On My Grandmother

The following is an excerpt of the eulogy I gave at my grandmother’s funeral in 2004. She died from Alzheimer’s.

Helen Williamson Hughes, early 1930s

Grandma lost her own mother when she was only 14. She told me stories about learning to cook on the farm. The farm hands brought in a hog’s head to the table and told her to “put it up.” I wonder how ma 14-year-old girls today could manage making head cheese, unaided? Her frugality stayed with her. In later years, I would tease her that if there were three green beans left in the dish, she would save them.

She told me about walking to school along dirt roads, even while being in charge of the house, she managed to graduate as valedictorian of her high school. Her teachers told her she needed to go to college, but in those days, daughters of poor dirt farmers didn’t go to college.

Grandma didn’t tell me any stories about her early married lift, raising three baby girls during the Depression, but I know that during World War II, the local ration board gave her extra gas stamps so that she could continue a Girl Scout troop. In later years, she cared for her father and her father-in-law in her home, nearly to the end of their days. She served others.

She taught me to crochet, and to cook without recipes, and sewing tricks so that my things didn’t look too homemade. From her years of experience and her skillful hands, she taught me how to wear my clothes tastefully, which has been valuable to me in the professional world. I learned to make her cornbread dressing, and although I can’t burn it quite the same way she did, I always get compliments. After she retired, she taught herself to paint. She was interested in learning new things. All of us can attest that she always had a stack of crossword puzzles in various stages of completion. I know that my own love of needlecrafts came from her influence.

Box purse, all the rage in the early 1970s. My grandmother drew and painted this, inspired by characters on stationery.

The most valuable thing I remember about Grandma, however, is her spirit and kind heart. She had a good word for everyone, even those people whom the rest of us could only have hard times seeing good things about. Her voice was soft. I only heard Grandma raise her voice one time.To me, she was the finest example of a woman who loved her family, her husband, her church, and we call called her Blessed. Her life was often very hard, but she never complained about herself or her lot, she was never bitter, she lived to serve others. She was a gentle person, and a gentlewoman.

I can’t live up to her example, but my work ethic and my attempt to be a charitable and good woman are indebted to the influence of my grandparents, Virgil and Helen Hughes. I tell my own sons that she was a true lady, and a role model for you. And if you boys feel about me the way that Grandma’s daughters and grandchildren felt about her, I am a success. In the eyes of the world, she was a simple woman. In the eyes of her family, she was everything.

Categories: Family

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9 replies

  1. Thank you Naomi! We would all be so lucky to have known our grandparents (I didn’t). I can see where you get your amazing cheek bones from.

  2. She was so beautiful…and seems like someone I would love to have known and had as a friend. You have inherited a lot of her good qualities! What a lovely woman.

  3. Naomi, I hope you save this story for your boys. Trust me – even if they don’t seem to care so much about their ancestors now, they WILL. What a wonderful example of humanity, let alone “womanhood.” Thanks for sharing this story of your very special Grandmother.

  4. Noami, what a beautiful story about my mother. She is still such an influence in our lives. We love her and miss her. My mother was a Godly woman all of her life and it reflected what she believed. She never missed a day reading her bible until toward the end, but she remembered the words to the old hymns almost to the end of her life. Her pastor was amazed. She couldn’t remember his name but could sing those songs without missing a word. I still have my wooden purse too and wouldn’t take all the riches in the world for it. Love, Your aunt Dianne

  5. I wondered why you wanted a picture of our mother, but guessed I would know sooner or later. Thank you dear daughter for writing this about the mother I loved so much. I tell mom and dad’s picture good morning, I love you each day as I pass by it. While waiting for Naomi to be born, I decided to make a baby quilt. Mother helped me cut and sew the squares together, then put the little quilt together. I quilted it. My grandma, who was a quilter too, told me the baby would get it’s toes caught in the stitches. I too still have the little wooden purse mother painted for us, and many other things that are so dear to me. Thank you Naomi for writing this. Your mother.

  6. I hope and pray that I can be just as much of an inspiration to my grand-children.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. your grandmother sounds like my mother and by the looks they were about the same age in the 30’s . I have to tell you when I saw her picture I thought it was my mother they have the exact same hair .and look almost identical . People that grew up in that era had such great qualities and had to endure so much . We really have to admire them


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