Columbia is not an easy town for this big-city kid, occasionally seen as loud, pushy, too assertive and just a bit obnoxious for the quiet lifestyle of those who have lived here for generations. On the other hand, many from the big city, including myself, believe that towns like Columbia are a bit too laid back, too cautious and people “twak” funny.
Beyond these differences, people are people. We share many neighbors who are very good, some who are questionable and occasionally one or two who are just plain bad. Then there are the special people. George Godas and Turner Vemer fall into this last category. Both are offering land for Columbia’s third comprehensive high school. But this is about George.
The first time I met George was in July 2003. I just moved here from Denver, not aware of the Show-Me State Games and the impact this unique sports venue has on the economy and hotels in Columbia. As a training consultant for one of our insurance companies and needing temporary housing while I looked for an apartment, I settled in at the Roach Coach Hotel. I was not a happy camper. With no kitchen, I was introduced to the local eateries.
By my third week in the middle of Middle America, I gained the pseudonym of “The Odd Duck,” not quite fitting into the quiet atmosphere of the office or Columbia. I was loud, had too much energy and “twaked” funny. So when I asked about a place to have a quiet dinner, I was pointed toward a greasy spoon on Business Loop 70 with warm burgers and cold beer. My type of place.
I crossed the threshold and was greeted as a long-lost friend. The bald guy behind the counter was loud, had too much energy and he “twaked” funny. He was not from Brooklyn, but his accent was familiar, his handshake strong and his smile genuine.
George’s enthusiasm for life and the people around him did not diminish when he moved a few years later to the Lake of the Woods exit. His smile hasn’t lost its charm, the burgers are still warm, the beer cold and the tables no longer greasy. Most importantly, George’s enthusiasm for Columbia continues to grow, as does his philanthropy.
George owns property in northeast Columbia and offered 80 acres to the Columbia Public Schools for a new high school. Why? Because George knows how hard it is for an outsider to be accepted to a new community and Columbia has accepted this man with open arms. He loves this town and wants the best for our children. The gift is truly from his heart. A large heart. Let me add to the many others – thank you, George.
Dr. Phyllis Chase, President Karla DeSpain and the rest of the Columbia School Board now have a choice of locations for the new high school. They have 27 criteria to consider in choosing the site, determining north or south Columbia. However, there needs to be a 28th.
The board also needs to consider transportation. I do not mean the primary and secondary access roads for those who think they are just too cool to ride the Yellow Monster or the school bus routes, but rather reasonable access to Columbia Transit routes.
As board Vice President Darin Preis knows too well, 90 percent of success is just showing up, and public transportation is one of the keys to education for those who cannot afford a car and may not be on the school bus line. The Columbia Transit buses rarely travel past U.S. 63, so both locations, north and south, are without public transportation. Public transportation by Columbia Transit needs to be added to the list.
Thank you, George. I will bring my family back for burgers and beer soon. And thank you, Turner. I have never met you, but you, too, are exceptional. More of us need to follow your examples.
David Rosman is a business and political communications consultant, professional speaker and instructor at Columbia College. He welcomes your comments at ProfDave1011@netscape.net.