“Eloise Powell was a very special person, she was successful in every aspect of life, and she was a Godly woman who loved her family with every ounce of her being.” ——– from obituary September 06, 2022
My daddy Glenn Morris’s favorite cousin was Eloise Robinson Powell who was born March 21, 1924 six months before his birth on October 6th. of the same year. Daddy’s mother Betha Day Robinson and Eloise’s father William T. – better known to us as Bud – were sister and brother; Daddy’s father George Morris and Eloise’s mother Hattie Jane were brother and sister. In rural southeast Walker County, Texas the children of such mixed families in the Roaring 20s were known as “double first” cousins.
Although their parents came from large families, (George and Hattie were two of ten children, Betha and Bud two of seven) Eloise was an only child while Glenn had one older brother and sister. Glenn spent much of his summers growing up with Eloise at their grandmother’s home in the tiny community of Crabbs Prairie “out in the country” near Huntsville which was fewer than 30 miles from his house in the small town of Richards in neighboring Grimes County. The friendship they formed in those early years as double first cousins would last throughout their lifetimes, spilling over into the next generation when Eloise’s son Bill and I played outside Uncle Bud’s store in Crabbs Prairie as kids in the 1950s.
Eloise remained in Huntsville after her marriage to Chester Powell, had a successful career for thirty years as the administrative secretary to three different presidents of Sam Houston State University and upon her retirement received the honor of being named an SHSU Distinguished Alumni, the highest recognition a graduate of the school receives. My dad took me to visit Eloise in her office at Sam Houston several times when he was working on his master’s degree in education at the college. I’m sure she was surprised when Daddy and his little daughter popped by without warning in the President’s office to say hello. (Think no cell phones.) I remember how sweetly she smiled, though, how genuinely happy they were to see each other.
The vicissitudes of life took Bill and me away from our Crabbs Prairie/Richards roots which meant that we didn’t stay as close as Glenn and Eloise had been; yet, our paths crossed again when I had an unexpected four-year Texas sabbatical from 2010 – 2014. Bill and his wife Donna had moved back to Crabbs Prairie and were living in a lovely home next to the modern convenience store version of Uncle Bud’s store. Pretty and I lived in Montgomery, a growing small town 18 miles south of Richards. Donna and Bill were as gracious to us when we popped in on them as Eloise was to my dad and me. Think cell phones, but no phone numbers.
One of the greatest gifts of my Texas sabbatical after forty years of living a thousand miles away in South Carolina was my reconnection to Eloise and our family. I visited with her in her Huntsville home several times where we shared memories, stories, looked at pictures, birth certificates, marriages licenses, death certificates. We talked, we laughed, we shed tears – but mostly we shared a love of family history which Eloise had preserved in detail worthy of the personal historian she was.
She also guided me on field trips around the area. One of our mutual cousins on the Morris side of the family, Fay, lived close enough to Eloise that we walked to help celebrate Fay’s 100th birthday in 2012.
Eloise in center with her Morris first cousin sisters Fay (r.) and Willie Jo
Eloise confided privately afterwards on the walk back she was convinced Fay’s secret to longevity was her 5:00 o’clock cocktail with a friend every afternoon without fail. I nodded and said I couldn’t argue with that.
On another field trip in 2012 Eloise guided our driver Frances and her husband Lee to explore county roads between Crabbs Prairie and Shiro to show us land that had been part of the original 320 acres received by Benjamin W. Robinson for his service in the Texas War for Independence from Mexico in 1836. Frances is Eloise’s first cousin on the Robinson side of the family – she and Lee were always up for a field trip. I promise I could never find this property again, but I did take a picture of this typical Texas vista which I then knew had belonged to my 3rd. great-grandfather.
Eloise prepared refreshments after our field trip – wine a must
Ending the trip with dinner at Mexican restaurant
seated l. to r. Lee and Frances, Eloise – standing lucky me
Pretty and I visited Eloise in February this year when we made a short trip to Texas after a five year absence. I talk about going home every year, but circumstances make the plane ride more difficult and, of course, there was the Covid epidemic. Regardless, it was a joy to see and talk to Eloise, her precious daughter-in-law Donna and her great-great-granddaughter Sophia who reminded us of our Molly. Eloise at nearly 98 years of age recognized us, interacted with us and turned the conversation to what we shared in common: family. She reminded me that our family had given us a good start in life, values to treasure, to always remember where we came from.
Eloise had many challenges in her later years. She was predeceased by her husband Chester and son Bill but was loved with more than a love by Donna, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. No one could have done more for her than Donna who was her primary caregiver and life preserver.
To me, Eloise will remain a woman of substance, a woman who “loved her family with every ounce of her being.” No flags fly at half mast today for her funeral as they do for the Queen of England’s passing, but in my mind I see a flag of hope for future generations of cousins who will remember her spirit as a guide for moving forward.
RIP, Eloise. I will miss you.