By W.H. WATERS
Recently, I attended the funeral of my cousin, Woodard Calhoun Hankins Bryan. As the name is long, so was her life. She was 95 years of age and nearing 96. Our mothers were sisters and the daughters of Dr. Joseph Richard Puryear and Connie Barton Puryear of Taylorsville.
As I think of them, surely my mind goes back to days of yore. You see, Pappy Puryear and Mammy Puryear were only children of men killed in the Civil War. If these young men had been killed earlier, there would have been no Woodward Calhoun nor would I have come into being.
Surely I am glad to have been here 85 years and I know I and many others were benefited and made happy by the life of Woodward.
Woodard and my brother Hugh were near the same age. They enjoyed each other and she came to visit us often. She was quite an athlete and I as a small boy was aware of her prowess as a basketball player.
Somewhere in time, she met a friend of my brother’s, Edward Hankins. My brother was a left-handed baseball pitcher and Edward was his catcher. Now we did not call him Edward, we called him “Nubbin.” He was little, but he was loud. He was a fun guy! Woodard married him and life went on.
They lived on the homeplace that was in sight of our home. Mrs. Josie Hankins, Edward’s mother, lived with them. Woodard and Mrs. Josie were very close and Woodard learned to sew, to cook and in general be a very productive person. She wand Edward ran the store at Tuckers Crossroads a while. Woodward also taught school at Taylorsville, TXR, and I was in her class in the sixth grade. She was a no-nonsense teacher but seldom used the paddle on her desk.
Woodard taught sixth, seventh and eighth graders. In 1935, she had one student in the eighth grade who was a big as she was. She sat him on the front seat near her. One day she called on him to calm down. He didn’t, and she walked toward him. He slapped her. Her left arm went around his neck and her knee landed at his belly and he was atop her desk. She grabbed that paddle and gave him what “Paddy Gave the Drum.” He was so surprised and the rest of us knew we didn’t want to challenge her. I never saw her even pick up the paddle the entire year.
This lady worked hard getting a college degree and then a master’s degree. She also taught in Lebanon city schools and her career in education lasted nearly 40 years.
Woodward loved my mother dearly. The contact of our homes was often and warm.
Woodward and Edward were great canasta players. Somewhere you would find them playing at the store or at other homes and it was great fun.
In their middle age years, Edward became ill and died. Woodward was living about 100 yards from her mother. It was also the house where she was born.
Her sister, Edna Kittrell, had three daughters, Annie, Doris and Manette. She loved them dearly. She sewed for them and did other things. The three sat at Woodward’s service and at the grave. They did not want to call her back, but they did want to honor her for the life she lived before them. You see, for years they came to seek her at Hearthside almost every weekend. Calhoun and Puryear blood seems to bond well and so I too write this.
Woodward had known Robert Bryan and his wife, Hattie Lou Helton Bryan. They were Tuckers Crossroads people. Hattie Lou was a pretty and lovely lady. Robert was a nice man. They have one daughter, Anita Bryan Farmer, who is akin to being the “salt of the earth.”
After Hattie Lou died, Woodward married Robert and they had a very happy life together. It is said she cared for him dearly as life ebbed away from cancer.
I know you know it is seldom that good things come from circumstances that are not good. Woodward loved Anita, and if anyone every returned good for good better than this daughter, I have not seen it. Anita is good to everyone, but she gave a full measure of devotion to Woodward Bryan. The extra measures she gave helped Woodward complete her years at Hearthside.
All of these events and many more made me want to share with you the nature of Woodward and of those who loved her. People are our most valuable asset in life.
Editor’s Note: W.H. Waters resides in Lebanon and is a regular contributor to The Wilson Post.