So many of the letters of tribute to Catherine LeDuke speak of lofty, intellectual, and inspirational feats of wizardry which Mother performed. But the truth is Mother had a lighter side to her image that is quite varied and equally unforgettable, especially to the individuals who got to witness those times.
A writer whose letter will be posted in its entirety at a later time tells us of a trip to Memphis to see a musical at the Orpheum. Mother is driving a call full of silly girls (is there any other kind) and overhears that one of them has met a boy recently who lives in Covington. Since they knew where he lived Mother drove the giggly crew past the house to give her heart throbbing passenger a thrill. Alas, no boy, no wave, no kiss-blowing on this trip.
They did however pass a cemetery. So serious was Miss Catherine, as she chose this opportunity to do a little "teaching" on the drive to Memphis. "Do you know why they do not bury anyone that lives within two blocks of that grave yard?" she asked her charges. Silly girls! It took them 20 miles to figure out that they do not bury the living.
Well, I didn't say her lighter side qualified her as a great comedian.
Another letter writer tells about the somewhat "zestful" way Mother would say the word "Damn" when demonstrating proper enunciation of all the words spoken by Lady Macbeth. Remember, she always emphasized speaking clearly and distinctly. "If the play calls for a curse, then do so with gusto." And if the scene calls for poor English, then lay it on with clarity: "I seen the little lamp".
And who else could direct by demonstration to the Drama Club members the art of "slurping" one's coffee from the saucer or the proper way to "walk like an old woman" at her then young age of 45.
And of course she often reminded us when we were tempted to get long-winded with our essays that when writing or giving a speech, "keep it short, like the girl's skirt". Catherine LeDuke said that???
Yet another describes Mother taking a group of young people on a "cultural" trip to Memphis during which Catherine LeDuke took them all to a fancy restaurant. "The first time a ever ate at a McDonald's was with your mother", she writes. Catherine spared no expense in exposing her students to the finer things in life.
This short letter spoke volumes:
When I think about your parents, I think survival. We would not have survived without your parents help. So in a sense I believe that I had two moms and two dads. Your mom bought me my first pair of real earrings. She will always have a special place in my heart. She was part of my inspiration to become a school teacher.
From another letter writer; Miss Catherine was the first female that I ever saw wear long pants. Remember now, just prior to Mother teaching school at THS she was a "rural mail carrier".
"Neither rain, nor snow, nor sleet, nor cold of morning..............." or something like that. Anyway Nell Frances Campbell Scott was remembering that while James Neville was winning World War II, Mother took over his job at the Post Office when Nell Frances' father was Post Master. "Those long pants helped to keep her warm in cold weather out on 'the route' delivering mail. What a good solution that was to keeping warm."
Is there a woman's closet today that is not three quarters full of pants??????
Yes, She had a lighter side. But even as we remember those moments and write about those memories I know each of us mentally call up an image of Mother's smiling face while continuing to feel the serious emotions of love, thankfulness, and awe at the multi-faceted life of Catherine Patty LeDuke.