Honoring Southern Appalachian Women
The June 2010 Southern Appalachian Woman is Anita Webb King.
This is the month Anita should have been celebrating her first born child’s 6th birthday and perhaps kindergarten graduation, but no graduation and only a single cupcake at a cemetery. Avery was 2 when tragedy struck. A deeply disturbed, perfect stranger took Avery’s life in a McDonald’s parking lot 4 years ago.
As I sat down with Anita to talk about love and loss, I was amazed by her warmth and openness. I asked her how the experience of such a tragedy has changed her outlook on life. She said, “You can’t take life for granted. Evaluate every day for the most important things. And, enjoy your children.”
She talks herself through her toughest days by asking, “Is there anything I can do about the situation to change it?-NO. I can’t bring her back, so I must move on. I’ve done all I can do.”
As part of her healing, she worked tirelessly to build Avery’s Park (a playground in the town of Woodfin) in memory of her little girl. And now she is able to reach out to others who have suffered loss.
I see the strength of her fiber as she tells me, “You can live without what you lost. You just have to figure out how to do that every day.”
We’ve all lost in life, but we can take this advice from one who is certainly among those who have lost the most.
She’s an amazing example of the strength and resiliency characteristic of so many southern appalachian women.
Being part of her family, and knowing a little about all that she’s been through, I was nearly speechless to hear her say, “Sometimes you just gotta take the risk and live.”—This year, the mother of 3, went skydiving!
The May 2010 Southern Appalachian Woman is Pat Whitson.
From the moment I met Pat 4 years ago, she’s had a lasting impression on me. I thought wow…this woman’s got style, class, and a magnetic energy. I want that too!
She was born and raised in the Brush Creek Community of the Green Mountain area of Yancey County, NC. After graduating from Mars Hill College, she taught interior design at Mountain Heritage High School in Burnsville, NC for over 3 decades. She was famous for being loved by her students and the high heels she wore every day.
When I asked Pat why she chose teaching, she replied in her classic animated style, “I was supposed to be an actress. But since I couldn’t get to California, I got on stage every day and gave my students my best performance.”
And that was followed by a great story about the time she sang a Patsy Kline song at the world famous Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, TN, much to the surprise of her girlfriends who were there with her.
Clearly, she lives by her philosophy of, “Don’t let life pass you by. Have a zest for it.”
Pat will also tell you, nothing’s perfect in life. Much to her disappointment, she was never able to have children of her own. So, she gave her time and talents to more than 9,000 students over a 31-year career.
I believe a successful life includes the pursuit of our best selves. While in that pursuit, it’s women like Pat Whitson that show us the beauty of loving life, giving to others, and …oh, yeah, great style!
April 2010’s Southern Appalachian Woman is Stella Walker King.
She was delivered by a mid-wife in a farmhouse in Old Fort, NC. Her mother died when she was 9, by 14 she was on her own.
She raised cattle, tomatoes, and tobacco to pay for the homeplace that I grew up on in Erwin Hills.
She can make anything taste good. She’ll often say about a dish, “I doctored it up a little bit.” She cooks everything to taste so there’s no recipe for her magic in the kitchen. She taught us how to can and pickle beans and corn.
You never have to wonder what she’s thinking or what she really means ’cause she’s gonna tell you. Like most old-time women of Pisgah, she’s just that direct.
She’s caring enough to take in her husband’s first wife, who had a stroke, and nurse her ’til she died. But she’s also rough enough to unload 5 rounds of a .22 pistol on her second husband who got drunk and beat her up one too many times. (That gun still lays next to her bed.)
Yep, that’s my mamaw. Just an old-time mountain woman with rough-sawn etiquette, resiliency, superstition, and… maybe a little crazy.
This is just a sample of her adventure and drama-filled life. Maybe I’ll tell you more later.
Wew! I hope she don’t read this. I got in trouble one time and she told me she was going to spank me. I told her she couldn’t catch me. She smerked and said, ” That’s alright, you gotta go to sleep sometime.” …She was right.
Most of all, she taught me the strength and pride of a Southern Appalachian Woman.
March is National Women’s History Month and the March 2010 Southern Appalachian Woman is Wilma Sherrill.
Wilma’s journey began as a farmer’s daughter. She learned the value of hard work and integrity. She became a successful businesswoman and later retired from her position in the NC State House of Representatives in 2006.
Wilma lost her mother at the age of 15, lost her father to homicide, fought breast cancer twice and WON!
I asked Wilma, “After a lifetime of experiences, what would you say to others coming along behind you in business and civic involvement?” She said, ” Be true to yourself in all you do and honor your word. If you tell someone you’ll do something, do it!”
If the world would adhere to these two concepts alone, it would be a better place. She also believes we are all talented in different ways and each person should seek to recognize that talent, embrace it, and work to develop it.
And one more thing I learned from Wilma as I watched her sparkling blue eyes draw into sharp focus while she made her opinions clear, you can play hardball with the big boys and still flash a classy, beautiful, femine smile.
From farm girl to one of the area’s most influential people, Wilma has blazed a trail that the women in history would be proud of, the women today are benfactors of, and the women of tomorrow may build on.
Her many years of public service are stacked with awards and accolades for her work advocating for women and children. Google “Wilma Sherrill” for more info on her.
Margaret “Nanny” Crowder is our February 2010 Southern Appalachian Woman.
She was raised in Madison County, NC. She was a farmer’s wife, cooked 3 meals a day, made biscuits that didn’t rise, quilted, milked, told great stories, and hummed “Amazing Grace” while she cleaned house, canned, and worked tobacco.
She told me I could do whatever I wanted to if I would trust the Lord and was willing to work.
Like most southern women, her door was always open and she always wanted to feed you something.
She was taken by cancer in August 2003 at the age of 74.
Though I had no blood relationship to her, I called her “Nanny”. She taught me that love was a kinship that transcends a family tree. I didn’t know it then, but the love I felt for her and from her would be the foundation for my love as an adoptive Mother to my daughter, Jewelian.
January’s Southern Appalachian Woman is Velma Beam Moore
I met Velma in Clay County, NC on my first job after college. I was the Agricultural Extension Agent. Velma was retired from there so we had something in common. Velma was 94 years old and only 4’11’, but her personality and presence made her a giant.
There are two nuggets of knowledge that I have carried with me from my experience with Velma.
The first is a saying she used when she would be disappointed in herself, “I don’t mind being ignorant, but I hate to be stupid.” Boy have I had lots of opportunity to use that one.
The second was an answer to a question I asked her once. The question was, “Velma, after 94 years of living, what advice could you give a girl like me who’s just starting out?” Her answer has helped to guide my life ever since. She said, “There’s three A’s: Attitude, Accountability, and Adaptability. Everything depends on your attitude. Have a good one. You are accountable for your own body. Treat it well. Life is about change. You must be able to adapt to your circumstances.”
Velma died at the age of 95. It has been my pleasure to allow her legacy to live on by sharing her wisdom with you.
Each month this year, we will be honoring the spirit and influence of southern appalachian women. We have so much to learn from the women in our lives.
Join me in celebrating these women. If you have a special person you would like to honor please submit your info and a picture if you have one.
You can send your submission to me at Terri@terriking.org
This is going to be good.