Sunday, January 3, 2010
Sentimental Sunday: Remembering Elizabeth Reed
My aunt, Elizabeth Reed, pictured second from left in the above photo, was a character. That is said in the best sense of the word -- an original, a standout, someone with a definite sense of humor.
Well, let's back up a bit. She wasn't biologically or genealogically my aunt, she was my second cousin. However, she was always my aunt to me, because my mother was an intra-family adoption. My mother, Martha Reed Packard, is at the right in this picture, in white. My grandmother -- that is, my grandaunt, Mary Reed is at left. My mother's father, Benjamin Franklin "Frank" Reed, was the brother of Mary Reed's husband, Perry Wilmer Reed. Frank Reed died in a railroad accident in 1917, before my mother's first birthday. The Reed family saw to it that little Martha was placed with Perry and Mary, and the adoption was final in 1920. Mary and Perry raised her as their own, and as far as we were all concerned, "Chollie" (Mary) and "Sissy" (Elizabeth) were grandmother and aunt to my siblings and me.
And Elizabeth Reed did help raise me, very actively. She saw to it, as my godmother, that I went to church. Got me in the choir, encouraged me to join the youth group, Episcopal Young Churchman, which I eventually served as a delegate to the diocesan House of Episcopal Young Churchmen and as treasurer. She was adamant that I go to college, and got in touch with our Congressman, Charles E. Bennett, to see to it that I got Veteran's Administration and Social Security assistance based on my father's service in the U.S. Navy during World War II. She encouraged me to apply to Florida State University, where I was accepted. She got me hooked up with the Southern Scholarship and Research Foundation in Tallahassee so that I was awarded a housing scholarship. She also taught me (and my sister and brother) how to drive.
"Sissy" did not live to see me graduate from Florida State University, nor did she get to see me receive such honors as being inducted into Phi Beta Kappa, or get into graduate school for a master's degree in library science. She died in October of 1967, but she went the way she would have wanted to go, with her boots on, attending the national conference of Planned Parenthood in New York. She was the director of the northeast Florida chapter of Planned Parenthood in Jacksonville. And she always did find it a wonder why, when people had questions about sex and parenthood, they always came to an unmarried middle-aged woman!
She had a series of monologues which she would perform for civic groups in Jacksonville and around Florida. She did this in connection with her talks on health and wellness, as Director of Health Information for the then State Board of Health (now the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services) and later as director of the Planned Parenthood chapter. The monologues were funny and poignant, and not a one of them was committed to paper. They were all in her memory, and so were different each time she performed them. They ranged from a hilarious parody of a hospital bedside visitor to variations on the theme of "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" (from a country singer to a child in a pageant to a torch singer), to a sober and wonderful tale of a grandmother who pioneered the American west talking to her upset teenage granddaughter.
She definitely was a character, and I have missed her much over the years. I named one of our daughters for her, and I do wish she could have met my daughters. They're characters, too.