The Eulogy of Jonnie Mildred Greene Horne
July 20, 2018
This service is dedicated to the remarkable life of Jonnie Mildred Greene Horne and to the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Dean Woodham, her son-in-law, will begin our service with a prayer.
Mildred’s daughter, Mary Ethel, used to pick out a picture of a dress from the Lady’s Home Journal Magazine or some other magazine and her mother would make a pattern from that picture which she would then use to make her that dress. She used the same technique to make her wedding dress and her veil.
When Jesus came, he gave us a clear picture of God, of his grace, mercy and love. The Bible commands us to pattern our lives after Jesus.
As Beverly Danford plays, “Living for Jesus,” lets reflect on the ways that Mildred Horne has lived for Jesus and left a pattern for us to follow.
“Living For Jesus Played”
Mildred Horne was affectionately known to her family as Mother, Grandma Horne, and to many as “Aunt Mimmie,” even to those who were not kin to her.
Her life spanned 104 years, a time which is difficult for us to comprehend.
She met people who fought in the Civil War. Her earliest was a memory, about the age of four, was going to the mailbox, and finding a letter from her Uncle Robert who was fighting in World War I.
She lived through 18 U.S. Presidents.
At the beginning of the 20th century, about 1 in 10 infants died before their first birthday. While that rate had improved slightly by 1914, Mildred’s parents, Onie Edgar and Jeffie Ethel Lee Greene lost an infant child just a few days after he was born.
So Mildred surmised that when she was born that she brought great joy back into her parent’s home, not only because of her birth and health but because she was the first girl.
Few of us would trade the conveniences of the life we now live for the harshness and difficulties that life presented when Mildred Horne was born a 104 years ago
She attended school at a one-room schoolhouse until the sixth grade, which was built on land given by her great-uncle. School was not free. It cost her parents about 25 cents a month.
She later rode on a bus to school six miles away, a ride that took almost two hours. She’d heat a brick in the winter to put near her feet to keep warm.
During her lifetime, she milked cows and made clothes from flour sacks for her children.
She plowed fields with a mule, picked cotton and plucked chickens.
She hoed peanuts and hung meat in a smokehouse.
She tended and gathered vegetables from gardens and transplanted flowers from the yards of relatives and neighbors to her own, as well as share samplings of her own to others.
She swept yards with dog fennel weeds, canned food, fed livestock, and rode in Hoover Carts for fun.
She repaired her own house, made quilts and other beautiful blankets, and drew water daily from a well.
She bathed behind the house as a child and young adult.
She cooked thousands of meals to the satisfaction of hundreds of people on an open flame stove using an iron skillet and real lard.
She went to syrup makings and helped with hog killings.
She washed clothes in an iron pot and went to the bathroom in an outdoor toilet with a Sears and Roebuck Catalog.
She went to protracted meetings at church in the summertime that sometimes lasted two weeks.
There’s not much on that list that people long for when we talk about the “Good ‘Ole Days.”
We are amazed that in the span of Mildred Horne’s life she experienced these things, but so did many other people who lived during that same time period. Many of these things came with living in those times.
So what is it that made her life so special?
Indeed, living 104 years is a unique accomplishment but it isn’t the number of years but the quality of years that really matters.
Grandma Horne’s grandson Howard had the right idea when he asked this question in a poem he wrote:
“What is the measure of a life?
Is it the length counted in years,
Reflected by the number of candles on a cake?
Or is it more?
I offer that the true measure of human life
Is the amount of love given
To those around you.
And you have given more
To those who now surround you
Than any individual could possibly give.
This is a life truly lived.”
The Apostle Paul said as much when he wrote: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (I Cor. 13:2).
None of us want to go back in time and pluck chickens, boil clothes, pick cotton, and use an out-house on a cold night, but as we have moved to an age of convenience, technology, and automation, we would do well to learn from the timeless wisdom about life that the generations before can still teach if we will listen.
For example, Aunt Mimmie and her generation, much like Jesus and those of biblical days, were tied to the land. What the land gave them was what they had.
When you sat down to a meal, it was a meal that you grew in your garden or gathered from the woods or trees in the yard.
The meat you ate was meat you raised or some a neighbor shared or a wild animal you hunted.
The clothes you wore were clothes you made or bought with money from crops you grew and sold or from animals you raised and sold.
When you went to bed at bed at night, you lay down on blankets you made or stuffed with a material you grew. The warmest throw was stuffed with the feathers of a goose you plucked.
You were thankful to God, who supplied it all.
Mildred Horne learned this very early in her life in the home of her parents.
It is so easy for us, in a land of plenty, where children think food comes from store shelves and not the earth, to forget that God is the one who supplies it all. So, the place that Mildred’s faith really began to grow was the meal table.
It was there that she learned to be thankful for the gifts God had provided for their family
It was there where she heard the blessing given by her father, which was always the same prayer but was always said with sincerity, even when there was nothing to eat and drink but milk and crackling bread, which was often.
She writes, “One of my fondest memories is of meal time at our home. It is as if even now I can see my Daddy and hear him as he asked God’s blessings upon the food and his family.”
“He sat at the head of a homemade table, with Mama on his left and we children on either side of them. Daddy always folded his hands, held them in front of himself and bowed his head. We children bowed our heads and did not dare raise them until he said ‘Amen.’”
Sometimes we try to make faith in God complicated. Micah, the Prophet, said that religion is really simple. Micah wrote: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8)
A lot could be said about what all that entails, especially with our understanding of Christ and the New Testament Church, but can we all agree that it doesn’t mean you have to be a member of a Baptist church?
Aunt Mimmie was a member of Pond Bethel Methodist Church and did not keep it a secret that she was a Methodist.
However, from the time of her marriage to Howard in 1937, she not only attended Prospect Baptist but she shared in the ministry of this church in many waHer daughter Mary Ethel said that there were three scriptures she raised her children on.
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
“Judge not, that you be not judged.”
She said, “I can still hear her saying these verses when the appropriate occasion came up.”
“She practiced the first two to the nth degree. But with ‘Judge not, that you be not judged,’ I think she might admit she was careful not to SPEAK bad things about others most of the time, but you could tell if she disapproved. She did have her opinion!”
Her grandson Barry says that the most beautiful thing about her was she had the ability to make everyone she loved to feel as if they were the most special, wonderful person on the earth, and she did that when people needed to feel that way.“
Her granddaughter Cathy said that Grandma always talked about love. “One time we were on the front porch she said, ‘We can’t focus on our differences. We can only focus on what we have in common. We love each other and God. That’s what matters.’”
Mary Ethel writes, “She really did love her neighbors. She loved her brothers and sister. And she loved her nieces and nephews and always treated them like her own.”
Along with this same thought path, Barry said, “If ‘kill them with kindness’ were an actual thing, everyone who ever met her would be dead.”
“She met every person who came to her door (and it often seemed to me that the whole county came to her door on a weekly basis) as if she hadn’t seen them in years and was more pleased to see them than anything that had ever happened to her. That ability to make everyone love her, almost instantly, followed her throughout her life right through the nurses and assistants who helped care for her the last couple of years.”
Barry said that it amazed him on a daily basis.
I wonder if she didn’t have a special report with the nurses that cared for her because it was once her dream to become one.
Mildred Horne was a very intelligent person.
She wrote that while she was in school, she wanted to be a nurse, “but Mama died in Jan before I graduated in May of 1931. I was needed at home to care for those younger than me. I have no regrets about this, and I’m sure we all struggled together during those years made us stronger people and that made us more aware of our blessings. I graduated with the honor of being salutatorian. Even though I was unable to leave home to work, things learned, and experienced at home have been and are sources of satisfaction and help to me.”
Again, this is an example of love. At this time her sister Mary Nell was 11. Winfred Foy was six weeks old. Mildred was 16.
Mildred would rise to prepare breakfast for her father and brothers. After her father and older brothers went to work in the fields, she would cook food for the noon meal. She and Mary Nell would carry food and Winfred Foy to the fields to feed the men and while she was there she would help the men hoe the peanuts.
You get the feeling from this brief paragraph that while there is a tinge of grief in not being able to pursue her dream as a nurse, there’s not one ounce of anger or regret at having to fulfill the role of surrogate mother or having to do her part and to help the family farm survive.
That’s part of her nature that never left her. Even after her marriage to Howard, he discovered that he’d married a woman who had a determined streak in her and once she’d made up her mind to get something done because it had to be, there wasn’t much use trying to change her mind.
So when the man who was to help her husband Howard gather the farm crops was unable to help, she told Howard that he could operate the fertilizer distributor and she would operate the seed planter.
So he agreed but told her that he would harness the mule for her, but she said to him that she would harness the mule by herself. So, Howard gave in, and she harnessed the mule and operated the planter.
Mildred had high praise for her husband of 35 years, an intelligent and industrious man himself, but when he died, Mildred was only 58.
She then had to rely on the tough, gritty spirit that she learned as a teenage girl.
When he died, they had about 100 head of cattle that had to be fed.
So on feed days, she climbed into the loft of the barn, threw down the bales of hay into the pickup and carried the hay to the cows. She did this for several years until she sold the cows to a local farmer.
Mildred’s love for education never left her. She was committed to life-long learning.
She and Howard raised intelligent children, but it wasn’t by accident.
She taught her children to read before they started to school and she took them to the library every summer in Clayton to check out armfuls of books.
When Mary Ethel was in the seventh grade, a teacher was selling World Books, and she told her mother that was something that she really needed to provide for her children.
World Books was the information center for facts before there was an Internet.
So her mother talked to Howard, and he plowed a section of land and Mildred, Charles, and Mary Ethel planted a crop of cotton, which they grew, picked and sold. They earned enough money to buy the encyclopedias.
Aunt Mimmie was always reading a book. She may not have traveled far from Louisville physically, but books carried her all over the world.
She made sure that books were available for her grandchildren when they come to see her, too.
Her grandson Barry writes, “Her home and my childhood were filled with books. There was only one television station (which seemed to receive only wrestling and Lawrence Welk), and the summer temperature in Barbour County seemed to a small boy to constantly hover around 113 degrees, but you could always lose yourself in countless books in her home. There was never an idea or story that wasn’t worth reading about, and her love of reading and education followed all of her children when they left her home and has served us all so well for all these years.”
Books were not the only way she helped her children and grandchildren learn. Learning was also experiential. You learned by doing.
I knew how much the grandchildren loved coming to the farm. The farm was like a living laboratory. It was a place to explore and roam.
The grandchildren came mostly during the summer or Christmas break. It was an opportunity to explore, to smell new smells, to taste new foods, to feel new things, test new ideas, and to have new experiences, all surrounded by love.
For example, her grandson Robert says that one summer they went fishing in the pond and they caught lots of fish. His grandmother helped them clean the fish. Robert asked her what the eye of a fish felt like. So she touched the fish’s eye, and she said, “It feels like a wet marble.”
Then she asked him, “Do you want to touch it?” So he did, and he said, “Her description was correct.”
That night they ate fried fish for dinner.
But Robert noticed she didn’t have much of an appetite for fish and when she asked her about that she said, ”Fish are too fishy.”
So here is another definition for love. It’s going fishing with your grandchildren. It’s helping them catch fish. It’s helping them have a new experience of cleaning their fish for supper. It’s cooking their fish, even when you don’t like to eat fish. That’s love.
This experiential learning had been going on for a long time. It’s how she taught her own children.
Mary Ethel said Momma believed “everyone needed to know how to DO ANYTHING.”
“So she tried to teach me to cook, sew, and embroidery. I learned the basics but never became as proficient as her”.
She also believed Mary Ethel needed to know how to prepare a chicken, from the yard to the meal table.
Mary Ethel said, “I tried to wring its neck, but I don’t think I ever got it done. But I did get it cleaned and cut-up. So after doing it once I told mother, ‘I can do it. I don’t need any more practice.’”
She says she hasn’t killed or cleaned one since but she can still cut one up.
Aunt Mimmie’s intelligence was on full display when the dominoes were brought out. Even though there is a lot of chance in the game, there’s still some strategy.
Dee and Barry’s son Matt enjoyed playing against her but was surprised how many times she beat him. This was after she was over 100. So he’d talk a little smack to her and she’d give it right back to him.
Mildred’s daughter-in-law Betty writes,
“I have truly been blessed having her as my second mother. I would like to add that my mother feels the same way because Aunt Mimmie has been a second mother to her for the last 40 years.”
Betty appropriately quotes these words from Proverbs 3:15-18
“She is more precious than rubies.
Nothing you desire can compare with her.
Long life is in her right hand;
In her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways
And her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her, those who lay hold of her will be blessed.”
“We all have truly been blessed by her grace, wisdom, and love.”
Her granddaughter Millie says that she will never forget her grandmother crying and waving bye to them when they were leaving her house.
Goodbyes never seem easy. But as Christians, we live with hope that our separation is just for a little while, until our work here is done. Soon God shall call us to the heavenly home he has gone to prepare for us.