In 1958 when my son had started his freshman year at Duke University (after graduating from Castle Heights Military Academy here in Lebanon) my father-in-law Lewis Walker died. I was the administrator of his estate and I purchased the small insurance agency he had run in conjunction with his law practice. I thought I could just run it out of the garage, but I found out differently. I began buying small agencies with a total of 5 or 6. Later I sold Bill Regen a half-interest in the business. After that we consolidated with the Lawlor Agency operated by George Bradford. After four or five years we bought out Bill Regen. George and I sold out to John Majors and a group. I bought back in with the group. We incorporated and sold the agency again. At that time I retired.
While I was still in the insurance business, Alvin (Snooks) Hall and I bought ten lots in a new subdivision in the western part of town. We built five houses and sold the other five lots. We built a house down on Highway 70 and another out on Highway 231.
Bob and I went into the real estate business. We built some houses, bought some property, traded and sold. When Bob died I only had an affiliate broker’s license so I quit advertising, but I bought several pieces of property and traded in real estate as long as I was able.
Lebanon and Mt. Juliet Banks
In March of 1951 twelve of us bought the Lebanon Bank from O.W. Stephens. In 1951 the total deposits in Wilson County were 12.5 million dollars; today (1998) the estimated total is 800 million dollars in deposits! The twelve of us buying were Fred Maggart, Fred Adams, Frank McDaniel, Theo Floyd, Paul Smith, Bob Van Hoosier, Jim Horn Hankins, Kenneth Lester, Sr., Bob Padgett, Elmer Woolard, Ernest Cooksey, Comer Donnell. We bought Ernest Cooksey out a short time after that. We operated very successfully until we sold it to First Tennessee in 1987. During my time we built six buildings: Watertown, Mt. Juliet, the Lebanon Square (tore down the existing building and built there on the South end of the Square), three buildings on West Main -one on the site of the Law Barn,one across from the shopping center where Dick’s Market is located, and one on the present site of Wendy’s in the shopping center with K-Mart .Later the bank would expand and locate its main building out further on West Main, past the by-pass.
I served on the Board of the First Tennessee Bank for one year, but their policy was to retire everyone over 65 -50 . Theo Floyd and I had to retire. Lebanon Bank gave me a watch and a clock for 38 years of service, but adding my First Tennessee time I served 39!
In 1958 we bought Mt. Juliet Bank. The Board was composed of Charlie Moss, Horace McMenaway, Herman Agee, Floyd Smartt, Bob Bass, Ernest Sutherland, and Comer Donnell. We bought a lot and built a new bank building and operated very successfully, too. We sold it in 1978 to a group from Knoxville and Kentucky. I got worried about my notes and put some pressure on them to pay it off, and they did. One of the buyers was a professor from UT. I served twenty years on that board.
First United Methodist Church
After we moved to town in 1928 when I was a senior in high school, I transferred my membership from Union Church to First Methodist Church then (1928). In 1934 I was elected to the Official Board. Later I would become chairman of the Board, chairman of the Parish Committee, Finance Committee, and remain on and off the Board until the present. In 1954 we bought the property next door and voted to build the Sunday School rooms. I was then chairman of the Finance Committee, composed of Fred Maggart, Al Partee, John Freeman, Dr. Chili Lowe. It cost $104,000. We put on a financial drive and paid for this building within 3 years time. The Building Committee was Bob Donnell, chairman, Jimmy Draper, Bud Phelan.
A few years later we began making plans for remodeling and adding some needed improvements. The problem was not enough parking space. One rainy afternoon after a bank meeting I got to talking to Jim Horn Hankins. I asked him what he’d take for the garage building next to the church. He said $125 per frontage foot (on East Main). I asked him what he’d give for the church building and he said the same thing, which would total $175,000 for the church building. Later Charlie Baird and I would try to get that figure up some, but we never did! Jim Horn would agree to let us stay in the church building for a year’s free use and he would pay $75,000 down and give a note for the rest to be paid interest free.
After that Charlie and I got the idea of moving to West Main and buying the Mort Harkey property. After getting some estimates for building (we’d already got estimates for the repairs at the old building), we found we could move to West Main, build a new church and still not owe any more than we would if we stayed in the old building with its parking problems still unsolved.
We contracted with Mort Harkey to buy his house for $35,000. In the mean time we’d had bids to build the new church. The contract was given to Dick Hunt. We also contracted to move the parsonage to face on Hill Street.The house had been on West Main between the Coffee house and the Harkey house. It had been in use for many years as the parsonage. The Mooneyhans owned a lot adjoining the new church property facing on Hill Street. He was living in Washington and I called him to give us a price on that lot, which he did – $4500. This would give us parking space and an exit on Hammond and on Hill Street. The Board was meeting that night and I told them we could buy it for $4500 and they voted to buy. We finalized the deal in about ten days. A Week after that Mr. Mooneyhan died.
The Building Committee was Charles Baird, chairman, Fred Maggart, Melville Freeman, K.I.Todd, Comer Donnell.
The building was complete and dedicated in 1966 to the best of my recollection.
I was on the board of McKendree Manor when it was being built. I received a ten-year service pin. I served on the Admissions Committee as chairman for three years. In 1976 1 put in an application for Mattie and me to live there. It’s still in there in effect! Her good friend from childhood, Virginia Golladay, does live there and even found a husband there.
I served on the conference board for many years – I still am; however, my job hasn’t been doing anything the last couple of years. I served on the conference Church Location Committee for many years and on other conference committees.
On October 9, 1957, “The Midweek Call to Worship” from the then-named First Methodist Church began with this column:
PERSONALITY OF THE WEEK
The honoree for our word of appreciation this week is one who was suggested by a large number of you. He has been an active member of this church since his youth and during those years has been active in every phase of the church life. The church has honored him by election to many positions of leadership. He has been a member of the Board for many years; has been a trustee, lay delegate to Annual Conference, and chairman of the Board. He is now a trustee and a District Steward. When the building program was launched over four years ago he was appointed chairman of the Finance Committee, a position in which he has given much time and energy and one he will continue to hold until our building debt is wiped out.
In the positions he has held and in the committees on which he has served the man we honor this week has demonstrated the kind of Christian devotion that has endeared him to all with whom he has worked. He continues to be a strong force in the church and gives his best to whatever task he is given. His loyalty to the church and to the Christian Faith is strong. He rarely misses a service of any kind and the church is better able to do its duty by his friendly spirit and reverent attitude. This week we are happy to salute Comer Donnell and to express to him our appreciation for what he means to our church and community.
In recent years I have volunteered for visiting and for answering the phone. The Reverend Gerald Noffsinger is currently pastor. I can’t express how much all his and his wife Helen’s kindness and attention mean to me. He has helped me almost daily these last few years. He carries me to Rotary and we often go visiting together.
At this time of writing Gerald has been here for six years. He can be credited with the building of our Family Life Center and with the increase in the congregation with many more young families in regular attendance. He has carried the work of the church into the community through such activities as Leadership Wilson and Rotary. Every Sunday his nice wife Helen stops by my pew to give me a hug. She’s always been kind about taking care of me at church events – seeing that I have a seat, getting my plate for me. She’s careful to see me and speak to me every Sunday. I will miss them very much when they leave Lebanon, and my love and prayers will go with them.
I love my church and enjoy working with all the staff; Flora Caplenor, Linda Halbert, Patty Caldwell, Alex Jackson, and Charlotte Hurd are more than friends to me. They have done so much for our church and have been an encouragement to me many times. All the people in the congregation and on the staff have certainly been wonderful to me.
Chamber of Commerce
I joined the Chamber of Commerce when I started in business here in 1934. I served on the Board off and on several times. I was elected President in 1970. Before that I was given a Certificate of Award for “Promoting the American Free Enterprise System as Chairman of the Economic Education Committee and Lebanon’s First Annual Business-Education Day.” I was awarded Lifetime Membership #9 in January of 1988.
One of our projects was to buy the Christmas decorations for Lebanon streets. We did this and the city put up the first such decorations. We also did a survey and laid some groundwork for obtaining a vocational school. Doug Thurley did the survey.
The Rotary Club
I joined Rotary in 1944. I was elected President for 1946-47. I knew very little about Rotary at that time and I contacted a friend of mine, Dick Lowery in Nashville and he helped me very much. The president before me was Will D. Young. He had been responsible for all the programs. I agreed to become President if we would change this to each member’s being responsible for a program, as indicated by a program chairman who would coordinate this. That is how it’s still being done. There’s only one other person who joined the year I did and that’s Dr. Sidney Berry. He and I together have over 100 years of Rotary attendance. There’s only one member who can beat the two of us – Sam Bone joined in 1926.
Bill Regen, Winstead Bone, George Bradford. and I played a lot of golf together. One Rotary Club lunchmeeting Winstead called the club from Florida. What I remember about this call is he said,” Comer Donnell is the only person e knew that I am able to beat playing golf.” He announced it to the whole club. I kept it to myself that he always refused to hit on the long tee on the fourth hole, second round, the way you’re supposed to! The four of us played together a long time, though I can’t say I ever got really good, but I enjoyed playing. Later I would play with Homer Bagley, Tate Hutton, George Bradford, and that, too, was a source of pleasure for me. I enjoyed playing golf very much and would like to have continued longer than I could. I did play after I broke my hip, and after my golf clubs were stolen. We let Charlie Baird play with us sometimes. My brother Bob enjoyed golf, too. He helped lay out the course at Lebanon Golf and Country Club.
In the spring of 1996 I became a Paul Harris Fellow, Rotary’s highest accolade.
Emergency 911 Board Member
In 1988 the Wilson County Commissioners voted to install the Wilson County Emergency Communication District (B 911 Board). Appointed to this Board were Homer T. Bagley (elected chairman), W.J. (Mac) McCluskey (vice-chairman), Robert L. Martin (Secretary-Treasurer), Dale Leeman, Mahlon Cantrell, Comer A. Donnell, Carter Purnell, Doug Carpenter, A. C. Wharton and Comer L. Donnell as Attorney. We were given the rules and regulations for installing this system and the responsibililty for carrying them out. I was chairman of the User and Mapping committee which would assign a number to every piece of property in Wilson County. That would include Lebanon, Watertown, and Mt. Juliet. We hired two people to assist us in this. The board was responsible for buying the necessary equipment and for locating an office. The office was located in the old Methodist Church Building on East Main. Homer Bagley died in 1989 and Mac McCLuskey was elected Chairman. Carter Purnell became Vice-Chairman. Ken Davis was appointed to fill the vacancy. Doing this job took about three years. It became very effective once in operation, receiving details of accidents and calamities, including my own accident on Christmas Day of 1990 when I fell down my son’s front steps and broke my hip. I remained on the Board until 1993.
Some of My Travels
Looking back over my family through the years some experiences stand out. In the winter of 1933 Mattie and I and Mr. and Mrs. Walker, Robbie and Grissim went to Sarasota, Florida, travelling in Mr. Walker’s Essex. If you got up to or over 55, the car would burn a rod. We had to stop on the way down to take care of this. That and a heavy fog meant we arrived very late. We were visiting the Nathan Robertsons and the John Fite Robertsons. John Fite was then the mayor of Sarasota; the Nathan Robertsons lived downtown on Orange Street. They showed us a fine time, including an oyster bake on the beach, John Fite fed Grissim so many oysters that Grissim never wanted to eat them again! We set out for home on a Saturday and burned another rod. On Sunday morning in Jasper we found a mechanic who rebabbited the rod – this took all morning and on into the day. The trip home involved going up and around the mountain in Chattanooga so with all this delay we made it to Lebanon just in time for Mattie to get to school to teach!
World’s Fair, Chicago, IL
In the summer of 1934 Mr. and Mrs. Walker and Mattie and I went to the World’s Fair in Chicago, staying in a nice apartment not far from the Fair. The World Building and Sally Rand, a fan dancer, were the most famous attractions of the Fair. Meeting some friends from Nashville, we enjoyed seeing the Fair together. This was the first time I ever saw a robot.
New York, New York
In the summer of 1935 Mattie and I were all set to take a vacation. We were all packed, but we were not sure where we wanted to go. That evening I was downtown and I ran into Howard Edgerton. He said, “Meet us at Pier 34 on Thursday morning in New York.” He gave a time, and I said it was okay by me, but I’d need to ask Mattie. It was okay by her so off we went. There we took a boat trip over to Boston and spent the night. We came back the following night. We spent a day or two in New York; we left New York and drove to Marlborough to visit some of Mattie’s kin, including Edna Earle Key who had lived with the Walkers when she went to Cumberland. She is a sister to Anne Smith (Mrs. Miles Smith). We enjoyed our visit. We started out for Niagara Falls, stopping to spend the night in a bed and breakfast. It was a beautiful house, full of antique furniture. Mattie began to talk to the lady and she said she had more antiques out in the house in the back. Mattie admired several pieces which were for sale. Mattie said she’d write the lady back and let her know about them. Later Mattie got in touch with her and bought the sofa and the what-not, a love seat and some other pieces of furniture for Evelyn Vaughan. These people were very nice; they boxed the furniture in heavy oak. The crating weighed more than the furniture! We left there, went to Niagara Falls and over into Canada for one or two days – then back by Cleveland, Ohio, to show Mattie the restaurant I worked in! Then we came home – a wonderful trip.
In 1942 Mattie and I took a train trip to Detroit to pick up a new Plymouth sedan; it was just before Christmas and we came back by Pittsburgh to visit one of Mattie’s friends, Josephine Harris, for a few days and then on home. Driving over to Pittsburgh through all the towns, especially Hersey, Pennsylvania, we enjoyed the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations.
New York Theatre Flight
Mattie and I went on “The Nashville Tennessean New York Theatre Flight” on April 2-6, 1968. We stayed in the Taft Hotel and saw Plaza Suite, (with George C. Scott and Maureen Stapleton), Hello, Dolly! (with Pearl Bailey and Cab Callaway), The Happy Time, and There’s A Girl In My Soup (with Gig Young and Rita Gam), as well as The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie. We saw Red Buttons, had a picture made with Gig Young, and met the mayor of New York, John Lindsey, in front of Radio City Music Hall. We didn’t believe him, but we saw his picture in the paper later and realized that it was actually the mayor! We were there to see Easter at Radio City Music Hall which featured Walter Brennan, Buddy Ebsen, John Davidson, Lesley Ann Warren, Janet Blair, and Wally Cox. Also on the trip from Lebanon (100 people total) was Mrs. Frank Baddour. We enjoyed the company of Sarah Fite’s sister, Mrs. H. Farrell Shipp, and her friend, Dora Cooper.
In the mid seventies we enjoyed a cruise to the Bahamas with Grissim and Mary Walker, N.B.and Robbie Dozier, and Jimmy and Louise Grissim. The ship left from Miami and we drove down. We sailed on the S.S.Emerald Seas. We rented a limousine to drive us around and the driver had just been to Indiana for a church meeting. He had gotten to know Grady Lou Winters and her husband David. Grady Lou had helped us for years, assisting Mattie many times in family dinners. My grandsons remember fondly Grady Lou’s good homemade rolls.
We told the limousine driver the occupations of the four men and asked him if he could pick out the lawyer. He selected Grissim Walker with no problem!
Mattie and I used to go pretty regularly to the Kentucky Derby. Sometimes we’d stay at a hotel in Elizabethtown, Evelyn and Gwynn Vaugan and Mattie and I. We’d go to the Derby the next day and drive home afterwards. There was a fellow who travelled by the name of Sinclair and for four or five years he’d write the name of the winner (or second place) on a calendar on the wall of the garage. We’d bet on his predictions and we came out pretty well!
On a trip to Rocky Mount to visit Robbie and N.B. we stopped at Duke University Stadium on the way home. Comer Lewis was ten or twelve, and he and I got out of the car and threw a few passes on stadium grass. He says that’s why he went to Duke a few years later.
In 1952 (we were driving a green 1952 Chrysler) we went to Curie Beach at Nags Head. As we drove in we saw “Welcome Donnells” written on plates, hanging on the clothesline. N.B.’s brother Johnny and his family as well as Robbie and N.B. and their family were all there. We played bridge and fished – but not deepsea fishing. We had planned to do that, but when we saw the boat – an old torn up shell of a boat – we changed our minds!
A bunch of us here in Lebanon had season tickets in the end zones for Vanderbilt. They were playing a little better than they do now. The Bones, the Meadors, the Vaughans, and others went.
A short and funny trip to Nashville involved Comer Lewis. Sometime in the early fifties I took him to Nashville. We were planning to catch a bus to go to Frazer Motor Company, and Sam Gilreath and Neal McClain came along and gave us a ride. They left us down at First Avenue as I directed, thinking we’d catch a cab up Broadway. I reached in my pocket and discovered I had not brought my billfold, so we had to walk. We drove a new car back, after the folks at the motor company were kind enough to cash a check for me!
North Carolina Mountains
For many summers we enjoyed a vacation in the North Carolina Mountains with the Dozier family and the Walker family. We would turn at Ghosttown, go to the back of the parking lot to the left and take the road up the mountain to Lost Ridge. There we might wake up some morning in the clouds! We would go hiking, berry picking, and just have fun together. We would rent the Robertson’s home. There are only about five homes up there. Later the Walkers bought a cabin in Balsam and we would go there to stay. We also went to Florida every winter to visit the Walkers and the Robertsons as long as Mattie was able to go.
In 1966 we carried Mrs. Walker up to visit the Doziers in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. We went on to visit Josephine Harris in Pittsburgh. When we arrived at her home we had a call from Robbie that Mrs. Walker had fallen and had a stroke. We only spent one night in Pittsburgh and left the next morning to go back to Rocky Mount. Mrs. Walker was seriously ill and we had nurses with her around the clock. After a few days Mattie stayed with Robbie and I came back to Lebanon. After a week or ten days Mrs. Walker got somewhat better; I drove back up there. We hired an ambulance to bring her back to Lebanon. We would drive back along with the ambulance. The nurses, Mrs. Bradley and another lady, said they would ride with Mrs. Walker in the ambulance to Lebanon if I would carry them to see the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. We made the trip home fine, and I carried the ambulance driver and the two nurses to the Opry. We didn’t have tickets; however, I knew the man on the door, a Mr. Davis, and he let them in free. They had a big time and the next day returned home. On the way home they decided to go through Gatlinburg. The traffic was heavy; one of the nurses got on the cot, the other one covered her up, and they turned the siren on. They made right good time through Gatlinburg and returned to Rocky Mount safely.
Comer Lewis and His Family
My son Comer Lewis graduated with honors from Castle Heights Military Academy in 1958. While he was in college one summer he went out West with Charlie Teasley, Jimmy Smith, Bill Rose. The mothers back home shared the few letters that came back and spent time together in tears over what might be happening. The boys were involved in many jobs including fighting forest fires, waiting tables, working in the kitchen, building fences, driving trucks hauling beans for Green Giant. They saw a lot of the West sometimes by freight train. That same summer Martha went to Dallas with a friend and we went out to get her, visiting Norman and Katharine Beard, who originally lived here in Lebanon. Norman was raised right down at the corner here of Greenlawn and West Main.
Comer Lewis graduated from Duke University in 1962. While he was there he joined Kappa Sigma fraternity and quit using the “Lewis” in his name. He finished Vanderbilt University School of Law in January 1965, right after he married Anne Evans of Florence, Alabama, on December 21, 1964. I was best man at the wedding and Martha was Maid of Honor. They met at Vanderbilt where she was getting a master’s degree. She would teach school for many years and he would practice law here in Lebanon, except for a few years in the seventies when he worked for the Tennessee State Department of Revenue in Petroleum Tax. He was Director for the state, and at one time was elected governor of the thirteen state Gasoline Tax Conference. His family joked he was governor of thirteen states. He was Lebanon City Attorney, Watertown City Attorney, Wilson County Attorney, and the first Public Defender for the Fifteenth Judicial District (five counties). He was appointed in 1989 and still serves, and is currently the state president of the Public Defender Conference. He’s also in Rotary. He loves golf and watching baseball, football, and basketball. His wife has talked him into a house full of dogs and cats. He’s a deacon at College Street Church of Christ and that reminds me that when he was born (down the street from the church building at Martha Gaston Hospital) there was a service and it seemed like the whole congregation came down to see him!
Anne is a watercolor artist and has been in several Lebanon women’s clubs through the years. Now she’s a volunteer at Mariner and Hearthside, leading a Bible study. She taught school for over twenty years at Cumberland, Lebanon Junior High School, Lebanon High School, and Friendship Christian. Their two children (Edward Evans, born August 21, 1966, and John Comer, born July 14, 1968) live in Nashville, but get here frequently.
Evans graduated from Friendship Christian in 1984 and went to the University of Tennessee. His freshman year was marred by the death of his beloved “Gigi,” the name he gave Mattie. She died Easter Sunday (April 7), 1985. Evans’ blood runs orange. A talented journalist, he worked in Bowling Green on the staff of the paper. He met his wife Ann Stathos and they married in a beautiful Birmingham wedding on Labor Day weekend (September 4, 1994). They bought a house right by the Vanderbilt campus.
Jack graduated from Lebanon High School in 1986; he was an officer in the student council and played football until he hurt his knee and had surgery. He went to the University of Tennessee, and still enjoys his roommates from then. Jack graduated in 1991 from UT and went to work at Cumberland Mental Health here in Lebanon. He loves computers and now works in Nashville as a computer tech.
Martha Marie and Her Family
Martha attended McClain School and then Lebanon High School, graduating in 1963. She attended George Peabody College, served as president of her sorority, was in several beauty contests, and graduated from there in 1967. She and some friends from Peabody have kept in touch through the years. Nancy Ingram of Pulaski is now part of the family.
One of Martha’s high school boy friends was a Wooden boy and one night when they had been standing by the front door longer than Mattie thought necessary, Mattie called for Martha to come in. The boyfriend, in a slow drawl, said, “It must be nice to be wanted.” We didn’t let her forget that.
The church youth group was having a cook-out at the Sportsmen’s Club; I was helping with the cooking. Martha was very late – she and her date were lost.
For Martha’s sixteenth birthday we had a party at the Country Club. Randy Johnson and Jamie Crutcher I remember were wonderful dancers and really put on a show; all of the guests had a big time dancing.
Martha remembers the Wilson County Fair Car Show. I would help her practice driving. She drove a blue and white Chrysler and later another blue car. There were four girls dressed in the colors of the cars. Each girl had a corsage to match the car. The girls drove around the ring several times, parked the car, then back out around the ring and park again. The girls enjoyed this more than we did as we had to polish the car and get it ready. I could get mine done at the garage.
I have to tell about one family trip although I didn’t go. Mattie, Harriet Meadors, her daughter Pet, Martha, and Comer Lewis went to Canada in a light blue Cadillac convertible. They came back through New York visiting some friends who had horses. These people came to Lebanon to visit later. At one point Pet’s behavior caused her mother to swing her arm back in the backseat, but she didn’t hit Pet. She got Comer Lewis! When a policemen stopped them about running a red light, he asked, “Didn’t you see that red light?” The driver (I think it was Harriet) said no, but one of the children said yes!
A friend of Martha’s told her she was leaving her Atlanta teaching job and would Martha be interested? She was. Martha taught school in Atlanta and would get her masters there and meet her husband.
On March 25, 1972, Martha married Thomas Anthony Timlin (Tom) and they have lived in Atlanta ever since. Tom has worked in insurance,at one time even starting his own company with some partners. Now he’s specializing in commercial insurance. He comes from Pennsylvania and he met Martha at the recreational building of the apartment complex she lived in. They have a beautiful home in the section of Atlanta known as Sandy Springs. They have three sons, two of whom are at the University of Georgia right now. Their oldest son is Michael Anthony, born October 28, 1975. Stephen Donnell was born January 12, 1979. John Thomas was born June 6, 1983. Martha returned to teaching a few years ago and teaches Language Arts in a middle school. She and Tom have done a fine job raising their boys. They have good manners and make our visits a lot of fun. I have to say I have altogether five very fine grandsons!
50th Wedding Anniversary
The summer my youngest grandson John was born was also the summer of our fiftieth wedding anniversary – 1983. The Christmas before a gift to Mattie and me was a scroll which read, “You’re invited to the Grove Park Inn, Asheville, North Carolina, August 3, 1983, for a family celebration of your fiftieth anniversary.” Needless to say, we accepted! We left Lebanon with Comer Lewis, Anne, Evans and Jack, early on the morning of August 2 and arrived within a few minutes of the car from Georgia with Martha and Tom and the boys. That afternoon we unpacked and relaxed. The next day we toured the Biltmore. Mattie was getting weaker by this time and so she toured in a wheelchair. We ate at the Biltmore Dairy and returned to Grove Park Inn. The Inn was happy to give us some attention; at dinner that night on the terrace there were complimentary flowers and wine. They announced that we had returned to celebrate our fiftieth anniversary and we received a round of applause. The Inn gave us a cake for dessert. All five grandsons were handsome and well behaved, even little baby John, not quite two months old.
Comer Lewis, Jack and I played some golf that day as well and the rest of the children went swimming. We had a grand holiday and I have a scrapbook of cards and pictures from it.
Death of Mattie Donnell
Less than two years later Mattie would pass away on Easter Sunday, April 7, 1985. Martha and Tom and the boys were here for Easter and Mattie seemed well on Saturday. Sunday morning just before breakfast she was sitting in her chair in the den and fell over, hitting her head on the wastepaper basket. Later she went to breakfast and had trouble feeding herself. I walked her back to bed. She said, “What do you think I should do?” I told her to lie down and rest and so she did.
When I checked on her minutes later she was already in a coma. I called Dick Puryear and he came over and recommended she be put in the hospital. Dick thought it wouldn’t be long. Comer Lewis and Anne were in Alabama because Alice Evans had broken her shoulder. We called them and they came right home. Dr. Snyder looked at Mattie and thought we should send her to St. Thomas Hospital. We had not been there long; they ran a test and told us what to expect. She seemed stable so Martha and I went down to get something to eat. In minutes Anne came for us because it was over. I never thought she’d go first.
We sat at St. Thomas and began sadly planning the funeral service. Jackie Partlow was the funeral director and the service was held at First United Methodist Church. We greeted friends and family at the funeral home on Monday. There were two rooms full of flowers and many, many people. I have the registry book still. I am grateful to all the people who were so kind to us.
Honorary Pallbearers were the Board of Lebanon Bank, the Administrative Board of First United Methodist Church,
Dr. T. R. Puryear, George Bradford, W.P. Bone, II, Sam Bone, Tate Hutton, Burton Wilson, Reid McKee, Dr. Stephen Snyder, Jim Harding, John Major, Gwynn Vaughan, Ken Clinard, Lynn Nokes, Donna Sloan, Tex Maddox, the Mary Circle.
Active Pall Bearers were Joe Walker, John Walker, Nathan Walker, Stratton Bone, Gordon Bone, Dr. Robert Carver Bone, Dr. Jimmy Lea, Glen Martin, Lane Martin.
Mattie’s brother Grissim Walker, his wife Mary, and their son Lewis came, as did Mattie’s sister Robbie and her husband N. B.
Choir members from different churches came to provide beautiful music. The order of worship for the funeral on April 9 included the prelude “Adagio for Strings” by Samuel Barter. Scriptures included John 11:25, Psalms 27 and 121, I Corinthians 15, and others. Hymns sung were “How Great Thou Art” and “The Lily of the Valley.” This last hymn had been a great favorite of Mattie’s father. Once when be was ill, the congregation sang it and someone called him on the phone from church so he could hear it. He was often humming it or singing snatches from it. The anthem was “The Cross” by Lovran. This was used for the John F. Kennedy Memorial in New York by the New York Philharmonic and used for Princess Grace’s Memorial by the Monaco Symphony Orchestra. The meditation was based on Revelations 14:1 – “Blessed are those that die in the Lord” and on II Corinthians 12:9, “My grace is sufficient.” The postlude was “0 God Our Help In Ages Past.”
Death of My Brothers
Mattie is buried in our family plot in Wilson County Memorial Gardens. Bob and Mary Donnell are also buried there. Howard is buried in the Jones Cemetery in Watertown after a long, terrible fight with cancer (about five years). Bob passed away in May of 1986. He left behind his wife of many years, Mary Jackson. They had met at Cumberland and raised two beautiful daughters, Mary Ann and Cindy. They gave Bob and Mary four granddaughters and a grandson.
In the summer of 1997 cancer claimed my other brother after many years of suffering. Howard left behind Grace Vaught, his wife of many years. His son Jimmy was killed in an automobile accident while he was in the service. His son Albert Howard has two children and a lovely wife Susan. His first wife Joan was killed in an automobile wreck. Howard also left a daughter Diane who lives near Marietta, Georgia. Howard and I both donated girls to that state!
In 1997 one of our favorite cousins (Mattie’s first cousin Frances Walker Martin, a close and dear friend) lost her husband of many, many years, Lillard. Lillard bad flown many missions in World War Ii and returned to raise a family of four: two girls and two boys. By coincidence his oldest daughter also lives in the Atlanta area!
In 1989 my eightieth birthday was celebrated in a huge way. All of the family on both my side and on Mattie’s who could come were there: Mary and Grissim Walker, Lewis Walker, Roy and Carolyn Bruce, John and Peter Bruce, Robbie and N.E. Dozier, Elizabeth Dozier, Lewis and Rosalyn Dozier, Mary Donnell, Aunt Mamie Comer, Howard and Grace Donnell, Albert and Susan Donnell, Tammy and Tony Donnell. The first evening we had dinner for out of town folks at Comer Lewis’s house. The next night we had dinner at the country club for everyone. Martha and Anne decorated the tables and tbe party favors were pictures of me! The next day we had a big reception at my house and many people came to wish me happy birthday.
On Christmas Day of 1990 I was visiting Comer Lewis’s house for dinner. It had been exciting because Jack had given his girlfriend an engagement ring hidden on the Christmas tree. We had all watched her get it. When I left to go home, I had no idea that I wouldn’t reach home for 29 days! It had been snowing and the steps had ice on them. I slipped on the top step and landed on the bottom step, breaking my left hip. A doctor visiting at the Leathers’ house across the street saw all this and came running. 911 sent an ambulance and I went to the hospital for surgery that evening. Two very fine orthopedic surgeons were available, Dr.Neely and Dr.Chernowitz, and the surgery seemed to go without a hitch.
The third day I was able to walk to the bathroom, but late that afternoon my stomach began hurting. The doctor came by, punched me in the stomach, and prescribed a pill. By midnight I begged a nurse to please call a doctor and she said they’d been trying to get in touch with him. I have very little memory of my hospital stay from then on other than riding up and down the elevators to the x-ray department. My trouble was that my stomach had stopped functioning. Dr. Patsy Manning finally figured all this out, calling it an ileus. I told them that when a cow got this trouble someone just punched a hole in her stomach – I knew exactly wbere! I also told a nurse weighing me after she had put an inflated figure for my weight that I wish she’d weigh any hogs I took to market. I don’t remember this next one, but someone used the word “exposed” in my hearing and I said, “Exposed! I’ll tell you what exposed means!” This was the first hospital stay of my life.
I came home only to go back for three more days. Mrs. Martha Murphy stayed with me. My most lasting problem from all this has been difficulty in getting my balance. I really appreciated all that my family and friends did for me with many visits, flowers, and gifts. Comer Lewis even shaved me in the mornings, Martha came up from Atlanta, and everyone pitched in to help me.
The Atlanta Braves
My most recent travels took me to Atlanta in June of 1997. My grandson Stephen Timlin was graduating from high school and my favorite baseball team would be in town: the Atlanta Braves! They were playing Baltimore in a cross leagues series. Much as I love the Braves, I didn’t root them to victory – they lost. My favorite thing was to see Chipper Jones in person. Comer Lewis liked him so well that his newest puppy is named Chipper Duke. Tom had done a lot of arranging so we had handicapped parking and handicapped seats that had a lot of room and were even with home plate. This time I was the one in the wheelchair, but that made it so easy to come in and go out. Jack drove me down in his truck. I enjoyed the trip very much. Martha and Tom went to a lot of trouble, even fixing us a delicious parking lot lunch before the game and a wonderful steak lunch the next day before graduation and then dinner afterwards.
I have had a very happy life with my wonderful wife Mattie, two children and five grandchildren. I have a fine son-in-law and a fine daughter-in-law and now a granddaughter-in-law! My health has been good and I’ve been lucky to be in the right place at the right time for some good business deals. I joined the church at an early age. Since that time I’ve taken an active part in church, attending regularly, serving on committees and boards, serving on conference committees, building committees, financial committees and other jobs. I’ve known some mighty fine people and pastors, especially Helen and Gerald Noffsinger and the rest of the current church staff.
Through the years I’ve enjoyed fine neighbors:
Mary Etta and Walter Lea, Sarah and Albert Fite, Margaret and Sam Bone, Gwynn and Evelyn Vaughan, the Curry Dodsons, the Travis Phillips, the Kenneth Tilleys, the Sam Gilreaths, the Herman Eskews, the Phillip Turners, the Fords and then the Williams, the John Sellars, the Ott Darwins, the Elmer McAdoos, the John Sloans, the Van Rodgers, the Ed Standfords, the Jimmy Walkers, the Jim Hardings, Judge Dan Seay, the Charlie Teasleys, the Will Scheuermans, and others!