A Letter to My Uncle and Cousin

Prologue: I wrote this letter to my uncle, Paul Blessing, for his 96th birthday, which turned out to be the last one we got to celebrate with him. When I was a child, Uncle Paul scared me a little. He had a quick temper, and he was ready with his belt as my cousins and I were growing up to punish them (and occasionally me) for wrongdoing.

Once when my cousin Joe and I were washing the car and I accidentally (for real) squirted him with the hose, Joe responded by socking me in the jaw. I started crying, and Uncle Paul came outside. He figured neither party was innocent, and he got a meter stick (quite a bit thicker than a yardstick, which I was used to my mother spanking me on the bottom with) and gave both Joe and me a whipping on the backs of our legs. I was frightened, shocked, and the thought occurred to me that we were being abused. But Joe and I wound up consoling each other by comparing the red marks on our hamstrings. Soon we were back to laughing and finished washing the car.

As Uncle Paul grew older, he mellowed a lot. He was quite affectionate with his grandchildren, and he and my aunt Myrt both took on our children as honorary grandchildren. (My dad was involved with Daniel and Julie as much as he could be, but he remarried in 1994 and didn’t have as much time to devote to his grandchildren as he did before he remarried.)

Uncle Paul was my dad’s first cousin, meaning he was my second cousin, I think.* The “once removed” label for cousins has always caused me confusion, so even after reading about the topic I can’t remember the exact relationships of my uncle and cousins to me. Uncle Paul and my dad (first cousins) married sisters, thereby making him my cousin and uncle and my cousins double cousins. Don’t ask me whether Bill, Sue, and Joe were second cousins once removed or third cousins; I think it was the former, but since we were also related on our moms’ side, it was easier to remember them as first cousins.

Uncle Paul woke up in pain early one Sunday morning in July 2018. He called his friend Mack, who worked at the funeral home where Uncle Paul volunteered a lot of his time. (Always the minister.) Mack drove Uncle Paul to the hospital, where they discovered he had gallstones. He had to have surgery, and his health quickly declined after surgery. My cousin Bill (the oldest of Uncle Paul’s and Aunt Myrt’s three children) realized that if they did not act soon, Uncle Paul might not make it. After consulting with a liver transplant surgeon he knows, Bill arranged for Uncle Paul to be transferred to a hospital in Cincinnati.

They took Uncle Paul by ambulance but didn’t seem in too much of a hurry, as it was around 5:00-5:30 p.m. the day they finally left for Cincinnati. Uncle Paul had another surgery when he got to Cincinnati. Afterward, he entertained the nurses and family visitors right up to a few minutes before he died. He had a heart attack, I believe, or it may have been a stroke. Anyway, he was kidding around with the nurse and one minute he was here, and the next minute he was gone.

I couldn’t believe it when my cousin Joe called to tell me the sad news of Uncle Paul’s death. He had not slowed down much as he got older…he was still driving and often went to the nursing home near his home to visit people and lead Bible studies with the “old people” (this is humorous, coming from a 96-year-old).

Here is the letter I wrote for Uncle Paul’s 96th birthday. I’m so glad we celebrated his 96th birthday, even though we’d had a big to-do for his 95th birthday.

February 15, 2018

Dear Uncle Paul,

Happy 96th birthday! I am so happy we are able to celebrate with you. When I think of you, here’s what I remember about you:

• A keen and curious mind, always striving to prepare the best material to present, whether through a sermon or teaching a Sunday school class

• A rolling stone that gathered no moss—when I recall my childhood memories of you, you were always busy doing something. If not out in the community ministering to someone’s need, you were busy at home with yardwork or at Reb’s fixing something in her house or helping her in the garden.

• An outgoing, friendly personality who obviously enjoyed being around people and never knew a stranger. I also remember your laughing a lot and saying “You see… you see.”

• A faithful spouse, cousin, in-law, and friend—I remember how lovingly you cared for Aunt Myrt and how you looked out for Reb in her latter years.

• A kind and caring presence to people at the nursing home and a comforting presence to people at the funeral home

• Your life was never dull. It seemed that something was always hopping with you, whether it was a mission trip to West Virginia or something going on in the Clinch Valley Baptist Association.

• You took your calling as a minister seriously and remain faithful to that call even now. How many 96-year-olds can say they preached a funeral in the past year? How many can say they officiated at their grandson’s wedding on the beach just 4½ years ago?

• You have meant so much to me and my family, stepping in as a grandfatherly substitute for our children when Daddy was consumed with caring for my mom. You and Aunt Myrt brought Reb down to Nashville at a time when I badly needed some coaching in mothering a newborn. I will never forget how relieved I felt when you three showed up at our house.

• I appreciate all the family stories you have shared with me. You made me feel like a real grownup the first time you came to our house (while you were attending a conference at what used to be the Baptist Sunday School Board). I learned the real truth about why Mamaw and Papaw slept in separate rooms, and I still chuckle when I think about that.

• I remember getting many cards and letters from you signed “With all my love.” That made me feel special.

• You excelled at grandparenthood. I am really thankful that you and Aunt Myrt took our family under your wing, treating Daniel and Julie as if they were your own grandchildren. They have pleasant memories of trips to Kingsport and SW Virginia because you made them feel loved.

• I have always enjoyed our parries about what was going on in the Southern Baptist Convention and debates about women in ministry. I know you were a little disappointed when I became a Methodist, but hey—at least I’m still faithfully attending church and growing in my spiritual life. I did what I had to do!

Here is perhaps my highest compliment to you: I hope I will be like you when I grow old. I hope I can remain positive in the face of grief and bravely continue on. Should my dear spouse die before I do, I hope I have the courage to pick myself up, dust off my feet, and continue living, as you have done. That doesn’t mean you don’t grieve—you did, but you faced your grief and worked through it. And always you kept in mind that God still had work for you to do. You have lived a life full of purpose and meaning.

In short (well not really—for an editor, I’m pretty verbose), I have been blessed and privileged to get to know you as an adult, and I am forever grateful to you. I hope we get to celebrate your 100th birthday in four short years!

Love you (John joins me in that sentiment),

Your niece and second cousin,


*Oops, I think I was wrong about my cousin relationship to Uncle Paul. He is my second cousin once removed because we do not share grandparents. He was my father’s first cousin. Cousin Paul’s dad was my great uncle, so figure that one out—his being the child of my great grandparent would make him my second cousin, wouldn’t it? So I figured out my relationship to the children of cousins Bill and Joe: They are my first cousins once removed. We’ll just simplify things by calling each other cousins. For more information, see https://www.familysearch.org/blog/en/cousin-chart/.

One interesting thing I remember from the visitation at my mother’s funeral back in 1991: I stood next to my dad, and so many people came through the line, and Daddy would say, “This is my cousin _______.” All I could think of was that everyone who lived in his little holler (hollow) must’ve been related! I got tickled after a while. I asked Daddy how many cousins he had, and he didn’t know. His mother had 5 siblings, I think. Beyond that, I have not traced all my cousins. I do well enough to keep up with the cousins on my mom’s side of the family. I know my first cousins from my dad’s side of the family but not as well.

Sometimes I Picture God That Way*

“[God] will cover you with his feathers,

And under his wings you can hide.”

—Psalm 91:4 (NCV)

Though the imagery in Psalm 91:4 reminds me of a mother hen, it calls to mind my dad, my protector as I grew up. He and I shared a joyous, close relationship as far back as I can remember. When I was 7, Daddy was plowing the garden, and I delightedly ran behind him, tramping down the soil he’d just tilled. Unfortunately, he plowed up a nest of yellow jackets (wasps), and they swarmed around us. Daddy said, “Anne, go to the house NOW!” If I had obeyed him, I might have been better off, but instead I replied, “Ah, Daddy, they’re just flies.”

So the yellow jackets swarmed all over us. We ran up the hill toward our house as Daddy tried to keep the wasps off me. (To a college student pastor who was living with us that summer and was looking out the window, it appeared that Daddy was beating me on my back.) My mom knew something was wrong, because Daddy never punished me physically. She told the college student, “Ted, get the car keys!” She met us at the corner of the house, carrying a wash cloth and ice. We jumped into the car and Ted drove, and off we rushed to the local hospital’s emergency room.

In the blur of activity that followed, I remember my mom putting ice on my stings and using the wash cloth to pull yellow jackets from my hair. (Yes, she was protective too.) Sitting in the car’s front seat, Daddy he turned around and asked with concern, “How’s she doing?” By the time our car reached the bottom of our hilly street, his voice sounded funny. His throat and tongue were swelling in an anaphylactic reaction to the stings he’d gotten.

When we reached the emergency room, a nurse quickly assessed us. She decided I was okay, but Daddy needed quick treatment. Medical personnel rushed him back to an examination room and gave him an injection to stop his life-threatening reaction. Later we counted the number of stings we had received—I had 39, while Daddy had only 11. Over the next few days, Dad and I comforted each other as we recovered from the venom of the wasp stings.

My dad was already my hero, but this incident served to make him a superhero in my eyes. He was my mentor in faith, my protector, my first picture of what God is like. I was fortunate to have him in my life until I was 58 years old; he was almost 94 when he died.

In my mind’s eye I sometimes picture God looking at us, checking in just as a parent looks in on a child to see that all is well. When we spend time with God, we can sometimes sense moments when God feels so close that we can almost reach out and touch God’s face. These are the times that make life worthwhile.

*I got the title for this blog from a song by Kyle Matthews, whose music I love. It is Christian music but has much deeper lyrics than most contemporary Christian music. For more info about Kyle, visit his website: kylematthews.com/music

“Sometimes I Picture God That Way” is on his Sing Down album. Give his music a listen…it is beautiful.

Anne Trudel is a writer and editor living in Nashville, Tennessee. She enjoys the outdoors, reminiscing about her parents, and learning more about the natural world, where she feels closest to God.

Road Trips and Time Off

So wow, a whole year has gone by, and I haven’t written a single blog. Shows how busy my life is. Or that maybe I want to do something besides blog in my spare time.

I went road tripping in May with a college friend, my freshman roommate, Sally. Since then I have felt more energetic than I have in years. I think it was like pressing the Reset button on an electronic device. Why do we have the tendency to not listen to our bodies and spirits when they are crying out for rest? That’s sort of a rhetorical question, but my life post-road trip has made me think about the value of “sharpening the saw,” as Stephen Covey described taking time off in his book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

When I press the Pause button on my life and take a couple of weeks off back-to-back, I think about all sorts of things. I thought about retirement and when I want to retire. Not sure I have a clear answer on that one yet. I came back to work reenergized and rarin’ to go. Since the road trip, I have decided I want to pursue a certificate in spiritual formation at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary. Further education at this juncture in my life, on the surface, doesn’t make sense. I’m not doing it for the sake of advancing in my career. I’m doing it because I love a challenge, and I want to keep my gray matter functioning, and because I love thinking about spiritual stuff.

Taking time away from my family made me appreciate the unique gifts of my husband, son, and daughter. My son broke up with his girlfriend of almost two years while I was away. My daughter got another job than the one she had planned to start this fall. (It’s good…she just realized that she couldn’t teach Spanish at a high school level because her licensure covers only middle school). We are excited that she will be teaching at a great middle school, John Trotwood Moore…and she won’t be the only Spanish teacher at her school. I think JT Moore takes Spanish seriously, so none of this “Well, we’re not going to offer Spanish next year, so we need you to teach 5th grade science and social studies” stuff like she endured at her last school.

And John, well, let’s say I got a little frustrated trying to get in touch with him while on the road trip (I kept getting a busy signal when I called), but there was a reason I was able to reach our children and not him for a few days. We finally got connected, and all was well. Since the trip, he says I’ve changed, that I act more like Sally. Well, that’s a good thing. Sally is an assertive woman who knows her own mind and is practically a genius. She taught me much about laundry, wovens and knits, and lots of other things on the trip. I realized how much I didn’t know about her job as a professor at Texas Christian University, even though we have corresponded about our work and personal lives for years. Sally and her husband, Jim, have been married about 1 1/2 months longer than John and me. It’s fun to see the different ways we interact with our spouses.

I came home appreciating my spouse for allowing me to be who I am..an extravert who has introvert tendencies and needs solitude at times to figure out what the heck is going on in her life. Spending time with a longtime friend is a precious gift. Sally and I never turned the radio or any music on during the trip. We kept a conversation going most of the time. She also introduced me to a new author: Louise Penny, who writes murder mysteries. I didn’t start with the first book in the series but now will have to go back and read that one after I finish A Rule Against Murder.

I am grateful for time away and look forward to another road trip sometime! John and I took a brief one over the 4th of July weekend and caught up with several relatives and one lifelong friend. More road trips to come!

Anne and Dad 1

I also thought about my sweet dad a lot during the road trip. I miss him every day. This pic was taken at The Upper Room Agape Garden when he was nearly 90 (so I think it was around 2011 or 2012). He lived to age 93 (one month short of turning 94). Daddy was a very kind, humble, Christian man, and I am privileged to have had him for 25 years after my mom’s death.






Rainy Day After a Holiday

It’s the Tuesday after Memorial Day, or Tuesday/Monday, and maybe a double whammy: I took a vacation day on Friday. Didn’t sleep well last night. That seems to happen a lot the night before I return to work each week.

My husband and I were talking about Mondays yesterday. He commented, “It’s Monday. I can hardly drag myself out of bed.” I know the feeling. We talked about this a little more, and I suggested that maybe he feels down (really, a little more than just down) because Monday is a letdown after Sunday. Meaning that we experience a sort of high in our lives on Sundays because we attend worship, and we feel like part of a community, and we take a nap on Sunday afternoon whenever possible, and BAM…then Monday hits.

I usually dress up a bit more than usual on Mondays just so I feel a little perkier. And I drink more coffee on Mondays than on other days of the week. And my neck and shoulders feel a little tighter. Wait. Today’s not Monday; it’s Tuesday. And that means only 3 more days to work this week, and then it’s the weekend again. Even if it’s supposed to rain several inches today and tomorrow (thanks to leftovers from a tropical storm). We won’t see the sun until Thursday at least. I did see the sun peek through the clouds for a brief time while outside for a walk at lunch. I’m going to yoga in about 20 minutes, so maybe this day isn’t so bad after all.

I often think on rainy Mondays or a rainy day after a holiday (which was also rainy), “Rainy days and Mondays get me down…” The old Carpenters song from the 1970s. “What I feel they used to call the blues, nothing is really wrong, feeling like I don’t belong…”

Yeah, that’s the way I feel sometimes on Mondays or on the day after a holiday. Nothing is really wrong. I don’t feel like I don’t belong … today. But often I do. Oh well. At least I am relatively healthy, At least I have a job to get me out of bed in the mornings even if I didn’t sleep well the night before. At least I have a friend to walk with at lunchtime (who admitted that she didn’t feel like she accomplished much over the holiday weekend). I had posted one day on Facebook all that I had done that day, and it was quite a few chores/activities. I then told her the truth: When I get out of bed in the mornings, I have a certain amount of energy and I’m tempted to accomplish everything on my to-do list (which is endless). But then as the day progresses and my energy wanes, I feel the need for a nap. When I was younger, I used to push on through that feeling. I don’t do that any more. Now that I have two autoimmune diseases, I know I must listen to my body. When it tells me I need to nap, I try to lie down for at least 30 to 45 minutes. If I have nothing scheduled for the evening, then I just allow myself to nap for as long as I stay asleep. Sometimes I wake up thinking it’s morning when it’s really about 6:00 p.m. But that’s okay. At least I woke up!

M. Scott Peck said in his book The Road Less Traveled, “Life is difficult.” Indeed it is. Some days things happen that just break your heart. If you listen to the news, you don’t hear much good news. John and I often fast forward to the end of the evening news (NBC news with Lester Holt) to the “Making a Difference” segment. Sometimes that may be the only good news we’ve heard that day. It’s easy to let yourself get dragged down by sadness, disappointment, pain, just the everydayness of living. But each day is full of opportunities. Every morning when I wake up, even if my feet or joints are hurting, I think, “I’m alive. Check.” And thank the Lord for that. I have another day where I can enjoy a cup of coffee, linger over a handwritten note, slow down time a little by reading for pleasure and/or inspiration. And I don’t really have to worry because deep down, all is well, and as Julian of Norwich said, “All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.” I believe that with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength.



When I Was 10

I belong to a group at work called Bagelmasters (our version of Toastmasters). We are practicing public speaking. For the last meeting, I volunteered to give a speech on when I was 10. The time limit was three minutes. I can’t say anything in three minutes! I had whittled my speech down to the following, and then I had to add a sentence. I went over the time limit but nearly finished.

When I was 10 years old, the highlight of that year was getting glasses. Suddenly I could see buds, twigs, and branches on the trees for the first time. Before that, the whole world had looked like an Impressionist painting to me.

My favorite pastime was (no surprise) reading. I was really into the Misty of Chincoteague novels by Marguerite Henry. I was a member of her fan club and received her newsletter. Marguerite Henry wrote personal notes on my newsletter because of course I had written letters to her. Thus began my lifelong infatuation with authors.

The book that made the biggest impression on me that year was Anne of Green Gables. I identified with the sassy, cheerful character. I loved the way Anne of Green Gables spelled her name: Ann with an e. It just looked so much better than my plain A-N-N. So I latched on to that spelling and I persisted, even though my given name was Anna.

I was a shy kid, the tallest in my class, and I was fat. I went to the same elementary school where my mother taught, and I felt like no one liked me because she was a strict teacher. So I had a few friends and mostly just watched the popular girls. I remember talking with them about the pop song “Crimson and Clover” by Tommy James and the Shondells.

I was in my third year of taking piano lessons. My teacher kept bugging me to practice at least 45 minutes a day. My mom, a wise woman, gave me a choice of practicing piano or washing the dishes. I chose to practice piano. I was the pianist at our little country church where about 15-20 people attended.

I belonged to Girl Scouts. I loved going to the meetings and working on merit badges. Girl Scouts was where I learned to sing in harmony. It was also where I developed a love for the outdoors.

In the wider world, there was a lot of turmoil. 1968 was the year that Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy got assassinated. It was also a time of many protests against the Vietnam War. Richard Nixon was president.*

When I was 10 my favorite subject was Social Studies. I liked school and went to church on Sunday mornings, Sunday evenings, and Wednesday nights. I was an only child and didn’t have any kids in my neighborhood to play with, so I was thrilled whenever my cousins came over. I had a pet dog named Wilhelmina…she was a stray. I’m sure I probably had a cat at the time, but I don’t remember. I do remember being 10 as a fun, rather carefree, daydreamy time.


* Richard Nixon was not president. See how inaccurate the memory can be? Nixon was elected president in 1968. Lyndon Johnson was president until January 1969.

I may come back and add pictures to this post, sometime when I have time to fool with my computer and actually want to. So it may not happen.

Procrastinator’s Days

Procrastinator’s Days

One of these days we gotta get organized …

A woman’s work is never done (something I often heard my mother say) …

Housework, housework, I love housework (sung sarcastically to the tune of “Pickles, Pickles, I like pickles,” a song I learned teaching children’s choir)

Over the Christmas holidays I decided to tackle some projects that have been niggling at me all year. I made progress in organizing our kitchen and am still working on that. Like a true procrastinator, I get sidetracked while doing projects. Finding one cherished item makes me go put it in a place where I will be able to find it, and when I go to that place, I find still more stuff that needs to be put away. This is why women never catch up…there is always more stuff to do than meets the eye. And sometimes you get sidetracked doing another project and forget to complete the original one. But I digress. (Ha.)

I kept feeling compelled to blog, so I finally gave in. Besides, I needed to sit for a while, I rationalized.

John is busy in our downstairs bedroom scrubbing the wall (we have some moisture problems that we need to address…meanwhile, the cinderblock walls have started to show signs of mildew, so he is hard at work with a scrub brush and some orange cleaner we have found that is a good all-purpose cleaner) as I write this. I was working on organizing the bookshelf in the kitchen, and I keep finding so many things we have put up in a hurry, thinking we would get around to reading them later. Well, guess what. Now some magazines have been sitting on those shelves for at least 2 years. I am tossing stuff in recycling right and left. I am filling a box for Goodwill with cookbooks I no longer use. This is such a freeing feeling! But I can take it only in small doses.

This morning I found my dad’s address book, which surprising had some fairly updated information. He had my, John’s, Daniel’s, and Julie’s cell phone numbers. He had Daniel’s first apartment address (only two residences behind) and Julie’s address in Spain. I found addresses and phone numbers for Helen’s (his wife’s) family, some living and some dead. I discovered obituaries for my uncle and cousin Clifford Blessing, my aunt Myrtle Blessing, my cousin Annie Fletcher, and my aunt Kate Couch. I found some photos of Daddy taken in 1979. He was quite a handsome man. Helen, in her beautiful handwriting, had written on the back: Walter Leonard 1979. It was like going through a family scrapbook. Funny how you find things tucked in odd places. Until 2015, this address book (with Hummel figurine-type drawings) had been used since the 1970s, when my aunt Euchie (Eunice Necessary) gave it to my parents as a Christmas gift.

On the top shelf of the bookshelf (the only one I’ve dusted so far) I found cookbooks from churches that have been special to me over the years: Broad Street United Methodist (inherited from my aunt Reb) and Lynn Garden Baptist in Kingsport and Crievewood Baptist Church in Nashville. I think I have one more church cookbook that John’s aunt Macon gave to us as a wedding present; it’s from First United Methodist Church in Savannah, TN, but I haven’t run across it yet.

I have found several recipes that I will never cook and decided to get unsentimental because my dad wrote some of them…if I save everything I find in his handwriting, I will not find a place for everything. One was for corn relish. If I recall correctly, it tasted sort of like rotten corn. You have to let it sit for 4 weeks after putting in all the ingredients. Maybe I better dig that recipe out and see if I can take a picture of it. No, it’s already in recycling. (I think perhaps I have confused it with pickled corn, which really did taste like rotten corn…Reb always kept several pints of it in her basement.)

This weekend I have been in the house for four days…work was called off on Friday due to ice, and the first time I got out was to go to church yesterday. For this long weekend I have chosen to spend my time as a gift: it’s Procrastinator’s Day(s)! I can do some things that I don’t have the chance to do in the normal crazy-busy schedule of my life while I am working full-time.

Today I have been catching up on correspondence, cleaning a little here and there, and enjoying having time to clean my stove, wash dishes, clean out the coffee maker, do a little laundry, and spot-clean in various places.

My mother used to save projects for summertime when she was out of school from her teaching job. She certainly kept me occupied, starting in elementary school (and paying me a nickel an hour, which I thought was a grand deal, for certain projects): mowing the lawn, washing windows, painting rooms inside our house, trimming around the trees in our yard with those old-fashioned scissor-like clippers (it’s a wonder I didn’t get carpal tunnel syndrome way back then), picking vegetables from our garden (with my dad) and helping Mommy can or freeze them, and helping with laundry. I don’t ever seem to have time for such projects at home unless I block out a weekend or take a few days of vacation (and who wants to do that with their vacation time?) to do such things. I’ve decided that I will just declare a Procrastinator’s Day several times a year and spend it doing mundane chores that I don’t especially enjoy doing but that need to be done. It’s about time to organize under the bathroom sinks and kitchen sink. Yikes. But for now I am concentrating on the kitchen. Then I will move to the bedroom, where I will clean my bedside table, which is spilling over with books and is quite dusty. Next up, clean the top of my and John’s chests of drawers. And then (the biggie) clean out the bookshelves in our bedroom. I have a small library down there and need to share some of those books with others. Some I will give to friends, and the rest to Goodwill.

Well, if I’m ever going to get anything done, I must get back to the kitchen. I’m encouraged to see some things starting to get into shape. Who knows, maybe I will even dust the living room (which I have done in the last 2 or 3 weeks). I could even get really organized like my boss and have an index card file with tasks written on each card, and rotate through the card file every quarter. Nah. Probably ain’t gonna happen. Besides, I can always save something to my Google drive and not have to waste time writing out cards.

Hasta luego!


Kermit, Virginia, As I Knew It

Kermit, Virginia, As I Knew It

by Walter P. Leonard

Kermit, a small community “South of the Mountain” (Clinch), is located about twelve miles west of Weber City, Virginia, on State Route 614. It was once a very thriving community. The town was laid out for future development. There was a post office, a general grocery store, a mission church, and train station all within less than the distance of a football field. These were located beside a railroad that featured a freight station and a building that served as a place for passengers to wait for the passenger trains.

In the early days there were four passenger trains passing through Kermit, two in the morning and two in the afternoons. The Post Office that served Kermit got its name from a Mr. Cassard who was president of the sand plant located nearby. We do not know where Kermit got its name.

The sand plant was located on Clinch Mountain above where the railroad enters the tunnel through the mountain. The tunnel exits at Speers Ferry on the opposite side of the mountain. This tunnel is 9/10 of a mile long. The railroad is presently owned by the CSX transportation company.

The sand quarry did not operate for many years due to the fact that much of the rock had iron in it. This made the sand that was produced unfit for fine glassware. The sand was shipped by rail to Pennsylvania, where it was used in the manufacture of glassware.


The general store was owned and operated by W. C. Bray, followed by John Pendleton and then Bill Williams. When the store closed, Mallie Carol and her husband opened a small store about one-half mile west of Kermit. L. D. Blessing operated a small store one-half mile east of Kermit.

Kermit Mission

The Kermit Mission was begun by Miss Ellen Bergen, aunt of the world-famous ventriloquist Edgar Bergen. Among others who served at the Mission were: Miss Henry, Miss Breedlove, Miss Winfred Smith, Miss Martha Milander, Rev. Frank Beck, and Rev. Martin Perry. There were others whose names we cannot recall.

In addition to the mission house, the Mission owned a large dwelling house where the missionaries lived.

Catron’s Chapel

Rev. Ples Jenkins, a Primitive Baptist preacher, held a very Spirit-filled revival that inspired the people of the community to build a Primitive Baptist church. Mr. and Mrs. Roy Catron, along with Mr. and Mrs. N. C. Jones, donated land for the purpose of building a Primitive Baptist church. This gift of land was conveyed to the church in 1941.

Post Office

As mentioned before, Cassard Post Office was near the Kermit freight station. Mail was delivered and collected by the passenger trains daily. Mr. Jacob “Jake” Hensley was the first postmaster and served until he was murdered on his way home as he traveled through a trestle under the railroad. He was succeeded by his wife, Lavada, for a short time. Lavada was followed by Lonza Gilliam Buchanan, who served from 1926 until 1937. She had as her assistant Callie Leonard Gilliam.* Maggie Leonard** succeeded her and served into the early 1940s. She was followed by Edna Bellamy Housewright, who served for a short period of time before the fourth-class post office was closed permanently.

Kermit has contributed to society: ministers, school teachers, and Internal Revenue officer, accountants, bookkeepers, secretaries, and other professional people, along with three people who gave their lives in World War II serving their country. Although many of the things that once made Kermit well-known are gone, Kermit is still a place dear to our hearts, and many fine people are still carrying on.


This article was published in the Scott County Virginia Star sometime in the first decade of the twenty-first century.

*My paternal aunt

**My paternal grandmother

My uncle, Robert Leonard, was the IRS agent mentioned in the last paragraph. My dad was a bookkeeper for many years at a small appliance store in Weber City. He worked for 18 years as a production clerk at the glass plant in Kingsport, TN (it was called American St. Gobain and then AFG Industries when he worked there). When Daddy retired in 1983, he had worked there for 18 years.


To learn more about Scott County, Virginia, visit https://www.worldatlas.com/na/us/va/c-scott-county-virginia.html


Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow

Walking Through the Valley of the Shadow

My original blog title was How Do You Sum Up a Year? Rather an impossible task for me right now. I haven’t blogged since May. This has been kind of a crazy year. (I’m not going to go into details. It’s enough to know one thing that’s happened during the past two months.)

I am reveling in having time off from work during the holidays. I planned my whole year around work, something I’m not sure my colleagues do.  I needed vacation a couple of times but didn’t take it due to deadlines at work. Deadlines. We live and die by deadlines in my business. Sometimes I feel depleted as I edit one more catalog, rewrite copy for one more book, write back cover copy for books that are going to Production (months after I have written trade copy, consumer copy, designed author media kits, etc.). It’s almost like starting all over to write back cover copy. Enough about work. I am trying to distance myself from it mentally so I can go back refreshed in the New Year.

A huge change occurred in our lives a couple of weeks before Thanksgiving. One morning, out of the blue, I got a phone call from sister-in-law, with whom I hadn’t spoken or been in contact with (though I tried) since 2007. “Anne, it’s Bonnie.” At first I thought it was a Bonnie from our church choir, but the voice didn’t sound like hers. Then, incredulously, I said, “Bonnie?”

And my dear sister-in-law said, “Yes, it’s me.” In her typical matter-of-fact approach to life, she told me that she was seriously ill, that she was worried about her husband (my husband’s brother),  and she hoped that we would be able to support him during her illness and beyond. We talked for quite a while, and I found myself relaxing and reconnecting with her after so long. We used to be close like sisters. Then something happenedbetween my husband and hers. Since she and my brother-in-law lived states away, it was easy to just cut off the relationship.

I don’t know how many times I have prayed about this situation, hoping that the estranged brothers would work through their differences and maybe have a workable adult relationship for the first time in their lives. Sometimes God answers prayers in ways you wouldn’t expect, and I didn’t particularly like the way that God answered my prayers. “Not fair!” I fumed to God, after discovering the my sister-in-law is very sick indeed and probably won’t survive a year. She had cancer wrapped around her colon, for which she had surgery sometime around Thanksgiving. The news was not good. She knew that she was in bad shape, having lost 30 pounds since January. She was small framed to begin with and has never weighed over 115-120 pounds. The surgeon reported that she has a mass around her aorta and another around her kidney. He removed the mass around her intestines.

Well, I got a little ahead of myself here. I was talking about Bonnie’s phone call, and then i skipped to her surgery. In the meantime we had several phone conversations. The most awkward ones were with her husband, but I appreciated that Bonnie had the courage to reach out to me and let me know about her health situation before she dies. She told me in that first phone call that she didn’t think she would opt to undergo chemotherapy. She was concerned that her husband would try to talk her into trying chemo. John and I began visiting her at the hospital after she had her surgery. (John sat with his brother while she was in surgery, and the first time I met him face-to-face after 10 years, he invited me to go back to recovery with him as soon as he was able to see Bonnie. That felt a little weird, and I knew Bonnie wouldn’t remember my being there, but I went anyway. She was groggy, of course, from anesthesia and didn’t want to wake up. She was also obviously in pain. The nurse in the recovery room was trying to get her to press her button to release pain meds, and I thought, “You are nuts if you think she is going to be cognizant enough to press this button tonight.” I didn’t say anything, though. Rudy and I left after about maybe 5 minutes back in recovery. He was exhausted from a long day of waiting and just wanted to get home and go to sleep.

So our holidays have been full of hospital visits. Bonnie and I have enjoyed catching up with each other. She has been so alert most of the time. The Sunday after her surgery on Wednesday, she slept all day and did not wake when Julie, my daughter, and I went to see her. Rudy had just left; he had been with her most of the day, and he said she had slept all day. (We ran into him as he was going to his car and we were headed to the parking garage.)

I have been reticent about stepping back too quickly into Rudy’s life. We have sat around Bonnie’s bedside (she was in the hospital for 5 weeks, nearly 6) and chatted a little. I took food by the house where they are staying in Nashville (and have been since Hurricane Irma) … didn’t think to take Thanksgiving dinner leftovers, but I cooked one of my favorite go-to casseroles, a hot chicken salad, the week after Thanksgiving. Yesterday, Christmas Day, I packed up some leftovers from our meal (spiral-sliced ham, ambrosia, macaroni casserole, and a strawberry/cream cheese/pretzel dessert. John and I went to see Bonnie first at the rehab where she is recuperating and trying to rebuild her strength. She is quite weak after so much time in the hospital bed and is taking physical and occupational therapy to try to get stronger. She has made progress and is able to walk short distances (around her room, down the hall, and this weekend, around her house). Rudy brought her home on Christmas Eve for part of the day. She was so homesick to see their two Maine Coon cats, Hans and Katerina. She got some good loving time with them. And then she went back to the health care center overnight, and Rudy brought her back home for Christmas Day).

After going to Bonnie’s room at the health care center and finding she wasn’t there, we figured she was at home, so we drove to their house, about 2 miles from the health care center. Their minivan was running, and I thought, “Well, I guess I should’ve called and seen what their plans were,” but we have found it easier to just show up. Rudy was warming up the van so it wouldn’t chill Bonnie (she’s down to 85 pounds) upon their return to rehab. Meanwhile we arrived with the food. I was just going to put it in the fridge, and John and I would leave, but Bonnie had other plans. I didn’t even think about offering her food because she typically doesn’t have much appetite. On Dec. 23, she ate maybe 3 bites of her dinner while we and Rudy were there, even though he tried to encourage her to eat more. Last night she was interested in the ham, so I put a small piece and a spoonful of macaroni casserole on a paper plate and microwaved it. She actually ate most of what was on her plate. She had also eaten well at the health care center…at least the red velvet cake was gone, and she’d had some ham there too.

Visiting Bonnie reminded me of spending time at the hospital two years in a row before my mom died back in 1991. The hospital and nursing home can be depressing places to be during the holidays. However, it has not felt depressing this time, even though the health situation and outlook are not hopeful.

Bonnie has made her peace with her disease. She told me in that first phone call that she had accepted her situation, but Rudy wasn’t there yet. He is grieving, as any loving spouse would, knowing that death is imminent. It’s not been a bed of roses for him or Bonnie…she has moments of panic, which are quite normal. Oh, I haven’t mentioned that she is a mental health professional. Therapists struggle with the same situations as everyone else. She knows in her head what she is going through. I found myself saying, “Hey, be gentle with yourself. You are venturing through territory you haven’t been through before. This is scary stuff and a daunting journey.” We have shared sweet moments together, and I find myself grieving in advance for losing her. Sometimes life just isn’t fair. You reconnect with a loved one only to find that there’s not much time left. However, there is grace in our circumstances. I’m so glad Bonnie had the courage to pick up the phone and reach out to me that day back in November.

God is good…all the time. “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for thou art with me” (Psalm 23). Even when we can’t feel the divine presence, God is there. He gives strength to the weak, and he comforts those who are struggling. Bonnie has found peace in the book Jesus Calling by Sarah Bessey. I occasionally send her texts with messages of encouragement and hope from what I read in The Upper Room daily devotional guide and other sources. Her soul is in a good place, and I am privileged to share this final journey with her.






Walter, Powerful Warrior

I’ve been going through my dad’s belongings, slowly and tenderly, in the past few months since his death on October 28, 2016. As I find correspondence (he saved everything, including bills as far back as the 1990s), I open each envelope, because I never know what unexpected treasure might be stuffed inside.

I have found pictures of my children in various cute and awkward stages–Julie dressed up in various costumes and clothes, striking a dramatic pose (she’s always had the acting bug), an adolescent Daniel…I found one pic of him smiling as he sported his Mohawk his junior year of high school. I see the sensitive, artistic side of Daniel in most of the pictures. There are pictures of Daniel and Julie playing Yahtzee with my dad at Christmastime.

But then I found one letter written by my grandmother that left me tearful. It brings to mind the lyrics of a song, “Find Us Faithful,” that our choir at Crievewood Baptist Church often sang:

After all our hopes and dreams have come and gone
And our children sift through all we’ve left behind
May the clues that they discover
And the memories they uncover
Become the light that leads them
To the road we each must find

Words by Jon Mohr. Copyright 1988 Birdwing Music/Jonathan Mark Music (admin. by The Sparrow Corp.). All rights reserved.

My grandmother, who suffered from congestive heart failure, was writing to my aunt (April 15, 1977). A portion of her letter describes my dad so well:

I’ve had so much fluid at times I could not hardly get my breath. Walter came and stayed with me last night. We got up and fixed breakfast and he made his bed and carried in stove wood and pumped a bucketful of water and started home about 6:30. I think he goes to work at 8:00.

Also tucked in this envelope is a small envelope labeled “To Daddy from Anne.” Inside I found a card I’d bought, one of those that explains the meaning of a person’s name. I thought it summarized the kind of person my dad was:

an Old German name
“Powerful Warrior”

He is quiet and enjoyable; a man who is very secure with himself; always gets involved in things; just to see him is heartening; is a very devoted person; has a captivating personality; he is a man sure of himself; he is proud of the things he does.

Okay, well, some of this describes my dad. “Powerful warrior” may be metaphorical. My dad was a World War II veteran, but he arrived on the battlefronts just after the battle was over, and he was enroute to Japan when the atomic bombs were dropped, so thank God he missed that.

“Quiet and enjoyable,” yes. He was one of those people who stays in the background in many situations, happy to let someone else be in the spotlight and willing to do whatever needed to keep things running smoothly.

“A man who is very secure with himself,” maybe.The rest of the description suits him to a T, except “he is proud of the things he does.” I think my dad took pride in his endeavors but he is one of the humblest people I’ve ever known. He certainly modeled for me how to live a quiet and Christlike life.

One of these days when I feel like it, I will return to my blog posts and add some visuals. But right now I just want to reflect on my dad, his strong belief in doing the right thing no matter how tough the situation, and I honor and cherish him in my heart and memories.

I am blessed to have had such a kind man for a father. Even last June when he was failing physically and mentally, he wrote me a sweet note expressing his gratitude for how I cared for him. Always faithful, that Walter. Powerful warrior too. He accepted the challenging situations in his life, faced them bravely, and stayed faithful to the end. I want to be like him.





Everybody’s Got Something

I thought it was Gilda Radner who said, “Everybody’s got something,” but after a quick look at Google, I discovered that this saying is the title of Robin Roberts’s latest memoir.

“Regardless of how much money you have, your race, where you live, what religion you follow, you are going through something. Or you already have or you will. As momma always said, “Everybody’s got something.” ~Robin Roberts

Robin Roberts’s momma, Lucimarian Roberts, was right, and she was a wise woman. None of us is immune to the trials of being human.

If your life is going swimmingly and you feel on top of the world, rest assured, that will change eventually. You may have to deal with the loss of someone dear to you, depression, financial struggles, job insecurities, substance abuse, after-effects of trauma, a shattered relationship…the list is endless. But the converse is also true: if you are going through a really awful period in your life right now, tie a knot and hang on tight: things will eventually change.

I am taking time to reflect on some experiences I’ve gone through in the past couple of years. When I look back at my private journals, I see evidence of God’s fingerprints all over my life. I have journaled about prayer concerns. Many of them have been resolved, some in ways I would not have chosen, but they have turned out okay. I keep a card in my daily devotional magazine that I received from the alumni director at my dad’s college when I wrote her to inform her of his death. It says,

“God is our REFUGE and strength,

an ever-present

help in trouble.”

~Psalm 46:1 (NIV)

I have found that to be true.

I am also reminded of some verses I read in the Gospel of Mark (chapter 9) just this morning, in a passage where a man brings his son to Jesus.  He says, “Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed by a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid.” (Sounds like symptoms of epilepsy to me.) I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not.”

To which Jesus replies, with a hint of exasperation in his voice, “O unbelieving generation, how long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me.”

Scripture records that “they” brought the boy to Jesus. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at he mouth.

Jesus, I sense speaking with compassion, asked the boy’s father, “How long has he been like this?”

The father replies, “Since childhood. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. but if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.”

“IF I can?” Jesus responds. “Anything is possible if a person believes.”

The father instantly exclaims, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!” (Mark 9:17-24)

I will leave it to you to read the rest of this story. Yesterday in a Skype session with an author who is writing a book for us, the author pointed to this scripture passage as one that spoke to him deeply as a teenager. Maybe that’s a prayer we all need to pray:
“Lord, I believe. Help the parts of me that don’t believe.”

Here are some situations I’ve been praying about in the past 3 months. God has answered some of my prayers; other situations remain the same. As I’ve heard it said, waiting is the hardest part. But it’s also encouraging to see how many prayers were answered.

January 13

Friend of a friend–Cousin’s child was having seizures and was life-flighted to Vanderbilt. (Update 2/15: Friend reported the child had recovered.)

Same friend’s mom and dad–Both are having serious health problems. The mom was diagnosed with several new health conditions, including diabetes, and the doctor said there was basically nothing he/she could do for her. The dad had much pain in his spine and arthritis in his lower back. Pain management and epidural shots weren’t working. A bad knee was preventing him from driving. As of the first week of March, he has improved and is more mobile. The mom’s situation is not good and probably won’t ever be.

Prayers for my friend as she provides care for her mom and dad. She has had to quit her job, and she has three children. Also dealing with a relative with a brain injury who is undergoing occupational therapy for life skills. I pray for strength for this friend. She gets overwhelmed at times but keeps her faith. Once a week she is able to get out and go to a Bible study.

Prayers for my husband as he awaits surgery on Jan. 20 (and as the doctor’s office ran into snags trying to get his surgery approved by insurance). Update: The surgery was approved, and John came through it well.

February 15

God, help John to continue to heal from his surgery. Thanks for the progress he’s made so far.

Lord, help my high school friend who has a rare form of skin cancer. She’s miserable. Give her some relief and reassurance of your presence.

Prayers for safe travels and comfort as my yoga teacher and her boyfriend travel to Indiana for her boyfriend’s cousins funeral.

Prayers for safe travels for us and all family members going to Weber City, VA, for my uncle’s 95th birthday celebration. Thanks for his long life and how he has touched others!

Special comfort for a dear friend who has just lost her mother…be present with her during visitation with family and friends and as her mother is buried tomorrow. Prayers for her comfort and a sense of your love and peace surrounding her.

February 22

Lord, be with our next-door neighbors. He was just diagnosed with pulmonary fibrosis, and doctor said he has about 5 years to live. She has a 99-year-old mom who is still in good health and lives alone, but that situation weighs on her. She also has a tough relationship with her brother and is caring for two grandkids. God, please sustain this woman and give her encouragement. Show us how we can help.

Other next-door neighbor: We’ve had a difficult relationship with her over the years. Help us to be sweet and kind to her when we see her. She must be lonely.

A young couple on our street who have a new baby.

One of my friend’s sister’s family…her sister had a baby in January who was born with retinal cancer. Praying for successful treatment for this tiny baby who is already on chemo. What a tough way to start out in life. God, surround her parents with peace, strength, and love.

Our children–help them make wise decisions about their love lives, finances, close friendships, and jobs.

John–Continued healing. Please help his pain. Give us discernment about what to do regarding retirement and building apartments on our house. Help me to be cooperative with him and refrain from criticism.

Our country. Show me how to respectfully resist when the current president seems bent on destroying US relationships with other countries, bans immigrants from particular countries, when some cabinet members and other agency heads seem to directly oppose the areas/agencies which they are responsible (education, environment, for example). And healthcare. Oy vey. We need divine intervention there. The current Affordable Healthcare Act has many problems, but what I hear about the replacement plan/repeal sounds even worse. God help President Trump. I could start by praying that you’d give him a heart. (Guess I’m being critical here. Help me to live with heart.)

February 27

Prayers for my friend Jim as he heals from a recent procedure that left him very weak. He is having a liver biopsy on Mon., March 13.

Prayer of the name: I lift up to you Donald J. Trump.

Prayers for my high school friend’s son, who has serious GI problems. Help them to find relief. He is only 21 and is unable to work or go to school because of this condition.

March 15

President Trump is coming to Nashville today. Prayers for our city. Prayers for safety for all involved in the Trump rally and for the protesters (my son included) who show up to peacefully demonstrate.

March 17

Prayers for my friends Kent & Penny

My friend Linda (3/16 birthday) and her daddy, who has cancer

Praise you, God, for Jim’s good report from his liver biopsy. Praise you for his 80th birthday and the celebration we are having tonight. Continue to sustain him & his family as they live with his wife’s dementia.

Healing prayers for my friend Marti’s partner, who broke her ankle recently and has broken her back and compressed vertebrae several times. They are going on vacation next week. May this be a time of rest and healing for all involved…and give them patience with teenage twins!

Doug, that he will be happy with new job.

Doug and his partner Frank…and all the gay couples I know. Legislation is before the Tennessee assembly to ban same-sex marriage, or at least not recognize it as valid marriage. The legislation defines marriage as being between a man and a woman. Lord, I don’t understand why we are revisiting this territory after the Supreme Court ruling a couple of years ago.

Prayers for those affected by the U.S. House Resolution on education, especially its implication for special education and the many areas where we will go backwards…I pray this bill will not pass. Show me how I can respond effectively. Jim Cooper, our representative from the 5th district, will vote against it.

Well, those are just a few of my prayer concerns from the past 3 months. I believe in the saying “Take your burdens to the Lord and leave them there.” I also believe in putting feet to my prayers, so I ask God to show me how he would have me respond to various situations. Still pondering a lot of this.

I am going on a silent retreat (overnight) next week. I hope to gain clarity and hear God’s voice about several situations in my life.