SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – Some say Retha Mae McCoy raised the kids who grew up in Savannah’s Runaway Point neighborhood.
On any given day, up to 20 of them played games inside the home where she also raised her children and some of her grandchildren.
“I would be at work and I’d get home about 5 o’clock and there they were,” said McCoy’s daughter, Donna Marie McCoy-Conyers, with a laugh.
McCoy’s grandson, Ronnie Hall Jr., was part of the group. He remembers children bursting from rooms, the backyard and the driveway where McCoy proudly hung a basketball rack “just for them.”
“I know we used to give my grandma a headache,” said Hall.
McCoy’s “love was never-ending,” said Conyers. And it came with “goodies” like sandwiches and drinks.
No one asked her to do it. But she did it anyway.
When the home became too crowded, McCoy started looking for a solution, instead of a reason to kick them out.
She found one down the street at the site of an undeveloped property in Chatham County. She envisioned a park.
Her daughters say she was determined to make it happen.
“She told me ‘It doesn’t matter, I don’t care. I’m going to sit at the steps of the Capitol until they put a park where we live,'” remembers Alene Hall, McCoy’s other daughter.
In a way, it’s exactly what happened at a Chatham County Commissioners meeting in the early 90s. McCoy sat there for hours until she got the chance to speak up.
“She said ‘I am Retha Mae Mccoy.’ She always says her full name,” said Ms. Hall. “And she lives in Runaway Point and they don’t have a park.'”
From that particular meeting, Conyers and Hall say Phase 1 of the project began.
And now, because of McCoy, there are playgrounds at the site, there are basketball courts and a place for cookouts.
When Chatham County officials wanted to name it after McCoy?
“She was like ‘Nuh-uh,'” explained Hall. “I told them this was for my kids.”
They did anyway in 2018.
And though all of the kids who first played at the park are grown, McCoy’s legacy lives on. It lives on through signs at the park’s entrance and stories of the so-called country lady — the matriarch of Runaway Point — who gave the kids a place to play.
“She just taught us to love, love everybody and be respectful,” said Conyers.
“You don’t have to be smart at all, evidently you don’t have to have a master’s degree, a bachelor’s degree — not even a degree,” said Ms. Hall. “It’s remarkable, it’s just a blessing, that’s the only way I can see it.”
WSAV News 3’s Kelly Antonacci is featuring four Remarkable Women every Tuesday of March, Women’s History Month.
The finalists were chosen from more than 100 nominations from people throughout the Coastal Empire and Lowcountry.
The winner of WSAV’s contest will be announced on April 1 and will be considered for the “Nexstar Woman of the Year” award.