“In 1970 Uncle Roy died and five years later Big. They had been so good to all of us and it was hard to imagine that they wouldn’t always be around. Big had moved to the nursing home and spent her last years there. She was one of the few people I have known who made up her own mind that it was time to go there, and she made the best of the situation.”
This pair in my child’s mind was like one person and one long name: biganduncaroy. Inseparable and precious and of another era. My grandmother, Jessie, lived in their house until I was 6 years old, and it did not seem the least bit strange that she cohabitated with her sister and brother-in-law nor that my mother had grown up in her uncle’s home. That’s just the way it was, and some of my earliest memories are of 115 East Washington and the Stotts. You’ve read in these blogs of how kind and sacrificing they were, taking in Jessie, five children and a grandmother quite unexpectedly in 1932. They remained just that way, thoughtful and quiet and just going about their own business. Uncle Roy was stalwart and strong and as rock steady as any human being I have ever known, a gentleman of the highest order. In my memories, he is sitting in his big overstuffed chair, reading or watching TV, or walking down to the old Greenwood Leflore Public Library for a grocery sack of Westerns or mysteries. He would walk me and my cousin, Jay, downtown, stopping in at the Utility Plant or the police station, and I well remember him taking us back to the jail and telling us if we didn’t behave that we would wind up behind bars. We took note. As the “new bridge” over the Yazoo was being built, you would often find Uncle Roy standing there on the bank, watching and observing and probably so much more capable than those actually doing the work. He came to Greenwood from backwoods Tennessee with barely a junior high education, way back in the earliest years of the century, and went from climbing light poles to running Greenwood Utilities for 50+ years.
Big could come across as stern and humorless, but that impression was way off the mark. She had a great, quirky sense of humor, just like Jessie and she would go the extra mile to help anyone in need. I remember many trips down the slippery Yazoo banks at the end of Walthall with her, carrying clothes or extra food to the family who lived in a shanty atop pontoons down there. She had a reputation as the best private nurse in town and was privy to all the gossip from those nights spent at someone’s bedside. I’m so grateful that she had the courage to leave her Holmes County base in 1908 or so and come to the “big city,” Greenwood, to pursue a nursing career. Because Jessie followed her a few years later and the rest is history. Our history, the story of Jessie and Howard and their children and grandchildren, all entertwined with the Stotts on East Washington. This quiet, strong couple saved my mother and her family, beyond any doubt, and I’m so glad they were part of my life until I was grown.