Yesterday was my Dad’s 85th birthday, and my Aunt’s 79th birthday. Yep, that’s right, Aunt Willie was born on my dad’s 6th birthday. He always joked that he wanted a puppy for his birthday and got a sister instead. The two of them, along with their other two brothers, were as close as siblings living in four different states could be.
They all grew up in the tiny farming town of Carthage, in northern central Mississippi. It is beautiful country, and the old farm house and barn structures are still standing and being used. Of course, it now has electricity and indoor plumbing! The fields and cow pastures are leased out to local farmers.
Life took the four siblings in different directions and scattered them to California, Georgia, Ohio, and Mississippi. Family reunions were always a barrel of laughs. It was fun to get together and play with all of our cousins, and life in Mississippi was so very different from California life. There were four of us girls that were all within three years of each other, and we would have a blast at Grandma’s house.
The doors all had skeleton key locks, and we would find really cool old things to play with. One of the things we had a lot of fun with was a porcelain doll with red painted fingernails and toenails. We called this doll Bloody Bones and would scare each other with the doll. The doll would be thrown into bedrooms or go sliding down the wooden floored hallway banging into walls while we screamed. Sometimes we would give her such a shove that she would end up in the living room with the adults, and we would have to go running in there screaming and laughing to retrieve Bloody Bones. We didn’t know until years later that Bloody Bones was actually one of our aunt’s most prized possessions as a child, and that she had painted her nails to make her fashionable.
Aunt Willie (her name was Willie Mae, her parents names squished together Willie and Lily Mae) was a hoot. She always had a big beautiful smile, a bubbly personality, and laughter on her lips. She was my favorite aunt. She worked as a flight attendant in her early years, where she met and married her husband, Uncle French. They settled in Ohio, where she went to work for the Quaker Oats company as an executive secretary until she retired.
After she retired at age 62, Aunt Willie decided to go to college. She graduated with a Master Degree 5 years later, Magna Cum Laude. She was an inspiration and an amazing woman.
Aunt Willie always made her nieces and nephews feel special and well-loved, even from clear across the country. You could always call and talk to her for how ever long you wanted. We had several hour long phone calls (maybe longer sometimes). She was there for us no matter what.
For the past 10-years, Aunt Willie has been struggling with pancreatic cancer. She always kept an upbeat and positive outlook. Yesterday, I called to wish her a happy 79th birthday. Her granddaughter answered the telephone. I had missed Aunt Willie by 45 minutes. This lovely, fun, and amazing woman had peacefully fallen asleep and gone to heaven. She will be missed by so many. Memories of Aunt Willie are and will be forever cherished.