“The last of the Southern belles.”
That’s how Dad described Meg Gunn when he broke the news that he had asked her to marry him after a “whirlwind courtship” (Miss Meg’s words) in 1997. She certainly had the requisite grace and charm — and the accent. At her funeral today, the great Southern storyteller Milton Leathers let on that all the boys of his and her age had a little crush on her at some point.
But we can be more precise than “Southern.” Meg Gunn Dure was from Georgia. G-E-O-R-G-I-A. The Bulldogs. A fridge stocked with “Co-Cola.”
To be even more precise, Athens was her home. It was her town. From the pages of the Banner-Herald to her morning TV show to countless civic groups and social circles, Miss Meg was Athens, through and through.
The great film When Harry Met Sally had a conversation about journalists. Sally, fresh out of college, confesses that nothing has happened to her yet. But she’s going to go to New York and be a journalist.
“So you can write about what happens to other people,” Harry scoffs.
Miss Meg defied that stereotype. She was at the heart of her community, a descendant of a proud Athens family. Like her father, she was a pillar of a great college town.
One legacy of her Athens attachment: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution did a story about her family’s seats at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium. This wasn’t a fancy suite. But it was a perfect view. Soon after she and Dad married, I visited Athens and went to a Georgia game with her daughter, Mackie. We walked by the end zone and asked Mackie how far it was to our section.
“Oh, about 50 yards.”
Smack in the middle of the stands. Beautiful. And as Meg’s brother Rusty put it, his grandfather had made the perfect choice to get whatever shade could be had in the stadium.
“Once I get seated in the stadium, I can look across the field at the president’s box and see the sun is in his eyes and know that my seats are better than his,” Rusty said.
Miss Meg lost interest in going to games, though. The people around her were no longer Southern gentlemen, sadly. They were drunk and boorish.
“Vulgar,” she would say, just as she said about so much entertainment that assaulted the eyes and ears. Not of any interest to her.
She and Dad were content to watch from home, anyway. From the house Dad designed circa 1990 to her old family home, which they delightfully scooped up when it came on the market a few years ago, they had a living room full of warmth and contentment.
She changed Dad in so many ways, helping him find more to life than coming home from work and being an old curmudgeon up on a hill. But she also adapted herself. She wasted no time becoming a Dure. She fell in love with Sanibel Island, our getaway spot, to the point that she and Dad almost bought a house there. She even hiked up Mount Leconte, a feat noted in her obituary as one of her proudest accomplishments.
The last few years were cruel to her. Dad’s health deteriorated. Soon after he passed away, a tree fell on her house, forcing extensive repairs. Her beloved brother Rusty was diagnosed with cancer that would take him away from us in summer 2015. And she was diagnosed with lung cancer. She managed a few months of good health after the first round of treatment, but it came back all too quickly.
The good news was that she still in good humor. Some people, including Dad, aren’t themselves in their last few months. But Miss Meg was on Facebook three days before she passed away, rejoicing in her wide community of friends and family, sharing her wit and charm with hundreds of people each day.
I didn’t grow up with Miss Meg. She was one of mom’s friends I saw on occasion, and I’d been to the Y with her son, Frank. I had vague memories of her from my childhood, but I didn’t really know her until she was part of the family.
But she was part of my roots. I’ve been thinking a lot about Athens in the past year or so, and driving into town Tuesday hit me like a punch to the gut. It was like traveling through time and knowing that so many people are gone, and it’s not really home any more. Now, for the first time, I don’t have any family there. And I feel like a part of Athens itself has died.
I’m sure she wouldn’t see it that way. She loved Athens the way it was but also the way it is and the way it will be. She leaves behind a community full of people who will love her as long as we live, whether we’re physically in Athens or just thinking about it on occasion.
And seeing all the people who crowded into her childhood church today to bid her farewell, I was reminded that Athens will be OK. Athens is Miss Meg. Miss Meg was resilient and graceful. Therefore, Athens is resilient and graceful. (See, logic class in college can be useful.)
Besides — now, she and Dad (and Rusty, and her parents) can watch the Bulldogs from even better seats, without any “vulgar” people spoiling the experience.
Enjoy your new view, Miss Meg. And thank you for gracing Athens and the Dure family with your presence.
21 thoughts on “Meg Gunn Dure: 1947-2016”
Beautiful tribute. Just, beautiful.
Well done, Beau. Nice writing.
A beautiful testimony !!
Meg never missed an opportunity to be a friend to anyone. She left her mark on so many hearts. Thanks you for this lovely tribute.
That was a truly beautiful and wonderful tribute. I loved her and her sisters and I loved reading this.
Thank you forsharing.
Meg was a special lady for sue!
Meg was a special lady for sure!
Beautiful, every word so much of Meg. Met her when she was with Athens Banner! Now a beautiful angel
May Her Memory Be Eternal……………
Thank you for summing up Meg so beautifully! Your dad had the sweetest smile for me every time I visited him and Meg. Yes…I’m sure they’re enjoying the view!
She was truly a gracious lady! For her to describe the crowd as “vulgar” was a hard evaluation for her, but it was an honest, sad observation. She was a beautiful person.
Well said,Beau!! Tears are falling down my cheeks!!!!!!!!!!!
Rest in peace my friend…
Beautiful tribute to a beautiful person! The whole family should be so proud of itself!! Your words are very special to me, and many other Meg fans!! Thank you!!
What a beautiful and delightful article; Meg would have loved it. It brought a very wide smile to my face, hearing about Meg from another perspective. Thanks so much for writing this.
What a beautiful tribute to an amazing, loving, and wonderful person. We grew up together from kindergarten to high school graduation, and reconnected thanks to Facebook six or seven years ago. I also have no family in Athens any longer, so I rarely go, but I always smile when I do because I’m home! Meg did represent Athens and all the good things about it. She will be missed by so many. Thank you for sharing your loving memories of such a special friend.
I was gone from Athens for many years and missed so much of the love she shared, but I know one thing for sure- she loved your father more than there are stars in the sky. He was he knight in shining armor. And I loved him for loving her.