Feature Story: ‘Grandma would let me do it’

Writer’s Note: March is Women’s History Month in the United States. It is a time to celebrate women’s contributions in American history. Through this month, The Murphy Gazette will be interviewing women and men in east Texas and central Georgia to talk about the women who most influenced their “personal histories.”

WINSTON SALEM, NORTH CAROLINA: Bessie Lee Smith Madison was a wife, a mother of two – James and Bertie Mae, grandmother of three girls, great-grandmother of eight and great-great grandmother of more than a baker’s dozen.

She loved her community in North Carolina, and enjoyed being a housewife. Her oldest granddaughter, Donna Geraldine (Gerry) Madison Holland, now of Cochran, Georgia, remembers learning how to cook from Bessie. “I learned how to cook from her. Unlike others, Grandma Madison would let me do it.”

Gerry, age 84, sifted through old photographs from her late mother’s albums. When asked what woman influenced her the most, she said, “Besides my mom, most certainly, I would say my grandma.”

“I admired her for everything about her … she had such a servant heart,” Gerry said. “Whenever there was someone in need … if one of her friends or neighbors had something going on where they might need food or clothes or just anything, Grandma knew about it, and she would see to helping them.”

Bessie Madison was not a “dainty woman … she was average build and had auburn hair. She was independent, yet very nurturing.”

One of her favorite memories of her grandmother was Bessie’s love of the word of God. “She kept her Bible in the bathroom on the tank, and she read it all the time. It was her passion,” Gerry said.

“Grandma encouraged me to read the Bible,” she stated.

Gerry has been married for 66 years and seven months to James Holland, age 86. They are the parents of four – three biological and one by choice. Three of whom are daughters – one – the daughter by choice- passed away in 2017 due to cancer. They have five grandchildren, and care deeply for their daughter by choice’s two daughters and four grandchildren.

When asked what advice she would give to her daughters and granddaughters, Gerry said, “Be kind to everyone. Don’t pick people to be kind too.”


Author: rlhwrites

Curator of prose and such.

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