November 24, 2021


Heather and I left Atlanta on a Delta flight to London on Thanksgiving Day, 1993. My family wasn’t one for overseas travel.  The one who spent the most time abroad was my brother Glenn and that was as an Army medic during World War II.  I’d always been fascinated with England and the Royal family. So when the chance to visit Patrick in London came up, I persuaded Heather to go with me. This is a photo Brent took of the three of us after we went to hear Vivaldi’s Four Seasons at a candlelight concert at St. Martin-in-the-Fields on Trafalgar Square.  It was a wonderful evening of music—on our last night in London.

We stayed at this lovely old hotel on Buckingham Palace Road!  The site was once part of the Buckingham Palace grounds, and featured shops and apartments for the Palace staff. The Royal Mews can be seen from the hotel, and we walked by it every morning.  This is the Palace’s stables where all the historic coaches, carriages and cars of the Royal family are housed, as well as the horses. I could hardly believe I was actually that close to the Palace!

We covered a lot of territory during our short stay.  Patrick and Brent had been living and working there several months and were great tour guides.  It definitely was a one of a kind Thanksgiving week—one I remember each year at this time. 

November 23, 2021

In a wacky family like mine, we’re always trying to figure out who is kin to whom!  It was always terribly confusing to me when I was a child, and now my children and grandchildren often have to check with me to be sure who’s related and how. 

I was especially sad to find out I wasn’t actually related to the Hurst family—as Granny and Aunt Nannie Belle were some of my favorite people.  They always warmly embraced me as their own—so I decided some of your family just aren’t relatives!

My brother Glenn felt left out when he found himself outnumbered by his stepfather’s family—the three Eaves sons and one daughter. And he often shared holiday gatherings with them, where he felt like he didn’t belong. 

Another interesting connection was the Burger family. My father’s first wife was Alta Burger. That meant that all my Eaves siblings were related to the Burgers, but I wasn’t.  I met and knew two of Alta’s sisters—Pearl Mercer and Ide Pierce. Pearl was a widow who lived across the street from our church, and worshipped there. Ide and her husband Fate lived in a small house above the table factory and near the hosiery mill.  There were other Burger children but I only met these two sisters.

The smiling woman in the center of this photo is Aunt Ide’s granddaughter, Yvonne Raper. Her mother Elizabeth and my sister Tootsie were always close, and Yvonne and her brothers were close to the ages of Tootsie’s sons.  Tootsie and Elizabeth were both known as excellent Southern cooks, and Yvonne carries on that tradition.

She’s one of those small town “salt of the earth” people! Never married, she’s cared for her parents and siblings and many others. For many years, she was in charge of the Athens public school cafeterias. She can whip up a mouth-watering meal for six or sixty without batting an eye. She also enjoys preparing fancier fare for receptions or banquets. 

She’s also enjoyed traveling with friends and has been elected several times to serve on the local city council. She is one of the most thoughtful and unselfish people I’ve ever known. She’s family—but not a relative.

She was especially close to Tootsie’s oldest son Jerry and his family.  This photo was taken in Jerry and Marilyn’s kitchen in the 1990s where the Eaves family had gathered for Monte’s funeral.  Yvonne sprang into action to serve everyone a wonderful lunch. After Jerry’s death, she has been the chief advocate for Marilyn. When Marilyn needed to go to assisted living, Yvonne is the one person who visits her regularly, looks out for her house and business affairs, and cooks some of those favorite dishes to remind her of home. It’s true that you don’t have to be related to be family—and Yvonne is the living proof of that.

November 22, 2021


These two friends are Jeannie and Debby—at my house in South Carolina for brunch on Jeannie’s wedding day. I met both of them when we worked together at CENTA Medical Group.  Jeannie came as an audiologist and some years later, married one of the group’s physicians, Ed Woody. Debby was from a small town called Johnsonville and came to work as a medical assistant at this practice after she graduated from high school.  Debby worked with Dr. Bill Fravel until he retired, and then with Dr. Woody. 

Debby’s husband Eddie Prosser was a handsome banker in Columbia. They loved the water and built a home on beautiful Lake Murray where they enjoyed boating, swimming and fishing. He was unmatched at whole hog barbecue! He would borrow his family’s improvised barbecue pit (a large metal barrel on wheels) and jugs of the Prossers’ own barbecue sauce. All through the night, the meat would be slowly cooked and basted until it practically fell off the bone. So delicious and a real South Carolina tradition.

Debby has a beautiful smile and such a compassionate heart.  Patients always adored her, and she had a knack for putting them at ease.  Dr. Fravel sometimes had a brusque manner and Debby’s warmth prevailed. 

Over the years, the Fravels and Prossers became close friends and spent many hours together. Debby joined Bible studies led by Sallie Fravel and as her faith deepened, she saw her work with patients as a ministry of grace.

After Dr. Fravell’s retirement, their friendship continued and Debby continued working alongside 

Dr. Woody.  Eddie had some serious health issues for several years, and Debby’s love and encouragement helped get him through those hard times. She and Eddie continue their lakeside life now after retirement—South Carolina folks at their best!

November 21, 2021


This was the first photo I saw of little Raquel when I became her Compassion International sponsor back in 2009. She was only three years old at the time, and today she turns 16.  She lives in the coastal area east of Lima, Peru, with her parents and a much younger brother. Through Compassion, she receives many benefits of learning, health care, Bible study, and financial assistance. 

This second photo was made when she was about ten years old.  We’ve communicated through letters sent back and forth—first from a translator and later, written in Spanish by Raquel with a translation following. She’s only about six months younger than my grandsons Sam and Eli and almost a year older than Charlotte. That makes me feel closer to her, although I know her life is much different from theirs. The impact of the pandemic has been extremely difficult, and most of the school and extracurricular activities she enjoyed so much disappeared. Outreach workers stay in contact with the families and provide assistance, but I know it has disrupted her life very seriously.  I can only hope she and her family have remained healthy and that vaccines will be available to them soon.

This was the latest photo I had of her, taken at school just before the pandemic. Charlotte has always enjoyed reading the letters from Raquel and has included her own notes and drawings for her when I replied.  I always keep one of her photos on my refrigerator with the latest ones of the grandkids.

Raquel has written about her large extended family, naming a long list of cousins who live in the mountains and talking of visits to her grandmother and aunt.  She dreams of being able to travel, wanting most to visit Brazil, Russia and the United States.  She once mentioned that she would really like to become a travel agent! She’s written about playing volleyball and soccer, said her favorite colors are purple and pink, and described the items (always clothes and shoes) she was able to buy with my birthday money gifts.  She has said they had turkey and cocoa for Thanksgiving, and described some of her favorite Peruvian dishes.Here’s wishing that Raquel is well, celebrating her birthday with her family and friends, and that some of her dreams will come true.

November 20, 2021


Some years ago, friends sent me this photo from their vacation in the Smokies.  This charming motel on the banks of the Little River in Townsend, Tennessee was where Tom and I spent our honeymoon in late August, 1961.  

We decided to go to the Smokies since we would be driving cross country to Houston, Texas a few weeks later for Tom to finish his graduate studies at Rice University.  Earlier in the summer we drove up from Athens to canvass the area for a honeymoon spot.  We didn’t relish the commercialism of Gatlinburg.  Near Cade’s Cove we came upon the Derris House Motel in Townsend.  Tom soon struck up a lively conversation with the owner, Claude Derris.  He had been a Chicago watchmaker and retired to this spot a decade or so earlier.  

The pine-paneled guest rooms (not air conditioned but with plenty of windows to open and catch the mountain air) were rustic but cozy and well-furnished. There was a large lobby with an antique pump organ, comfortable seating and a large projector and screen. Claude explained that he was an amateur photographer and each evening guests were invited to come for his slide show and lecture about the sights, flora and fauna of the Smokies.

The deciding factor in booking our reservation was Redbud, Claude’s beautiful old Bluetick coonhound.  The back lawn sloped down to the Little River, where Claude kept paddle boats for guests to use. Redbud always drank from the river and now that he was getting feeble, Claude bought him bowls of water up from the river every day. He said on a visit back to Chicago, poor Redbud almost died because he wouldn’t drink the water!

Of course we spent much of our honeymoon there with Redbud and at Claude’s slide shows of mountain scenery.  We returned for visits several times and always got a friendly welcome from Claude and Redbud.

Today I discovered that Mr. Derris’ slide collection (over 4,000 of them) was donated to the University of Tennessee Library, where they are part of the Special Collections.  I viewed some of them online, with his texts identifying each scene. They were made by an excellent photographer, but more importantly, by a man who loved the mountains, the Little River and his Bluetick coonhound.

November 19, 2021


One Thanksgiving weekend when we were all together in Nashville, I arranged a family photo shoot.  Ashley was a young colleague downtown who had a nifty new camera and I hired her to take photos of us that Saturday morning.  She asked us to meet her at The Factory in Franklin, where she had done other photo shoots.  There were lovely old brick walls inside that made great backgrounds and outdoor benches outside.  

The kids all really liked Ashley and were very happy to pose in various settings. She took lots of shots—of the four little cousins together, individual shots of each of them, and family portraits. The photo above was one of the foursome—Charlotte in her pink dress with the bunny rabbit, and the boys in their Christmas sweaters. Eli and Charlotte took the prize for “missing teeth” smiles. Sam and Eli were 8, Charlotte 7 and Ezra 3.  So much cuteness.

By the end of our time together, Ezra was tired and it was more challenging to get a picture with everyone smiling.  It was delightful to get all the edited digital photos from Ashley the next week and then to have prints made for everyone.  I kept my framed photos—both the individual and group shots—on my living room shelf for several years. 

This was the photo of me with the four grandkids that day.  By this time, Ezra was a bit squirmy and Sam was beginning to look tired of smiling. They are certainly much more grown up now, but they still love being together and don’t mind being photographed occasionally.  I’m still wearing the sweater I have on in this photo—they certainly aren’t wearing the same clothes this Thanksgiving, tall as they all are.  

November 18, 2021


This is a photo of Sarah Sitzlar with her youngest daughter.  Like my sister Tootsie, she was a young war widow.  Her husband Bill died in the USS Indianapolis disaster near the end of World War II.  Like Tootsie’s husband Joe, he was a Fireman first class on the ship and probably died instantly when the ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. There were several other men from McMinn County who died in this naval tragedy.  They were in their twenties—Bill Sitzlar was 26—and left young wives and children, parents and siblings to grieve and figure out how to move forward.

These women became close friends during the first few years after the war.  Sarah had four children, Tootsie three. They could get together at each other’s homes, share meals, let their kids play together, and sit up late talking about how they were going to survive. 

I went to school with the Sitzlar and Rowden kids and often joined in the group when they all got together. Often I’d wind up sitting with the moms and listening to their conversations about being single parents, about their loneliness, and about always being on duty with their kids.  Sharing their loss and worries seemed to give them all new strength.  And they also had fun together, taking their families on short trips or outings.

After a few years, they made other friends, got jobs or went to college, and Sarah remarried.  But their shared history knit them together for life.  They were young and strong—and survivors.

November 17, 2021


Class reunions aren’t really big events for our family.  I know people who never miss one and genuinely enjoy staying in touch with their high school and college friends every year.  That’s a special gift to be cherished.  Somehow I’ve always found more pleasure in adding those new friendships year by year—and not felt very connected to the person I was in high school and college. Heather and Patrick have also attended only a few class reunions. 

The photo on the right is one I took when Heather came home to go to her 10th high school reunion with her friends Tammy and Kim.  I had taken the photo on the left in my living room when they were getting ready to graduate from Irmo High School. So I had them pose there again as they were going to their tenth reunion.

By the tenth anniversary, Tammy and Kim were both married, and I think Kim already had her two children. Heather was still a few years away from meeting her Paul!  I put the two photos into one picture frame and always loved seeing that their smiles were unchanged!

I only went to one reunion of my high school class—the fortieth!  I drove over from South Carolina and stayed with Jerry and Marilyn for the weekend.  The event was at the local country club, and Jerry was my date for the evening!  He graduated a couple of years after me and had lots of friends in my class. We had a lovely time.

And I only went to one of my college class reunions—the fiftieth.  By that time, I’d moved to Nashville and reconnected with several friends from Lipscomb.  It was a good evening sharing stories of our college days and remembering those who couldn’t be with us.

It’s a strange feeling to see someone you haven’t seen in many years—and try to discover something in their changed appearance that reminds you of their younger self. Often the smile is what seems most familiar! And that’s a good thing.

November 16, 2021


With Steve, you never know where he might be off exploring next!  A few years ago, this was the Christmas card photo of him and his wife Gwen on a trip to Papua, New Guinea!  Another year they were on camels in the Middle East or bundled up on the ice in Antarctica. They might be in a village in Spain for a few months or climbing remote mountains or visiting favorite wineries in the Napa Valley.  All from their home base in Long Beach, California.

I met Steve over 20 years ago when he came as a consultant to help wrap up a downtown business improvement district in Columbia.  We really enjoyed working together and after that project was successful, he invited me to join him in a year-long management contract with the Nashville Downtown Partnership.  He hired me as a member of his Urban Place Consulting Group and in July, 2001, we became the interim managers in Nashville.  He spent two or three days a week in Nashville, then flew off to other downtown management consulting jobs or home for the weekend.  I was the “on site” staff person.  Our contract was extended until we recruiting a permanent executive in 2003.  At that time, I became a Partnership staff member as I wanted to make Nashville my home.

Over the next 14 years, Steve came back to Nashville to work on specific consulting projects for us, and it was always great to renew our friendship and working relationship. He and Gwen even came to Nashville for Heather’s wedding!  

Steve loves life—and people.  He’s had so many types of jobs—such as driving a cement truck, operating an ice cream store, and being a travel agent. He became a leading expert on the revitalization of downtowns, which had been in decline as suburbs and shopping malls rose in popularity. He is very effective at listening to city property owners’ concerns and working with them to make improvements.  Whether he’s talking to hundreds of people or a single individual, he gives his best counsel and respects their decisions.

Steve’s whole family live in the Long Beach area.  For years, his siblings took their parents out to breakfast every Saturday morning. He and Gwen both have daughters from their first marriages, all of whom live nearby with their families. When I first met Steve, his only grandchildren were one daughter’s young twin sons. They now have finished college and are well on their way in their careers.  

Today is Steve’s birthday!  He’s one of the people who have made such a difference in my life. The photo below was taken of us at the 2017 Partnership anniversary where I was honored as I retired.  It wouldn’t have been complete without having Steve there—after all, he is responsible for my getting to work and live in Nashville.

November 15, 2021


While he was a student and football player at Duke, Easy met a petite young Durham girl who worked in one of the campus offices. Her dimples and beautiful smile soon captured the heart of this tall handsome Tennessee boy!  

When he brought his girlfriend home to meet the Eaves family, they were charmed.  I was probably just learning to walk. Mother said Mildred was so pretty and well-mannered and they were happy to see how much in love she and Easy were. She was very different from the oher two Eaves daughters-in-law.  And hearing everyone raving about the charming newcomer didn’t sit too well with them.

After graduation from Duke, Easy went into the FBI and the young couple moved to his first assignment in Pikeville, Tennessee.  By the time I was two or three years old, I too became a huge fan of Mildred.  I loved watching her crul her hair and put on her makeup, and thought her polished nails were spectacular.  She would bring me tiny lipstick samples for playing dress-up, and every time she visited, she would paint my fingernails. I thought that was dreamy!

She always enjoyed Mother’s cooking—and her famous coconut cake with the middle layer pink was Mildred’s very favorite.  One always seemed to appear each time she was in Athens. 

She and Easy lived many years in Ashland, Kentucky, where their two sons Buzz and John were born.  They enjoyed an active social life with friends there.  

Mildred loved the sun—and got deeply tanned every summer. Whether she was at their country club pool or on a beach in Florida, she was soaking up those rays. She and Easy were happily surprised when she got pregnant with John—over a decade after Buzz was born.  About six weeks before her due date, they went to Florida and stopped by for a visit with us on the way home.  She put on her bathing suit and went swimming at the Niota country club—tanned, happy and very pregnant! 

About six weeks later, Arley died at home. Easy came for the funeral but Mildred stayed home.  The following month, their baby boy arrived and they named him John Arlie Eaves II.

A few years before I moved to Nashville, their sons hosted a 50th wedding anniversary party for them at John’s home.  Heather catered the dinner and most of the Eaves family came over to join in the celebration.  Kay’s niece and her father provided live music for the evening and the honorees danced away the night. Life wasn’t always smooth sailing for Mildred and Easy, but they were together.  And Mildred still had her great smile!