Published Friday, January 25, 2013
Last Monday, I sat on a pew at the Moreland United Methodist Church, honoring the memory of Betty Joe “Nanny” Bohannon, who passed away Jan. 18.
Betty Joe was a cornerstone in the community. She touched the lives of many, surely never failing to capture their hearts with those eyes of hers that twinkled when she smiled.
The first time I met Betty Joe was when Ninja Man and I were dating. He drove me from my home in College Park to Moreland. I thought we’d never get there and wondered if we’d gotten lost. We finally pulled up to her house for the Sunday afternoon family reunion. I realized I could probably have found my own way there if I’d just followed the scent of home-cooked deliciousness.
As we entered the house, there were several women sitting on the sofa. Ninja Man’s mom Josie was there with four or five other women. I was a bit nervous, having previously met only his immediate family, and here we’d driven up to a zip code full of Bohannons spilling out over the house and yard.
At one point I had to ask Josie a question. I approached the sofa-full of women. “Mrs. Bohannon,” I began. Every single one of them looked up at me and answered, “Yes?” Josie and all of the Bohannon aunts were looking up at me. They got a big kick out of it. We all laughed so hard that I forgot about trying to make a good impression and my heart and I fell in love with the family that very day.
Betty Joe would have been wearing her apron throughout most of that reunion. She loved to cook. I think the only thing she loved more than cooking was having a house full of folks eating something she’d prepared. I would expect if she’d open her windows during the cooking process, the whole town would have shown up – and she would have fed them all.
We moved to Moreland a few years after we married. When our first child Aubern Michelle arrived, Betty Joe was the one who took care of her while I worked. She would also take care of The Boy, along with a substantial population of other local babies and after-school kids. Even the school bus driver called her home “Nannie’s house”, and I expect half of his bus emptied out in her front yard.
I was a nervous mom, unsure about every single thing. We didn’t have the Internet back then and I, being the youngest of four, had no idea what to do with a new baby. Almost every thing I learned was from Betty Joe and her daughters Sally and Kate, my sister-in-law Jane and my mother-in-law Josie.
I once asked Dr. Nat Glover about feeding the baby “Why don’t you know this?” He asked, a bit gruff. It took me quite a while to finally settle on his reply, but when I did, I realized what a treasure these women were in my life. Dr. Nat had probably never, ever, in his entire career, met a Bohannon woman who didn’t know how to raise babies, and I was his first encounter. Once I figured this out, I began to rely even more on these amazing women that God had placed in my life.
When Aubern Michelle began toddling around, I expressed concern about a wall heater Betty Joe had in the living room. Oh, she won’t bother it,” Betty Joe assured me. I nervously glanced over at it, it’s electric coils burning bright red. I must have had a thousand nightmares over that little heater and my precious baby, but there was no need. Betty Joe had it under control. Not touching that heater was surely in her Nanny 101 class – Don’t Touch the Heater: session one: don’t touch it. Michelle never did.
Betty Joe was a caregiver to many; babies and the elderly alike. She rescued me at least a billion times when I was sure my babies were in dire straits.
Many years before that family reunion, Betty Joe had set aside her nursing career to raise her family and continued to serve her church and community. She touched the lives of many, and even Moreland son Lewis Grizzard fondly mentioned her when reminiscing over his days as a cub scout. She was a member of the Moreland United Methodist Church and served as a Sunday school teacher. She was also a member of the church choir and United Methodist Women.
To many, she was Nanny. She was a huge part of our lives and a huge part of the community of Moreland. I’m sure today the windows in her heavenly kitchen are thrust open and there’s a line waiting at her door. I am truly blessed to have known her.
Kathy Bohannon is a weekly contributor to The Newnan Times-Herald. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .