It’s funny the things that can trigger a memory. This week shopping for sweet potatoes to prepare for Thanksgiving dinner I couldn’t help but think of an incredible lady who passed away earlier this year. Patsy was a great friend of my mom’s and her family owned a sweet potato packing plant. She used to give us each a huge crate of sweet potatoes every year before Thanksgiving. I always had to give at least half of them away because as many sweet potato casseroles and pies as I could make, it was never enough to deplete the reserve.
Patsy was a tall beautiful woman with an olive complexion and dark hair. She bore some resemblance to North Carolina native Ava Gardner, to whom she was related. Her kids went to school with me and my sister and brother so we spent many years attending school functions together at our small Christian school. I have memories of us traveling to and from “away” basketball and football games that I will never forget.
Patsy lived in a huge house in an exclusive neighborhood, but you would never have known it. She was as southern down-to-earth as you could get and an unbelievably hard worker. When I got married, she helped my mom for weeks ahead of time preparing and freezing food for the wedding reception to save the huge expense of catering. The food was beautiful and delicious and those who were told it was all prepared by family and friends were shocked to learn it was not done by an expensive caterer. That was just one of those times I was convinced that my mom was right when she said that Patsy could do anything.
Patsy was a trusted friend to my mom and helped her through two battles with cancer and later through a divorce. Patsy’s reaction to any problem was always to roll up her sleeves and do something to solve it, and she was one of the hardest working people I have ever seen.
I am a Republican, and Patsy was a Democrat, although a very conservative one. In fact, I can’t imagine any issue that I could be found any farther to the right on than Patsy would have been, knowing her like I did. I have no doubt, though, that she always voted the Democrat ticket. I guess she could be described as a “Zell Miller Democrat.”
I remember her holding at least one fundraiser at her home for North Carolina’s popular four term Governor Jim Hunt, a Democrat, who was related to her husband. When she died, Governor and Mrs. Hunt were at the funeral home, at the end of the very long line, to pay their respects. I spoke to them briefly about what a great woman Patsy was, and how horrible it was that she had been taken by the same disease that had killed her mother.