I come from a long line of formidable women, ladies with hearts of gold and spines of steel. Some of my ancestors—many generations back—were not only influential with their families but also commanded societal respect. Leaders and visionaries, these women were forged of a “stronger stuff” than many females of their eras.
More recent female family members have also possessed this deep strength tempered by an infinite grace. Although their actions and decisions affected fewer people than some of our forebearers, their example and perspectives have greatly impacted and influenced me. Despite the fact that a decade or more has passed since these inspirational women have died, they still guide me. Not even death can diminish their presence.
The first of these phenomenal women was my great-grandmother, Leona Lucinda (Thomas) Taylor. My love for lineage was learned at her knee. A keeper of hearth and home, Great-Grandma Taylor was a culinary creator and a gardening guru. Her home always smelled like cinnamon, and her gardens were enchanted. The hours spent at my great-grandma’s house seem to pass too quickly, and I would eagerly anticipate the next Sunday visit, when I would savor snickerdoodles and forage amongst the flowers for fairies.
Another matriarch of our family who significantly impacted me was another great-grandmother, Myrtle (Marriner) Cole Marcheret. She was the daughter of Hannah (Layton) Marriner James (whom I never had the privilege to meet). Hannah raised her four girls to live their lives with grace and grit. These women embraced life wholeheartedly, extracting joy and meaning from every moment.
Hannah’s eldest daughter, Thelma (Marriner) Darby, was the family historian. Thankfully, she valued every photo and every document, filing these bits of family history in boxes and bins—a genealogical pack rat. Without her diligence, I would never have been able to trace my maternal line back so many generations.
Hannah’s second daughter, Gertrude (Marriner) McCollum Chappelle, was only a face in a photo for me, as she and her family lived in California. Although I heard many stories about her, my memories of her are vicarious. She is remembered by others as a joyful, giving woman.
Hannah’s youngest daughter, Belva Marriner, was an absolute hoot: a “live life like you mean it” type of gal. She always had a quirky smile and a slightly skewed perspective on life. She made everyone happier just being around her.
My great-grandmother, Myrtle, Hannah’s third-born child, was humorous and humble. She taught me to dance without music and to laugh at myself. My great-grandmother raised three amazing daughters. Again, that indelible spirit was passed down through the generations to these three distinguished ladies… exceptional women all.
Myrtle’s middle daughter, Florence Jean (Cole) Watts Brown, was my grandmother. She had a wicked wit, endless enthusiasm, and constant compassion. Despite heartbreak and hardships, she endured and flourished, raising her four children with love and laughter. I would like to think that my grandmother passed onto me just a bit of her vivacious spirit, although I am certain her sense of style completely bypassed me. A woman who loved her bling, slings, bingo, Seabreezes, and Miami Dolphins, I hear her humor in my children’s voices and see her sparkle in their eyes.
To these women, I say, “Thank you.” May my choices and actions do you credit and bring only honor to your memories. I love you all!
…Now you understandJust why my head’s not bowed.I don’t shout or jump aboutOr have to talk real loud.When you see me passing,It ought to make you proud…’Cause I’m a womanPhenomenally.Phenomenal woman,That’s me.