Category Archives: Uncategorized

WEDNESDAY’S WOMAN: SYBOL LILLIAN O’PRY HEMPERLEY

Posted on by 1 comment

Sybol O'Pry HemperleyThe biblical verse from Matthew 5:5 says the meek shall inherit the earth and when I read this verse, I feel it perfectly applies my late mother-in-law, Sybol Lillian O’Pry Hemperley.  She was meek in nature, small in stature, unassuming, and not one to enjoy the lime light.  She was also a devoted wife, mother and Christian; today she is remembered as Wednesday’s Woman.

Sybol was born January 16, 1909 in Provencal, Louisiana to William Henry O’Pry and Amanda Salena Jones.  The O’Pry family consisted of Sybol and brothers, William Carl, Marshall Henry, Joseph Dowden (J. D.) and Leo Curtis.  In the 1910 census the family is located in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana where William Henry worked as a lumber grader at a planer mill, however, by 1920 they were located in Lafayette County, Arkansas where he was listed as a farmer. The family later moved to Caddo Parish, Louisiana in an area known as Pine Island, where William Henry sold Watkins products.

Sybol married John Raymond Hemperley on August 9, 1930.  Raymond had bought the marriage license in Arkansas however, at the time, they were living in Louisiana and Sybol wanted to be married in Louisiana.  How to resolve this problem?  They were married in the middle of the road where the two states join with one foot in each state!

While living in Gilliam, Louisiana they first lived on the “Ward Place” and later bought sixty acres just below there known as the “Cody Place” outside of Gilliam, Louisiana. Raymond’s parents, John Daniel Luther Hemperley and Laura Sara Jane Josephine Matilda Ann Hanson (thank goodness she went by Laura!) lived with them.  They had a shotgun house with Raymond and Sybol’s family on one side and John and Laura on the other. The family grew to include Sybol and Raymond’s three children, Jesse Raymond, Donald Ray and Mona Rose.

When the children were small, Laura kept the children while Sybol, Raymond and John worked the farm.  They raised cotton, hay for the cattle and a large garden.  They had chickens and hogs and when it was “hog killing weather”, the neighbors would come to help so the smoke house could be filled. The pantry was always filled with beautiful canned foods that line the walls and extra sugar, flour, etc. in the kitchen cabinets.  Since she had lived through the Great Depression, I believe she wanted to rest assured she could feed the family. Sybol wasn’t a fancy cook but liked cook books and was always clipping recipes from the newspaper or magazines.  I inherited one of her cookbooks, The Watkins Cook Book, pictured below.  You will note the copy write was in 1938 and that it cost $1.50.  I have no doubt she got it when her father was selling Watkins products. It is filled with some of her clippings which often have her hand written notes.

MeMaw's Cookbook

 

Typically Sybol wore fresh starched and ironed cotton dresses unless she was working in the garden where she wore long sleeves (no matter how hot the weather), a bonnet she had made, and gloves.

Sybol O'Pry Hemperley (MeMaw)

She loved flowers and her yard was full beautiful ones, particularly her favorites, daliahs and cleomes, also known as pens and needles.  She is pictured below with great grandsons, Brian, David and Greg Stanley by an iris bed.

Sybol Hemperley with great grandsons Brian, David and Greg Stanley

Sybol never gossiped, talk ill-will of anyone nor did I ever hear a profane word come from her mouth all the years I knew and loved her.

Sybol O'Pry Hemperley

Sybol Lillian O’Pry Hemperley at wedding of Kelly Hemperley Brown

Sybol never learned to drive and after Raymond’s death in 1970 the farm was sold and she moved to Gilliam.  She continued her gardening, attended church regularly at Linda Lay Baptist, and enjoyed her children and grandchildren.  She never had much, nor needed much.  She never asked for much; never wanted much other than visits with her family.  She was a simple, loving, giving, meek Christian woman. I have no doubt she “inherited the earth” but also a place in Heaven.

Sybol (who was lovingly called “Babe” by Raymond) passed away on January 10, 1986 in Vivian, Louisiana.  She is buried beside Raymond at Bathsaida Baptist Cemetery in Ida, Louisiana.

John Raymond and Sybol O'Pry Hemperley

THROW BACK THURSDAY: STANLEY WOMEN

Posted on by 1 comment

Kitty Stanleys Wedding Kitty Kelly Hemperley Judy

 

Linda “Kitty” Stanley LeBlanc, Kelly Hemperley Brown, Judy Stanley and Kookie Stanley Hemperley at Kitty’s wedding, June 19, 1976 in Vivian, Louisiana.

Category: Uncategorized

CHARLES EDWIN STANLEY, April 23, 1937-May 16, 2004

Posted on by 4 comments

Charles Stanley 2002-1

Born on April 23, 1937, at Grogan’s Mill near Bivins, Texas in Cass County, my brother, Charles Edwin Stanley was the third child of Clyde Henry and Mamie Louise Martin Stanley.  He had two older brothers, Jimmy Clyde and Thomas Neil and the three of them were mischief makers from the get go!  One local man, Mr. Jack Bird, referred to these boys as Big Tuffie, Middle Tuffie and Little Tuffie even though they were not mean perhaps they were little rascals. Charles and Tommy were so close that many people thought them to be twins. While there were three girls also born to Clyde and Mamie (Me, Judy and Kitty) later, Charles is the subject of this post.

As a child he was mostly called “Ed” but as he grew older he would answered to “Charlie” or “Indian” because he had a dark complexion, dark  hair and eyes and we were suppose to have Native American heritage.

Times were hard and WW II was going on.  The house he lived in had no running water nor indoor plumbing, nor electricity.  Bathing on Saturday nights was done by heating water on the stove and dumping it into a washtub.   Drinking water was in a water bucket that sat by the kitchen stove with a dipper nearby.

The boys had few toys to play with.  They shared one toy dump truck or if fortunate enough to find a flat liquor bottle, would use it for a car.  They scraped enough parts from an old bicycle to make one that they shared and rode everywhere.  Charles learned to ride it at five years old; after all he had to keep up with his older brothers.  The bike they shared had a “motor” which was made by attaching a piece of cardboard with a clothes pen to the spokes on the wheel and made a motor sound when pedaled.

They collected scrap metal, rubber and paper for the war effort and would use any other scraps they could find to make rubber guns, log wagons, sling shots, airplanes, baseball bats and also made their balls from string.  They had a big swing made from a burlap bag. The nearby barn was a great place to eradicate rats with their rubber guns. Sometimes they traded things they had found at the dump with other kids and created new toys such as the wagons in the photo below made in 1945.

Tommy, Kookie and Charles Stanley, Bivins, Texas

Tommy, Kookie and Charles Stanley  1945

If you notice, Charles and Tommy both have on “service” caps. One of their neighbors had a relative who was in the war and had sent home a trunk full of captured German Army souvenirs. Included was a German officer’s uniform complete with gas mask. They took great delight in hiding with the gas mask on, jumping out and scaring someone! Their imagination ran rampant and therefore they played Army a lot and killed off many enemy German and Japanese soldiers.
The house they lived in was elevated in the front which made for a cool area in which to play. Underneath they made toad frog houses and when locating a doodlebug hole would promptly produce a twig, stick it in the hole and chant “Doodlebug, doodlebug, come out of your house. Your house is on fire.” Sometimes the doodlebugs would run out but if not, they moved on to another hole and tried again.

Charles started to school in Bivins in 1943 where he was always on the honor roll. Annually the school would have a Hillbilly Band, a Halloween Carnival or a Donkey Basketball Game. It was good times while in Bivins.

When Charles was about eight years old he saw a man with a nice ring made of bone. Shortly thereafter Charles found a round bone with a hole in the middle and decided to make himself a ring. Yes, you see it coming, don’t you? The bone got stuck, swelled up and by the time Clyde discovered it, had to be sawed off Charles’ hand!

At the end of WW II the family moved to Atlanta, Texas where Clyde took a job. They lived in a house directly across the street from the Atlanta Rabbits Football Stadium. Charles and Tommy soon learned they could go beneath the bleachers on Saturdays following a Friday night game and find money! Charles didn’t play football but instead joined the high school band in Atlanta playing the bass horn. He loved music and he loved Atlanta.

The boys had a couple of scooters through most of their high school years. The last one, Clyde “souped up” to where it would run 60 mph on the highway; 50 mph on a nearby dirt road. Thus began Charles’s love for motorcycles! But more of that later…… Charles and Tommy often took the scooter on Saturday nights to the midnight show to see “Cowboy Shoot ‘Em Up” movies. The headlight was so dim you almost had to strike a match to see if the headlight was on.

After a while the family moved outside of town to a farm. They raised chickens, hogs and had a large garden. They also raised Black Diamond watermelons which Charles and Tommy peddled in the river bottoms of North Caddo Parish in a 1940 International truck they had overhauled by themselves.

Clyde changed jobs to run the ice plant in Jefferson. It seems the transfer from Atlanta to Jefferson meant some records Charles had didn’t transfer which would delay his graduation for another year. Charles dropped out of school but earn his GED.

He first worked at the ice house on the dock but by winter was able to get a job at the local Ford dealership washing new and customer’s cars. Before long he worked as a mechanic but when the dealership discovered he was good with parts, moved him to that department where he first worked in parts for race cars and later in truck parts.

The race car parts job lead to another adventure for Charles. After acquiring local sponsors he was soon drag racing in various tracks located in East Texas. One of his first and finest was an English Ford Angelia. However, his daily drive was his 1958 turquoise and white Ford equipped with every racing part or gadget you could imagine! It was hot and fast on the drag strip!

Charles eventually moved to Longview where he worked for Pegues Hurst Motor Company forty plus years as the head of the parts department.
Remember that motor scooter? Many years later Charles bought his first Honda Gold Wing motorcycle. Through the years his vacations on the Gold Wing took him to every state with the exception of Hawaii and possibly Alaska. He loved traveling the old West and learning the history at each of his stops. Once when caught in a rain storm in a small town and no motel in sight, he stopped at the local jail for information only to be informed there was no shelter for miles and miles. They did, however, offer refuge from the storm by allowing him to spend the night in an empty jail cell! On another trip he started at the mouth of the Mississippi River and followed it to the Gulf of Mexico. His travels were an education in itself and while along on the three week trips he made friends, explored cultures and loved the ride! Luckily over the thousands of miles traveled, Charles was involved but once in an accident when a dog ran out in front of him causing him to lay his “scooter” down.

Another passion Charles had was cameras. He collected cameras from yard sales, antique stores or wherever he might find one. And they did not just sit on a shelf; he used them. Once on a trip to my house in South Louisiana we went to the Lake Ponchatrain lakefront where he waited for just the right moment, when the sunset was perfect, to capture the beauty of the moment when the Causeway became a sillouette. One can only imagine how many photos he made on his many adventures.

Charles met and married Imogene Hill of Avinger, twice to be exact. They first married on February 23, 1957, divorced and remarried on May 12, 1972. Although the second marriage did not last either, they remained dear friends and wonderful parents to their two daughters, Terri and Tami. While he had another lady friend in his lifetime, he never remarried.

Charles Stanley Family
Daughters Terri and Tami, wife Imogene Hill Stanley and Charles Stanley

The six of us siblings were different in many ways. By far, Charles was the most adventurous.

Charles passed away on May 16, 2004 in Longview, Texas of connective tissue disease. He was buried at Lakeview Memorial Gardens on May 20, 2004.

Charles-1

Happy Birthday to a wonderful brother who swapped his Gold Wing for Wings of Gold.

Category: Genealogy, Uncategorized | Tags: ,

MILITARY MONDAY: CLAUDE NORRIS GINGLES

Posted on by 2 comments

Harvey Samuel Gingles married Ella Mae Daniel in 1910.  Of this marriage there were twelve children. Seven of their sons served in the military along with one daughter; however one son, Claude Norris, is the subject of today’s Military Monday.  Claude Norris, or Buster as he was called, was born October 22, 1911 in Elberton, Georgia.

 

Claude Norris (Buster) Gingles

 

Buster served both in the U. S. Army and the U. S. Air Force. In the Army Infantry in World War II he served in Germany.  In the Air Force he was a fireman.  Between the two branches of the military  he spent twenty-one years in service retiring as a Staff Sergeant.  Other locations he was station at included Camp Stewart, Georgia, Panama, the Philippine Islands, Reese AFB Texas,  Columbus AFB in Mississippi, Roswell AFB in New Mexico Gary AFB in Texas and Barksdale AFB in Louisiana.

On December 8, 1939 Buster married Buena Gladys Martin Hanson, a young widow with three children; James Kenneth Hanson, Myrtle Virginia Hanson and Billy Noel Hanson.  Three Gingles children, Roy Claude, Ella Pearl and Robert Dale were born to Buster and Gladys.  As often happens while in the military, Buster was on away duty when Claude and Ella were born.  Robert Dale died at birth.

Gladys died in the Barksdale Hospital at the age of fifty-one.  Four years later Buster married Phonelle Lynch Hanson, the ex-wife of his step-son, James Kenneth Hanson.

Buster Gingles 1990

Claude Norris Gingles passed away on March 31, 2006 and was buried with full military rites by the Barksdale Air Force Base Honor Guard at Centuries Memorial Cemetery in Shreveport, Louisiana.

 

 

 

THROW BACK THURSDAY- THOSE HEMPERLEY KIDS

Posted on by 2 comments

Steve and Kelly Hemperley

May I take the liberty of introducing you to my children?  Steven Cue is four in this photo and Kelly Anne Hemperley Brown is two.  Fifty years later they look a lot like they did then except Steve has less hair and Kelly has more!

Category: Uncategorized

Wednesday’s Woman: Beulah Thompson Stanley

Posted on by 3 comments

My paternal grandmother, Beulah Thompson Stanley, was born May 30, 1888 in Oxford, Calhoun County, Alabama to Alex Thompson and his wife Martha Able.  While living with her sister, Essie Thompson Wall, Beulah first met her husband, Wesley Birdwell Stanley.  He was in Huffines working in logging and came riding up on a big white horse named Eli.

Beulah and Wes were married November 13, 1908 from this marriage there were six children, two of which died young.  All of her grandchildren referred to her as Granny however Wes most often called her “Miss Hootie”.

Wesley and Buleah Thompson Stanley
Wesley Birdwell Stanley and Beulah Thompson Stanley

Granny was petite, always wore starched ironed dresses, liked her nails done, and always wore her hair short. She loved pretty jewelry and while she didn’t have, she particularly loved diamonds which she referred to as “di-monts”. She was a member of the Purity Chapter Order of the Eastern Star in Ida, Louisiana and enjoyed the social events of the order.

She was a talented musician and she and Wes could play most any instrument. They taught their children well and the group often played at family gatherings or when others came to visit.

Wes worked mainly as an over-seer for many plantations in Caddo Parish and I suppose you could explain Granny’s life as privileged. She had a maid as well as a man who came in daily to build a fire before she got up, put a pan of biscuits in the oven and milk the cow. I don’t recall her cooking too much, but she really knew how to make fried apple or apricot pies!

Wes pampered Granny all of her life, especially in her later years after she suffered a stroke. He did everything for her including adapting a chair with wheels so that she could move around in the house.

Wesley Stanley and Beulah Thompson Stanley
This photo was made when they lived on Annie Burney Means’ plantation.

When we went to visit the silverware would be in the center of the table covered by a table cloth. If you spent the night you could barely turn over for all the handmade quilts piled high on the bed. She dipped snuff and could spit into the fireplace from half way across the room. And of course she had that special snuff brush made from a black gum twig, carefully chewed until it became soft enough to be dipped into the snuff.

One of the favorite things we grandchildren loved most about being at Granny’s was playing with a big brass bowl someone had brought her from Mexico. It was large enough for one child to sit in it with legs crossed. Your brother, sister or cousin would wind you up and spin it around. I suppose maybe the Stanley grandkids invented the Sit and Spin we know today.

Recently while visiting with cousin Neva Stanley Thomas, she gave me a most prized possession of Granny’s….. a collection of shoes from Petty Pottery in Ida, Louisiana. I am told that at one time Granny owned almost every piece of pottery that Petty made.

shoes 1
Petty Pottery Shoes made in the 1930s

Also, a special thanks to Neva for giving me the doily crocheted by her mother, Oneta Tolleson Stanley, for the Petty Pottery shoes to sit on.

Beulah and Wes were married sixty years before her death in 1968. Both she and Wes are buried at Munnerlyn Cemetery in Ida, Louisiana.

Throw Back Thursday: Those Stanley Kids

Posted on by 3 comments

Charles, Jim, Tommy and Kookie Stanley

Charles, Jimmy Clyde, Tommy and Kookie about 1945 in Bivins, Texas.

No, Jim didn’t always wear funny hats like this; he was dressed for a school play.

Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

MONDAY’S MAN: CLYDE HENRY STANLEY

My dad, Hector Clyde Stanley was born November 18, 1911 in Mira, Louisiana, the second of six children born to Wesley Birdwell and Beulah Thompson Stanley.  Granny and Pop Paw had some unusual given names for their children and so at an early age, Daddy changed his to Henry.  Later in his life when a bank in the small town in which we lived confused his bank account with another H. C. Stanley, he changed it again to Clyde Henry.  Imagine the night mare of researching his name in genealogy!  Luckily on most documents he is listed as Clyde.

I’m not sure how old he was in this photo but I’m thinking less than two years old.

Clyde Stanley's baby photo

When Daddy was very small, Pop Paw was a farmer in North Caddo Parish but at about four years of age, Pop Paw began making a living in the timber industry. They first moved to Fostoria, Texas, and they, along with other families working in the timber industry, lived in railroad cars. When logging was complete in a particular area, the train and its inhabitants would move to another location. Daddy told me they moved thirty four (34) times within an eighteen month period.

My grandparents were both musically talented and could play almost any instrument. Luckily they passed this on to their children. Daddy played the mandolin, however in the photo below with his brother, Audrion, he is shown with a fiddle.

Clyde and Audrion Stanley

In 1919 they moved to Ida, Louisiana where my grandfather farmed on shares. Apparently they did well as by 1924 they bought a brand new Ford Car. Daddy drove a tractor and worked on equipment on the farm. In fact, he told me he was the first person to hook up electric lights on a tractor. This would enable farmers to work at night when the weather was cooler. He wanted to patent his idea, which would cost $75.00, however Granny wouldn’t give him the fees.

Clyde with Farmall Tractor

Although I did not find out until I was eighteen years old, my Dad had been married prior to his marriage to my Mother. That marriage which was never spoken of in our family by any one at any time, lasted less than three years and there were no children. In 1933 my dad married my mother, Mamie Louise Martin and of this union, there were six children.

Tommy, Jim, Clyde and Mamie Martin Stanley
Tommy, Jim, Clyde and Mamie Martin Stanley

My grandfather left farming and went to work for several different sawmills in East Texas. Dad soon followed, although he had owned and operated a service station in Ida. At sawmills in Bivins and Atlanta, Texas he worked as a mechanic. I remember when we lived in Bivins bathing on Saturday nights in a washtub. It was not until the early 1950s that we got indoor plumbing.

In the mid 1950s we moved to Jefferson, Texas where he ran an ice plant and by my freshman year, we could be found in Ganado, Texas. Daddy worked for an oilfield service company as a mechanic. By midterm of my sophomore year we had left Ganado, went to Dayton and Liberty, Texas and finally back to North Caddo Parish where he worked for a tractor dealership and Mother owned a small café in Belcher. Mother had a new red and white Ford Falcon and Daddy drove one of those God awful green Studebaker cars that looked the same coming or going! After I married they returned to South Texas where he worked in Pearland, Humble and finally retired in Conroe, Texas. I think Daddy’s vagabond ways began as a child when his father followed the job regardless of where it took them.

My daddy was a superstitious man. He didn’t like gardenias because they reminded him of cemeteries. He wouldn’t have a cedar tree on the place because if they grew large enough to shade a grave you would die. He wouldn’t start a job on Friday that he couldn’t finish on Friday.

It was bad luck to sweep after dark or under someone’s feet. If we left home and something was left behind (mostly Mother’s purse) he would not go back for it. Bad luck!!

But the one superstition he branded me with was that of the black cat. Of course that one has been around for ages, but his obsession involved seeing one crossing the road in front of you. We either had to turn around, find another route so as not to cross the cat’s tracks or roll down your window and spit to wash out the tracks! Many years after his death I had my sophisticated Uptown New Orleans grandchildren in the car with me and a black cat crossed the road in front of us. My mouth began to salivate! Then I screamed, “Roll down your window and SPIT!” Of course they thought I had totally lost my mind, but soon realized when I pulled over and would not move until everyone in the car had hacked up enough saliva to wash out the cat’s tracks, that they had better SPIT! And for you information, I still do it today.

Daddy and I had a special relationship and he taught me much, such as one wrench from another, how to read a road map and much more. We loved to watch baseball games on TV together, sometimes rooting for the same team, sometimes not, but our cheers (or rants) were always as loud as if we were in the stands. When I was in my teens I made the comment that I wish we could see a Major League game in person. At that time it seemed only an impossible dream however it did come to pass when my brother Jim took the family to see the Astros play at the Astro Dome in Houston. I looked at him and said, “Did you ever think we’d do this in person?” only to be interrupted with wild cheering from the “Clyde Section”.

My dad was an intelligent man and a hard worker. He believed you gave a full day’s work for a full day’s pay. He was honest and never lied and stressed honesty at all costs. Perhaps I get my outspoken ways from him for in his words, “Say what you mean and mean what you say” or my favorite Clyde-ism, “Keep two things clean that are uniquely yours; your word and your name.”

The last time Mother and Daddy moved to South Texas he told me he would return to North Louisiana one day but he when never say when that day would be. Many times I asked and he never gave an answer so I turned to Mother as to when she thought that day would come. She told me Daddy thought you only go home to die. Weird I thought.

During the last year of his life Daddy was in and out of the hospital many times. It was then they decided to purchase a small house in Vivian and return to Louisiana. Don and I moved them back and two weeks later he passed away on January 1, 1980. Maybe there was something to his superstitions.

Clyde  Stanley 1976
Clyde Stanley, 1976

Military Monday: Donald Ray Hemperley, USAF 18574020

Don, as he preferred, was the second child of Raymond and Sybol O’Pry Hemperley.  He arrived a jaundiced baby born on August 18, 1941 in Vivian, Louisiana.  Growing up on a 60 acre farm near Gilliam, he was a precocious child who often ran away from home to play with his imaginary family that lived just across the levee.  Many were the times his mother, with switch in hand, would cross that levee to retrieve him. When asked where he had been he would speak of visiting his fantasy wife and children who lived across the levee.

Don Hemperley 1st grade

First Grade

Don attended grammar school in Belcher, Louisiana. By high school, a new consolidate school had been built in Vivian and he was among the graduation class of the first four full years of the school. Don could have been an honors student for he was a very intelligent person. Often work on the farm, work after school at a gas station in Gilliam, or his antics got in the way. During his senior year he was suspended for three days for smoking on campus. He was also reprimanded for singing and dancing in the hallways while classes were going on.
Don Hemperley soph

Sophomore Year

Following his graduation he knew he did not want the farm life anymore and enlisted the United States Air Force on July 22, 1959 in Shreveport, Louisiana. His basic training was at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. As basic training does for so many young enlistees, he went in a scrawny teen and came out a well chiseled mature adult male!
Don at Boot Camp, San Antonio, Tx Sept. 1959
Basic Training at Lackland Air Force Base

From San Antonio he was sent to Indiana University at Bloomington to become a Russian Linguist. His studies included not only the language but also the history and culture of Russia. From the first day of class his professors spoke only in Russian; wrote only in Russian; and expected the soldiers in the class to learn and excel in all things Russian. Not all students graduated (one even committed suicide) as it was an intense degree of studies.

Don Hemperley AF photo at Indiana U
Student I D for Bloomington University

Don Hemperley at Indiana U 1960
On Campus at Indiana University

August 6, 1960 Don returned home and we were married that night at the Belcher Baptist Church. After a short leave we headed to Goodfellow Air Force Base in San Angelo, Texas where he was to attend crypto-logic and intelligence training school. Did I ask what all that meant? Heavens no! We were too busy celebrating our recent marriage and starting our married lives. Besides, it didn’t matter to me just as long as we were together.

Don at San Angelo 1960
 Airman 2nd Class, San Angelo, Texas

By New Year’s Day of 1960 I was expecting our first child and Don was boarding a plane for a fifteen month tour of duty at the 6986th Wakkanai Air Station located on the northern most point of Hokkaido, Japan. Being the linguist he was he soon picked up the Japanese language and was able to communicate with the locals. He loved the food as well as the people in Wakkanai. Off time was spent writing letters home, visiting orphanages and at the Club Walk’N I NCO club where he was on the Board of Governors.

Don, Waikini 1961
Wakkanai Japan 1961

In April 1962 Don returned stateside and met our eleven month son Steve for the first time. We packed our little black 1950 Ford and headed to his next assignment at the National Security Agency located at Fort George G. Meade near Laurel, Maryland. I knew Don had a high level security clearance, but NSA?

The Cuban Missile Crisis took place during the time we were in Maryland and I can remember Don working long hours and being very concerned. Of course, I had no idea of what his job entailed, but the reality of the crisis set in when I drove to work and there were few cars on the road. The shopping center, which was usually bustling, was desolate. The air was tense as most everyone was waiting for President Kennedy’s next news conference.

On July 19, 1963 Don’s enlistment was up and we returned to Louisiana. Our daughter Kelly was born in September and we settled into a life far from the fast paced Air Force one Don loved. He soon became a partner in an insurance agency and was a Junior Warden as well as Master of the Belcher Masonic Lodge. He was instrumental in incorporating Gilliam as a Village and served as its first Village Clerk. He was a jokester, a loving father and husband, generous and a good friend to everyone.

Many many years later in life he mentioned his time in the Air Force and I asked, “Now just what was it that you did while wearing those Air Force blues?” He replied with that precocious smile, “I spoke to Russians flying their planes over water near Hokkaido and they didn’t know I was an American. I also decoded and transcribed top secrets while at NSA.” I rolled my eyes and thought, there he goes again; pulling those same tricks much like he did on his mother about his fantasy family. So was he was telling the truth or not? I suppose I will never know for sure.

Category: Military, Uncategorized | Tags:

Prison Ministry: The Story of Nevalene Stanley Thomas and The Born Again Singers

Neva Stanley Thomas

Matthew 25:36 reads: “Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.”

Nevalene Stanley Thomas was born July 19, 1936 to Addison Audrion Stanley and wife, Ora Oneta Tolleson in Bivins, Texas.  One of her grandfathers wanted to name her Ineva and the other Evalene.  According to her, they settled on naming her Nevalene but she prefers to be referred to as Neva.  Neva was a twin; however her mother had great difficulty having the children and only Neva survived.

Apparently she was born to sing and attend church as at the age of 4 to 5 years old she would walk to church, by herself, at Grogan’s Mill near Bivins, Texas.  Every Sunday Brother Will Grogan would ask her to sing Trust and Obey….. all five verses of it … before services began. Her father left the mill for work at the Texarkana Red River Depot, where he was a dozer operator during the construction of the depot. During the time spent in Texarkana she did not attend church.

In 1943 they moved to Huffines, Texas to live with her mother’s father and it was here she got back into church. In 1946 they moved to Vivian, Louisiana when her father went to work for the local General Motors dealership. On July 6,1952, while only 15 year old, she married John Howard Thomas, Sr.  They became members of Walnut Hill Baptist Church where she served 25 years and seven months as the music director and Howard was a deacon. And all the while, she was singing!

By 1954 Vivian’s local radio station was broadcasting from Walnut Hill Baptist Church where a quartet comprised of T. J. Stanfield, Lois Ragsdale, Albert Holt and Neva sang. Neva sang at revivals, the Lions Club and for many local funerals.  She would take her lunch hour, go to the funeral home and perform, and then return to work.  The Happy Time Singers, another of Neva’s groups, soon emerged and the members were Jean Walton, T. J. Stanfield, Buddy McBride and Neva.

Emanuel Baptist Church in Vivian is where Neva met Doris Gomery and enlisted her to become the sound technician.  On her first recording in Oklahoma City, Doris accompanied Neva and it was there they met John Rohloff who had played with Andre Crouch.  Between that time and 1986 Neva had recorded three CDS and five cassettes.

Even though Neva was staying busy, she still felt there was another direction God wanted her to follow.  Being the Christian woman she is, she opened her Bible searching for answers.  Her Bible was opened to Matthew 25:36 which reads: “Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and you visited me: I was in prison and ye came unto me.”  On June 3, 1986 the charter for the non-profit corporation was signed for G N H Ministries of Vivian by the Louisiana Secretary of State. Thus The Born Again Singers were born and continued for fourteen and one half years of prison ministry.  Neither ice storms, rains, sunshine or lack of finances stopped these troupers! They were provided for by donations and were on a mission to share their love of God and Jesus!

1-21-2014 2;52;57 PM

This scrapbook tells the story and their prison ministries.Scrapbook

The Born Again Singers, 1987
Doris Gomery, Vickie Neiderhofer, Neva Stanley Thomas and in front, Johnna Shew Kunath

Rev.T. J. McDonnel, pastor at Whitaker Baptist Church in Texarkana, was
instrumental in gaining the group entrance and acceptance into many prisons.  During their ministry they traveled to the Federal Correctional Institute in Texarkana, Texas, and the Texas Department of Corrections in Seagoville, Texas. In Arkansas they visited at Cummins in Grady, the Men’s Diagnostic Unit in Pine Bluff, the Department of Corrections in Tucker, and the Wrightsville Men’s Penitentiary in Wrightsville.  Louisiana penitentiaries served were Wade Correctional in Homer and the Louisiana State Prison in Angola.  Neva’s granddaughter Johnna, who also sang, accompanied them and with the exception of one time, was allowed to enter the prisons to perform beginning when she was about eleven years old.

Upon arriving at the prisons they had to be cleared by security and often performed either in the prison’s chapel or gymnasium, which led them past cell block filled with prisoners.  Now that takes some guts!!!  But these brave ladies would not be deterred.
Vickie, Judy, Neva, Norma and Johnna

Vickie Neiderhofer, Judy Holley, Neva Thomas and Johnna Shew Kunath

On their first trip to Angola upon arriving at the gate they learned each of them had been cleared for admittance however their equipment had not.  It had to be left at the gate.  Neva wondered how in the world they would musically minister to this group of 417 men who had earned the privilege and wanted to attend.  Luckily one of the inmates had a keyboard they borrowed.  That night Neva wrote and performed two songs that she says until this day she doesn’t remember the lyrics.  Seven inmates repented and there were few dry eyes in the place.
Ferry to Angola
On their second trip to Angola while riding the ferry across the Mississippi River, the group got out of their vehicles and began to sing gospel songs.  Other passengers joined in the celebration to the point the river boat captain said they had the ferry rocking.  On the return crossing the captain told how much he had enjoyed their “concert” and asked to have prayer with them.
Mostly their ministry was done as a musical concert, however the group also provided
Bibles, audio recordings, published a news letter for inmates, were pen pals, attended
seminars and worked with prisoners on Pre-Release.  Following training Neva became a spiritual adviser to death row inmates.  On the night prior to his execution, an inmate convicted of murder, wrote the following letter:

Wingo's final letter

Excerpts from the letter read:
“Dear Sister Neva, It is with a heavy heart I write this last letter to you for I know by the time it reaches your precious hands, you will be wrapped in sadness and sorrow because of my execution .  I wish with all my heart I could take your pain and sorrow from you.  I did not want to leave you all physically but by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus I was spiritually prepared and unafraid. Praise God!  I pray you can find peace and comfort in the truth that death for the Christian, by the grace and mercy of our Lord Jesus is but a mere stepping stone into eternal life in Heaven. By the time you read this I will be standing in Heaven, in the presence of God and our Lord Jesus and all those who went on before me.”

Another inmate, who at a young age, had robbed a lady of her purse in a Wal-Mart parking lot appealed to Neva to aid him in making an apology to his victim. The woman had a grandchild with her. He had demanded the lady’s purse and when she would not surrender it, he fired shots and she gave him her purse.
Letter requesting video to apologize
After accepting God he wanted to make a video of apology to his victim. Neva was instrumental in getting the video made and aired on TV. There was also an arranged face to face meeting for the apology and the victim accepted it.

Apparently Neva and The Born Again Singers were accepted cordially by many of the inmates as evidenced by many self made cards and letters that were sent to her. Her scrapbook is filled with letters of appreciation from those she touched as well as newspaper clippings regarding the groups other appearances.

The inmates sent cards for Christmas, Mother’s Day and Valentine greetings. Some of the prisoners’ art (from their homemade cards) is below…..
Prison Art 2
Prison Art 3
Prison Art 5
Many of The Born Again Singers are still actively involved in Christian fellowship. Here’s a little more about each one:
Doris Gomery is a retired social worker who worked with juveniles at a boys’ home in Greenwood, Louisiana. She also studied criminal law and was a Probation Officer for the State of Louisiana. Currently she attends First Baptist Church in Vivian where she belongs to Hands and Feet and One to Another which offer prayers and assistance for varying needs to people in the community. She also belongs to Prayers Ministry which encompasses the globe as they pray for those in need. At one time she was involved in Message Music and distributed music to book stores as well as individuals.

Vickie Neiderhofer has passed away since her participation with The Born Again Singers.

Johnna Shew Kunath, all grown up now, is the proud mom of two daughters, one recently adopted son and two foster children. She is a Bridge Teacher at Greenacres Middle School in Bossier City and sponsors the Junior Optimist Organization. Johnna and her husband Jason attend First Baptist Church in Princeton where they started a senior citizen ministry called Senior Moments. Daughters of the King, a ladies’ ministry of fellowship and Bible study, was also organized by Johnna at the church. Volunteering in this household involves everyone including the children. Johnna and her daughters volunteer at The Nest, a part of The Renesting Project. And if all of this isn’t enough she is currently involved with a group, the Christian Women’s Job Corp of Northwest Louisiana. Theses volunteers will go into prisons and educate and set up housing for those being released.

Norma Norris Morris met and married an inmate. Norma lives in Bloomburg, Texas and goes to the Full Gospel Church.

Judy Holly Thompson, a registered nurse, met and married an inmate. She resides in Vivian and attends First Baptist Church.

Neva currently attends the Yocana Baptist Church in Yocana, Arkansas where she has been the Music Director for the past seven year and writes a newsletter for her church. She goes to weekend singings but no longer travels for the prison ministry. One of her favorite sayings is “This Too Shall Pass” which is indicative of her belief that all problems taken one at a time in Christ’s name will get better. Ask Doris about Neva and she will say she is a booster of people’s confidence, an advocate and encourager who brings out the best in everyone. I say she’s all that and more but specifically a child of God born to sing His praises. On a recent visit with her and her daughter, Letitia Thomas McGuire, they sang “I See Jesus” for me. The photo below was taken at that time. Neva is still married to the love of her life, John Howard Thomas, Sr.and they give praise to God daily for the wonderful life they have had. They have two children, Letitia Darlene Thomas McGuire and John Howard Thomas, Jr.
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

%d bloggers like this: