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Sunday, April 19, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015 Edition - Week #16:100 years and Counting

My Aunties: Ethel Becton Artis and Leona Reed Becton

This week’s theme is based on those relatives who lived a long life aka Centenarians. Well I am happy to say that I had two female relatives who were Centenarians. In addition to living to the ripe old age of 102; they were both my father’s aunts: Ethel Artis and Leona Becton.  Something else they had in common was that they were the first born in their families and they outlived their siblings. A lot of times, it’s the youngest child who outlives everyone else in their families but these two ladies defy the odds.

Ethel Pearl Becton Artis
While these weekly posts are supposed to be dedicated to one ancestor, I could not see myself not including Aunt Ethel. Aunt Ethel was born in 1892 and she was my paternal grandmother’s (Minnie Becton Powell Coley) oldest sister who happened to be the first born of William and Phoebe Taylor Becton’s nine children.  Aunt Ethel married June Scott Artis in 1912; they had 3 children Amanda, James and Edgar Artis when she died she had 15 grandchildren, 36 great-grandchildren and 15 great-great-grandchildren. Aunt Ethel lived all her life in North Carolina until she passed in 1994.  

Leona Becton
Leona Reed Becton married Ethel’s brother, George Becton (April 25, 1910 – August 8, 1987) on November 18, 1945; their union lasted 42 years.  Aunt Leona was born on July 30, 1908 in Marion County, South Carolina to Session and Mary Johnson Reed. She had two brothers, McKinley and Allen, and one sister, Liza Reed Dickson. 

Aunt Leona was the only one of her siblings who had children and to this day no one knows what became of her son James Ward whom she had by her first husband. There were two stories that I heard about James. The first was that he visited his mother in the late 1960s but no one knows what happened and why he never returned.  Another story was told by Aunt Leona to her caretaker, Ann. Ann asked her why she never had children and she told Ann; “I had a son and his name was James.” She said that when she moved to Washington that she left James in South Carolina with her sister but her sister could not “handle” James; so James came to live with Aunt Leona and Uncle George.  One day James told Aunt Leona that he was going out to meet some friends but he never returned home.  I believe that James suffered a terrible fate or he would had contacted his mother.

When Aunt Leona turned 100 her health began to decline.  Her last years were spent in a nursing facility where almost every weekend my mom and I would visit her.  Aunt Leona never wanted us to leave however, we always told her that we would return. Sadly, she always told us that “you just got here.” Once when she was hospitalized, she told me that she “Loved Her Bectons.” I told her that “we loved her too.” She died 8 days before her 103rd birthday; it was the date that she was buried on.

I believe that nobody wants to die but most of us don’t want to be the last to go. When you’re the last of your family or your generation or your friends, your lonely and that’s how I felt with Aunt Leona. She once mention that she did not know why she lived so long.  

Aunt Leona in 2010

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

52 Ancestors Week 14: My Favorite Photo - Courtesy of Classie Virginia Pate Fuller

Classie Virginina Pate Fuller
Do not use photo without my expressed permission.

This is my latest post for the 2015 edition of the 52 Ancestors Blogging Challenge. If you’re not familiar with Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge, check out her Blog at “No Story to Small.”
Like last year, the blogging challenge was about dedicating a post each week to a specific ancestor but a twist has been added to this year’s challenge: themes.  The theme for this week is “favorite photo” and my favorite photo is a picture of my maternal grandmother, Classie Virginia Pate Fuller (8/21/1901-9/2/1969).  

My grandmother was born to John (1843-1903) and Sarah McCall Pate (1872-1909) in North Carolina. She was the youngest of 12 children.  She lived all her life in Wayne County, North Carolina. On November 16, 1920, she married Leslie Fuller and in 1925 she gave birth to her only child. Mafull (the name she was called by her grandchildren) departed this life in 1969.
Two thoughts comes to mind when I look at this picture. First, I always thought that this picture was taken when she was a teenager but her family doesn’t know what year it was taken or how old she was, nor do we know where it was taken or for what event. What I do know is that Mafull had this serious expression, in fact, an 8 ½ x 10 copy of this photo is kept in my mom’s bedroom and when my little nieces look at the photo; they say “she looks mean.” I told them that she looks serious!  
Because she was not smiling, the second thing that comes to mind is that Mafull was sad or lonely. I believe that this picture was taken after her mother died.  Mafull lost her parents at a very young age. Her father died when she was 3 or 4 and her mother died when she was 9 or 10. Unfortunately, North Carolina did not begin recording death certificates until 1913 so there is no record of when her parents died. I just know when her mother died; she went to live with her brother, Roscoe and his wife.
Someone once told me that people back then didn’t like taking pictures because the camera might take away their soul. Maybe someone told Mafull this same story and she was afraid to smile. But perhaps someone told her that she had to take a picture and because she was young and obedient; she took this unemotional picture.
But the most interesting aspect of this photo is her beauty. Okay, I will admit that I’m biased and she is my grandmother but to me; she is pretty in this picture.  Her complexion appears fair but my family said that she was “reddish” looking. Seriously, I don’t know what that means except that her complexion wasn’t real light nor real dark. My mom, her only child, inherited her tiny noise and her small lips; however no one in the family inherited her green eyes. In the picture, you can’t tell that the color of her eyes are green or as my brothers say they were hazel (sometimes light brown and sometimes green). My brothers once said that Mafull’s eyes would light up the room at night.  Recently we reconnected with a long lost cousin who said that MaFull had the prettiest blue eyes. But if you ask my mom, she will argue that her “momma had grey eyes.”
Mafull once told my mom that she, Mafull, look like her mother, Sarah who was biracial; it’s possible that Sarah passed her eye color to her daughter. Sarah’s father was from County Clare Ireland so I can only assumed that is how Mafull inherited her beautiful eyes.
Her clothing tells me that perhaps its fall or wintertime when she posed for this picture. The black overcoat and white cap that’s pull down her head gives me the impression that it was cold and almost all of her hair is neatly tuck in the cap, except for the wisp of a bang which is why I also think that she’s a preteen in this picture. Mafull appears so innocent.
Recently, I was looking through a family album and I found 4 faded “tintype” photos. Included in this set of photos is another picture of Mafull but younger. In the “tintype”, Mafull is similarly dressed like the picture above. She’s wearing a gray color coat, a white cap and that same sad expression on her face however, this time she’s sitting down in a chair surrounded by 3 shadowy figures who appears to be females. Currently the photo is being restored.  Oh, how I wish these pictures were taken in color!
Well, my favorite picture sits on my mom’s dresser. I guess that’s a cool thing to see when you wake up in the morning; is your mother looking at you.  It’s funny how time changes our perceptions. I don’t know about my mom but when I was growing up; I had celebrities (Prince, R&B music group Switch and NY Yankees baseball legend Reggie Jackson) on my bedroom wall and they were who I wanted to see when I went to sleep and when I woke up in the morning.  But now that I’m older, I don’t mind seeing pictures of Mafull and other departed loves ones who I miss when I wake up in the morning.

Pictures of Mafull through the years.