Saturday, September 11, 2010

My Nana

Not everyone is lucky enough to know their grandparents, let alone their great-grandparents. I was privileged to know four of my great-grandparents and actually know them well.

I had enough living progenitors that we had to come up with unique names for each set, so as a child I could remember who was who. This entry is about my Nana.

Nana, the last of the four great-grandparents, died recently. She was 95. Back in January I wrote a post including a five generation photo of direct women: HERE IT IS. How cool is that? I'm glad Bridgette got to meet her. Even if she doesn't remember, she'll always have that picture.

I went out to North and South Carolina over Labor Day weekend to celebrate Nana's life with my family. Here are portions of her obituary, as published in the Rock Hill Herald:

"Do you remember an older lady who always wore a hat and a smile?

"That lady was Thelma Bagwell, 95, who died in Cleveland, Ohio on Aug. 30, 2010. She had lived in Rock Hill for 58 years. Thelma was preceded in death by Raynal, her husband of 68 years.

"Thelma was the bookkeeper at the Rhea Warner Men's Shop. They owned Bagwell Home Builders Inc., with Thelma being president. They owned their own plane and traveled extensively.

"Memorial services will be held at 11 a.m. at St. John's Methodist Church in Rock Hill, and at 4 p.m., at Concord Presbyterian Church in Loray, N.C. Graveside services will follow in Loray.

"Thelma is survived by her daughter, Joan Summa (John); and her daughter-in-law, Flora (Jim). She is the grandmother of six; great-grandmother of 17; and great-great-grandmother of 10.

"Thelma never left her home without being smartly dressed and wearing a hat.

"We love you mom!"

She was a social butterfly and a beautiful woman, even in her old age... which is the only age she could have been by the time I was born! Here is a photo I took of her on a visit I made at Easter a few years ago.

Growing up, we took a trip to Myrtle Beach almost every summer (or so it seemed). I took the photo below the last time we were there, in 2003, I think. You can see that the obituary was right. She almost always wore a hat.


One of my favorite memories is of Nana letting me paint her face at the beach house. She set out all her makeup on the end table then lay quietly on the bed with her eyes closed, allowing me to gussy her up. I don't know how old I was, but I was too young to know anything about makeup.

I wish I had a picture.

I remember bright red lips, lots of rouge, and possibly dark blue eyeshadow and some strange dark streaks of black... maybe from mascara? The hazy image in the recesses of my brain definitely whispers "clown."

But what I really remember is that she went out that night with the whole family to a busy restaurant still wearing all that makeup. I was very proud.

What a good woman.

Do you need any more proof that Nana is awesome?
Because here it is.

This was taken by my Mom, 5 years ago. At this point, my great-grandmother was 90-years-young, spunky in body, playful at heart. Here she is showing off her flexibility, touching her toes to the ground over her head.


At the funeral, most of the women (and as you can see, even one of the men) wore hats in her honor. Several of them (front row: mine, Emma's, Julianne's; back row: Mom's - in the red) were actually Nana's before she died.

I brought several more hats (not funeral fair) home for Bridgette and me to share over the years. There's no doubt Nana was dapper. You may see them occasionally in future posts.

Mom and her brother, Uncle Craig

5 comments:

Heidi said...

How cool. If my great-grandma were alive today she would be 125. She actually died when she was 104 and I was 9; but I didn't really know her, unfortunately. You really are lucky to have been able to get to know all of your grandparents. That is something I REALLY hope Ellie and Sienna will be able to do. Anyway...

Based on that last picture, your mom and Bridgette have the same smile! :)

Lore said...

What a nice post, Kelly. Nana really was a remarkable woman, wasn't she? I am reminded almost daily of something she said or did, or of something she taught me. I didn't realize until now how much I learned from her.

I hope I can stay on-the-go as long into my life as she did, and leave a legacy as lasting as hers.

Love you.

Smith Family said...

What great memories you have of your Nana! That is amazing with her on the floor with her legs over her head! I love that everyone wore hats.

April said...

What an amazing and beautiful woman!

kelgrandy said...

You totally look like her in her younger years. She's a beautiful lady! Isn't it great that we know our great-grandparents. Mine died when Grant was about three, so he knew them as well. Come to think of it, my great-great grandparents died when I was about three. Hmmmm....