By: Mildred Greear
The asbestos shingled house that has already been torn down (or on way to being?) was built by Jean Reece Rispoli as a home in which she could live somewhat independently and still be “at home.” She had but one child, Kathleen Patricia, known as Patti. Jean was the most fragile of the Reece children; it was she who had long stays at Battey Hospital in Rome. It was she for whom the “car” had to be kept on the ready to be taken to doctor, etc. She survived healthier siblings, but was frail from the time I first met her. (She was also a publishing poet, and I am fortunate to have several of her ballads…so like Byron’s, but entirely her own.) During her lifetime I was never told she was a poet, so modest and quiet she was.
When Jean moved into Blairsville several years before her death, she sold the house to her niece Sharon McKenzie Johnson. Sharon held on to it fiercely for several years. Others would have loved having it, but she would not part with it, having had many happy times there in her childhood with her cousin Patti, etc. Near the lake, near doting grandparents, all the things that make kids happy.
When Sharon died the property rightfully went to her family. It is generous of her husband to have given it up.
Sharon was the daughter of Sarah Coburn, who was the child of Emma Reece’s sister. Sarah’s mother died (at birth of Sarah?…I do not know) and Naomi Allen, (Mrs. Frank) of Cleveland adopted Sarah immediately. Naomi was known as NONIE, and distinguished herself by being first woman to be called for grand jury duty in White county. At that time, many women would NOT register to vote for fear of jury duty (or divorce maybe….) Nonie, like Emma, was spirited, bright, outgoing. (To anger me, dare to mention this family as being withdrawn, unsociable people. (Nonie was Emma’s sister. )
Sarah attended Young Harris College at time Byron was there. They were privileged to walk and talk together on campus at any time convenient to their schedules, because they were COUSINS! Rules at Young Harris College at the time were that only on certain times, (Sunday afternoons in daylight hours, I think were mentioned) could the young students “CASE” Case equivalent to DATE. No hand-holding in public. Well, then where? Who knows the answer to that?
Some of them managed, for there were marriages resulting from courtships begun so inauspiciously.
Back to Sarah; she was delightful matron when I met her, beautiful, tending to reddish blonde hair, open face, free spirited. It was she to whom the poem “Silver Streams Come Winding Down” is dedicated. I am writing this without books near by, but that is the name of the poem I am fairly sure. If I find differently, I will correct it by email later.
Yes, the studio. Byron built it economically, as all of the Reece family dwellings were done; they were not selfish, but wisely frugal. You must have seen the studio. Long enough for a cot, metal, folding as I remember it, a small table right by. Shelves for books. One window, A straight chair. I do not remember a typewriter but maybe that was what the bedside table accommodated. Pillow case on cot pillow made from feed sack. I have it. I stole it. in company of an attorney, if you can believe that. Called family members who congratulated me and thanked me for rescuing it. At the right time, I will give it to whatever family type archival things are in order. I am the legal heir to several small items which i treasure, and which also will be given to the appropriate organization.
Byron painted the studio Mulberry red (a stain, not a paint, if I recall correctly. Stain is less expensive and goes on easily.) He named it Mulberry Hall. That his ironic humor; a slap on the wrist to the not so nice holders of the bachelors, masters and doctors degrees who were so damn cruel at times. Some of them at Young Harris College. It is difficult for my husband and me to forget that, though many of them are now dead also. Forgiveness is as desirable as it is hard to extend. I work on that,
My husband and I do count ourselves among the next of friend.