Mack Williams: Memory book
This concerns that “funeral memory book” from the night table mentioned in last week’s column, “Night Next Door,” where I stayed overnight in a house whose owner is temporarily in a rest home.
The book was dedicated to Charlie Guthrie’s wife, Margaret Hursey Guthrie (1919-1971) mother of Charles Guthrie, owner of the house in which I “house sat,” or rather, “house slept.”
The signers represent a small town’s “who’s who.” As I mention some names, you might wonder: “Why mention names probably unknown to us!”
Answer: “I knew them, their names were part of them, not just “something they were called!” Having lived over three decades in Yanceyville,when seeing only “half-a- married couple’s” signature, I automatically knew whether or not death was the reason.
Director of Caswell Funeral Home, Roy S. Hooper, Salisbury native, first employed at Summersett Funeral Home.
Roy passed away some years ago, and I’ve always thought it especially sad when a funeral director dies, as if “handling” death might provide some mystical, innoculative immunity from it.
Rev Carroll Spivey, long time Yanceyville First Baptist minister officiated. I later sang at some funerals officiated by him.
Mrs. Nancy Rudd, First Baptist’s organist, played “When They Ring Those Golden Bell” and “My God and I.” Nancy also played at mine and my late wife, Diane’s wedding in 1974.
Dorothy Zimmerman, Caswell County Schools Supervisor, who when even in her 70s was handy with binoculars for bird watching, and of good enough unaided vision to watch meteor showers.
Nettie Bray and her son Wayne, both handlers of my family’s life insurance (her name always made me think of Scotland).
Town barber, Bruce (not “Floyd”) Ellis signed.
High school teacher Norman Upchurch was an institution! Some things he said in his classroom would probably result in dismissal in this present world of “hurt feelings,” with heart worn not just on one sleeve cuff, but “quartered” into its four chambers, each “sensitively” displayed upon each cuff of shirt and pants for maximum receipt of “offense”(gosh! sounds masochistic!).
One day, a very tall student propped some books at the top of the classroom entrance door, so that upon entry, Mr. Upchurch would be “pummeled” by them. The student miscalculated and Mr. Upchurch was untouched. Mr. Upchurch revealed his knowledge of the culprit’s identity by responding: “If I had I ladder, I would climb it and punch the SOB who did this right in the face!”
Even though that funeral book was not a Bible, I did see a “red-lettered” name: Clarence Graves. Mr. Graves was an African-American pillar of the community and work-mate of Mrs. Guthrie at Yanceyville Drug Company. All of the other names were signed in black ink, so I think Mr. Graves chose to use his own pen.
Curtis Davis was one of Caswell County’s first EMTs in the 1970s and later, Yanceyville’s first mayor after incorporation.
Mrs. Ralph Shatterly and David (David, friend and co-worker at Caswell County DSS, brother of Rowan’s Ralph Shatterly, this “Mrs. Ralph Shatterly,” their mother, and still with us in her nineties!).
Mr. and Mrs. Hoyt Moore (my father-in-law and mother-in-law). Hoyt coached hundreds of kids in American Legion Baseball and taught many future auto mechanics at Yanceyville’s Bartlett Yancey High School. His wife, Doris worked at Northwestern Bank and later became a highly respected tax preparer in the community.
Out of the register fell an old photograph of Mrs. Guthrie and friends sitting near a lake in bathing suits on a sunny day. The aging of the black-and-white snapshot made for a sickly-yellow sepia sunlight. The green grass was a lush, dark gray; and seeing Mrs. Guthrie seated on the grass, I imagined her past joys above ground.
Placing the register back within the night table drawer, I thought of each of us being one day “published” in such a book, every signer a “footnote” of greater or lesser meaning in our lives.