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EXOTIC LOCATIONS — Bill and Ann Bedingfield have enjoyed traveling together. When he worked for Coleman Sales for 27 years, the couple and their daughter often got to go to sales conventions all over the country, as well as to exotic locales like the Caribbean.
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EXOTIC LOCATIONS — Bill and Ann Bedingfield have enjoyed traveling together. When he worked for Coleman Sales for 27 years, the couple and their daughter often got to go to sales conventions all over the country, as well as to exotic locales like the Caribbean.

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delivery nurse who is now a Clinical Supervisor for a home health company. She married Ben Beck, a Vidalia High School educator, Girls’ Head Softball Coach, and also an Assistant Varsity/ JV Baseball Coach. “He teaches science and is absolutely brilliant. We could not ask for a better son-in-law,” Bill said. The Becks have two children, Tyler “Ty,” 16, and Chloe, 10. Bill also sees his brother, Hibby, quite often, since they are both in Vidalia. Catching up with David and Sidney is mostly accomplished technologically now.

Another of Bill’s goals is whiling away as much time as possible at his and Ann’s getaway at Shellman Buff in Coastal Georgia. In 2020 he and Ann assumed ownership of the cottage at Shellman Bluff that Bill’s father built and have put some time into fixing it up. “It’s not fancy, but we are proud of it and it’s the place where we spend a lot of time resting, playing and fishing with friends and family.”

His other goal is organizing the thousands of family photos, videos and documents he and Ann have accumulated over the years. “I have about 38,000 photos now and have hundreds of documents already scanned,” he said without a hint of being overwhelmed. With his love of family, history, and technology, not to mention his skill at organizing, Bill will most likely accomplish this feat, but he is not sure what should be done with the collection afterward. He said he does not plan on writing a book — at the moment — but he does have a couple of brothers who are published authors.

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.still not particularly aware he had any vocal chops, decided to sing along as a lark, and to his surprise, a girl in the car said, “Man, you can sing.” Wes must have been impressed, too, because soon thereafter he approached Bill with an offer to sing lead vocals with his band. “He taught me the ropes, and the next thing I knew I was the lead singer in a band called Poker Alice.” The band, which included musicians Wes Wood, Steve Nobles, Mitch Yarbrough, Mike Mills, Mickey Tate, and Scott Sisson, became regionally well known, was in high demand, and played all over the South. “I did this for three years, playing weekends. I was still in college and making some extra money. I continued to sing with the band after I graduated, but soon realized I had to go to work in the real world.”

When he was 20, Bill met his future wife, Ann Hopkins, who was 15 at the time. Bill doesn’t quite remember the meeting, but Ann does. She went home after seeing Bill and wrote in her diary: “Met Bill Bedingfield. Love.” Bill insisted, “I can tell you I was not dating a 15-year-old,” but the two remained friends and began dating after Ann graduated and later began a serious relationship. The couple married in March 1979.

The first job for which Bill utilized his degree was with Mose Coleman, Jr., who owned a Vidalia-based wholesale company selling wine, beer, and paper products. “I worked with Mose at Coleman Sales about four years selling wine. I dealt with suppliers like Gallo in California. They introduced me to a company out of Atlanta that needed a manager at their Brunswick operation, and they offered me a job.” Bill accepted and moved to the Coastal Georgia community with his pregnant wife, Ann, where they lived on St. Simons Island. That was in 1979, and the couple’s only child, Leigh Ann, was born in Brunswick in 1980.

The Bedingfields loved living in Coastal Georgia, and Bill and Mose Coleman stayed friendly and in touch. Sometimes they shared a boxcar of wine because they each needed half a car for their wholesale operations. In 1983, Bill got a call from Mose, who made him an offer he could not refuse. He would be managing the beer sales for the company which served 14 South and Middle Georgia counties. Bill, Ann, and Leigh Ann pulled up stakes and moved back home, and it turned out to be a great decision.

“I worked for Coleman Sales for 27 years and it was a phenomenal run. I got to travel, often with my wife and daughter, all over the country to beer sales conventions. I went to Sea World, St. Louis, the Caribbean, California,” Bill recalled. “We were in LA one year for a black tie event at the Shrine Auditorium where the Academy Awards ceremony was held and we saw Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, Milton Berle, Charlton Heston, Natalie Cole, Sammy Davis, Jr., and Lucille Ball.”

On most workday mornings, Bill enjoyed meeting friends for coffee. Among these friends was Chip Matheson, a Vidalia City Councilman at the time, who mentioned to Bill that the City was in need of a finance director. That was in 2007. Bill applied for and was offered the job, and for the next 13 years enjoyed going to work every day because he was dealing with numbers and all of the technology that went with it. “I loved that job. I was crazy about working with the software; this was a bug I got from working with Mose Coleman.”

The late Mayor Ronnie Dixon was the person who made a phone call from a City Council meeting telling Bill he had been hired with a unanimous vote. “Ronnie was a lifelong friend, a great mayor, and he cared about and loved this City. He was involved in every aspect of its operation. We went to lunch almost every day for 11 years.” Bill actually grew up with Mayor Dixon’s brother Wendell.

There were some proud moments for Bill in the 13 years he worked with the City of Vidalia and Mayor Dixon. Among these were the U.S. Highway 280 conversion which diverted traffic flow into two oneway streets to resolve downtown snags, and buying the old Winn-Dixie shopping center complex and converting the space to accommodate a new City Police Department. “The police had been squeezed into 6,000 square feet of space and had to move the soft drink machine out of the way to hold court. They were on top of each other,” Bill recalled. He also worked with Mayor Dixon and the Council to convert the space where the police department had been located, on the corner of Durden and Highway 280 (Main Street), to build a park and city stage that would later be named in honor of Mayor Dixon following his death. Saving the Pal Theatre was another project in which Bill participated and that he is most proud of. “We travelled all over the area looking at old theater restorations,” Bill said of the efforts he and others put into the project. “It’s a tremendous asset. It was built in 1926 and about to be lost forever, but with the vision of the past owners, Karl and Ann Owens, the Pal was meant to be saved. With SPLOST funds, the City could make capital investments and this investment has been well worth the City’s effort. It has provided meeting and event space along with a first class theatre bringing much needed business activity to our downtown.”

Bill is excited for the change that is taking place in the City he loves. “They are moving City Hall to the Municipal Annex Complex. The Onion Museum and Welcome Center will be moved into the old City Hall,” he enthused. With the work that the City, the Vidalia Convention and Visitors Bureau, and the Greater Vidalia Chamber are doing, Bill expects the positive growth to continue. Recognizing that morale in the city government and police force are at a low ebb, Bill said he wants to see the City “get back on an even keel and move forward with a solid focus.”

Bill has always been heavily invested in his hometown. He served nine years on the Planning and Zoning Board, nine years on the Vidalia School Board, and on the boards of two local banks. Currently, he is working with the Pinecrest Cemetery Committee, which has an objective of restoring and upgrading the city’s largest cemetery. Bill is appreciative of the committee’s efforts since when he was with the City, he was the person who handled Pinecrest affairs. “It was a tough job. The cemetery was a convoluted mess,” he recalled. The historic cemetery had been under several different ownerships through the years and records were kept haphazardly, so when applications were made for burials, a great deal of effort had to be expended in verifying burial plots. With the Committee’s work, these records are being updated and put into order.

Commenting on his retirement goals, Bill emphasized that he and Ann enjoy being with their family. Their daughter, Leigh Ann, attended the University of Georgia and received her RN/BSN from the Medical College of Georgia. She is formerly a labor and

BEDINGFIELD BROTHERS — Walter Hilbert (Hibby) Bedingfield, Jr., behind the counter, and brother William Eli (Bill) Bedingfield, stand inside the Vidalia Pharmacy which Hibby owns. Hibby took over the pharmacy from his uncle, Herbert Bedingfield. The business is located in the old Vidalia hospital building which the Bedingfield brothers’ father, Walter Hilbert Bedingfield, Sr., and his colleague, H.I. Conner, founded after World War II.

POKER ALICE REVISITED — Bill Bedingfield takes to the stage once more for a performance of Poker Alice in more recent times. He left the band soon after graduating from college, but it continued to entertain crowds for years afterward. Some of the group members still perform today.

WEDDING DAY — Bill, second from right, takes time out on his wedding day of March 25, 1979 for a photo with his brothers, from left, Hibby, Sidney and David.

BEER BUSINESS — Bill Bedingfield, left, is shown with Mose Coleman, Jr., at the Coleman Sales warehouse in Vidalia. Bedingfield and Coleman worked together for many years selling wine, beer and paper products. Bill managed beer sales for 14 counties in South Georgia.

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