May 23, 2021

AT JUST THE RIGHT TIME

Ernest was a recent graduate of David Lipscomb College when he and his wife Glenda came to Athens where he became the minister of our small church of Christ congregation.  The church had recently undergone an expansion and renovation and this new pulpit, the pews and the communion table (which is now in my Florida room) were contributions from my father.  

I was 12 when they came—and felt like they were my new best friends!  It was a difficult and lonely few years for me—with Arley’s health declining.  By 1952 he was partially paralyzed from a stroke and spent most of his time in a wheelchair. He worried whenever I left the house so I spent most of my time in my room reading book after book.

Glenda was a beautiful brunette from Puryear, Tennessee and had met Ernest during her freshman year at Lipscomb.  He was a junior and they married during his senior year.  His family lived in Chattanooga, so the Athens area was familiar to him.  He later told me that our church offered him a rental house near the property, $200 a month for preaching plus some extra pay for doing the church janitorial services.  My parents both loved them and invited them to eat with us really often.  Ernest would occasionally take my father to the barbershop or for drives to give Mother a break.

I absolutely loved spending time with this couple—they didn’t ever talk down to me or treat me like a child.  Ernest was very intelligent and well-read and always willing to discuss books, current events and philosophy with me.  I also learned a lot from him about what college life might be like.  A favorite memory is when he and I were so eager to see the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Ernest managed to get a family from church who had a television set (which we didn’t have) to invite us to watch it at their home.  Glenda was eight months pregnant and not nearly as excited about staying up late and driving to watch the coronation as we were.  When we finally started home, she said she was going to lie down in the back seat—which she did!  Their son Ernie was born that July.  Arley died on August 12 and Ernest conducted his funeral.  Just a week later—on August 19—Mother fixed a birthday lunch for Glenda.  She was just 21 and a happy new mother!

Later that fall, they moved to Murray, Kentucky, where a larger church had offered them a more stable position. I was devastated—but so thankful for the two hard years when they had been such loving friends to me.

We stayed in touch over the years—with them living primarily in Birmingham and Montgomery.  In the mid-1980s they moved to Nashville where their son Ernie and daughter Elizabeth were living. I saw them occasionally when on visits—and then when I moved to Nashville in 2001, we had some lovely visits both in their home and mine.  Once when they were here for dinner, I suddenly realized we were sitting at the same dining room table as the one pictured above on Glenda’s 21st birthday!  We were amazed at that thought!

Ernest continued being very curious and eager to learn, and he taught computer courses for seniors at the downtown library. He self-published quite a few books, and this memoir was his last.  Notice the Athens pulpit photo on the cover, as well as pictures of him with Eleanor Roosevelt and George Wallace.   Always beautiful and gentle, Glenda enjoyed living near her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren here in Nashville.  Our bond remained strong.

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