A man who did so much for this county, country, city of Guyton, his family and friends quietly passed away on Nov. 13, 2010. Lawton M. Nease Jr. was 91 years old and succumbed to a relatively short illness that he chose to meet on his own terms.
Born to Lawton M. Nease Sr. and Evelyn Seckinger Nease, the young man learned early to quietly provide for others. He was exposed to a rural life and hard work. When he helped me with information on the “Pauper Farm” story a few years ago, he mentioned going out with his relatives, before our current welfare system, to distribute food and aid to provide for his neighbors in need and explained how the county commissioners provided for the indigent, using key people in the community to administer the funds they set aside for the indigent. It is said by those who knew him best that there was no cause that he did not love. Quietly in his own private manner, he saw to the charities and fundraising events for the needy on a regular basis. His trademark check with a most unique signature, a scrawling mark covering the entire face of the check, was gladly shared with those he so graciously supported. Mr. Lawton was especially supportive of organizations supporting our youth like the Boy Scouts.
For many years, young boys Lawton Nease Jr. and his brother Warren delivered the Savannah Morning News in the mornings prior to school and the Savannah Evening Press in the afternoons. According to daughter Sue N. Exley, “They bought bicycles to ride on their routes with some of the money they earned — but more importantly I believe the earnings were used to put electricity in their home and other expenses.”
During his early years, Mr. Lawton served our country from 1940-45 in the U.S. Navy. He was married and beginning his family during this time.
I am told he never saw the need for any “noodle” after his tours of duty, opting out of pasta for the rest of his life. He worked for the railroad for several years and they were eager to offer him a job postwar, but because it was away from Effingham, he chose not to stick with the railroad, a decision he never regretted. Five years away he deemed as enough.
Mr. Lawton owned and operated L.M. Nease Service Station in Guyton for over 56 years. He had acquired the warehouse of the Guyton Depot that was moved behind his place of business for storage mainly for the many tires he sold. He offered gasoline, automotive parts, tires and excellent service. His faithful attendant was Charlie Green, attired in a dress shirt, tie and usually a suit coat.
Not only was your oil changed, the inside of the car was vacuumed and your windshield was always washed. When you inquired about purchasing an item, his words were usually given after he looked the item up in a book on the counter. He would say the cost of this item is such and such, but your price is so and so. This was a lower price, but he wanted you to know the quality of the item you were purchasing at the lesser price.
Nowhere in town were cold drinks as good. Mr. Lawton kept his just a bit colder so that the sodas were a bit slushy when you opened one. Many
Guyton citizens with little or no transportation relied on him for cashing payroll checks and he would help you out when you did not make it to the bank in Springfield. For many, Mr. Nease’s “Bank of Guyton” was always open, providing a quiet service in the community.
After he retired, he retained the business property and it found renewed use as “The Filling Station,” a community food bank for those in need.
Mr. Nease also was a tree farmer, tending several parcels of timberland throughout the county.
As owner of Standard Oil Company, my family was well acquainted with Mr. Nease. My Aunt Rebecca lost her husband, John Wilson, in a tragic accident in Mr. Nease’s gas truck in 1953. I always heard he was very good to my aunt during that time, although this occurred the year before I was born.
Mrs. Jane and Mr. Lawton had three children; Lawton M. “Mac” Nease III, Marsha N. Usher and Sue N. Exley. They were reared in their Christian home, taking active part in church, school and many activities. They had opportunity for higher education and each found success and marriage.
Son Mac, a successful Atlanta businessman, established a scholarship at Effingham County High to honor his parents called the Lawton and Jane Pool Nease Scholarship for an Effingham County student at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. Over 40 scholarships have been awarded.
Mr. Nease was preceded in death by daughter Marsha Usher, grandson Lawton M. Nease IV and his wife Jane Pool Nease. He knew heartache and tragic loss. He lovingly and faithfully saw to his dear wife Jane as her infirmities and decline in health made her more homebound prior to her death. It is of note that although most family and friends called his wife “Janie” he always called her by her real name, Jane. He was a stickler always calling friends and family by their given name.
Sue stated, “Pop always addressed Mr. Joe Arden as Milton Jr. because he said — that is his name.” Spending time with his family that included son Lawton, daughter Sue, three grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren including all the spouses was something he cherished especially in his later years.
His faith in God and example of a Christian life reflect the legacy of Mr. Nease, a role model for many. A member of Guyton Methodist Church and a former Sunday School teacher, he served on many committees and co-founded a Men’s Fifth Sunday Prayer Breakfast 54 years ago at
Guyton Methodist along with his dear friend, Neal Ratchford. He was the spokesman, the master of ceremonies of the event, introducing the guest speaker until the end of his life, bringing a vast variety of community leaders and various spokesmen into his church for fellowship and renewal.
He served many years on the Effingham County Methodist Campground Trustees and was an avid supporter of and a fixture at Camp Meeting. Always immaculate, clad in a suit and tie, despite the heat, Mr. Lawton sat in a certain location on an inside aisle of the tabernacle, warmly greeting everyone he saw.
As a member of the Guyton Masonic Lodge, No. 428, F&AM, Mr. Nease was recognized for over 70 years of service. In addition he was also a member of the Scottish Rite, Alee Temple, Coastal Daylight Lodge and the Sojourners.
Mr. Lawton served on the C&S Bank Board. He was a member of the Guyton Historical, Georgia Salzburger and Historical Effingham Societies.
During 1995, he was honored for his spirit and achievements with the John Adam Treutlen Award and also received a Lifetime Service Rotary Award.
According to daughter Sue, “He dearly loved Effingham County and Guyton — calling it the Garden Spot, between Egypt and Eden. He served on the town council of Guyton for 30 plus years and worked heartily with the other councilmen for many improvements in Guyton — going to Atlanta to the Capitol numerous times for the good of the town.”
He was very interested in the Effingham Veterans Park built in the county and a regular at annual veterans community events. Most recently he served on the committee that oversaw the restoration of the Effingham County Courthouse. It is sad that he was unable to see the completed job that was so well done.
Perhaps Mr. Lawton could be called an “ambassador of ice cream.” The man just loved it with lots consumed and he gave ice cream to all he knew from his well stocked freezer. Herschel Paulk said if he shared ice cream with you, it was always more than one kind and if he thought they had grandchildren coming by, they might be given four different flavors at once. It was most fitting that Mr. Lawton’s grandson wondered how he could stay so slim eating that much ice cream. It brought a smile to your face at the funeral home to see a Breyer’s Ice Cream box among the photos and memorabilia of Mr. Nease.
Over the nearly five years of preparing this weekly column, Mr. Lawton refused to allow an interview I wanted to do on the history of his business. Occasionally a reporter cornered him if he thought it somehow benefited his community and he made it to print. That was a rarity as he was in many ways a very private man who did a lot of good and never boasted or sought praise. Even at the end of his life, he did not want accomplishments brought to light, only wanting to enjoy the company of family and friends in true “Lawton Nease” style.
Effingham County and all who knew him lost a “one of a kind” gracious Southern gentleman on Nov. 13. He was a man who truly knew that life’s greatest riches came from personal relationships. I expect he was surprised when God turned the tables as he entered the Pearly Gates saying to him, “So glad to see you, Lawton Nease Jr.”
His job of service on earth was well done and soon I am sure he was greeting his loved ones in heaven in his usual warm and friendly style adding someone very special to Our Heavenly Father’s home.
This was written by Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society with help from Sue N. Exley and others. If you have photos, comments or information to share, contact Susan Exley at 754-6681 or email her at: firstname.lastname@example.org