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Saying Good-Bye (December 2017)

Saying Good-Bye

by Deborah Burkett

When January rolls around one ponders the previous year. Was it a positive time in terms of goals accomplished? Did we live life to the fullest, thanking God for each opportunity?

One also tends to think of those who are no longer with us--friends and mentors, gone.

For me December 2017, was especially poignant. I said good-bye to three friends on three consecutive days.

I attended the December 15th Friday evening visitation for Elna Taylor Perkins of Ponta. Then I drove to Palestine on Saturday the 16th for Judge Bascom Bentley's memorial service and Sunday afternoon, December 17th, found me sitting in a middle pew as Rev. Don Copeland preached Lois Halbert Pierce's funeral.

These three friends were an eclectic bunch but several common themes captured my heart.

First, each one loved history. All eagerly told stories of their ancestors in early Texas and all were kind enough to allow me to include these memories in my books.

I came to know Mrs. Perkins through quilts and her Home Demonstration work. Born 9-27-1916, Elna was a very talented woman, not only with needle and thread but in the business community, as well.

She and her husband owned and managed the P & W General Mercantile in Ponta where Elna was also Assistant Postmistress for many years.

September 2nd, the last time Elizabeth McCutcheon and I stopped by Mrs. Perkins' home, we weren't sure if she would be "up" for a visit. Thankfully she was.

"Deborah," she said, "I've wanted to see you…have an old photo…saved it for you-a relative of yours is in the picture..."

Born 3-27-1951, Judge Bentley was a great supporter of the Cherokee County Historical Commission. I was honored to be part of his preservation committee which also included Ricky Richards and County Judge Chris Davis. Together we selected, scanned and printed 11 by 14 images. These photographs now grace the walls of the Cherokee County Courthouse.

Judge Bentley was determined that all aspects of Texas History be preserved. In addition, he shared stories of his maternal great grandmother, Lillian Mae Kelly Newell (1879-1968).

I first learned of Lillian when I spied her photograph hanging on the judge's wall in his office at the courthouse. Lillian's image stood out even though she was surrounded by football memorabilia, the judge's hunting trophies and countless framed documents and photos related to Texas Independence.

Bentley told me, "People said I "took after" Lillian…she had a little mischief to her-in a good way-she was an awful lot of fun!"

I met Lois Halbert Pierce while working on my book about spunky women. Lois' niece, Michele Slaton, said, "You need to meet my Aunt Lois (born 3-31-1928) she's definitely spunky…"

I soon learned that the first of the Halbert women arrived in the Republic of Texas in 1837. Eventually there would be seven generations of Halberts living in Texas.

During a 2014 interview with Lois, her stories of growing up in Cherokee County were inspiring and often funny. Lois graduated from Dialville School in 1945, married in 1948. I love the "bobby sock" photo of her taken on the steps of the old school.

Lois' funeral in Rusk was packed. Rev. Don Copeland, said with a smile there's a lot of Halbert's in those woods. Copeland went on to preach an "old timey" sermon interspersed with traditional hymns such as Precious Memories, which had many in tears.

According to niece, Michele Slaton, "I told Brother Don to honor Aunt Lois and Glorify Jesus…"

And he did that and more--such a beautiful and moving service. Michele's son, Rev. Dustin Slaton also spoke eloquently about Lois and the family.

It goes without saying each one: Perkins, Bentley and Pierce, will be missed.

But comfort can be found in the following refrain, "Precious memories, how they linger…How they ever flood my soul…Precious memories, unseen angels, how they linger ever near me as the sacred past unfolds."

Attached photos: Mrs. Perkins with a quilt and Judge Bentley hanging photos in Cherokee County Courthouse were made by Deborah Burkett. Mrs. Pierce in bobby socks; photo is courtesy of her family.

Mrs. Perkins with a quilt

Judge Bentley hanging photos in Cherokee County Courthouse

Mrs. Pierce in bobby socks