George Robert Zittrouer was born on April 7, 1925, to Ruth Exley Zittrouer and George Franklin Zittrouer. Frank and Ruth owned a small 14 acre farm outside Springfield on Highway 119. It was on this farm that George Robert along with his older siblings, Clinton and Matra, were born and reared.
George Robert attended Berryville School until it closed and then Effingham Academy. He was drafted into World War II and was unable to complete high school. In 1942 he joined the U.S. Navy and on his first tour of duty to Italy his ship was attacked. His Navy decoy ship was leading a convoy of supply ships.While traveling through the Strait of Gibraltar into the Mediterranean Sea, a torpedo hit and damaged their vessel. For several months the ship was docked in Algeria while it was repaired.
When he returned from the war, he earned his GED and went to work at Springfield Dodge selling cars. In July of 1946, he was hired as a brakeman for the Seaboard Coastline Railroad. The Seaboard Coastline merged with CSX in 1986 and he continued to work as a conductor and trainman until his retirement.
George met and fell in love with a school teacher named Martha in 1948, In August of 1949 he married Martha Ann Blakey from Screven County.
Their first home was a small rental house in Springfield, across the street from Usher’s Drycleaners. (It’s now the location of the new Effingham County Courthouse.)
While living in Springfield, their two oldest sons were born. The oldest, Therman, followed in the footsteps of his father and worked as an engineer for the same railroads. Mack, their second born, was the first Zittrouer to graduate from college and he has a business career in the furniture industry.
In 1953, George Robert, using money saved from his military service, purchased 44 acres of land from Mr. Harry Lancaster. With the help of his father, brother, sister, friends and their families, he built a house on this property. He moved his family to Mock Road in 1954 so he could raise them on a farm.
Three more sons were born. The middle child, Grady, followed the profession of Martha and became an educator. The fourth child, Glenn, is employed with the Railroad Division of Georgia Ports Authority. And their youngest son, Carroll became an electrician and is a general plant operator for Georgia Power. Therman, Glenn and Carroll have continued the farming tradition with their “hobby farms.”
George Robert loved his boys and he would often call Martha from the train yard in Savannah and tell her to meet him in Stillwell with the boys.
He would take two or three of them at time and let them ride the train with him to Clyo. His job on the railroad kept him away from home a great deal of the time, but he always found a way to make sure his sons knew he loved and cared for them. Each summer he took Martha and the boys on vacation to the mountains, beach, Nashville, Florida, or somewhere his railroad buddies told him would be a great place to take his family.
George Robert was a member of the Springfield Baptist Church for his entire life. He served on the building committee, finance committee and he was instrumental in the planning, relocation, fund raising and building of the present day First Baptist Church of Springfield. One portion of his
Christian ministry was to work with Marion Sullivan, a dear friend and neighbor, to maintain the church grounds. Carroll and Therman continue this ministry, using their tractors to cut grass and weeds on the exterior part of the church property. George Robert was devoted to his church and served as a church deacon and church trustee from 1982 until his death. His favorite scripture was the 23rd Psalm.
George Robert believed in the importance of community service. He served as a board member of Effingham Chapter of the Farm Bureau. He was always involved in his sons’ youth activities. He was a chapter farmer with the Future Farmers of America and also a 4-H Club leader. He served on the Effingham County Fair Committee and helped to build the livestock barn and parking area. He was a charter member of the Berryville Hunting Club and a member of the American Legion Post No. 209.
In January of 1985, George Robert’s life was suddenly turned upside down when he learned that Martha was killed in a head-on car collision. With
the strength of his boys, his family and his faith in God he became the “Solid Rock” for his family.
In August of 1986, he married Louise Gilliam Rahn. In 1987, after 41 years of working for the railroad, George Robert retired. As a retired couple he and Louise built their life around church, family and the farm. George Robert truly loved farm life and did everything within his power to instill into his sons the value of the land and the life that came with it. Nurturing the land that he had been so blessed to own, planting corn for his hogs and cattle, growing soybeans for the market and baling hay were among his favorite things to do. He had a hog parlor for feeder pigs and he love raising cattle. One would often find him traveling to the cattle markets in the Southeast hauling livestock for family, friends, and neighbors.
He enjoyed playing cards and would meet every Wednesday with his friends to play “set-back.” Friends, family and neighbors were important to him and one of his unnoticed ministries was to visit shut-ins, nursing homes, and helping neighbors.
During the Christmas holidays of 2000, George Robert uncharacteristically stopped tending his cows and farm. In January of 2001 his doctors diagnosed that he had stomach cancer and he died on April 16 of that same year. The American Cancer Society held a Memorial Service in November of 2001. The following poem, shared at this service, was written by his son Grady in memory of his father, George Robert Zittrouer.
This gentle man known to many as George,
Was a tower of strength to his family and boys
From hard work, he never shied,
Disappointment in life, he would often hide.
Meek in his manner, quiet in speech,
The example he set would serve to teach.
To keep on trying, and don’t give up
The good times and bad are from the same cup.
He loved the land and he loved his farm.
He worked the fields and built his barns.
He took the reins when there were fields to plow.
He took care of his chickens and always fed the cow.
Devoted to his church, he would often pray,
That God would care for us through each day.
He liked to laugh and play cards with his friends,
He loved his family through thick and thin.
We miss him greatly and wish he were here.
But we know the Lord was his Shepherd, and will keep him near.
Now he is at rest, and although we grieve.
He is with God – and he is at Peace.
This article was written by his son, Grady K. Zittrouer. Susan Exley of Historic Effingham Society compiled the article. If you have comments, photos or information to share contact her at 754-6681 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org