Today is February 22 and happens to be George Washington’s birthday. It also happens to be the birthday of one of the kindest and gentlest Southern Ladies I have ever known. Her name was Myra Eloise Harris Williams. We mostly knew her as Mom Williams. To others she was “Aunt Pete.” How do you get to Pete from Myra. Answer is not as interesting as it could be. Seems her father had 2 girls and two boys before Pete came along and he wanted another boy so insisted on calling her Pete. From the stories I’ve heard, she did live up to the boy’s name. She was an accomplished swimmer growing up.
But, that was all before me. In January 1969 I took her daughter out on a date and fell instantly, head over heels in love with her. I pretty much stalked her for a few weeks then one weekend when we both had other plans and couldn’t go out together I, by chance, met Ms Pete. It was Saturday and I was supposed to be on a Geology field trip for a class. As luck would have it, our field trip was rained out and I found myself left to my own judgement for the weekend. Nancy was at home in Bastrop, LA. I had pretty much given up my weekend debauchery (a good thing because Nancy would never have tolerated it), so I decided I would drive to my home in Oak Grove, LA.
Turns out, one way to get to Oak Grove was through Bastrop so I decided that was the route I should take, hmmmm. When I got to Bastrop, I found a pay phone. For those of you under 30, that is what we used before cell phones. There was no instant calling from our contact list or sending a text to someone. You either found them and talked face to face or you called them on a landline and talked. Well, what I knew was that Nancy’s last name was Williiams so I stood in the phone booth with a very well worn set of the Bastrop white pages (our contact list of the day) and started with Williams with names starting with A. Luckily, Nancy’s dad’s name was Artie so I only had to waste 2 dimes before I got the right one.
The phone rang and a sweet voice answered it. I knew I didn’t recognize it as Nancy so I asked to speak to her. While I was chatting with Nancy on the phone, Ms Pete told her to ask me to join them for lunch. Now, I should mention that if I had been the milk man or paper delivery guy, she’d have said the same thing. Everyone was always welcome at her table. I agreed to join them for lunch, but that was mostly to get to see Nancy. I showed up at the Williams house wearing my field clothes and boots and was welcomed like I was a celebrity. I had never been to the Williams house so needed directions to get to Cooper Lake Road and the house. Well, actually, that is not entirely true. As a student pilot I once made a training flight over her house, just to see what it looked like. I wasn’t positive it was her house, but it fit the description I had of what it looked like. And, sure enough, when I saw it from the ground it was confirmed. I told you I stalked her.
Ms. Pete was as gracious as she could have been. Can’t say that for everyone else there. Seems that Saturday lunch at the Williams house was always an event. Nancy’s Uncle and cousins were there too. I wasn’t too sure about the uncle and was pretty sure Nancy’s dad was checking me out pretty closely, but Ms. Pete was clearly in charge of the household that day and I am grateful for that.
As time passed, I grew more and more fond of Ms. Pete and think I even began to grow on Nancy’s father after a while. Still wasn’t too sure about the uncle and cousins. It wasn’t long (a few weeks maybe) that I asked Nancy to marry me and after a very short engagement we were married. Ms. Pete made me feel like a member of the family from that very first Saturday I met her and she continued to treat me like a son until she passed.
I am so grateful that I got to know her and learned to love her like a mother. She was a very special lady. For the record, Nancy looks more and more like her mother every day and I for one am grateful for that.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM WILLIAMS…SAY HI TO BILLY GRAHAM FOR ME.