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Voice of the people: Willis Pope




Remembering Eugenia 


Eugenia Summer and my grandmother, Mary Ellen Pope, were close friends and co-workers at MSCW (that is MUW for you younger ones). Eugenia and Mary Ellen were part of a lunch group of retired MSCW professors and other interesting Columbus ladies. My wife, Carolyn, a MSCW grad Class of 1968, was invited to join this group of enlightened ladies of letters and education. As time and reality demands, this group of close friends passed on. My wife and Eugenia were probably the last of this original lunch group. Carolyn and Eugenia grew to be close friends. Eugenia taught Carolyn about art of the paint brush and the art of the raconteur (thanks to Mary Margaret Roberts for expanding my limited vocabulary with "raconteur").   


Carolyn taught Eugenia how to use a computer.  Eugenia was not afraid of technology ... well, almost not afraid.  Eugenia did not like cell phones or hearing aids, even though she had both.   


Allow me to pause and mention that Eugenia Summer was a card carrying member of The G.I. Generation (The Greatest Generation).  From "The Fourth Turning" I quote, "They (The G. I. Generation) came of age with the sharpest rise in schooling ever recorded. As young adults, their uninformed corps patiently endured depression and heroically conquered foreign enemies. In a midlife subsidized by the G. I. Bill, they built gleaming suburbs, invented miracle vaccines, plugged missile gaps, and launched moon rockets."  


Such was Eugenia Summer. Can-do, confident, assertive, talented, feisty, caring, generous, sometimes private, sometimes eccentric, seeker of knowledge and better ways to instruct her students, are just some of the ways to describe this singular woman.  


Eugenia spoke fondly of her childhood. She and her twin brother, Charlie, played with Truman Capote. Capote, a product of a somewhat dysfunctional family, benefited by being allowed to play with two rough and tough Mississippi young'uns who could improvise and have fun in a muddy creek with tadpoles and crawfish.  


Calling up doodle bugs with a broom straw was another skill Eugenia imparted to the somewhat sheltered Capote. Eugenia met Eleanor Roosevelt several times. She would go on for hours talking about how that friendship came about.  


Eugenia once confronted Willie Morris, who had arrived a tad tipsy for a seminar she attended. I would not think Eugenia's rebuke changed Willie's habits, but she was up front with her comments and believed in doing the proper thing ... most of the time. 


Eugenia was very proud of her adventure to California in her Nash. She was independent. Eugenia worked in Washington D.C.  during the war years. She traveled on wonderful adventures to expand her knowledge of art. She would spare no expense or travel hardship in search of birds and other critters.  


She was a birder and had the T-shirts to prove it. On her lunch breaks while birding or painting at Lake Lowndes, Eugenia would dine on sardines and saltine crackers. One of her longtime friends, Barbara Smith, sent a lovely floral arrangement to the funeral. A can of sardines and a sleeve of crackers really gave this floral arrangement that certain "standout" appeal. The last time I saw the little fishes and crackers, they were in Mary Margaret Roberts' purse. Rumor has it Eugenia will have access to sardines and crackers forever. Maybe she'll share with Willie Morris and the Witch of Yazoo, that infamous swamp lady, who are buried a short distance in from Eugenia in Glenwood Cemetery. 


Eugenia loved "dem 'lanta Braves." It was more than fitting that Father Robert Dore led the attendees at Eugenia's funeral service in a rousing rendition of "Take Me Out to The Ballgame." Loud applause followed. I thought I heard someone shout, "play ball."  


I know on good authority that Eugenia would have loved to cast her ballot for Hillary Clinton in November, but somethings will have to wait till another life. Let me mention I was prepared to cancel Eugenia's vote, but I, for sure, would not tell her this intention. Eugenia loved politics, but as was maybe characteristic of her generation, she was open to compromise for the sake of progress. Not so, my generation, but that is a topic for another letter.    


See ya later, Gator. Rest in Peace, and tell Willie Morris I sure liked "My Dog Skip." Find out if The Witch actually burned down Yazoo City as she had promised. 


Willis Pope 





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