Georgia on the mind: Longtime WES secretary retires

BY Jan Murray jmurray@southeastsun.com

Georgia on the mind: Longtime WES secretary retires
“It’s a great day at Windham, this is Ms. Georgia.”The familiar voice of Georgia Nichols has welcomed thousands of callers and visitors to Windham Elementary School for more than three decades. But, at the end of this month, she will enter into retirement, leaving behind countless memories.“Love of all things children,” said Principal Chris Mitten who has worked with “Ms. Georgia” for 17 years, 11 of those as her principal. “She will do anything for the children of this school. There are countless families that she’s made sure has Christmas. There are countless children that’s she’s made sure had backpacks, crayons or other supplies. She always makes sure the children have what they need.”Mitten explained that when he first met “Ms. Georgia” and before she knew he would one day be her principal, she greeted him as he arrived to the school campus for his job interview as a Title One teacher. “She said ‘mitten like kitten’ and at that moment I knew this was a special place and that ‘Ms. Georgia’ was a special person. It was summertime and nobody else was here but I still felt welcome.”Perhaps Mitten’s testaments are a huge window into what “Ms. Georgia” believes. She shared a quote recently that she found that she particularly loves. It reads, “Love what you do. There’s always going to be someone else who’s smarter than you, but there’s no substitute for passion. People who are passionate always work the hardest and that sets them apart.”All things considered—from school board members, administration, co-workers and students—“Ms. Georgia” not only loved what she did for 31 years, but she had great passion for not only the job, but the children she helped guide through the elementary years.Janet Nabinger has worked with “Ms. Georgia” for the past 11 years and has assumed some of her duties. In addition, she knew her before they became co-workers because Nabinger’s children went to school at WES. Nabinger said “Ms. Georgia” is the only secretary WES has ever had, that she is “the heart” of the school and her retirement is an “end of an era.”“When God made Georgia Nichols he did indeed break the mold. Over the years ‘Ms. Georgia’ has always gone above and beyond for everyone who walks through the doors,” said Nabinger. “ ‘Ms. Georgia’ has a never ending supply of patience with the students. From sick students to the ones who don’t have lunch money or have lost a jacket, (she) helps them all with a ready smile on her face and you never know what term of endearment she’ll come up with when a student walks into the office.Nabinger who first met “Ms. Georgia” as a parent some 16 years ago also said, “I think of her as a sister and dear friend whom I’m going to miss seeing every day from our simple every day conversations, our shared stories, and just the day-to-day workings of school…‘Ms. Georgia’ loves the band. She enjoys marching with them down the street and clapping along with them. WES will be a very different place without Georgia. I just hope that we can continue with her legacy and make her proud.”“Ms. Georgia” was born Georgia Pridmore in 1952 and has been married to her husband, Kim, for 29 years. She has two grown boys, Aaron and Madison, and one grandchild, Ashlyn. She has a beloved sister, Barbara Rugg, who lives with her husband, Buddy, atop a mountaintop in North Carolina, but they talk nearly every night. She is a lifetime resident of Daleville where both of her children attended schools throughout their childhood and youth. In fact, “Ms. Georgia” said, she still lives in the same house she grew up in. She and her husband have been active members of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Enterprise for 29 years.Current WES students echo the adult sentiments for “Ms. Georgia.”“ ‘Ms. Georgia’ is a great person. She is always nice to anyone who comes in. I love her,” said fourth grader Emily Scott.Fifth grader Austin Horne said, “ ‘Ms. Georgia is always very loving, kind, and friendly. She greets me whenever she sees me. She always remembers my name. Whenever I forget my lunch money she makes sure I get to eat. If I go to the office, she values my opinion and me as a person. I am sad to see Mrs. Georgia retire, but I hope that she is happy.”“ ‘Ms. Georgia’ is the sweetest person I know,” said Jascianna Straw, a WES sixth grader. “She helps you when you're feeling down. I love Mrs. Georgia with all my heart, because she loves us with all her heart.“ ‘Ms. Georgia’ is always busy keeping the school going and informed on everything. When we need help, she helps us and we return the favor,” said Brayton Moore another sixth grader. Jenna Hixson adds to her co-students’ comments by asking a simple question, “Where do I begin?”“ ‘Ms. Georgia’ has been a bright, beautiful light to our school for many years. She's that kind of person who makes you smile and feel great about yourself, even if you don't know her. Mrs. Georgia is so very special to me because she is like another mother. She's been there through everything and it's hard to think about her leaving. I love “Ms. Georgia,” Hixson explained.The much-loved secretary will tear up when asked about her time at WES because the school and all the students and staff are like her family. “I love the children…It will be hard to stay away,” she said, adding that she plans to do volunteer work and not stay home all the time.“The thing is ‘Ms. Georgia’ has been the face of this school…since it’s been open. She has a special place in the hearts of thousands of parents and children who’ve all gone through this building,” said principal Mitten. “I can’t tell you how many dozens of times people have walked in and said, ‘Oh Ms. Georgia, you’re still here!’ That is just a testament to the impact she’s had.”
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