For Garner, blindness never a bar to service

Tue, 06/27/2006 - 3:59pm
By: John Thompson

For Garner, blindness never a bar to service

For 26 years, Peachtree City’s Preston Garner was one of the many Fayette County employees who try to help people untangle the web of local government.

Whether he was dispatching help to part of the county in the late 1970s or answering phones at the Water Department, Garner always tried to help his fellow man. But, Garner was a little different than the average employee. He’s been totally blind since he was 15, yet still managed to be one of the county’s exemplary employees.

Last Thursday, the Fayette County Commission honored Garner for his years of service. The long-time public servant decided to retire after having more health problems. Still, the story of Garner is one of remarkable courage and determination that would have left many people feeling helpless.

Born with a retinal detachment, Garner was able to see until he was 15. But then, glaucoma set in, and he lost his vision.

“In 1959, I went to the Macon School for the Blind and learned piano-tuning and chair caning because those were the two main things blind people could do then. It’s a lot different now with computers,” he said.

He graduated from the school in 1971 and took a job with a piano company in Vidalia that kept him busy for two weeks out of the month. But fate stepped in during 1975, and provided Garner another step in his journey.

“I was riding in a car with my parents and aunt and we were headed back to Luthersville from Griffin. There was an accident, and both my parents were killed, and my aunt was injured, but I wasn’t hurt,” he said.

Garner is one of seven siblings and was now confronted with having nowhere for him and his five younger siblings to live. But his older brother was living in Fayette County, and took his brothers and sisters into his home.

In 1979, Garner went to work for Fayette County as part of a federal program that paid a person’s salary for 18 months if a local government hired him. After the 18 months, the county hired him full-time and he helped work with the rudimentary beginnings of 911.

“Back then, you dialed 461-7152. We would get all sorts of calls,” he said.

One of the more interesting calls was from a lady who called and said she was bleeding.

“I asked her where, which was not the correct question. She told me off Highway 92,” Garner added.

In his career, he worked at the courthouse and also at the building on McDonough Road that housed several county departments when it opened. Garner answered the phones and said he really enjoyed meeting people over the phone.

But as his health concerns increased, Garner knew it was time to quit. Besides, he was spending more of his time helping take care of his three handicapped brothers who share a home with him in Peachtree City. He’s never been married, but has enjoyed helping raise his nieces and nephews.

“My niece gave me something this Father’s Day that said I was just like a father and that meant a lot to me,” he said.

County Executive Assistant Carol Chandler has worked with Garner during his many years of service and was sad to see him go, but knows he has a lot of family obligations.

“He’s just a prince of a fellow and always worries about everyone else,” she said.

For his part, Garner is more succinct in assessing his life.

“The Lord has had a hand in everything that’s happened, and I just enjoy helping people.”

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