By Betty Shearer
I am presently reading a delightful book about Water Valley Native Lynn Arthur Smith, given me several months ago by his wife, Dollie Smith, also a Vallian.
A Lively Mind, written by John S. Neel, is a biography of Dr. Smith, and is the story of a gifted teacher. It also includes many of his verses, talks and other writings.
The book tells of his growing up years in Water Valley and mentions many people whom I have known since becoming a resident. Born September 12, 1912, he was a son of the late Mrs. Ruby Blanche Hodge Smith, who for many years was an elementary school teacher in the Water Valley School System, and Robert Fulton Smith, who worked in the ICRR Shops. He had one brother, Varda, who was 19 months older. A couple of folks mentioned are a cousin, the late Professor Noel Bell, and his childhood friend, the late Joe Elliott. Several of his high school essays are included in this chapter. They shed light on a keen mind and a sharp wit.
His military service years (World War II) are included and during this chapter you will find his poems.
For the romantics there is a chapter of his courtship and marriage to Dollie, which you know was my favorite. They were the parents of two children, Sharon and Mickey. The book is dedicated to Sharon, an outstanding young teacher, who lost her life in an automobile accident. She was married to Thomas Pafford and was teaching in Camden, Tennessee at the time of her death.
Dr. Smith’s education, along with his years as an educator, are the meat of the work. His first three years of undergraduate work were at Delta State. He spent his senior year at the University of Mississippi, where he earned his BS degree. He taught in several high schools in Mississippi before going to Livingston, Alabama in 1954, where he was an English Professor until his death in 1977. During these years he went on to get his Masters and his Doctorate. Included in this book is a brief history of the college at Livingston from its beginning until the present—now known as The University of West Alabama—very interesting for history buffs.
This book has so much more, but I want tell all here, you need to get a copy and read it for yourself. If you are interested in purchasing one, I’m sure Dollie Smith will be glad to give you the information you need to do so, or you can come by the office and I’ll give you a copy of the order form included in the back of my book.
Still on the subject of educators, I was shocked when word came Sunday of the death of good friend, Rodney Childress, long-time Vocational Agriculture Teacher at Water Valley High School. I knew his family before I knew him. His parents lived on the Pope-Crowder Road, in the city limits of Pope.
Their home had a front porch, on which a swing had been hung. If you passed the home in the afternoon Mrs. Childress was almost always there to wave at you. If it was in the evening, both Mr. and Mrs. Childress waved at you. Mr. Childress was the rural mail carrier for Pope for many years. I also knew Rodney’s sister, Mrs. Katherine Nelson, who taught youngest brother, Don, in first grade at Pope School.
She is a sweet person, as was the entire Childress family. Then I came to the Valley and met Rodney and Dale and the late Tom and Mary Lou Hill Childress. Dale and Rodney were in the office just a few weeks ago and Rodney was straightening me out on some of our mutual friends—I have trouble keeping all the families sorted out.
He didn’t have time to finish my lesson and promised to come back to complete his task. I always enjoyed our visits and I will miss him. Sympathy is extended to Dale, Rod, Jan, “Miss Katherine” and the entire family. He was loved and will be missed.
Dr. William Keith, another long-time educator, also died recently. Son, Billy Byrd, brought us an obituary on Monday. I had not kept up with Dr. Keith, even though I had seen his name on the various prayer lists. I just had not found anyone who could tell me what was wrong. Billy says that he had heart by-pass surgery, from which he did not recover. He told me that he was in ICU for about eight months prior to his death.
Daughter Patricia was in Jim’s class, beginning in Lilly Horan’s Kindergarten. They had “Show and Tell” each week and one week, shortly after his birth, Patricia brought Billy Bryd as her show and tell. She was a beautiful girl and was one of our Watermelon Queens.
All the Keith children (Patricia, Billy Byrd, Margaret, and John) were brilliant, beautiful or handsome. Wife, Elizabeth, was also a very smart and talented person and she and William were excellent parents and citizens. Dr. Keith taught at Ole Miss for many years. I always enjoyed visiting with him, Elizabeth, and all of the children. Sympathy is extend to the entire family.
Another Vallian lost last week was Good Friend Billy Aston. For many years Billy brought his daughter, Nikki, in for her music lessons with Ed. Billy would usually just wait for her and we’d sit and talk. He was an amazing person, excellent at his job, and surviving medical problems that I could not even imagine. He just smiled all the time and went about his business as if there was nothing wrong with him. I had not been around Billy much in the last several years, but kept up with him through visits from Nikki and talking to wife, Pat ,from time to time. Sympathy is extended to Pat, Chris, Kerry, Nikki and the entire family.
The Valley lost a beloved and valuable citizen this week with the passing of Dr. Bo Melicevic. Dr. Bo had fought a long, hard battle with cancer. He and his wife, Dr. Dee, have cared for the sick of Water Valley for several years now and he will be missed. For a long time Dr. Bo wrote a medical column for the Herald, and either he or Dee brought it in each Monday morning and I got to visit with them. Since his illness I’ve missed seeing them. Sympathy is extended to Dee and the entire family.
Fun this past week had to take a back-burner to work. Friday I dusted, vacuumed, washed and scrubbed my house—didn’t make a dent. Jimmie, Bill and Bill’s right-hand-man, Derek, came over Saturday and we moved (Bill and Derek mostly) furniture that had been stored in the attic, living room, dining room, and any other spot available while having new floors installed.
After the men left, Jimmie and I continued to put smaller items back in place. We moved about a thousand bricks off the patio, making room for work. Sunday morning I didn’t think I was going to get out of bed.
Finally managed to get to the shower and after standing under the hot water for a long time, I got dressed for church. Still hurting, I ran by the office to find an Advil. You still can’t find anything at the house—like to have never found clothes to wear to church.
Arriving at Mom’s, I asked Jimmie if her back hurt. An emphatic, yes, followed by, and my shoulders, arms, legs and all the rest of me! Well, my arms didn’t hurt until Monday morning and they still do. They don’t just hurt they’re sore to the touch.
Sunday afternoon we had to move more furniture at Mom’s. Jan and Jim Ward had given us a lift chair and hospital bed—the lift chair which she needs now and the hospital bed will probably be needed down the road. When we went to pick up the furniture, Jan had given me directions. Of course, I missed the driveway and Bill, following in the pickup pulling a trailer, had to go on down to Dot Terry’s driveway and make a difficult turn. I’m sure I got called some bad names, but he just smiled and let it go—he’s a good fellow. Jim met us at the door, in full formal dress. He says, “I always dress to greet my guests!” Reason for the formal attire was that he was off to a Masonic function, but we did have a great laugh. Jan gave us a tour of their home and shared a Santa with Jimmie—they’re both collectors. We enjoyed our visit and our tour. We then got to bridge and Jan told us that Mildred Harmon was in town for the day and that they were going to play at Dot Knox’s home that afternoon. We invited her to come and play with us sometimes. From her description of their games, it sounded like she’d fit right in with our group.
Hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving. We’re eating at Mom’s . The men are planning a deer hunt and the women are going to make the annual pilgrimage to Merigold and McCarty Pottery.