Friday, July 29, 2011

My Parents: Leona Roberts Redles and Albert Sidney Pendleton, Jr.

I wanted to write a bit about my parents in this post; I plan to write more about them individually later on. My parents knew each other nearly all of their lives. Below is a kindergarten class photograph taken by my grandmother Leona (Roberts) Redles with the two of them standing side by side.

My parents with their kindergarten class.

Born on November 18, 1925, in Valdosta, Lowndes County, Georgia, my mother was living with her family  in Washington, D. C., when her father, Ret. Col. William (Will) Liming Redles, died on August 29, 1932, after a lengthy illness. My grandmother, Martha Leona (Roberts) Redles, 22 years his junior and now a young widow with small children, packed up my mother and my Aunt Catherine (Catherine Liming Redles) and returned to Valdosta.  They moved in with my mother's extended family in the house everyone refers to as the Big House, otherwise known as the J. T. Roberts house.  My mother and my Aunt Catherine grew up there.  The house was bought in the 1890s by my maternal great grandfather John Taylor Roberts, and several of his children and their families lived there until 1982 when the last family occupants moved out.  Below is a photograph that I took in 2008 after the exterior had been repainted by the Valdosta Heritage Foundation, the current owner.  As far back as I can remember, the house was painted white.  Sadly, it was heavily damaged by fire in January 2011. 

The Big House, 2008.

My mother has always been called Lonie (pronounced with a long "o").  She attended junior college at Ward Belmont College in Nashville, Tennessee, and graduated from Georgia State Woman's College (now Valdosta State University) in 1947 with an art degree.  I was always fascinated with her ability to draw and paint.  Why didn't I inherit any of her artistic talent?  I have two of her paintings of camellias hanging on my wall.  She worked as a secretary for a while for Dr. Robert Stump (later our family doctor) and urologist Dr. Campbell.  She was a member of the Valdosta Junior Service League, the Cotillion Club, and the Mystery Ball Club.  It seemed like she was always on the decorating committee of one of her clubs.  She went to work for my father in the family business after her last child entered elementary school.  She was only going to help him out for a little while, but she ended up working until the business closed in the early 1970s.  After the closure, she enrolled in Valdosta State College (now University) to pursue a nursing degree; she worked as a Registered Nurse at South Georgia Medical Center in Valdosta for 13 years before retiring.  She's an amazing craftswoman.  She would sew, knit, crochet, cross-stitch, needlepoint, embroider, paint, draw, and do all manner of other handicrafts.

My father was born in Valdosta in 1925 on the Ides of March (as he used to say), March 15.  His parents were Albert Sidney Pendleton, Sr., and Helen Larue (Brown) Thomas Pendleton.  He had two older sisters (Helen Clyde and Frances Hoyt Thomas) from his mother's first marriage to Wiley Lawton Thomas and one younger brother (William Fredrick Pendleton II).  The oldest of the siblings, my Aunt Clyde (Thomas) Joyner, is the only one still living at the age of 95.  My father was drafted into the Army in 1943 and was seriously wounded during World War II.  After the war, he attended the University of Georgia for a brief period, but his war wounds made it difficult for him to navigate the campus.  He returned to Valdosta and went to work for his father in The A. S. Pendleton Company, a wholesale grocery business begun by my paternal great grandfather Alexander (Andy) Shaw Pendleton.  My father's first marriage was brief and ended in divorce; they had no children.

My father liked to tell us that my mother pursued him.  Somehow, I can't picture my mother chasing after anyone!  My parents were married on October 15, 1953, at the Big House.  My maternal great Uncle Bubba (Leland Roberts) gave the bride away, and my Aunt Catherine was the Maid of Honor.  My mother's wedding dress was a Dior ordered from New York, and then it was trimmed in embroidery cut from a roll of silk that her father brought back to the U. S. from his sojourn in Japan several decades before.  What a beautiful dress she wore!

My parents at their wedding, October 15, 1953.

My parents have five children, three girls and two boys (I'm the oldest).  What a handful we were!  My mother told me once that she had at least one baby in diapers and on a bottle every year for at least 10 years.  Holy cow.  Brave woman.  Why didn't I inherit any of her patience?  After the family business closed, my father went to Valdosta State College at the same time as my mother for his degree in English.  He planned to teach but changed his mind after substitute teaching in the local high schools.

My father was a prolific writer; where did he find the time?  He told me once that writing was known in the Pendleton family as the family curse (I guess I'm cursed with it, too).  He wrote plays, poems, short stories, and songs; he wrote the Lowndes County Historical Society newsletter for many years and wrote "Way Back When" articles for the Valdosta Daily Times that he later compiled into three volumes under the auspices of the Historical Society.  He co-authored a book with Susan McKey Thomas about Doc Holliday (Susie's cousin), titled In Search of the Hollidays: The Story of Doc Holliday and His Holliday and McKey Families (Valdosta: Little River Press, 1973; Valdosta: Lowndes County Historical Society, 2008).  

At the age of 85, my mother has given up most (if not all) of her crafts because of arthritis, but she keeps herself busy working crossword puzzles; going to church, Reader's Forums, plays, and the symphony (just to name a few); and worrying over her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.  Whenever I call and ask how she's doing, she says, "I'm hanging in there!"  My father died on February 21, 2006, from Parkinson's disease.  Since then, my youngest sister and I have been getting his papers organized, but we've only been able to work on this once in a while (I live a few thousand miles away in another state).  I bet there are some answers to some of my genealogy brick walls in there!


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