Barbara Blake Returns 'Home'
Barbara Blake's funeral ended where her life began nearly 80 years ago, in the 1905 house on the hill above the springs in Jackson Springs.
On Monday afternoon, her husband, state Sen. Harris Blake, stood just inside the door to greet friends as they crossed the porch past the swing where once he had courted his childhood sweetheart.
"We would come back to her house to that swing after whatever we'd been doing," he said. "As long as her parents could hear the creak of that swing, we knew we were safe."
Barbara Blake, 79, died Friday at her home in Pinehurst.
Following the funeral at Community Presbyterian Church in Pinehurst, where every pew was filled along with chairs in the aisle, friends and family assembled by a family plot not far from where the two had grown up, playing together, going to school together in that community.
There, the same minister who had performed their wedding ceremony now stood at her graveside for the final farewell. The Rev. Dr. William Clark said this trip to Jackson Springs Cemetery reminded him of another.
"My wife and I were visiting the cemetery years ago and brought our granddaughter Sarah," Clark said. "We showed her all the Clarks, the Richardsons, and the Coles, and Carters and so forth and told all the stories. She was about 7 years old, and as we were walking out to the car, she thought she ought to say something profound. She said, 'Some nice people live here.' We would like to say, nicest."
Clark reached over to rest his hand on the wood of the casket and paused for a moment, looking at his old friend.
"This is a sacred spot," Clark said. "One day, Harris, in your time, you will be beside her. There will be great memories when you come to visit."
Clark was still a student in Richmond at Union Theological Seminary when Barbara and Harris Blake asked their friend to perform their marriage ceremony.
"He grew up with us," Blake said. "He was one of us growing up here. He was never the minister here. He was big time. Back then, he was still in seminary, but he and his wife came down to do the service."
Harris and Barbara Blake were married there in her living room, the same house where he was standing to welcome the long line of friends who had come to her funeral. Inside, everything was pretty much the same as it had always been, he said. Barbara Blake had kept her home, and when he and their daughter, Joy, thought about the best place for a reception, that old Carter homeplace seemed the most fitting spot.
"Folks, make yourself at home," Blake said, shaking hands, hugging friends.
Dining room and kitchen tables were laden down Southern-style with plate upon plate of traditional country cooking -- sandwiches, cookies, cakes, iced tea. Out back and on the front lawn, long tables waited in time-honored fashion for people to sit, eat, talk, remember.
Next door, a taller house, now shuttered, watched over the crowded hillside in silence.
"That was a beautiful home," Blake said, answering an inquiry. "When I was growing up, that place was landscaped -- beautiful place -- and that is the kind of homes that were around here; but most of them were burned, you know. That was the Holiday house."
He was remembering the Jackson Springs of their youth.
"At the turn of the last century, and up until 1930, this was the center of the town, center of the county, really," he said. "We had three doctors out here. If you were born here, you got named after a doctor or a preacher. My middle name's Durham, because Dr. Durham delivered me."
All little towns have somebody "to go to" for information or help. In Jackson Springs, that somebody had been his wife's mom, the local postmistress.
"She was the center of everything," Blake said. "If you needed anything, you would go down to the post office and ask Mrs. Carter. She would tell you -- how to get there, how to do it -- or whatever."
That helpful habit stuck with her daughter, Blake said. His wife became a teacher, and in later years a member of the Board of Trustees and a strong fundraiser for St. Andrews Presbyterian College, the successor to her alma mater, Flora MacDonald.
They never forgot the seminary that gave them the minister who married them, either.
"We always supported Union," Blake said.
Earlier, during the church service, Clark recalled an unsuccessful Bar-bara Carter suitor who had tried whistling and bird calls.
"He didn't know much about courting," Clark said, to much laughter. "But then, there was a redheaded boy that lived up the street, and they were married July 19, 1953. I should know, for that's the first in my pastoral record book of weddings. When Harris asked me to do the wedding, I thought that was pretty risky (laughter) for I was still in graduate school, and what did I know about marriage counseling (more laughter)."
He remembered one thing he had told the Blakes.
"When the honeymoon is over, keep on courting," he said he had advised his friends. "It will just get better over the years. I'd check on them. Earlier this year, around my birthday, I got a call from Barbara. She said, 'Preach, I think we are going to make it in this marriage thing -- but keep checking on us.'"
Laughter filled the church.
Contact John Chappell by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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