My Aunt Imy was one of the stars in my universe when I was young. Visiting Aunt Imy and Uncle Eddie up in Northwest Arkansas was always a big treat for our family. They never failed to give us a warm reception with food, laughter and often, Aunt Imy’s delicious divinity. I would find myself wandering around their house in awe at the new paintings Aunt Imy had created. There was the exquisite hand tiled coffee table Aunt Imy created that seemed so exotic to me and all the older paintings Aunt Imy had done when she was younger and stored in the attic.
My sister and I loved to sneak up to the attic to gaze at the portraits of family and animals that Aunt Imy had created. There were also the Christmas scenes and the Easter Bunny Aunt Imy had painted.
Aunt Imy became my role model early in my life and it was natural that I would share my drawings and paintings with her as well as my father. She arranged for one of my paintings to be in my first show in Bella Vista, Arkansas.
Aunt Imy was an award winning artist and a member of the Pen Women of America.
But more than being a role model for me Aunt Imy was the mother of three excellent sons and the beloved wife of Uncle Eddie and eventually grandmother to four grandchildren.
Uncle Eddie had his own story too. He was president of the 1933 graduating class of Rogers Academy. He had an appointment to West Point but had to leave when his father died suddenly. He went on to become an officer in the 142nd Field Artillery, Arkansas National Guard “B” Battery, serving under J. Wesley Sampier. He met and married Naomi Ruth Ivie, a daughter of a federal judge and budding young artist.
I loved to sit and listen to Uncle Eddie weave his yarns. He was such a spellbinding storyteller that the subject-matter of the story was secondary to simply listening to the warm tone of his voice as he told it. Uncle Eddie had a way of smoothing over every wrinkle with his zany sense of humor.
Remembering some of the funny things he said makes me smile even today. Once when my mother’s fried chicken gravy turned out too lumpy Uncle Eddie said, “Slice me off another piece of that gravy.” He was gracious even in his humor.
The appearance of Uncle Eddie and Aunt Imy at any family occasion guaranteed that every member would make a special effort to be there. It seemed that they were often involved in some kind of art activity. Either they were going to one of their sons’ plays when the boys were in their teens and early twenties or one of Aunt Imy’s art shows. Or Uncle Eddie and the boys were going white water rafting or fishing at Beaver Lake.
Aunt Imy put her art on hiatus when her sons were young and concentrated on family. But when the boys were older she picked up her paint brushes again and painted up a storm. She became known as Nim of the Ozarks and was a regional artist. Aunt Imy and Uncle Eddie were among the founding members of the board of directors of the War Eagle Arts and Crafts Fair and it seemed to me that Uncle Eddie was Aunt Imy’s staunchest supporter.
He framed her paintings, drove her to her art shows and supported her in all of her many creative endeavors. So when Aunt Imy died suddenly in a car accident in the Ozark Mountains while on the way home from an art show of her paintings in Branson, Missouri we were all devastated.
We gathered ourselves together and traveled up to Blue Eye, Missouri to be with Uncle Eddie and the boys. When our family arrived Uncle Eddie looked at us and said, “A lot of love just walked in this door.” And it was true. Uncle Eddie and Aunt Imy were among the most loving people I have ever known and we loved them back.
I’ve often wondered why Aunt Imy left us at the relatively young age of fifty seven. She only knew two of her grandchildren and they were very young. All the delight she gave to us when we were young her own grandchildren couldn’t know. But her memory is with us still and she would be very proud of her sons and grandchildren. One son is a judge, one has a doctorate in mathematics and is a now retired math professor and one a playwright and CEO/Executive Director of the Theater for Young America.
Uncle Eddie lived for 26 more years and never remarried. He enjoyed being a father and grandfather and going fishing. But I know he missed his “Imy.”
I never learned Aunt Imy’s recipe for divinity but have attempted to make it over the years with minimal success. It just doesn’t taste as sweet as it did when I was young and tasting it at Aunt Imy’s. But that may just be because the divinity I make doesn’t come with the old excitement of piling in the back of the old 48 Chevy with my brothers and sister for that trip up the mountain to see Aunt Imy and Uncle Eddie and knowing that when they opened up the door we would be truly welcomed.
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