Thursday, July 16, 2009

Nana in My Dad's Words

My parents divorced when I was 12. It wasn't anyone's fault. It was just one of those things and, all in all, everything has always been quite amicable. We've all even spent some holidays together - birthdays, graduations, and even a Christmas in the mid-90s. Nana always believed that when you married into our family, you were family forever. No matter what. She always asked about him and continued to have some contact with him over the years.

Early last month, things took a serious turn for the worse and we didn't think she would make it through that week. I called my dad because he always wanted to know how she was and has even spoken to her a few times over the last few years. As broken up as I was, my dad was too. Unbeknownst to me, he then sat down and wrote my mom a letter. I read it today and was moved to tears. My mom said I could share it because he perfectly captured Nana. Needless to say, this is a letter I will cherish forever.
Dear Virginia,

I understand from Jessica that time is getting short for your mother. I can't tell you how sorry I am.

Virginia, Frances is a great lady! She has always done what she thought was best for everyone else - always thinking of herself last. She has always been so gracious and caring. I guess that is what I'll remember most. Even after we split up, she told me she loved me and I was welcome in her home. Even though I haven't seen her in years, the thought of her being gone makes me very sad.

Brief pause while I wipe my eyes . . .

The contributions that Frances made to Crystal Beach and Tarpon Springs will be difficult to match. She touched so many lives. She will be leaving behind a legacy of kindness, caring, and thoughtfulness!

I'm sure in God's eyes she has successfully completed his plan for her. Isn't that what life is really all about?!

Virginia, as we miss her, and we will, be happy for her also. Frances will be entering a Kingdom greater than we can imagine and she will be at peace!

I write this with great love and affection!


Thoughts About Nana

I am overwhelmed with the generosity of love that has been sent my way over the last few days. I've received emails from family, friends, and even complete strangers sharing their memories of Nana. Your words and memories have touched my heart, made me smile, and sometimes even brought me a laugh and I wanted to share them. Here are just a few . . .
"I knew Frances fairly well, most from walking past her home in Crystal Beach on the way back from school each day. She would come out of the garden (usually startling me, until I came to expect it) and say a very warm "Hello" and ask how I was. She really wanted to know, too. If I didn't tell her something more substantial than "hi, I'm good," she was sincerely disappointed. She is the kind of woman who adds a lot of the feeling of community, of closeness, that there is something binding all of us together. It is a pleasure to have known her."

"Christmas of 1963, thanks to Frances and Virginia, my mother had her favorite tree -- blue lights, blue ornaments . . . . Frances will be more than fondly remembered by my family."

"I just learned of [Frances'] death. You know that we loved and appreciated her. It was good to see her again on my last visit. Your family will be in my prayers this week."

"I know that it is hard to lose someone you love. She had such a great life and has not had a true life for many years now. We all know that she is in such a better place with many family members and friends. I have enjoyed reading and viewing the pictures of memories."

"I so remember Aunt Frances and interacting with her on numerous occasions. She was such a lady and one who always seemed to have a twinkle in her eyes. Being solicitous of others really stood out to me among her attributes. And who could not be impressed with the fact of her taking piano lessons later in her life and enjoying it so much! We talked of the piano then each time we saw one another as she knew I'd "sort of" played for much of my life. She was deeply committed to her family, and I recall vividly her speaking of you, Jessica, quite often. She loved all of you dearly."
Please feel free to continue to email me your thoughts and your memories. I've saved each one of them and shared them with my family. But you can also feel free to share your experiences with Nana here on the blog through the comments section after each post. I personally approve all comments.

Thank you for the love you have for my family and me.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Welcome to Remembering Frances!

Thank you for visiting Remembering Frances, the blog I set up to honor the memory of my Nana, Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier. My family and I appreciate that you were here.

Nana went home to be with God on Sunday, July 12th. We will forever miss her, but will be comforted by the wonderful memories we have of her sweet Southern drawl, her laughter, her sage words, weekly letters, and those sparkling blue eyes she had until her last breath. As you may know, as a result of Macular Degeneration, Nana became blind in 2002. In speaking with a dear friend last night, I shared that for the first time in 7 years, Nana's sparkling blue eyes can see clearly and I know she is looking down at me and my family and smiling.

I hope these stories and memories bring a smile to your face and give you a sense of the woman my Nana was. Her story is a remarkable one. She was a pioneer in so many ways and my personal hero. She has left a legacy to be proud of and that will ensure her spirit will never leave.

I will be continuing to update this blog over the next few days as more details regarding services emerge. I will also be adding some home movies from the 1950s and other pieces I've written about Nana.

Please let us know you were here and share your memories of Frances by posting a comment at the bottom of any post. You may do that by clicking "Comments" at the bottom of each post.

Please note that when you leave your comments, they will be visible by all who visit the blog. If, however, you wish to leave anything privately for my family (e.g., your address or phone number), please email me privately at happygirl616[at]wowway[dot]com.

Thank you.

Jessica Lynn Gardner

Granddaughter of Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier & Daughter of Virginia Paulk Gardner

Monday, July 13, 2009

Nana's Retirement from NationsBank (now Bank of America)

Nana retired from NationsBank (initially Ellis National Bank and now Bank of America) on her 80th birthday, July 18, 1996, after 40 years of employment at the bank. During her long tenure, she was the first woman to become Vice President of any bank in the Ellis Bank Group and she mastered three different computer systems in 15 years - a feat for anyone of any age, but especially for a woman of her generation.

I remember when Ellis National Bank initially merged with another bank in the early 1980s to become NCNB. As part of the merger, the bank, for the first time ever, went to a computer system for banking. Each banker had to learn the new computer system and pass a computer competency exam in order to continue their employment. At that time, Nana was about 65 and thinking about possibly retirement. I remember sitting around her dinner table in Crystal Beach listening to her talk about whether or not she should retire and her beliefs about whether she could pass the computer exam. She honestly wasn't so sure.

But Nana was no quitter. She was a lifelong learner and believed education was everything. She was not going to let some computer system best her into retirement. So she studied and practiced everyday before and after work and when it was time to take the computer test, she passed it with the highest score of any banker, including many bankers 30 or 40 years her junior.

Over the years, the computer system would change two more times during her tenure with the bank. Each time, she had to pass a competency exam to keep her job and each time she scored the highest of any banker.

Before she retired in 1996, she learned how to use email. I'll never forget the day I looked at my email at Hogan & Hartson in Washington DC and I had an email from Nana. We emailed back and forth a couple of times before she retired. Although she never used them again, having those computer skills was a source of considerable pride for Nana. She didn't know any other 80 year old women who could use a computer and send emails across country.

The video below was made on the day of her retirement. The local ABC affiliate station came to NationsBank that day and did a story on her. It aired that night. We stayed up and watched it together. Enjoy!

Frances Paulk Retirement from Orange Video Guest on Vimeo.

Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier - July 18, 1916 - July 12, 2009

This is the obituary that will appear in the St. Petersburg Times and the Tampa Tribune.

Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier was born July 18, 1916 in a log house out in the country in Batesville, Mississippi to Robert and Lily Scruggs. When she was 16 years old, she canned the most greens beans in all of the State of Mississippi 4-H Clubs. This won her a trip to the 1932 Chicago World’s Fair where she met and had breakfast with Amelia Earhart a few month’s after Miss Earhart’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic. She was Class Valedictorian and Commencement Speaker when she graduated from Batesville High School in 1934, with a full scholarship to Bellhaven College in Bellhaven, Mississippi.

She married Jesse E. Paulk on September 30, 1938. They lived in Batesville where her husband was head of Paulk Brothers Well Drilling and Plumbing. On April 23, 1956, Jesse Paulk brought in the largest gas well ever to be brought in the Southeastern United States. They were members of Batesville Presbyterian Church and she was a member of the Batesville Woman’s Club, which helped get the phrase “under God” added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954.

In 1956, Mrs. Paulk and her husband Jesse and their children, Virginia and Michael, moved to Crystal Beach, Florida. She worked for Ellis National Bank in Tarpon Springs, Florida (later to become Bank of America), where she was the first woman Vice President in the Ellis Bank Group. She retired from banking after 40 years on July 16, 1996, just two days before her 80th birthday.

In Florida, Mrs. Paulk was a charter member of the Crystal Beach Community Church, which was founded in 1957 by the Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier, whom she later married on August 28, 1971, after her husband Jesse Paulk died on September 12, 1961. She was Church Secretary and Sunday School Teacher. She was a member of the Tarpon Springs Hospital (now Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital) Women’s Auxiliary. Mrs. Paulk was also a member and secretary for the Palm Harbor Junior High School PTA; secretary-treasurer of the Crystal Beach Chapter of Boy Scouts of America and received the Mother of an Eagle Scout Award; and a member of the National Association of Bank Women, Inc. having served as Treasurer of the Gulf Coast Group of N.A.B.W. She was nominated for listing in Who’s Who of American Women; she was the first recipient of the Courtesy Award given by the Greater Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce; she was named Woman of the Year by the American Business Women Association Tarpon Springs Charter Chapter; and Mrs. Paulk was also a Kentucky Colonel, having been awarded this honor by the Governor of Kentucky in 1974. She was selected for lifetime membership in the Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels for her work as an ambassador of good will and fellowship, based upon her strength of character, leadership and dedication to the welfare of others and for “living a life that placed others above self.” Frances was also a member in good standing in the Kentucky Colonels’ Good Works Program.

Her daughter Virginia was with her in Florida since she went blind as a result of macular degeneration and glaucoma in 2002. In October 2003, Mrs. Paulk, with the assistance of her daughter Virginia, was responsible for causing Verizon, Inc. to set up Call Centers for Customers with Disabilities in all 50 states. Also, due to the diligent efforts of Mrs. Paulk and Virginia, Verizon, Inc. since 2003 allows all customers who are unable to dial telephone numbers to simply “0” and the operator will then dial the number for them without any extra charges or fees.

Mrs. Paulk was best known for sweet Southern drawl, her kind and gentle ways, her honesty and dependability, her willingness to “go the extra mile” for friends and acquaintances alike. She was also a talented seamstress, who made all Virginia’s clothes until after she went off to college, as well as her own. She enjoyed reading, walking, cooking, sewing, needlepoint, working in her garden, playing the piano and bridge, travels to Germany, Chicago and Washington D.C. She enjoyed most her time spent with her family and friends. Her favorite activity, however, was participating in weekly church services and devoted her life living Christ’s word through her actions.

Mrs. Paulk is survived by her daughter, Virginia P. Gardner of Arlington Heights, Illinois, her son Dr. Michael E. (Maureen) Paulk of Payson, Arizona, her 4 grandchildren Jessica Gardner, David Gardner, Jesse Paulk and Ryan Paulk, her sister Dixie Gladney, her nieces Bobbie Ruth (Charles) Lavender of Roanoke, Virginia; Charlayne (Richard) Lamb of Batesville, Mississippi; her nephews Robert Harold Gladney and Vernon R. (“Sonny”) (Elizabeth Ann) Butler; her 5 great-nieces: Robbie (A.G.) Nichols, Dixie Lamb, Mazie Lamb, Elesha (Troy) Tucker, Mary Elizabeth Butler, her 3 great-nephews Yancy Butler, Garth Gladney, and Tom (Andrea) Gladney; her cousin Cornelia Waldrup DeFrances of Baton Rouge, Louisana; step-son-in-law Jim Erdman, step-son-in-law Jim Erdman; step-daughter Betty Earle (Don) Bredemeier Huffman; step-grandchildren the Rev. Chris Erdman, James Erdman, Julie Huffman, and Paul Huffman; and other family and friends. On the Paulk side of the family, she is survived by Buddy Paulk, Pam Paulk Kuiper, Gene Paulk, Dennis Paulk, Katie Paulk, Ronnie Pinder, and Dixie Gilpen. She was preceded in death by her brother Robert Scruggs, Jr.; her sisters Robbie Scruggs, Mazie Scruggs, and Johnnie Scruggs Butler; her step-daughter Margaret Ann Bredemeier Erdman, and her husbands Jesse E. Paulk and Rev. C.W.A. Bredemeier.

Visitation will be at Vinson’s Funeral Home at 456 E. Tarpon Ave. in Tarpon Springs, Florida on Friday, July 17, 2009, from 6pm – 8pm.

A Celebration of Life service will be held on what would be Mrs. Paulk’s 93rd birthday at Crystal Beach Community Church 625 Crystal Beach Ave., Crystal Beach, Florida on Saturday, July 18, 2009, at 2pm. There will be a refreshments and a Birthday Cake in the Fellowship Hall afterwards for Family and Friends. The Reverend Dr. Susie Cashion will officiate.

Following services in Florida, her daughter Virginia & her grandchildren Jessica and David will accompany Frances’ body to her hometown of Batesville, Mississippi.

Complete details of the services and internment along with many memories and pictures of Mrs. Paulk can be found at Remembering Frances online at

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Crystal Beach Community Church, P.O. Box 571, Crystal Beach, Florida 34681 for restoration & protection of the church’s 60-year-old stained glass windows. Please write “Frances Paulk Memorial” in the MEMO section of your check.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Frances in Pictures

Frances Scruggs Paulk Bredemeier lived a remarkable life, much of it captured in pictures.

This slide show is about 5 minutes in length. I apologize for not having all of the pictures captioned yet. It's a work in progress.

Frances's Favorite Bible Verses

Nana was a devout Christian, although she never felt a need to run around proselytizing to everyone. Rather it was her belief that everyone could see her love for Christ in her actions. Her Bible was well worn, however, as she'd read it cover to cover many times and read it nightly.

Throughout the years, I came to know many of her most favorite verses. She would often drop them into a letter to me or I simply heard her recite them over and over again.

Even in her last few months, when she was almost entirely incoherent, if you started to recite the Lord's Prayer or the 23rd Psalm in her presence, whether in person or on the phone, her voice would suddenly be strong and she would speak it with conviction. Talk about a miracle.

The Lord's Prayer - King James Bible AD 1611
Our Father, who art in Heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy Kingdom come,
thy will be done,
on earth as it is in Heaven
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
for ever and ever

The 23rd Psalm - A Psalm of David (King James Version)
1The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
3He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.
4Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
5Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
6Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Proverbs 3 (King James Version)
1My son, forget not my law; but let thine heart keep my commandments:
2For length of days, and long life, and peace, shall they add to thee.
3Let not mercy and truth forsake thee: bind them about thy neck; write them upon the table of thine heart:
4So shalt thou find favour and good understanding in the sight of God and man.
5Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.
6In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths.
7Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
8It shall be health to thy navel, and marrow to thy bones.
9Honour the LORD with thy substance, and with the firstfruits of all thine increase:
10So shall thy barns be filled with plenty, and thy presses shall burst out with new wine.
11My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction:
12For whom the LORD loveth he correcteth; even as a father the son in whom he delighteth.
13Happy is the man that findeth wisdom, and the man that getteth understanding.
14For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.
15She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.
16Length of days is in her right hand; and in her left hand riches and honour.
17Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace.
18She is a tree of life to them that lay hold upon her: and happy is every one that retaineth her.
19The LORD by wisdom hath founded the earth; by understanding hath he established the heavens.
20By his knowledge the depths are broken up, and the clouds drop down the dew.
21My son, let not them depart from thine eyes: keep sound wisdom and discretion:
22So shall they be life unto thy soul, and grace to thy neck.
23Then shalt thou walk in thy way safely, and thy foot shall not stumble.
24When thou liest down, thou shalt not be afraid: yea, thou shalt lie down, and thy sleep shall be sweet.
25Be not afraid of sudden fear, neither of the desolation of the wicked, when it cometh.
26For the LORD shall be thy confidence, and shall keep thy foot from being taken.
27Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.
28Say not unto thy neighbour, Go, and come again, and to morrow I will give; when thou hast it by thee.
29Devise not evil against thy neighbour, seeing he dwelleth securely by thee.
30Strive not with a man without cause, if he have done thee no harm.
31Envy thou not the oppressor, and choose none of his ways.
32For the froward is abomination to the LORD: but his secret is with the righteous.
33The curse of the LORD is in the house of the wicked: but he blesseth the habitation of the just.
34Surely he scorneth the scorners: but he giveth grace unto the lowly.
35The wise shall inherit glory: but shame shall be the promotion of fools.

Psalm 118:24 (King James Version)
This is the day, which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Tarpon Chamber Holds Luau, Presents Awards

For fun tonight, I decided to do an internet search for "Frances Paulk" just to see what I might find. I honestly wasn't expecting anything, but among other things, I found this delightful article! I remember hearing that Nana had won a "Courtesy Award" at some point, but I just thought it was no big deal. Truthfully, it doesn't surprise me to discover that Nana actually did win this award (and was the overall winner, no less!) because she was truly one of the kindest, politest, most sincere people I've ever known. She always says please and thank you, yes ma'am or sir and no ma'am or sir. She lives the proverb "a soft answer turneth away wrath" (Proverbs 15:1).

Be sure to click on the title of the article below and scroll up to see a picture of Nana at the awards banquet.

Tarpon Chamber Holds Luau, Presents Awards
St. Petersburg Times - October 11, 1969
Times Correspondent

TARPON SPRINGS - More than 250 persons clad in bright Polynesian costumes attended a luau at Tahitian Gardens Thursday night, staged by the Tarpon Springs Chamber of Commerce.

The evening's entertainment included Polynesian music and dancing girls and the presentation of several awards.

Special recognition and plaques went to Karen Feltz and Spero Mailles for their heroism in saving lives in two accidents during the past year.

Miss Feltz, a resident of New Port Richey, pulled two men from the Anclote River December 17, 1968 when their car plunged into the water as the U.S. 19 bridge collapsed.

Mailles was able to revive one of two children he pulled from the water at Hudson Beach last summer.

The Chamber's annual "Courtesy Contest" awards went to Frances Paulk, assistant cashier at First National Bank of Tarpon Springs; Ronnie Hausen, Assistant Manager at Publix Super Market at Tarpon Mall; and Ann C. Smith, clerk at the Pick Quick Store in Buena Vista.

Mrs. Paulk was the overall winner. Hausen took the top spot in citywide competition and Mrs. Smith was the out-of-city winner.

Awards for the most colorful costumes went to Police Chief L.J. Buchanan and Jenny Williamson for their green and red Hawaiian attire.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Nana in Letters

Without fail, Nana wrote letters each week. When Dave and I were kids, the letters were to the family, but once we went off to college, we each started to receive our own letters. Some weeks, we each received personal handwritten letters and other weeks, she would write one letter to any number of family members - her children, sisters, and/or grandchildren - and simply xerox the letter and send it off to everyone. She never failed to praise us and take an interest in our interests. Her letters also always included a bit of wisdom from her life experience.

I have kept letters that especially spoke to me throughout the years and, as I look back at them now, I see that collectively they are a window into the person Nana was.

Originally written by Frances Paulk Bredemeier, November 8, 1994.

At the time she wrote this letter, Dave was studying in Florence, Italy as part of an Illinois State University study abroad program.

Dearest David,

This is election day - what a privilege to live in a free country - go to polls not fearing an arrest - vote for whom we choose.

The day I was returning from Uncle Michael's and as I was standing looking out the plane's window as I approached Washington D.C., I saw the Capitol for the first time in my life. Tears filled my eyes. I cannot express the feeling that crept over my body and mind. I thought what a load that building carries. The whole world is looking for guidance, support, finances from that building. The Capitol of our U.S. and the whole world. Such decisions that have to be made. May God guide and care for that building well.

That day meant so much to me. Had it not been for Jessica's forethought to get my ticket changed, I would not have had this opportunity to be in D.C. four hours.

I saw the awful flood in Northern Italy on TV tonight. So many without homes. So much tragedy in the world.

I am proud you have seen so many countries and sights. Whatever you decide about coming home, I am sure will be the right decision. Seems you have to make so many decisions, but seems you have made good ones.

I saw on TV tonight that a man, Fred Curtis, a sculptor for Waterford Crystal, was going to be in Tampa. He had some beautiful pieces of glass, even one for Miss America.

I just finished reading the book "The Romance of Leonardo da Vinci" - was not about a woman-man love life. Was mostly history during the years 1560-1600 or about then and how he painted and never finished some paintings. He was, however, in love with Mona Lisa, but could not give up all his science knowledge. He was always drawing a flying machine and trying to make one, so he's really the first to think of a flying machine. He said later in life that man would have a flying machine. He taught Michelangelo and Raphael about their colors - he was some 30 years older than them.

I love you David and enjoy the times there. I know you have much to tell.

Love you and God's blessings each day,


This next letter is an example of a group letter to Mom, Dave, and Me. Dave had graduated from Illinois State University shortly before Christmas and Nana was in Chicago for about 3 weeks. Unfortunately, Reverend Bredemeier got very sick two days before Christmas, had to be hospitalized, and Nana returned to Florida early.

December 30, 1996

Dear Ones,

Well, I did what I said I was going to do. I did it! Real proud of myself! (Ed. Note: I have no idea what she did.)

Even though I had to return early, the days were wonderful and also David's graduation. Was glad to know his safe trip.

I am enclosing a clipping about Armand Hammer. I have his book. Was an expensive book, but most interesting. I have read it twice and since this clipping will read again. Would either of you like to read - thick book - but one does not want to put it down. Shows good and bad - his father killed a man and stayed in prison long time.

Jessica, I sent your package to the office today. I put your pins in a little plastic box I had here.

Virginia, I mailed your coat today. I could not resist putting 5 grapefruit in. I wrapped each one in a paper and put inside of a bag. I hope they keep. I feel so guilty when I eat a grapefruit each day and you all do not have one right off the tree. I love you all so much. Throw fruit away if not good. You should have box by Friday. Look in your coat pocket. I put some cold medicine in the pocket and package of pins. I threw mine away. Those little tiny ones are dangerous. The lining is exact size of old one. Sleeves same length. When you put on, reach inside and pull lining up. I think old one was tacked in place, but I think best to leave loose. I am keeping old one if ever need again.

Know you will miss Jessica, but we have to get back in a routine and I know you will soon have house in order from having both kids home. I just know this will be a good year for you. Was so glad I could be with you and any time you need me - I will be there!!

I love you and you have not had all easy, but your hardships have made you strong.

Thursday - Glad you are safely back home. Happy for Jessica that she has invitation to inaugural ball. This is great. My granddaughter and your daughter going to the inaugural ball!!

I pray for each of us each night and through the day and especially for David now. Does he have enough funds? Don't want him going without food or place to sleep. He's so great.

Love you all,

Nana & Mother