ANOTHER CHARACTER IN MY LIFE
by Susie Belle Seggar
Previously I described part of the character of my father, Ralph Herring Kerns. Tonight I want to tell about what was truly his “better half”--Fannie Belle Dameron.
She was about 30 years old when they met when he came as a hired hand to do farm work for a season. He always said she led him down “the primrose path,” but I'd say it was more like treading the edge of a rocky precipice when describing her life with him. Granted, he was handsome and somewhat charismatic and probably offered some excitement to her life. She was still living with her parents on a large farm owned by her father when they met. All her brothers had married by then and she was probably contemplating what her life would be like as a spinster who was expected to remain as a caregiver for her parents in their old age. So, Ralph would indeed have looked appealing in comparison to that scenario.
Her family up to that point had probably been somewhat happy, at least not as quarrelsome as the Kerns clan of eight children plus spouses and their children. Fannie had five brothers, all older than her: John, Roy, Arthur, Dave and Luther. Their mother, Alma Belle, was a gentle soul and a wonderful seamstress. My memories of her include eating strawberries from her patch, and having hot biscuits with butter and honey; also canned pork tenderloin—one of my favorites as a child. To me she was a kind, sweet grandmother. Her husband, Samuel Clay, was a different story, and I recall no instances of even talking to him.
Fannie was gentle, like her mother, with not an ounce of meanness in her body or soul. In fact, she always treated me respectfully all through life, from childhood to the day she died. Plus, noone could have loved grandchildren more than she did.
She loved to learn and was an excellent pianist. During her life she taught hundreds of piano students and I never heard any complaints from any of them about their teacher. In fact, I don't think anyone ever had reason to complain about any of Fannie's behavior—she was consistently kind, thoughtful, generous, patient and compassionate.
When she was a child and young adolescent, she rode a horse to school—which was probably a one room building. It's hard to picture her doing that, but she did a lot of things that are hard to think of even trying to do now, such as catching a chicken for supper, wringing its' neck, plucking its' feathers, cutting it into frying pieces, and then proceeding to fry it for supper.
When she and Ralph married, they lived first with one set of parents and then the other. Clay, however, detested Ralph so her enjoyment of her family was severely curtailed. My birth for her was probably physically one of the most painful of her existence, but no mother could have adored a child more. She was always so proud that she had managed to get me to walk without ever alloweing me to crawl. The consequences of that, however, were my always being chosen last for every team at school, and forever lacking in coordination except while playing the piano. When I was five years old, she began teaching piano lessons to me and my piano playing skill was always a source of pride for her—and for me.
Fannie was a mother who would do anything for me, her only child. We were poor enough that she couldn't always provide for all my teenage desires, but she always tried her best to provide me with experiences and material things she had missed in growing up. Once when I was six years old and very much wanted a red taffeta pinafore I'd seen in a store, she somehow saved money enough to get it for me. I kept it in the cedar chest (which I still have) for years because it brought back such pleasant memories of my devoted and loving parent. When I was in high school, she always managed to get a new formal for me when it was junior or senior prom, or some other event.
In terms of endurance and loyalty, there are few people alive who would have tolerated what she did in her marriage to Ralph. She was almost a polar opposite to him in personality and character traits, but was always concerned for his welfare, and continued to offer renewed trust to him year after year even though he could be much less than kind and be intolerable in his behavior, often tormenting and pestering her until I wanted to scream, and did sometimes.
When I met and married John, she always treated him with love and kindness and never forgot to fix her banana cream pies when we were visiting.
All in all, Fannie was exemplary in the manner in which she lived her life, never wavering in her love of Christ as the Savior of the world, nor in her love of the family we all created