“A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches, and loving favor rather than silver and gold.” (Proverbs 22:1)
I rode down the gravel road with my sister, Mary Ann, on Memorial Day to the cemetery. I stayed in the car while she placed flowers on several graves. I noticed the double marble tombstone. The name George Jeffery on one side and Girstine Jeffery on the other side was inscribed. All twenty-two children’s names were inscribed on the back of the tombstone. Many thoughts were going through my mind as I reminisced how their story ended. What did they really leave behind? How are we living out the lessons they taught? How do we develop and train the next generation? Are we able to continue this great legacy? People in the community expect us to live up to the honor of the names of our parents. The children’s names inscribed were not the names Dad called us (the 14); he had a nickname for each one of us. He called Jewell “Grandma”, Juanita “Teddy”, Demetrice “Ceva”, Mary Ann “Maud”, George, Jr. “Joe”, Betty “Lou Lou”, Lavarange “Vern”, Lillie “Fruit Cottontale”, Deborah “Bora”, Fredrick “Bobwire” and “Bobbie”, Rose Mary “Rooster”, Larry “L.J.”, Glenda “Boo”, and Andre’ “Big Head”. We all answered to both names, however; Mother chose to call us by our regular names. I could still hear Mother telling me, “Never say never”, “Baby, give it to God, He’ll work it out”, “Gal, get back in this house and put on a slip”, “Remember where you came from”, “Treat people the way you want to be treated”, “You’ll be alright”, and “I won’t say what my kids won’t do, but I will say, I’ve taught them right”. To think that her voice was silent, my eyes began to run water until I thought about my nine sisters and me. Every time I am around any one of my sisters I hear Mother’s voice, and I surprise myself often when I speak. It is like hearing her voice through all of us. We also have the same talents and do so many things the same way Mother did. We all have an innate sense of humor. We often respond the same way to commitments; it is really impetuous. Through the years of triumphs, joys and sorrows, Dad and Mother worked untiring hours to leave a legacy for their children and future generations. They had 14 biological children, 10 girls and 4 boys; and also raised 7 other children, the Holt’s. They did not make any distinctions between the two groups of children; they treated us all alike and taught us all the same work ethic. There was a lot of love in our home, as well as, integrity, sharing, fun, closeness, and hard work.
Dad spent a lot of his time training the boys to hunt, operate the farm equipment, how to farm various crops, to cut down trees and chop wood, to fish and do mechanical work. I would carpool to work with Dad to my first public job, and he was always early. He would tell me to pay my tithes, pay myself, save 10%, and give the man a full day’s work. I was so accustom to working, until I gave the man the production of three people. When I resigned to attend college, my supervisor hired three people to replace me. I was only seventeen years old and fresh out of high school, I mean really fresh, like one day after graduation when I started this job. Dad taught us all to have integrity, mostly by example. I recall most of the remarks at his funeral were about his word being his bond. One man said, “If the sun is shining, and the weather man says there is no rain in the forecast, but George says it’s going to rain, I would get my umbrella”. I heard creditors say, they had never known a time when Dad broke his promise. A former supervisor said Dad was an excellent worker with perfect attendance until retirement. I thought about when I rode to Little Rock in 1976 with Dad, to test drive a new car for Mother. Dad had the salesman to call the bank in Stuttgart on the financing of the car. When the salesman hung up the telephone, he said, “Wow, that was the president, and he said to give George Jeffery whatever he wants”. I was a young adult, but I knew that meant Dad had integrity and a good track record. After the funeral, we went back to Mother’s house; and the living room floor was covered with flowers and plants, we counted over a hundred. The librarian came by and gave us a copy of a document that is recorded at the Stuttgart Public Library, stating that George Jeffery was a man of integrity, and a book was donated in his honor. She also was carrying a plaque to the Art Center in honor of Dad. Dad also left a tangible inheritance for all of his children; he left each one a portion of land to continue where he left off.
Mother left a legacy of the ministry of sharing the Gospel, of love, and of cooking. We would always have food to eat. Mother would cook for us, for the church fami