Overheard, out and about, Mrs. Grundy sees all, tells all

Published 2:00 am Saturday, September 4, 2010

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I caught sight of the morning glories, cascading over my picket fence, a sight familiar in September along with that of pears, pomegranates, red cypress vine and the rarer white cypress vine, boiled peanuts, crepe myrtle still a-bloom (summer’s best buy for blooms), muscadines, scuppernongs and yellow butterflies, hovering about the abelias. With the bitterweed for a carpet, Miss Summer bids us farewell amid a yellow haze.

I miss visiting my late friend, Betty (Hand) Taylor, whose parents left her a large, city lot with a scuppernong arbor in the back. Betty and I used to gather the yellow-green fruit each year, tasting as we hunted the grapes. Betty had a heart for poetry and left behind a stack of original pieces. I recall her joy in getting her street named for her family and selecting a name for her home, in the English tradition, before she died.

I was up Montgomery way last weekend, stopping at the Cracker Barrel in Greenville to lunch with Mrs. Gotrocks.

The new Georgiana bypass that is joining the old road at the foot of McKenzie Hill is already being paved. I’m surprised at the progress.

At Montgomery where I-65 and I-85 meet, there was only one lane toward Atlanta available because of construction. Traffic in that lane was backed up so far that I couldn’t get over into the Atlanta lane and was forced to go on toward Birmingham, turning back into Montgomery the first chance I had.

In Montgomery I visited my Aged Father and went grocery shopping for him. In the store, Oaktree, I ran into a former Andalusian, Jeremy Sasser, son of Wayne and Angie (Baker) Sasser, who lives in the Morningview area with his wife and two children. He told me that Mamie Wahl had died and that her funeral would be Sunday at 2 p.m. in First Baptist Church, Andalusia. This news was a godsend, because it was the only notice I had of Mamie’s passing.

I cut my stay short in order to return to Andalusia Sun., Aug. 29, for Mamie’s funeral.

The sanctuary was beautified with a bank of floral tributes behind her open casket. Mamie lay, dressed in a pink, knit pullover and navy jacket, with her glasses. The “blanket” was particularly beautiful with red roses interspersed among greenery and white baby’s breath, white spider mums, and white snapdragons. Seating and tables for the Irene Hines Bell Choir centered the podium. Mamie had rung with this choir for years; her white robe, crimson stole and hand bells were displayed on a chair in front of her fellow ringers, who wore matching robes.

Jeanice (Paul) Kirkland, church organist, began the service with a concert of organ music.

The bells, directed by Dwight Crigger, minister of music, played.

Mrs. Kirkland played again, pieces such as “Amazing Grace” and “I Must Tell Jesus.”

The bells followed with “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” as the family entered.

Mr. Crigger led the bells and congregation in “It Is Well.”

There was much weeping throughout the service. Some couldn’t sing for sobbing.

Dr. Fred Karthaus, pastor of First Baptist, offered scripture and prayer.

Don Lingle, former minister of music at First Baptist for 28 years and long-time director of the bells and adult choir, in which Mamie participated, sang a solo, “Fill My Cup,” accompanied by Mrs. Kirkland. Don’s wife Dot drove down with him from their new home in central Alabama, Odenville.

Dr. Karthaus then delivered one of the finest eulogies I have ever heard, beginning and ending with prayer.

He spoke of Mamie’s 26 years as an elementary teacher at Pleasant Home School. She was the first person hired by Jim Garner, her former principal, who was there that day as a pallbearer. Many of Mamie’s colleagues and former students were present, sitting in a group.

Mamie and her husband, Randy, had been married 35 years.

Dr. Karthaus spoke of Mamie’s “life of focused passion,” of Mamie’s love of music, her teaching music (even taking a group to sing in Carnegie Hall, New York), of the “tender heart” behind her strong personality, and of her “strong character.”

He said that she was “respected and loved by all” and that she “never gave in and never gave up.”

Dr. Karthaus ended by saying that now Mamie has been taken to the “most Pleasant Home.”

As the family exited, the bells rang “Unclouded Day.”

Burial followed at the Andalusia Memorial Cemetery with Dr. Karthaus, offering scripture and prayer.

Mamie (Hall) Wahl was born March 24, 1952, and died Aug. 26, 2010, at 58. She is survived by her husband Randy, her three sons, Brad, Todd and Adam, and Adam’s wife Leanne, by grandchildren, Brent, Trystan, Keena and Kodee, by her mother, Margaret Hall, her brother, Howard E. Hall Jr., by her sister, Camille McGuire, and by a niece, Tessa Zampieri, and nephew, Jay McGuire.

Her father, Howard Hall Sr., and a sister, Laura Zampieri, preceded her in death.

Pallbearers were Jim Garner, Craig Nichols, Jimmy Reeves, Rod Lewis, Larry Roundtree and Gary Roundtree.

Gillis Jones, I’m told, did a good job, teaching the Sunday School lesson in the Baraca Class of First Baptist last weekend in the absence of Richard Pass, the regular teacher.

Last Sunday night a college choir, Voices of Mobile, from the University of Mobile, sang a concert in Southside Baptist Church. The program had been arranged by two members of Southside and graduates of Mobile, the twin brothers, Madison and Robert Copeland. It was the choir’s first visit to Andalusia.

The choir, a mixture of young, Christian men and women, all dressed in black, and each with a hand-held “mic,” used a cappella and tape-accompanied music. Their harmony was phenomenal.

The group travels throughout the nation and to foreign countries, performing as a witness for Christ. They have sung in the White House several times and plan to present 150 concerts this year.

Most in the group sang solos during the evening; one young lady also played the violin. Their voices were extraordinary.

Instead of standing in rows, like traditional choirs, this group “huddled,” turned in, singing to each other. Their other “choreography” included dividing into groups and moving about as they sang.

Their organizer, Roger Breland, acted as narrator, speaking between numbers. He said, “What we do as Christians we should do with excellence.”

Breland once taught school in Opp and served as minister of music at First Baptist, Opp. He organized the Christian, traveling choir, Truth, which toured for 31 years. Breland is now on the staff at the University of Mobile.

The Covington County Education Retirees Association met for the first time this academic year, September l, at Florala High School.

Principal Donny Powell welcomed the group of retired teachers and support personnel and led in a tour of the school, also providing refreshments when the meeting was over. The school’s fisheries and a wind turbine were featured on the tour.

New CCERA President Allen Miller presided, leading the pledge and offering prayer.

A former president, Geraldine Boothe, presented a devotional.

Reports were made by Gayle Weeks, secretary; Harriet Scofield, treasurer; and committee chairmen, Kim Dyess, membership; Janice Hudson, relevant information; Joe Wingard, community service; and Sharon Dye, vice-president, in charge of programs.

Canned goods were collected for a yearlong, statewide project of the Alabama ERA to provide food for the needy.

Kim Dyess offered a door prize of $25. Joann Geohagan won by a drawing.

Also attending were Marlene Miller (wife of Allen), Christine M. Wilson, Peggy Woodham, Bonita Kelley, Diane Stevenson (whose late husband was principal at Florala H.S. for more than 30 years), Mavis Smith, Lucy Conner, Gwendolyn Jessie, Mary F. Bass, Johnnie Weeks, Dean Morris (social chairman), Kathryne King, Glenda A. Presley (benevolence committee), Earl and Dot Jones, Larry Presley, Peggy Mobley (former president and vice-president of the Alabama Education Association), Murry and Nan Johnson, Evelyn Larigan (public relations), Carolyn H. Davis, Ethel M. Robertson, Lillie Mae Thompson, Kay Cassady, Mary Wilson, Katherine Wyatt, Lynda Powell, Linda Lucas and Elaine Chavers (former secretary).

President Miller set the next meeting for October 6 at 10 a.m. in David’s Catfish House, Andalusia, to hear candidates for state representative.

Seen at the Huddle House for supper were Adrian Dyess and his wife Tina (Owens). Talk led to mention of Tina’s brother, Mike, and Adrian’s best friend, Allen Phillips. Also seen were Wayne and Lenora Johnson and Stephanie Nelson and Wesley Snodgrass.

The Adult Choir of First Baptist has a new slate of officers: Wilma (Short) Moore, president; Frank Moore, vice-president; Peggy Tucker, treasurer (replacing Mary Hill, the “Belle of Excel,” who has been treasurer since time began); Joan (Hill) Mitchell, attendance secretary; Gordon Vickers, librarian (he even puts each person’s music in each person’s binder, in order for singing); Jennifer Dansby, recording secretary; Casey Thompson, bass leader; Dr. Morgan Moore, tenor leader; Natasha Mallory, alto leader; Connie Seale, Stephanie Boyd and Mary Hill, the three soprano leaders; Jason Tucker (pianist), Martha Givhan (pianist-organist) and Jeanice Kirkland (organist), the three benevolence leaders; Sonia Crigger, Jennifer McMath and Neal Dansby, the three members of the social committee; and Nancy Darnell, robe chairlady.

Director is Dwight Crigger in his third year.

President for September 2009 – August 2010, was the dynamic Neal Dansby, who led in an enthusiastic and pleasant manor.

Mark Chandler, a friend made from my traveling days with Samford tours in England, called the other day. He is now living in Huntersville, N.C., and went in July to Germany and Austria with his nephew’s family.

I had supper Sunday night at the Huddle House with Trudie (Cobb) Steele, local artist, and Carolyn Johnson, semi-retired employee of the Andalusia City Schools.

My Aged Father and I were visiting his old home place in Deatsville recently. He sat on an old, wooden, porch swing and told how, when a boy, he sat in that same swing with a neighbor of his, Dr. Nix, a medical doctor who had fought as a boy in the Battle of Atlanta during the War Between the States. Dr. Nix had said that, if the Southerners had known that Sherman would burn Atlanta, they would have made him fight for every inch. They didn’t think he could be that low. Dr. Nix never pronounced Yankee with two syllables; he always used three.

It amazes me that my father, who is alive at 91, actually talked with someone who had fought in “the War.”

Miss Priscilla Primme, the English teacher, believes that men should wear coats and ties to funerals and that babies should not be taken to funerals, weddings and graduation ceremonies.

Perhaps, gentle reader, you can help me identify the following person: pudgy, olive-skinned, glasses, greying, business oriented, wristwatch, lovely wife, local graduate, nice handwriting.

God bless Jan White, that pleasant, Christian lady, for her trying to preserve the works of the late Lou Brown, a columnist in our local paper for many years. Jan is trying to collect a complete set of Miss Lou’s essays and poems.

Miss Lena Boswell came by the other day; she’s another example of a fine, Christian lady.

John D. Stokes enjoyed an at-home, 94th birthday August 31, thanks to his late sister’s (Bernice’s) older son, Robert Lee Holley, who prepared a meal for his uncle and guests of fried fish, slaw, baked beans, “Freedom” fries and hush puppies.

Linda Smithart, who helps Mr. Stokes, contributed tea and potato salad. Linda’s daughter later brought some ice cream by. John D.’s daughter, Crystell Prestwood, brought in a cake.

Dropping by were Clara Bass, a first cousin; Pat Grissett, Clara’s daughter; Elma Barron, a first cousin; Billy Stokes, a nephew; Irene (Davis) Butler, a friend (her late husband Ray was a special friend of John D.’s); and Bonice Stokes, a sister-in-law, with her grown daughters, Judy Stokes, Dot Gulberg and Jeanie Metzger.

Irene’s son, Dr. Rex Butler, sent a letter of congratulations by his mother.

Other cards, calls, and gifts poured in to make “many happy returns of the day” a hope and a prayer.

Thursday was the birthday of Eugene Field, “the Poet of Childhood,” whose poem about falling to sleep, “Wynken, Blynken, and Nod,” was used in a motion picture about Dennis the Menace. He is also remembered for his Christmas poem, “Jest ‘Fore Christmas.”

Yesterday brought the anniversary of the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended our Revolutionary War in 1783. It was also the birthday of the American writer, Sarah Orne Jewett, whose book of essays, Country of the Pointed Firs, is one of the loveliest books one can read.

Now, gentle reader, let me encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend. Fare thee well.