Nance family reunion, twins'birthday party set for June 14

Tuesday, June 3, 2014
Nance twins, Alma and Zelma

On June 9, 1930, twin daughters were born to John Luther (J.L.) Nance and Martha Ellen Nance in Mississippi County, Arkansas. They were the last of 14 children and the only ones still living. The twins, Alma Dulaney, formerly Alma Gilpatrick, and Zelma Ashabranner, formerly Zelma French, will be 84 on June 9. Their sister named them and they have joked through the years saying they go from A to Z.

Six of the 14 Nance children died as infants or at a young age. The other eight, four brothers and four sisters, all lived to reach their 80s and 90s. The brothers are Murrell Nance, Collier Nance, Vassar Nance, and Herndon (H.D.) Nance. The sisters are Thelma Wyatt, Vama Hayden, Alma Dulaney and Zelma Ashabranner.

The Nance siblings grew up on a farm, "the home place," a few miles down Blue Road in Leachville. Their father, J.L., farmed and owned and operated a grist mill and feed store in Leachville for many years. Their mother stayed busy raising the children.

Nance twins

Each year the Nance family congregates to visit, eat, swap stories, and share pictures with the rest of the family. The get-together is always the first or second Saturday in June and the twins' birthday is also celebrated at the same time. This year the celebration will be on Saturday, June 14, from 2-4 p.m. at the Community Center on Fifth Street in Leachville. Everyone is invited to stop by and wish the twins a happy birthday and visit with the entire family. Please do not bring birthday gifts.

"We want your presence, not presents," they said.

Refreshments will be provided.

For anyone who is not positive whether they remember the Nance family or the twins, a little history may help refresh your memory.

The twins each have four children. Alma has three daughters and a son, and Zelma has three sons and a daughter.

Alma's children are Barbara Arnold of Dell, Martha Gilpatrick of Jonesboro, Jackie Brewer of Fairfield, Ohio, and Rodney Gilpatrick of Memphis, Tenn.

Zelma has two children living, Sharon Winford of Etowah and Michael French of Burleson, Texas. Sadly, Zelma lost two of her sons to cancer, Dewayne French in 1968 and Kenny French in 2013.

The other Nance siblings and their children are:

Murrell Nance and his wife, Ruby, were not blessed with any children. Although H.D. Nance and his first wife, Virginia, had no children, they raised two of his wife's relatives, Chris (Junior) and Eileen Kitchen. Vassar Nance and his wife, Mattie, have three children, David Nance of Smithsburg, Md., Ruth Cole of Leachville, and Martha Smith of Floral. Collier Nance and his wife, Dorothy, have a son, Ronnie Nance of Monette, who passed away in 2010 from cancer, and a daughter, Donzia Nance, of Monette.

The Nance girls, other than the twins, named above, are Vama Hayden who has a son, Darrell (Bud to the family) Hayden who lived in Paragould but passed away from cancer, and Wilma Jean Rogers of Houston, Texas. Thelma Wyatt and her husband, Otto, have four children, Louise Hale, James Wyatt of Bakersfield, Calif., Reuben Wyatt of Lindsey, Calif., and Wanda McCormick of Manila.

The Nance Family has several things in common. They give their children nicknames or two names. Examples are George, Bama, Bud, Tadpole, Wasp, dirt-dopper or Sissy for nicknames and Martha Lou, Ruth Ellen, Ronnie Joe, Donzia Lynn, and Wilma Jean for two names. The Nance clan also likes to eat and tell tall tales, so come join them on Saturday, June 14, between 2 and 4 p.m. to do the same.

You can reminisce with them about growing up on a farm, chopping and picking cotton, split term in school, the annual carnival which came to town in the fall, listening to the preacher in the family, working at Brown Shoe Company, meeting at one of the drug stores in town, going to the movies at the Melody Theater, eating fried chicken and gravy on Sundays with banana pudding and mince meat pie for desserts, life at the grist mill, wringing the chicken's neck for Sunday dinner, the old processing plant, the strawberry patches, getting doctored with turpentine for a cold or coal oil from a barrel for a cut.

"We look forward to seeing you and sharing stories on June 14," Martha Gilpatrick said.

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