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Donated bottles hold memories of friendship

The late Drew Whitaker, who served as a McDuffie County Commissioner from 1996-2000, will be making an impression on local citizens for years to come. Mr. Whitaker's best friend, Bill Baab, made a donation Sunday to the McDuffie Museum in his friend's honor.

"I think if Whit were alive today, he certainly would have enjoyed hearing about and visiting the museum," Mr. Baab said.

Mr. Baab and Mr. Whitaker became good friends in the late 1950s and became interested in collecting antique bottles about 10 years later.

"He started collecting bottles the same time I did. ... He died in 2003 of lung cancer, and I really miss that man," Mr. Baab said. "Never a day goes by that I don't think about him. He and I dug all over this state in trash piles and privies and along the banks of the Ogeechee River. So, when he died, that really left a void in my life."

When Mr. Baab, who lives in Augusta, learned of the McDuffie Museum opening, he thought it would be appropriate to honor his friend and help the museum by donating some bottles that he had bought from Mr. Whitaker's personal collection.

In a special ceremony Sunday afternoon at the museum, Mr. Baab presented McDuffie Museum Director Jenny Lindsey with five bottles - a circa 1905 Thomson Bottling Works soda bottle, three medicinal bottles from Dr. W.H. Pitts of Thomson around, or prior to, 1907, and one bottle dated 1894 from the Oscar E. Fluker bottler in Union Point, Ga.

"I am very appreciative to the Whitaker family and Mr. Baab for the bottles from Mr. Whitaker's collection," Ms. Lindsey said. "They will be a nice addition to the McDuffie County exhibit that will be in the museum later this summer."

Mr. Whitaker's widow, Cornelia, and daughter, Robin Galloway, both of Dearing, attended Sunday's ceremony, along with his son, Keith, from Elberton. Mr. Whitaker was a graduate of Dearing High School, served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War, then joined the Georgia Game and Fish Department as a wildlife ranger under Thomson District Chief Claude Ellington. Mr. Whitaker served as the Thomson District chief, and later was promoted to colonel and retired as the state's chief conservation ranger in 1986.

Ms. Lindsey said the donation of bottles came at a good time, as she is currently working on the museum's exhibit of local history. Anyone interested in donating artifacts may call Ms. Lindsey at 706-595-9923. The museum is located on Main Street in downtown Thomson. Hours are Tuesday through Friday, noon until 5 p.m., Saturday noon until 3 p.m. and Sunday 2-6 p.m. Admission is free.

Web posted on Thursday, March 26, 2009

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