This Old House, Glaser Edition

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Dear Aunt Della!

We planned for today to be the day for hauling as many boxes as humanly possible into storage and for cleaning both houses. Life interrupted our plans: Tammy's dear grandaunt Della died yesterday. Her grandparents have been dead for many years, and Aunt Della was her remaining link to the past. Tammy and her parents visited her at her home in Mount Olive last June before her final health decline began. She gave her last gift to us that day, sharing wonderful memories we never knew about life in Piney Grove, North Carolina in the first few decades after the turn of the last century.

She reminisced about her parents, Tom and Ola (pictured here), who spent many of their days poor, but pretty well off on their two hundred acres of farmland. Tom borrowed three dollars to pay for their marriage license, and Martin Luther Weeks presided at their wedding in Sampson County on Christmas Day of 1901. They raised their family on the old King plantation in Piney Grove Township, where the cemetery is today. They were poor during the "Hoover" Depression because they literally had no cash. Unlike others, they ate well, raising hogs, chickens, and cows on their farm and living off the land with vegetable gardens and grape vines. Both white and black grape vines thrived on the farm, and Della claimed that preserves made from black grapes could not be beat. One could guess a child's age by the number of rings of scars on the legs from picking huckleberries every year. By Depression Era standards, Tom and Ola prospered for they had a two-holer outhouse with a Sears Roebuck Catalog to pass the time.

Tom's younger brother Henry Clevland was called Preacher Henry because he was an ordained minister presiding over the Pentecostal Holiness Church in Suttontown, North Carolina and had served as a missionary in Africa. He and his brother Tom (Della's father) clashed over tobacco. Preacher Henry raised cotton, corn, soybeans, and vegetable crops and sold them at auction at the farmer's market in Faison, North Carolina, while Tom raised tobacco. Preacher Henry did his share of rebuking before removing Tom from the membership roll of his church because of Tom's partiality to tobacco. Tom was described as very mild-mannered, and the only person to whom he raised his voice in anger was Preacher Henry. As much heat as their arguments generated, nary a curse word passed between their lips.

The community held a great deal of respect for Preacher Henry and his strong beliefs, which were at times a bit too strong. Not only did his Pentecostal Holiness Church disenroll Tom, it removed Della's mother Ola from the rolls for taking the children to the county fair. From that day, Tom and Ola attended, but did not join, the King's Methodist Church in Piney Grove Township. Their daughters Della and Alice eventually became faithful members of the Methodist Church in Mount Olive.

We learned about family traits observed in our branch of the King line. Della's father did not leave behind too many serious pictures of himself: he despised having his photograph taken and would totally ruin a shot by monkeying around like a clown. Both Tammy's father and son (pictured here) have that tendency to show off for the camera and look forward to Halloween and costume parties just to have an excuse to ham it up. Tammy learned her lyric soprano voice, which mysteriously appeared during her college years out of nowhere, might have come from her grandfather, Leslie Howard (Della's brother). He was known for his very high tenor falsetto voice that only appeared after hours when the musicians showed up at the store. Not only was Tammy's grandfather Howard a talented singer, but he kept people entertained by wrapping both legs behind his neck like a pretzel. He could also crawling around the floor with his legs crossed, yoga style. Music flowed through the family gene pool, and a young Della bought her own guitar and learn to play. Della gave it to Tammy’s father, who taught himself to strum chords.

Aunt Della died on Friday and, because of the holidays, her family held a funeral service on Saturday and burial on Sunday. Tammy and Steve drove three hours one-way to visit friends and relatives. While Steve and the children headed home, Tammy attended the Saturday service and rode back with her parents. Beautiful flowers surrounded the altar, and people who fondly remembered Della filled the room. A poem about Della printed in the bulletin for the service, writing by W. Dwayne Summerlin, describes her beauty, grace, sharp mind, and wonderful things we cherished about Aunt Della:

Mrs. Della was always a well-dressed lady, everything in place,
Was always fixed up when going out, she walked with splendor and grace.
She liked nice things and wanted them right,
And her spoken word was always positive, or else, she’d be quiet.
Love and compassionate, she was extremely kind,
And even until her dying day, she had the sharpest mind.
The historian of her family, all the important dates she knew;
Competent advice was there for the asking, she was knowledgeable and nurturing too.
She was the mainstay of the King clan,
She worked hard and took care of those needing a helping hand.
She loved to dance, she loved to read,
And was happy to see others succeed.

Here is another snippet that made us smile:

Brother remembers the time she was driving the ’29 Ford Model A,
And how it got in the ditch, she backed it out, and they were on their way.
These and many more memories of a life well lived, a lady well loved;
May the Lord enfold her in His keeping in the heavens above.

Here is her obituary:

Oct. 1, 1913 - Dec. 22, 2006

MOUNT OLIVE -- Della King Jordan Joyner, 93, of 902 North Church Street in Mount Olive, died Friday afternoon.

Funeral services were held Saturday night at 7 p.m. at Tyndall Funeral Home in Mount Olive, officiated by Dr. H. Dennis Draper Jr., with visitation immediately following. The burial service will be today at 1:30 p.m. at Wayne Memorial Park.

She was a retired hairdresser and a member of the First United Methodist Church of Mount Olive. She was a native of Sampson County.

Those preceding her in death include her parents, Thomas J. and Mattie Viola Sutton King; her first and second husbands, Pete Jordan and Edd Joyner, her infant daughter; her brothers, Wesley King and Leslie Howard King; and her sisters, Mattie K. Hollowell, Essie K. Payne, and Alice K. Baker. Those surviving include a brother, T.O. King and his wife, Betty of Durham; and several nieces and nephews, including Thomas D. Hollowell of Mount Olive, who had been a special caregiver.

Gifts in her memory may be made to First United Methodist Church, P.O. Box 420, Mount Olive, N.C. 28365.

Arrangements handled by Tyndall in Mount Olive.


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