For the family of the young boy, who along with his mother Beulah Bruce Whitfield was killed in an accident on Highway 20 east of Canton when a driver crossed the centerline and hit the car head-on, the anniversary brings back many memories.
Gregory’s father, Newt Whitfield, was not in the vehicle at the time of the accident. His other son, Danny Whitfield, was injured in the wreck but survived his injuries.
While the tragedy still looms large in the family’s history, the dedication of the field is also a special memory.
The event to dedicate the ball field the “Gregory field” drew then-Gov. Carl Sanders as the guest speaker and was attended by representatives from the other 150 communities in the state who were in the North Georgia Rural Community Development Program in 1963.
The Macedonia Community Club was the top club in the state at the time of the dedication.
Many local dignitaries, including Judge Marion Pope, who introduced the governor, were also in attendance at the event.
Part of the day’s activities included a ladies’ softball game, a Little League game, and a Pony League baseball game at the new field, according to articles in the North Georgia Tribune, the forerunner of the Cherokee Tribune, at the time.
Misti Whitfield Martin, the daughter of Newt Whitfield, was not born at the time of the accident, but said that for her father and older half-brother, having the field named for the young boy meant a lot.
“We are all glad that the memory of Gregory lives on in the name of the park,” Misti Whitfield said in speaking for her family. “I think being a mother myself now, it really hit home for me when my son was Greg’s age and playing ball there, and what it must have been like to lose this young boy and his mother.”
Beulah Whitfield had been PTA president at Macedonia Elementary School, which is adjacent to the field, and both boys attended the local elementary. Danny was 9 at the time of the accident and she and the boys were also active in Cub Scouts and other youth programs.
“The park was already under way so the community club decided to name the field in memory of Greg,’ Misti said. “This was a devastating loss for the family and for the community, and to have this named for Greg means so much to us all. My children have helped plant flowers there, and they know that Danny lost his brother.’
And we are glad it has continued to be in his name all these years, “ Misti said.
The Macedonia Community Club was started in 1946 to help raise funds for a lunchroom for the local elementary, according to articles published in the North Georgia Tribune.
Later the community club raised $15,000 to build a gymnasium for the school and spent about $2,000 each year to fund local youth and recreation programs.
The new field named the Gregory Field cost $11,000 the community club raised.
The Macedonia Community Club in addition to being named the state’s top club in 1963, was the first place winner in 1959, named one of the 10 best clubs in 1960 and won third place in 1962.
For the dedication, Gov. Sanders arrived by U.S. Army helicopter and landed in a prepared circle at the Macedonia Baptist Church across from the new ball field.
A native of Macedonia, Lanny Williams of WSB-TV, was the master of ceremonies and Lester Watkins was president at the time of the presentation.
Today, the ball field is a part of a three-field complex run by a re-organized Macedonia Community Club with a 16-member board, a 501 3C non-profit status, and an active role in the community.
Executive Director and President Kevin Murphy says the group plans to keep the name Gregory field, and that the organization pours its time and efforts into improvements at the recreational facility.
A Dizzy Dean league, about 385 youngsters ages 3 to 12 play at the park this season.
Eight years ago members of the community saw the fields were in disrepair, Murphy said, and decided to step in and get them up and going again. They have recently resodded and made several upgrades to the park including a T-ball field for 3 and 4-year-olds.
“We are improving the grounds and are pleased to have this facility for our youth, “Murphy said.