She was born in 1929 in Bossier City, Louisiana, right across the Red River from downtown Shreveport. She was one of eight siblings. Four boys and four girls. Four blonds and four brunettes (she was one of the blonds). Her parents operated a small dairy farm and whatever else it took to keep a family of 10 fed and cared for.
Less than four months after her birth, the stock market crashed. The Great Depression started and looked like it would never end, and it kept coming back all through the 1930s. She was 12 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, bringing the United States officially into World War II. She was 16 when the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, ending the war.
For the first 16 years of her life, hard economic times and then war were what she knew as normal. But back then you didn’t complain and whine about normal; you just got on with it. And she did. She got married in 1948 to a career Navy guy who thought he was retired after World War II but then got rediscovered by Uncle Sam for the Korean War. Their first child, a daughter, was born after he was sent to the Navy base in San Diego. Two sons would follow. I married her daughter.
Give my mother-in-law a choice of doing something outside or inside, and she’ll pick outside every time. She loves outside. She still cuts her own grass (and it’s a BIG yard) and the neighbor’s grass. She grows flowers and vegetables. Her azaleas are gigantic. She fights moles and squirrels. Especially squirrels. Her battles with the squirrels are legendary. Yesterday she went chasing the blackbirds from her fig tree. They haven’t come back.
She’s athletic and, I suspect, the source of the athletic genes that permeate my two sons. I still remember playing a game of H-O-R-S-E with her at the backyard basketball hoop. She beat my oldest son, who was mortified to be beaten by his grandmother. And she beat me, but I wasn't the competitive challenger my son was. I expected to be beaten.
Even with her on crutches at the time.
Her refrigerator is crowded with photographs of children, grandchildren and some of the children she’s cared for over the years. Children love her. And she loves children.
She flies an American flag in her front yard. And she’s proud to do that. She's a good neighbor, generous to a fault, and likely something of an institution in the neighborhood. She’s the stuff that made America a force to be reckoned with.
Once you get past the scores of framed photographs of children and grandchildren, you see that the inside of her house resembles a Christian book store – Bibles of every kind, meditations, commentaries and Christian novels. She loves reading Christian novels, and she reads them voraciously. Authors like Beverly Lewis, Jan Karon, Olive Ann Burns, Tracie Peterson, Terri Blackstock and Beverly LaHaye. And Jerry Jenkins. She loves a good story told well.
Today she’s 80, moves like 50 and is as much fun as a totally mischievous 10-year-old. And she just spied another squirrel up to no good out in the yard.