By Gerry Fischer
After an hour or two, Tommie and Judy realizing they were left “holding the bag,” returned to school snipe-less, to find the other students had been playing games, but were hiding from view of the returning girls. They finally showed themselves and the two girls suffered a lot of teasing. For a period, Tommie was angry, but over time, after the Belles of Shumate school began annually reuniting, the memory became great fun. And, they all laughed about the snipe hunt. These are good memories, the very best.
The Belles of Shumate School consisted of six women who entered the school together, and became pillars of their communities, raising families and advancing their educations with High School diplomas and graduate schooling. The six, listed alphabetically by last name, are Marian Williams Bennett, Eleanor Hardaway Burnett, Judy Hardaway Lockard, Tommie Stith Prather, Elizabeth Stith, and Thelma Anderson Trent. I had the honor and privilege of meeting Marian Bennett and Thelma Trent, they are absolutely delightful, strong and resilient ladies who not only are smart, but they also possess the wisdom only age can bring. They experienced things, know and lived, things, we can only dream. I once heard it said our ancestors dreamed of living the life we live, while we dream of living theirs. Perhaps so.
Each of these women attended the first grade and more and moved on to other schools. They maintained contact throughout the years, and continued to go back to their roots and the school building that helped them develop into responsible adults. They began an annual tradition of meeting at Doe Run Inn, where they dined and then, if the weather allowed, they made the trek to the Shumate school and reminisced about their teacher, classmates and the fun they had.
The six ladies over time dwindled to three, and yet continued the tradition of an annual reunion, at Doe Run until it closed, but after a while the trips to the school ceased, yet they met in their homes reminiscing about old times and school days, but in April of this year, the three reuniting Belles of Shumate, Marian Bennett, Eleanor Burnett and Thelma Trent became two when Eleanor passed Friday April 17th, 2020, at the age of 91. I did not have the pleasure of meeting her, but through her friends, Marian and Thelma I feel I know her from the stories I’ve been told. As a retired teacher, I can see these ladies as delightful students, but I bet together they could have been a handful. I suspected their capability for innocent mischief by the twinkle in their eyes.
Eleanor grew up on a farm in Stith Valley, one of the first areas of Meade to be settled and still is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Meade County. She was always her father’s helper and took pride that she loved to hitch up the buggies and ponies. Eleanor drove a dump rake pulled by Jude and Beck. She loved nature, country living and possessed a loving disposition. She had a fondness for rescuing baby squirrels and birds. Perhaps this attitude led her to become a Registered nurse who worked as a shop nurse at Olin, practiced at various clinics, the Meade County Health Department, Breckenridge Memorial Hospital and Ireland Army Community Hospital. She led a life of service to family and others.
Eleanor and her husband Dewey married and raised a family she is survived by three children, Mary Carroll Burnett, Aimee Mangin and Charlie Dewey Burnett.
(Read next weeks Part 4, and learn about the Belles of Shumate, Marian and Thelma)