Mrs. Gilpatrick knows the true meaning of Christmas

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Edyth Gilpatrick, Leachville's 2010 Christmas Angel, has seen a lot of changes in her lifetime but has managed to keep her priorities in order -- serving the Lord and maintaining a close, loving family.

Leachville Angel Edyth Gilpatrick

Born April 26, 1919, she is one of seven children born to Alex and Dora Campbell Skidmore. She was born in the Russellville area and still loves the mountains. Only two of the siblings are still living - Mrs. Gilpatrick and her brother, Carl Skidmore. He lives in DeQueen.

She said like kids today she and her brothers and sisters looked forward to Christmas and Santa. Her parents tried to make Christmas a special time.

"We lived in the mountains and we stayed home for the holidays, but Mom cooked a good Christmas dinner and Dad saw we had bought candy for Christmas," she remembers. "Bought candy was a treat in those days. We did not get it every day."

Growing up in the mountains with a big family was fun for her, but she also learned to work.

The CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) was established in the 1930s giving young men jobs during some very difficult economic times. Some of the workers left home living in camps where the work took them. Mrs. Gilpatrick's mother took the job of washing clothes for 21 of the CCC boys. Mrs. Gilpatrick and her sisters helped with the job.

"In those days we washed on a rub board, heating the water," she said. "We heated our iron on the stove and it was quite a job washing for 21 men. In those days we were happy to make extra money."

She smiled as she recalled one day when she and her sister rode their stick horses 3-1/2 miles to get the mail.

"A CCC truck full of young men came by," she said. "I can remember trying to hide my stick horse because I was really too old to be riding a one. The boys asked why we rode those stick horses and I told them we rode to keep from walking."

Mrs. Gilpatrick left the mountains in 1937 when she married Roscoe Anthony and moved to Leachville, the place she has called home ever since.

She later married Junior Gilpatrick who died in 1971.

She raised her four daughters in Leachville. They are Dora Biggerstaff of Leachville; Genevia Richards of Illinois; Dola Henderson and her husband, Frank, of Atkins; and Deloras Austin and her husband, Bobby, of Leachville.

For most of her daughters growing up years, it was just the girls and Mrs. Gilpatrick. She worked at cleaning houses, chopping or picking cotton. She also worked at a strawberry processing plant located on main street in Leachville.

She taught her daughters to work but she worked beside them in the fields. They became known as the best-dressed cotton pickers around. They took a lot of teasing about coming to the cotton patch in starched and ironed clothes. Mrs. Gilpatrick was a strong believer that clothes would last longer if they were starched and ironed. She also was very strict on the girls about wearing long sleeves and bonnets. They may not have liked it at the time, but they could all thank their mother for having good skin as they got older.

She worked hard and taught her daughters to work hard.

"We worked on Saturdays but on Sundays we went to church," she said.

Every Saturday night she washed and rolled the girls hair. When they went to church on Sunday her girls were always starched, ironed and curled.

She enjoyed Christmas time when her girls were growing up. They always hung their stockings and usually got a doll and fruit.

Mrs. Gilpatrick's house was the family gathering place. She and her four girls lived in a three room house but there was always room for family to visit. Being the oldest daughter, she always helped with the younger kids and became like a second mother to them.

"We would have pallets everywhere," she said. "We would lay sideways on the two double beds and some would even sleep on the porch when the weather was nice."

She didn't have a car and never learned to drive. When the girls were growing up she would make out a list and they would walk to town to Turnbow's Grocery. They would drop off the list and the groceries would be delivered to their home.

She does have indoor plumbing these days, but she still has the old outhouse in her back yard. She has had offers to buy it but she likes having it there as a reminder of the "good old days."

She got her first post office box in 1952 and still has the same number and her first telephone in 1962 and still has the same telephone number.

"I don't like change," she said.

She has gone from the stick horse days to the jet airplane days. She has not flown commercially but has been up in a small airplane with Dr. Rodman as the pilot. She worked for the Rodmans and became very good friends. Her daughter, Deloras, went to work for the Rodmans when her mother retired.

Mrs. Gilpatrick is a charter member of the People of Praise United Pentecostal Church in Leachville.

She went to work in the school cafeteria in the 1950s and worked there for 17 years feeding the school children until she retired.

"I liked working there," she said. "The Lord has blessed me, He knew I needed good health and He provided it. Growing up we were taught to work like men and act like ladies."

She may have never driven a car, but thanks to her grandsons and some church friends she loves to ride motorcycles. She has not been able to ride much the last few years but she still rides every chance she gets.

She is looking forward to Christmas this year. As always she will spend it with family.

"I have not always had an easy life, but it has been a blessed life and I wouldn't change a thing," she said. "My advice to any family is to love each other and be good to each other."

Her family has grown and she has even more to love. She has 13 grandchildren, 23 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

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