Lee Family Reunion 2022
By A. Ray Lee
Descendents of A. W. and Dora Self Lee recently gathered for their annual reunion as they have done for more years than I can remember. It is fitting that we gathered at the Massey fire hall on Evergreen Road just across from where granddad spent his last twenty years on a small farm. For the few of us who are old enough to remember the shared dinners at Christmas time with the extended family, it was almost like coming home again to the old log house which was destroyed by a tornado in 1955.
The known roots of the family go back to the Bradford and Trafford area where it is said that A. W. worked in the coal mines until there was an accident in which many men died. Dora supposedly decreed that he would never go into the mines again. Circa 1922 they moved to the Danville area and became sharecroppers. A number of their eleven children were old enough at the time to remember the move in an old farm wagon which took several days to complete.
Those were difficult times for the family. Dora died not long after the move to Morgan County and granddad was left with eleven children to rear. Some of them were approaching adulthood, but others were toddlers and young children. Much to the children’s displeasure he remarried. For the rest of his life, he carried the burden of their resentment. When May, the oldest daughter died, he was left with the responsibility of raising her three small children as well.
The last of their children to die, Rosette, who is affectionately remembered as Zettie, died in 2016. A number of the grandchildren are no longer with us. I was informed that with the recent passing of Arthur Jr. I now hold the unenviable position of being the oldest remaining grandchild. There are several cousins who are not far behind me in age.
Although A. W. eventually was able to own his own farm he never acquired many material possessions to pass on to his children. The sale of the farm after his passing with the proceeds divided eleven ways did not give very much to anyone and were soon spent with their benefits being long forgotten. However, he left a lasting legacy of intangible values which have been passed down that continue to shape the lives of his descendants into the fourth and fifth generations.
I’m sure as each of us looks back on the days of our grandfather’s life and our relationship with him we have good memories, but also personal regrets. In 1960 I was in my second year of seminary studies in New Orleans when Granddad died. I had not come home for Christmas for I was in Miami being married to the love of my life and did not know of his death until several days later when we returned to the seminary campus and found two telegrams asking me to have a part in his final service. I grieved that I had not been able to fulfill that request until one day many years later when I unexpectedly came face to face with a picture taken of him in his later years. I seemed to see his eyes focused upon me with a light of understanding that my life must go on.