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Fruits of fellowship
County natives eturn to visit new, old friends
cowarts at nursing WEB 2
Ralph and Jo Ann Cowart walk into Chestnut Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cumming carrying items for the residents. For the past two and a half years, the couple has driven once a week from their DeKalb County home to visit new and old acquaintances. - photo by Jim Dean

When Ralph Cowart learned a friend was living at Chestnut Ridge Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Cumming, he went to visit him.

What he didn't count on was making a whole slew of new friends.

For the past two and a half years, Ralph and his wife, Jo Ann, have driven once a week from their DeKalb County home to visit their new acquaintances.

The couple, both of whom are Forsyth County natives, bring fruit, vegetables and warm smiles every Wednesday at noon.

Melvin Stancil served with Ralph Cowart in the Army during the Korean War. For the past couple of years, Stancil has called the local nursing center home.

"Once we started visiting Melvin, we got attached to some of the other people there, and they liked to talk to us too," Jo Ann Cowart said. "We bring them fruit mostly, and we'll bring them other kinds of things here and there."

Stancil's wife, Beverly, said patients at the Forsyth County nursing home "look forward to the visit more than anything else."

Ralph Cowart is glad to help.

"They get really tickled to get this stuff," he said. "Some of them don't have family or friends to visit them. They're happy to have somebody to talk with."

Jo Ann Cowart's sister, Diane Martin of Tennessee, heard tell of her sister and brother-in-law's good deeds a couple weeks ago while visiting Forsyth County.

"You don't hear that much good news anymore," Martin said. "These two are bringing so much joy to these people, and it's nice to hear in times like these."

Jo Ann Cowart said residents indeed enjoy the visit, but it's she and her husband who reap the biggest reward.

"We just feel blessed to get to spend time with these wonderful people. They're sweet," she said, "I'm blessed more than they are to visit with them."

Ralph Cowart said the people are "really great here."

"You get to ask everybody how they're doing and they light up when they see you," he said.

One of the residents is partial to his home-grown tomatoes.

"Back in the summer, we brought them a bunch of peaches. Now it's pears," he said. "God just wants us to do this, so we're doing it."

The couple said they plan to keep frequenting the nursing home every Wednesday.

Beverly Stancil said the Cowarts have missed their weekly visit only twice in two and half years.

"They're dedicated people and they're genuinely good," she said. "They just want to help people."