It was in 1935 that Connie Wright approached Samuel Knight to ask if he could have Ora Lee's hand in marriage.
Sam Knight - my great-grandfather - had six sons, and only one daughter: the apple of his eye. But Ora Lee was so synonymous with her half-dozen brothers and also quite the tomboy that she had picked up a nickname that would stick with her throughout her life: "Tom".
"No," Great-Grandpa Knight told Connie: "You can't marry the girl, but I'll let you take any of the boys off my hands!"
Ora Lee Knight was 16 years old when Uncle Connie came a'courting for her to be his bride. Uncle Connie passed away in 1984 and between he and Ora Lee they had 49 years of beautiful marriage that produced four children and a whole posse of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
This past Friday morning, the fine lady who so many of us knew best as "Aunt Tom" departed this earthly realm, to be with the Lord she had faithfully served all her life and to be reunited with her husband and so many others who had gone on before. She would have turned 92 next month.
Aunt Tom, well... she was a character and a half. She was so many things: wife, mother, grandmother, farmgirl, a country cook in the grandest tradition, and active in her church. When she was 65 she went back to school and earned her GED, which was something that we were all so very proud of her for accomplishing. Prior to that she worked for more than twenty years at one of the grocery stores in Reidsville.
Aunt Tom was someone that I saw quite often. Her house sat on the hill right above the road that I live on. It was common to see her mowing her own lawn until recent years. And I would stop by to see how she was doing every so often. A few years ago when I ran for school board, she told me that she was proud of me for running and she gladly let me stick up a couple of signs on her roadside.
And now, she's gone. And I'm only now realizing just how strong a fixture she was in my life and those of so many others. Aunt Tom was a sweet woman and epitomized so much of what I've thought it means to live the loving and humble Christian life. But gone though she may be, she'll never be forgotten.
Until we meet again Aunt Tom, I shall miss you. But I'm so very thankful that God has brought you and Uncle Connie together again :-)
(Very special thanks to Allison Stultz for providing such a great photo of Aunt Tom!)