James Gregory Henry (Buddy) Edwards died Friday, July 19, at his residence on St. Simons Island following an illness of several months. Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, July 24, at the graveside in Christ Church cemetery, St. Simons Island, with Rector Thomas Purdy officiating. A reception will follow in Christ Church Parish House.
Buddy was born on January 17, 1928, in Grosse Point, Michigan, to Anna McKellar Edwards and James Henry Edwards. In 1933 the family moved to St. Simons Island when James Edwards became manager of Hamilton Plantation on Gascoigne Bluff, one of 14 original plantations on the island. Buddy and his younger brother Skip grew up happily on the 2500 acre plantation, enjoying horseback riding, fishing, swimming, and boating on the Frederica River. In time, two more brothers, Jerry and Billy, joined the family.
Buddy attended Glynn Academy and held several jobs during his high school years, working at The Cloister Hotel dining room one summer and as a time keeper and outside machinist striker at the J. A. Jones Construction Company shipyard another summer before receiving a promotion to journeyman.
He joined the United States Navy in 1945, shortly before the end of World War II. He received training in the Engineering School at Great Lakes, Illinois, before beginning his service in the Pacific theatre assigned to the attack cargo ship USS Athene. In mid-summer 1946, after volunteering to be a part of an atomic bomb test unit at Bikini Atoll, he transferred to the USS Carlisle, an attack transport ship charged with providing troops to aid in investigating the effect of nuclear weapons on naval ships. He witnessed one atomic explosion from a distance of 12 ½ miles and later considered this duty to be the most exciting part of his Navy career. His final two-year assignment was aboard a patrol craft escort ship operating as a weather station with home ports in Pearl Harbor, Guam, and Kwajeline. During the time the ship was inactive in Pearl Harbor, he studied and earned his high school diploma. He was discharged in 1949.
A man of many talents, Buddy had interests, skills, and expertise which led him to explore and succeed in many careers. Just out of the Navy, he assisted his father as a carpenter's assistant and worked part-time at the island airport while earning his pilot's license. He worked as a general contractor for many years, part of the time in business with his brothers. In the late 1960s Buddy and his brothers bought the Taylor Tract in Redfern Field on St. Simons Island and built a shopping center which the family still owns. He bought military surplus trucks and boats and used them to build three large steel shrimp boats. Later he was a pilot for Bill Walker & Associates, moving airplanes around the United States. He bought and refurbished damaged and out-of-commission airplanes, and in the course of six years he worked on 35 different airplanes. In his free time he produced ten homebuilt airplanes. Friends and family, often fascinated by his activities and accomplishments, gathered at his office and workshop over the years, first at the back of the Redfern Field property and later in his hanger at the end of Skylane Road, to see what interesting project he was working on, to learn from him, and to share stories and good fellowship.
He is predeceased by his parents and his brother, Davy Dougald (Skip) Edwards.
Survivors include his wife of 62 years, Billie-Jo Wood Edwards, and a son, Mark Gregory Edwards, and a grandson, John Mark Edwards, all of St. Simons; a daughter, Margaret Ellen Edwards, of Brunswick; two brothers, Gerald Hamilton (Jerry) Edwards and William (Bill) Edwards, both of Brunswick; a sister-in-law, Jeriann Jerue Edwards of St. Simons; a brother –in-law Royce Eugene Wood of St, Simons Island, GA: and several nieces and nephews.
In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to a charity of the donor's choice.
Arrangements have been entrusted to Edo Miller and Sons Funeral Home; www.edomillerandsons.com