Wiley Roberson at Lilly Hill Baptist Church in Decatur
I am Decatur, now has it’s own website at http://www.iamdecatur.com This project is the result of a partnership between the Decatur Education Foundation, the Decatur Arts Alliance, and myself. Please visit the website to learn more. I am Decatur is an ongoing project and I will continue to post new portraits and stories over time.
Kurt VogeI’s interest in computers began when he was in the fifth grade. “When my teacher had a problem with a computer I was often the one to help resolve the issue. From there on my passion grew. For my senior project at Decatur High School I helped to hook up a computer lab at the Central Outreach and Advocacy Center at Central Presbyterian Church. I really enjoyed that not only because it incorporated my passion for computers and information technology, but it also gave me a chance to show the homeless guests that they had someone who cared about them.”
Kurt is enrolled in Excel (Expanding Career, Education and Leadership Opportunities) at Georgia Tech. Excel is an innovative four-year program for students with mild intellectual and developmental disabilities. Advocacy training is an important component of the curriculum and is an avenue Kurt wants to pursue.
Kurt was born with a congenital neurological disorder causing right-sided weakness. His unique life experiences as a result of living with a disability are what have inspired him to become an advocate. “I’m someone who wants to utilize my skills, talents, and passion to positively impact the lives and career prospects of those living with a disability. Everyone with a disability has a contribution to make and that contribution should not be discounted just because they have a disability. The contribution that they have to offer is just as important and meaningful as the contributions that people without disabilities make.”
Doug Taunton began working at McKinney’s Apothecary in 1968 while he was a pharmacy student. In 1978, Doug bought the pharmacy from Dr. Bill McKinney. McKinney had established the business in downtown Decatur in 1952, and to this day it remains the oldest operating pharmacy in the city.
“When I first came to Decatur in 1968, there were approximately 12 independent, family-owned drugstores in Decatur. Over the last 50 years, each one has gone out and been bought up by the big-box stores. We have seemingly continued to weather the storm.”
The success of McKinney’s Apothecary is a result of the personalized service all customers receive when they walk in the door. “I like to say, we are a country drugstore set off in the city. We enjoy getting to know people and hearing their stories. We’re happy with them and hurt with them when they have disasters in their family. When they get bad news about their health, we feel sad and try to be an encouragement. We know when a person needs an extra hug, or maybe a little joke. I think it’s getting to know people on a one-on-one basis that’s really kept McKinney’s here.”
Doug’s plans for the future of the pharmacy remain constant. “ We don’t wanna be any bigger. We don’t want any other locations. We wanna do our job where we are. You know the old saying, ‘Bloom where you’re planted.’ That’s what I’d like to do for the rest of my career.”
Huckleberry Starnes has pursued many creative endeavors in his lifetime. He was a sculptor, furniture maker, product designer, and even studied toy design. His creative inclinations and gifts prepared him handsomely for becoming a stay-at-home dad. Huckleberry had also grown up assisting his mother in running a Montessori-type school and enjoyed being around kids. “I love to play, have fun, and get down on the floor. The best part for me is being able to spend the time with my kids. Hands down. Being able to support my wife, Hester, who works tirelessly and travels extensively is really rewarding as well.”
Huckleberry and his family are known for erecting the most spectacular light display, inflatables, and props during all the holidays. “My kids have the same level of amazement and joy that I do. We really enjoy doing it together and love teasing Mommy about how ridiculous it’s going to get.”
Huckleberry and his family moved from the west side of Atlanta to Decatur three years ago. “The reason we came was for the schools, and we haven’t been disappointed. We also love the walkability and that it is a bike-friendly city. One of the things we like so much is the diversity, but it is changing. We’re conflicted about it. We obviously moved to Decatur because the city has great schools and is very safe. But what has come with this is gentrification and a lack of respect for what this neighborhood and city were and where it came from. I think it will probably level out at some point. It’ll be interesting to see how that works.”
Peter (left) on his 13th Birthday. Peter (center) the night before leaving for college standing with his buddies, Carson and Ryan.
This week I said goodbye to my 18-year-old son, Peter, as he left home for his first year of college in Miami. When we moved to Atlanta 6 years ago Peter was just a boy, on the brink of adolescence. This week he walked out our door a man. He also walked out the door with his entire bedroom stuffed into his car. This came as a great surprise to me given that he had not packed any suitcases or boxes the night before his departure. He had neatly stacked about 15 shoeboxes (with shoes inside) outside his room along with a monopoly game, and a baseball bat and mitt. A pile of shirts were draped over the sofa. When I turned in for the night, I said good-bye to my boy and reminded him to finish cleaning out his drawers and closet, something that I have been asking him to do for the last six months. Sadly, Peter left the next day while I was at work. When I returned home my husband informed me that Peter had invited friends over to help him pack his car and that he had left the upstairs, his man cave, pretty clean. I was suspicious since I have not seen his room clean in the last 5 years, but I was too emotional to check it out until today. When I peered into his room I was shocked. The top of his desk was visible and little was left on his shelves. I was able to walk into his room without stepping on clothes. The real surprise was that his nightstand drawers were empty and his closet was almost bare. A small chest of drawers was missing and his rock collection was gone. I can’t imagine how he managed to load all his stuff into his little Audi. I hope his roommate packed a small suitcase.
On Thanksgiving morning in November, 2000, Elliot Poag got into a car with friends, who unbeknownst to him had been drinking. Elliot recalls that the driver was driving erratically and running red lights. “The road came to an end and we ran into a brick wall.” The other passengers in the car walked away from the crash, but Elliot suffered a broken neck and lost the use of his legs.
Elliot endured surgery and a month of rehabilitation, and then was placed in a nursing home. “Golly, that place was terrible. I was just laying around waiting to die.” Finally, family members took him to Augusta, Georgia. There, he met a case manager from the Shepherd Center, a rehabilitation hospital in Atlanta. She was able to get Elliot in to a newly built independent living apartment complex in Decatur. He moved in on June 28, 2002, and has lived there ever since.
“I love Decatur and I love my neighbors. It has been a blessing. I have been independent and on my own for sixteen years. It’s like living in paradise.”
Elliot has not allowed the hardships caused by his accident to weigh him down. “I just keep a smile on my face and keep a positive attitude, no matter how bad things get. I live like the birds outside, free. In my heart, I’m always free. I believe I can fly.”