.

The springs in our beautiful city feature a riot of technicolor azalea blossoms.

I consider myself amply blessed in many other ways. I had a newspaper career when the newspaper industry was healthy and robust. I saw Herschel Walker vault over the Georgia Tech defensive line for a TD from my photographer’s spot at the back of the end zone. I was fortunate to marry a lovely, talented, smart woman with a lovely, talented, smart mother. Both of them put up with my many stroke-induced foibles -- forgetfulness, chaos thinking, and snail-paced movement. Through their love and positive influence, I genuinely look forward to every new morning and the opportunity to make it another happy great day. I hope you do, too. Because we only have one life to live and time is both a rare gift and our most precious commodity.

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