January 18, 2021

Thomas Lawrence Connelly
August 26, 1961


“It is through memory that we are able to reclaim much of our lives that we have long since written off by finding that in everything that has happened to us over the years God was offering us possibilities of new life and healing which, though we may have missed them at the time, we can still choose and be brought to life and healed by all these years later…”

Frederick Buechner, Telling Secrets

Today is the 35th year of the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday—and this year it falls on the 30thanniversary of Tom’s death.  When King was assassinated in Memphis on April 4, 1968, we were living 180 miles south in Starkville, MS. I was still in the Felix Long Hospital with our newborn daughter Heather.  My mother had come to help out with the new baby and was visiting in my hospital room that evening.  We had seen clips on the evening news from King’s April 3 speech at the Bishop Charles Mason Temple in Memphis—the “I’ve been to the mountaintop” speech. Tom picked Mother up from the hospital about 8 pm on April 4 and on the way home, told her that King had been killed.  I learned the news later that evening from a nurse’s aide who was elated that this “troublemaker” was dead.  I was horrified at the news and at her reaction.  But we remained uninvolved and silent—as we had throughout the civil rights movement of the 1960’s.

We were children of the South—heavily influenced by white supremacist institutions like our families, our church, our Christian college. Our particular groups did not violently protest the civil rights movement—but strongly resisted integration and any sense of equality. We ignored those opportunities God was offering us to join in this struggle for justice.  I wish it were not so.

The Civil War was in Tom’s blood.  His family’s home on Stonewall Drive in Nashville was literally part of the Battle of Nashville.  He scoured the grounds with a metal detector and delighted in finding bullets, minie balls, canteens and other relics.  He trekked through all the battlefields in Nashville, Murfreesboro, Franklin and as a teenager published a small guidebook to Middle Tennessee battlefields. He made pilgrimages to Gettysburg and  the Virginia battlefields. He read every book about the war he could find.  He claimed to have had some late night encounters in the family back yard with a Confederate ghost – a soldier who had been killed there.  He was hooked for life.

There was a Ph.D. in History from Rice University, where he studied under Frank Vandiver, a top scholar on General Stonewall Jackson.  His master’s thesis and dissertation on The Army of Tennessee were published by LSU Press and widely used as college textbooks. In 1964, he joined the history faculty at Mississippi State University.  Our faculty friends like us were generally supportive of the civil rights movement and often talked about what was happening in this die-hard white supremacist state. But there were no activists among us—everyone kept their head down and made no comment.  Tom began reframing his identity, often reminding people he was actually a military historian and not a Civil War historian.  

We moved to Columbia, South Carolina in late 1969, divorced in 1974.  Tom’s book critiquing Robert E. Lee, The Marble Man, was published in 1977.  He continued writing, teaching at the University of South Carolina and speaking until his death in 1991. 

In his last speech, King said, “The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around.”

More than 50 years later, this is still America. I’m grateful that our children and grandchildren—in Nashville and Mississippi–are much more involved in the ongoing struggle for justice and equality than we were. I deeply regret our complicity and silence during those earlier times. I often wonder how Tom would interpret the current national condition. 

January 17, 2021

Lucile Anderson and Harriett Eaves
Myrtle Beach,1976


She was my favorite high school teacher—Mrs. Anderson.  In her late 50’s, she had a lovely face and a gentle voice (which could be very firm when she was keeping unruly students in line).  She always wore tailored and simple clothes, and kept her dark graying hair pulled back into a neat chignon.

She greatly expanded my lifelong love of literature.  She opened the door to Shakespeare, as she sat on a tall stool at the front of the room and read Macbeth to us.  The “thees” and “thous” and strange sounding words came alive as she read. She had us memorize poetry—Robert Burns, Tennyson, and William Blake—and poetry continues to be my favorite language.  

She also loved the Bible and as my homeroom teacher that year, she began each day reading us a Psalm or a few other verses and offering a brief prayer of blessing for our day. We all knew God was the center of her life.

Mrs. Anderson was also somewhat mysterious.  We knew she was divorced and had one daughter Joyce who was married with children—but no one had any idea about her marriage. She rented a small home on Eastanallee Avenue and always walked to and from school.  She never drove or owned a car. But occasionally she would tell us brief stories about her youth in Sweetwater—riding horses, swimming in the creeks, and venturing with friends into the Craighead Caverns where there was a secret underground lake.  Decades later this site became a popular tourist destination known as The Lost Sea.

Fast forward twenty plus years.  I was living in Columbia, South Carolina, recently divorced with two young children.  On a quick weekend visit to Athens, Mother mentioned that Mrs. Anderson was now staying in Columbia, South Carolina, with her younger sister’s family. So I called the Reynolds home and asked to speak to Mrs. Anderson.  She was delighted to hear from me and said, “Call me Lucy!”

Her sister was incapacitated following a stroke and Lucy agreed to close up her home and care for her.  She cooked and cleaned for the family for several years, helped her sister with her daily activities, and rarely had time to herself. Lucy and the Reynolds welcomed Heather, Patrick and me to their home and took us to their lake house for fish fries. 

Lucy also enjoyed getting to know my mother better during that time when she visited us in Columbia.  It was a joy to take the two of them with us for short trips to Myrtle Beach or the Charleston. Lucy needed a break from the pressures of caregiving and we would take her out to eat at Lizard’s Thicket or cook for her at our place.

One spring I was going to Williamsburg for a work conference and planning to drive.  Lucy commented that she’d never been there—so I invited her to come along.  It was a wonderful springtime trip driving through the Carolinas and Virginia as we shared memories and stories. She relaxed in our lodge room while I went to meetings and then we toured the historic sites together.  At the Visitors Center one afternoon she spotted a man across the room that she said looked familiar. She went up to him and within a few minutes realized he was a former student.  She rarely went anywhere she didn’t make a connection with someone who had been in one of her classes.  I’m so thankful I was able to reconnect with her for those years in South Carolina.  I love Lucy!

January 16, 2021

Jim Cate


Jim Cate had four brothers—one of whom was my maternal grandfather George Cate—and five sisters. Their parents were John and Harriet Erickson Cate.  When his sons married, John would give each of them a few acres on his farm to build their own houses.  Tom and his wife Laura and George and his wife Evalee lived side by side in this family compound. Jim still lived in the family home with his unmarried sister Tine. 

Nettie Hutsell was Jim’s sweetheart for several years. Eventually Nettie decided Jim was going to remain a bachelor, and she married someone else.  Jim increasingly spent time in the company of Laura, his brother Tom’s wife.  They were often seen together in public. While her husband was working in the fields, Laura would send her daughters next door to George and Evalee’s house and entertain Jim. One afternoon, George took matters into his own hands and barged in on the couple.  They exchanged angry words—Laura vowed never to speak to George again—and soon George and Evalee sold their home and moved away. Jim never changed.  A few years later, Laura died suddenly. 

Jim continued to make poor choices.  He enjoyed hunting—but didn’t seem to work much.  He even lost three fingers in a hunting accident.  To support themselves, he persuaded his sister Tine to sign over her interest in the family home and sold it and all the family antiques.  They moved to a small house in town and he finally married Effie Walker.  Effie talked constantly—and also didn’t work.  Jim had lost everything—so much promise, all gone.

In later years, he and Effie lived in squalor in a rented house in Cleveland—about 30 minutes from where he was born.  Every July, my mother would prepare a birthday lunch for her Uncle Jim—as a tribute to the way he was raised.  She would drive to Cleveland and pick him and Effie up, and we would gather around the table for a delicious lunch of his favorites—chicken and dumplings, fresh green beans from the garden, homemade rolls, sweet ice tea and the traditional coconut birthday cake with Mayfield’s ice cream.  He was toothless, unkempt and pathetic.  Effie never stopped chattering. He loved being honored on his day!

Mother’s final gift was to make sure Uncle Jim died in a clean room.  My father and men from his church in Cleveland brought in a new mattress to replace the one crawling with bedbugs.  Mother and her brother Jack shoveled dirt, trash, and empty cans out, scrubbed everything with disinfectant, washed the windows, hung some curtains, and added clean pillows and bed linens to the new mattress. 

Among all the debris was one lone remnant from the family home—a pretty blue pitcher.  Mother brought a bouquet of her marigolds for it, put it on a table in front of the window, opened the window to let the breeze come in. He died a few days later—after receiving this final grace from his family.

January 15, 2021

Jane, Sally, Earleen and Kay
Nashville, December, 2002


Just weeks after moving into my Crieve Hall home in Nashville, I celebrated with a Christmas brunch in my Florida room for three of my cheerleaders.  Jane and I married Connelly brothers, had children, and divorced. We made a commitment to foster a family connection among our children and continued to encourage each other over the years. When I took a consulting job in Nashville in mid-2001, Jane hosted me at her home those first weeks while I was commuting between my South Carolina home and Nashville, encouraged me in my demanding new job downtown. Earleen was a longtime friend in Columbia, South Carolina, who continued to cheer me on with long phone visits and then came to Nashville to celebrate my new home. And for 13 months before I bought this house, Kay and her husband John (my nephew) let me live with their family. It was a wonderful season of building a deeper relationship with them—all the more meaningful after John died in early 2004. 

This photo represents the beginning of a new chapter for me—and really for all of us. Now almost twenty years later, we have all added a few more chapters to our stories.  Some have been joyful—Jane’s remarriage and blending their two families, we’ve all celebrated more weddings of children and births of grandchildren, three of us have retired.  We have grieved over deaths, divorces and other losses. Today I know I could pick up the phone and call any one of these three strong and brave women and receive encouragement and love.  And if they called me, it would be the same.

January 14, 2021

Dr. George Newton Eaves


It’s strange to have nephews older than you are. When I was born, my two nephews Farrell and George were already well established in the family.  I’m sure they didn’t quite know what to make of the new baby girl up on the hill at their grandfather’s home.  Over the next decades, we grappled with questions of kinship—and I loved spending time especially with George.

It seemed we were both “misfits” and didn’t quite blend into the Eaves family.  We both loved music and books and being thought of as different.  We both played the piano—but he was much more accomplished.  Eventually he played the organ and harpsichord.  When I married, I requested that he play the organ at my wedding.  He agreed—only if I let him select all the music, which I did.  I didn’t recognize much of my wedding music but thought It was perfect.

He first thought he would be a medical doctor, but after a semester, wisely decided that wasn’t his field.  He earned a Ph.D. in Medical Microbiology and had a long and successful career at the National Institutes of Health. Over the years we usually had an annual visit around Christmas when we both visited Athens.  After my divorce, he gave me helpful advice on pursuing a career in health care.

He always had a passion for antiques and the arts. Suffering burnout after his years in the DC area, he surprised everyone by retiring to Savannah.  He bought and renovated his first home  in the historic district there in 1992 and by 2006, the second home he renovated was featured in an impressive spread in The Architectural Digest. 

We reconnected in 1999 when his father died, and the following spring he invited me to come to Savannah for a visit. There were daily organ concerts at various historic churches that week which we enjoyed. He took me to his favorite antique galleries, to some of Savannah’s fine restaurants and to the beach at Tybee Island. “Do you mind if I introduce you around town as my cousin?  This aunt thing is just too hard to explain,” he said.  Cousin it was.

His home was the most elegant I’ve ever seen—with his amazing collection of Chinese porcelain, Biedermeier furniture, an oculus, a harpsichord, and a gorgeous walled garden. He said it would all be auctioned off by Christie’s Antiques after his death. 

He seemed more relaxed—and we spent many hours sharing family stories, some happy and some sad. He had stopped smoking years before, but told me not to be alarmed if I smelled smoke after I went to my room.  He allowed himself one solitary cigarette before going to bed. And he told friends if he should be hit by a bus, not to call 911—just give him that last cigarette!

During those few days, I felt that I saw his heart more clearly than ever before. Much that was always unspoken in the family.  It was a lovely visit to his world.  And then he closed the door.  It was almost as if he regretted being so open.  I’m glad I got that glimpse into the real George.

January 13, 2021

Harriett and her Fury, 1962 and 1987


A car was something practical and useful to Harriett. When she was a widow working at Miller’s Department Store, she and her father bought their first automobile—a Model A Ford.  It was much more convenient than the horse and buggy!  After she married Arley, he selected the cars—from Buick Eights to Dodges.  Harriett got her chance to choose a new car after he died in 1953—and she decided the new Plymouth Fury was just right. 

First came the 1956 black and white version with those amazing fins—and an amazing new feature: push button driving!  By 1962, Harriett decided she needed an update.  She stuck with Plymouth Fury, choosing a white four-door sedan—and it still had the push button drive feature.  Gone were the fins but there was an abundance of chrome trim.

The top photo shows Harriett posing with her new car in front of her home in Athens—the bottom photo is Harriett 25 years later with that same car in front of my home in Columbia, South Carolina. Both the Fury and Harriett have aged well!

She babied her car—and lovingly washed it on her carport every week.  She always kept the gas tank filled, changed the oil regularly and only let one mechanic touch it.  Mooney went to our church and she knew him to be honest and reliable.  Once her car wouldn’t start and he came out to check her battery.  When he looked under the hood, he couldn’t believe how clean the engine was and commented on it.  “Oh, I wash it every week,” Harriett said.

She didn’t drive long distances but her car took a couple of big trips.  She rode to Houston, Texas with the Connellys for Tom’s graduation when he got his doctorate at Rice University—then stayed on to visit for a month.  My sister Tootsie and sister-in-law Katie drove from Athens to Houston in the Fury and took Harriett home.  

In her late 80s, Harriett was spending most of the time with us in South Carolina—and the Fury was sitting home alone on the carport.  It still looked good except some of the interior was a bit tattered—and only had about 30,000 miles on the odometer.  Patrick was getting his driver’s license and itching to have his own car to drive.  

And so the idea was born—two of my coworkers at the hospital would drive me to Athens and I’d drive the Fury back to its new home in South Carolina. Patrick could drive the Fury—and Harriett could see it parked in front of the house every day.  We had a great time on the trip back with me driving the Fury.  No air conditioning, and the engine ran hot driving over the mountains.  It took a few hours longer than usual but we made it!

For several years Patrick and the Fury cruised around Irmo.  He got stopped by the cops often because the car was so unusual—and they told him it had too many tail lights.  So he put tape over a few of the lights and kept going.  Then it became less suitable and he was going to get a new car.

Sadly we needed to find the Fury a new home.  I put an ad in the newspaper and soon got a call from a staffer at a local television station. He had just accepted a new job at a station in Seattle and said he had a wild idea. Why not buy a car that was manufactured the year he was born and drive it to Seattle?  The 1962 Fury met the bill—he took it for a spin, had a mechanic look it over, and sealed the deal.  Harriett was now a semi-invalid spending most of her time in an improvised bedroom in my dining room.  She was sad to hear the Fury was leaving but understood the practicality of it.  “Just think, Mother,” I said.  “You can’t take a trip but your Fury is going on a cross-country adventure!”  She smiled through her tears.  Patrick and I often wondered if he made it to Seattle safely.

January 12, 2021

Sally at Six


Why would anyone save this dark photo?  Our family didn’t take many photos—not a single one for any Christmas—but for some strange reason there are multiple copies of this one.  We were living in the “log house” on Decatur Pike then and my sister Tootsie lived across the road in the “brick house.”  Her two older sons Jerry and Joe were my constant playmates.  When I was six, they were 4 and 5.  On this day, we were playing in their front yard, and Tootsie took the picture.

Maybe she wanted to document that little Sally wasn’t always neat and clean, prim and proper.  I was obviously perfectly happy to be barefoot, with my braids falling and in a less than fancy skirt and blouse. Some years ago at an Eaves family reunion, my niece Pat laughed about how she and Jerry loved playing pranks and roughhousing but didn’t include “goody two shoes” Sally. 

My parents did expect me to be a “little lady” and my mother loved sewing dresses for me and struggled to curl my straight blonde hair. I was expected to look and act the part. And then I was Jerry and Joe’s aunt—well, half-aunt to be precise—and that role required some bossiness and dignity.  It was complicated.

I love this photo because in it I look like a regular kid—a bit of an urchin—a barefoot hillbilly.  I’m sure Dolly Parton has quite a few photos of herself looking much like Sally at six.  Just a little Tennessee girl being herself—and loving every minute of it.

January 11, 2021

Harriett Eaves and Sister Mary Leo


Harriett had never met a Catholic sister until Sister Mary Leo became her dear friend.  I was a department head at Providence Hospital in Columbia, South Carolina for over a decade.  Mother increasingly was spending more time at my home as her health declined, and she had a number of inpatient stays at Providence.  

The Sisters of Charity of St. Augustine from Richfield, Ohio, ventured south to establish Providence in the late 1930’s.  My son Patrick was one of the last babies born there, as they closed their OB-GYN service and moved into cardiovascular services.  By the 1980’s, Providence was the top heart hospital in the state.

Each evening at the end of visiting hours, one of the Sisters would pray over the intercom—“Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep.” During the day, Sister Mary Leo would make her way down the halls from room to room, visiting those patients who wanted to talk or pray or just be seen. She came to Harriett’s bedside one day—and a loving friendship began.

Sister Mary Leo was very short with severely bowed legs that made walking difficult.  Her voice was soft and shy.  As the hospital’s Pastoral Care program became more sophisticated, she was sometimes considered irritating and not well qualified. 

But Harriett—and many other patients– loved her.  Because she too was suffering.  Because she would sit silently by her bedside, just holding her hand.  Because she would kiss her and call her “Mother Eaves.” Love doesn’t need words, special training, or an impressive physical appearance.  Sometimes touch and presence are enough to bring healing and hope.

January 10, 2021

Barbara Joy Vincent, My First Best Friend


We first met when we were four years old and we lived near each other most of the time through high school. Just two weeks older than I, she was a slender brunette with a heart-shaped face and big brown eyes, shy and soft-spoken. 

Her family seemed to lead a charmed life.  Her parents, Walter and Dorothy, were much younger than mine. They were quite modern—and even slept in twin beds! Walter had his own shop where he made beautiful handcrafted furniture.  My father, who was manager of the Athens Table Factory, admired Walter’s craftmanship and had him make us a handsome walnut corner china cabinet which I still have. 

Their house always felt more elegant than ours—they even had wall to wall carpeting.  And a television set!  My father, convinced it would ruin my good grades, vetoed television at our house.  But on Mondays, I would go home with Barbara after school, eat supper with them and watch the I Love Lucy hit show.  Barbara also had a little sister—Libby, a beauty with platinum blond curls and big brown eyes—and we adored her.  They also had “fancy” house dog—a cocker spaniel (our dogs were mutts and were required to stay outside most of the time). Most amazing of all to me, every year her family left the day after Christmas to drive to Florida for a whole week. What a dream!

We went to the oldest, poorest elementary school in Athens—North City School and then on to McMinn County High School. We were the last ones to get on the school bus during high school and always had to stand packed in the aisle. The football players all rode our bus and fights were the norm. We held our own. There were piano lessons and recitals at our music teacher’s home.  There were weekend overnights at each other’s home.  After school we sometimes went to the downtown drugstore on the square for pineapple sundaes or to a movie at the Strand Theater.

Barbara was more social than I in high school and went to the school dances with a date. The Baptist-dominated city leaders relaxed a ban on school dances midway through our high school years. But my church held firm in condemning the evils of dancing and I didn’t go.  

After graduation, we went our separate paths to college—visiting when we came home to see our parents. When I married a year after college, I asked Barbara to be a bridesmaid.  She still seemed like my first best friend.  She was in the throes of a breakup with a hometown boy and at the last minute, said she couldn’t make it to the rehearsal.  But the next day she showed up at the church in her apricot bridesmaid dress and joined my college friends in my wedding party.

We had infrequent contact after that.  She moved to Atlanta, worked in a medical laboratory and married a doctor.  They had three children and he practiced medicine in Gainesville.  After my divorce, I went there for a job interview and we got together.  She took me to dinner at their country club and talked about their good life and her volunteer work.  Again, her life looked perfect.

When we were children, she told me about her mother’s uncle who was dying of Huntington’s Disease.  This hereditary illness is incurable and over years, the nerve cells in the brain break down causing increasing disability.  Woody Guthrie died of this disease, and so did Barbara’s mother Dorothy and eventually, Barbara.  

She was my first best friend—and unforgettable.  

January 9, 2021

T.S.Dodd, Cousin


Somehow it doesn’t seem right to throw away an old photograph—especially if someone went to a studio to have it made and then sent it across country to family members.  Tom and I often rummaged through small antique stores in Tennessee, Mississippi and Texas where we would see boxes with stacks of discarded family photographs.  Occasionally we bought a few that were particularly interesting.  I have many unidentified family pictures that I can’t bear to discard. As they lie quietly on a shelf behind closed cabinet doors, I wonder if they whisper, “I have such an interesting story to tell!” 

Today I’m looking at this image of a young man who inscribed his name—T.S.Dodd—on the back of this studio photograph probably sometime in the 1880’s.  Andrew Rockstead was an Illinois photographer who had a Mount Carroll studio during the 1880’s.

Dodd sent his photo from Mt. Carroll, Illinois, to relatives in Tennessee—either to his cousin Evalee Ensminger Cate (my maternal grandmother) or perhaps to her mother.  My mother only recalled two things about him—he was a first cousin of her mother’s and he once went to the Philippines, which she described as a journey of six months by boat.  

The first surprise is that he was in Illinois.  We had quite a few family members migrating from East Tennessee to Texas, California and even Kansas before 1900—but I’ve never heard of anyone going to Illinois.  Yet T. S. Dodd apparently did. 

T. S. Dodd looks quite dapper.  Apparently bow ties were introduced in the mid-1880’s and he’s adapted the new style.  The pattern on his tie isn’t clear—almost but not quite polka dots.  And the top of his jacket seems very high—with a distinctive cross stitch in the buttonholes. 

Now about that voyage to the Philippines.  The Philippine-American War took place from 1889 to 1902, with about 4,300 American soldiers dying (1,500 from combat, the others from disease). Could T. S. Dodd have had this photograph made before he left for war in the Philippines?  Something to remember him by in case he didn’t return?  Did he come home?  There doesn’t seem to be any other reason a young man from a small town in Illinois would travel to the Philippines at that time.

T. S. Dodd, I like your style!  I hope you lived to have many adventures.  If you did come home safely from war, I am sure you never forgot your experiences and those months at sea.