Few people have lived as long in Brookhaven or seen it change as much as Nelle Kee Earley, who first arrived around 1948. Born in Luthersville, Georgia, Earley graduated high school and came to Atlanta during WW II to study business at the Atlanta School of Commerce downtown. She became a bookkeeper at Sinclair Oil on West Peachtree, a company vital to the U.S. war effort.
At Sinclair, Nelle met John Earley in the company treasury department. When asked if it was love at first sight, she says “Not exactly, but he was handing out the paychecks!” They dated and went to movies in Atlanta and outings at Stone Mountain. They fell in love, married in 1943 at Second Ponce de Leon Church in Buckhead, and lived in a Juniper Street apartment. As they looked for a new home after WW II ended, John’s brother Bobby, living on Sixth Street in Chamblee, suggested Brookhaven as a good place to buy land and build a house.
“It seemed so far out in those days, eight miles from Atlanta,” Nelle remembers. She and John found a good lot off Briarwood Road in a rural area that had been farmland. The most difficult materials to find were nails. Metal had been so scarce during WW II, so Nelle went to various hardware stores, buying one or two pounds at a time.
Nelle and John decided to build a brick house, rare in that part of Brookhaven in the postwar era. For its foundation, they chose granite from the quarries of Stone Mountain. By 1948 they had moved into the only residence in the area and it was there they raised three children, Carol, Doug and Johnette. The children went to Brookhaven School (where their parents voted) and Cross Keys High, which opened in 1958. For years, Nelle has attended the Brookhaven Baptist Church. She remembers construction of the current sanctuary in 1960 and still attends. ”I love Brookhaven,” says Nelle Earley. “It has been wonderful to see it grow and expand.”
-Dr. Paul Hudson