Yesterday afternoon, Anna June lost her great grandmother Annette Tucker. She had been ill since February, when she was hospitalized for tests after becoming very sick with complications relating to congestive heart failure. She suffered a heart attack while in the hospital, and underwent surgery. After a long stay at St. Vincent's, she returned home under hospice care. She died peacefully in her own bedroom.
Sunday was the last time Anna June, Ben and I saw Grandma Annette alive. We stopped by for a brief visit after a trip to the library. She was sleeping, and Anna June was more interested in looking for her dog, Abby. But she woke up a little, we went in, and visited a little while. Anna June gave Grandma lots of kisses, and showed her a picture she made at daycare. We told her of our plans to go to the zoo the next day and sang "Jesus Loves the Little Children."
If you met my grandmother, you remembered her. She was always young and vibrant. She married and had children extremely young, and was often mistaken for my mother. Her generosity knew no bounds. Her love was endless.
Career-wise, she was in the antique business, a tradition she picked up from her father-in-law and is carried on through her son and grandson to this day. She was a decorator, appraiser, buyer, seller, and even for a time proprietress of her very own antique shop. This was how she earned a living, but it was not what she did with her life.
For one thing, she was very dedicated to our church. She became the first woman ordained as an elder in our congregation in 1979 or so. She was serving another term as elder when she died. She directed the choir at our church for about thirty years. She led our church's music from the children on up. This was not a paid position, but the church paid for her to have professional voice lessons for a time. It is because of her that we had a Christmas musical program, usually a cantata, each year. She often recruited people from the congregation who didn't usually sing in the choir to help at Christmas, and, when there still weren't enough from our small church, she recruited from the community, often calling on friends who attended other churches. The late Harry Wallis used to remind me often that Grandma was scheduled to direct the church cantata the day I was born - I had enough consideration to be born between the morning worship service and the big show in the evening. Our friend Gail Bush claims her feet never touched the ground that night.
Grandma was, in my opinion, a born leader. If she ever actually wrote a resume, it would be long, especially under the leadership and community activities section. To say she was active in the Alabama Federation of Women's Clubs would be an understatement. She was the Junior Director, and, before she knew it, President of the entire AFWC from 1980-1982. She had many appointments and positions at the local, state and national level in the General Federation of Women's Clubs. Her project as president was to purchase a state headquarters for the federation. She chose a historic home in Birmingham on Niazuma Avenue. The house had to be completely restored. Through her work and dedication, the house was acquired, renovated, and furnished through the generous donations and labor of the state's club women. The house, called the Foster House after its original owners, not only serves as an office for the AFWC staff and meeting space for its clubs, but is a beautiful venue for weddings, receptions, and other parties. She served as the Headquarters Chairwoman for the AFWC for many years. She was the one person in the world who knew most about the house and, fortunately, also lived close by.
She and her sister, Eunice wrote a children's book, In the Desert One Christmas Eve. They went everywhere promoting and selling the book, the proceeds going to the AFWC Headquarters.
As much as she loved the federation and all the wonderful and dear friends she made in it, she loved her family a thousand times more. She would do anything for us. She taught us to listen by being a good listener; taught us to be patient by being patient; taught us to be generous by being generous; encouraged creativity by being creative; and taught us to express our own opinions by expressing hers. I directly attribute any leadership skills I have to things she taught our father first and then me. She made sure that my brothers and I had more than plenty of everything. She let me run errands and work with her when I was young, and I learned so many things from her daily interactions with people out in the world. She wanted me to have everything - including dance and piano lessons which she not only paid for but delivered me to each week, even though it was evident that both were hopeless. She always had a candy bar and coke for me ready to go.
She and my grandfather never let us even know what daycare was - she picked us up from school and kept us every summer. Now that I am a parent, I am beginning to understand the sacrifices she made for us. She took us to Vacation Bible School and made sure we went to church camp. She took the boys to their baseball practices and games. She let us have a swing set in her yard and let us watch cable television. Hers was the first telephone number I memorized, probably before my own.
Her optimism and enthusiasm, even for the smallest thing, defined her. No act of kindness went unnoticed. She talked about her grandchildren, and when Anna June came along, her great grandchild, at every opportunity. To her, everything we did was the most outstanding, and she wasn't afraid to tell us.
With her AFWC career, she traveled all over the country and racked up some great stories, especially about her multiple trips to the White House. One thing she taught me was always to respect the President of the United States. Although she had her own private party allegiance, she understood that the office itself commands respect. She met Presidents of both parties, while a representative of club women, who represent the families in our country.
She played piano by ear, and wrote music. In fact, her 1976 Piece, "Make a Whole New Sound" was accepted by President Ford to be one of the 200 official pieces of music to celebrate the nation's bicentennial. In this endeavor she combined two of her favorite things: music and patriotism. My grandmother loved being an American. She never failed to remind me that it was only in 1920 that women got the vote - an effort that club women who came before her helped enact.
So after we left her house yesterday afternoon, Ben and I went to do one thing that she would have wanted - we went to go vote.
I know that heaven's choir is much improved now that she's joined. In fact, I would be willing to bet that she's recruited more members and is organizing a big worship service right now.
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