Burdeen Ridge has been selected as this years 2005 Christmas Angel for Lake City and certainly deserves the title.
Ridge is one of 10 children of Joseph and mary Turner South, of Kennett, Mo. Her siblings are Earnest (deceased), Juanita Rogers, James (deceased), Joseph, John, Peggy Wright, Martha Patton, Max, and Gale (deceased).
"Dad had three children when he married Momma, but we could never tell we weren't all related the same," Ridge said. "We were all very close and still are.
"Christmases were always special. We always had a tree, which we cut fresh from the woods. We would make our own decorations of paper chains, strung popcorn, and berries. We had fresh fruit to eat and always got a small gift.
"We hung our stockings up at Christmas. It seems funny now to think of regular old socks hanging up, sometime they were sawmill ones, as compared to the fancy ones people hang now.
"Dad was a farmer, a sharecropper. He and Mom worked hard but didn't complain. Mom would always cook big meals and we would sit on two long benches on each side. Just the sight of the big family sitting beside a full table of food made each meal look like a celebration.
"Mom always tried to cook something special for each of us kids at Christmas, whatever our favorite was. Her specialities were making jam cake, chicken and dressing, with lots of vegetables.
"She cooked on a wood stove, and the house was filled with good smells. My brothers and I would go out and cut wood and carry it in to the dry, so she could cook with it. I recall when she got her first kerosene stove. I was just a little scared of it, thinking it might blow up, which it didn't.
"I helped Mom cook. We made cookies and sweets, along with the routine good stuff. It seemed like she was cooking all the time as there was so much to do with a large family. About the time we got the kitchen cleaned up from the first meal, we were thinking about what to cook for the next.
"Christmas was always extra special as there were a lot of events going on. We had plays at school and at the Pool Baptist Church, which we attended. We were usually there whenever the doors were open and didn't want to miss a thing."
When Mrs. Ridge was 17 she came to Lake City to take care of her sister Juanita, who had just lost a baby and needed help with her two small children.
"While staying with Juanita, I got a job in town at Bryant's Cafe," Ridge said. "I liked the job, made a little money, and got to meet a lot of local Lake City people. One day Bob Ridge came in the cafe with his father. We soon struck up a friendship and started dating."
Bob Ridge is the son of C.W. and Ella Hogard Ridge of Lake City.
"We went to the justice of the peace to get married," she said. "It was a no frills wedding but has lasted for 57 years, so we must have done something right.
"We sat up housekeeping about a quarter mile south of where we now live. We have been in farming all our lives, and we have enjoyed it. We raised our six children here and have no plans to live anywhere else."
Their children are Brenda Milligan, Lake City; Mary Caldwell, Lake City; Janice Wingo, Paris, Ark.; Ellen Barnes, Tulsa, Okla.; Teresa Singleton, Conway; and Mark, who lives nearby.
"I have kept busy all my life making a home and keeping the table full of food," Ridge said. "I sewed for the girls, made gardens, took care of the yard, cooked and canned. I was a room mother, a member of PTA, and went to all the ball games and activities that my kids were involved in. I look back at it now as one of the happiest times of my life.
"We always made every holiday special, especially Christmas. We would have a big tree with all the trimmings. There were always lots of toys under the tree. Watching the kids open their gifts was the highlight of my Christmas.
"Bob's mother always loved to get dolls for the girls, great big ones. We would go to her house and she would have the dolls standing up by the wall. Of course, she had some sort of tractor for Mark. She would get so excited seeing them go for the toys, and start playing with them."
The Ridges now have 17 grandchildren and 27 great grandchildren.
"At Christmas we have food all over the house," Ridge said. "I set up a table for the little ones, and the rest of us just fill our plates and find a place to sit. I always cook chicken and dressing, and the kids insist that I fix a big pot of dumplings. I usually cook chocolate pies, pecan pies, make a big bowl of fruit salad and lots of cookies.
"The house is full of laughter and children, which I just love. It sure seems quiet when they all go home."
Mrs. Ridge stays pretty close to home these days, as Mr. Ridge is not in good health. She does have a day out each Tuesday to go to the quilting bee at the First Methodist Church in Lake City.
"I just love quilting," Ridge said. "I used to piece quilts as a girl, then in my own home. It is such a treat for me to go to quilting with my friends each week. We always talk and share family stories, and of course we have a table full of good food to enjoy at lunch.
"Family and friends are the joys of my life. I am so blessed to have both in bountiful supply. I know ahead of time this will be another good Christmas, because we are all together. God has blessed me greatly, and I am most thankful."