Sarah Riley Hooks was a home health care nurse. She was the daughter of Michael C. Riley, a well-known Bluffton educator and confectionery shop owner. Our elementary school on Burnt Church Road is named after him. His little store where he sold candies and various goodies was on Bridge Street across from their house.
I knew Sarah for many years. She was quite a character and full of beans. She nicknamed me "Monkey." Sarah traveled around the area tending to all sorts of ailments; she knew everyone.
She would come to my store and visit after finishing her travails throughout the area. She had marvelous stories to tell about her day and the things she had seen and done.
Once she brought me a shiny silver pistol she said was her best "friend" in the whole wide world. She thought I might need it for protection. I had had a bit of trouble at The Store, and she said I needed a "friend" too because there were some evil-minded people in our world.
I thanked her profusely and took the gun and put it in my desk drawer. I had never even held a pistol like that nor ever used one, but I acted as though it was too fabulous for words.
Several months went by and one day Sarah stopped in and asked for her "friend." A trip to New York was on her agenda, and she needed her best companion. Gratefully, I gave it back.
Sarah had a son named Tony. He lived with Sarah when he was in town and was a musician who played with Sly and the Family Stone and Bluffton's own musician John Brannen.
He was always touring with them and rarely home. Sarah was very proud of him -- as well she should have been. Sly's band was very famous at the time, and John was making a name for himself as a singer-songwriter.
A very bizarre thing happened early one Bluffton morning. Tony was shot dead on Sarah's front porch. It was a senseless act by a deranged person. The shooter drove off and was chased by our police all the way to Savannah where he was caught. All of Bluffton was in a state of shock. Thirty years or so ago we were a small town, where things of this sort did not happen. Tony was her only child so, as you may imagine, this made it even worse.
Sarah was, as were we all, very sad for some time after this. "Monkey, she would say, my heart is in pieces."
After a bit, Sarah regained her sense of humor and was back to her old mischievous self. We remained friends for the rest of her life. She would be thrilled to know we built our house on Bridge Street across from hers on the same spot her father had his confectionery shop.
"Monkey, please," was her favorite thing to say to me. I can hear her now.
Babbie Guscio is the social columnist for The Bluffton Packet. She can be reached at The Store on Calhoun Street.