Many of our friends will remember the story of the first time Tracie brought me home to Orange, Texas to meet her extended family. It was Thanksgiving 2008.
Everyone was a little nervous, including Tracie and me.
“Jeremy, we’re a hugging family,” said memaw, who was already in her mid-80s. “Come here and let me give you a hug.”
If ever there were an icebreaker, that was it.
Violet Lola Branch, née LeBlanc, passed away earlier this month. She was 100 years old. On Friday, we gathered in Orange to celebrate her life.
The photo above was taken in late January 2020. She was 98 years old. That’s our Chihuahua, Paco, whom she adored, in her lap. At the time, she was still putting on her makeup every day. She still drove herself around town and to all our family’s get-togethers. She was a truly remarkable woman who always ate well, stayed in shape, and stayed connected to friends through her love of bridge and her devotion to her church.
And the arc of her life was remarkable as well.
Think how different life was when she was born in 1921! To put it into perspective, Mussolini hadn’t yet seized power in Italy (his “March on Rome” took place the following year). Hitler and Nazism had yet to rise in Europe. Ford had yet to develop the first commercial airliner in the U.S. Telephones and automobiles were still amenities enjoyed by only the privileged.
Her husband Jim “Slats” Branch and she were part of the “Greatest Generation,” as we now call it. They married in 1942 in New Orleans before he deployed to Europe. After his tour of duty was over, they moved to Port Arthur, Texas on the Gulf Coast and would later settle in Orange, Texas where they would raise their two sons, Jim and Randy (Tracie’s father).
Memaw also had a wonderful sense of humor.
Here’s an anecdote that Tracie’s father Randy insisted she retell at her memorial service.
It must have been a few years ago when memaw mentioned that she had received a compliment from a friend.
“Violet,” said the friend, “you don’t look a day over 70!”
To that, memaw responded (in her classic southeast Texan twang): “Well, who the hell wants to look 70?”
Rest in peace, memaw. I’ll never forget how you welcomed me into your family. I enjoyed sharing our dogs and our wine with you over the years. I’ll cherish our conversations, your wonderful deviled eggs, and the joy you took in watching your great grandchildren grow. It was our blessing to have you in our lives.