Bill Kirby

Online news editor for The Augusta Chronicle.

Remember to smile when you think of Symms

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“Smile!”

Video: Kirby's Augusta
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– What the cameraman says

I can’t tell you what Robert Symms is doing right now, but I can tell you this – whatever it is, he’s smiling.

Our town’s grand old photographer, the man accurately described as “a true Augustan,” passed away Thursday and left a sunny May day a little less so.

Personally, I imagine Robert is busy this morning.

He’s probably got the 12 apostles lining up for a heavenly group shot, trying to keep James and John from taking up too much front-row space, and telling St. Peter to smile as big as Thomas, who, because it’s heaven, no longer has his doubts.

Robert’s old partner Morgan Fitz is probably telling him not to rush. There’s no need in eternity, he’d say. You’ve got lots of time.

Robert would smile at that thought.

And he earned that smile.

President Eisenhower and Mamie probably just strolled by, still laughing at Robert’s pantomime performance of the night before.

They reminded him of that time he’d done the same bit for Ike at the Augusta National, and how funny it was then, and is still funny now.

Robert would smile at the thought, and so would they.

And the old gang’s there, too, so he can smile about that.

Morgan Fitz and Vernon Gould and Robert Wilkinson, and all the other old Augusta photographers lugging those 4x5 Crown Graphic cameras, which don’t seem too heavy when you’ve cherubs for assistants.

And even if they weren’t heavy, there are so many to lend him a hand.

All the old friends, all the colleagues, all the church folks, all the ARC grads ... the ones who made it.

That’s one of the great things about heaven, everybody you’ve known and loved is there.

Another great thing is that in heaven everything is always in focus. Plenty of light. Great color.

People in heaven smile a lot, too. It’s a photographer’s dream, and hopefully, one day ours.

Let me end it with this.

Robert Symms sent me more than two-dozen jokes over the past few years, including this one, the last he shared. It goes like this.

A hiker stopped at the bank of a fast-flowing river.

Spying a fellow standing on the opposite bank, he yelled to him, “How do I get to the other side?”

The man scratched his head.

He looked up the river.

He looked down the river.

Then he yelled back to the hiker, “You’re already ON the other side!”

Well, that’s where Robert Symms is now, and for the first time in more eight decades, Augusta is without him.

But thank goodness, he took so many photos and left us with so many memories, not only of ourselves, but of him.

When he said, “Smile,” he meant it.

And so should we.


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