After she passed away in 2019, Statesboro’s “Legend of the Arts” Roxie Remley left an unexpected gift to the children of the man who did her lawn service for the previous six years — Clint Lovett of Portal.
As part of her estate, Remley gave $20,000 each to Aliyah and CJ Lovett, who were 12 and 6 years old at the time.
Lovett said he was stunned to learn about Remley’s generous gift.
“I like to talk. Miss Roxie likes to talk. We became friends,” Lovett said. “I would go and cut her grass, and then she and I would talk for an hour when settling up. I finally told my crew when we would get to her house that I would go inside now and to go ahead and do her yard and another yard in the area.
“I had no idea,” he said. “I never asked her for anything. I was always fair with my lawn service prices. Even though she could hardly see, she told me she liked the way I cut her bushes perfectly round.”
Lovett said Remley left the money as a college fund for Aliyah and CJ, but Lovett wanted to give his children an immediate stake in a venture he was about to launch — Baby CJs Rib Shack restaurant.
“As their daddy, I invested the money in paying off the entire loan on the land and with some of the construction of Baby CJs Rib Shack,” Lovett said. “They’re already part owners, and I told them if they work hard in the restaurant, that money will end up paying for a lot more than college.
“But, if the restaurant closes down tomorrow, they will get the money Miss Roxie gave them.”
Lovett said he always wanted to honor Remley in a public way inside the restaurant. So a few weeks ago, along with Aliyah and CJ, Lovett hung a photo of Remley near the entrance of the restaurant on Highway 80 in Portal, across from Portal Middle High School.
The photo is hung under an American flag that honors veterans because of Remley’s pioneering service as a woman in World War II.
“She was very proud of her military career, so putting her under the flag is just right,” Lovett said.
In August 1942, Remley volunteered into the newly organized Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), graduating from Officer Candidate School at Fort Des Moines, Iowa, in January 1943.
Her first assignment was top secret, an experiment in training women to operate radar equipment that controlled guns operated by enlisted men, a first for women in U.S. military to relieve enlisted men for combat duty.
In April 1944, Remley volunteered for overseas duty as a first lieutenant to Cheltenham, England, assigned to a WAC Detachment Headquarters Service of Supply. In October, after D-Day, she was transferred to the London WAC Detachment until the war ended in August 1945. Remley retired from service on Jan. 3, 1946, as a captain.
When Aliyah Lovett met Remley for the first time, she said they spoke about art.
“She was very, very sweet,” Aliyah said. “I love art, and she told me about some of her work.”
But she said she had no idea of the extent of Remley’s talent and passion for art until she went to an exhibit shortly after Remley died.
“I went to her art exhibit at the Averitt Center and it was so incredibly beautiful. I didn’t know she could paint like that,” Aliyah said.
Both Aliyah and CJ said they were in disbelief when their parents told them about Remley’s gift to each of them. And each is seeing the benefit of their father’s choice to invest their inheritance into Baby CJs Rib Shack — though not necessarily financially yet.
A naturally shy person, Aliyah said the atmosphere and the customers of the restaurant have helped her come “out of my shell.”
Now 15 and a sophomore at Portal High, she said, “I would never have gone out for cheerleading before. When I started waitressing, at first I was nervous, but that has all changed. You get to experience and meet so many new people. And they get to be so comfortable with me. They know me and I know them.”
Clint Lovett believes Remley would have approved of his choice to use her gift to his children as an investment in helping get the restaurant off to a solid financial start.
“Miss Roxie, as a professor and in the community, did what she always did — she loves people,” he said. “And that’s what Baby CJs has become — a place of community where people meet and share life together. Food can be a key to people’s heart and their souls.
“When she left us in her will, it put a blossom of spirit in this restaurant. Even though it’s through my kids, I want to make sure that her love was spread, and this restaurant has done that.”
So far, the restaurant has experienced good success since it opened in May 2021. But, ultimately, Lovett said what happens with the inheritance Remley left to Aliyah and CJ will be up to them.
“Their choice,” he said. “If they want to stay with the restaurant, or if they want to cash out, then that will be what I’ll do.”