Down on His Luck No Longer, Oscar Lorick Is Back on His Farm, Cultivating a Smile

updated 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 04/14/1986 AT 01:00 AM EST

Spring brought an early, yet overdue, crop of joy as Good Friday turned out to be just that for Oscar Lorick of Cochran, Ga. When last we left the 66-year-old farmer (PEOPLE, Dec. 16), he was on the verge of repaying the bank that had repossessed most of his farming equipment and foreclosed on his land and house because of a debt of more than $100,000.

Well, things didn't go quite as planned, in spite of the efforts of Frank Argenbright Jr., an Atlanta businessman who came to Lorick's rescue when he heard about the illiterate farmer's plight on the radio. At first, Argenbright appeared in a ski mask in hopes of remaining anonymous. His initial fund-raising efforts proved disappointing. "I wrote letters to 500 corporations," says the 38-year-old angel, "asking them to contribute. One major corporation gave $50. I was shocked."

Argenbright, who is white, soon realized he was spending more on the campaign than he was receiving in contributions, so in December he enlisted the aid of Harry L. Ross (who is black), a public-opinion expert and pollster from Atlanta. Together they decided to take Argenbright out from behind the ski mask and to begin a statewide grass-roots appeal to all the black church congregations in Georgia.

Ross and Lorick proceeded to travel 8,650 miles to every church that would have them. "When we explained we were trying to help this black farmer," says Ross, "they gave more money than they could afford, I'm sure." Seventy-two percent of the money needed to buy back the farm was raised this way, but Lorick was still $18,590 short 24 hours before the bank's deadline. At the last minute the Kroger grocery store chain stepped in and made up the difference.

It was an overjoyed Oscar Lorick who, with his wife, Virginia, climbed aboard Argenbright's motor home for the two-hour ride to Cochran on Good Friday. The theme from Rocky blared forth from the vehicle's outside speakers. When Lorick stepped out of the motor home, he walked without a word to his tractor, cranked it up and drove off into the field. His field.

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