The first cousin to leave this world was my second cousin on my Mother’s side, Stacy Sanford Harrell (1953 – 5 Feb 2013). Stacy was younger than I; a precious soul who managed to live life “her way.” She was a rebel at heart, giving her children unconventional names and home-schooling her youngest child, even though both of her parents had been public school teachers. She had the soul of an artist and accepted life as it came – even the knowledge of her own impending death. Although I didn’t really get to see her often throughout our lives, the times that we did visit and the talks that we had brought us closer together and cemented that blood tie that cousins have. Knowing Stacy brought out the “flower child” in me.
The second cousin to leave us was my Father’s first cousin on his Mother’s side, Evelyn Clare Akers Wimmer (15 Oct 1921 – 8 Apr 2013). Because of the nature of my parents’ divorce so many years ago, I only had the pleasure of knowing Evelyn for the last twenty years. I’m so grateful that we found each other. Known as “The Purple Lady,” Evelyn was a truly colorful character whose wit and humor made her the life of any party or gathering. She played the ukulele and once led a group of people dancing and singing down Beale Street while she played that famous uke. Oh, how I wish I had known her then and had seen that delightful event! She enjoyed people and lived life to the fullest. All of her clothes and almost everything that she owned were in shades of purple, and her love of that color even extended to the ownership of a lavender colored car! Knowing Evelyn brought out all of the color in my life.
Sally Wallace Hooks (6 Sep 1919 – 7 Jul 2013) was the next to go. She was also my Father’s first cousin, but on his Dad’s side of the family. The youngest child of nine children, she lost her Mother at a very young age - a fact that I believe contributed to the development of her strong character and would become the very essence of the way she lived her life. Her love of her family was enormous, and her charm and her wit revealed itself in every conversation. She was another cousin whom I only knew for the last twenty years. Nonetheless, we bonded quickly, and she took me into her life with all of the immense love that she had for her whole family. We discovered so many common interests and had such similar tastes and styles that there was never a doubt that we were related. One of her nieces always called her “Aunt Sassy,” and although she was not my aunt, I’ll admit that I often thought of her that way. Knowing Sally brought out the “sassy” in me.
The last cousin to depart this life was my Mother’s first cousin, Louis Orlando Sanford, Sr.(28 Dec 1928 - 28 Oct 2013). He was the cousin I knew the best because I’d known him all my life and had visited with him often over the years. Even though I’d not been able to see him the last few years, I would talk to him at least once a year or so, mostly at Christmastime – when family is always so important. Louie was the best and finest man I’ve ever known. He raised four children in a house full of laughter and love, but sadly lost his oldest daughter, Stacy, just a few months before he passed away. He was a teacher, a coach, and a principal, and his life left a positive imprint on generations of people. Whenever I saw or talked to him, I could hear the laughter in his voice – a trait which many of us on that particular side of the family refer to as “the Sanford Humor.” Knowing Louie brought out the laughter in my life.
Each of these cousins left an enormous impression on me, and I would never be able to write enough about each of them. I will, however, cherish their memories and try to fulfill the legacy that each left to me: flower child, colorful, sassy, and a life full of laughter….all part of my genes, too.
@2013 Copyright by Carla Love Maitland