Thursday, September 1, 2016

Thursday Thoughts: Aunt Irma My Favorite

Irma Kamile Eley born 3 Mar 1912
 Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana
Most people has a relative that is special to them, whether it is in being generous, kind, treating you special, or other reasons. There is one favorite relative that we remember.  That one relative who you have fond memories of, and you are happy when you think of them. My Aunt Irma is my favorite Aunt.  There were other aunts such as Aunt Gladys, Aunt Ellen, Aunt Dolly Hall, Great Aunts Leakie Lee, and Aunt Dolly Edwards, but Aunt Irma was the One. Why was she my favorite? What are the memories that I have of her? Who was she?

Aunt Irma lived in Port Arthur, Texas and was at one time married to Uncle Morris Coon, mother’s oldest brother. They married 20 Sep 1930 In West Carroll Parish, Louisiana. They had three children Mary Alice, Bobby, and David. So, their children were my double first cousins. Then, one day Aunt Irma and Uncle Morris divorced. There are a lot of questions that I have about Aunt Irma and Uncle George, and research and family stories will answer those questions.

Four years ago I reconnected with Mary Alice eldest daughter of Aunt Irma and Uncle Morris, after having lost contact since the early sixties. Aunt Irma came to visit us often when I was growing up in West Carroll Parish; however, when my family moved from West Carroll to Lincoln Parish she didn’t visit. Probably the reason for that was in West Carroll the family members; sisters, Aunts, her mother, brother and other relatives lived there. When she did visit us those visits were memorable.

Aunt Irma worked as a waitress in a drug store in Port Author, and in my child’s eyes she was rich. She brought us girls clothes when she came to visit; usually two or three large bags of clothes.  Those are “hand-me-down” clothes, not new ones. But to us girls they were new and very much needed. Aunt Irma would give us girls a haircut while there. Now, I have to tell you that hair cut lasted until her next visit the next summer. She “chopped” our hair off until we look like boys. But we didn’t have any say over those because it didn’t cost us anything and Mother didn’t know how to cut hair. So, Mother was very pleased with the haircut. Well, the hair would grow and we would look like girls again. One summer she was on to a new project. Aunt Irma decided it was time for the girls to get their ears pierced so Mary, Kathryn, and I got our ears pierced. Jean and Polly didn’t want their's pierced. We were excited about having our ears pierced and couldn't wait to start back to school to tell our friends. 

The visits were almost always visits where she made alone; her children didn’t come with her. One time I remember her bringing a granddaughter, but her trips were made from Port Arthur to West Carroll Parish alone. They were memorable visits and I would have never thought that Aunt Irma had any internal issues. She was a fun loving, pretty, always got up and put on her makeup and nice clothes, she was a happy person when she visited us. However, I learned many years later there was internal conflict going on at the time of the visits, that in my child’s view was not visible. Aunt Irma’s biological father was unknown. Jackson Lawrence Eley was her step-dad and Aunt Irma was almost a year old when Alice her mother and Jack married. Aunt Irma died not knowing who her biological father was, and that was the internal conflict that she hid so well when she made those visits to Louisiana to visit my family. 

My father Esters was Aunt Irma’s oldest brother. Daddy told us children that his father was Uncle Johnny Edwards. I was a child so I never thought anything about those kinds of things. My sister Ruby was ten years older than me so she knew more about family.

When I made a visit to see Mary Alice four years ago, she filled me in on family stories and once she started talking the memories started flowing. The story that she shared with me was, “Aunt Irma always wanted to know who her father was, but Granny wouldn’t tell her.” The stories in families always come out regardless of how hard families try to keep them a secret. Genealogical research and DNA testing are ways that stories are uncovered and revealed. There are records available now for anything that you would want during this age of technology.  Records are online and privacy laws are limited in how much they protect the private lives of the citizens of this country. 

Those records were not as accessible when Aunt Irma was living nor was DNA testing. Had she lived ten more years when the changes in genealogical research, family history, and DNA testing was being used to verify familial lineages she would have had the answer to who her father, and she would have had closure of that part of her life. 

Irma Kamile Eley was born 03 Mar 1912 in Eros, Jackson Parish, Louisiana and died 07 Dec 2001 in Groves, Jefferson County, Texas. She is buried in Memory Gardens of Jefferson County, Nederland, Texas.Her mother was Alice Lee daughter of Emma Meadows and her father was William Alfred Lee. Aunt Irma's father has been verified with DNA autosomal testing. John Houston Edwards is the biological father of Aunt Irma. 

I will cherish forever those memories of Aunt Irma and the visits that she made to Louisiana to see our family.  Her daughter Mary Alice and I continue to correspond and those calls that she makes to me are calls of healing for her. She tells me that I am the only family she has left. She is eighty-four years old and loves to tell me family stories and I cherish those stories. ■

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