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Remembering Doug Bachtel

One colleague described Doug as having "an irreverent light."

Doug Bachtel brought the idea of the guide to UGA from Auburn.
Doug Bachtel brought the idea of the guide to UGA from Auburn.
 Here are some things I know to be true about Doug Bachtel, the UGA professor of Housing & Consumer Economics who died on Thursday morning at St. Mary's Hospicel. I knew and admired him for a long time. He was a true mensch.

1. Doug was funny and liked playing with language. He was the first person I ever heard use the term "half back" to describe people who wintered in Florida and summered in North Georgia instead of Michigan. I also heard him say, "She doesn't know big wood from brush."

2. Doug was generous. As a reporter with the AJC and Patch, i could call him anytime and leave a message. If he wasn't there, he would call back. No matter when. He didn't just help reporters from big papers--he helped people from smaller papers, weeklies and even shoppers. And he would talk to any group, civic, service, religious, whatever.

3. Doug was courageous. He would speak truth to power. Once, in McDuffie County, I saw him almost get lynched for telling a group of people how many outhouses they had and how many residents without indoor plumbing. He was trying to persuade them to merge with another county to save on the cost of services. He thought they would see the sense of what he was saying.

4. Doug loved Georgia. He loved the numbers generated by Georgians, the conflicting information, the gulf separating various regions economically and culturally, the changing demographics of metro Atlanta. He told me once that by 2016, Gwinnett County would likely go Democrat, based on the number of immigrants settling there. We shall see if he were correct.

5. Doug was fearless and tireless. If you didn't know he had M.S., he certainly wouldn't tell you. He didn't talk to many people about the pain he experienced. Instead, he just came to work every day and focused on data, on making it real so people could understand what the economic and social trends mean for their communities.

Robert Alan Black August 09, 2013 at 07:22 AM
now that I have read the various comments finally my fuzzy mind that was writing yesterday is clearer. I got to know Doug because we were both guest speakers for many community leader development groups around the state over several years.
Robert Alan Black August 09, 2013 at 07:23 AM
he amused, amazed and sometimes aggravated people in the groups with the FACTS about their county, city or town. It was always fun how he handled the various reactions he sparked.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) August 09, 2013 at 08:08 AM
Alan, thanks for your thoughts. And yes, Doug was tenacious about those dern numbers. They didn't lie. He could defuse most tense situations with a funny comment or two.
Mark Ralston August 09, 2013 at 09:50 AM
Rebecca, I had the same experience with Doug. As a reporter with the Daily News and Banner-Herald, I knew I could call him and he would always help me. If he didn't know the answer off the top of his head (a rare occurence) he would find out and call back. Always. He was never afraid to tell the tale of the numbers, even if the numbers weren't popular. In more recent years in my PR role at St. Mary's, if I needed demographic data, he was just as willing and able to help. We will truly miss him.
Garry Moon August 13, 2013 at 11:01 AM
I spent most of Sunday with Doug's wife Bonnie and her family. My sister had gathered up some of the kind words written about Doug in the media, such as this article, and shared them with Bonnie; I could tell that it meant a lot to her that so many people held him in such high regard. Doug was a special person, maintaining his optimism and humor even after the crushing loss of his daughter April...at least now he is free from his pain.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) August 13, 2013 at 12:07 PM
Thanks for posting this, Garry. Doug was just a wonderful, unusual special being. It was a pleasure and privilege to know him. Thinking of Bonnie.
Garry Moon August 14, 2013 at 01:14 PM
I totally agree, Rebecca. I hope as many folks as possible can make it to the service on Saturday.

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