My Aunt Leona

One of my life idols was my Aunt Leona. She was born in 1901 and died in 2001. In fact, she died the day after her 100th birthday.

She was a simple woman, but seemed to be happy with her life. She was a teacher for several years after graduating high school. In fact, she taught in a one-room schoolhouse and a couple of her students were her sisters — my mom and another aunt.

She met and married her one and only husband, Paul, when she was 25 years old. They were married for five years when he caught pneumonia and died at the age of 30. They were the same age; born in the same year, just a few months apart. They never had any children and she never married again.

Paul’s parents were “rich” if that’s what you want to call it when someone owned many, many acres of land. They were farmers, lived in the country, and lived off their land. I wish I knew more about my aunt’s in-laws. I remember Leona’s mother-in-law. She lived “up the hill” from Leona’s house and we would go with Leona when she went to visit with “Ms Acuff” as Leona called her.

When Paul and Leona got married, his parents gave them many acres of land as a wedding gift. They acquired milking cows also, but I’m not sure how they came to have them. All I remember is that my aunt milked cows two times every day for as long as I can remember until she was in her 70’s.

My Grandma, my mom and Leona’s mother, came to live with Leona. I’m not sure of the circumstances that lead her to live there, but that’s the only place I ever remembered my Grandma living.

They always had a huge garden every year, canned much of it, and gave away the rest of what they didn’t eat. Nothing went to waste.

My aunt Leona raised turkeys from hatchlings every year for many years also. I remember going out to the outhouse which was located in the middle of the pen where the turkeys were kept and hollering, “gobble, gobble, gobble” at the top of my voice just to get them all to “gobble” for me. It was such fun! Then we’d run through the bunch of them and watch them scatter!

I’ve heard rumors that she at one time had hogs or pigs as well. But this is only a rumor because I can’t remember seeing them on her farm.

This lady was a hard worker! She could haul hay, milk cows, traipse through the woods looking for lost calves, work in the garden, repair the outbuildings, doctor the animals, and I could go on and on, as good as any man. She did all this through the coldest winters and hottest summers.

She put on a dress and went to church a couple of times a week, and did her paperwork and needlework in the evenings. What a lady! Can you see why she is one of my idols?

Yes, she did needlework. She used to knit, (which I didn’t know until much later) and made some beautiful doilies, which I’m honored and proud to own a couple now. She also crocheted and TATTED! When we went to “prayer meetin'” on Wed. nights at church, the ladies would sit in a circle after the meeting and visit and do their handwork. All the kids would be outside chasing each other and playing but I would be sitting at my aunt’s feet watching her fingers run that shuttle back and forth so fast it was a blur.

Finally one day I asked her if she would teach me to tat. She didn’t take me seriously, but after I bugged and bugged her about it, she took me to town and bought me a shuttle of my very own. She said, “This shuttle is expensive and if I buy this for you, then you have to learn to tat and not give up.” I promised her that I would.

If you’ve read my blog for a while now, you might recall my story of how I would take the shuttle with me to the barn to watch her milk cows and work on my tatting. Going through her things after she passed away, we came across an old tin that had tatting thread, pieces of work, and a shuttle or two in it. Some of this thread and tatted pieces were so dirty, I’m thinking that she must have saved my earliest pieces and these must be the ones I did!

It seems that she loved doing the tatting more than any other type of handwork. As she got older and arthritis came to visit her fingers, she had to advance to a larger shuttle and bigger thread.

My sis and I got her interested in putting her tatting in the local fair to see if she could win ribbons. And she sure did! Not just blue ribbons, but Champion ribbons as well! She sold several of her big doilies for over a hundred dollars each. She tatted up until a year or so of her death.

This project is one that I’ve been putting together and working on for several years. It’s finally finished and is now hanging in my new sewing room. It’s a tribute to my Aunt Leona — my “other mom”.

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One Response to “My Aunt Leona”

  1. Seven of 28 « Hearts-n-Crafts Says:

    […] told the story before how my aunt taught me to tat when I was a very young girl. Tatting takes probably the least […]

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