March in Women’s History Month, and in celebration of this, here is some information about the life of one of my most favorite women.
She was born on March 20, 1921, in a small town in the South. Her father worked for the railroad and her mother was known for her seamstress skills. She attended local schools, even after her elementary school was destroyed in a tornado. She graduated from high school one year late because she had rheumatic fever and could not attend classes in what was to be the final semester of her senior year.
She married at age nineteen, and remained married to the same man for the rest of her life. He was older than she by six years and was a former high school football player. Like her father, he, too, worked for the railroad. They lived in an upstairs apartment above his parents home for twenty five years. She worked at a few office jobs before finding her “calling” in millinery.
She loved hats, and was primarily self-taught in the designing and manufacturing of them. She opened her own business in the early 1960’s and continued it until her death forty years later. She made hats and taught others to make them as well. Her stores were filled with millinery supplies as well as designs of her own creation.
She had a good eye for fashion, both in clothing and in interior design. After she and her husband purchased their own home, she loved collecting antiques, particularly the primitive kind, and she filled her home with unique pieces of furniture and accessories. She loved to entertain with low lighting and lots of candles. She was a fabulous cook, often serving up to ten different items for dinner. She was warm and welcoming to all of her guests.
She had a kind heart and always made people feel comfortable. She continually looked for ways to make others feel happy and fulfilled. She and her husband invited her widowed mother to live with them when they bought their rambling riverside home, and soon afterward her husband’s widowed father moved into a garage apartment with them, too.
After sixteen years of marriage, and giving up hope of ever having children, she and her husband discovered they were expecting. Their only child, a daughter, became the center of their lives. She was a doting mother, yet always pushed her shy child into new experiences throughout her life. She made sure she had the best education possible, and supported her daughter’s dreams in whatever ways that she could. Much later, she was just as encouraging to her two grandchildren as well.
She was a deeply religious woman, expressing her faith in belief as well as action. She was very involved in her church, from membership on the building committee to designing costumes for the musical holiday programs. Her community activities reflected that faith, such as being a member of the auxiliary at the hospital and helping with numerous projects there.
When it was discovered that the bone cancer she had battled was taking over her body and she realized that her time on earth was short, she never looked back. “I am not afraid to die, because I know where I am going,” she said dry-eyed from her bed as those around her wept. And a few days later she passed quietly, just before Easter, where she was no doubt helping others don their Easter bonnets on her first resurrection day with her Lord.
Happy Birthday, Mama. You blessed us all when you were here among us, and I look so forward to seeing you again one day. Thank you for making me who I am. I love you.