Family means the most at Christmastime for Angel Taylor
Fay Taylor, 81, is this year's Caraway Christmas Angel. She is a well-known and well-respected part of the Caraway community.
Fay is youngest of three children born to Lewis and Donie Gammill Brewer of Mountain View. She has an older sister Vivian and an older brother Laverne. Although she had a rough beginning, her life has been a long and happy one ever since.
The three Brewer siblings lost their parents just one hour apart. Lewis Brewer died with intestinal problems just one hour before his wife Donie Brewer died giving birth to stillborn twins. Taylor was just three and a half years old at the time. Her mother's parents took the three kids to live with them.
"Soon Grandpa Gammill decided we were too much for him to handle and gave us up as orphans," Mrs. Taylor said. "When my other grandfather, Robbie Brewer, found out about us being sent away, he set out to find us. We had been sent to an orphanage in Texarkana. He sent word to them to not split us up, and he was coming after us. He and our aunt Sarah Brewer (Petty) really wanted us and were willing to raise us.
"I was so young that I have no recollection of the tragedy, the loss of our parents or our trip to the orphanage, but my older sister and brother did remember. I just knew that I was back in the arms of people who loved and wanted me. My Aunt Cordie Brewer also helped take care of us.
"Grandpa Brewer always made life special for us. He would cut a tree from the woods and bring it inside just before Christmas day. We decorated it with paper chains and homemade ornaments. We always got something for Christmas, usually a doll. We had a large family of Brewer relatives nearby and had big dinners together."
The five Brewers moved to the 'bottoms,' as they called it, at Hancock north of Caraway. The children went to Hancock #1 school.
"When Sarah grew up and married, I was just about 10 years old," Mrs. Taylor said. "I could hardly reach the top of the stove to cook, but I did what I could to help my sister take on the task. One of my jobs was to grease the bread pan. We each did whatever we could to have a normal family life. Grandpa was very good to us and wanted us to have a good life. He taught us to work and how to get by. We worked in the fields and did whatever came necessary. He died when he was 89."
Fay Brewer met Charles Taylor when they lived in the Bunny Community southwest of Caraway.
"When Charles got out of service, he came home and we started dating," she said. "He went into farming. We married in 1949, when I was 18 and he was 21. We got all dressed up and drove into Caraway to get preacher Johnson to marry us. When we got there he was out in back of the house putting out a chicken house fire. We had to wait until he got the fire put out and had time to clean up so he could perform the ceremony.
"We moved into a small two room house on Deglo Road. We moved all our belongings in a car to set up housekeeping. We picked cotton for a week at Milligan Ridge to buy a bedstead. Before that we just had a mattress on the floor. We were so proud of that bedstead, and our little home. We were as happy as we could be."
The Taylors went on to have three children Garry, Judy (deceased) and Curtis, and later had six grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
"Charles got a job working at Caraway School and we lived in a house on the school yard," Mrs. Taylor said. "The school later built us a new house there. I worked in the cafeteria. Charles went on to work for the school for 40 years.
"Christmas was always a fun time for us. We had a nice tree with lots of lights. The kids love shiny bulbs and icicles on the tree. Judy loved to get dolls and, of course, the boys liked tractors and cars.
"When the kids were young, we would go over to Aunt Cordie Brewer Simpson's house in Jonesboro for Christmas dinner. We had a house full of people with so many family members coming in and out. Of course, we had all our favorite foods."
"We moved into town after retirement, and this house has lots of house and yard room for the grandkids to play in. We have our family gathering here on Christmas Eve now," she said. "The kids like chicken and dressing, macaronni and cheese, pumpkin pie and pecan pie. I know what they like and try to fix something special for everyone. After cooking for so long, I should have the hang of it now. We eat a big dinner, then relax, then eat leftovers for supper. There is a lot of food eaten on that day. The kids spend Christmas Day in their own homes."
"We try to go to the Brewer reunions at Mountain View each year in June. It is still exciting to go back there to where it all began and to see so many of my loved ones," Mrs. Taylor said. "I owe a lot to my family for rescuing me, and loving me all these years. I was fortunate to marry a good man and have a wonderful family. Now I get to enjoy my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They are all growing up so fast, but they still like to come to grandmother's house."
Charles is deceased now, but Fay remains active in her community. She attends the Caraway Baptist Church near her home. She started receiving Snow Babies collectibles from secret pals years ago and has a display cabinet in her home full of them. She attends the Caraway Senior Citizen Center each day and plays Skip-Bo and Chicken Scratch Dominoes with her friends.
"I love the people at the senior center," she said. "We eat together and laugh together. When someone does not show up, our director Cleffie Gipson calls to check on them. We are all like a big family, as we watch out for each other, and help when we can."
Taylor has had many threatening health concerns, but takes it all in stride. She is a nine-year cancer survivor.
"The thing I enjoy most about Christmas is seeing my family together," Mrs. Taylor said. "Their smiles just light up the room, even brighter than the Christmas tree. We are all talking at the same time and laughing with and at each other. When they go home I still smile just thinking about what was said or done during our time together, and that makes me a happy woman indeed. I feel blessed to have such a wonderful family, and such a happy life."