Sam Burnham, Curator
Tucked in a corner between the rising slope of Myrtle Hill and the Veterans Plaza stands an impressive edifice. A tall stone tombstone with a large metal casting stands significantly higher than the surrounding grave markers. The casting depicts a soldier of the US Army. The uniform is from World War I, as is the rifle the man has at his side. Above the soldier’s head we see his name, Charles Wall.
Charles Wall was born in 1897 and like so many men born about that time served in “The Great War.” He is noted on his memorial as a “World War Veteran.” That description seems incomplete in our time but Wall died in 1937, before anyone knew anything about World War II. He had fought in the largest, most destructive war anyone had ever seen. There were those who believed the war was so horrible that we would never see another war.
Would that it were true.
Wall returned home after the war. And he lived almost two decades. But he was suffering and slowly dying from wounds that he sustained over there. Like countless other combat veterans before and since, Wall was struggling with what we now know as PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder.
Wall took his own life in 1937.
It is easy to assume that when a veteran returns home visibly unscathed that they have survived safe and sound. But far too many have unseen wounds that they are ill-equipped to deal with. The stigma placed on mental illness combined with the perception that a veteran’s courage makes them
impervious to such “weakness” keeps people from reaching out for help. Add to that the justifiable feeling that no one understands how they feel...(honestly, how could a civilian possibly understand?)...its a wonder this problem isn’t even worse.
Stories like that of Charles Wall have led to groups who advocate for veterans. Organizations like Stag Vets are not only helping vats find therapy, they are developing the therapies needed to help those who lost part of themselves in service to their country.
Charles Wall was certainly a casualty of WWI. His mother, who was not a rich woman, paid for the beautiful memorial that marks her son’s grave. How she must have struggled to help him as he suffered. But there no one to help her in that fight.
In 2019 the Veterans Administration reported that suicide rates among veterans were 1.5 times that of the civilian population. The rate among women veterans is over five times higher than that of civilian women. So even with help available, this is still a massive problem.
So on the holiday set aside to remember those who gave their lives for the cause of American freedom and independence, let’s not forget those who gave their lives even if it took a little longer for the war to kill them. More importantly, let’s work as a nation to change the situation for veterans. Let’s offer our support, drop the stigmas, and encourage our politicians take care of our veterans.
Sam Burnham, Curator
A year of takeout, curb service, and delivery dining has taken a toll on many restaurants, particularly those that thrive on comfortable dining rooms and a dine-in experience. For other establishments, those with drive thru windows and takeout-friendly menus, business continues.
One such place sits amid Alto Plaza, a strip mall on Shorter Avenue in Rome. Coach Drew put me on this place. He has a knack for finding the small local joints that ABG holds dear. Sammy’s American Grill is a perfect example of such a place.
I’m not sure what the dine-in appeal to me is there. The dining room is pretty basic with basic tables and chairs with commercial radio playing to round out the ambience. It’s pretty standard. No frills. But I like it there. Most customers come in, pay for their order and hit the road. I don’t think I’ve been in that at least a half dozen or more customers snagged a takeout order while I was dining. With a nearby college and a variety of residential neighborhoods within a short distance make this a great location for takeout.
As far as the food, Sammy’s makes me think of several food trucks condensed into a single storefront. You can choose from burgers, seafood, Pholly steak, wings, Italian beef sandwiches just to name a few. They have an impressive selection.
I’ll say this, this place isn’t going to win a James Beard Award. They don’t have any Michelin Stars. That’s not what it’s about. What you will get is a solid good quality meal. You’ll get fast service. You’ll get a decent price for what you order. You’ll feel like they want you to be there. You’ll feel like a valued customer.
My go-to order is the cheeseburger & wings combo. The wings are available in several flavors. They’re fried but not breaded before tossed in the sauce of your choosing. So they’re crisp but not bready. If you order’hot,’ that’s what you get. So keep that in mind. The burger comes with fresh toppings. Wash it down with the peach punch from the bubble dispenser. I just call it “red.”
This place is popular with a constant stream of takeout customers but I don’t hear people in town talking about it all that much. It’s like a really well kept secret. So if you’re in the Rome area and looking for food truck experience without the sweaty standing in line in a sweltering parking lot experience, swing into Sammy’s and be impressed.
Sam Burnham, Curator
I don’t remember the specific day or time that I met Patrick Dean. We were both in elementary school, probably second or third grade. He was one year behind me in school and we didn’t have any classes together or anything. But we had mutual friends and attended a small school in a small town. It was inevitable we would get to know each other. I’m thankful that we did.
Even at that young age he was always drawing something. It’s easy to watch someone with a gift and assume that it all comes naturally, that they just have this magical ability to do this thing. Patrick made drawing look that easy. It’s easy to overlook the amount of time, effort, and energy that went into his passion. Athletes call it “practice.”
What probably began, in part, as an outlet for that excess energy that young boys all seem to possess grew into much more than a hobby. It became art of his personality, a segment of his very identity. Over the years there must have been thousands of drawings given to friends and family members. He passed them out the way some offer handshakes or hugs.
And that thoughtfulness is one of the many things this world lost on Wednesday when Patrick left this world forever. It was an end we all expected since the day he announced his diagnosis with ALS. We all somehow hoped this day wouldn’t really ever come. Unfortunately, it has.
To have seen him in his youth, energetic and active, it is hard to believe that he is gone this young. Such is the cruel nature of the disease that has robbed his family of their husband, father, son, and brother. Patrick was truly a friendly human being. He never met a stranger. I cannot imagine anyone just not liking him. He was such a gifted artist that I’m afraid people will focus so much on that that they’ll miss his humanity. They’ll focus on the drawing rather than the act - the way he could take your Taco Bell receipt and a Bic pen and make something really cool, not to show off but because he wanted you to have something cool.
That humanity is what fueled his focus on being a husband and a dad these last three years. It was obvious that he was disappointed he wouldn’t growing old with those who he loved most. And that’s the worst part of this tragedy. It’s just heartbreaking. It’s not fair.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Fluke. Patrick was a driving force behind the small and independent press comic and zine festival in Athens. Publishers and artists come and share their work with their colleagues. Fans get to meet their favorite small press heroes. The focus is on the art and the artists rather than on the commercial ideal. This will be a part of Patrick that remains long after he’s gone. We may never know how many young artists find their way as artists and as humans because of their experiences with Fluke.
And so Patrick lives on.
Our world was a little better on Tuesday when he was here. I’m a little better today because I knew him. While I offer my condolences to his family and grieve with them I’m also thankful for his life. Sure, Patrick Dean was a fantastic artist but he was also a fantastic human being. This world needs more of both.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire