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A Prize

October 28, 2005

RACHEL STEWART WHALEY, 96, of Middleton, died Monday, October 24, 2005 at Quince Nursing & Rehabilitation Center in Memphis. Services will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday, October 27, 2005 at the Shackelford Middleton Chapel with burial in the Middleton City Cemetery. The widow of James Thomas Whaley, who died August 10, 1959, she was a homemaker. Mrs. Whaley was born October 8, 1909 in Middleton, daughter of the late John Jacob Stewart and Cynthia Ann Sasser Stewart and lived there most of her life. She was a member of the Middleton Church of Christ. Survivors include two daughters, Marilyn Vennari of Collierville, and Rosalind Edwards and her husband, Billy of Germantown; a son John T. Whaley and his wife, Nancy of Altanta, GA, five grandchildren Lisa Edwards of Memphis, Wyatt Whaley and his wife, Dawn of Atlanta, GA, Amy Edwards of Boulder, CO, Carol Ann Janca and her husband, Jim of Portsmouth, VA, David Edwards of Memphis and two great-granddaughters, Spencer Rachel Whaley and Taylor Janca. She was preceded in death by her son, Gaylon Whaley. The family will receive friends at the Middleton Chapel from 5:30-8:30 p.m. Wednesday, October 26 and Thursday, October 27, from 10 a.m. until service time. Memorials may be directed to the Middleton Church of Christ or to the Arthristis Foundation.

Obituaries tell so little.

To blog about this woman and the impact of her life is boardering on the absurd. I really don’t know where to begin. I have laid awake the past two nights unable to find sleep with thoughts of her and other family. The differences in the Stewart and Whaley sides of my family…. Many thoughts.

We arrived at my hometown that has swelled since I left. The latest census put the town over the 600 mark at 602, that’s up from all those years that the sign read 596. I suspect that someone counted their pets.

I drove the familiar path until I made the turn into Mrs. Shelly’s driveway. I always thought of it as her home even though it was Mr. Shelly’s too. This was the home of Ruble Shelly’s parents. Now it is the Middleton addition of Shakleford Funeral Home. It was something like a dream, where something is familiar but then very different at the same time. The new parking lot out back had curbs! I told Kim, I don’t know that any other place in town has curbs except the post office. We entered what would have been coming in the back door of the house. As funeral homes go, this one was nice. Tastefully done. No blue and rose colored lights shining on the coffins. Very open and done in colors you might actually use in a home.

We found our way to what should have been Mrs. Shelly’s living room and there was family. I think my cousin Wyatt was the first to spot me and speak. From this point on I will refer to everyone as a cousin…. Wyatt is really a second or third double cousin. His dad and my dad are double first cousins… so you figure it out. Anyway, I soon saw and spoke to the others that look so familiar but who I really don’t know. We are all close to the same age and they have memories of us playing together. I wish I could remember, my childhood memories are few, but summers were an endless parade of cousins coming to the country to visit and I was the only available cousin to call in to play with them.

I eventually made my way up to Marilyn and Rosalind, Aunt Rachel’s two daughters who were at their place by the casket to greet everyone. They reminded me of Mary and Martha.

Marilyn moved towards me with a big hug and began to cry. She told me how much her mother always loved me and how she so much enjoyed showing the cards and pictures of my boys to them.

I later talked to Rosalind about what a good life her mother had lived. The example she was to many. She told me that she was always a good mother. All my thoughts on her and words failed me. All I could do was nod.

In the middle of this was the arrival of my father. Aunt Rachel’s family were looking for him. He had lived for a year or so with Uncle Tommy and Aunt Rachel. They were his favorite Aunt and Uncle, and I am sure he held a special place in their hearts as well. Some of his siblings were present when we arrived. He came in and made a comment to his sister that he was surprised she could find her way to Middleton… meaning she hadn’t visited him. He commented that he owned a razor if I needed one. She hugged him anyway… I told her, “He always has something positive to say”.

The grand-kids, Carol Ann and Amy, I assume had put lots and lots of pictures up and around. This included a board full of pictures that included a few I would like to have. One of me sittling talking to Aunt Rachel and her holding my hand. One of her and many other realative taken in the 40’s. But the picture that captured my heart was on of My aunt Rachel and Uncle Tommy. It was obviously in the 20’s. They may have just been married. There are no children. They stand in front of a porch, So very young. Aunt Rachel with her hair bobed and a short dress on that looks like she could start dancing the Charleston at any moment. Uncle Tommy who I never knew, but am named after, was good looking and dressed in a suit complete with bow-tie. Another cousin who is into geneology promised to aquire a copy and send me one.

The largest frame was of a two page article from the paper years ago. The title was “Rachel Whaley is a Prize”. The article was about her many blue ribbons from the county and Mid-South Fair. At the time of the article she had over 600 first places. She was an expert gardener and cook. Her grandchildren had calculated she had made over 500,000 biscuits in her life. I love her homemade fried apple pies. She would always make me some when I would come home from college…. the apples were sun dried in her yard and put up, so you could have a fresh pie year round!

I plan to write a tribute to her at Grace Notes. She was a prize in my life… I am better because of her.

7 Comments leave one →
  1. October 28, 2005 2:18 pm

    I can almost taste the fried apple pies…mmmm.

    Thanks Tommy for a glimpse into a special part of your life. She sounds like a very, very special lady.

  2. October 28, 2005 4:57 pm

    Tommy – I’ve been out most of the day and had just seen your Grace Note tribute to your aunt and am happy to find even more here because I love to hear family stories like you have about her.

    There is a brand new movie starting this weekend, I think, about families and their significane in our lives called Elizabethtown that I really want to go see (although we probably will have to wait to see it on DVD because Tom is still working six very long days and nights a week, unfortunately, as is really wiped out).

    Hope you have a good weekend. I need to try to get back over to “Weekenders” to write. I’m afraid with all that’s been going on for so long we’ve all gotten way behind in writing over there.

  3. October 28, 2005 5:01 pm

    I like those kind of prizes like your Aunt Rachel. My mamaw is one. You don’t get very many – some people never get one!

  4. October 28, 2005 7:40 pm

    What a great tribute to your aunt. I knew I recognized her name when you wrote about her in your last entry. John & I knew Marilyn, Rosalind & Billy well at Quince in Memphis. I had forgotten you were related to “Mary & Martha” – a great description! I know Rachel will be missed.

  5. October 29, 2005 10:33 pm

    Very poignant post.


  6. October 30, 2005 8:04 am

    A beautiful tribute,


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