Yesterday, May 13th, 2020, we celebrated the life of one of the Greatest Men I’ve Ever Known. They don’t make ’em like they used to. Since Sunday, when we received the news, I’ve sat down multiple times per day trying to get on paper what I wanted to say about him. It’s not that I couldn’t come up with the words, but that I couldn’t possibly come up with a reasonably sized post with the 33 years of words I have. The life he lived was as full as it could possibly be. He was a True Patriarch and the architect to everything I knew growing up. Papa, along with my AMAZING Grandmother, Willene (Mama), put the steak in the ground that created the Shirah Family as it stands today. He lived a life that saw more than one could dream of. He worked a farm plowing mules AND rode in a GPS guided tractor with AC. He could shoot five quail with three shots on a covey rise. He was one of the hardest men I have ever known with one of the kindest hearts. He would sweat himself to his socks every single day. I’ve never seen another human work harder. I couldn’t possibly put into words his life without writing a book, so I’ll just give you a small glimpse.
From His Obituary: “Bayard Lamar Shirah, 94, on May 10th, 2020, left the house he built—with his own hands—71 years ago on his farm in the Hopeful community to go to his eternal home in heaven. A lifelong resident of Mitchell County, he was born Nov. 19, 1925, to parents George Washington and Katie Mercer Shirah. After graduating from Hopeful School, he joined the U.S. Army and served in the Philippines. Among his military decorations were the Philippine Liberation Ribbon and Asiatic Pacific Service Medal with a Bronze Star.
Following World War II, he resumed farming, this time with a small tractor and no mules. On a trip to Athens to see Georgia Bulldog sensation Charlie Trippi play in 1946, he made a God-appointed acquaintance with Willene Lavender in Fort Valley. A romance followed and then a marriage that was filled with much happiness together for 73 years. On Shirahland Farm, they reared their four children: Pam, Ray, Tim, and Krista.
Shirah was featured in The Atlanta Constitution in 1954 as the first Southwest Georgia farmer to install deep-well irrigation, following a horrific drought the previous year. By the time his sons—Ray and Tim—joined the farming operations, they had more than one dozen center-pivot irrigation systems in Mitchell and several surrounding counties.
A man of initiative and many talents, at age 57 Shirah retired from day-to-day farming and became publisher of The Camilla Enterprise and The Pelham Journal, owned by his son-in-law Dink NeSmith. In the early 1990s, the Shirah family opened an Orvis-endorsed quail-hunting business, Shirahland Plantation. Shirah was actively engaged from building the lodge to managing it with his wife, Willene, and sons, Ray and Tim. In 2000, they sold the business which operates today as Rio Piedra Plantation.
Besides being an accomplished farmer, carpenter, and businessman, Shirah was active in church and civic leadership roles. Some of those included being chairman of the Hopeful Baptist Church’s board of deacons; chairman of the Mitchell County Tax Assessors board for 20 years; chairman of the Pinnacle Port Homeowners’ Association, Panama City, Fla.; and a former member of Mitchell County’s DFACS board. As a member of the Camilla Rotary Club, he was honored as a Paul Harris Fellow and a Will Watt Fellow. He was a former member of the Lions Club and American Legion. In 1975, he was named Man of the Year by the Flint River Water Conservation district.”
While thinking back on his life, it’s hard no to notice the sheer volume of accomplishments and activities he was involved in. The really amazing thing though is that the phrase “A jack of all trades, and a master of none” just didn’t apply to him. He WAS a master of most everything he put his mind, and more importantly, his hands to. He was a master of action and a lover of adventure. I’d like to think that that part of him has trickled through my father to me. He was ALWAYS DOING THINGS. I hope that my life will reflect his desire to serve others that my Papa had.
His entire life was one impactful lesson of how to squeeze every drop from life. If I could pick up and adhere the wisdom that means the most to me, it would be his ability to communicate without having to say very much. Papa was never one to mince words. He listened, thought, and then responded with an answer backed by a life of hard-learned lessons. When he spoke, everyone else stopped talking and they listened. He said what he meant and meant what he said. Nothing more, and nothing less. He was a man of his word. I think we could all use a little more of this.
I’ll sum up his thoughts on things in general with a phrase my Aunt reminded me of today:
“You were thinking when you should have been knowing.” -Lamar Shirah.
Go, Do & GROW!