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Truly A Steel Magnolia – Betty Angel Parker Coleman

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Betty Angel Parker Coleman
October 17, 1929 –  January 25, 2016
Aunt Betty gracefully grew her angels wings and fluttered off to Heaven on Monday evening.  The first thought after I had known she had passed was about her proclamation in last few days in the hospital.  She said, “I’m free from life, I don’t have to do anything else.”  She told me she didn’t care who won the presidential race; it didn’t matter anymore.  Her lack of interest in the presidential race let me know she felt it was her time to go because she always had a strong opinion about politics.
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 The second day I spent in Wilmington, I left the hospital and escaped to her house alone. I sat in her chair and ate chocolates in her honor.  She loved chocolate.  I knew I would find some in her pantry.  As I sat in her chair, I looked around at her beautiful surroundings and thought about how sad I would be not to be able to come to her house for a visit.  It was so her, and she loved every piece of her belongings down to the little trinkets she had collected through the years.  She told me once she didn’t want to go to a nursing home because she loved her pretty things. I am grateful she was able to be in her home for the duration of her life.
She loved all foods and looked forward to every meal, especially those shared with family and friends.  She would often ask while eating breakfast what would be served for lunch, then at lunch ask what would be served at dinner.  She was always looking forward to the next meal.  
  Being a true business woman, Aunt Betty was organized when it came to her calendar.  She kept a little black book with all her appointments and important dates at hand.  If you mentioned some event that was coming up she would quickly check her black book for bridge games or Dr. Appointments to make sure she wasn’t overcommitted.  
 Aunt Betty was funny and always had a smile on her face.  Rarely did you see her in a bad mood.  After she and Uncle had divorced after 39 years of marriage, she lived in their home alone, which happened to be a 10,000 sq foot castle in Blowing Rock, NC.  It never phased her to be alone in that big ole house.  She wasn’t afraid to be in a house that was purportedly haunted by a former owner who died in the home.  If someone asked if the house were haunted, she would laugh and say if ole Tom Shelton pops up around the corner, I might scare him.  
Aunt Bet’s life long love was Warren Coleman; the pair divorced after 39 years of marriage, but even after their divorce she remained devoted to him the rest of her days.  She was one of the most loyal people I have ever known.  If you became a friend of hers, you were always a friend.  Aunt Betty had a gift for turning the other cheek and Warren was a solid example of her forgiving nature. 
Aunt Betty had friends of all ages.  Young and old everyone enjoyed her company. She was the life of the party and once wore a beehive on her head as a hat to a party she attended at Hound Ears Country Club.  She was always game for a little mischief when it involved a good laugh.
Aunt Betty was fast at everything she did.  My Grandaddy, use to tell us how she would race through the cotton fields to be the first one finished when she was a child.  My mom said Aunt Bet’s cotton always had burrs because she picked it too fast.  Full of burrs or not; Aunt Betty always won the race at cotton picking. 
She was also fast when it came to whipping up a quick, delicious meal in a matter of minutes.  She would make her “the kitchen sink” sandwich, which consists of every vegetable she had in her garden on any given day.  I can remember how yummy I thought those sandwiches tasted.  I think it was the only time in my childhood that someone could make me eat raw squash and think it was good.  She could also make a mean banana pudding.  Of course, most of the pudding was splattered around the kitchen because she was talking and making it so fast she couldn’t wait for the mixer to stop before taking it out of the pudding.  Her pudding was so delicious, especially when warm.
 When I was first, married Aunt Betty shared her favorite recipes with me.  I still have the cursive typewriter typed recipe for Beef Bourguignon she sent me after I complimented her on the meal she prepared when I was a guest in her home.  When we would visit her house as children, she would serve orange juice with a scoop of orange sherbet in the morning.  I thought that was so special.  As a matter of fact, Aunt Betty’s specialty was creating “special times and things” from ordinary everyday experiences.  She would orchestrate a hike up the mountain with a picnic basket full of foods and snacks for a picture perfect meal.  
When it came to her home, she always had embroidered Irish linen fingertip towels in her bathrooms and only used linen napkins at meal time until later in life when she became too tired to iron.  Aunt Bet always enjoyed the finer things in life such as designer shoes and pocketbooks.  She loved pretty clothes.   She was also a lover and supporter of the arts.  She was a collector of beautiful art and was an avid volunteer for community art events such as the Blowing Rock Stage Company and Blowing Rock Library. 
Aunt Betty was truly one of a kind.  An original!  If I had to think of a movie to sum up her personality, it would be “Steel Magnolias.”  
She was southern and gracious, yet tough when she needed to be.  
Her love of gardening was admired by the many customers of her business, Coleman’s Nursery and Garden Center.  Her favorite flower was a camellia and Aunt Betty gave mom a camellia to commemorate our births.   It was fun to have our annual birthday picture made by our flowering shrub.  I wonder if my camellia still lives? 
I was always envious of how Aunt Betty could grow plants.  It was as if the plants she nurtured were her children. She was never able to have any of her own, so she claimed her nieces and nephews as her children.  We were so lucky she did.  I could call and talk to Aunt Betty when I needed a parental ear, and she was always open to listening.  She didn’t always tell me what I wanted to hear, but she told me what I needed to hear.  I always felt so much better once I talked with her.  She lived away from her family in her adult years like I do so she understand the trials and tribulations of missing out on family time.  
If I had to pick a song to mark her life, it would be Frank Sinatra’s “

 I did it my way.” and boy did she ever even til the bitter end.  She was headstrong and driven.   She always knew what she wanted except when choosing desserts and then she might sample two or

three to make sure they were all good.
Aunt Betty’s best friend was her sister, my mom.   Their sisterly bond has been a great example for my sister and me.  A sisterly bond is a God given gift which is meant to be treasured.  Aunt Betty and Mom treasured one another.  When she was on her final day at the hospital, she called out for “Mag” which is what she always called Mom.  She said Mag, “medicine” and Mom made sure her demands were met.  I said Aunt Bet, Mom loves you, and she mumbled, “I know she loves me, and I love her.”  It was so sweet to watch Mom cradle her and comfort her when she needed it.

My most precious and most heart-wrenching moments with Aunt Betty were in her final days, as she lay in the hospital bed, we sang hymns one night and prayed the Lord’s prayer.  I asked her if she took Jesus as her Lord and Saviour and she said “of course I do” as if to imply I was totally off my rocker for asking such a silly question.  From that night on instead of crying out in pain, she would sing.  It was a sweet, precious memory hearing her sing but so sad at the same time because she was trying to be hard strong. 

I could go on and on about Aunt Betty and all the things she taught me or meant to me, but I’ll save the rest of my thoughts for private reflection. 
Oh, what a lovely lady.  Strong, courageous, spunky, funny, happy,

curious, lover of beautiful things, bridge player, traveler, sister to Magdalene, Roland and Julius, aunt to so many and a second mom to me….how lucky we all were to know Aunt Bet and have you on this

earth for 86 years. 
I will love and miss you Aunt Betty
until we meet again!  
I’ll leave you with a quote from Steel Magnolias
which pretty much sums up the lady who
 was so good at making special….
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Thank you, Aunt Betty, for making all of our lives richer

by your presence.  God surely blessed us
by loaning you to us.
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