Savannah howled Wednesday morning.
That howl screeched across our city like none I had ever witnessed before. Not when a hurricane battered our coast causing millions in damaged property. Not when we lost our beloved Don Logana last November. This was different. This wound was deep.
Many of us woke up early Wednesday, maybe flipped through social media to see what the world had to offer on the morning after America’s birthday. If you are like me, you saw some headlines about yet another shooting in City Market. If you are like me you rolled your eyes and shook your head, figuring the victim knew the shooter. More lost souls from the inner city settling disputes in a high traffic area. Someone shows up at the hospital with a gun shot wound, but no one is talking about who else may have been involved, right?
Wash, rinse, and repeat sadly far too often in Savannah. But that is a story for another time.
Not long into the social media commentary phase that typically follows an incident, a Facebook post went up that changed everything. The Grey, one of our esteemed restaurants downtown, had lost its General Manager, Scott Waldrup. The food and beverage industry had lost quite possibly its best friend. One of them at any rate.
As you might expect, word spread quickly following that announcement. Friends took to Facebook like citizens into a town square. Each person with a photo or two and/or a story to tell about the young man we lost.
The grief came in waves and actually dug in deeper over the course of the day as we found out that Scott wasn’t doing something he shouldn’t have been after midnight on Tuesday. He was walking up Bay Street following a celebration of his favorite holiday on the calendar. That’s when we learned that the final moments of Scott Waldrup’s life were spent pushing children out of harms way when an SUV with alleged criminals inside was barreling toward them.
Not a single one of us was surprised.
Scott came to Savannah with his partner Tart Johnson and took to our city like a hand to glove. I came to know him as part of a group that worked at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse. Scott a server, Tart behind the bar. Dominic Moraco, the GM at the time said he couldn’t ignore their energy. He hired them both on the spot.
Over the next half decade, that energy pulsated wherever Scott and Tart went. The yearly Speedo Sunday celebration itself became legendary, with SS8.0 scheduled for next weekend. If you happened to be out enjoying a cocktail and those two walked in, then you knew your evening was about to take a turn for the better.
It would be easy to dismiss who Scott was as a 20 something party kid who had yet to settle down and find his way. But those of us who knew him, knew he had already. A graduate of the University of London, Scott loved great food and great wine. His knowledge of both I would rank in the top 10% in Savannah. Family? He was a proud uncle, a son and a brother. It may have been only social media, but it was very hard not to feel his joy. All of the time.
When Scott announced on Facebook that he had been promoted from bartender to General Manager at The Grey, the F&B industry in this city cheered like it was the Super Bowl. We all knew it was perfect for him. Unofficially, we all knew what that may mean. Scott and Tart were very likely to stay here for a while and Savannah’s hospitality scene would be better for it.
Some who didn’t know him may scoff at that commentary, but it’s unlikely you will ever see restaurants and business owners taking to social media in the numbers they have this week. All in support of what some outside of the circle would call ‘just another bartender.’ Scott was anything but. Scott loved Savannah and what it could eventually become.
There are great food and beverage people in this town. They are career people who love making their guests happy on a daily basis. Those rock stars among us are one of the backbones of the community. Not all servers are ‘up all night-sleep all day’ flakes. I know some who are business owners themselves. I know one who is an educator with a PhD and so many others who juggle families with their jobs at night because they pay well.
Scott Waldrup could have been doing what he was doing anywhere in the world, but he chose to do it here in Savannah. That is one of the reasons why he was so appreciated and loved by anyone who came in contact with him.
The night Hurricane Matthew rolled through town last October, Scott was out, enjoying himself and Savannah as he always did. Very likely just like his final night. Seeing they were short staffed, he found himself guest bartending at Treylor Park on Bay Street until they were all kicked out at closing.
Just before 9am the next morning, he was out with my business partner surveying damage in Forsyth Park. Shortly thereafter, they walked over to my home for breakfast. Yes, that boy could eat.
That might have been the last time I saw Scott in person, if not for the day months later, when I spotted him walking alone just after lunch northbound on Whitaker Street dressed for work. No honking, waving or anything of the sort. I just thought “Savannah could use a few dozen Scotts.”
Never in a million years did I think we’d lose one so soon.
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