SOUTH FORSYTH -- While many people might dream of growing old with close friends, a pair of Forsyth County natives are making it happen.
Now living together at Antebellum James Burgess, an assisted-living facility in south Forsyth, county natives Harold Majors and L.G. Mathis have formed a friendship lasting more than five decades.
“That goes a way, way back,” Majors, who turned 83 in September, said. “I’d say probably 50 years plus. Long time.”
“He’s my buddy,” Mathis, who turns 92 later this month, said, later adding, “I’ve known him a long enough to know he is a fine boy.”
When asked what the key to such a longstanding friendship was, Majors had a simple answer.
“The main thing is Waffle House,” he said.
Starting about 20 years ago, the two were a regular sight at Waffle House on Peachtree Parkway (Hwy. 141)
“We’d meet at the Waffle House every morning,” Majors said. “We wouldn’t eat at the same table, but close by so we could talk to each other.”
Though the two knew of each other and were friendly before, it was those breakfasts — where they were joined by Mathis’ late wife, Rudean — that made them best friends.
They were so well-known at the eatery that eventually they didn’t even have to order.
“All we had to was walk in, that’s it,” Majors said.
Those who lived in Forsyth County before the population exploded might remember getting lawnmowers fixed by Majors or seeing Mathis fly his plane out of, of course, Mathis Airport, and those who don’t most likely recognize the roads named for the men and their families, Majors Road and Mathis Airport Parkway.
“The reason that mine is Majors is because my brother, Donald Majors, was county administrator at the time,” Majors said. “There’s all kinds of houses now. When I was there, there was probably … three houses.”
The Major’s said his family lived in the area now bearing their name and remembers a Forsyth nearly unrecognizable to current residents.
“[Hwy.] 141 was paved in 1951,” he said. “I finished school in ‘51, I married in ’51 and went to work in ’51 and that’s when Peachtree Parkway was paved.”
He said Clarence Lambert, the namesake of nearby Lambert High School, taught him in school.
For Mathis, his road’s name came after the airport he opened after returning from World War II, where he survived a kamikaze attack while serving on the USS Randolph in 1945.
His daughter, Marilyn Cheek, said he otherwise enjoyed his time in service, which was a far cry from Depression-era Forsyth.
“You imagine, a dirt farmer that barely had shoes on their feet living here in the Depression … where nobody had jobs and made $1 a day for wages,” she said. “Whenever he went into the Navy, he thought it was one of the best times of his life because to see the world and go through the Panama Canal, he went to Hawaii, he went to San Francisco.”
After returning, he took flying lessons, learned to work on planes and eventually bought 27 acres, a portion of which went to the airport when it was built in the 1950s. The airport closed in 2014.
Earlier this year, Mathis even followed Majors to Antebellum from another assisted-living facility.
As Mathis is now in the center’s memory-care unit, the pair doesn’t get to see each other as much, but still try to make time.
“He’s a fine man and I think the world of him,” Majors said. “He throws his hand up at me every time I come in that door and says, ‘Good to see you.’”
“He’s my best buddy,” said Mathis.
Shana Harter, with Antebellum, said having a long-time friend in the facility is a benefit for both men.
“I think that’s so special,” Harter said. “Part of us being here with the seniors, for some of them it’s kind of the last chapter of their life. It’s pretty nice to see them together and see that friendship and see that bond and see that way they smile and they laugh together and the stories that they have to tell.”