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Posted: February 27, 2009 12:00 a.m.

Former Kiwanis president well remembered

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Richard Rawlins

Former Covington Kiwanis president and active community member Richard Rawlins quietly passed away Saturday morning while preparing to teach a Sunday school lesson the next day. He died holding his Bible, but lived following the principles within it.

Those who knew Rawlins described him as a calm, dependable and generous man. He served in the U.S. Army, served on the Board of Deacons at First Baptist Church of Covington, was an active member in the Kiwanis Club of Covington and sat on the Newton Medical Center Board of Directors.

Rawlins started life in the shadow of Stone Mountain before the park was built. He had flaming red hair and freckles as a boy and, according to his younger son Greg, everyone called him "Tank" because he was big for his age.

He delivered groceries for his mother, whose family owned a store in Stone Mountain, and went on to play high school football at Stone Mountain High.

After earning the rank of second lieutenant in the ROTC at his alma mater Georgia State University, he enlisted in the U.S. Army. In 1962, he married his sweetheart Betty Pollock on New Years Eve just before shipping out to Germany.

His son Greg said only one photograph from their wedding exists since Rawlins’ best man and boyhood friend George Coletti forgot to advance the film in the excitement of congratulating his friend and bidding him farewell.

"The original plan was for my mom to stay here," Greg said, "but they got to missing each other, so he told his dad to sell his prize coin collection so they would have the money to bring her over."

The couple had two boys, Chuck and Greg, and relocated to a 100-acre farm in the Newton County/Social area in 1975.

Greg said growing up on a large farm was a wonderful experience, enhanced by the devotion his father had for his children.

"He used to drive us on the back of the pick up truck, before that was taboo, and we’d go bouncing all around the countryside," Greg said.

For years Rawlins sold radio advertising and then obtained his financial advisor certificate. Semi-retired, he still operated from his home.

Greg said his father had a wacky sense of humor and enjoyed silly movies such as "Airplane" and recently became a fan NBC’s "My Name is Earl." He also loved country gold artists such as Dolly Parton, George Jones and even Boxcar Willie—which Greg said he teased him about.

After finding a Lionel model train he had received for Christmas as a boy in the late ‘40s, Rawlins became an avid model train collector. He created a large, detailed set in a garage on the family’s property and traveled to shows in New York and Pennsylvania each year.

Greg attended a few train shows with his father and recently moved back to his family’s land and resides in a home on the property where his grandmother once lived.

"I’m glad I did because I got to know my dad as a man and as a friend," he said.

Illustrating Rawlins’ big-hearted personality is as easy as telling about the people he helped daily.

Only a couple of weeks ago, Greg noticed his father’s vehicle pull into the driveway. Rawlins’ began loading a gas can in the car. When asked what he was doing he said he had noticed a motorist who had run out of gas on the side of the road near Monticello and was going back from Social Circle to give him enough gas to drive to a station.

Longtime friend Ralph Murphy agreed that Rawlins was a selfless man. When a former secretary of his became confined to a wheelchair, he began regularly looking in on her.

Murphy met Rawlins through First Baptist and for more than 40 years, the four couples celebrated each other’s birthdays and anniversaries. As the youngest member of the group, Rawlins often chauffeured others to their gatherings.

"Our crowd depended on him," Murphy said.

Rawlins was president of the Covington Kiwanis Club from 2000 to 2001, the year after Murphy’s term. Kiwanis members filled the front rows of First Baptist at his funeral Monday.

"The first job I had as president," said Bill Loeble, current Covington Kiwanis president, "was to choose five directors, and he was my first pick because he’s low-key but a stable influence and I wanted him to help guide me through my term as president."

Other Kiwanians shared their thoughts of Rawlins at a club meeting Thursday.

"Richard was a true Southern gentleman," said fellow Kiwanian Robert Rhoades.

"We all loved Richard," Charles King said.

In 2007 Rawlins devised a fundraiser to benefit Kiwanis scholarships as well as the Newton County library. The movie "The Polar Express" was popular at the time and Rawlins designed a model train set depicting the fabled locomotive to go on display at the library and be raffled off around Christmastime. The raffle was so popular it was held again this past Christmas. The club netted $3,500 for their scholarship programs.

Because of Rawlins’ dedication to Kiwanis fundraising, especially the club’s golf tournament, it was suggested at Thursday’s meeting that the board consider naming the tournament in his memory.

"He gave so much and asked for nothing," Loeble said.

Tuesday, the Newton Medical Center Auxiliary Board observed a moment of silence for Rawlins as he was a dedicated volunteer and member of the hospital’s governing board.

Hospital CEO and Administrator James Weadick said Rawlins was interested in all hospital programs and the development of new ones. He added that Rawlins was more than a fellow director, but also a friend.

"I could speak with him about various matters pertaining to hospital affairs and he would readily listen and ask questions and share his thoughts on what he thought would be a good action to follow," Weadick said. "

According to Weadick, Rawlins was always available when needed, listened well and made meetings more enjoyable with his friendly demeanor.

"He saw the humor in the subtlest of things," Weadick said, "and was always pleasant to everyone he met or encountered."

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