Vidalian A.B. Albritton Looks Back on 100 Remarkable Years
On February 1, Vidalian A.B. Albritton will join an exclusive group of people. He will turn 100 years old and traditionally an accomplishment of this magnitude is celebrated in grand fashion. Because of the health pandemic, however, A.B. won’t be able to mark the occasion with family and friends. This challenge did not deter A.B.’s wife of 25 years, Marjorie. She devised a plan to honor her husband in spite of the obstacles. A.B.’s family and friends have celebrated his birthdays with parties for many years, but because of the pandemic, “he is just asking that folks remember this, his 100th year, with cards and notes,” Marjorie said. Marjorie explained, “In lieu of a party, we are asking that you honor A.B. with a personal greeting. Please send him a card, if possible, with a note of when and how and where your lives overlapped.” The address is: A.B. Albritton 400 Mosley Street Vidalia, GA 30474 Phone: 912-537-2990 Email: [email protected] Marjorie will print email messages for A.B. to read.
Alonzo Birge Albritton was born on February 1, 1921, on a farm in Newberry, South Carolina, to Kemper Albritton and his wife Lula Dickert Albritton. Named for two uncles from the maternal and paternal sides of his family, A.B. was known by his initials for as long as he can remember.
The youngest of four sons, A.B. came from a family with deep roots in South Carolina soil. Directly after graduating from high school, he joined the South Carolina National Guard, training at Camp Stewart (now Fort Stewart) near Hinesville, and serving from September 1940 to February 1941 as a member of the National Guard’s 107th (AA) Battalion. A.B. was changed to active federal service from February 1941 to January 1942, and as a member of the U.S. Army’s 101st Battalion from January 1942 to August 1945. A.B., who had received basic training with an anti-aircraft unit, left the United States for service overseas by way of Boston bound for Australia on the famous Queen Mary.
A.B. recalled being aboard the massive liner with thousands of troops from the United States and elsewhere for 30 days. His bunk was situated in a former lounge and “it wasn’t too bad.” He claimed the bottom bunk. He remembered that the passageways of the ship were sometimes covered with water because of the rough seas. One of A.B.’s most memorable moments aboard the Queen Mary was when he exchanged polite conversation in a passageway near the dining room with Australian General Blamey. Field Marshal Sir Thomas Albert Blamey was an Australian general of the First and Second World Wars, and the only Australian to attain the rank of field marshal.
A.B.’s military service was in the Pacific Theater, including Australia, New Guinea, and Papua. Among his military roles was serving as a member of the Military Police in Ipswich, Queensland, Australia. A.B. came home by way of the Philippines and San Francisco and was honorably discharged from the Army on August 7, 1945, at Fort Gordon. Among his service commendations were the Distinguished Unit Badge, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Service Medal, the Good Conduct Medal and the Gunner’s Badge. His service in the Guard continued through 1949, when he was discharged as a sergeant from the National Guard, 108th AAA Brigade.
A.B. had just arrived back home when his older brother, Otto, whisked him away to work for Southern Bell in Savannah. A.B. started his career with “Ma Bell” on August 13, 1945, working first with a line crew and later as a switchman.
In 1946, A.B. married Leta Shuman of Claxton, where he was assigned by Southern Bell. Later, he brought his wife and baby daughter, Linda, to Vidalia in 1949 where he oversaw the operation of a major switchboard office. Linda graduated from Vidalia High School and married Roger Reaves. The couple had two children, Amanda and Randy.
A.B. retired from his job with Southern Bell to care for his ailing wife who died in 1993. After his wife’s death A.B. became involved in the American Legion, the Masons, the VFW in Mount Vernon, and the Vidalia Senior Citizens and Lyons Senior Citizens. That is when he met the lady who would become his second wife.
Marjorie Dobbin, who is from the state of New York, had come South to teach at Southern Wesleyan University in Central, South Carolina, and later joined the faculty at Brewton Parker College in Mount Vernon where she taught from 1987 until 2001. She had studied music when young and is an accomplished musician, playing the violin and piano. While her parents hoped that her music education would lead to a career in music, she took another path. A fascination with medieval literature would eventually determine her niche. Marjorie had raised her children while earning a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree in American literature and a doctoral degree in medieval English literature. Among her occupations were writing for television and newspapers and later authoring six books.
Marjorie shared that mutual friends at the Senior Citizens Center brought her and A.B. together. When asked what attracted them to each another, Marjorie said she likes to think that she entertained A.B. She was drawn to him because of his “beautiful” smile and his way of leaning toward her when she spoke as though he was focused only on her. She later discovered that A.B.’s attentiveness may have been due in part to partial deafness. He had sustained an injury when a child which affected the hearing in one ear and which became more acute as the years passed. But she likes to think he was just hanging onto every word she spoke. A.B. and Marjorie’s marriage in 1995 started a new chapter in both of their lives. “We were old enough to know better,” she joked about getting married when he was 74 and she was 60. They spent their honeymoon traveling to North Georgia in a converted van. After moving into their first home together, the couple continued to enjoy their love of travel. They spent time on the West Coast of the United States and later traveled to New Forest and London in England, and to Uzbekistan. The Albrittons became active in Campers on Mission, traveling in their RV to work on charity projects that often involved labor, sewing, and cleaning for various churches and religious facilities. A.B. also connected with the 101st Battalion veterans’ organization and served for a year as president of the group. He was involved with the organization until the deaths of his comrades ended the association. He and Marjorie were active in the Telephone Pioneers and in their church, Smith Street Baptist. They also volunteered for Community Hospice.
“Now, A.B. has found that his body is trying to wear out, although his general health is very good, and his mind is clear and active. He feels that his life has been a happy one because, from the time he was a teenager, he always trusted God and tried to do what is right and what helps other people,” Marjorie said. As a testament to her husband’s patience, Marjorie told a story about what happened when she took out the couples’ new RV for a drive. “I was going to the bank drive-through and didn’t notice the overhang. He told me to stop twice then I heard the crunch. I was partly through the drive, so I had to continue,” she lamented. The top of the RV was stripped off from front to back. “He handled the police report and the repairs, and he has never tossed that incident in my face. Most men would have had a good time with that every time their wife got behind the wheel.” When asked to what he attributes his longevity, A.B. just shrugged and said, “I just stay calm. I don’t get upset.” And he smiled the impish smile Marjorie found so irresistible.