What a neat idea to be able to sit down and write a chapter to be included in the book about the Beaver family. The thought of doing this seemed exciting, yet when I actually undertook the task, I found myself asking the Question, ’’Where do I possibly begin?” Life, at its simplest, is complex, and my mind became boggled with many memories and events that I so desperately wanted to recall and record in my chapter. After much deliberation, I finally decided to clear my mind and to start at the only logical place in my life – the beginning.
I, Anna Jane (Janie), was born to Jess Thomas Craig and Samintha Beaver Craig on February 19, 1941, in Paso Robles, California. I was fortunate enough to already have a five-year old brother, Larry Thomas. From all accounts, he was very proud of his little sister, and very willingly helped Mother take care of me. What a rich little girl I was to be born to such loving parents and big brother. We left California when I was three months old and our family settled in Paris, Texas. Paris is a special place, because this is where our little sister was born.
Mary Beth was born November 2, 1943, making our family complete. Even though my mother tells me that I did not want a new little sister to live in our house at the time, Mary Beth and I were in separable from the beginning. Many tales are carried about the fate of a “middle child.” Let me say that place in my life has been a blessing and a reward to me. I was able to experience a big-brother and little-sister relationship, a big-sister and little-sister relationship, and at the same time receive the warmth and love of an extraordinary mother and father. I consider my being a middle child a place of honor.
By the guidance of wise and loving parents, we three children learned to love, appreciate, and how to develop both physically and spiritually. They provided us with material things necessary for us to function, and our spiritual lives were nourished from an early age. I have wonderful memories of going to church as a small child with my family.
I began my education in Paris, Texas at the age of five. I attended a private school for three months, then my father moved us to Albuquerque, New Mexico, and I was placed in the second grade because I had completed the equivalent of their first grade curriculum. We moved to Littlefield, where I started third grade, finishing it in Ft. Worth, Texas. I have fond memories of Ft. Worth because Uncle Charlie and Aunt Stella lived there at that time. All of the moving from place to place bothered me because I was somewhat shy and reluctant to make friends. But, my dad was a roofing contractor and his jobs often required relocation. In 19^8, we moved to Tyler, and this became our home. I was in the fourth grade and was fortunate enough to complete my high school education in Tyler.
Many fond memories are recalled as I think back of my years in Tyler with my family. Among the sweetest are those when Granny Beaver came to stay with us several months each year. My memories of Gramp Beaver are vague because I was quite young when he massed away. However, the times I do recall being with him are joyful ones, such as the time he kept putting a pillow on his dear old bald head and letting it slide off, making us grandchildren roar with laughter. I regret not having more years to know my grandfather. I know he was a special man by the way my mother speaks of him with such tenderness. Our dear little Granny, however, was spared, by God, long enough for us to get to know what a precious soul she was. After Gramp died, her life was lonely, yet she was content to just be alive. Her blindness caused her to not be able to read, and I took great joy in reading the Bible, her favorite book, to her. She liked to go to church, and I would sit with her near the front so she could hear the preacher better. Granny was truly an angel of God on earth and her religious faith was deeply instilled in her daughter, my mother, who, in turn, instilled that same faith into me. Granny was a member of the Church of Christ, and her devout beliefs have influenced generations after her. I was baptized into Christ when I was twelve years old. MEMORIES – so many come to mind as I think about my childhood days: Mother, Daddy, Larry, Mary Beth, home, grandmothers, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends, church, school, family trips, special holidays. Mother’s good cooking (especially her dumplings), Dad’s patience, and on and on. All of these memories represent love, warmth, and unity among our family. As all normal families do, we experienced troublesome times, but never anything so great that we, as a family unit could not overcome. Each trial and sorrow shared has drawn us closer and strengthened the bonds of our family.
Often during my childhood, sadness over the death of relatives clouded my mind with questionings and fears. I still vividly remember the phone ringing with the news that Gramp Beaver, Granny Beaver, Uncle Clay, Uncle Rollie, Uncle Hub, and others had passed away. As a child, it was difficult for me to comprehend why my mother was sad, and I did not like that. Only time and maturity have brought a better understanding of why we must experience sorrow in life.
As Larry, Mary Beth and I grew and matured, we began to leave the nest and venture into marriage. I was the first to marry, at the ripe old age of seventeen. I have known my hus band, Bobby Meigs, since I was twelve. However, I knew him then only as a boy who went to church where I did, also, as a close friend of my brother. This boy, little did I know, would join the army, return in two years to find me, a grown-up girl of almost sixteen. By the request of my brother, I accepted a date with Bobby one Sunday night after church. This was the beginning of a beautiful and lasting relationship. We became engaged in September 1957, and were married June 27, 1958, only one month after my graduation from Tyler High School. My parents were very pleased with my choice for a husband, and supported the marriage wholeheartedly, We vere married at Omen Road Church of Christ in Tyler by Winston Atkinson, minister. Our plans were that Bobby would finish his college education at Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches, Texas, and I would work to help with the expenses. Our plans were interrupted with the unexpected news that our first child was on his way. Resigned to the fact that he would have to drop out of college, Bobby began to ponder other plans. Realizing our dilemma, my parents offered an option to consider: move in with them until the baby was born. We accepted their gracious offer, and by doing so, Bobby was able to complete one year of the two he needed to get his degree.
On April 20, 1959, our first little bundle of love was born. Jody Neal Meigs arrived, weighing in at seven pounds, eight and a half ounces, and measuring nineteen inches in length. He was absolutely precious, the cutest little blackeyed, baldheaded boy in the world. My mother and daddy were such proud grandparents, and they could not shower enough love and attention to their first grandchild. He was not lacking in love from his Uncle Larry and Aunt Mary Beth, either, and they shared in the spoiling process. Bobby did receive a BBA Degree from Stephen F. Austin, in 1960, and was certified to teach business subjects in high school.
Bobby accepted a position, in 1960, with the Internal Revenue Service in Abilene, Texas. During the years we were there, we were blessed with our last child, a beautiful baby girl. She weighed seven pounds, four ounces, and eighteen and three fourth inches long. What a perfect addition to our family, a baby girl with dark hair and eyes – now a son and a daughter, what more could we possibly ask for? From the moment Jill was born we could see the Beaver resemblance in her. As Jill grew, and her Beaver relatives would see her or her picture, almost unanimously they would say, “She looks like Uncle Charlie.” This thrilled me for he was a very special person to me. Jill was fortunate enough to see and visit Uncle Charlie many times before his death, and he would always laugh and tell her, “Jill, I am so glad you look like me, but I never knew I was that pretty.”
A dear Beaver relative that was astonished at Jill’s resemblance to Uncle Charlie, was Aunt Sis Ratliff. In 1964, Bobby accepted a teaching position at Ft. Sumner, New Mexico High School. Pete Ratliff was president of the school board at that time, and was instrumental in helping Bobby obtain the job. While living in Ft. Sumner, I was able to get to know my Ratliff relatives. In fact, I met Aunt Sis’s youngest, Bill, for the first time. It was a joy to know Bill, Barbara and daughters. Dear Aunt Sis became seriously ill while we lived there, and only six short months later she went to meet her Maker. During those six months, I visited her quite often and she was a great inspiration to me. Even though she knew of her impending death, and her possible long days of suffering, she never complained, but only spoke positive thoughts about her condition. My life was greatly touched by her faith and courage, and I am thankful that I had the opportunity of being with Aunt Sis for a short era of her life. =
In 1965 we left Ft. Sumner, and Bobby began teaching school in Silsbee, Texas, the place that was to become our permanent home. Jody started to school the first year we lived at Silsbee, and Jill began kindergarten in 196?. Our lives began to settle down, at this point, and the children became involved in school and church activities.
My parents were rapidly increasing their family with in-laws, and grandchildren. From the marriage of Larry and Shirley, a baby girl, Tonya, was born. Mary Beth and Charles added three to the family: Kimberly, Danny and Kelley. From Larry’s second marriage, we added four stepsons, Claude, Jim, Ken and Bill Holley. As our family grew we became closer. Even though I was the only one of my family that lived away from Tyler, we see each other often, and communicate regularly.
Jody and Jill brought many happy times to us as parents, such as Little League, beauty pageants, school plays and activities, special academic recognition and more. They were both baptized into Christ in 1974.
When I was thirty-one years old, fourteen years out of high school, and frightened to death, I enrolled in Lamar University, Beaumont, Texas, in 1972. I had always had a desire to be a teacher so now I had made the first step. Many fears flooded my mind, but the greatest fear was failure – failure to succeed, failure to make good grades, failure to function as a student, and failure to withstand the oressure. What if I disappointed my family by failure? I entered college, and for three years I buried myself in study. I graduated from Lamar University in 1975 as a member of Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. I received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English with teacher certification in English and History. I had done it, and I did not fail! I cannot take all the credit, however, for without the help, love and understanding of Bobby and the children, and the encouragement from my parents, I could never have succeeded. One year prior to my commencement from Lamar, Bobby had received a master’s degree in education. So, when Jody and Jill entered high school, they began making preparations for college. This seemed the normal thing for them to do since their parents had spent so much time and effort there.
While Jody was in high school he served as the school photographer for four years, and learned all about photography, an interest that has developed into a hobby for him. He also became interested in music. He had taken piano when he was ten years old, but soon discovered he would rather play the piano by ear. His tal ent grew and he began writing songs and putting them to music. He He played a guitar as a little fellow, and later took an interest in drums. He participated in shows and was a member of a little band composed of other high achool students. Later, in college, he was chosen as drummer for the Cardinal Singers, a group that trav eled and performed. He still enjoys playing the piano and his drums and I might add, he is really good.
Jill was very active in high school. She was a member of the Tigerettes, a drill team, for one year, and was elected varsity cheer leader her senior year, a dream come true for her. She was inducted into the National Honor Society her junior year, and graduated with honors. She was a senior beauty candidate, and voted “most polite” by her peers. Both of our children were elected to Who’s Who of Silsbee High School.
Before they graduated from high school we took a most enjoy able vacation. We drove to the west coast, up the coast into Canada, and back down through the midwestern states. It was an educational trip for us and we have many memories of the month we were gone. The highlight of the trip for me was going through Paso Robles, California, my birthplace. Jody took some beautiful slides, and we relive our trip through them.
When I had entered my second year of teaching at Silsbee Junior High School as an English teacher, thinking all was well, tragedy struck in our family, one that deeply affected my life. I can’t forget the horror and shock on Friday morning, October 29, 1976, when my husband came to the school, called me out of my classroom, and had to say these words to me: “Your daddy passed away early this morning”. I screamed, “No, not my daddy! I just saw him two weeks ago and he was fine!” From that point I must have gone into a state of semi-shock for I vaguely remember the trip to Tyler. Mother had witnessed his death, no sign of illness, only sudden death. The trauma of the funeral, the going through his things, and the final goodbye — Oh, how could our family survive? My daddy, so special to me, could not possibly be gone. My mother, what had she done to deserve to be left alone like this? The questions, the fears and doubts came, yet nothing couli change the fact that our dear daddy was gone. Sadness surrounded me and our family. I felt as though my life had ended, then strength came. God helped us to endure, and He comforted us. From this suffering we found spiritual growth. The emptiness, the loneliness, the pain was still there, yet we had survived. We have made it through holidays so special in our family – Thanksgiving, Christmas. It hasn’t been the same without our daddy, but we are making progress in accepting what happened.
Then, without warning, tragedy struck again. In February 1977, only four months after Daddy’s death, we three children were told that Mom had a cancer in her stomach and the prognosis looked bleak. The only hope we were given was that she had a one in four chance of survival and that only if the malignancy were positioned just right for a complete removal of her stomach. How much did God expect us to endure? We could not give our mother up after just losing Daddy. We finally realized that we must try to clear our minds of negative thoughts and saturate our whole beings with positive, sensible thinking. We directed our faith and prayers toward the survival of our mother. It worked! On March 2, 1977 her stomach was completely removed and she was rid of that ‘ole malignancy. It was a slow, hard road back to recovery, but with my dear mother’s faith and courage, and with God’s ever-present care, she proved to be the one in four that made it! Even though Mother has many problems to contend with, and always will, the doctors marvel at her – she is an exception! She is a survivor! She is an inspiration! She is one more terrific Mom!
Now, our lives began to settle down again. Jody graduated from high school in May 1977, and entered Lamar University in the fall of that same year. He entered as a pre-med major, later to change to pre-pharmacy (influenced by his Uncle Larry who is a pharmacist in Tyler). He completed three and a half years of pre-pharmacy training at Lamar and was accented into the Houston School of Pharmacy in January 1981, to complete his professional training. Jill graduated from high school in May 1980. She entered Lamar that fall as a ore-pharmacy major, later to change to secondary education with specialization in science.
While Jody was at Lamar, he met his future wife, Wendy Walther. She, too, was accepted into pharmacy school at Houston, and they agonized together through the three rough years: constant studying, T.V. dinners, impossible exams, sleepless nights – a true test of stamina and determination! December 17, 1983, they each received their pharmacy degrees, yet the real monster still faced them – the Texas State Board Exam they were to take in Austin in January 1984.
Amid all of this, as if they were not occupied enough, they made plans for their wedding and Hawaiian honeymoon, which took place December 3, 1983, two weeks prior to their graduation. December, 1983 was truly an emotional month for Jody’s mom. I accept change slowly, yet I found myself having to accept many changes in my son’s life all at once, great things; a college degree and a wife! Our little Wendy – we are so proud of her as our daughter-in-law and a welcome addition to our family. She has it all: beauty, brains and personality. They live in Humble, Texas, north of Houston, and are both employed by Eckerd Drugs as registered pharmacists. They passed their State Board Exams with good scores. In fact, just to brag a little, Jody scored a perfect 100 on the Texas Law section of the exam.
Shortly after Jody and Wendy married, Jill was quickly approaching the culmination of her hard-earned degree. Where had the years gone? Jill was our baby; she couldn’t be ready to graduate from college! Contrary to my thoughts, Jill did, indeed graduate from Lamar University in May of 1984 with a degree in secondary education. In spite of her once stated remark, “I will never be a school teacher,” she received teacher certification in Biology and General Science. Isn’t life ironic at times? At any rate, Jill is now a teacher and very happy with her chosen profession. She applied for, and was employed, on her first interview for a teaching position. She now teaches biology, physical science and earth science at the Christian Schools of Beaumont, Texas. At this point in her life, Jill is still single and in no hurry to rush to the altar.
Our children have truly been a blessing to us, and all our sacrifices made in their behalf have been nothing short of sacrifices of love. Their love and devotion to us was shown on our silver anniversary last year when they planned and invited many friends and family members to a special reception in our honor. This was a beautiful and lasting moment in our lives. Bobby and I have had a good life together thus far, and look forward to many more good years ahead. Bobby is counselor at Silsbee high school, an elder in the Church of Christ, and this is my tenth year to teach English in the Silsbee schools.
As I read back over my chapter of the Beaver book, I realize that my life has been full, busy and rewarding. Through nostalgia I traveled as I wrote these pages. Deep emotions surfaced as I relived special moments of my life; smiles and laughter often came as I recalled childhood memories, and that of my children; pride filled my heart when certain events came to mind; and many times my eyes were so filled with tears that I had to lay my pen aside.
Writing this has been an experience for which I am very grateful. Thank you, Aunt Lois, for the opportunity to contribute to the Beaver family book – I am proud to be a part of this family.