This story was written back on my mother’s birthday, January 18, 2015. So as you read this just know that my mother would be 88 now. I didn’t rewrite it or even feel like editing it to bring it up to today’s date. I guess that comes from laziness or perhaps because I just don’t want to change it.
This is the story of my mother.
Bonnie Gay would have been 82 today. She grew up poor, in a very large family. She was the 8th out of 11 children. Her father died when she 9 years old. She married at 15, had her first child at 17. She waited until she was 19 to have her 2nd child, that was me.
She only lived in Smithwick and Jollyville her whole life. She was a friend to many and an enemy to no one or nothing. She was a deadly shot with a Winchester 30/30, lever action rifle with open sights.
She wasn’t very big, maybe 5’2″ tall. She is the only thing that Cecil Lewis was afraid of, including beasts, crazy people and the IRS. I don’t remember her being afraid of anything either. Bugs, spiders and snakes didn’t cause her to jump. There were only 2 foods that she wouldn’t eat. Celery, I can’t imagine why, but she detested the taste of it. The other was tea. She didn’t like it sweet or otherwise. She would taste it when she sweetened it and would shudder, but knew when it had the right amount of sugar in it. She always made it sweet for me and another pitcher of unsweetened for Kenny and Cec.
Few women cut up and packaged more venison than Bonnie Gay. She had the hacking it with the edge of a saucer (as in a cup and saucer) to tenderize it and then soaking that deer meat in milk down to a science. Her gravy wasn’t white gravy. He browned the flour just slightly, to give it the Bonnie Gay flair. She did cut corners a little on one thing. She loved canned biscuits. I never begrudged her on that. It was one of the only easy things in her life.
She washed out and saved every milk carton. That’s how she packaged and froze catfish. Fill them mostly up with fish, but leaving just enough room for water to completely surround the fish.
I remember her as being cold natured, but had the warmest heart. She never complained, but she didn’t let anyone run over her.
She drove fast, but carefully. I’m not sure, but I doubt she ever got a speeding ticket or had a serious wreck.
She was the perfect mother for 2 wild boys, but she adapted to become the perfect mother to her nieces, Joy and Jan that she raised as her own from from a young ages of 5 and less than a year, when her sister was tragically killed in an automobile accident within months of me leaving home after high school.
She only had one job outside of the home. That was at the MF Post Office, not long before she died. The did janitorial work there. She loved going there every day. It really gave her purpose. She didn’t want to have nowhere to turn if she was left alone, since her husband hadn’t done a very good job of taking care of his health. But as things happen, she went before him. She was only 57.
While Bonnie Gay was not a regular church goer, she had a faith within her. At her funeral, the preacher seemed critical of the fact that she hadn’t been faithful in attending church. I’m sure he had a point, but it was a clumsy way for him to say it. I thought she deserved higher praise than she received that day. I think she got it from all, except for the person delivering her eulogy.
I didn’t set in judgement of her, but I kind of did of the preacher.
(Sorry for using the word she so many times in this story, but that’s the way it is)
Below are the many comments from when it originally aired on Facebook.
Jan Stanford Tomison
You brought me to tears again, Ronnie. I don’t think I knew you mom but she had to be quite a woman.
Richard D. Slaughter
Great story Ronnie. And, although you have talked more about Cec I could get the sense of the kind of person she was from little things you have said. Sorry I never met her and sorry you lost her at her young age. I have seen preachers do a similar thing like saying the family only called on him in their grief. Really. One of these days I might write why I became disenchanted with church and organized religion in particular.
Connie Williams Holmes
Gosh Ronnie I didn’t realize she was only 57 when she passed. I wasn’t around her as often as I wish but I always thought she was a pretty lady ! I know my cousin Wilford Fry thought a lot of your mom n dad both.
Susan Black Blackmon
What a touching tribute. Sounds to me like the preacher didn’t have a clue.
Richard D. Slaughter
Roy That is a great tribute. I think you are right…
Great tribute to your mother. She was so friendly and still remember her smile.
Great story Ronnie! Church is not always the meaning! Faith is! If it’s in your heart, it’s there forever!
I remember at my Dad’s funeral the preacher said something very similar about him not coming to the church services. It made my heart wrench at the time. My Dad always gave to the community even when he didn’t have anything, which was often. Although he had trying times, he did have faith and that’s what counts.
I have liked the people in the short biographies on this site. I know I would have liked Bonnie.
Brother McClish and Brother DeBo spoke at the family funerals that I have attended at Smithwick. Brother DeBo always would say that he didn’t preach the deceased’s funeral because it had already been preached by the person, pretty true I guess. But he always gave a good gospel sermon for the survivors and that was good. “Going down the valley one by one”, “Farther Along” were the hymns that I remember. I think Bonnie preached a fine sermon and you also as her son.
The two songs that I chose for my Uncle Robert Adcox’s funeral were “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers and the old hymn “In the Sweet By and By” both appropriate for my Uncle Rob. Brother DeBo preached his funeral and did a fine job.
Ronnie, I never met your Mother, but from your story, I could tell she was a wonderful loving and caring wife and Mother. Thanks for sharing this with us.
A beautiful and touching story Ronnie. Thank you.
Under different circumstances that preacher could have left that service nursing a sore head, but given that Cecil was so grief stricken that he probably didn’t even hear what was said, while Kenny and I had gotten past our ugly years we just let it pass.
I know the feeling Ronnie……….
I don’t ever remember my Grand Father (George) ever going to church except for funerals, but I remember sitting on top of the hill above the house with him early in the morning watching the fog roll off the river, and then creep across the field and then up through the brush. He always said “God painted us a pretty picture this morning”. Going to a building and sitting in the amen pew doesn’t get you to heaven.
Beautiful picture, Grant Ray Thompson
Grant Ray Thompson
Thanks Ronnie Lewis. Your Mom loves this.
Raymond, love your description of the early morning fog…could feel the damp chill. Good writing.
Margaret Preiss Mott
Bonnie was a joy to work with at the Post Office. She was always smiling and happy. For such a petite lady, she worked really hard. Loved that very special lady and Happy Birthday in Heaven Bonnie.
No one could have said it better Lynn Joy about Raymond Whitman’s description! You are so good with words! Just like a poet! I always look forward to your comments…..You’re a poet too Raymond Whitman.
Sweet lady….and I loved her.
Janet Lewis Crain
Lynn; Brother Darrell Debo preached a fine funeral tribute this past Wed. for a very good friend of mine who passed away this past Sunday. He said just what you said he always does and he also did nearly two years ago at Smithwick for my cousin Phillis Ann Lewis, Phillip’s daughter. She was an old friend of my recently deceased friend too. We had no idea that day when many of Phillis’ friends from Burnet gathered there that our friend Shorty (Saundra Robbins Garrett) would be next.
I’ve always thought you can tell something about a woman by the heart of her children . Bonnie sounds like a very special woman & one I would have liked to know . I think you have her heart Ronnie . She would be very proud of her children . If a man can write with his heart …someone did something right. Happy Birthday to a great Mom.
Beautiful, Wanda Jackson Walker.
Great tribute Ronnie, she’s smiling down proudly on you!
Becky Nolen Branon
Ronnie your mom was a great lady and I’m blessed to have met her a few times. She passed way to early in life but she raised 2 great guys that have been successful in life so we know she fulfilled her purpose here. Thanks for sharing about your mom and happy birthday to Bonnie in heaven.
Becky Nolen Branon
Oh and she raised the girls too and I truly admire her for doing that.
She was an amazing lady for sure, she was also my nanny from the time I was four until I was thirteen, I loved her too. She was an excellent cook and she also taught me many lessons in life . We use to wash dishes and she would give us fifty cents each ,then we would jump on the tailgate of papa Cecils truck and go to Clints store and get a soda or whatever we wanted. Those really were the good old days. She left this world entirely to early..a wonderful person in deed.
Mary Lou Bess Lusinger
Bonnie was the kindness lady that I have ever meet..I would ride out to her house with my mother (Bessie Hampton) to sell her Avon…she would always serve us a glass of tea…
Elaine Boyd Henry
Perfect words for a wonderful lady………
She was my favorite aunt and there were several. Not to take anything from her sisters but she was just special to me.
Cheryl Wimberly Billesbach
Beautiful tribute, Ronnie! Almost makes me feel like I knew her, and I’m sure I would have loved her. Happy Birthday Ms. Bonnie Gay!
Cindy Whited Yocum
I second every bit of it. She was the lifeline of our big ole family. She always dressed me and Lita up and took us to church on Sunday. So so many memories. I know she’s up there smiling. I saw some thing awhile back, I know Aunt Bonnie is one of several that said a many a prayer for some of us little kids growing up in dysfuntion way back. I hope she knew how much I loved her and appreciated her.
And cuz, thanks for stopping up my big ole nose.
Sandra Kohls Giarrusso
I didn’t realize your mom was young when she journeyed home. My mom was only 42 when she passed and I miss her as much today as I did then. I believe our mothers picked up their friendship in heaven where it left off when you all moved to Marble Falls. I remember walking to y’all’s house when you all lived down the gravel road behind Joe Bob Walden’s house.
Tommye Dorbandt Potts
Bonnie and I were called for jury duty at Burnet County Court, so long ago, that I don’t remember the year. We were first cousins, but never saw each other. We sat together on that long bench just outside the court room, talked and had the best time. Neither one of us were chosen for jury duty. Why didn’t we say, let’s go for a cup of coffee? I wish we had.
Yes. We lived there in that house in 1956-57
I had no idea you lost your mother at that young age, Sandra Kohls Giarrusso.
A few years ago I ran onto your old neighbor, Mrs. Irene Simpson at the HEB in Burnet. She was with Judy. We stood in the parking lot and visited for a long while remembering all the folks that lived in that neighborhood all those many years ago. She has had a long life. She had a good mind then. Haven’t seen her since, but I suppose she is still living.
I looked it up, she’ll be 88 the end of this year.
Ida Baylor McGregor
Ronnie, I never got to know your mom well all those years ago but can tell what a good woman she was by knowing you. She raised a great caring son with a heart of gold. Preachers shouldn’t do that to families. I don’t think all people that go to heaven go to church every Sunday. But saying that I sure know it helps to keep us on the right track.
Peggy Shell Simon
I always think of Bonnie on our shared birthday of Jan 18th. When she found out we had the same birth date…she would call me. Really liked Bonnie…loved her outlook…
For a few years I got to know her as my mother-in-law and she blessed my life during that time! I remember that service and was very upset. Fortunately God sees the heart and I know for a fact that her heart was filled with love, first for her family, the Lord, and all her friends. She spent no time judging anyone, she was a busy lady she spent so much time doing for others . I loved her dearly! I am so thankful Jesus is her judge, because He sees the Bonnie we all love, I believe she is with my precious Kimberly and they are happy and talking up a storm!
The preacher said the same about my Dad about not going to church, but he gave accolades to my Dad for all the good things he did for many people.
Anita Blattner Roberts – my mother.
Anita Blattner Roberts
thank you very nice
She was one strong and great lady!
Reading this story, I find myself wishing I knew her. She must have been some kind of woman. I don’t think we ever get over losing our parents, but especially our moms.
Ronnie thanks for the story and life of your mother. She was so well liked and known in her community. Bonnie had a warm welcome each time she met you. I thought of her as a very nice person, And Calvin knew her much longer than myself.
Special memories put into good words.
Susan Black Blackmon
No matter how many times I read this, I always seem to find out more about your Momma. She must have been an amazing woman.
Love the stories about your family, Ronnie. Thanks for sharing them all!
Kathy Anderson Strittmatter
Bonnie Gay was very special
A lovely portrait.
I loved your story of you mom! Well done sir! As for the funeral, I always like funerals when you celebrate the life and times of the loved one. The fire and brimstone can be saved for the next Sunday.
Wayland McCoy, I wrote a story one time about Funerals and the way I look at them.
I will share it again.
Ronnie, your funeral would be the most entertaining ever I believe. With all your adventures and mishaps, people are going to feel guilty laughing so much at a funeral! You should make a video of you telling some of your favorites!
They can just have a box of books at the back and people can grab one and cut the funeral short.
I just won’t be signing them.
Ronnie Lewis I have always said that some of the funniest and most bizarre things have happened at our families‘ s funerals. Tammy told me that she had never seen anything quite like it. Could it be because our family is a little bit touched?
Diane Winslow Weniger
Beautifully written..can identify with her and that 30 30, deer meat, and sturdiness. Would like to have visited with her.
Being a christian shouldn’t mean you have to be in church a lot, but if you talk to God each day and I am sure she did as all mothers do
A beautiful tribute to your mom, Ronnie
A Touching Tribute.