Leaving a legacy in an ‘old rugged cross’ | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | June 30, 2017 5:00 am
Last Updated: June 28, 2017 at 11:55 am
By CINDY CROSBY
Billy and Ree Padgett, long-time Walterboro residents, recently completed a labor of love that will touch many future generations — leaving a legacy of faith, love and honor in the form of an old rugged cross.
The Padgetts, both retired and enjoying life in their 80’s, stood within their outdoor building, which doubles as Billy’s “man cave,” and told the story about the nearly finished project that became a third-generation labor of love.
“Ree’s grandfather, George Emory Graham, came from a large family of land owners,” said Billy. “He died in 1918 during the influenza epidemic that killed more people than World War I. He left six young children behind, with Ree’s father, Emory Boyce Graham, being the only boy and the second oldest at eight-years old.”
Ree’s grandmother, Martha, raised all six children alone. “Those were hard times, with the Great Depression in 1929,” said Billy. “But she managed to provide for them. They were country people, so they all got out and worked on farms. Ree’s father went on to became a very successful farmer in the community and provided well for his family.”
The Padgetts, along with the other remaining third-generation family members, now get together once a year. “About eight years ago, we decided to start holding an auction each year at the reunion,” said Ree. “We all went in our attics and closets and pulled out things we weren’t using for the auction. We then put all the proceeds from the auction into a kitty.”
According to the Padgetts, a plan was developed by family members to use the proceeds to honor their hard-working predecessors by constructing a meditation garden on the cemetery grounds at their family church, Antioch Baptist Church, located in Aynor.
The plan developed into a project that not only honors their loved ones who have passed, but leaves a legacy of love for everyone who visits Antioch Garden.
At the center of the project stands the old rugged cross.
Built locally by Richard Fracasso, the treated white pine cross stands 8-feet tall and weighs 150 pounds. Billy, himself, undertook the consuming and tedious task of giving the cross the special look they were hoping for — grinding out the soft wood, then staining it with layer-upon-layer of natural color.
“We are really pleased with it,” he said. “Sometimes you do something out of love.”
This past Saturday, the project came to life when the Padgetts transported the cross to Antioch Church and installed it in the garden. The cross was raised onto a galvanized steel base, ensuring a life-span that will cross decades and span generations.
“It was a really exciting day,” said Ree on Monday morning. “My family met us there and we put it in the ground. The garden was landscaped and the cross seemed to finally be home.”
The family plans to add benches and lighting to the garden, completing a project that not only honors previous generations of their family, but will bring strength and healing to many others in their time of need.