Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Nellie and Bill

These pictures are from the Gloucester Court Green. Above is the Clayton Building, which houses artifacts recovered from John Clayton's home and old office site. Below is the entrance to the court green, still sporting her spring finery.

Gloucester is where my mother's family comes from. Her grandfather, the blacksmith at Flat Iron, had three daughters and one son. One of the daughters was my favoritest* grandmother. Another is Great Aunt Nellie, who turns 85 today. In four days her husband Bill, who was her high school sweetheart, will be 93.

Aside from my mother, Nellie is the closest living relative to my favoritest* grandmother. She looks a lot like my mother, but she sounds exactly like my grandmother. Even though she hasn't lived here for decades, she retains that beautiful Tidewater accent. Her laugh is distinctive and contagious; thankfully every interaction with her is full of it.

Nellie and Bill, as I said, were high school sweethearts. Although they intended to marry in their youth, they didn't. They lived separate lives, married other people, had families, and carried on. But some how or another after their spouses passed away, they reconnected and finally married in 1999 . They are a most remarkable couple.

Bill is a published author, and the epilogue in his first book does a grand job of illustrating their philosophy on life:

Chapter 25


How does that look for a headline in your local newspaper? No kidding! I have told Nellie we should get in on these good deals for homes where the banks have foreclosed on so many loans, especially in Florida. My better sense tells me it would be foolish to take on a 30-year mortgage at my age, but one can't help thinking about it. In actuality, the lenders look at income, estate assets, and protection during probate, and we should qualify on all accounts. What is 92, anyway, but just a number.

Secrets to a Long Life?

We have just received our latest drivers' licenses, and we have applied for a new passport to get ready for our new adventure. The license is good for six years, and the passport for ten, so it isn't as if we're hanging it up for good. Actually, I am looking forward to a few more years, for I have a few more places to visit, a few more sights to see, a few more acquaintances to make, and most importantly sharing them all with Miss Nellie. As long as the both of us continue with our good fortune to enjoy relatively good health, traveling seems to be good for us, injecting an anticipation which may very well be the "Fountain of Youth."

There is much more of his story to share, but I'll save it for another time. Right now, I'd like to share something Chesapeake Bay Mother wrote in honor of their birthdays:
"Two important members of the Chesapeake Bay Family are celebrating birthdays this month. It marks the 93rd year for Uncle Leon E. "Bill" Braxton, Lt. Col. USAF, Ret., whose second book is imminent. Born in a hand built house, completely composed of local lumber and materials, he arrived one of nine children to be born on Chicken Foot Lane, Cumberland County, North Carolina. Bill achieved and gloried in life to the fullest and continues to amaze us.

For Aunt Nellie Pearl Berger Braxton, we toast her 85th year of living in complete love and grace. She unfailingly calls her nieces and nephews, who have lost their parents, to tell us how special we are and to always say, "I love you." Her oldest sister claimed she was born small enough to fit in the teapot (hopefully the rivalrous siblings didn't try to stuff her in one) and was the cutest baby ever.

Happiest of birthdays and bon voyage, if you go to Italy! We so admire and love you both!"
-CB Mother

Uncle Bill and Aunt Nellie, thank you for being such an inspiration and for helping us see that there really is such a thing as true love. - CBW

*Favoritest is indeed a word.

Bill's book is called From the Cockpit to the Classroom, An Only-in-America Saga from the Depression-Era Cotton Fields of North Carolina Through the Skies of World War II to a University Professorship, by Lt. Colonel Leon E. "Bill"Braxton, USAF, Retired, with Capt. Arthur H. Wagner, USCG, Retired. His second book is about to be published. Did I mention he turns 93 this week?


Mental P Mama said...

Wow. I love Nellie and Bill. Wait. I love everybody in your family!

Grandma J said...

Happy Birthday to Aunt Nellie and Uncle Bill! I love these two as if I actually knew them. I suppose it would be too much to hope for that they would be at blogfest. Maybe I'll just go to Italy with them.

Now, I have to look up that book!

ps. I was going to comment on your comment about nuts...but I'm having a hard time finding the right words. Funny lady, that's what you are!! :))

Fighting Mermaid said...

I love it! I hope they have the bestest birthdays ever, and a wonderful trip to Italy!

Trisha said...

Nellie and Bill sounds like wonderful, vibrant people! Happy birthday to both of them.

You are so lucky to have such great people in your family.

Daryl said...

How is it they are 8 yrs apart and he was her high school sweetheart? Was he left back? Did he date her while she was in HS and he was college?

Now I have to go back and read the rest of the post, with my memory I wouldnt have remembered I needed to ask you that otherwise

WV eurge . I had a eurge to ask you before I finished reading ..

Mrs F with 4 said...

How wonderful....

In unrelated news, I have a nephew and niece called Bill and Nellie...

Also, yesterday was +22C and sunny, today is -2C and snowing. I am cold. No, actually, I am FREEZING.

Meg @ Soup Is Not A Finger Food said...

Aw, you know what? I had a special Aunt Ellie and Uncle Bill - same Uncle Bill who died last August at age 99 years, 5 months.Aunt Ellie was his second wife and he her second husband. He was quite a bit older than her, yet he outlived her by something like 12 years. When I was little, I called her "Naunt Nellie" and she never would let me forget it, always signing her birthday cards to me "Naunt Nellie & Nuncle Bill."

I echo Grandma J - could we have your Aunt Nellie and Uncle Bill as special guests at a blogfest event? I bet they have great stories to share. How nice that they were able to be married after all those years apart. You are lucky to have them in your life, still.

Julie said...

My father and many of his family are from Gloucester. The court green is beautiful.

Breezeway said...

Wonderful post!!! It seems that sometimes people do actually end up with the person they belong with. Gives me hope =)
On another note... I love Gloucester Court House, particularly Main Street. It, and Mathews Main Street, have always looked to me as a Southern town should. At least in MY mind!

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

Hey I know that place!

Country Girl said...

You are so very lucky, girl, to have all of these cool relatives. So interesting, too.

nativedevil said...

Nellie and Bill are remarkable people. I bet his book is interesting.
I went to Blue Collar Joe's again today. I was good and only got a 1/2 dozen. Got a Blueberry Chessecake one in your honor.
They are going to be closed on Mondays from now on, BTW

Audrey at Barking Mad said...

This touches me on so very many levels.

First of all, my maternal grandparents, who I was never fortunate enough to meet, (they both passed from cancer shortly before I was born) are named, Nellie and Bill.

And Bill is a USAF veteran. And we all know how much members of the USAF mean to me.

*happy sigh*

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

To answer Daryl's question - Nellie was in high school, Bill was in the Air Force at Langley and they met at the skating rink in Gloucester. So he didn't actually go to high school with her, but she was in h.s. when they met.

It's a great story and hopefully in the coming weeks I'll be able to share more of it.

On the topic of the skating rink, I really want to investigate the process for nominating that rink as a national landmark of some sort. I also daydream about somehow getting the current owners to reopen it for us old folks, even if it is just for one night. What I wouldn't give to be able to skate up there again.

Happy Tuesday night. It feels like Thursday already.

Scott Berger said...

If you manage to get the Old Mill Rink reopened, see if you can get them to reopen the duck pin bowling alley the same night. I always heard my mom (the aforementioned Nellie) talk about duck pin bowling, and I always wanted to see it!

I also went roller skating with cousin Cindy there. Yikes, that was too long ago! I was 8!