He rode a horse to school, he rode a motorcycle all over the Japanese island of Okinawa while in military service, and later in life he traveled to every single US state except one - unfortunately, there is no way to drive to Hawaii - using whatever four-wheeled contraption came most readily to hand, eventually settling on a series of aging Chevrolet Suburban vehicles became his trademark. Wade was always looking for new things to see.
He was born Elzy Wade Chastain, in Thomasville, Georgia, on New Year’s day 1938, to Arthur Wade Chastain and Jessie Marie Robbins Chastain, the eldest of four.
Formal education consisted of Thomasville High School (class of ’56), Georgia Tech, and the University of Georgia, by which time his iconoclastic tendencies had become apparent. His dream of becoming an Air Force pilot ended just before flight school with a collapsed lung; his Georgia Tech attendance relied on a drama scholarship. He was fascinated with architecture, with art, and with nature: his degree, in landscape architecture, combined all three. He cared little about grades. He wanted to learn.
While at UGA, he met a girl. Her name was Sharon, and if it wasn’t love at first sight it must have been close. He made no attempt to hide his feelings, and eventually, in marriage, she became his lifelong companion. Sharon had a natural, reflexive kindness and a moral sense capable of wilting steel. She had patience; infinite patience; and with Wade, she sometimes needed it.
Oak Grove Nurseries was where Wade and Sharon made their living. Situated on the Chastain family’s ancestral cattle plantation at 1101 Smith Avenue in Thomasville, “little Wade” (Wade) and “Papa Wade” (father Wade) along with family friend and partner Jake Ziegler started the enterprise as a wholesale plant nursery in the early 1970’s. Sharon established and ran its retail companion, Plantcraft by Oak Grove Nurseries, which became something of a Thomasville institution, her own weekly column in the Thomasville Times-Enterprise contributing to the local edification.
Business or not, Wade refused to stop traveling and refused to stop learning. Two children, Darel Wade and Lynne Marie, grew up with memories of skipping rocks in Alaska, picking blueberries in Maine, digging for diamonds in Arkansas, and camping beneath volcanoes in Washington state. Their food was eaten by bears, emergency car repairs were carried out in Death Valley, and flat tires were a fact of life.
Wade always took a few things along with him in his travels. A paperback book. A permanent optimism and an air of cheerful irreverence. His own brand of kindness, which compelled him to stop and help any fellow traveler in need, and a willingness to sacrifice his own comfort, when somebody else’s was impaired. A healthy supply of stories, anecdotes, jokes, one-liners, and witticisms.
He maintained that the reason mountain goats could cling so tenaciously to the sides of mountains was that their legs were longer on one side than the other. Unfortunately that meant that when a clockwise goat met a counter-clockwise goat they had no choice but to fight, since neither could simply turn around and retreat.
He also maintained a lifelong interest in photography and was one of the first in Thomasville to own a computer, remaining fluent in both all the way through his final years. Given his indifference to newness in the things he chose to possess, however, his main hobby appeared to be fixing things, and he proved himself capable of fixing anything, anywhere, at any time: in hundred-degree heat; in bitter cold; by the side of the road; in a Wal-Mart parking lot. Indeed fixing things was so natural to Wade he often showed his kindness in another way, by fixing other people’s things, and the list of people who to this day owe him a debt of gratitude in that regard would run very long.
Wade was preceded in death by wife Sharon, his parents, and his brothers Jack and Robbins. He is survived by son Darel Wade, daughter Lynne Chastain-Carpenter (Glenn), grandsons Michael and David Carpenter, sister Marie Chambers, sisters-in-law Norma (Jack’s wife) and Janice (Robbins’ wife), numerous nieces and nephews, and many friends and extended family. In lieu of flowers the family is suggesting donations to Birdsong Nature Center to fund a bench on a nature trail in Wade and Sharon’s names.
Scott Huskins Funeral & Cremation Services is in charge of the arrangements. scotthuskins.com | 678.771.5566