Dear Friends of Lexington Odd Fellows Cemetery:
With the approach of Mothers’ Day on Sunday, May 10th, I am not only reminded of my own mother who lived to be almost 101, but also the many other mothers who affected my life growing up in Lexington. Many of them, like our mother, are buried at LOFC. As we struggle to connect as families during these difficult and stressful times, it seemed fitting to reflect upon some of those women who impacted my life and those of so many others.
Some, in addition to being mothers, were also teachers, like Alice Dalton Thurmond, who taught me both Sunday school at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and high school English. She was a gifted teacher and instilled in me the joy of learning.
And there was Elvera Flowers, the mother of my dear friend Anne, who was smart and imbued with exquisite taste and sense of style. She always wore the fragrance Chanel No. 5, and to this day, I too wear it. Sara Elizabeth Ellis was the quintessential homemaker, and one of the best cooks that I have ever known. Gwendolyn Hammett, a real natural beauty, passed on that gift to her five daughters. Mary Elizabeth Hooker, known as Honey, was the epitome of elegance and was the master at getting things done. Juanita Watson, who like my mother lived beyond 100, was always happy and made you feel that she was so glad to see you. Sara Barrett -- beautiful and with a sweet demeanor -- was the daughter of the highly respected Dr. J. E. Stephens, a Methodist minister for whom Camp Lake Stephens was named. Irma Paris, another excellent cook and bridge player, sang in the choir at Temple Beth El and on special occasions at St. Mary’s. Her first cousin, Fay Berman -- another keen bridge player -- was also an excellent cook. I still make her French chocolate cake and Swedish meatballs.
And there were other mothers, who were widowed far too young, forcing them to be the sole providers of their families. My aunt, Ruth Povall, widowed in her 40’s, ran the Povall Printing Company for many years – a tough and grimy business that had always been considered “man’s work.” Young and pretty Billie Stephenson, also in her forties lost her husband Billy, returned to work at First National Bank and raised three smart and outstanding children. Mildred Farmer, the mother of my friend Sylvia, always had a smile and was the “sunshine” at Sunshine Cleaners. I admired these strong women, rising to the challenge of providing for their families and doing it with such grace.
There was the glamorous Josephine Holder Upchurch, later Wilson, who worked at Flowers Department Store, and patiently taught Anne and me how to wrap presents extraordinaire. Frances Wynne with her native wit also worked at Flowers with her sister Alice and later ran Fran’s Drive Inn suffering the unthinkable tragedy of losing her darling daughter Leisa. Dora Pearl Tidwell, who had an amazing collection of costume jewelry, ran the Lexington telephone exchange and taught sister Patty how to operate the switchboard so that she could take a summer job on Martha’s Vineyard. These were all remarkable women who touched our lives. And there were so many others.
Although I do not have any personal recollection of her, my mother often spoke of the highly intelligent Sis Williams. She was a graduate of Cumberland School of Law at a time when women did not practice law. According to her son Parham, Jr., she “had great empathy with the less fortunate in our world – the poor, the neurotic, the egregiously eccentric – and took them under her wing when all others ignored them.” 1. At this epochal time, we need more people like Sis Williams.
Finally, there are those women whose faces and names I do not know – the unsung heroes of so many families that lived in the country. They milked cows, chopped wood, washed on washboards, and grew gardens – all just to feed their children and survive. They did not have the luxury of seeking a higher education or working outside the home. Richard Hammett’s mother Virgie was one of those women. Although she received a college scholarship in nursing, she turned it down to stay home and raise eleven children who all turned out to be good citizens.
If you are reading this letter, I hope your mother is still living and you are able to gladden her heart this Sunday by reaching out to tell her that you love her and are grateful for all that she has done for you. If like so many of us your mother is deceased, light a candle for her in your home or in your heart, which is where she will always be.
In shared sorrow for the mothers that we have loved and lost,
Amanda Povall Tailyour, Editor
ROBERT LEWIS BERMAN, A HOUSE OF DAVID IN THE LAND OF JESUS 272 (2007) ↩︎