By Charles Cooper
Hello everyone, hope you’re having a good week.
Again I want to thank Jack for a picture that is relevant to a particular column. The picture of Newman-Gardner funeral coaches in front of the building really brought back some memories that I sometimes have trouble believing that was a part of my life.
Last week when I talked about the funeral of Ernest Stone, I remembered events I hadn’t thought of for all these years. I was asked to walk behind the casket with the folded flag in my hands and place it on the casket in front of the altar, still folded.
A former Water Valley resident and life-long friend, C. O. Pate preached the funeral. In addition to being a Baptist minister, Mr. Pate owned the Pate funeral home in Senatobia and grew up with Papa Badley’s children. They remained friends all those years. I got to know him when I lived in Senatobia and even attended a small country church he pastored.
He spoke of being friends with Ernest Stone when he was young and became emotional when he told of how Mr. Stone defended him against some people who criticized his first efforts to preach. He said it probably gave him the courage to continue in the ministry. Mr. Stone seems to have been one of those individuals who didn’t stand out, but had such a strength of character that he was always respected.
I heard Charley Ritter’s mother tell my mother that the two had been partners for 40 years and were closer than brothers. One of his mules got out and a neighbor shot him and he was so agitated that he took his close friend, Dr. French to help him try to save the animal. Dr. French said that Mr. Stone had a heart condition and he suddenly said, “I hope this doesn’t cause me to have a heart attack,” and Dr. French said, “You are having one, Ernest.” In minutes he was dead.
The turn out at his funeral showed the respect the community had for him. This is another ordinary person who was never mentioned except in an obituary and is in keeping with the premise of this column to honor their memory.
Another close family friend was Mr. Jim Gore who lived on the Old Oxford Road near Papa Badley’s farm. Mr. Jim was a tall burly, man with an easy laugh and like Papa was a big watermelon grower. He didn’t ship melons as much as Papa and raised a different type, called a Florida giant which had a dark green rind. The Cuban Queen that Papa raised was a striped melon, which was a hybrid developed from a cross with a citrin to give it a tough rind for shipping.
I thought about Mr. Jim when my family came down with the flu after Christmas. He said, “When you hear somebody say they’ve had the flu or something, they’ve had something, because when you have the flu there’s no doubt what you had.”
He was right because Lupe really had a rough time and there was no doubt it was the flu even before the doctor made it official.
Mr. Jim and Miss Roxie had no children and in 1942, Miss Roxie developed pneumonia and died in a few days as there were no antibiotics in those days. Mr. Jim seemed to have been at loose ends after her death and even quit producing his watermelons and only lived a few years after.
I wish I had been old enough to really understand these rugged individualists because they survived during some of the roughest times in our history by their strong will and sense of humor. Their kind, sadly, will never be seen again.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org or write me at P.O. Box 613189 Memphis, TN 38101 and have a great week.