Chuck Sheets, who recruits help and makes sure that the 3,000-plus participants and about 170 floats line up correctly for the Kiwanis Ogeechee Fair Parade each October, was honored Thursday night by the Statesboro Kiwanis Club as its 2017 Kiwanian of the Year.
The award is bestowed for outstanding service in the past year. A list of recipients going back to 1965, with a few years apparently skipped in the early going, indicates that Sheets is the 50th recipient. The few others who knew who would get the award kept secrets, and the previous honoree, Wallace Brown, continued the tradition of dropping hints in his introduction.
“You don’t know how much of a shock it is to realize that somebody is standing up here talking about you, and all of the things they are saying are not only true but fantastically nice,” Sheets said, asserting complete but pleasant surprise.
“I am greatly appreciative of this club, of this honor, and for the opportunity that I have had to serve not only Kiwanis but to reach out to this community and to bring so many people together at an event that is coordinated and brought together by our committee,” he said. “I don’t do it by myself by any means.”
One of Brown’s hints had been that this particular Kiwanian of the Year has a degree from a college in a town where the hottest temperature on record was 115 degrees in 1936 and the coldest day was minus 33 degrees in 1974. Another was that he retired from a profession “that involves a lot of math, planning, people and materials … kind of sounds like an engineer.”
Another was that his original hometown is more than a 21-hour drive from Bulloch County. Making the answer more obvious to many club members, Brown said the honoree could be seen “on a zero-turn mower cutting grass wearing their straw hat” on work Saturdays at the club.
“And on Monday of fair week, they can be seen standing at the intersection of North Main and East Olliff engineering the operations of our fair parade,” Brown said.
Originally from Elgin, Nebraska, Sheets was indeed in the top 10 percent of a class of 10 students in high school, and went to the University of Nebraska for his mechanical engineering degree. He worked 42 years as a design, development and testing engineer for J.I. Case Company, a farm tractor and implement manufacturer. Early in his career, when he came to Statesboro for a tractor test program, he met Marie Ginn, daughter of the late M.E. Ginn, who owned the Case dealership here.
Secret at home
Chuck and Marie Ginn Sheets returned to Statesboro in retirement in 2006. They have been married 55 years as of last Saturday. Meanwhile, she was keeping a little secret from him, having been clued in two months earlier about the Kiwanis Club honor in order to provide information and make sure he attended.
“It was a total surprise,” she said. “When they finally said his name, he looked at me like, ‘Me?’”
Sheets thanked her publicly for her patience with his work as parade chairman.
“The support that I get at home from my wife when we go about getting ready for a parade is fantastic,” he said. “She never, never, never once has said, ‘Why are you taking so much time to do this?’ and you don’t know how much that is appreciated.”
Chuck Sheets was not involved in Kiwanis before they moved here, but was introduced to the local club by the late Hubert Tankersley.
Sheets said he has been a Kiwanis Club member a dozen or so years, and parade chair for 10 or more. Now 83, he has no plans to retire from that role as long as he is able.
“Thank you, thank, you, thank you, and let’s keep this going,” he told the club after receiving the award. “Let’s keep it going for years and years and years to come, as it has in the past,” he said. “Thank you.”
During Thursday night’s banquet, Statesboro Kiwanis Club President JD Dunn, assisted by Bede Mitchell, presented a number of other awards.
George F. Hixson Fellowships were awarded to Gene Murkison, Billy Lott, Ashlee Corbin, Bob Mikell and Danny Beall. Dunn also announced special awards for past presidents David Beaubien, Trish Tootle and Alex Grovenstein.
Walter Zeller Fellowship awards were announced for Don Whaley, Earl Cashon, Ed Bailey and Lovett Bennett.
Kiwanis division Lt. Gov. Jim Campbell presented Outstanding Kiwanian awards to Dan Foglio and Alex Grovenstein.
World-traveling, Statesboro-resident musician, composer and music educator Michael Braz, Ph.D., also a Kiwanian, was the featured entertainer. Calling his program “Things You Don’t Hear Me Play at Lunchtime,” he performed selections from George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess,” a version of “Dueling Banjos” adapted for piano, the “Mickey Mouse Club” theme in the styles of various composers, and snippets of audience requests from a list of about 150 tunes, among other things.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.