‘Pillar of community’ Dimmock passes
Gilmer County lost a beloved civic leader, advocate, storyteller and friend this week when retired lawyer Avary Dimmock, 94, passed away Monday, March 11.
Claude Mayfield described him as “one of the last of the Greatest Generation who was the mainstay of the Ellijay I grew up in. There was always a smile, a joke and friendship when Avary was around.”
Kimberly Gaddis called Dimmock “a remarkable man with a brilliant legal mind and a charming wit.”
“I had the honor of working with him briefly early on in my legal career while at Clark & Clark, PC,” she said. “He was an amazing mentor; always willing to help with any legal question. And he told the best stories! Beautifully detailed stories from his life. I could listen to him for hours. He will be missed by everyone, and he made an indelible mark on this world.”
A World War II veteran, Dimmock served in the Navy from 1943 to 1946. Prior to joining the war effort, he was a first-year medical student at Emory University in Atlanta. In a 2016 interview with the Times-Courier, the corpsman recalled how he was skinning a shark for a school project when the call came to enlist.
“I left it on the table and went to join,” he said.
Over the course of the war, he served on a destroyer and two troop transports, which took foodstuffs across the Atlantic to Europe and returned with soldiers.
Upon coming back home after the conflict, Dimmock graduated from the University of Georgia with a law degree. He moved to Ellijay in 1949 with his young bride, Jackie Croker Dimmock. He was a partner in the firm of McCutchen & Dimmock until 1983 and then at Dimmock & Hill until 1995. He also later worked with Clark & Clark.
His career accolades included serving as first president of the Appalachian Judicial Circuit Bar Association and president of the County Attorneys of Georgia. For many years, he represented the city of Ellijay and Gilmer County.
In later years, Dimmock often recalled how coming to Gilmer County from the metropolis of Atlanta gave him a bit of culture shock. He was surprised to find himself in court with bootleggers and to see the popularity of attending court week. Once he even saw someone ride a mule through the courthouse lobby as part of a celebration.
In spite of its differences from where he grew up in Atlanta and attended the prestigious Boys High, he soon fell in love with the community and became one of its most avid proponents and supporters.
When he was spotlighted as one of the People of the Century by the Times-Courier in 2000, Dimmock was described as a “goodwill ambassador for Gilmer County. His lauding of this area and its benefits can be compared to a one-man chamber of commerce.”
‘Never met a stranger’
Described as someone who never met a stranger, he had a knack for making people feel welcomed — whether they were a young journalist just learning the ropes at the newspaper, or future president Jimmy Carter as he campaigned in the community during his bid for governor.
In 1997, Dimmock was named Gilmer County Citizen of the Year. The nomination criteria for the honor as it appeared in the newspaper that year called for candidates who showed “a display of leadership ability, strength of character (and) concern for others.”
Those who knew him could heartily attest to the fact that he lived up to this high standard.
“Avary enjoyed life to its fullest with his many accomplishments. He was always willing to help someone in need. He has been in my life for five years helping me as much as I helped him. He was always loving and caring,” shared Bonnie Wells.
Joe McCutchen added, “He was a friend of mine for 55 years. He was a pillar of the Methodist Church and the community for many years. He loved Ellijay. He loved his friends and family. I would run into people who said, ‘Oh, Joe, I met Avary Dimmock’ in Atlanta or different places I would go. I’d say, ‘Oh yeah, what a great guy.’ So I would say he was sorta like a PR person or chamber of commerce person for Ellijay.
“He had a great personality and was a great leader. We didn’t always get along politically — he was a Democrat and I’m a Republican — but we were great friends, and it shows that people with political differences can get along.”
When not working in his law practice, Dimmock devoted himself to civic organizations
Over the years, he served as president of the Ellijay Rotary Club, president and secretary of the Ellijay Lions Club and chairman of the board of the First United Methodist Church of Ellijay.
When asked about her favorite memories of him, his daughter Ava Arp recalled, “We went to Daytona every summer. Those were great memories. Picnics at Amicalola Falls. Georgia football games. Just the times we had at our house at the swimming pool with all our friends and neighbors. Anna (his granddaughter) growing up at the pool.”
As evidence of how important family was to him, Ava described something she found recently in a piece of furniture at his house: “In one of the drawers were all of his cards that he handed out to people that said, ‘I’m the father of the bride.’ He must have ordered a zillion of those.”
‘True Southern gentleman’
Upon being asked to describe what comes to mind when he thinks about his dad, Dan Dimmock shared, “His humor is one of the first things, and then he was so caring toward everybody. He liked to give advice to everybody … He really cared about all of the people in his community.”
Dan also talked about his father’s commitment to encouraging others, noting that he made frequent calls to people all over the country who needed to hear a friendly voice. Dimmock was well known as a humorist and storyteller. He loved to regale people with his courtroom tales and long litany of jokes.
Former newspaper publisher George N. Bunch III recalled the following humorous story about Dimmock himself: “I had just started working at Times-Courier in 1973. We were at a party at the Top of Ellijay Restaurant. Avary had been paid for a home closing with a $500 bill. He passed the bill around to the attendees. After a while he asked, ‘Who has my $500?’ His lovely wife, Jackie, replied, ‘I’ll take care of it for you, darling.’”
When Carrie Sue Reimer remembers Dimmock, three words come to mind — love, laughter and jokes.
“I could be in the worst of moods and not having a good day. All he had to do was tell me one of his corny jokes and it changed my whole day. Even though you could hear the same joke over and over again, it never got old,” she said. “He just brought so much joy to my life here … I always told him that I didn’t feel like I belonged here in Ellijay, and he said to me that, ‘If the only reason that you were in Ellijay was to be with me, then that was reason enough.’”
“He was a true Southern gentleman,” commented Jody Holmes Henry. “He always greeted you with a smile and kind words. We have lost a great man.”
In the wake of his dad’s passing, Dan was reminded of the ending of an episode of The Andy Griffith Show when Opie had been raising baby birds.
“There came the time when he had to release them,” he recalled, “and at the end of the show his dad, Andy, says, ‘The cage looks mighty empty, but don’t the trees look nice and full.’ I was just thinking about that because I’m feeling kind of empty right now, but our lives are so much fuller because we knew him.”
Whitney Sherrill is a freelance writer, columnist and former staffer at the Times-Courier.