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A love of children, a passion for flowers

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POSTED: June 14, 2007 5:02 a.m.

The name Frances Meeks is synonymous with Bryan County schools. Since 1953, Meeks has held numerous school positions ranging from school teacher to her current position of Board of Education vice chairman.

She says it is her love of children which has guided her career path.

A second generation teacher, she has taught just about every grade level from pre-K to 12th grade and "there’s not a single age child I didn’t enjoy."

She served as principal for many grade levels as well. She was the very first principal of Richmond Hill Primary School when it opened in 1992. Shortly after opening, the school’s PTSO named the school’s library after Meeks.

When Meeks retired in 1995, the mayor and city council, on a recommendation from the Richmond Hill Primary School faculty, dedicated the entire street that the school is located on, Frances Meeks Way, to her. She's also been called the "First Lady of Bryan County Schools."

Meeks jokes that she told Mayor Richard Davis she planned on posting the street sign on her home "to show Walter (her husband) the way things are around here because he hasn’t learned yet. He’s a slow learner I guess."

When she’s not tending to school business, Meeks keeps herself busy tending to her other passion: gardening. Meeks proudly proclaims that it was her who started the Richmond Hill Garden Club in 1956.

"I never met a child or a flower that I didn’t like," said Meeks.

The group got started when Meeks gathered a group of local women together to work on the greenery around the local schools. Shortly thereafter, it flourished into a popular women’s civic group that met on a regular basis. Meeks said many esteemed women in the community have been part of that club.

When Richmond Hill incorporated into a city, officials turned to the Garden Club to name the streets. Around that time, the club also had the area declared a bird sanctuary, which made it illegal to kill birds.

Meeks said the dynamics of the group have changed through the years. Early on, the club’s main focus was the art of flower arranging. Today, it is centered more toward conservation and ecology.

Meeks has more than enough gardening to tend to at her large estate on Folly Farms, a vast plantation property on the Ogeechee River her husband Walter inherited and the couple works hard to maintain. It includes a beautiful antebellum home, one of three pre-civil war homes standing in Richmond Hill.

Upon her retirement, she has spent a lot of time redecorating the historic home and working in the gardens on the property. She says she enjoys showing the property to those who ask because "it is a part of Richmond Hill history, and it should be shared with the community."

Folly Farms, formerly known as Myrtle Grove, was developed in the 1850s by plantation owner James Richard Arnold. The Meeks’ current home was originally constructed as a present for his daughter when she married. The elder Arnolds lived in a nearby home which has since burned down.

Walter’s parents, Walter Sr. and Bess Meeks, bought Folly Farms in 1949. The senior Meeks clan was very active in the community at that time.

In addition, Henry Ford never owned Folly Farms. It was perhaps the most dominant structure during the Ford era he did not own.

But a Ford era history landmark exits as then-Folly Farms owner Alicia Rotan and Henry’s wife, who were best friends, established the first telephone system in Richmond Hill by extending wires from Ford Plantation to Folly Farms so the two ladies could communicate.

The Meeks have decorated their home with antiques and family heirlooms that gives the appearance you have stepped back in time upon entering the home.

Step back into 2007, and Frances Meeks continues to serve the education system in Bryan County.

It was Meeks, who said this is her last term, who made the motion to get the uniform policy back on the table.

Meeks said it has always been her job to take care of children first by always doing what is right, even when it is not the popular thing to do. She said this also applies to the recent out of state travel controversy.

"I’m not willing to risk tax payers’ money," said Meeks. "Sovereign immunity means you can’t sue for more than what you’ve got. If you go outside of Georgia, there are no boundaries to what we can get sued for. That could easily wipe out a school district of our size."

 

For a virtual tour of the Meeks estate, go to www.bryancountynews.net.

 

 

 

 

 

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