Tuesday, November 30, 2010


It was Christmas 1983, while I was in Hawaii that I first started talking about what would soon be known as AIDS. I was on vacation there where my cousin lives in Honolulu. I had heard of this disease which was killing gay men and killing them fast...It was called GRID, Gay Related Immune Defencity and I was scared for my dear cousin Raymond. He was young and gay and I asked him about this disease? He told me that it was ok, that it only hit Gay men in San Francisco. No need for me to worry, just have fun! Still, I worried. I kept it in the back of my mind... Throughout the week I met more and more of his friends who assured me that I would never even know of anyone who would get it. Relax, they said...Enjoy your trip...

Kane was one of Raymond’s best friends, he was a super great guy...He and Raymond decided that I needed some “fixin up” since I was from Arkansas. So one day they closed the salon, I went in as a brunette and came out as a blonde! Then they took me shopping...It was quite the experience and it was fun... Back home in Arkansas I caught HELL for bleaching my hair! Just to think that would be my biggest problem...How little did everyone know? Kane, Raymond’s friend, and I stayed in touch. He looked just a little weak to me but, he blew it off as a cold...Nothing to worry my new pretty blonde hair about, he’d be just fine in a few days... So, on with my life went. Potty training my daughter, wondering when the snow would ever melt...little things like that. Life was normal...So, I thought. One day Kane called me and we talked for a while and I knew something was wrong. He had a funny cough, he said that it was just a little hangover of his cold and that he was fine...we hung up but, I still worried. We didn’t have home computers back then and only a few magazine articles on this new disease and every now and then a TV news report. It was still in San Francisco but a new case had been found in Los Angeles... Still, they called GRID.

In the spring, I sold a house to a guy who would be moving right in to be closer to the hospital where his brother was. He was a little quiet about what was wrong with his brother so I didn’t pry. I just sold him the house. In the meantime Kane had called again and I missed his call. When I called back his mother answered and told me that Kane had died the day before. I was stunned and heartbroken. He had died from that new disease that he had contracted while on a visit to “The Mainland”, San Francisco...I was stunned, heartbroken so I called my cousin, Raymond. He didn’t even know what he had; now things were starting to look a little different, a little bit scarier. I devoured everything I could get my hands on about AIDS.

I had seen Gordon the next day while we were at the closing on his house and he said that his brother was not any better and was getting worse and the Doctors couldn’t find the answers...I took a huge risk, I asked Gordon if his brother was gay? Back then you never, ever talked about that kind of thing...He took a long breath and started to eyes started to tear up...I stood still and held my breath! He then asked me “Why do you ask?” I stumbled and stammered along... I then told him about this new disease, this horrible disease that was killing young men. He said that he would be in touch... I was still stunned... I was thinking that he was going to call my broker and have I fired...I thought “what have I done”? So, I waited and held my breath. What was I going to be able to do in the first place? Why did I shoot my mouth off like that? Finally, His Doctor called me and asked if I could come to the hospital and take a look? Tell him what I thought? I wasn’t a nurse or medical professional. I just played one from time to time. His doctor was a good friend of mine so up to the hospital I went... I remember asking God not to let me die...I was scared…Back then the only thing we knew about what would soon be known as AIDS was to cross our finger and pray..Maybe God would not let us die?

I walked in and he had “the look” and he was very close to dying. The nuns came in and they were scared, too. Sister Mary Werner was the head nun and hospital administrator... She asked if we knew anything. I asked his doctor if he could test him for this new disease that he had never of. It was called AIDS, he had never heard of AIDS. He told me that he didn’t know how; what in the world could we do? So we called the CDC, Centers of Disease Control, in Atlanta, Georgia. But, by the time they got back to us it was too late, he was dead. Now we had a bigger problem. What to do with the hospital bed and all of the things in the room? Sister Mary Werner didn’t know...They needed me to call the CDC and ask... Why me, I wondered and Sister Mary Werner told me that it was ok, that I knew more about this disease than anyone. Really, Me? Oh, well why the hell not! The CDC instructed us to burn everything that had come in to contact with the person who had died from AIDS. We did. We were all sure that we had contracted AIDS from him...We would look in the mirror to see if there were any changes? One of the symptoms was night sweats...I had them one night! Oh, my God, what was I going to do? I had a daughter to raise. I didn’t want to die...I was only 25 years old... Oh, God what would I do? Then I noticed that my electric blanket was on. My cat had stepped on the controls in the middle of the night and turned it on! No wonder I was sweating! That is how paranoid we all were. During that same week my friend, Bonnie was in Little Rock at the University of Arkansas having her tongue removed because of cancer... She was only 32 and had never smoked. It was a very tragic week for all of us...

While at the hospital with Bonnie, I had become a world champion hall pacer. I could not sit still so I paced and I paced and I paced…I had been watching this particular room on the cancer floor. It had a big red bag taped to the door warning no one to go into that room...WARNING...CONTAGIOUS!! It was a bag that covered the entire door and I also noticed that the nurses’ would draw straws to see which one of them would have to go in and check on him…Best two out of three..I had never seen nurses act that way before. So I paced a little closer to the nurses’ station... They just ignored my pacing. That is what I wanted them to do...As I had suspected he had AIDS. No one would go into his room, not a nurse, not a friend, not a family member. NO ONE! His food trays sat in a line out side his door in the hallway for all to trample...Bonnie had by then gotten settled back into her room and had a feeding tube and no way to speak... I could understand her because I knew what she would try to say but, she could write...boy, could she right! And did she ever? I was her interpreter. It was to say the least, a very bad week. Now you probably already know what I did, because you probably know me by now, I snuck into his room to see what I could do for him. I didn’t even know his name. I stood at the foot of his bed and asked him his name? He was very near death. I knew that, too. He told me that his name was Jimmy and that he wanted his mama. He was so very weak that I could barely hear him. I was scared of AIDS, too but didn’t let on. I told him I would get her for him. Whew! That was simple enough. He drifted back off to sleep. So, I marched right up to the nurses’ station and announced that he wanted his mama. They scolded me first for going into that room and then they all laughed! They said “he has been up here for six weeks his mama is not going to come up here. Nobody’s coming up here “WAS I CRAZY? Well, I guess that I was a little crazy and probably still am.

But, I walked right back into that room and when I did he looked at me and held out his hand and said “oh, mama I knew you would come”. At that moment panic rushed all over my body. The nurses’ reminded me that I was taking a huge risk going in there and that I was on my own. Panic began to set in real hard.  But, all of a sudden calm spread over me and I stayed..for 13 hours I stayed. What else could I do  when he reached out for my hand and a tear ran down his face. He was so dehydrated that it was all that he could muster…I was stuck. What was I going to say what was I going to do. My mind raced for an answer...What in the world had I gotten myself into? What was I going to do now? I asked God for help and strength. I reached out my ungloved hand and took his hand in mine…He started to cry...What was I going to do? What was I going to say...I stayed still as a little mouse, glued to the floor. He sobbed some more as I stood there. I was afraid to breathe. He still had no tears and I started to cry for him. My daughter was at her daddy’s house for the weekend. So, I stayed with him for thirteen hours while he died. At one time while he was sleeping I went out into the hall and scrubbed myself down thoroughly and went to check on Bonnie. She wrote for me to stay with him. That she would be ok. He needed me. I knew that was what God was asking me to do. So I went back into Jimmy’s room, pulled up a chair, waited and watched a man die for the second time in my life. The first one was my daddy, when I was only five years old. Daddy died on Thanksgiving Day 1964 at home with just me and my mother. So, many years later I vowed right then and there that no one with AIDS would ever die alone if I had anything to do with it. And I kept my word.

Not one single nurse came in while I was there. I guess they were relieved that they didn’t need to check on him anymore. That I would come and get them, if he needed anything. All he needed was for me to sit there while he slipped away. He just didn’t want to die alone. Who would? The nurses asked me what funeral home? How was I supposed to know that? I asked for his mother’s phone number? They gave it to me. When I called his mother she answered the phone and I told her who I was and that I was calling about her son. She hung up on me. So, I called back and told her if she hung up on me again I would put his obituary in her hometown newspaper and list his cause of death. I had her full attention!..little did I know she didn't care.. I told her that id she didn't care what happened to her son I certainly did... She told me that she did not care who I sent him to and that she did not even want him back to bury him. To her, her son had been dead for years. She hung up the phone. I didn’t know what to say. All of the nurses’ were hanging on to every word of our conversation. I did not say those words to her to be mean. I knew that she was the right woman; I just didn’t know that she could be so cold hearted. I also did not know that throughout the next fifteen to twenty years I would have that same conversation over and over again. I would be known as The CRAZY AIDS Lady.

Billy, pictured above, was my youngest AIDS Patient..Jimmy was my first and Gordon's brother was the first AIDS patient known to be in Hot Springs.

I called every funeral home in the state of Arkansas and no one would take him. I finally got a hold of a black mortuary in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. They said that they would only cremate him. I didn’t have the money to spend on a cremation. The hospital had a fund and they paid for an indigent cremation. I had to call his mother one more time for permission to cremate. She gave it and told me to do whatever I wanted to with his ashes. The funeral directors came in these horrible moon suits. They looked like they were from outer space. They put him in a bag and carried him off without one shred of dignity. They came after hours and left out the back door.. It was all a big secret. Jimmy’s room was closed for a many days. No one knew what to do? In the meantime, Bonnie continued to get better and went home. Her fiancĂ© could not deal with her surgery so he packed up and left her. She had only had surgery two weeks earlier. Allison came home from her daddy’s and I tried to get back to normal as best as I could. Weeks later a box of ashes came in the mail. I didn’t know what to do with them so got a donated cooking jar from a local potter and i dug the grave and I buried him on top of my daddy’s grave so that no one would know what I was doing and I would remember where Jimmy was. If word had gotten out that I had buried an AIDS patient, much less taken care of one; there was not a judge in the State of Arkansas or in America for that matter who would not have taken my daughter away from me and given full custody to her father and I knew it. I was back to being scared.

So now word got out that there was this crazy lady in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid of AIDS patients and the calls started coming in. I had promised God that if he didn’t let me die I would take care of Jimmy. I hadn’t said anything about the rest!

Call after call after call came in and they all were frantically asking for my help they were dying and needed help. I didn’t know what to do? I didn’t know of a doctor who would see them, I didn’t know of a medicine to help them? But, I would listen to their sobbing phone calls in the middle of the night. I would pray with them over the phone. Friends would call about friends. Patients would call about themselves and mother's would call about a friend of a friend of a friend. The more friends they would put in the more I knew it was about them.

“I will try and see what I could do”. I was over whelmed, I was still scared. I prayed and asked God for guidance? I asked God ‘Why me” and God answered..”Why not you?” He does have a way about him! And so that is how it all began.. Over the next fifteen years or so I would care for over five hundred men and women while they were dying from AIDS. Many years later  I became the Executive Director of HPWA, Helping People with AIDS. Then much later I was asked by the President of the United States of America to be only one of twelve international delegates to the First White House Conference on HIV/AIDS. I was a consultant to the American Physiological Association. But, I digress. I found a doctor who would see them after hours and in through the back door. Not a word was to be spoken about what was going on or he would quit. If his patients knew that he was seeing AIDS patients they would all leave his practice and I knew that they would, too. The news stories got even worse and fear and panic was spreading... In March of 1985 the Western Blot test came out to test for the HIV antibodies. We only had one drug for the treatment of AIDS it was AZT, it was the best anyone could do...I saw no change in their condition. But, it gave them HOPE and black fingernails.

The story was the same for the next few years. Person after person would be rushed to the Emergency Room in a life threatening state and they would die very shortly from AIDS... I knew everyone of them. The hospitals would call me in a panic to get them out of their hospital...PERIOD! Hospice asked me if I was kidding. Take an AIDS patient, was I CRAZY? I finally found a pharmacy who would order their medicine but, I would have to pick it up. And who was going to pay? That was quite a dilemma. We all just stood there shaking our heads and wringing our hands. What WERE we all going to do? I called Then Governor Bill Clinton asking for funds to pay for medicine...He said yes without hesitation!

During Christmas of 1986 There was an AIDS house where about five AIDS patients had moved in together to try and take care of each other. That year I went to local businesses who I knew would help and asked for donations for these AIDS patients last Christmas... A Christmas tree from one, Christmas cards form a Hallmark Shop, so that they could sent them to their friends and family one last time. Stamps, from a Realtor. Little things that I knew would make a big difference. I gathered a pickup truck load and took them over to them on a Sunday. I also took the most important thing in my life with me, my daughter, Allison. She was only four years old at the time. I told her that she could not tell anyone what we had done or who we saw or what they had. I felt so guilty. For two reasons, One I was taking my only child, my baby into a house where I knew people were dying from AIDS and two, I was teaching my daughter to be kind, loving, and giving and asking her at the same time to keep a secret. A BIG SECRET! How could I teach my daughter all of this good and at the same time tell her it was a bad thing to tell anyone? We arrived at the house with a big surprise for everyone...CHRISTMAS!! We unloaded the tree and all of the trimmings. EVERYONE cried. We all knew it would be their last Christmas and they knew that no one would care. They were wrong. I cared and my daughter cared even thought she was only four years old. Then came the moment of truth; which I will never forget someone offered my daughter a glass of Coke. WOW, my daughter would have to drink out of a glass that they had drunk out of? I still had my misconceptions about AIDS, we all did. But, my daughter drinking out of a glass? She looked at me? I looked at her? The glass was at her hands…what would I do? Would I let my daughter drink out of that glass? Here I was teaching that AIDS could not be spread by touching anything that an AIDS patient had touched. It was safe to drink out of a glass that an AIDS patient had used and washed. That soap would kill the virus... Now was my time to put up or shut up! I told the guys my fears for my baby. I could do it but, could I let her drink out of that same glass? They all understood, really they did. My honesty just came out. We all talked about the fears and living with AIDS... My daughter took the glass and drank from it. we cried..that one barrier had been broken and it was a big one and we knew it.

On that Sunny, Sunday afternoon in December 1986 one of the young men taught my daughter how to paint using water colors, one of those men taught her how to make ornaments for the Christmas Tree out of construction paper and glitter and all of those brave, generous men taught us the real meaning of Love, Faith and the true meaning of Christmas! Two weeks later both of those men were dead.

On this eve World AIDS Day of 2010, I look back at all of the courageous men and women who have fought the battle and lost their lives but, blazed a trail for future generations to come. They volunteered themselves as human guinea pigs. They brought about major changes in the health care system. Because of these very brave people, drugs go through clinical trials much faster than before. New drugs used to take over 10 years of clinical trials. Now it only takes a few years to come to market. They didn't have time to wait. Now we have privacy laws, HIPPA came out of the AIDS crisis. Universal precautions came out of the AIDS crisis. no lick stamps and self sealing envelopes and the whole world changes because of a simple virus called AIDS. Compassion came out of the AIDS crisis. Now people are living with HIV/AIDS and thriving. No one even knows. They have lives and careers, families and HOPES and DREAMS. AIDS is no longer a death sentence to be lived out in isolation from what used to be their friends and family. Knowing that you were going to die no matter what. I read last week that there is now a drug out to help prevent the spread of AIDS. Family’s no longer having to live in shame and fear that their friends, family and church members would shun them just because the child of theirs, which they loved and cherished, had a virus called HIV/AIDS. We have come a long way from those dark months and years... There is still a long way to go. On this World AIDS DAY I want to remember all of those who have died and all of those who are living with this virus. You are the brave ones, you are the strong ones and you are the keepers of kindness and honor and love. You taught us to live like Christ lived, accepting, loving and caring for each other. Today I honor all of those who gave their lives so that someday, somehow how we could find a cure for this disease and we can all live happily ever after every now and then.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

If You Really Knew Me..

There is an Emmy award winning show on MTV called If You Really Knew Me http://www.challengeday.org/mtv this show is a must see for everyone. And we should demand that we get this program in every school district in America. We have to stop bullies in their tracks. Sometimes it may be our own family member; sometime's it may be us. We have to recognize this in ourselves and others and stop it in its tracks. Bullying destroys people's lives. We have to be brave enough to tell our own bullying stories in hopes of showing those who are bullied and to let people, especially young people that you can overcome being bullied and that Bully's can learn not to bully. They’re some people who are so hurt so badly that they hurt others... Others are taught by adults to bully.In adulthood they learn to hide it better. They get more
sophisticated "you are too thin skinned, It was a joke".
When I was a child I was bullied unmercifully. It all started in grade school. My daddy died when I was five and I had always eaten with him so when he died I stopped eating. I was so skinny.
You will see the difference in my photos from before my daddy died and what my mother did to after he died. She cut my hair herself  all of my beautiful curls and dressed me in clothes i could grow in to for two years..I looked that way all through school. Daddy was the only one who loved me..and now he was gone...My mother was 40 years old when I was born so now she was 45 years old with a five year old child, me. I suppose I was lucky to not have a sibling that had to go through it too.
My mother was wrongly incarcerated in a Tuberculosis sanatorium when I was six months old and not released until I was five and in time for daddy to die. She lost her mind at the sanatorium and was profoundly mentally ill when she came home. She was also very ill with a lung condition that there was only four other cases in the United States . She had to have a lung removed  when I was in second grade so I was also her care giver. Her only care giver. From time to time she would put me in Hillcrest Children's Home and I wouldn't know if she was coming to get me in a day or for months at a time. My cousins were bully’s so I had no escape...I had undiagnosed dyslexia, so some of my teachers just thought I didn’t want to learn...They all thought that I was just dumb. I was called all kind of names. I had a second grade teacher who paddled me every day for something...Like failing a test... I later found out that she was going through a divorce and that is why she was so mean. Boo Hoo. There were other teachers who did the same, why? I don't know. There are a lot of mean people in the world.

I was bullied on the school bus, at school and at home... I wore clothes that came from the Salvation Army...Life as a child was miserable and at home was just as bad, if not worse. I was teased "your daddy's dead, your daddy's dead" or your mama's crazy. I was always picked last for any team on the play ground and everyone would groan because i had to be on the team...

 But, I beleive that school life was the worst time of my life. Then in junior high, I had a speech teacher who taught me to succeed for the first time in my life, her name is Beth Childs. I learned through speech and prose and poetry that I was good and could win at tournaments. I learned to act in plays...I was a success for the first time in my life! Then I met a man who let me work in his dark room developing film, David Vann is his name.. He saw a flicker in me ..He let me go from developing film to taking his assignment to go to the local airport and COVER Jimmy Cater who was running for PRESIDENT of the United States for a local newspaper.. I was on the map because of him..He also changed my life. For both of them I will be forever grateful!

Home life wasn’t any better but now School was. I became the photographer for the school year book...so people liked me because everyone likes to have their picture taken. I never had a date in High School not even for homecomming or even my senior prom..No one would ever ask me out. It ws a very lonely childhood..This is the only photo I have of my mother and me. It was taken on a Christmas 1961 visit with her.  I was scared to death of her because i did not know her.

When I graduated from high school no one was there for me... My mother didn’t even come to see me graduate. There was no one to stand up for me...I made it anyway... I went to The University of Arkansas at Little Rock and graduated with a degree in Speech and Communication.
When I married, I married a bully because, why would I know any different? It indured for five very long years but,  I got my daughter out of it...So it was good for something. He came from a long line of bullies .When I became involved with HIV/AIDS in 1984-85, it was still called GRID Gay Related Immune Diffency. They hadn’t coined the name AIDS yet. I had the very first AIDS patient in Arkansas... My friend, Bonnie,  had her tongue removed from cancer in 1982 and while she was having all of her reconstructive surgeries, I paced the halls. I noticed a room with a big red bag all over the door and the nurses were drawing straws to see who would have to go into the room and check on the guy, then they would do it again. I learned that he had something that they really didn’t know what it was…it was AIDS...So, as you probably know I snuck into is room...He wanted his mother.. So, I went out to the nurses’ station to have them call his mother... They scolded me because I had gone in there. They said “honey, his mother isn’t coming, no one is. They haven’t been here is six weeks”.
 I went back in against medical orders and he thought I was his mother so I sat down, took his hand and waited for 13 hours while he died. I then called his mother back and she hung up on me. I called back again and told her that if she hung up on me again I would put her son’s obituary in her hometown newspaper and list his cause of death...I had her complete attention. She told me that she didn’t even want him back to bury him...So, I called around and finally found a black funeral home who would cremate him...It was in south Arkansas.

My daughter and I went to a local pottery store and got  a chipped Cookie jar for free and I put this ashes in it, then my young daughter and I dug a tiny hole in my family cemetery and had a do it yourself funeral . I couldn’t even get a preacher to say a prayer over this young man. After that, word got out that this Crazy woman in Hot Springs who wasn’t afraid of you and would help you…over five hundred men and women with AIDS came along in the next few years. I helped them all. I even buried over forty of them in my family cemetery...Because, their families didn’t even want them to bury them...I vowed right then and there that no one would ever die alone, and they didn't. My mother had gotten mad at my uncle when I was ten years old and bought 262 spaces in our family cenetery so that he and his family couldn’t be buried with the rest of the family. I was an only child; what would i ever do with that many graves? ...Actually, God had given me all of those graves so that no one would go unburied. Now sick and dieing people were being bullied. It was open season on People living with HIV/AIDS.
After that chance encounter at a hospital, I knew why I had been bullyied . It was so I would never forget how it felt and what it looked like...In the next few years there would be such an illness that people would bully the sick, be mean to them and let them die without dignity.  I now knew what to do to stop that fear and the bullying that came along and I did. Do I get teary eyed about how I was bullied? Absolutly. Does it still hurt and make me cry for that little girl in me? You bet it does! And you never want to forget how it feels, never, because that is what will give you strength to stop it from happening to anyone else.
I have worked with bullies , I have gone to church with Bullies, I have found them everywhere I go, I have lived next door to them..they are everywhere.

Since have received The Arkansas Community Service Award from the Governor's Office and KARK, The JC Penney Golden Rule Award, One Thousand Points of Light from George Bush and many, many others..I tell you this not because I am special but, to tell you that being bullied has made me stronger and that the Good Lord had opened that door which I would have never found.

I want to tell you that if you were bullied, for whatever reason in the world, you can overcome it and that you really can make great things in this World happen,.. It will get better. It will get better! Always look for a child who is bullied and take up for them anywhere you go. Bring this program If You Really Knew Me to your school. You can make a difference!!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Someone In Port Charlotte,FL Is Using Last2cu On Their Blog

A woman in Port Charlotte Fl is using my name. Last2cu, as her blog and for posting picturs on Photobucket. It is not me. I own the Copy Write and the Trademark for last2cu under the United States Patent and Trademark Office Office.
I have sent her three cease and desist emails. So if you see anything from her; it is not from me. Thanks until I get this settled.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Shades Of Black

This was written by me after a funeral in 1986 of one of the first AIDS patients that I had.

Polyester Black,
Knit Black,
Silk Black,
Cotton Black.
All for the same purpose, all for the same reason.
Wet smoke creeping around our legs, hanging at our waist.
An Orthodox preist. Watching an old man's trembeling hands
holding golden candles
many candles,
mourning a dead son and his dying memories.
Cold October rain
As the wet smoke hangs at our waist, waiting
Praying and chanting in a forgein tounge
Forgien faces,
Forgein customs
Beside his grave.
Eating the honey dipped bread and not knowing why?
Remembering the day we that we brought him here.
He was the first one who just died. Right then , right there.
I walked into his room, he took my hand, he nodded and then he died. They beleive that through my body and part of it stayed.
They are right.
but, not just him.
All of them.
This is where I gain my strength
To carry on.
They give me more than I give to them.
They give part of their souls
To me.
The part they want to leave behind.
He was tired.
He was ready.
He waited for me to arrive.
I did.
Now, I would go and tell his mother.
She would not understand my words.
My forgein tounge.
She would see it in my eyes.
He would tell her.
He did.
I was there,
I am here again, today
Different shades of black.
All with the same meaning.
They miss him.
Wet smoke hangs in the air.
I watch it slowly creep about those standing near.
It visits.
It waits.
They are unaware.
Cold October rain.
Dripping, dripping of of  mother's hat.
Black eyes
Black wool

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Stueart's Last Journey

Last2cu presents:
Most of us have a best friend, if we are lucky...Someone who has known you since childhood... I have one, Marcia Hudson...Marcia and I have been through heaven and hell together but the operative word is through... We have made it to the other side...We survived and are happy with ourselves... And most times you have favorite friends, people who don’t know everything but would remain your friend just the same... Stueart Pennington was one of my all time favorite friends...

Stueart owned the most exclusive men’s clothing store in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Oaklawn Sportswear He had the very best from suits to casual wear... a couple of things Stueart hated was Dockers, blue jeans and stupid people. He also had a smaller store in Downtown that I managed for him. I don’t remember never knowing Stueart. He came from an old family here and knew something on almost everyone... If I needed to know who someone was I’d just call Stueart. If you didn’t have anything to do you could sit and talk for hours with him...He used to say that he knew of people who loved Hot Springs as much as he did but didn’t know of anyone except me who loved her more. He was fiercely proud of his only child Erin Pennington Wood. He had a piece of paper on His father’s very old cash register that had his toll free number on it so that Erin could call anytime she wanted...Every time you went to the store he would show it to you.Stueart was married and  divorced and married again, and then he found Frances, his wife who loved him till the end.

He wasn’t the life of the party he WAS the party! Everyone I know loved Stueart... Downtown Hot Springs had been run down ever since the speakeasy casinos had been closed down by Governor Rockefeller in 1968..Until then Hot Springs was abuzz with activity.. Gambling was wide open and the police let it be as long as the people who needed to pay, paid up. They bought and wore the finest clothes. Life was good. Stueart graduated Hot Springs High in 1967, went to college and came home to the family business where he was until the day he died. As I said, Hot Springs had gone downhill since then pretty bad. Then the downtown merchants association revived down town and it was lively and the place to be...Stueart was a big part of that renewal. Hot Springs is nestled in a narrow valley only four lanes wide. You can Google it and see how beautiful it really is. Hot steaming water flows down a mountain at 147 degrees.

Stueart moved his business downtown in the 1990’s. After a few years the mountain collapsed and the buildings had to be evacuated...just before Christmas...Stueart survived... When the oil money dried up Stueart survived. Stueart had damn near survived everything until that fateful day on
September 8, 2005. It seems that this carpetbagger had come to town and was going to work magic downtown. He was going to make downtown 5th Avenue in New York...Yea, right. So he made a deal with the man who owns most of the buildings...he would collect the rent and choose the renters...He was a wheeler and dealer…A shiny man, shark skinned suits etc... He lived in a house with the whole downstairs walls of glass so that you could see all of his poison’ snakes...each snake had its separate cages, you could hear them strike at the glass and rattle, the lights were low and it was creepy. He was creepy. Dennis Magee was his name. He had gained control of everything and he had a score to settle. He demanded more money for the deposits on everyone...He even raised one family’s deposit over one thousand percent. They had a Chinese restaurant and Dennis put them out on the street with no place to go and no warning.

He went to Stueart and demanded that he double his deposit and rent. Stueart was furious...It was the beginning of the fall season that led into Christmas. Stueart had been there for about 10 years and he would be there forever along with a beautiful bath shop, a fabulous antique shop and an upscale gift emporium. People couldn’t help but to stop in for a visit...Life was good, minus the Dennis fiasco… We had all stood behind Dennis when his restaurant burned to the ground...Stueart headed up a drive to raise money for Dennis... Some say his mortgage and insurance papers started rubbing together and caught on fire...Who knows? Dennis went back to Stueart and Stueart tried to talk some sense into Dennis...Just wait till the first of the year and he would pay...No Way! He demanded it right then or he would padlock the door... Stueart decided to move to another location down the street...So he did just that...It was right before Labor Day which is a big tourist’s day... On the evening in September 2005, Stueart was carrying boxes into the store and he fell flat on the floor dead... Stueart had died of a massive coronary right then and there. He died in the store that he loved so much. A man on the street came by and saw him so he called an ambulance...Frances, his wife, arrived at the emergency room, then his daughter. They took Stueart to Intensive Care and put him on a ventalator. There was no hope...The doctor told me that his heart just exploded...the only thing keeping him alive were the machines... I stood at the foot of his bed crying, holding his feet in my hands and said goodbye. He had been there for about five days not changing one single bit. I had talked with Stueart about death many years earlier...just a casual conversation. I knew what he wanted ..Frances tried so very hard to not let him die She made a brave decision.

The next day down at the store Frances was in the back...friends were everywhere putting the store together...The way Stueart would have wanted it to be. I went to Frances and we started talking... She asked my opinion of how I thought Stueart really was...It was very grim. Stueart wasn’t there in that body...Sometimes people just have to hear it from the right person. In this case it was me. She decided to ask for one more CT scan to see if there was and glimmer of hope...sadly, there was not. They made the heart wrenching decision to let Stueart go...He had been gone the whole time...they just could not believe it….No one could. He was only fifty six...too young.

They had a beautiful memorial service at the First United Methodist Church which held 500. The sanctuary was packed, standing room only and they were flowing out the doors. Grammy Award winning song writer Randy Goodrum played music and he spoke. He told a story of being in church for a youth meeting when he and Stueart snuck upstairs to play Great Balls of Fire on the pipe organ...full blast...That is the kind of friend Stueart was, Fun...

Stueart LOVED Lake Hamilton... People used to ask him “How can you stand living on the lake in the winter...It is so dreary and depressing” Stueart said “ looking at the lake in winter is like looking at a black and white photo You just have learn to appreciate it"...And he did. In April the next year Frances decided to have another memorial to send Stueart off. I knew what they had in mind beautiful sunset, beautiful music, a few drinks with friends... Stueart would drift off into the sunset...It was April and I knew what the weather and currents would do and it wasn’t pretty. I could imagine Frances sitting there at the the end of the day and there goes Stueart drifting by… or getting stuck in someone’s dock... The day of the service I ordered a tropical urn wreath and had it delivered... I was ill and could not attend…. It was way overcast and the winds were blowing from the west into the bay not away from it. They took a boat out into the middle of the small bay and poured Stueart’s ashes onto the wreath and let it go to drift into the sunset...Frances sent me photos and it was a beautiful ceremony. Life went on...

In late May we put the boat in the lake and I decided to go visit my friend, Marcia. She lives about six miles up the lake from me then you turn west off of the main channel and go a few miles. I was talking on the phone with my friend in Florida, Pattie King...Just chatting my way up the lake when I decided to go up the main channel to the 70 West Bridge where Stueart lived. No reason just had the urge to go up there. And what to my wandering eyes did appear...? Stueart, sitting there hung up at the 70 west bridge! About one hundred feet away from where  he was set adrift. It was about three miles out of my way. When I got to the bay I looked around and there was Stueart and his wreath stuck against the bridge embankment...I was floored... I told Pattie King that I had found Stueart...Six weeks after he was set adrift...It was exactly as if he had called and said that his car had broken down or he had had too much to drink, come and get me. I pulled the boat up to the bridge and waded out to pick up the wreath, ashes and all. I told Pattie King what I had found and she was speechless. I hung up. Stueart had been washed up on that spot six weeks earlier and what are the chances that I had found him? He was only about one hundred yards from his house and his house sits directly on the shoreline. I put Stueart on the back seat of the boat and headed off to Marcia’s again...As I was pulling up to Marcia’s dock she looked at the back seat and said “Noo! I can’t believe it where did you find Stueart”? I told her the whole story and she just could not believe it either... But, yes, it was the wreath and Stuart’s ashes... What are the chances that I would find him?

I visited with Marcia for a while and then I told her to fix me a scotch to go... As I was pulling away from the dock the sun was setting over the lake and it was a spectacular sunset. I am not sure that anyone loves Lake Hamilton as much as we do... it was a slow cruise...As I turned into my bay the sun crept lower. When I got home I asked my husband to drive me to the cemetery downtown where the Pennington Estate is located, he did. The sun was going down pretty quickly now and I knew I had to hurry. I gently laid  Stueart and the wreath on his mother’s grave and said a prayer and said goodbye to my friend for the last time. During the next few weeks people said that they would spot him going down the lake. Then someone said that they saw him at the dam...I just smiled...His cousin was at a yard sale at Marcia’s and said that she saw him at the cemetery.. Marcia called me and we had a quiet laugh...We knew that Stueart would just love this story...Espaciall since it was about him!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Last2cu: Writers Block

Ever since I had my stroke I have major writers block and stage fright. Has anyone else experienced anything like this before and what do you do about it?

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Last2cu: Meux Cemetery Cemetery Will No Longer Keep Her Secrets

Paunch Rowe died late last month, he was 86 years old and he was the only other person who knw the name of the man who calously threw all of the tombstones in the newly formed Lake Hamilton so he could sell the most prime lake property on Lake Hamilton. Pauncho and I are the only people who knows the name of the man who did it and i feel that the time is now to come clean and tell the truth..Over 200 people are buried in this toney subdivision on the banks of Lake Hamilton.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Last2cu: My Life In The Day Of A Stroke

On the evening of April 9 2010 I had a stroke.I am only 51 years old! I knew exactly when it happened..I had gotten a sudden excruciating headache and I could not talk. I took an asprin that they said saved my life..an asprin! I have absolutely no family history of stroke.. in 2006 I had a virus hit my heart and thought that I had finally recovered from that..I had lost 55 pounds and life was good. Of all the ways to die, I thought that I would be shot out of the saddle.

I was scared.. .really scared. Dr. Tuttle came in and said right off the bat that I had had a stroke. My smile was lopsided; I was weak on my right side and I was having a hard time answering questions. They immediately took me for a CT scan that confirmed it, they admitted me, took me straight to a room and there I was. They didn’t hook up IV’s or anything. Just watched me. Everything smelled of musk, my least favorite thing. My smeller was working over time. My friend, Marcia Hudson was the first one there. I cried when I saw her. She told me that everything would be ok..If Marcia tells you something it is true. No one on the face of the earth did I want to see than her. Her friend, Theresa, drove her up to the hospital and then Theresa checked on me for the next two days..She is a respiratory therapist at St Joe. All I could say was a few words that didn’t make sense. So people politely said uh huh. Jeff and Amber came on Sunday and they stayed all afternoon. We had a great visit and I will be forever grateful because that is just what I needed. I needed to talk to someone for a while just to practice and with someone who knew me and had the patience to listen to me. It was very hard.

It is funny but, I understood everything that was being said to me. I just couldn’t communicate.. Mitch was very worried but, he held up like a champ. Having a stroke was very interesting, to say the least…I have never been at a loss of words, my daughter says that I talk to everyone and I do!.. So , to not be able to talk or write was devastating. But, I knew it would change, and it did, for a while. Then blood pressure medication became a bad thing.. I woke up one morning itching my head off from head to toe. So we changed that. Then came the antidepressant. It didn’t work and had some very bad complications so I was out on a different one and it was brutal. I cried all of the time and felt like the world was ending..I do not fear death. Since I write about cemeteries I had always wondered what it really would be like to die..not in a morbid way just curious.. all I could do was cry and I knew it was the antidepressants and I could work through it. Depression is a major issue with a stroke.. I had backslid to the point that I could not talk to anyone at all. Mitch had some friends come up from Dallas and that was very trying..I felt that I couldn’t keep up with the conversation. I felt like I was fading away….I felt stupid.

Last Wednesday, I was in Jeff’s office crying my eyes out, again.. I could not write and the key board looked like a jumbled mess, I couldn’t keep up with a conversation, I felt stupid for the first time in my life, I was just a mess. Jeff said that it was the Wellbutrin. He had tried to reactivate the part of the brain that was damaged and it didn’t work. I felt hopeless. Depression is a brutal thing in case some of you are lucky enough to never have had to live with it. It sucks you in and you buy it. Still, I could understand everything. I just felt stupid and had no chance of it ever getting better. I felt that had lost everything and that nothing I could say would be of any interest to anyone. So, I went home and quit taking my Wellbutrin. I was scared at having to wait for the new antidepressant to work and I didn’t know how I could wait didn’t know how I could make it, it felt so permanent. When you are in the hospital the staff never tell you anything about a stroke..NOTHING! So you have to have your wits about you to ask the perfect questions and they still don’t tell you anything..The Doctor didn’t do much better. I finally got strong enough to walk the halls and I noticed everyone in the rooms.. I felt like it was a scientific experiment. There was one lady who motioned for me to come in and turn her lights off..I couldn’t talk and neither could she.. But, there is a silent language between stroke patients.. She could not move, so I turned them off and stood there holding her hand. Our eyes met and she tried to talk to me.. Funny, but I understood everything she was saying. She had been hit hard by the stroke..Her right side was paralyzed, mine wasn’t. She asked me to pray with her and I did. I left and walked down the hall and saw an elderly man who was completely paralyzed and wasn’t going to make it through the night not a flower or person in sight the next morning he wasn’t there. I realized that I was one of the few to have another day. They call this one a warning stroke and I hate that. And the statistics say that if you have a TMI (transient ischemic attack) you are at a 60% risk for getting another..But, it doesn’t tell you what to do to keep from having it. I called the American Heart Association and the National Stroke Association and they said that I would feel much better if I sent them money. I am sure that it would. lol So, no one tells you what to do. You are left to try to figure it out yourself so here I go. I take an aspirin every day and you should too. It is the single most important thing anyone can do for themselves. And I take my blood pressure medicine everyday! I delegate stressful things to others.

I have begun talking on the phone more even though friends stop calling whenever something bad happens. I don’t know why since it is when you need them the most. I think it is because they believe that you may be resting and they don’t want to bother you and some just simply don’t know what to say, then you have some that just simply are not friends in the first place. A stroke weeds them out in a hurry! Mitch isn’t much of a talker so practicing is a bit hard.

And if this wasn’t enough we were in the smack middle of a move to a new house! Mitch handled everything; all I could do was just sit and point. I felt really bad for not being able to anything but realized that I had always had to do everything myself..When I was forty I moved all by myself to Orlando, Florida with no map and no job to start my life over. From a rown of 35,000 to a city ov over two million people. Lived through four category 3 and above hurricanes in six weeks. I have lived through horrific floods in my home town. An epic ice storm, with no power for over two weeks. The death of my aunt, my uncle and my mother six months apart.. Raised a daughter all by myself after her father died in an auto accident, when she was in the second week of first grade. I was a pioneering HIV/AIDS Advocate, when AIDS was not a popular disease, starting with my first patient in 1983. That was two years before they had a test for AIDS. It was still called Gay Related Immune Deficiency. I have worked on a Hollywood movie set nad been kissed by Antonio Bandaras. I have been to two Presidential Inaugurals, been a guest at the White House. I have ridden a camel up to the great Pyramids of Giza…Floated on the Nile and stood on the hill where the Sheppard’s saw the star..The Star, professing the birth of Christ. I have been to the tomb of Jesus and stood at the place of his birth.  And I have a daughter and have been blessed with three beautiful grandchildren. So if I am in that sixty percent don’t feel sorry for me..I have had an amazing life, and I know it. And if I am lucky enough to be in that fourty percent then God has granted me a repreive, great friends and an even greater life!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On The Evening of April 9, 2010 I Had A Stroke

In a few days I will post another story. I had kinda lost many of my stories. It takes some time for me to write but, will soon! Thank you for all of your support.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Louise The Unfortunate


Many years ago I had had surgery so I was watching hours of cable TV...It was actually soon after cable TV came out in our area when I came upon a home and gardens story about antique roses...I remember the lady, Teri Tillman, saying that most antique roses are found in cemeteries. The reason? Because when people plant roses in cemeteries they never go back and dig them up! She was from Natchez, Mississippi, which is one of my favorite Deep South Towns...It is located on the Mississippi river between Vicksburg, Mississippi and New Orleans, Louisiana..The Civil war was hard on Natchez and even harder on the people...As with any great civil war city, Natchez has a great cemetery. The City Cemetery of Natchez, Mississippi. And it is covered with roses...

I finally remembered the name of the lady who told the story about antique roses, Teri Tillman ...but, I think it was the story that she told about an anonymous grave that stuck with me the most…One grave marker sits alone in the Jewish part of this cemetery and the rose lady told us how she had grafted her favorite rose and planted it by Louise’s grave.. It is the story of Louise that tugs at my heart...Seems that Louise was a mail order bride who arrived in Natchez sometime in the mid 1800’s... no one knows for sure...Louise came from somewhere back east and when she arrived at the docks all blushed with anticipation for her new husband to be and new life, she waited and waited..No one came to claim her...She waited the next day which turned into night then a week which then turned into months..What had happened? Had her betrothed really been at the docks all along and decided that she was not what he had ordered? Had he been killed and no one knew that he was bringing a bride from back east. Heart sick and ashamed, Louise could not go home and could not let her family know that the man of her dreams had left her at the docks to be thrown to the streets to take care of herself as best as she could…

Louise worked for many years in what  the locals call "Under the Hill"...She did the best that she could..a broken woman with broken dreams... Louise took ill and died without anyone knowing a thing about her…..It is said that a wealthy Jewish businessman took pity on her and gave her a space with the rest of his family...The only thing that remains is a white marble gravestone which simply says Louise The Unfortunate..Whomever she was and whatever she did ,she touched at least one heart..

When I picked up my daughter from her school in Vicksburg, Mississippi, after a five and a half hour drive myself, we drove the one and a half hours down to Natchez just to visit Louise’s grave... I stopped at a florist and bought a small nosegay for Louise…The clerk asked if I had family buried there and I told her “no, I am just going to see Louise” to my surprise the clerk got nasty...she said “I can’t believe that with all of the beauty that is Natchez, Mississippi you come all of this way to see that whore” She was a prostitute, you know?” Of course I knew...It even made the story more dear to my heart and enticing...Allison and I took the flowers and I tried to remember what I had seen in the background scene that would help me indentify her spot…no luck, so I walked across the street to a magnificent Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Mississippi River, to my suprise, again I was met with disdain. I walked back past a car from Texas...the elderly couple had driven 15 hours from their home to Mississippi...They asked if I could help them find a grave and I told them that I, too was looking for a grave but, would help if I could..They were looking for Louise The Unfortunate! They had seen the same show that I seen and something about Louise was calling them, too...

What was it about a woman who we never knew, who died over 150 years before we were ever born? A woman who no one wanted, a woman abandoned in a strange town and even stranger world? A woman who was deemed unfortunate at the time of her death turned  out to be a very fortunate woman after all…A woman with a story, buried in one of the most beautiful places on earth overlooking the Might Mississippi River…eternaly watching the sunset of legend every day ..Who would have ever thought that Louise The Unfortunate would become a legend….? If we are really lucky in life we will have strangers touched so much by our lives that they drive hours and hours from their homes to lay flowers at our grave..One Hundred and fifty years later.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

In Lieu Of Flowers


When I die, I want FLOWERS! Not just an urn wreath...not just a family spray, I want an obscene amount of flowers...If someone wants to send money to a charity of choice in my name that is ok. I would hope that I had made a positive impact on enough lives that I had lots of friends who would send flowers. If they just pick flowers from their yard or from a field; I would love that just as much...Once, I had two AIDS patients who lived together and died within days of each other...Tim and Jim...They were as we say in the south, Dandies...Always into something and just plain ole trouble…But, you just had to love them..I buried them in a cookie jar thqt was donated by a local potter, in my family cemetery with a do it yourself funeral because I could not get a single preacher who would do a funeral for an AIDS patient... And in one of the most touching moments I have ever seen, a grandmother and her young grandson walked into the cemetery, with a coffee can covered in aluminum foil and filled with flowers of the field..I could imagine both of them carefully and thoughtfully taking the only vessel that they had and covering it with foil...they then walked about a mile by themselves and handpicked flowers...a coffee can full of wildflowers. Every flower picked to show Tim and Jim how much they were loved and would be missed...They said that they sang gospel hymns while picking the flowers...Can you see it in your mind? I can and I hope that you can, too.

While I was living and working in Florida, at one of the Crown Jewel of cemeteries for SCI, Woodlawn Memorial Park, I saw thousands of sprays of flowers...WOW, do they ever know how to knock out fabulous flowers! Everyone ALWAYS asks me why I like working at cemeteries? One of the best things I can say is that I love flowers and get to receive huge bouquets of them several times a day. I get to see them and smell their beautiful scents all day long...I get to see how much people are touched by the sentiment that words cannot express... I have never seen anyone weeping with pride over a piece of paper with a number on it...In Lieu of Flowers is great...I am all for donating to charity...I was Excretive Director of a 501(c)3.. I know how much donations mean, I really do but, I have never seen the thank you phone calls or the thank you notes that I have seen by a single bouquet of flowers…store bought or handpicked!

I always send flowers, not that I am that special, I just love to make people happy. I want people that I love to know how much I love them and how very much I will miss them. I have the best florist in the world, Marie’s Flowers on Albert Pike in Hot Springs National Park, Arkansas. All I have to do is call them up and tell them what it is for and they magically read the mind of the one I am sending flowers to and when we see the spray it is magically the sentiment that I was hoping it would be. We once had a friend who was a Cheyenne Medicine Man, Al Tallbird and his beautiful wife, Beverly... She called us to her deathbed and asked us to take care of her husband after she was gone and she wished for flowers at her funeral…She wanted everyone to know that she was loved...My sentiment exactly..I called Marie’s and told them who she was and what she was like...We picked up the spray to take to Oklahoma...IT WAS STUNNING!! Autumn flowers with pussywillow and pheasant feathers...whenever I find my box of photos I will post a picture of it….

My childhood friend, Frank Rapley’s father, David Rapley was one of the first Marines to set foot on forgiven soil in WWII…He came home from saving the world to raise a family and lead our community..He loved flowers and always sent flowers to the deceased...I found this out when I called to order flowers for Mr. Rapley... Joanne, at Marie’s Flowers, answered the phone and said that the family was just in and said that he hated In Lieu of Flowers. Joanne and I talked a long time about why people feel the need to say please send money instead of flowers and I told her that I had sat with hundreds of families while planning a service and felt that for whatever reason, people feel guilty about having people making a fuss over them. They have all of these excuses like “the flowers die” ...”it is a waste of money”...I always ask how they would feel if someone sent them flowers on their birthday? They would be thrilled!! I asked them if they had ever been to a wedding where there were not any flowers and they look at me like I am crazy. (I am but, that isn’t the point) Would you expect a bride to not have a bouquet? Don’t you want to catch it?? Of course!!! I tell them that a wedding only lasts an hour and then the marriage might only last a few years...yes, I am a little jaded…Then there is a second marriage...Would there be flowers..Absolutely!! So, why in the world would you not have as many flowers at a funeral as you would a wedding? Think about it, it is the last party and celebration that your loved one will ever attend…I feel that it should be a blow out and a true send off...

When I go to a funeral or memorial Service, I think about, Are the flowers beautiful and have the feel of the soul of the deceased? How about the scripture, will it bless the departed? Is the music foot tapping and does it make you want to sing along in joy and sorrow...can you pour your heart out, too? And I love a good eulogy...I want it to be thought provoking and mindful of the sence of the person that it is intended to honor and I want to cry and then laugh..I want to know that everyone involved had the opportunity to mourn and then honor the wishes of the loved one...and I feel that part of the mourning procces is that we , I, have the opportunity to express my feelings with flowers! If any of you don’t want a beautiful spray of flowers just let me know and I will count out the pennies and write a cold number on a small piece of paper and send it to an unknown address and let a clerk open it and put it in a pile...or I can send flowers? We always take flowers ot the cemetery after the death when we visit..Why? Why do we feel the need to keep flowers on the grave and not at the funeral?


I have given much thought to my funeral and how I can get a lot of flowers and mourners…I am going to have a raffle...for every $10.00 a person spends on Flowers They will get a raffle ticket...we will draw for something every 15 minutes..After a song of my choice...then at the very end...At the cemetery after I am inurned, there will be a drawing for a one week’s vacation anywhere in the world, I have a book to choose the resort from...I think it will work! What do you think?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Please Pause

A Poem From My Friend....

Please Pause

My love…

Please pause to give a kiss, a hug,

As you head out for the day;

Whether leaving to go to work, run errands,

Or just to play.

Please pause and tell the ones you love,

“I do love you so.”

And take the time to show it too,

So there’s no doubt that they know.

Please pause to do the little things

That only cost you your time;

Take a stroll with your mate, help your neighbor,

Watch your child at that tree he can climb.

For we know not what may lie ahead

As we travel down life’s road.

Today may be the day God say’s,

“My child, it’s your time to go.”

Please pause to give a kiss, a hug,

And strive always to be kind;

For you never know, this moment may be

The last memory you leave behind.

My love…please pause.


Friday, February 19, 2010

I Am Stuned!

My family has been looking for 60 years for tombstones that had been thrown in Lake Hamilton from our family cemetery; a land developer did this during the Great Depression and sold the land to rich folks from out of town so that they could build houses on the new lake... I have looked for the tombstones all of my life and today I found what I believe to be my great grandmother, Mary Etta (Mollie) Gardner Clay’s tomb... She was the only person buried in this lost cemetery that was entombed...The lake was lowered this winter and today I walked the shore and found this...


I was in the middle of writing a nice story for the February issue of The Graveyard Rabbit about a lost cemetery...I was just innocently taking photos of where in the lake that we beleived the markers to have been thrown whe a rock in the water was pointed out to me by a local resident..I was focusing on this rock and looking into the water trying to see something when I turned around to see what was scurrying up a tree when I saw this...I knew immediatly what I was looking at without having to get any closer..I was stunned still..I cried..stood still in my place and started sobbing...you can see in the pictures below one frame I was looking at a rock and the lake and the next was when I turned around! I have never really thought that I would ever find even a tombstone, much less this. We have always believed that it had been broken to pieces with a sledgehammer…



I just this minute realized that I am now the matriarch of my family...I have no one left to even call on the phone to tell of my find. It is Friday evening and I can’t even call the State of Arkansas because I don’t know what to do…They will raise the lake to cover this tomb starting March 4, 2010 and it will lie under the waters until next October…..What in the world should I do? Whom do I call and will anyone care? Or will I be the only one to know the secrets of the lost cemetery and who really threw the cemetery remains in the lake????????????

I will post the origional story that I was working on about this cemetery as soon as I can gather my thoughts!


First of all, I want to thank all of ya'll who have written to me this weekend..I am amazed at the love and concern that you have for me and my Great Grandmother who died four years after my mother was born and some 35 years before I was ever born.. I am fighting all of this alone except for all of ya'll..God Bless Ya'll!!!

Thank you for helping me to restore Mollie's dignity or the dignity of whom ever we find the tomb to have belonged to, in the first place..I want to somehow get thistomb moved 4 miles to my family cemetery where it can rest with her daughters, sons, grandchildren and the rest of the family! Or just plane ole have a place to be loved anyway!

Now, below you will find the email addresses of the news reporters who will be meeting me and Mary Ann Trubit who is with The State Of Arkansas this coming... I think I have finally gotten the right people hoppin! It was really harder than I thought it would be to get the media interested....except Jason Pederson he is great! Would ya'll email these reporters and let them know how you feel about this and maybe with ya'lls help we can get this tomb out of the lake and in a respectful cemetery!!! I really need to rally the GYR'S and all of the other troupes for this one!!! Sadly, people here don't value cemeteries like you and I do.. Please keep me in your prayers! On your emails please put your State or Country and affiliation GYR or Genabloggers or any other etc....you can also cc a copy to me also at ruthcokerburks@aol.com or post your comments at last2cu.net

With Much LOVE,

Jason Pederson, (that is Pederson spelled with a D not T) he is the reporter for Seven On You Side At our ABC affiliate KATV Channel 7 , Little Rock , AR you can leave him an email at the link below..You have to go through their security screen to contact him.    http://cfc.katv.com/contact.cfm

Don Thompson is a reporter at our local newspaper The Sentinel Record his email address is don@hotsr.com


I called Wilbert Vault Company to see about having the tomb moved..They told me that I had to get a Funeral Director involved so, I called a funeral director friend and she told me that the County Coronor had to be involved! I then called my friend, Stuart Smedley, our County Cornorer.. Stuart told me to call everyone and tell them to stand down and not to show up until he has investigated it as a crime scene. A secret from 1934.. until a man threw the last tombstone in the lake in 1937. His neice bragged about it to me on the phone last night! This is getting way more than I ever thought of...
                    Can this get any stranger? YOU BET IT CAN and it will!!!!

I meet with the County Coronor at 10:00am in the morning to take him to where the tomb is.....

Jason Pederson at our local ABC affiliate KATV Channel 7.......ROCKS!

After meeting with our county coroner, Jason Pederson at our ABC affiliate KATV called and met with me and an 87 year old cousin of a cousin who had been to funerals at this very cemetery as a child and his very own great grandfather is also buried there!!! Jason even put it as the second story on the 5:00 pm news and it will be the lead story on the 6:00 pm newscast. I will keep every one posted on this and will try to get the video to link to this site!
JASON GETS THINGS DONE!! Listen to this ABC, just don't take him away from us!


Pete Thompson at KARK Channel 4 is a STAR Reporter!!

Pete Thompson who is a reporter for our NBC affiliate KARK Channel 4 in Little Rock did a fabulous job today in reporting on this cemetery outrage! A lady who lives in the condos, right beside the possible Tomb and overlooking the bay where most of the tombstones lay at the bottom of the lake came out and told us about how they had seen it for years and never knew what it was. She said that now she can see that it looks exactly like a tomb! Then a man, who I won’t call a gentleman, came up to us at the cemetery and questioned if it really was a cemetery and why I would tell anyone if it really was! He was highly insulted so I told him to voice his concerns to the reporter and he stormed off! He said that if it really was it might hurt his property values...Heck, it would increase mine...I would be thrilled! I am surprised that our local newspaper hasn’t followed up with me...They never came out to report on this…Maybe someone who kept their yard mowed got some kind of yard of the month award and needed their picture taken.

Pete Thompson from KARK really cares about his stories! Thanks, Pete!

Sunday, February 14, 2010

A Valentine's Valentine


Valentine’s Day 1856, Somewhere in Virginia, America...it was in the days before the Civil War, which is always an important historical fact here in The South. But, this time Valentine’s Day 1856 is all that is in the thoughts of Mr. and Mrs. James Gibbs of Virginia as they celebrate their young love with the impending birth of their daughter, Cornelia, who would one day be the Valentine of all Valentine’s for one young man’s heart.

Would they have known that in less than two weeks, on March 4, 1856, a baby girl would change the world of someone forever? Would they have known that little Cornelia would be the most beautiful of babies born in Virginia? Probably... Would they have known that she would steal their hearts and be the joy of their lives? It wouldn’t take long! Would they know that every beau would come from all over just for the chance to court her? I’ll bet they found out!


Miss Cornelia Gibbs came to Arkansas as a young girl and it was here in Hot Springs, Arkansas where she met a young man from South Arkansas named Robert Davies...Mr. Davies is the man whose heart she stole at first glance. Hot Springs, Arkansas was a beautiful, bustling young town in the mid to late 1800’s. Hot Springs was at a time, during the Civil war, the Capital of the State of Arkansas. The hot waters cascading down the mountain in the heart of the town was a sight that people would come by the train loads to see. Whittington Park was where young lovers would gather to court each other. It was here at Whittington Park where a young Cornelia and Mr. Robert Davies fell in love and soon married...Life was very good for the young couple.


While Cornelia stayed at home raising their children and enjoying the life of young love...Robert was enjoying being a young attorney in a bustling new town closing in on a new century. The War hadn’t scared Hot Springs like it had other Southern cities, that is one of the reasons that Mr. Davies and his family had taken refuge here at the start of the war.

Cornelia was a joy filled mother and wife, her family was her heart and her heart was her family.. Five beautiful children would fill her days and entertaining her husband and his business associates would fill many a night...Cornelia was really and truly loved by all who ever met her. She was awaited at her church socials for her hospitality and just the plain ole fact she loved God and instilled that same love in her family. All of this is why the weeks leading up to July 2, 1884 were so terribly painful. Cornelia had just given birth to her sixth child when a fever developed and she took ill…The doctor stayed close and friends and family drew near. Everyone tried the best that they could to take care of her, nothing seemed to help...she grew weaker. Her dear husband, the love of her life, never left her side...Cornelia died that summer day...Life stood still.
Her monument says more than I ever could…Death Came over Her Dear Form like an Untimely Frost, Upon the Sweetest Fairest Flower of the Field….
   Oh, to be loved this much....                                                      

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Cemetery Critters

I wish I had been able to photograph all of the cemetery critters in this story but, since most of them were seen DURING a funeral service cameras were inappropriate. But, visiting cemeteries is a different story. While I was at an old country cemetery this past week this sweet hunting dog came up to see if I would take him home with me? As I have said in the past, I have to let the story come to me..not go looking for it.

 I have always wondered if the obligatory cemetery snake was always real or if it was talked about in front of children as to keep all of us kids in place and hanging close to our family members? I have seen my share of snakes in quite a few of the cemeteries that I have visited and ALWAYS keep my eye out for those boogers! That is why I limit my country cemetery visits to hunting season. Too cold for snakes!

Once, while living and working at a cemetery in Central Florida, a family came in to make arraignments for a loved one who had died. Our office was about a half of a city block from the cemetery, on the same grounds. It is a small country type cemetery in a large urban area. It was a beautiful cooler than usual, sunny day and I asked the family if they wanted to walk to choose a grave space or ride in my car? The weather was so nice outside that we chose to walk. In between the office and the cemetery and there was a maintenance area behind a fence...Huge live oak trees lined the area with their branches draped in Spanish moss. White sugar sand was beneath our feet. It was a lovely sight…until….

We had walked about 100 feet from the office when it seemed like a voice out of nowhere said “three, two, one GO!!! Out from under the fence was, you guessed it, snakes...not A snake, not two snakes but, there indigo snakes racing out from under that fence at the same time going full blast across that hot sugar sand! They were neck to neck in a race to make it to the grass about fifty feet away…Well, guess what? The six of us humans turned on a dime and raced neck to neck the one hundred feet back to the safety of the air conditioned office. None of us, snakes or humans, turned to look back at the other until the door was shut and locked. Like we thought that the snakes would stand end on end and be able to open the door! Yes, crazy I know.

Another commonly uncommon cemetery critter in Florida is Gopher Tortoise... They are very large weighing around 30 pounds and are very fast in the first thirty to fifty feet...That sucker can run at about twenty miles per hour...That’s bookin it. Did I mention that the Gopher Tortoise is on the endangered species list along with the Indigo snakes and can’t be monkeyed with in any way? And, that there are HUGE fines for even talking to one? Well, almost!

For some reason it seems that every time someone was very upset, demanding or just plain crazy and came in to either of the two cemeteries where I worked, I would be called in to “handle the situation”. Why me? Well, why not?

One day while I was innocently turning in contracts, a lady came in who was ranting and raving about her husband’s marker being stolen right out of the cemetery! She was going to contact her attourney, she was going to the newspapers and television stations...The end of the world would come if we did not do something right then and there. So, I put her into my car and we drove out to her husband’s grave, sure enough all that was where her husband’s flat bronze marker had been was dirt! I had to agree with her that it looked as if something had happened to her beloved husband’s marker...In Florida we took great care of the lush Saint Augustine grass that carpeted the cemetery. We kept each marker free of encroaching grass and the cemetery was always as perfect as anyone could ever hope for.

Right there in the middle of the cemetery was an empty marker space. What in the world could have happened? I had heels on that day and took the heel part of my shoe and tapped it on the dirt where the marker had been. I felt something metal stop my heel...I tried another place and the same thing happened again so I got out my whisk broom and hand trowel and started to gently clear away the dirt and low and behold ..there was her husband’s marker! Now we just had to figure out what had happened to put all of that dirt in one spot? I looked around at the other markers and noticed a domed shape hole under the neighboring marker…I knew right then what had happened. A now truly “endangered” Gopher tortoise had decided to make his or her home under the neighboring marker and in the night the sprinklers came on and leveled the dirt! Plain and simple. SO, we cleaned the marker and all the time the poor lady was apologizing all over the place...I got the grounds supervisor to look at this situation and  he then told her that the critter would have to decide to leave on its own or we could be in big trouble..last I saw was the lady measuring her trunk...Just kidding, I think!

One of my favorite cemetery critter stories took place in the same cemetery where I came across the dog in the picture. My cousin, Cookie, had had a string of bad luck with men in her life. It seemed that after her husband  tragically died the day before their 25th wedding anniversary all of the men that she dated afterwards died really tragic ways, too...Someday I may tell ya'll her “five in a row” story. I finally advised her that it might be a good idea to stop dating. Luckily she took my advice and has not dated since the 90’s. BUT, he last boyfriend was a doozie...we all called him Barnacle Bill because he would attach himself to widow women and live off of him...Sadly, Cookie soon began to refer to him as Barnacle, too. Actually, after a while he thought it was kinda cook and wore it as a badge of honor..He was a dandy. Not to speak ill of the dead but, just to give you some background for the story. One day this poor man sat straight up in bed and just up and died! We scrambled around and got the resources to have him cremated with a graveside service. His relatives didn’t want to have anything to do with this situation for two reasons...One was because he was living with my cousin and wasn’t married to her and the second was because they didn’t want to have to pay one red cent towards his services.

We did manage to get permission to bury his ashes next to his parents in Ebenezer Cemetery. Cookie and I drove the forty miles out in the country and finally found the cemetery and a space to start digging. Here we were two women, out in the middle of nowhere, in a cemetery with a shovel… No one else in sight...We each took turns trying to dig a small hole in the hardest dirt I have ever seen. No luck...if that wasn’t enough the temperature was over 100 degrees...I finally decided to go out into the road and flag down a car and ask them to help us... Little did I realize that everyone who passed thought that we were just too weird to risk their lives helping two, by this time steaming mad, women with a shovel in a out of the way cemetery. Finally, I got a god ol boy to dig the hole for $50.00. I have never been sure if he really believed that we were going to have a funeral. I should have told him we were planting a rose bush...Now, that would have made more sense. I should have thought of it then...oh, well.

Now that we have the grave dug and the services set we needed a preacher and Barnacle had a cousin who fit the bill…When we arrived at the funeral we were met coolly by the preacher man and his smug wife...We didn’t really know why until later. The preacher man was obviously not happy with the fact that he had to do a funeral that he did not want to do. I have to say that my cousin, Cookie, is as good as gold and is just a simple house wife who never thought that she would be widowed at such a young age. Needless to say she did not choose her men well...

The preacher man took his place and his dutiful smug wife was close by his side. We had a few people show up to send Barnacle home so that was nice...I really do hate it when someone is not buried with dignity no matter how people feel about them while they were alive. Finally we found out why the preacher man was so hateful...In his “comforting” remarks he let everyone know that being cremated is a sin and then he looked straight at Cookie and dared to say in front of everyone that Barnacle Bill had lived in sin and that he would be burning in hell for both being cremated and living in sin..Cookie who really cared about him and took him in was absolutely mortified! This made me so mad that I could have spit nails...I just stood there lookinng at that preacher man and his smug, dutiful wife. I refused to join in HIS final prayer...I would say my own prayer, thank you very much...As I was watching the preacher man  and his wife, all of a sudden his wife slapped her leg as hard as she could..No, it wasn’t a snake…She then slapped her stomach as hard as she could with the other hand...then her shoulder, her leg, her other leg…I was spellbound...I nudged Cookie to look up and we started laughing so hard that we cried..Weknew that we needed to muffle our laughs...It was funny that people now started placing their hands on our backs to comfort us because they thought that the heaving of our shoulders was crying instead of laughing...No one ever knew that we were laughing..Finally, justice for deceased...It seemd that the hideous dress that preacher’s wife had on  had great big red flowers all over it and beautiful little humming birds were dive bombing the flowers on her dress!!!

 At least ten tiny little ruby throated humming birds where were paying her back for her smugness. The little birds were in hot competition for the flowers on her dress!!!!! The preacher man's wife was just about to go to pieces in that cemetery because she thought that it was hornets that had taken hold of her..…Little did she know that it was beautiful, gentle, delicate little creatures (critters)that came down from the heavens above to seek revenge for her smugness...Barnacle Bill had his say after all! The smuggest woman that I had ever seen was now running through the cemetery slapping her body all over. Mrs. Smuggness was now a sight to see with one shoe on and the other left at the graveside..Stumbling to the shelter of her car..Cookie and I laughed all the way home. What goes around comes around and it sure is nice to have instant gratification!

God had sent those ten delightful little hummingbirds...It is true what the Bible says..."Vengence is mine sayeth the Lord"!