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Mack Williams: Grandmother’s funeral and family evolution

Mack Williams

My paternal grandmother, Lelia Parker Williams, passed away in 1965 when I was 14, my grandfather John E. Williams having passed away in 1963. Don’t worry, this is not going to be a genealogical listing, a number of “begats” as is often the case with genealogy. Instead of the “bare bones” of names and dates, I concern myself with information from when those bones were still fleshed-out and walking around.
I remember visiting my paternal grandfather John E. Williams near the end of his life, in the bedroom of his North Wilkesboro home in 1963. He was asleep, with his back to me, almost as if he had realized his then current rest was but a precursor to “the great nap,” and had no inclination to be disturbed.
He was being tended to by my grandmother and their daughter, Ruth.
Ruth Williams’ devotion to her parents was comparable to the Bible’s Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi! She never married and lived at home, making socks for a local North Wilkesboro hosiery company. After her father’s death, she looked after her mother until her passing in 1965.
After devoting her life to her parents, Aunt Ruth lived on until 2007, 42 years later, passing at the age of 95 years. Some might say her life’s first half with her parents was more important than the last half, living by herself; but who can say? One definitely can not say that caring for and giving companionship to her parents was all that kept her going (actually, who knows what keeps us going, is it just chemistry, or something metaphysical?). Those who live in a solitary fashion can also have a beneficial effect upon others, perhaps by being a “singular” beacon!
One day, our gardener at the museum where I work said, “I bet you’ve never seen one of these before!” I replied, “I most certainly have!” It was a hand-powered grass mower. I then said:”My Aunt Ruth used one of these into her late age!” My brother Joe said she was still using one when she was 90!
Let me get back on track, having almost gone on to one death too many; as I meant to stop at the funeral of my paternal grandmother, Lelia Parker Williams.
In the hospital, and seeing an injection made into my grandmother’s intravenous bag, Aunt Ruth said she had seen that before, and hypothesized it was to ease the patient’s death (that may not have been it, but that’s just what she said).
My grandmother’s funeral was held at North Wilkesboro’s Reins-Sturdivant Funeral Home.The minister recited the oft-read Proverbs’ “Good woman” text, highly appropriate for Grandmother Williams.
When time came for the music at my Grandmother Williams’ funeral, it was performed by a little country group consisting of guitars and voice. I remember them as sounding extremely nasal in their singing, and their instrumentality not being very good. My father, Bernard Williams, later said he wished that particular musical group had not been engaged to perform at his mother’s funeral. But my grandmother’s other children (my aunts and uncles) seemed to be perfectly happy with it.
With this memory is also included the memory of a statement made by my late mother, Lorraine Williams. She said my father had gotten out into the world more than his brothers and sisters. A result: his love of all kinds of music (mountain, classical, jazz, etc.) imparted to my brother Joe and me.
The “Berlin Archeopteryx” is that most famous fossil from Germany’s Solenhofen limestone quarry, evincing evolution in the process of transforming dinosaur into bird, like “evolution caught in the act.” That precious fossil was moved during World war II to prevent its being destroyed by Allied bombing (as were also the “Wagner tubas” of Bayreuth).
I guess my father was kind of like that Berlin Archeopteryx. He represented the transition of our Williams family from “somewhat provincial” to “somewhat more worldly.

 

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