Sunday, February 10, 2013

Catherine Was a Writer

Check in on Tuesday and see just how good she was.

This is just my second posting since being back in the saddle after being bucked off my horse by and I have been struggling with how to launch into a new season here.   As many folks in my family know, for the past several years I have been rummaging through Catherine LeDuke's saintly life.

My motives were pure as I rifled through her file cabinets, book shelves, sock drawers, attic crevices, and countless boxes containing letters, class notes, awards received, old calendars, boxes of photographs, graded papers of former students, and reams of paper that are mostly meaningless; all just to learn more details about Catherine LeDuke.  If her mind was fully alert, she would surely be scolding me, saying: "Jimmy, what are you doing in there in my closet?". 

My forays into Mother's past started innocently enough when I came across that first stash of letters written by James Neville to his college sweetheart and wife to be, Catherine Frazier Patty.  Most all of these letters were addressed to Memphis, Tennessee, postmarked in 1936, and were mailed from the town of Spencer in the Middle Tennessee's Cumberland Mountains.  That was where  James Neville had gotten a "place" following his graduation from State Teacher's College (now Memphis State).  He was hired to teach Latin, Chemistry, History, and Civics at a small prep school called Burritt College.  And he was a lonesome dude.

Catherine, having also just graduated in the spring of '36, was awaiting a "place" of her own and just a few weeks later she was hired to teach Latin and English at Alcoa Middle School just south of Knoxville.  Soon letters were flowing between Spencer and Alcoa and plans began to take shape for a spring wedding once 'Duke and C had worked for a full school year and saved enough to begin life together.  If there are teachers reading this posting, you already see a major flaw in their plan.

I am saying no more at this time about this period of their life because after enlisting the aid of my daughter Amanda the two of us were able to put together a book entitled "James Neville and Catherine - A Love Story".  It tells the story of the events leading up to their marriage told with the use of only letters written by James Neville.  You see, her letters, written each day from Alcoa, have never been found.  I know they are in her house somewhere and someday they will turn up.

Copies of this book are available at the Tiptonville Public Library and sometime later in this blogging activity I will probably make the book available to anyone wanting to read it.  I will just have to figure out how to put it out in cyberspace so it can be downloaded from our files.

The search for those missing letters led me to discover a trunk in her attic that netted an even larger cache of letters; 1500 of them, written by both Catherine and James Neville between 1944 and 1946.  It took Amanda and I several years to get a handle on the awesomeness of this "find," but the end result has been the recent completion of: "James Neville and Catherine - The War Years".  This book is finished but is still being "tweaked" a little.  We will be printing it shortly and placing copies in the Library.

My hunt goes on for the "Missing Letters of 1936," and as a result I came across another gem just a few weeks ago.  It's the basis for the posting I have already teased you with.  An essay written in 1959 by Mother and entered into a national contest.  She won first place for the State of Tennessee and second place Nationally.  AND  I  HAD  NEVER  SEEN  THIS  BEFORE.  Neither had my brother Richard or my sisters Cathie or Sue; and we were all still in school when this occurred.

We all know what a good teacher Catherine LeDuke was, and it is great to have this example of her own writing ability.  Wait until you see the posting on Tuesday and read the essay entitled "Reflections While Standing Before The Lincoln Memorial".

Tuesday conveniently just happens to be Lincoln's Birthday.

Jimmy LeDuke
(I'd love to hear from you...feel free to comment below, or click HERE to send me an e-mail)

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