STAFF NOTEBOOK: Recollections of Mildred and Glenda on this Mother’s Day
By CHARLEY WILKISON and SHELLY WILKISON
Mildred Brake Wilkison and Glenda Coward Williamson never met.
Mildred was born in rural Sevier County, Arkansas, in a cabin with a dirt floor in 1920. Glenda was born in a rural hospital in Gatesville, Texas. These women came from starkly different backgrounds and circumstances, but their lives became intersected in a strange way because they are our mothers. Both liked retelling the birth of their first born — us.
They both had two children. Mildred had two boys while Glenda had two girls. All four kids graduated from college and all four wound up with a heightened sense of some kind of public duty to help make the world a little better. We think Mildred and Glenda must have had something to do with it.
Glenda still attends church every Sunday at the First Baptist Church in Waco just down the highway from where she grew up in Coryell County. She taught elementary school and married her college sweetheart — a professor of educational administration who finished his career at their beloved Baylor University. Together, they have traveled the world.
A wonderful pianist, Glenda was also known as the best cook in every circle she entered. Her two daughters attempted but never felt they could reach her level of expertise as cook and perfect mom. Both girls avoided the piano like the plague.
Mildred’s grave rests on the side of a red clay hill in De Queen, Arkansas, in the Redman’s Cemetery next to her parents as she requested. At her funeral all of her passports were displayed showing that she had preached the gospel on every continent except Antarctica. Mildred didn’t get married until she was nearly 37 years old, and had her second son at age 40. She married a man she met at a revival. They divorced after 25 years of marriage, but she kept right on preaching. Mildred’s boys still believe lots of the things she told them, but they’ve stayed far, far away from the pulpit.
Glenda grew up as the beautiful blonde daughter, the baby of five in a large family. She lived on a large cattle ranch near all of her extended family where she was surrounded by folks working hard. Her dream was to become a teacher like so many she had admired. She attended Baylor University where she met her husband, Jimmy Williamson.
Mildred was a black haired, dark eyed beauty who was permanently injured in a car accident at age 13, traveling with her family to pick cotton in Texas in 1933. At age 16, she hitched a ride to the Little Rock Children’s Hospital where she had corrective surgery completed so she could walk without crutches. Mildred always claimed she was hurt and bitter about her disability until she found Jesus while praying in a plum thicket and thus began a new life for her.
Both of our mothers, with seemingly very little in common continue their influence on our lives. Teaching everyone around them about respect and tolerance in spite of coming from a part of the world not known for that world view. Overcoming huge obstacles placed in their way at different times of their
lives, they taught us perseverance and sticking to what we believe in. In both of their cases it would have been very easy for either one to have become someone else, to have accepted a different road in life.
Glenda was faced with an incredible tragedy last Christmas when her baby daughter suddenly passed away at age 47. Her grace and faith in the face of great sorrow has been a source of strength for all of us.
One of Shelly’s favorite memories is of her mom on vacation in Mexico chasing butterflies. Armed with butterfly nets, her mother and sister ran and laughed as they chased the butterflies. Shelly remembers the way they looked and sounded.
Charley remembers waking up from a little boy nap at the close of a church service as his mother was standing in front of the congregation holding her bible and a little handkerchief. She is quoting a scripture telling people that God is never very far away from any one of them.
Happy Mother’s Day!