The late Carter Seay said that people of Waleska would hang their well buckets at half-mast when they mourned the death of one of its citizens. I doubt there are more than a few wells and fewer well buckets in Waleska these days, but if there are, they are at half-mast.
William (Bill) Cline has passed. People of all walks of life knew, respected and loved him. Two of his grandchildren, Brittany Russell Phillips and Lee Hughes, were among those who described him well.
Brittany wrote, “The best man I’ve known has left the world, I’m torn between heartbroken and happy he’s at peace. He moved mountains and had a heart bigger than anyone could fathom … I was blessed to call him Granddad.”
Lee described his granddad as Superman with a Southern drawl.
But Bill’s love was not limited to his wife, Dorothy, his children, Mike Cline, Vickie Boswell and Jenny Hughes, his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Bill Cline was there for whoever needed him.
During his long career with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, he earned the rank of major and had the ear of governors and other high ranking officials of our state. He was a giant in the world of law enforcement. Whatever his station in life, he remained humble.
Passing from generation to generation, Cline’s store has been in Waleska almost as long as there has been a Waleska. Bill lived very near the store and was its owner. One day, Bill was at Cline’s Store when he remembered something he needed to do. It caused him to go home in a hurry.
Granddaughter Beth Russell Watkins was with him. He was well over 6 feet tall and wore size 16 shoes. Beth was about 5 and could barely stretch her arm high enough to hold on to one of his fingers when they walked together.
As Bill hurried along, Beth was running to hang on to him. He slowed down when she said, “Don’t get your ‘panties in a wad,’ Granddad.”
You might say Bill Cline often got his “panties in a wad.” He had no patience with thieves or people who mistreated others — especially children and the elderly. He believed in showing respect for everyone, telling the truth and obeying the law and he expected no less from others.
My own children lost their father when they were very young. Their Uncle James Cline, now deceased, and their Uncle Bill — actually he was a cousin — became their role models for what a man and father should be.
There are many memories of Waleska’s Gentle Giant. He fixed bicycle tires and inflated soccer balls for little boys who did not have fathers to do it for them and he taught more than one teenager how to drive in a cow pasture to help them prepare to get their driver’s license.
Camp meeting at Pine Log was a tradition of Dot’s family. The campsite is very near the railroad track. Bill and James showed my children how to put pennies on the track so the train would flatten them when it ran over them. Those coins became prized possessions.
Bill was a good neighbor and realized that his neighbors were not just those who lived next to him. He loaned out his tools and if someone’s car would not start, he was always ready to “jump it off.”
Bill Cline will not be forgotten. Those who drive by will see his name on the Community Building in Waleska. It is on the Georgia Peace Officers Annuity and Benefit Fund Building in Griffin, too.
But it is in the hearts of those of us who knew and loved him that warm, loving memories of Bill will remain for all of our days.
Someone said that when an older person dies it is like a library burning down. That is how it is with losing Bill. I cannot tell you how many times my phone rang during the years I was the Mayor with someone calling to ask questions about old Waleska. I usually referred them to Bill or Betty Callahan. Both were born here while I only came to live in Waleska and go to Reinhardt College in 1956.
At Bill’s memorial service, Rev. Charles Davis told a story of Albert Einstein having lost his ticket after getting on an airplane. While he was quite distressed, a flight attendant assured him that she recognized him and everything was going to be fine.
Dr. Einstein explained to the flight attendant that she did not understand. He needed to find his ticket to see where he was going.
Bill Cline lived his life as a child of God. He always knew where he was going because in James 3:13 the Bible says, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom.”
That is exactly what Bill Cline did.