Sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee, Granny hears the door open and a cheery little voice. “Look what we have here,” she says as her great-granddaughter, Lexi, marches into the room. They proceed to play patty-cake and peek-a-boo for a few minutes.
Granny (as we all came to call her) loved children more than anything. She never failed to light up when a child was near. Even as she lay still and pale with not much interest left in life, her whole being brightened when her great-grandson, Caleb, sat on her bed. He smiled and laughed with her on the day before her passing.
Our Granny was the best. She fed us, laughed with us, and best of all she loved each of us in her own way. She loved to visit with her family and friends. We miss her quick wit, her laughter, her cornbread and beans. We miss all of those little things that made her our Granny.
Born at home in Lawton, Oklahoma on June 25, 1910, she was the oldest of seven girls and her little brother, who died a few hours after his birth. She adored her parents, Arminia Pope Bell and George Bain Bell. She and her sisters grew up on a farm, working alongside her dad and also taking care of the house and younger sisters. They did manage to get into all kinds of trouble, but it sounded like a wonderful home.
Granny was such a great storyteller that her children and nieces and nephews thought we had lived in that time, we knew so much about it. She told us about the barnstormers who came to town when she was a teenager. You could get a ride for a dollar. She and her sister, Thelma, asked their Uncle Will for a loan so that they could ride the plane, and he said that if they did ride in an airplane, they could keep the money. They did, and had a great time.
Granny told us about getting water from a well, their horses; their first phone, their first car, Grandpa bringing home a big bunch of bananas, store-bought bread, and peanut butter; and many other events. In the 1920s, when women received the right to vote, her dad made sure that her mom voted. When the girls were expected to work the cotton fields in dresses, Grandma Bell said, “If these girls are going to work like men, they can dress like men!” and Grandpa Bell went to the store and came back with overalls for the girls. Throughout the rest of their lifetimes, most of the girls loved wearing pants.
Granny’s best friend was Georgia Chatham, who was also the sister of Ernest L. Chatham – my dad, Granny’s husband. The two girls loved to get together and giggle. One day a traveling preacher was at their church, Granny and Aunt Georgia were giggling, and preacher’s wife came and sat right between them. Of course, this made them laugh all the more. Georgia passed away two days after Granny.
Granny moved to California during the 1940s, living in the Los Angeles area with her husband for many years, forming a close family group with the Bells until everyone began to move away. She also lived on the Central Coast (in Grover Beach) for many years before going to Phoenix, Arizona, to be near her sisters. Those girls were back together again. They had some great times and of course watched out for one another.
Granny, you were not only our loving mother, grandmother, aunt, and sister but one of the best teachers we could have ever had.
Going before Granny on this grand journey were her husband, Ernest L. Chatham; son, Jerry F. Chatham; daughter Mary E. Chatham; sisters Margaret, Georgia, Roberta, Samanth, and Thelma; and granddaughter Shannon Bowen Those who continue here are: daughter Juanita Chatham Krasnoff and son-in-law Gary Krasnoff; daughter-in-law, Carolin Chatham; grandchildren Jonathan, Katrine, Caleb, and Kelly Krasnoff; Gerald, Debra, and Mary Chatham; Chatham; Jeri Lea May (Steve); Cyndi Wood; 11 great-grandchildren, six great-great grandchildren, and many nieces, nephews, and friends.
Her precious Lexi left this world three weeks after Granny. Granny in her usual graceful and simple way left just before Lexi so that she could hold out her love and light to her.