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WEDNESDAY’S WOMAN: SYBOL LILLIAN O’PRY HEMPERLEY

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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

Sentimental Sunday – The Monkey in the Tree

 In memory of Don’s dad, John Raymond Hemperley

Raymond Hemperley 1961

Raymond Hemperley 1961

It was a typical Sunday afternoon on the farm at the home of Raymond and Sybol Hemperley. He was sitting in a straight chair beneath the large pecan trees in the back yard, which the family referred to his  “office”, when I came out the screen door with a large glass of ice water in hand.  I guided Steve down the doorsteps and was met by Buck, the collie, who greeted and escorted us across the lawn to the “office”.

“Here you are, Pop,” I said as I handed him the glass and joined him in the other chair beneath the tree.

“Sure is hot today,” he said and drank the whole glass of water in one long gulp.

It seemed particularly hot to me too.  What breeze that was blowing was warm and dry that August day and we were trying to escape the hot house as it had no air conditioning and I was eight months pregnant with Kelly.

He took out his Bull Durham pouch and began rolling a cigarette.  It always mystified me how he could pour the tobacco; fill; roll and lick the tobacco stuffed paper; crimp the end; pull the pouch string with his teeth and drop the pouch back into his shirt pocket in one fluid motion.  As he lit up, he brushed the spilled tobacco off his khaki pants and it drifted in the breeze into his unlaced shoes.

His blue eyes smiled as he helped Steve crawl into his lap.  Steve dug into his pockets pulling out cigarette papers and ballpoint pins.  Pop (a name only Steve could call him as he required the other grandkids to refer to him as Pop Paw) looked high into the pecan trees and said, “Beauzook, what we need is a monkey for our tree.”

Steve smiled and I laughed.  Who could imagine a monkey running freely in a pecan tree on a farm in Caddo Parish, Louisiana?

“Pop, why on earth would you want a monkey?” I asked.

With a gleam in his eyes and bouncing Steve on his knee, he said, “I’ve always wanted a monkey.  Can’t you see one running from limb to limb, swinging in the tree for all the grandkids to enjoy?  “Sides that, red-butted monkeys are so funny.”

Through the next few years, the red-butted monkey became a joke between us.  Many times he told Steve and Kelly they needed a monkey and someday he’d get them one.

In August 1969 Don and I bought a house near Vivian which sat on a 3 ½ acre tree studded tract of land and we invited Pop and Me Maw over for the grand tour.  After they had viewed each room we finally made it out to the backyard where he pulled Kelly aside and said, “All you need is a monkey for your trees.”

Raymond died the following summer but not before he and I shared many special moments.  We had a closeness few fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law share.  He told me of his heritage, his growing up, living on a farm all his life, and about the earlier Hemperley’s that had moved from South Carolina to Georgia and then to the area in Arkansas known as Erie (near Doddridge). While it was interesting at the time, it would not be until a few years later, that I realized his grandchildren and the generations that followed them, should also know of the life and times of the Hemperley’s.  Suddenly I was bitten by the genealogy bug.  Suddenly I was running from place to place in search of documents, clues, photos, anyone who had known the family; anyone that was willing to share what they knew.  It was then I recognized that I had become the monkey, not in a living tree, but rather his family tree.  Hopefully some grandchild generations down will enjoy his story as much as he wanted a monkey for his grandchildren to enjoy!

Here are a few more pictures of Raymond Hemperley:

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley with mules, Joe and Jeff

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley 1929

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

Raymond Hemperley (on right) picking cotton on his place 1961

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