Norma Lemmons of Lake City went from a lifetime of being a preacher's wife to a fulfilling life as mother, grandmother and businesswoman in her own right.
"I recall us going into the woods to cut our tree for Christmas," Mrs. Lemmons said. "We decorated it with gum balls covered in tin foil and berries. Later on we added glass ornaments."
She met her future husband, Johnny Lemmons, as a friend at the Paragould Skating Rink.
"All the kids from Dixie loved to go skating at Paragould," Mrs. Lemmons said. "Our friendship grew into love and we dated for a year and a half. I was just 17 when we got married and he was 19. We were married by his father, Rev. Johnny Mannon Lemmons, at their house in Paragould in 1959."
"I graduated by correspondence the same year we married, with my parents' encouragement," she said. "Our first Christmas tree and decorations cost us $12. Johnny had won the money by answering a radio quiz show question. They asked him if he knew the Dixie Lilly Flour slogan that was on the flour sack. He said "light as air, white as snow."
"Johnny got a job as a male nurse in West Plains, Mo., and we moved there to live. Our daughter Jaynendel Jane (Vincent) was born in 1961. In fact, Johnny and I were both patients in the hospital for her birth. He had wrenched his back as a nurse lifting a male patient. They wheeled Johnny into my room on a stretcher during her birth.
"Our pastor announced at church that first Sunday, 'The mother and daughter are home and doing fine, but the father is still in the hospital."
"We moved back to Paragould, where Johnny worked as a salesman, a brick mason, at the hospital and also a funeral home," Lemmons said. "He was trying to suppress his calling into the ministry, and tried his hand a several other occupations, until he finally surrendered.
"At East Side Baptist Church in 1971 he finally answered the call to the ministry. His first church was at Big Creek north of Paragould. He was very happy being in the ministry and pursued his education in preparation for a lifetime of service. He later pastured at New Antioch, Cash, Concord, Blytheville, Scott City, Mo., Parma, Mo., Black Oak and Bowman.
"Wherever he was called to go, Jen and I followed along. We made new friends and adapted to new surroundings.
Jen attended school at Greene County Tech through the 11th grade and went on to graduate at Westside. "She was always a good student and was an accomplished pianist," Mrs. Lemmons said. "She was always good with her hands, and tackled the most complicated mechanical things working with her dad."
"She made Christmas special for us. Johnny and I got as excited as she did when she opened her gifts on Christmas morning. We played along with her as she opened each box. The trees were more exciting because she loved them and the toys were more fun because she made them exciting."
Jen met Joe Vincent at Concord, and they married in 1983. Their daughter Sarah was born in 1985. "Just like Jen before her, we were crazy about our granddaughter, and still are," Mrs. Lemmons said. "Nothing makes me happier than to hear from my girls."
"I never really had an identity of my own, as I was always Johnny's wife or Jen's mother. I really didn't mind that, as it was a full time job. I had kept children in my home when we lived in Paragould and worked at Eli Walker there for 10 years. In 2004, however, I became known as Mema, when I opened a day care in our home here in Lake City, called Miss Norma's. I was licensed to keep 10 kids and enjoyed having the children come in and out of our home. You get so close to the children and their families, and we have remained close ever since. I quit the daycare in November 2009."
Besides being a minister, Johnny was also a substitute teacher at Riverside. He was an amateur magician, entertaining children at church, school and at camps. He worked with handicapped children at the Mays Mission. The couple's life was busy and full. "Johnny died in 2005, and it was a great loss in my life. I was thankful to have my daycare here, with people coming in and out daily, and enjoyed having Jen and her family to fill my life and my thoughts," Mrs. Lemmons said.
"It would be easy to think your life is over when you lose your spouse, but thanks to family and friends, it is not. I have been able to travel with Jen to many places. I also went to New York, Savanna, Branson, and even England."
"I enjoy my friends at Lake City First Baptist Church, and my neighbors," Mrs. Lemmons said. "I enjoy having loved ones in here for the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. Family has become the most important thing in my life, and I take every opportunity for us to be together. I feel blessed to have had such a great life and good health. Lord willing, I will have many more happy days ahead. Christmas seems most of all about being thankful and maintaining joy and purpose in life."