My cousin called from Tennessee last Wednesday with the news that her mother, my aunt Katie, had passed away. Katie had been in a nursing home for a number of years with Alzheimer’s, and now she is free from the terrible constrictions of that disease. She was not always my aunt: she was first my fifth grade school teacher.
I remember Miss Reaves as a gentle person with a soft-spoken Tennessee accent. I don’t ever recall her being cross with us. If we were, let’s say, more active than usual, she would take her glasses off, rub her eyes and look at us sadly. That quieted even the hardest delinquent. She taught by encouraging us. She loved books and soon found out about my love of reading and suggested numerous titles for me to read. She read to us after lunch. I am probably one of the few males my age who has heard all of Caddie Woodlawn. With her, it wasn’t a silly girls’ book but an interesting story of frontier life.
Some time in December that year she mentioned that she hoped to go to her home in Maryville, Tennessee, for the holidays. I volunteered that I had a bachelor uncle who lived with us at the time, my Uncle Newt, who was going that way. They shared a ride; he left her off in Maryville and shortly afterward ran into a milk truck, but that’s another story. I think he was distracted. Shortly after that they were married. I chalk it up as my only matchmaking success.
They lived in a house in Yorkshire for years until they decided to move back to Tennessee. The day they left was the last time I saw either of them. Newt succumbed to complications from diabetes several years ago and now Katie has joined him.
She served in the WAC’s during the Korean War, was a teacher, a wife, a mother, a gentle aunt who was always interested in my opinions and in what I was doing, encouraging me through college and beyond. Not everybody gets to have a teacher who became his aunt, and I count myself fortunate to have had Katie King in my life.