Whittie Mae Walker (1916 – 2017)
As the person standing before you, representing both the Dorseys and the Walkers, I believe it’s my job to help you remember the legacy of the woman we have come to celebrate. And after deciding that I will not call her Whittie (because she absolutely hated that name) I thought a logical place to brainstorm ways to honor her memory would be to think of a single word or phrase that accurately describes Mimi.
Trust me when I say that ended up being harder than I anticipated. I never could put my finger on one particular adjective that illustrated Mimi’s personality. She was sweet, but also a little salty. She was loving, but only if you hadn’t irritated her that day. And I know she wouldn’t want me repeating the phrase that followed her around when she was a young girl…
Whittie Mae Walker, what a talker!
I can hear her now saying, “Oh foot, Lincee. Why did you say that in my eulogy?” SORRY MIMI!!!
I thought for several days about a phrase that describes Mimi and then it suddenly hit me on Sunday morning as I was sitting in church, right over there in that pew.
Mimi was available. She was present. Mimi was always there.
Yes, she was spunky and high spirited. She was strong, determined, and tough. Her hair was immaculate and her nails were divine. She smelled like roses and always had a Kleenex. She was a veracious reader and loved perusing the paper or sticking her nose in a book.
But the greatest thing about Mimi is that she was there.
Ninety-nine percent of the time, she was there with food. She made sure that if you walked through her back door, you would have an array of choices for a snack, including: a pineapple chess pie, a skillet of corn bread, some biscuits, or a pound cake that she just whipped up that morning for no reason other than, “What if company drops by?”
I remember one time when she was visiting me at my apartment, she was appalled that I didn’t have Tupperware containers full of flour and sugar, nor did I have eggs and sticks of butter in my refrigerator. She was so disappointed in me that I couldn’t tell her I use my oven for storing winter sweaters.
I’m pretty sure she and Aunt Ruth fed all of Walker’s Mill in their early years and probably fed most of you sitting in this sanctuary today. She was a steadfast participant at Hallsville Church of Christ and was unusually proud when she became the oldest member of the congregation. When the lady ahead of her in years passed away, she leaned over to me and said, “I’m the matriarch now. I can do whatever I want.”
And she did.
When the doors of the church were open, Mimi was there. Gosh, when the doors were shut, Mimi was there. Did you know she was a custodian here for decades? How many of the grandkids came with Mimi to help clean up before Sundays? We would straighten Bibles, empty trash cans, vacuum, and even pretend to be ushers so we could serve each other juice leftover from communion. Of course we’d turn around and Mimi would be there, because she was ALWAYS THERE, and we would get in trouble.
Mimi loved to sit in “her pew” and sing. She rarely had to open an hymnal to follow along. She didn’t have the loveliest of voices, but she always said that we need to pick our part and sing out loud. One of her favorite hymns was “Sing and Be Happy.” I remember on a particular Sunday, I was so eager to surprise Mimi by performing the song with my friend Jill in the back seat of the car as we drove to church. I taught my friend all the words the night before and I did the melody and Jill did the lower part. We sang loud and proud, just like Mimi taught me and we ended the hymn with a big flourish. Mimi turned around to look in the back seat. She smiled and said, “I always hated that song.”
Apparently I mixed up “Sing and Be Happy” with “Mansion Over the Hilltop.”
But that’s the thing I personally loved about Mimi the most. She spoke her mind. We never had to tiptoe around her with “safe” topics or generic conversation. She wanted in on the action and she wanted her opinion heard. One of the biggest blessing we’ve experienced is that Mimi was lucid and candid up until the very end. On multiple occasions, she would yell and Joe, Gary, and Mama from her bedroom for them to speak up because she couldn’t hear them and wanted to know what they were saying about her.
Mimi was straight up with her family, because family was the most important thing to her. She was a mother hen and wouldn’t be satisfied unless her little chicks were gathered around her. And those chicks included her immediate family, her extended family, neighbors, the church congregation, the caregivers at Life Care Health Services, and anyone she might meet at the post office or at the grocery store. She often spoke sweetly of her beloved husband Joel and her Mama. She loved her brothers and her best friend and sister, Baby Ruth. She adored her children and their children and their children. She was always there for each and every one.
You see, Mimi knew what it meant to love others well, because she had a strong relationship with the One who loved her first. More than anything, Mimi loved to serve. She never expected anything in return. She may have given of her time and resources, but the foundational act of service certainly came from a place rooted in her heart.
And though she’s not physically with us now, she’ll always be there. We have her recipes for Thanksgiving stuffing and egg custard. We can go on an adventure with her by reading Margaret Mitchell, the Bronte sisters, or Betty Neels. We can sing proudly and loudly in church. (JUST NOT THAT ONE SONG.) And we can be a presence in our own families’ lives.
Mimi is in a better place now. She can read again, she can walk again, and after 50 years apart, I imagine she’s embracing her beloved again.
Then she’ll whip up a couple of pound cakes and start sharing them with everyone. They will laugh at her energetic spirit, smile as she gabs on about her family who she can’t wait to see again, and giggle as she hums a merry tune walking down their driveway heading to the next mansion just over the hilltop.
I can hear them now:
That Whittie Mae Walker…what a talker.