Dana Cooley-Keith's Shiny Silver Dollars

Years ago when Dana Cooley-Keith and I both worked in Dalton, Georgia, we often met for lunch to share a few belly laughs and exchange an array of interesting ideas and thoughts over sandwiches and glasses of sweet tea. Dana is a thinker, and I love to be around true thinkers. I've always enjoyed listening to her opinions on politics, social issues, and world affairs.

Dana Cooley-Keith wrote a lovely story about her silver dollar collection and her great-grandfather who gave her silver dollars and love. 

Dana Cooley-Keith wrote a lovely story about her silver dollar collection and her great-grandfather who gave her silver dollars and love. 

Dana pours her heart into everything she does. She was a powerhouse fundraiser for United Way of Northwest Georgia and raised millions for the organization's partner agencies. She managed both a second-chance home for teenage moms and a child advocacy and sexual assault center. She helped raise money for the largest homeless shelter in Northwest Georgia. There's no telling how many lives she's touched through her career and her volunteer activities.

Yet, she's always been there for a friend with a request—no matter how large or small. So when I mentioned Project Keepsake, to her, I knew Dana would come through. She was one of the first story contributors.

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She wrote about a silver dollar collection she keeps safely stowed in a Gerber baby food jar disguised with a crocheted bunny slip cover. But her story is really about the kindness and boundless love extended to her and her siblings by her great-grandfather, a man who lived alone on a farm and went to a great deal of trouble to give his great-grandchildren something special when they visited.

Dana's story has always reminded me of childhood visits to my Aunt Sybol and Uncle Lewis' house outside of Metter, Georgia. As we left, my aunt and uncle walked us out to the car and retrieved silver change (quarters, dimes, and nickels) from the pockets of their apron and overalls. They handed the shiny coins through the backseat window to my siblings and me. "I love you," Aunt Sybol would say. "Y'all come back soon." She stood and waved bye to us until our Buick Skylark was way down the plowed dirt road where they lived. 

Dana's story, "A Stash of Shiny Silver Dollars" begins on page 125. I've pasted two of my favorite excerpts below. Enjoy!

Dad was not a person who showed much physical affection nor did he ever tell me he loved me. However, the one gesture he made at the end of every trip would fill my heart with so much gratitude and love that neither words nor physical affection could have done more.

As we walked out on his old wooden porch and approached the dirt driveway, Dad reached deeply into his pocket. I remember the clinking sound that indicated that we were one second closer to receiving our treasure. My brother, Kenny, and I overflowed with excitement and anticipation. We could hardly contain ourselves. Then Dad’s aged, leathery hand would reappear gripping tokens of his affection—shiny silver dollars for me and Kenny.

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Dad didn’t own a car, and I never knew of him leaving the farm, so I wasn’t sure how he got the silver dollars and the rolls of pennies. As a young girl, I thought he must have a secret stash of silver dollars hidden somewhere on his farm—adding yet another layer of interest to his life. But as I grew older, I realized that my great-grandfather went to a great deal of trouble to get those treasures for us. He must have planned well in advance of our visits—asking neighbors to carry him into town to the small community bank to get the coins.

Dad continued to give us these treasures until the day he died. He was ninety-three years old.

I kept every silver dollar Dad gave to me, and I have obediently saved every silver dollar I have come across as an adult. Today, I have my own secret stash of silver dollars. I keep some of them in a Gerber baby food jar cleverly disguised as a pink bunny—a gift my aunt made and gave to me when I was about twelve.

The coins remind me of Dad—Silver Dollar Dad— and how special my siblings and I must have been to him. I appreciate his sharing his knowledge, his love, and his kindness with us. Most of all, I thank him for teaching me that love is often found in the smallest gestures of life, and that these small gestures of love can sometimes make a big difference to a child.
— Dana Cooley-Keith
And Dana made this for me—another keepsake. I love it!

And Dana made this for me—another keepsake. I love it!

Did I mention that Dana is creative and artistic, too? After Project Keepsake was published, she surprised me with a handmade work of art. I keep the canvas on the wall next to my desk. Looking at it makes me smile, reminds me of Dana and her timeless friendship, and inspires me to keep collecting the stories that matter.

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Thank you Dana for your many words of wisdom through the years. I'm so thankful that we met and became thick-as-thieves friends. 

To read all of Dana's story and other stories about keepsakes and the memories they hold, please purchase a copy of Project Keepsake. It's on sale now with no shipping and handling charges. And by the way, it's a great Christmas gift for a loved one, especially when paired with a keepsake.

And as always, please share your keepsake story with me. Everyone has a keepsake, and every keepsake has a story to tell.