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Charlie Olliff Square

Olliff honored for many years of service to Sea Island Bank and the community

Charlie Olliff Square

Charlie Olliff Square

Sea Island Bank President Darron Burn...

The decoratively fenced and gated area where the Mainstreet Farmers Market and other events are held is no longer just the Sea Island Bank parking lot. It’s Charlie Olliff Square, by proclamation of the city and as an honor from the bank to its longest-serving board member.

Olliff has served on the bank’s board of directors for more than 48 years. Some said all his life, but that is really only half of it so far. Olliff, now 96, served as a pilot training other pilots during World War II. He later operated an LP gas company and was a Statesboro real estate owner and developer.

Remaining active in community service in retirement, Olliff became a 2004 Deen Day Smith Lifetime Achievement Award honoree. The Statesboro and Downtown Statesboro Rotary clubs named him Rotary Citizen of the Year in 2007.

Then there was Wednesday’s ceremony. To keep it a surprise, only private notices were sent.

“He’s probably done more things quietly for other people than any other person around here,” said Bruce Yawn, the chairman of the Sea Island Bank board. “If we had put an open invitation in the paper, this parking lot would not have held everybody that would have been here.”

Speaking to those in the square, Yawn called Olliff a man whose Christian faith is important to him, a family man, loyal to his friends, a good business man.

“One thing about Charlie is that he won’t compromise any of those principles or any of those values for his own personal gain, and I think that’s what has endeared him to so many of us,” Yawn said.

The proclamation from Statesboro City Council and Mayor Jan Moore, which she personally presented, describes Olliff as “the definition of a true Southern gentleman.” It expresses the city’s thanks and congratulations on his service to the bank and the community.

Bulloch County Board of Commissioners Chairman Garrett Nevil also spoke briefly.

“We all know that it would be an honor to have something named after you, but today I think it’s a honor for Sea Island Bank to be able to dedicate this park in honor of Mr. Olliff,” Nevil said.

Sea Island Bank President and CEO Darron Burnette credited Executive Vice President Chad Wiggins with the idea of renaming the landscaped parking area. It is used by vendors during the Saturday markets and provides parking for other downtown events during non-banking hours.

Family members who attended included one of Olliff’s daughters, Cissy Mercer, his granddaughter Courtney Pirozzi and his sister-in-law Kathryn Olliff.

Charlie Olliff’s wife, Priscilla Prather Olliff, died in 2001. Their other children are Bob Olliff and Mary McElveen, and they have eight grandchildren and a number of great-grandchildren.

Olliff is a devoted member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church, where he has served on the administrative board and the finance committee. He was active in the Homebound Communion Ministry and “Meals on Wheels,” according to the Herald’s 2007 story on the Rotary Citizen of the Year award.

At the time of that previous honor, presenters noted his service on the Ogeechee Area Hospice board and as co-chairman of a successful building campaign for the hospice.

He has now been a Rotary Club member for 63 years.

At Wednesday’s ceremony, Olliff exhibited his keen, self-deprecating wit by telling a personal story. He experienced a fall about six weeks ago that prompted his doctor to order an MRI scan of “what hit the concrete” — his head, he reported. The initial MRI showed signs of internal bleeding.

“The doctor was very much disturbed that that would give me trouble — in later life,” said Olliff, pausing for people to catch those last three words and laugh.

But after a recent follow-up scan, the doctor told Olliff there was nothing wrong with his brain.

“He said, ‘You’ve got good a brain and you can enjoy it.’ I said, ‘Doctor, that’s what I came down here for, to find out if I had a good brain,” Olliff said, pausing again. “I asked him this: When can I use it?”

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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