Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Reflections - 2010

As the holiday season begins to wind down, I find myself reflecting on the choices I made for myself (and my family) this year.  Although it's just my daughters, my mother, and me, we have established a few holiday traditions over the years, most of which were pushed aside this year in lieu of a "different" kind of Christmas.

One of my oldest holiday traditions is to create a "card tree" on my laundryroom door with the Christmas cards I receive in the mail.  I use to get so many cards that I couldn't get them all on the door, but now, with the Internet and all, it's been a few years since that has happened.  (Sometimes there's tinsil around the door, or bows between the cards, but none of that, this year!)

Without going into a lot of detail, I'll just share that our recent Christmases have been somewhat less than the joyful occasions they should have been.  Sure, we exchanged gifts, attended church on Christmas morning, had a big dinner, and went through all of the usual motions of the holiday.  But, our three-generation, all-female, basically isolated Christmases, which are always hosted in my home so that my mother can participate, have begun to take their toll on me - emotionally, and physically.  So, this year, I devised a plan to change the pace (and the scenery), and gifted my daughters and myself with a Christmas trip to New Orleans.  I'd been working on the idea of a holiday trip for several months, and had explored several options, but the overwhelming guilt of knowing that taking the trip would mean leaving my mother alone on the holiday, kept me from actually booking anything until December 12th.  By that time, my original plans to book a Caribbean getaway for the three of us had become out of reach, financially, so after a few days of scrounging around the Internet, I settled on New Orleans, a city that was then boasting temperatures in the 70's, which sounded great to us, since we were in the frigid 20's and 30's.

My daughters arrived home late on the 23rd - actually just before midnight.  The next day, we proceeded with our plan to have Christmas with my mother, and to make it as much like the actual day, as possible.  We picked her up and brought her over for gift-giving, dinner, and caroling.  We showered my mother with gifts, as we always do, and she loved them all. My oldest brother, Ed, who just lost his wife last month, surprised us all by showing up, something that has never happened before.  So, as an added blessing, my mother actually got to spend a holiday with two of her children, for the first time in over a decade.  We all had a good visit, but as the evening grew late, the girls and I realized we needed to start preparing for our departure the next morning, so we got ready to take my mother back to her assisted living home.  On the way, we took our traditional "light ride" (as we call it) through Newport News Park.  Normally, we do this on Christmas night, and it doesn't take long at all.  Little did we know, this is apparently the thing to do on Christmas Eve.  The line and the ride through the park ended up taking almost an hour and 1/2!  When we finally got back home, my daughters tried to get me to open gifts that they had for me, but I'd requested that we not exchange gifts, so that we could spend more freely in New Orleans, so I refused, and that was that.

On Christmas morning, I was up early getting my bag packed when my cell phone rang.  It was a recorded message from Delta Airlines, letting me know that our flight to New Orleans had been CANCELLED.  I won't take up much space in this post writing about the ensuing drama from this, but I'll just say that you've never met DETERMINATION until you've met me.  We made it to New Orleans on Christmas, albeit many hours later than originally planned.  The Big Easy was freezing cold, with temperatures in the 40's and cold, cold winds blowing, but still, we had a fun trip, taking in the sights, sounds, smells, and tastes of New Orleans!  
My daughters and me on the streetcar in New Orleans.

We returned home late last night.  My oldest flew out first thing this morning, to return to her home in NY, and my youngest left this afternoon to drive back to DC.  (They both have to work tomorrow.)
So, that was it.  The Christmas that really wasn't.  This year brought none of our usual traditions (except the light ride) - no opening one gift on Christmas Eve (when I usually still tend to give my daughters new pajamas...lol - no Christmas morning casserole - no putting up or taking down the tree (I didn't even decorate the house, since the girls wouldn't even be here to enjoy it).  I could go on with what we didn't do, but I won't.  What we did do was spend 4 days together, sharing the experience of traveling together for the very first time since my daughters have been "grown".  We made new memories - some good, some not so good - but we made them together, and I hope my daughters will share some of the stories from this trip with their children, some day..  Not much about the past five days has felt like Christmas, but knowing that one of these days, my daughters will (hopefully) be married, with families of their own, I'm glad we took the opportunity to do this now.  Still, though, 2010 kind of seems to me like the Christmas That Wasn't, so I think if I had it to do again, I would definitely not choose to travel on the actual holiday.  I'd stay home, have my "traditions", and then leave on the first thing moving on December 26th!

My girls on Bourbon Street in NOLA

By the way, about those gifts that my daughters were NOT supposed to have gotten me:  Before we went to the airport on Christmas morning, my youngest daughter convinced me that I had to at least open the gift from my oldest, because it was something that I'd want for the trip.  Under pressure, I opened it, and was surprised to find that I was the proud new owner of a NOOK!  Of course, after that, I had to open the gift from my youngest, which turned out to be a lovely new blanket-scarf, the heavy type that I'd been wanting for a long time.  So, even though I still wish they'd stuck to the agreement, I am truly happy and thankful to have two such thoughtful and loving daughters, who are now able to bless me with so many nice things. :)

Me with my new shawl and NOOK reader. :)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Mysterious Monday - A Yarborough Ancestor?

On a recent trip to Louisburg, NC, I was given the opportunity to begin looking through some of the belongings of my deceased cousin, Geral Yarborough Sargent, the same cousin whom I wrote about in a previous post. My cousin Geral was a "double Yarborough", in that her mother was a Yarborough, and so was her father (though they were not related).  The Yarborough name is very common in and around Franklin County, in both the Black and White communities. The Caucasian Yarboroughs were a wealthy family of slave-owners, thus leaving a plethora of freedmen who chose to adopt the YARBOROUGH/YARBORO surname after 1865.  Cousin Geral's father, Hillard, was from one set of these Y's, and Cousin Geral's mother, Mattie Yarborough, was the daughter of my formerly enslaved great-grandparents, Calvin and Priscilla.
On the day of my visit, I found several photographs of people who may possibly have been my ancestors.  Most, I'll likely never know the identity of, but hopefully, my cousin Geral's "adopted daughter", Madie, will be able to help me with a few.  But, for this Mysterious Monday, I'd like to post what appears to be the oldest of the photographs.  I have no idea who this woman is/was.  She has some features that lead me to believe that she was probably an ancestor of Geral's, but on which side?  For all I know, I could be looking into the eyes of my own great-grandmother, Pricilla, but I think it may be more likely that this could be Cousin Geral's paternal grandmother, Matilda (Hill) Yarboro.  Matilda was born on January 1, 1844, and died 98 years later, on her birthday, in 1942.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Blog Caroling - Just in the "Nick" of Time!

This is my first time participating in blog caroling.  I have so many favorites, it's hard to choose which one to post, but I've decided to go with one of the tunes that really warms me up, since it's such a cold night here in my neck of the woods.  We are awaiting our first big snowfall of the season.  I'm hoping for a "snow-day" off work tomorrow, during which I'll surely cozy up in front of a warm fire.  For that reason, my tune for tonight is.... (drumroll): "Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire", otherwise known as, "The Christmas Song".

Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire,
Jack Frost nipping on your nose,
Yuletide carols being sung by a choir,
And folks dressed up like Eskimos.

Everybody knows a turkey and some mistletoe,
Help to make the season bright.
Tiny tots with their eyes all aglow,
Will find it hard to sleep tonight.

They know that Santa's on his way;
He's loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh.
And every mother's child is going to spy,
To see if reindeer really know how to fly.

And so I'm offering this simple phrase,
To kids from one to ninety-two,
Although its been said many times, many ways,
Merry Christmas to you

For those who'd like to sing along, I offer this version, sung (of course) by none other than Nat King Cole.

Woo-hoo! Just as I was finishing up this post, the news came through!  SNOW DAY tomorrow!  Yay for me! :)


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories - Fruitcake, YUCK!

Okay, folks.  I have to admit I've been a bit of a passive reader during this year's Advent season of blogging.  It's not so much that I haven't wanted to post, but I've been doing most of my reading from my phone while on the run, so I just haven't really had the opportunity to post.  But, the FRUITCAKE topic is one that I just can't let pass me by.  Reading all of your posts has dredged up some very "sticky" memories for me, and I just have to share!

Fruitcake - YUCK!  Just thinking about it really grosses me out, so this post won't be long.  However, along with the stomach-churning reminders of my youthful encounters with this holiday atrocity, I have a fond recollection of one of the many "secrets" that I shared with my brother, Arthur, whom my regular readers might remember left me when he was 23, and I was 22, as a result of primary liver cancer.

Every year, right around Christmas, at least one white cellophane-wrapped box with pictures of fruit, and the horrifying label, "Fruitcake" would appear in our house and be placed on the buffet table in the dining room.  Occasionally, there would also be someone's foil-wrapped idea of a "present" to my mother, their principal, or my father, their mailman.  These lovely tokens of terror would also be placed on the buffet table, alongside any other (supposedly) edible gifts, and there they would sit, until one day -- it would happen.  My brother and I would be sitting at the kitchen table, innocently finishing up our dinner, and in would walk one of our parents (usually our mother) with two slices of the multi-colored, putrid-smelling, icky-sticky FRUITCAKE!  Arthur and I would moan and groan as they set them before us, telling us how "good" the stuff was for us, and how nice Mr. and/or Mrs. So-and-So was to give this to us.  As with all foods our parents put before us, we were told that we had to stay at the table until we ate it.  (Usually, this admonishment came along with the reminder of all the starving children in Africa, who'd had nothing to eat for days and days, and how GRATEFUL they would be just to have a tiny piece of this FRUITCAKE.  My brother and I would always give each other a knowing look which said, "If only we could send it to them, we would!" But, we knew better to let the words come out of our mouths, because in those days we would have been sent immediately to get a switch off the tree! But, I digress...) 
Anyway, my brother and I were pretty smart (and stubborn) kids.  Although I do have a vague memory of someone trying to physically force me to take a bite of something one time, I don't think it was fruitcake.  (I think that was those big, round hominy grits.)  Instead, our parents were just content to let us stay at the table for as long as it took for the fruitcake to disappear, and since it would have taken 100 years for the stuff to begin to disinegrate, Arthur and I had to come up with other ways to get rid of it, without letting it ever touch our lips.  So we did.
Plan 1:  The Dutch Shoes - Arthur and I ate at the kitchen table, usually alone. Adjacent to the kitchen was the dining room, and on the dining room floor sat a pair of large, wooden shoes that my parents had brought back from Holland.  We were pretty much forbidden to touch or play with these shoes, but for us, they served an important purpose; they were an excellent hiding place, and we used them on more than one occasion!  So, while one of us would be on the lookout for approaching parents, the other would wrap the fruitcake in a napkin and slip quickly and quietly into the dining room, to stuff the fruited-wad into one of the shoes.  We were always smart enough to leave a few large crumbs behind on the plate, so that it appeared that we actually ate the stuff, but we never, ever did.  Then, we would call to our parents that we were ready to get up.  One of them would come to make sure the fruitcake was gone, and we'd be allowed to leave the table. Later that evening, or sometimes the next day (if we remembered), one of us would get the lumpy package out of the toe of the shoe and take it with us to the bathroom,where it was finally flushed away to fruitcake heaven.

Plan 2: The Under-Table Stick - This wasn't nearly as elaborate a plan as The Dutch Shoes, but sometimes, a kid's just gotta do, what a kid's gotta do!  So, when the parents weren't too nearby for either of us to get up and into the dining room without being noticed, we'd just pretend to be eating the gummy stuff, but as we were gagging (Arthur) and crying (me), we'd simply be sticking the pieces of fruitcake to the underside of the table, a piece at a time, until it was "gone"! 

Addendum to Plan 2:  Years later, when we were in our teens, our parents got a new kitchen set.  I happened to be at home the day that the old table was removed, and guess what was revealed when it was turned upside down to be carried out of the house? :)

Needless to say, if you want me to consider you a true friend, don't ever send me a fruitcake!

I don't have a picture of the fruitcake (thankfully), but here we sit, Arthur and I, at that very kitchen table.  Aren't we just the picture of innocence? :)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Mysterious Monday (In a MAJOR way!)

Okay, genea-peeps, I really need your help!

Earlier today, I got a voicemail from a cousin of mine in Louisburg.  Actually, she is not a blood relative, but one of those cousin-cousins that we all have.  She was the "adopted" daughter of my real cousin, Geral Yarboro Sargeant, who passed away in 2006. 
Anyway, this cousin, whom I'll call "M", called to let me know that her son (who I didn't even know existed) would be contacting me soon because he'd come to town and gone through some of the pictures that belonged to my cousin Geral, and he'd scanned some of them.  M told me that her son is developing an interest in family history, and that she'd shared with him that this was my thing :), so she'd given him my number so that he could contact me and share the pictures he scanned.
Now, mind you, it had crossed my mind some time ago that my cousin Geral's home, which has been left untouched, probably holds some family history treasures for me.  After all, she was born in 1916.  Her mother was my grandfather's sister, and Geral also would have known my great-grandfather, Calvin (her grandfather) when she was a child.  I have made a yet-unanswered request to visit the property myself, but I'm still awaiting permission to do so.  But, none of that is neither here, nor there... tonight, I was given a gift, and I'm doing the almost happy dance!
Why the dance, and why the almost, you might be asking?  Well, just as M said he would, her son did call me tonight.  We had a good chat, during which he shared with me that he had, indeed, scanned the pages of my cousin Geral's photo albums, and that he would be sharing the photos with me!  I was (and am) so excited, I could hardly contain myself as I began question him about the pictures.  He told me that he didn't think any of the pictures were from slavery times, but he guessed that that oldest of them might've been from the early 1900's.  Immediately, I began to wonder there could be pictures of my great-grandparents, Calvin, Sr. and Pricilla, or of my grandparents, Calvin and Anna?  Pictures of any of my ancestral family members would be great, but if there were any of my direct grands - well I'd just be beside myself!
Before we hung up, I told my new-found cousin (who I'll call, "Cousin F") about my blog and my online trees.  He has already joined ancestry.com, so I gave him the usual warnings about not going too fast, and being careful to verify that he has the right folks before just adding them to his tree, etc., etc.  We also discussed the various spellings that he will run across for family names.  Before hanging up, I begged him to just send me at least one picture tonight, as I knew that I wouldn't get any sleep thinking about this.  And he did!
Cousin F sent me a scanned copy of a photo album page that had four (seemingly) unrelated photos on it.  (Cousin F had mentioned that he was told that these pictures were randomly placed into an album during the time that my Cousin Geral was ill.)  The top photo is the one that I'm most excited about, and which I am reaching out to the genea-community for help with. Here it is!

As I said, I can barely contain myself!  Sadly, none of the pictures that Cousin F found were labeled, and his mother was not able to identify the people in most of them.  But THIS fabulous photo, which I'm guessing is of four gentlemen who worked for the railroad, is one in with I think I might possibly be looking at my grandfather, and possibly some of his brothers!  The three tallest gentlemen all look like my father and brother in different ways, but the second one (without the band on his arm) looks almost exactly like both of them!  Even though I don't have any history of my grandfather working for the railroad, I'm not ruling it out.  Also, I guess I could be wrong about them being railroad men, but the "Southern" on their lapels seems a dead give-away.

There were three other pictures on the album page.  One was of a man standing alone, another was a large picture of a school of children, and the other was of a kitten.  I will feature these pictures at another time.  (Well, probably not the one of the kitten!)

Okay, genea-folks.  This is a Mysterious Monday that I'm sure some of you can help with.  I'm all ears (well, eyes)...lol.  What say you?


The photo in this post is the property of the owner.  Please obtain permission before copying or using for any purpose by contacting yarsan@aol.com.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Memory Monday

Today we said good-bye to my sister-in-law, Lizzie Ardena (Poole) Yarborough.  May she rest in peace.


Monday, November 1, 2010

Mysterious Monday

A while back, I started using this Monday theme on my blog, but I didn't keep up with it.  Anyway, I'm going to give it another try!  Mysterious Monday (for me) will involve posting pictures that I have questions about and/or writing posts about my "mystery" ancestors, whom I can't seem to find any (or enough) information about!

Today, I'm sharing two pictures.  The first is of my dad, Arthur P. Yarborough, Sr., with an athletic team at Nash County Training School, where he attended high school.  My dad had left Louisburg and moved to Nash county to live with his uncle, Dr. William Lawrence Green.  From what I can gather, young Arthur may have been starting to get a little too rambunctious for his widowed mother to handle alone, so she sent him off to live with her brother and his family, where he would be under the hand (probably literally) of a man. :)

I've grown up seeing this picture all my life, but never asked about it.  I've always assumed it to be a basketball team, but recently, upon inspecting the photo more carefully, I took note of the fact that all of the guys, except for my dad (#10), were wearing knee pads.  Also, there are only four on the team (if this is a complete picture),and the guys' shorts have belt-loops on them.  All of this has led me to wonder if perhaps this might've been another type of team, and not basketball, as I'd been thinking.  My guess is that it could have been a wrestling team.  I don't recall ever hearing my dad talk of wrestling, but then again, he never really talked about his high school years at all.  I do know that my second-oldest brother, Henry, wrestled in high school, and my dad was really "into" it, so....

The second picture is of my mom Maryanne, and two other women, apparently about to enjoy a holiday meal together. (My mom is on the right.) I don't know where this was taken, nor who the other women are, and when I asked my mother about it, she couldn't remember.  (This is the first time she has not been able to tell me about  a picture.)  My guess is that the picture was probably taken in either Germany (most likely) or Ohio, while my mom was a young Army wife.  I'm thinking that maybe these three women had prepared the meal together, since they were away from their families.  If the picture was taken in Germany, it would have been Bremerhaven, between 1957-1961.  If it's Ohio, it would have been Cleveland, between 1961-1963.  I do know that this is not our dining room furniture, so it is definitely at the home of one of the other women. Also, even though I'm calling it a "meal", I really only see finger-type foods that I can identify, so perhaps this could have even been for some kind of club meeting or something.  I just don't know...

If anyone has ideas about either of these pictures, feel free to comment.  I imagine the first one will be easier for me to find out about than the second, if I can ever get hold of a yearbook from my dad's alma mater.  Thanks for reading!


Monday, October 25, 2010

Somebody's Ancestor

Slowly, but surely, I'm making my way back to the blog.  I write posts in my head often, especially whenever I have new finding or aha moment in my research (which I also haven't been doing a ton of, lately).  I just wanted to "creep" back in tonight to share something that I ran across while having brunch with my daughter yesterday.  We were in a Cracker Barrel restaurant in Richmond, VA, and we just happened to be seated at a table just under this portrait:

From the second I sat down, this young woman had my attention.  (And, given the fact that it took the waitress ten minutes to even come and greet me while I was sitting alone waiting for my daughter to arrive, I can say that I was definitely feeling like she and I were making a connection!)  No matter how hard I tried to look away from her, and busy myself with something else, like checking my email on my phone, or just doing some people-watching, I couldn't stray away from her gaze.  She had me. 

So much was going through my mind, most of which, I'm sure needs no explanation for most who are reading this.  Who was this woman?  When was the picture/portrait made?  Had she been a slave?  A free Black?  Who made this picture of her?  Was this the original frame?  How did Cracker Barrel get this?  WHO IS HER FAMILY?

Yep, that was the big one.  Who is her family?  Would they even know who she was if they were the ones sitting under her portrait?  Could she even be an ancestor of mine?

Finally, I averted my eyes away from the portrait and began to look around the restaurant.  I hadn't been into a Cracker Barrel in years - not since before 2004 when the infamous mouse-in-the-soup fiasco occured in my area.  My family and I used to eat in CB when the kids were young, but I'd never paid much attention to the decor in any of the restaurants back then.  But now, as I glanced all around me, I noticed that, in amongst the many antiquities that graced the walls of the eatery, there were scattered portraits of many ancestors - men, women, and children of all ages, all appearing to be in 19th century (or earlier) garb!  WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE?  WHO DO THEY BELONG TO?

I turned my attention back to my lady, who seemed to be begging me with her eyes to do s-o-m-e-t-h-i-n-g, but what?  Just about this time, my waitress finall made an appearance.  I ordered coffee and a manager. (I'll bet she was skeeered!)  The gentleman appeared promptly, and my inquisition began.

As it turns out, the manager didn't know exactly where the portraits came from, but he did point out to me that each one is tagged with a number and other identifying information, and that if I was interested in knowing more, I could contact their corporate office to find out where each one came from, and if there is a name or any other identifier associated with a particular portrait.  I asserted my suspicion that the pictures may have been acquired from thrift shops and/or estate sales, and Mr. Manager agreed that this was a possibility.  He also offered that he has been told that an effort has been made to see that the decor for each restaurant is reflective of the area in which it is located, and he suggested that perhaps the portraits had been acquired locally.  Hmmmm....

So now, I have yet another item added to my "to-do" list.  I don't know when I'll get around to it, but I certainly will contact the CB Corporate Offices to find out more about this, and I urge anyone reading this to pay close attention to the wall hangings on your next vist to Cracker Barrel!

Addendum: (November 3, 2010)
I did send a communication to Cracker Barrel's Corporate Office (Customer Relations) to inquire about the portrait.  Here's the disappointing (and less than helpful response I got:

Thank you for taking the time to share your comments with all of us here at Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. We're always pleased to hear from our guests.
The tag numbers are inhouse inventory numbers for tax purposes so that we can identify which store has what decor items. However, the decor peices have been purchased throughout the years at estate sales and auctions.
We look forward to seeing you in one of our locations again soon.

Jason Hill
Guest Relations Representative
Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, Inc.

Well, of course I sent a reply, clarifying my original questions, but I haven't heard anything back yet.  It seems my mystery lady might remain just that... a mystery.


Monday, August 30, 2010

Touching bases with my readers

Hello, dear readers:
I just wanted to stop in to say hello and to let you all know that, although I miss blogging, I've decided to extend my hiatus, indefinitely.  I don't have a real explanation to offer, other than the fact that each time I get ready to jump back in, something pulls me back and says, "Not yet.  WAIT." 

I have continued to read and follow the rest of you, and have joyously celebrated in my heart whenever one of you has a genealogical "happy" moment.  I've mourned for those of you who've experienced losses over the summer, and have been adding my prayers for those who've made requests (for themselves or for others).  I've often wanted to leave comments on your posts, but because I've taken to doing most of my reading on my phone, I haven't been able to.  Apparently, my phone is not "smart" enough to allow this.

Being the introspective person I am, I know that I must continue to reflect on my blogging experience, and to redesign some things about the way I do this work before I am ready to return, but return, I will.  In the meantime, please know that I'm with you all in spirit, and I'll try to read from the computer more often, so that I can support you with my comments!

Many blessings,

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - It's My Blogiversary!

I can't believe it, but yesterday was actually my one year "blogiversary"!  I've known it was coming up, but hadn't taken the time to check the actual date until just now, when I discovered that I was actually a day late.  Oh well, that's kind of a sign of the times for me here lately.  I have so much going on, that I can barely keep up with it all!  Hence, my absence from posting, as well as my sporadic appearances on the Twitter scene!

Recently, I've found myself reflecting quite often on my foray into the social media side of the genealogy world.  Though I've been researching for fourteen years now, it wasn't until last summer that I was introduced to the world of blogging, and decided (under pressure from another blogger...lol) to give it a whirl.  So, on July 10th, 2009, I wrote my first post, First Thoughts, for my blog, which was then called, "Just Thinking".

Since that first post, I've become increasingly more open and comfortable with the idea of sharing my family history with others.  I've made many new online friends, and have even met a few folks away from the computer.  I've learned so much from all of you, and have thoroughly enjoyed sharing the connection that engaging in this "hobby" gives us.  Certainly I no longer feel so alone in my work.  I know now that, even if my family members aren't so interested in what I'm doing, I have a cadre of readers who offer me support, and encouragement, and who share my excitement and joy whenever new discoveries are made in my work.  Being a part of this community has opened my eyes to some of the greater responsibilities of being a family researcher. Thus, I've submitted documents from my research to several repositories, participated in more online chats, taken photos for Find-A-Grave, and reached out, as often as possible, to complete RAOGK for other researchers. I was already a keyer for Ancestry.com, and have now also signed up to volunteer for FamilySearch.org. I've comitted to producing and publishing a monthly E-Newsletter, "Family News", which goes out to all of my family members for whom I have email addresses. Additionally, I've joined both the North Carolina Genealogical Society and the African-American Heritage and Genealogical Society, and I'm considering attending my first genealogical conference in November. Before last summer, I'd just been "doing my own thing", but now, thanks to this community of bloggers, I consider myself to be a "fully-engaged" member of the genealogy community!  Little to none of this would have happened, had I not become a blogger.

As wonderful and uplifting as the bulk of my experience in the blogosphere has been, there have also been some dark moments which have almost caused me to back completely away from this community; and though I haven't yet done so, have definitely caused me to take pause with it. Some months ago, I was maligned publicly by another member of this community - one who had been a friend, and who was indeed the very same person who persuaded me to start my blog a year ago.  Things were written about me that were untrue, as I passively sat by and watched as our shared community sympathized and aligned itself with the writer.  However, I chose to take the high road, and not engage in a war of words on my blog nor to distract from its intended purpose by using it as a platform for anything else.  I was deeply baffled by the accusations being made about me, and hurt that this person, with whom I'd enjoyed a mutual friendship and offline connection, chose to respond to an apparent disagreement we'd had in this way.  (I say apparent because I was never told what the problem was by this person.  The accuser never spoke or wrote to me directly about it. Never.) My personal life and psyche were affected, and I've was immediately shunned by several others in this community, who chose to believe the nonsense which was being spewed out about me.  However, a few genea-angels convinced me to stick around, and I have, though the potential for me to ever feel as open or trusting with others I may meet here has likely been permanently damaged.

So, why am I discussing this now, one might ask?  The reason is because during those dark days, when I chose not to back away from the community, I privately gave myself until now - my one year blogiversary - to decide whether or not it is best, or even healthy for me to remain a genea-blogger.  I have prayed about this to Him who gives me strength, but until this very moment, I don't think I clearly heard His answer.

This will be my last post on, "Into the LIGHT" for some time. I know that I will return because this blog has been an outlet for the writer inside me - she who has been somewhat buried since my young-adult years, when I easily (and often) recorded my thoughts and created poetry on paper.  I have no regrets, since for me, all things become a learning experience. 

I will continue to keep up with all of you via my reader, and will (for now) continue to check in on Twitter.  To my faithful subscribers, and especially to those who so often leave comments, I THANK YOU, and I pray that you will still be around when I return.

Blessings always,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Fun in the Sun! Grandma Thomas - Back in the Day! - COG 95th Edition

I'd originally been saving this up for a Wordless Wednesday, but after being inspired by Carol's "Bathing Beauties From Virginia" post, over at Reflections From the Fence, I decided to submit this picture of my maternal grandmother for the COG 95th edition, The Annual Swimsuit Edition which is being hosted by Jasia over at Creative Gene.  Just click on the link above, and scroll down to the bottom of the page for submission information! 

This is my grandmother, Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas on an unidentified beach, probably sometime in the 1920's (but I don't know for sure).  Yes, this is the same grandmother about whom I just finished the three-part series, "My Grandmother's Loss".  At the time this photo was taken, the area beaches were still segregated, so it's most likely that she was either at Sea View in Norfolk, or Ocean Breeze, in Virginia Beach.  Either way, she looks like she's happy, possibly pregnant, and feeling good about herself!

Every time I see this picture, I just stare and stare at it.  I never saw this carefree side of my grandmother.  It does my heart good to know that my she did have "better days" before I knew her.


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 3 -The Final Chapter)

For the past few weeks, I've been posting a series of stories about my maternal grandmother, Mary Thomas.  Basically, these posts were instigated by the mixture of feelings I experienced after receiving a set of newspaper articles about my maternal ancestors from a kind stranger in the genealogy blogosphere.  (This is such a wonderful community to be a part of.  Thanks so much again to genealogist, Hollis Gentry, who blessed me with these articles!)
This is the final post - the third of three. These posts have given my readers (and me) a kind of "right there" look at the losses my grandmother experienced throughout the course of her life.  In the first post, I wrote of the sudden, and tragic loss of her first husband, James Allen Walker.  A couple of weeks later, I posted about the abandonment of my own grandfather, Daniel Webster Hill.  Today, I'd like to share what I know about my grandmother's third marriage, to a man all three of her children refer to as "the love of Momma's life."

Finale - Charlie Thomas
It is with a conflicted heart that I write about my grandmother's third, and final marriage.  My mother and her siblings are still living, and they know much more about the details of Charlie Thomas' life (with and before my grandmother) than I do.  For reasons which I am just recently becoming aware of, much of his story has remained untold, and though my mother, aunt, and uncle know it, they are not ready to reveal it all to me just yet.
What I do know, and can write, is that at some point very soon after being abandoned by her second husband, my grandmother, and married Charlie Thomas, a man who was 16 years her senior.  My guess is that they must have already known each other from church, since one of the articles I received mentioned that Charlie's family belonged to Jerusalem; the same church which my grandmother was a member of, and where my uncle had won the baby contest several years before.  (See Part 2) I've heard that Charlie "swept Mary off her feet".  (I'm guessing that he and the whole church had probably witnessed her suffering after my grandfather left, and perhaps even before so.  He probably stepped right in!)  
 Charlie Thomas, with his daughter (my aunt), Jane.
I don't have the exact date of their marriage (yet), but in 1940, my grandmother gave birth to her third child, Jane Gwendolyn Thomas.  Charlie had won my grandmother's heart, and she was happier than she'd ever been.  My mother tells me that Charlie Thomas loved and cared for Howell and her as if they were his own, and that he was "the only father" she has ever known.  She says that he didn't treat them any differently than he did his own flesh and blood daughter, Jane.  My uncle agrees with all of my mother's comments.
The only other thing I know (that I can share) about Charlie Thomas is that he worked on the railroad. As I was growing up, I would occasionally ask about my grandfather, but I was only told that he "worked on the railroad."  I realize now, that since Charlie Thomas was the only father my mother ever knew, that the answer I was being given referred to him, and not to my actual grandfather, Daniel Hill.  However, knowing all that I know now, about the devastating death of my grandmother's first husband, Allen, I can only imagine how very stressful it must have been for her to say goodbye to Charlie each day as he left for work.  She had to have had incredible faith!
 Charlie, Mary, and the three children (along with Mary's mother, Manerva) were living "happily ever after" when, sometime early in 1950, Charlie began to suffer from some kind of heath problems.  According to this article, Charlie is "improving" in April, 1950.

But, in August, 1950, my grandmother's third husband, Charlie Thomas, suffered a heart attack and died right in their Norfolk home.

 For Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas, the third time had indeed been "the charm".  However, at 52 years old, having lost 3 husbands, and being left to finish raising 3 children, she must have also decided that with "three strikes, you're out".  Mary lived out her remaining 34 years as a widow, harboring a lifetime of painful losses, but choosing to count her blessings and bask in the reflection of a decade of beautiful memories made with the love of her life, Charlie Thomas.
As you can see, Mary never forgot her dear, Charlie.  Here, she memorializes him nine and eleven years, respectively, after his death.  I had seen the 1959 article taped inside the cover of her bible, but had never seen the 1961 piece.  However, now that I have, I realize that she had them both in there, for there is a faded outline exactly the size and shape of the column on the same page as the other one.

This ends the trilogy, "My Grandmother's Loss".  Writing this out has been helpful to me, and has helped me to put into words a "story" that needs to be shared with my daughters, and the rest of Mary Thomas' grandchildren. To those who've followed along, I thank you.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second in a series of what will be three posts dedicated to the life and memory of my grandmother, Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas. I began this series of posts after receiving copies of several articles from the Norfolk, VA Journal and Guide, which confirmed, and in some cases, revealed stories about my ancestors.  To read the initial post which explains how I came into possession of these articles, please click here. Part 1 
In writing this series, I hope to make amends with my grandmother's spirit.  I was 24 years old when she left us for her reward, and up to that point in my life, I didn't have the knowledge, nor the maturity, to empathize with what her life must have been like, after experiencing the loss of three husbands, and then, ultimately, living out her last 36 years as a widow.  Being a person who always reaches out and tries to understand and connect with others, I feel just awful for not knowing her better, seeing her more clearly, and/or loving her more dearly.  In my grown-up, intellectual mind, I know that really have no fault, especially since I was never told of her hardships; but the sentimental, emotionally-connected part of me is heavy-laden with a feeling of guilt, every time I think about how I distanced myself from this grandmother, in favor of my paternal one. Mary Thomas' outer-shell was deservedly hardened.  I imagine she must have lived each day that I knew her constantly protecting and shielding her heart from further pain.

Part II - Daniel Hill
Sometime after the (literally) crushing death of my grandmother's first husband, James Allen Walker, in 1923, she met Daniel Webster Hill.  I have no idea how they met, or how their relationship developed, but the article below - another of the nine sent to me by my genealogical benefactor, shows where it went.

  It seems that Mary had found love again.  She married my grandfather, Daniel W. Hill on July 11, 1926.  According to this article, the couple moved to Philadelphia  (another fact I never knew), but by the 1930 Census, they are back in Norfolk, living in the family home with my great-grandparents, Walter and Minerva Davis.  (Note:  By all accounts, and from what the records show, my grandmother, Mary, was the homeowner.  She purchased the home after the death of her first husband.  I presume she must have used whatever insurance money she received to buy the home.)

I know nothing about my maternal grandparent's marriage except that it happened, and that they had two children together; my uncle, Howell Webster, born in 1931 and my mother, Maryanne, in 1934.  However, this third article from the Journal & Guide at least hints at the fact that my grandmother may have been living a happy life.  She was already active in the church she was a member of, and funeralized in 53 years later. Her son was winning baby contests, and she would, just two months after this, conceive my mother with her husband, Daniel.

At some point, the happy days ended for Daniel and Mary. For whatever the reason(s), my grandfather  abandoned his wife and children when my mother was just four years old.  The family never saw or heard from him again, and I, in my 14 years of research, have been unable to track him down to find out where he went, or what happened to him.  In a recent interview with my uncle who only vaguely remembers having a father, he recalled Daniel Hill as being a "mean man".  My mother doesn't remember her father at all, and neither of them have a clue what he even looked like. 
So, for my grandmother, this was blow #2.  Another marriage dissipated, but for a completely different reason.  This time, she was left with two children to raise.  She'd just lost her father (in 1936), but thankfully, had her mother there to help her.  Though she was saddened by this loss, she was not broken.  Help (and another chance at love) was on the way.  Stay tuned for Part III...

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 1)

A few weeks ago, I was the recipient of a random act of genealogical kindness. A fellow researcher
provided me with several articles from the Norfolk, Virginia "Journal and Guide", which featured, or pertained to some of my maternal ancestors. If you missed the post about this, and would like to read it, you can click here.

It has taken me some time to be ready to post about the article which affected me most, but now the time has come. If you follow this blog, you probably already know, or at least sense, that I was extremely close to my paternal grandmother, Anna Green Yarborough. However, my relationship with my maternal grandmother, Mary Davis Thomas, was more distant, even though she lived in closer proximity to me. I never spent much time thinking about this - it's just the way it was. I loved her, and I knew she loved me, but we just didn't have a very intimate personal connection. Grandma Thomas didn't say much (not around me, anyway), and unfortunately, though I saw her often, and she even lived with us in her later years, my memories of her as a quiet, and rather stoic person, make it difficult for me to truly recollect much about our interactions. This said, I'll now admit that when I received the email from Hollis Gentry, with the links to to the nine articles about my family, the very first one I read , which saddened and stunned me, caused me to reflect long and hard about life of the woman whom I'd only known as my, "Grandma Thomas", whose her young adult life was shaped by a series unfortunate events through which she (as seems to be the case with all of the women in my ancestry) perservered, overcame, and maintained her Christian faith.

James Allen Walker - Part I
My grandmother, Mary Davis, with her first husband, Allen Walker.

I did not grow up knowing that my grandmother had been married before or after she married my grandfather, but when I found out as an adult that she had, and I asked what had happened to the first husband, I was only told that he'd "died on the railroad". So, when I opened this first article from Hollis, and really came to terms with what my grandmother, then a young bride must've gone through, I began experience a feeling of mourning, as if I'd been there with her when she got this terrible news, and experienced the first, of what would eventually be three spousal losses.
Yes, my maternal grandmother's first marriage ended when her husband, only 27 years old, was crushed between two train cars.  They'd not had any children, so I'm assuming that the life they'd been building together came to an abrupt and unexpected end when Allen left for work that morning. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

CoAAG: Major Arthur P Yarborough - He Served With Honor

This post serves as my submission for the third installment of the Carnival of African-American Genealogy: In Memoriam, African-Americans In The Military 1914-1953, which is being hosted by Amy Cain, of Reconnected Roots. For this installment, we are asked to feature an ancestor, relative, or other person who served in the military between the years 1914-1953.  The military hero who will be the subject of my post is my father, Retired  Major Arthur Person Yarborough (deceased).

Before I begin, I must offer a disclaimer, that although I live and grew up in an overwhelmingly military area, flanked by bases and personnel from each of the five branches of the Armed Services, I, myself, am not well-versed in the lingo, nor do I have an in-depth understanding of military protocol.  For that reason, and since I don't quite have the time to research it fully before the deadline for this carnival, I'm asking forgiveness of any readers who may find fault in the way I reference anything about my father's service.  If corrections are offered, I will verify, then edit. :)

My father, Arthur P. Yarborough, joined the Armed Forces the early 1940's, as one of our nation's first Black Marines.  He completed training at Montford Point, and from there, went on to serve in the South Pacific Theatre. His DD-214 fors (on which he is classified as, "Negroid"), shows that he left the Marines, but reenlisted as an Army soldier. During the interim period, my dad spent a semester at North Carolina A&T, and then worked for a short time at the shipyard in Newport News, VA, and as a truck driver for the lumber yard in his hometown of Louisburg, NC.  He then entered the Army, and began what turned out to be over twenty years of very distinguished service to our country.  My father retired from the United States Army (with an honorable discharge) on July 31, 1964 after 20 years, 1 month, and 24 days of service. Of that time, he spent more than nine years in foreign and/or sea service.

I have no idea what's going on here, but it's clear that everyone is listening to my father!  

When my father retired from the Army, I was only 2 and 1/2 years old.  Though my two oldest siblings lived the "military life" and got to travel and live on military bases, my brother Arthur and I grew up as civilian children, only using the base to shop, go swimming, bowl, and go to the movies.  Because of this, I never really saw my father as a military man, and I had no idea how highly commended he was until after his death.  This saddens me to this day.  My father, being the humble man that he was, never rang his own bell.  I didn't grow up hearing about his military service - his salutations, honors, nor his high ranking amongst his classes.  Neither he, nor my mom ever talked about these things, and the plethora of certificates and medals that I've now discovered, were never displayed on the walls or shelves of our home.  What I've learned since my father's death is that he loved and honored the United States Army, but as much as it brought him pride and pleasure, it was also the source of institutional racism, which caused him to have to fight just as hard within his ranks, as he did on behalf of our country.  Despite this, he earned the rank of Major, before he chose to retire in 1964.
As much as I wish I knew some stories to tell about my father's service, I don't; so I'd like to use this space to list just a few of the awards and honors he received during his service career.  There are far too many to list them all, and again, I don't have the background knowledge to really discern which are more important than the others, so I'll just list the ones that are on his DD-214.
World War II Victory Medal
United Nations Service Medal
National Defense Service Medal
AFR Medal
Korean Service Medal
Army Commendation Medal
Army of Occupation Medal (Germany)
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal

My father was meticulous in his record-keeping (a characteristic no-doubt instilled in him by the Army). It's been tough trying to decide which pictures and/or documents to include in this post, but I think this one that I just found amongst his certificates will give readers an idea of how organized he was.  

The document below is his certificate for The Commendation Ribbon with Metal Pendant (First Oak Leaf Cluster), given February 25, 1958.
Next, here's a letter, or write-up of some sort, (explaining his meritorious achievement) which I'm assuming he was given along with the certificate. (Take special note of the paper clip in the corner.)

Here's what was under that paper clip. :)
That's "Arthur P" (as we called him behind his back) - covering all his bases.  I'm just like that - and I was just reminded of why.

I miss you, Daddy.  May God rest your soul. 


Friday, April 30, 2010

News on the Maternal Side - A Random Act of Genealogical Kindness

Recently, I've posted tributes to my two grandmothers, Anna Yarborough, and Mary Thomas.  In, "The Stuff I'm Made Of  and Grandma's Hands (for the CoAAG), I noted some of the hardships, sacrifices, and losses that each of my grandmothers had to overcome in order to successfully raise their families and maintain the homes which they were each left to manage alone.  I recognized, as I wrote, and then read over these posts, that the inner strength, tenacity, and perseverance which I possess are not traits that I developed on my own, but instead are deeply ingrained survival skills which have been passed on to me, not only from these two strong and resilient women, but, also from their mothers and grandmothers before them.

I return to this subject now, because yesterday, I was the recipient of a magnificent, and very surprising act of kindness on behalf of another researcher.  Hollis Gentry, a professional genealogist and DAR researcher, had been a part of a discussion which I was involved in on Afrigeneas a week or so ago, where the conversation was centered around the free preview that ProQuest was having for some of it's holdings - specifically a few African-American Newspapers.  As excited as I was, the one newspaper that I was interested in searching, the Norfolk, VA Journal and Guide, was not included in the free preview.  However, this researcher, who apparently had taken note of my disappointment, craftily visited my blog, pieced together what she could of my Norfolk ancestors' names and surprised me yesterday with an email which had attached to it NINE newspaper articles related to my maternal ancestors!  As it turned out, Hollis (whom I've never met and had never chatted with before) had made several attempts over a few days to get the articles to me, to no avail.  But her persistence paid off, and like magic - she gave me the most direct and personalized view that I've had, to date, of my mother's family.  I was, and still am, overwhelmed with gratitude towards Hollis for the the time and effort she has put towards finding and sharing these documents with me.  Not only that, but in subsequent emails, she has complimented me on my writing and my blog, and as a person with roots in Norfolk herself, has given me vital encouragement as to how to move forward in researching my maternal ancestors.  So, Hollis Gentry, I do hope you're reading this because I would like to publicly thank you for all you've done!

Stay tuned for upcoming posts in which I will share the articles that Hollis found for me.

Blessings, all!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Wisdom Wednesday - Words to Live By

When I was in the seventh grade, my English teacher assigned the following poem to our class to learn and to  recite from memory for a grade. We all moaned and groaned about it at the time, but I, being a budding poet, quickly became excited by the challenge. I did a great job of memorizing and reciting the poem, and received an A+ on the assignment, however, at that young age, the words of this insightful piece of writing were just that to me - words. It wasn't until later in life, as I began to truly develop into the person I am, that the full meaning of this poem was revealed to me. By that time, I'd developed as a Christian woman, and not only that, but my reputation as an honest, forthright, helpful, and kind person was acknowledged by all, even those who didn't particularly consider me their "cup of tea." When I really understood what Rudyard Kipling was getting at, I realized that, even though I didn't "get it" back in seventh grade, I've lived my life according to this mantra, and so I proudly share his words, with one slight revision, in the space below. Decades after being given the assignment, I can still recite this poem by heart, but now, not only do I understand what the words mean; I live them, everyday.

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting, too.
If you can wait, and not be tired by waiting, 
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet, don't look too good, nor talk too wise.

If you dream, and not make dreams your master
If you can think, and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with triumph and disaster,
And treat those two impostors just the same,
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken
And stoop and build them up with worn out tools,

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch and toss, 
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss,
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you,
Except the will which says to them, "Hold on!"

If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds worth of distance run,
Yours is the earth, and everything that's in it,
And which is more, this race of life, you will have WON.

 * The bold-italicized words were revised/added by me in 2006, when I prepared copies of this poem to give out to friends of mine at a private party.  I wanted people of both genders to be able to personally relate to the poem, and not to be thrown off by Mr. Kipling's original ending, which reads, "you'll be a man, my son."

My blog was created as a forum to record my family history and to interact with, and reach out to other researchers.  I will not use it as a platform for anything else. I am the person I've presented myself to be.  Those who know me can and will attest to my character. I have never wished or threatened harm against another human being in my life, and I won't start now.  Whatever you've known of me - whatever our interactions and communication have been to this point - it's been true, honest, and sincere.  Trust your own heart.

Blessings to all,

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ancestor Approved Award!

I am returning to revise this post because I have just discovered, by way of a Google Search, that I was actually one of the first bloggers to be acknowledged by Leslie Ann Ballou, the creator of the Ancestor Approved Award!  Somehow, I must've missed, forgotten, or overlooked the initial honor, so for that, Leslie, I do apologize.  Leslie is an outstanding blogger in her own right.  Please check out the original posting of the Ancestor Approved Award on her blog, Ancestors Live Here.
I am humbled and honored to have also been given the "Ancestor Approved" Award by not one, not two, but SEVERAL fellow bloggers, all of whom are very supportive readers of mine, and have outstanding sites of their own. Thanks so much to Dionne , Heather , and Betty for blessing me with this award. And, since my original post, I've also received this award from two more blog-friends,  Kathy and Mindy! Please click on their names to visit their wonderful blogs! 

The rules of this award are that if you receive it, you must list 10 things you have learned about your ancestors that have surprised, humbled or enlightened you, and then pass the award on to 10 other genealogy bloggers who you believe would make their ancestors proud.

1.  The biggest surprise for me about my ancestors has simply been that so many of them existed!  Before I started this venture many years ago, I only the names of about 20 - 30 relatives/ancestors, and now I have 1149 on my tree!

2. I was surprised to learn that a segment of my GREEN ancestors had moved away from their Franklin County, NC hometown and were "passing" as white in another state.

3. I was surprised to discover that my great-great grandfather, Nathaniel HAWKINS, was a "negro trader".

4. I was honored to find out that my great-great grandfather, Calvin R. YARBOROUGH, Sr., who was formerly enslaved, was a teacher in 1869-70.  He was also one of the first trustees of the "Colored Presbyterian Church" in Louisburg.

5. I was honored to discover that my great-grandfather, John GREEN's youngest brother, William, served in the Spanish-American War.

6. I am honored to have learned that my grandmother, Anna/Annie B. (GREEN) YARBOROUGH was one of a group of women who founded the Mount Hebron United Holiness Church in Louisburg, NC.

7.  I've been enlightened as I've learned about the hard times my YARBOROUGH ancestors faced as they struggled to overcome the destitution and poverty they inherited post-emancipation from their widowed, and indigent mistress/former owner.  (I just learned about this today at the National Archives!)

8. I've been enlightened to learn about my maternal ancestors, (DAVIS and BROWN) whom I've had no knowledge of before.  There's lots of family lore which needs to be sorted out and documented before I can start writing about it, so stay tuned!

9. It's been enlightening to have discovered, and then to have embraced the fact that I am a compilation of several opposing societal components from 19th Century America.  Through my veins runs the blood of people who were Free-Blacks, Slaves, Slave Owners, a Slave Trader, Mulattos, and possibly Native Americans (unconfirmed).  From this mixture of ancestors have risen educators, lawyers, judges, medical professionals, PhD's, and successful people from too many more walks of life for me to name!

10.  This last one is not about my ancestors, but I must add that it has been enlightening to have discovered such a supportive group of like-minded family-historians as we have here in the blogging community.  For so many years, I worked in solitude, as most of us used to do. Being a part of this community gives me comfort, and I know that the way we share our skills, talents, and respective knowledge bases with each other is a blessing that will help all of us in our research efforts!

Now to pass this award on to other deserving bloggers.  Many of the blogs I follow have already received the award, but here are my choices:

Mavis at Conversations With My Ancestors
Robyn at Reclaiming Kin
Cheri and Ruby at The You Go Genealogy Girls
Elyse at  Elyse's Genealogy Blog
George at Geder Genealogy
Mindy at Roots and Branches
Elizabeth at Little Bytes of Life

Please check out these wonderful blogs! :)

Thanks, everyone!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Tribute to my brother, Arthur

 Arthur Yarborough, Jr.

Twenty-six years ago today, I lost my brother, Arthur.  We were only 17 months apart.  The two of us grew up together, almost like fraternal twins.  We did everything together, shared the same experiences, good and bad.  When Arthur died, he took all of the secrets of my youth with him, because he was the only person who knew and (in many cases), shared them.
 My mother, Mary Yarborough, poses with her newborn son, Arthur, Jr.

Arthur Yarborough, Jr. was born on August 23, 1960 in Bremerhaven, Germany, to parents Arthur, Sr. and Mary Yarborough.  He was said to have been a very good natured baby from the start, with an even temperament and a quick and easy smile.  I remember hearing stories about how Arthur, as a baby, would always stop whatever he was doing when television commercials came on, and would watch and listen intently.  Once the commercials ended, he would resume his activity.  This was an interesting bit of family lore, since Arthur grew up to be a Mass-Media enthusiast and majored in it in college.
  Above:  Arthur as a toddler (Presumably, before I was born)
Below:  My dad, Arthur, Sr. and my brother, Arthur, Jr. in Louisburg, NC
circa 1968
As a boy, Arthur was involved in many community activities.  He was a Cub Scout, played Little League Baseball, and enjoyed attending youth activities at our church.  In high school, Arthur was a triple-sport athlete, playing basketball, football, and baseball.  After two years at Bethel High School in our native Hampton, VA, he decided to go off to military school at Augusta Military Academy in Staunton, VA.  It was there that Arthur truly blossomed as an athlete, as well as as an ROTC officer.  He graduated from Augusta in 1978.
Arthur, the Little League's star pitcher

 Top left: Arthur's Junior picture @ AMA.  Right: QB Arthur (#10) and another player pose for their football picture at AMA.

Arthur returned home to Hampton to attend the alma mater of our mother, and our two oldest brothers, Hampton Institute (now Hampton University).  Known by the nickname, "Yang", he was very popular and well-loved by his fellow students.  Arthur grew deeply involved in his major, Mass Media Arts, and became best known for his smooth jazz radio show, "Inspirations", on Hampton's station, WHOV.  In addition, he wrote for the school's newspaper, and anchored a 15-minute nightly broadcast on Hampton's "Newswatch 10" a weekday cable news program.  He also joined several social fraternities, including the oldest on Hampton's campus, Omega Sigma Chi.  Arthur graduated from Hampton in May, 1982, two months after discovering that he had cancer.

 Hampton Institute president, William R. Harvey, congratulates Arthur and hands him his diploma on Mother's Day, 1982

Though the news of my brother's illness was discouraging, he never let it stop him from working towards his goals.  What began as a mystery-illness, with symptoms of abdominal pain and blackouts, was first diagnosed as a hernia.  Plans were made to surgically remove the hernia while Arthur was on Spring Break during his senior year at Hampton.  However, what we thought was going to be the solution to his problems turned out to be just the beginning.  Once the hernia was removed, surgeons discovered a tumor on my brother's liver.  Primary liver cancer of unknown origin.  The fight began...

 Here, Arthur, wearing his fraternity tee-shirt, snaps a picture of himself in the mirror.  I kind of like the "halo" effect. :)
 For the next two years, my brother, with the support of my then-divorced parents, did everything he could to beat the odds.  Liver cancer was one of the toughest to beat, especially as the primary site.  Arthur tried traditional and experimental treatments.  He tried dietary changes and supplements.  He had good days and bad days.  Good weeks and bad weeks.  He underwent chemotherapy and radiation and was in and out of the hospital.  During this time, we remained in close contact, via phone and letters, but I was away in college and unable to be by his side as often as I wanted to.  Then, in 1982, just before my third year of college, I gave birth to my first child, Natasha.  I named Arthur her god-father, and in the summer of 1983, decided we could stay away no longer.  I wanted my brother to know his niece, so I got a job as a teachers aide, and my daughter and I moved back to Hampton Roads, so that we could be near him and assist in his care. And, during that year, my brother got to know my daughter, and she, him. Though she was very young, the two of them developed a very close relationship, and she remembers him, to this day.  I praise God for my decision to move back home, because it was during that school year that my brother's health took a turn for the worse. 
My brother, Arthur, with my daughter, Natasha, sometime in 1983.
Although Arthur was sick, he was determined to continue his quest to find employment in the media field, which he loved so much.  He completed an internship at our local CBS affiliate television station, and was being considered for an anchor position at the time of his death.  Additionally, he worked as a sports writer for the Daily Press, our local newspaper; and as a newscaster for WNIS, news/talk radio station. I give thanks to all of these companies who recognized his talent, and were willing to give him opportunities to do what he loved, despite the fact that he sometimes was too ill to work.

In March, 1984, Arthur took ill and was admitted to Riverside Hospital (now Riverside Regional Medical Center).  The doctors were pessimistic about his prognosis, and pretty much let my parents know that this was it.  But still, my brother stayed positive and hopeful.  He was in a coma for the first week or so, but once he became alert, he started talking about coming home and about wanting to get back out onto the golf course with my dad.  We were taking turns sitting with him - my mother, father, and I - and on my shifts we enjoyed reminiscing about when we were little, and he played with Natasha, if she was with me.  A few times, when he was sleeping, he would seem to choke and stop breathing, but I would shake him and say, "Breathe, Arthur, breathe!", and he did.  At first, my parents and I were just quiet about the idea of him coming home, but he was so insistent, and he seemed to be doing so well, that finally the doctors agreed to let him go.  I believe the plan was for some level of in-home hospice care, although I didn't really understand what that meant at the time.  (I was only 22 years old, and I think the hospice concept was fairly new.)   My mother was so excited, and she worked hard to get his old room clean and ready for him, with a hospital bed on order, and plans to have nurses checking in.  Unfortunately, early on the morning of April 6th, the day before he was scheduled to come home, and with our father by his side, my brother, Arthur took his last breath. 
Today marks the 26th year since the day my brother died.  Words can't explain how deeply the loss of my brother has affected me, and changed the course of my life.  Although I do have two other brothers, they are so much older than me, that they were both gone from home by the time I was seven years old.  So, it was just my parents, Arthur, and me for most of my life.  Arthur and I fought like any other siblings, but our love for each other was undeniable, and our paths (I'd thought), inseparable.  When he was in the hospital, I prayed and prayed, always asking God to help me to accept His Will, whatever that turned out to be.  My brother's death was, and has continued to be a lesson in FAITH for me.  I miss him so much, but I know that he is in a much better place, and that he is rejoicing now in heaven with our father, grandparents, and all of the ancestors that I'm working to learn about now.

  This is my absolute most-favorite picture of my brother and me.  I think it says so much about us, without having to say anything at all! 

In closing, I'd like to share a poem that I wrote three years ago, on the anniversary of Arthur's death.  At that point, he'd been in heaven for as long as he was here on earth, and these are the words that came to my heart:

To Arthur
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
And I know in my heart that you’re better off now,
As you rest in God’s heavenly home.
I’ll always remember the things that we shared,
The good, as well as the bad.
The ups and the downs, the smiles and the frowns,
And all of the secrets we had.
Without you, my brother,  life’s not been the same
But I’ll try not to dwell on the past.
God knew what was best when he took you with Him
To anchor on Heaven’s broadcast.
For twenty-three years you were here on this earth,
Now for twenty-three years you’ve been gone.
I’ll see you one day, when God chooses me
To rest in His heavenly home.  
                                                                            With love, from Renate
                                                            April, 2007

 One of those Easter Sundays.  I miss you, Arthur.

Thank you for reading.

The content and pictures included in this post are the property of Renate Y Sanders, and should not but used, copied, or embedded without the express permission of the owner.  Please contact me via email at yarsan@aol.com.  Thank you.