COCHRAN, GEORGIA: The definition of ‘neighbor,’ according to old Webster, is, “a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to.”
Being neighborly means, “being friendly and helpful to the people who live in your neighborhood.’
But then, how do you define ‘your neighborhood?’
When you live in a small community like Cochran, sometimes, the whole town could be ‘your neighborhood’ or your church, your school … you get the point.
Or that’s how Ben Rogers and Ben Dykes operate as being ‘neighborly.’
Or that is how I remember them operating for so many years as I grew up going to church with them, being educated by them, and just being a part of their ‘community.’
As a newspaper reporter, I had the chance of interviewing both of them several times during their careers as educators.
Ironically, Ben Rogers and Ben Dykes have been friends for years, and were next door neighbors. They both are married to fantastic women – Ben Dykes to Patricia and Ben Rogers to Glenda. Both have two children – a boy and a girl. Both were educators before retirement. What I remember is both men had workshops in the back of their homes, and were quite handy and good at building things.
Which is why I was excited when someone nominated the two Bens as good neighbors for a profile story on The Murphy Gazette.
Surprise, Coach and Mr. Ben!
Ben Rogers retired as the head basketball coach from Middle Georgia College. He is in, if I am not mistaken, two – maybe more – hall of fames, and in 2017, he held the record as Georgia’s winning-est JUCO coach. His teams won 468 games. After he retired, Coach was named Associate Professor Emeritus of Math and Physical Education.
A very tall man, Coach could … well, he still can … give you this look that spoke more than any audible word could. My dad and Coach would drink coffee together with others at the local Hardee’s. There was always a lot of world-problem solving.
Ben Dykes grew up in Cochran. He went to school in Cochran. He played sports. Later in life, he became an educator in his school system, and coached sports, including a great girls’ basketball team. Mr. Ben was selected as a state officer for the region in the Georgia High School Athletic Association in the 1970s.
Mr. Ben was a stern administrator but had, well has, such a big heart. He encouraged his students, his athletes and everyone to always reach for the stars. And whenever Mr. Ben laughed, it was infectious.
Before retirement, they were busy men with their jobs and family.
Yet, if either man saw a need in the community, at the schools or church, and they could do something about it – they would – mentoring young people, offering support to the local sports’ teams, working on projects at church, helping the elderly church goers, and showing us young folks just how to act right.
Honest, humble men with ethics and compassionate servant hearts like the two Bens are rare gems these days.
Pay either one of them a compliment, and they would just pshaw it off and turn attention elsewhere.
And that is just how Ben Dykes and Ben Rogers are …
All of us who know them are glad.
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Photos (c) Mi Waters, Becky Holland, Benjy Rogers and Sherry Van Buren Conklin.