Thursday, April 21, 2011


There was never a more entertaining guest or table partner than Joan. Joan could hold an audience captive with her many stories about life in the mountains. Her voice was soft and the cadence of her voice slow. You had to listen well, but it was always so worth it.

Joan arrived many years before to work with children and in the homecare ministries of Red Bird Mission. One of her beloved patients was Tildy, a sturdy mountain woman married many years to Sy. When Tildy died, Sy turned his eye toward Joan and the two surprised everybody by marrying some while later. Joan was 50 and it was her first marriage. By the time we arrived at Red Bird, Sy had died and Joan was learning to live alone again, but missing dreadfully the love of her life.

Joan had travelled many of the back roads caring for patients. Her goodness was legend. She never feared bad roads or people. She knew how to protect herself, and you just knew that she knew. She stayed at home protecting her household when forest fires raged through her part of the mountains. She handled sick, drugged, and dependent folks with ease. I think she wasn’t afraid of anything or anybody. Snakes? A whack with a machete takes care of them. Problems unsolvable? Prayer takes care of them. Hungry? Her garden was prolific and her fried apples the best you’ve ever eaten.

When I came home to fresh vegetables on the porch, I never had to ask where they came from. It was always Joan. Although declining health has taken her out of the mountains, she remains for me a friend and icon of stalwart faith and strength. A real mountain woman.

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