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

Published 12:00 am Saturday, December 22, 2012

Peeping through my Venetian blind, I saw and heard in the starlight a group of rosy-cheeked carolers, singing “Silent Night.”

They sang several other Christmas songs for me and then headed across the way to Covington Hall, aglow with candles in the windows and wreaths upon the doors.

Ah, Christmas!

Recently I read with interest the obituary of James Anthon Patterson, known to his family as Anthon, born in Andalusia May 2, 1942, and reared here, finishing the Andalusia High School in 1960.

Anthon died Dec. 6 in San Antonio, Texas.

Inquiring about him, I found additional information about his life.

He earned his bachelor’s degree from Troy University, his MBA from the University of Southern California, and served 12 years in the Air Force, retiring in 1974 as a colonel in the reserves.

Anthon began a second career by working for the nation’s top insurance companies as senior vice-president of Property and Casualty at the United States Automobile Association and as CEO of Traveler’s Insurance Division to Citigroup.

Insurance agents will particularly be interested in the following details.

He served in several leadership positions at USAA. As a vice-president, he established the first formal organization responsible for reviewing productivity and staffing requirements for all positions. As a regional vice-president, he directed the insurance operations of 11 states in the Northeast U.S. and all overseas locations. He also was the director of information systems for all USAA companies; and in 2000, he developed the products and services needed by members 15 years into the future. He was also charged with examining the synergy and integration of all USAA products, information systems, delivery systems and supporting functions.

His wife Loretta said, “He was never happier than when he saw a large group of people accomplishing a huge task together.”

Anthon was a natural-born problem solver, highly regarded in each field he entered.

An avid golfer, he traveled annually to Carmel, Calif., to play fellow golf enthusiasts from San Antonio.

Anthon was a remarkable man, one of our own, of whom Andalusia can be truly proud.

Word comes to me that Andrew Westmoreland, the current president of Samford University in Birmingham, recently ran into one of Samford’s alumni, Elliott Dansby, on a return visit by Elliott to the campus.

Dr. Westmoreland happily remembered both Elliot and his younger sister, Judith Anne, outstanding students of Andalusia High School and Samford, and rather longingly inquired about the home-baked bread the siblings used to give him when they were students at Samford. The loaf bread was a gift to Dr. Westmoreland through Elliott and Judith Anne, baked by the students’ mother, Jennifer (Smith) Dansby, who also bakes her bread for visitors to First Baptist Church, for Christmas presents, and special occasions, sometimes wrapping the bread in a giveaway kitchen towel, and always given “in the Name of Jesus.”

If I know Jennifer (Mrs. Neal Dansby), she’ll see that Dr. Westmoreland receives yet another loaf of her bread before all is said and done.

Elliott and his wife Jenny now live in Birmingham.

Judith Anne teaches in Mississippi.

Taking lunch at Tabby D’s buffet, I enjoyed a visit with Roland Carter, a former city clerk, down from his new home in Hendersonville, N.C., to hunt. He and his wife moved from here to live near their daughter, Angie, and her two sons. Their son Wade lives in California.

Talk turned to a mutual friend, the late Gertrude Nelson, loved by so many, as good a heart as ever one could know.

Taking supper at the Crow’s Nest, I talked with Terry Turner, AHS Class of 1972. Our talk turned to Jesus.

At night have you seen the lights in Robinson Park and on the palms at the former Church Street School? “The Dimple of Dixie” just gets prettier and prettier!

Eating supper at Larry’s, I had a table visit with Mr. and Mrs. Bob Mock, here from Jackson, Miss., to work on her parents’ house.

John and Connie Beasley keep life simple. For lunch Christmas Day they join their two sons (both now live in Birmingham) and cook homemade hamburgers and fries, a family tradition.

Roy Parker, late of Andalusia, now a resident of Auburn with his wife Lynn, had never eaten raw sugar cane, I hear tell. Young Denny Merritt was chewing some one day when Roy, always hungry, asked what it was Denny was eating. Denny gave Roy a section cut from the cane, and Roy began to eat and SWALLOW the cane; at least, he tried. He lived to tell about it.

The senior adults of First Baptist Church attended their monthly luncheon Dec. 18 at noon in Fellowship Hall.

Dr. Morgan Moore, chairman of the Senior Adult Council, presided in the absence of Gordon Vickers, minister to senior adults, who was recuperating from surgery.

(As Editor Ed Dannelly used to put it, Gordon was “under the knife.”)

Gillis Jones worded the blessing.

Diane Green catered the meal of roast, carrots, and potatoes with rice, cabbage, and fried bread, and red-velvet cake for dessert.

Trudy Vickers and Betty Bass elaborately decorated the hall with Christmas pieces, greenery, and wreaths in the windows, a large wreath on the door, poinsettia and candy-cane centerpieces on the tables with poinsettia napkins. A teddy bear sat in a child’s chair next to a lighted tree. A manger scene ornamented one table. A church house sat upon another.

The program was performed by the Glory Singers, a group of senior adults of First Baptist and other churches, which meets Wednesday mornings to practice and performs throughout the community.

They were directed by Dwight Crigger, minister of music at First Baptist, and sang a number of Christmas songs before Crigger led the audience in half a dozen carols and secular pieces.

Carolyn Wilson was soloist in one of the choir numbers.

Martha Givhan, church organist, accompanied at the piano.

Fred Karthaus, pastor, prayed the benediction.

Seen at David’s Catfish House for supper were Larry Maddox, Allan and Nell Wiggle and Jimbo Caton.

The Covingtons invited several of us to an Alabama’s Birthday Party in Covington Hall Dec. 14.

Miss Cora had baked and iced a cake in the shape of the state with 1819 (the year of our statehood) on top. Little plates of bone china, once owned by the girls’ mother and shaped like the state, were used to serve the cake.

Miss Flora decorated the table with the state’s flower, the camellia.

Miss Dora played “Alabama” on the piano as we sang the state song.

The Colonel led in several toasts to the state, its history, and remarkable Alabamians.

Each guest was asked to share a favorite Alabamian or tidbit of Alabama history.

Look for a full page, honoring our own Dean Jacobs and her seven-layer cakes, in the upcoming January/February issue of the AAA magazine, Alabama Journey, page 24.

The fascinating article was penned by another of our own, JoBeth McDaniel, a professional, freelance writer.

The celebration of the 200th birthday of Charles Dickens, the greatest novelist of England, continues into February.

We also continue to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 and the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Girl Scouts.

Again, I ask that each citizen of Andalusia join the Covington Historical Society and pay its annual dues of $25 so as to help preserve the history of our county, whether you attend meetings or not. Mail to CHS, P.O. Box 1582, Andalusia, AL 36420. Include your e-mail address if you wish to be notified of meetings.

To commemorate the Sesquicentennial of the War Between the States, let us return to this week 150 years ago.

Skirmishes were fought between North and South in several states.

Conflicting views disrupted President Lincoln’s Cabinet with Secretary of the Treasury, Salmon Chase, and Secretary of State Seward both threatening to resign.

Southern troops of Gen. Earl Van Dorn won a victory over troops under Northern General Grant at Holly Springs, Mississippi.

Remember to purchase stamps, recalling the Sesquicentennial, Mark Twain, O. Henry, War of 1812 and Girl Scouts.

Thank you, Robert Lee Holley, for identifying Irene (Faulkenberry) Hines as the benefactor of the handbell choir at First Baptist.

This week’s mysterian served as principal of the Andalusia High School for 18 years.

Birthdays this week are those of Jane Austen, English novelist who wrote Pride and Prejudice, and John Greenleaf Whittier, American “Quaker” poet who wrote Snow-Bound, a good poem to read by the winter fire.

Now, gentle reader, allow me to encourage each of us to be in his place of worship this weekend, and Christmas Eve, Lord willing.

I shall be home, playing with my presents next week; so don’t look for my column Dec. 29, but rather in January of 2013, Lord willing.

Fare thee well.

“Merry Christmas!”

“Happy New Year!”