It was a magical time at St. Simons Island. Of course, any day spent in the Golden Isles is magical, but none were like this.

It was a time when a group of us hung our collective hats at St. Simons. We played golf together, shopped together, socialized together and, of course, ate shrimp and other seafood treats together.

Our gang included a Superior Court judge, business owners, entrepreneurs, consultants, ministers and assorted others. We were a diverse group, but I have never been associated with people I enjoyed more. We were a family.

It was during these days that we met a young couple named Alan and Kim Worthley. They had opened a little restaurant in the village called the Georgia Sea Grill. If the three rules of retail are location, location, location, the Georgia Sea Grill defied them, one and all.

The restaurant was hidden away in an alley behind a bunch of kiosks that to this day remind me of outhouses. One member of our group happened by one afternoon when Kim Worthley stopped her and suggested she might want to try their little eatery. She did. Then the group did. And then was born a beautiful friendship along with the story of corn-fried shrimp. The latter will take a bit of explanation.

On one of my first visits, I was served a dish of shrimp fried in corn batter that defied description. Never daunted by such challenges, I described it anyway. Only I slightly misdescribed it, referring to the dish as “corn-fried.” Thus, a legend was born.

Soon people were coming into the exquisite Little Georgia Sea Grill on St. Simons Island asking for (a) corn-fried shrimp or (b) “that shrimp Dick Yarbrough is always talking about.” On occasions, the Worthleys would have to send out for more of the little critters in order to satisfy demand. That is when it hit me that, dang, people really read this stuff. Duh!

I have given a lot of talks around the state over the years. I always leave ample time for questions, knowing someone will want to plumb my keen intellect on such burning issues as the political climate in Uruguay, the International Monetary Fund or the mysteries of the solar system. Instead, one question will invariably arise: “What is corn-fried shrimp?”

There are those who assumed I was getting free meals in turn for exulting about the shrimp at the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill. The answer to that assumption is — never, not one time. The Worthleys never offered to do so and I would never have accepted. That would have tainted a beautiful friendship.

In 2001, Kathleen Devere Worthley made her appearance on the planet. That was a cause of great celebration among us all. Our gang became grandparents by self-appointment. I wrote a column to newborn Kate stating that while her parents had outdone themselves when they created corn-fried shrimp, she was without question their greatest creation.

And then as happens with time, things began to change. Our gang grew older and our numbers began to diminish. There was illness and Alzheimer’s and travel issues and too many final goodbyes. The Worthleys eventually sold the exquisite little Georgia Sea Grill and moved into other ventures. We basically lost contact with them and with Kate.

That is, until a few months ago when I received word that Kate Worthley, now a senior at Frederica Academy, has been accepted for early admission to the University of Georgia. Despite having full-ride scholarship offers to a number of prestigious academic institutions around the country, Kate is going to be a Bulldog. Woof! Woof!

Her high-school career has been one of outstanding achievement, athletically, academically and in the community. I have no doubt she will do the same at my beloved alma mater and beyond.

The Yarbroughs and the Worthleys, including Kate, recently got together for dinner at Sea Island to celebrate her decision to attend UGA. It was great being back together after so many years of being apart.

I couldn’t help thinking about those of our gang whom we have lost and wishing they could have been there to celebrate with us and to see how Kate turned out. While I miss them terribly, I remembered a line from the author Lucy Maud Montgomery: “Nothing is ever really lost to us as long as we remember it.” So true. And I will long remember a magical time at St. Simons that can never be lost.

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