Grisamore: Not your average funeral notice ... or average grandmother

February 4, 2014 

Edna Parker

Edna Parker died the last day of January. Patches of snow were still on the ground.

Her obituary in the weekend papers announced her death but also showed the world how much she was full of life.

Reading it was pure joy for those who loved her and watched her celebrate her 89th birthday two weeks ago. It brought smiles to those who never crossed her path and now wished they had.

The little lady was a character.

It somehow seemed fitting Edna was born in the south Georgia town of Sparks, because she was such a live wire.

In her twilight years, she was the Steel Magnolia of Magnolia Manor.

Her 443-word obituary describes her as a “notorious prankster and bowler extraordinaire ... a feisty Southern girl who lived life to the fullest.”

That life, we were told, was nourished by cheese grits, turnip greens (without the stems) and Fincher’s barbecue. She could “draw a crowd” with her cooking, especially her buttermilk biscuits and country-fried steak.

Edna raised “three angelic daughters and one devilish son.” Those four children -- Derrell Parker, Dana Zielinski, Andrea Pressley and Anita Jones -- called her “Mama” but she was “Grandma” to everyone else. She sewed a wedding dress for Andrea and crocheted booties for all her grandbabies.

“She was a fighter,” her obituary declared, “having battled breast cancer, a heart attack, stroke, brain tumor, kidney cancer, diabetes and the horror of her youngest daughter marrying a Georgia Bulldog.”

Last week, when everyone realized Edna’s life was drawing to a close, Carrie Soltay was awake at 3 a.m. writing her grandmother’s obituary. As the tears swept over her, the laughter sustained her.

This was not your average funeral notice. Or your average grandmother.

“It was her personality,” said Carrie. “She wanted to make everybody smile, and she did. The only hard part was fitting in all the stories.”

Carrie’s first draft was 900 words. It included Edna’s penchant for practical jokes, like hiding rubber snakes in the medicine cabinet and grabbing her daughter’s ankles while hiding under the bed.

Some of it had to be edited out -- not for content but for length in the newspaper. “At 77 cents a word, we had to draw the line somewhere,” Carrie said.

Another granddaughter, Amy Parker, gave the eulogy Monday afternoon at Park Memorial United Methodist Church on Arkwright Road. Then the hearse made the 19-mile trip to Glen Haven Memorial Gardens on Houston Road.

The pallbearers had to sidestep puddles from a morning rain. It didn’t help that the casket was 10 pounds heavier, in accordance with Edna’s final wish to be buried with her bowling ball.

(The ball was gold, but not because she participated in leagues at Gold Cup Bowling Center on Pio Nono Avenue. It was the school colors of her beloved Georgia Tech.)

I first met Edna in 2005. She had bowled a 208 a few weeks before her 80th birthday, and she never gave up on her quest for a perfect (300) game. She was still bowling as recently as this past December, despite being on oxygen, and scored 23 points above her 120 average.

Her devotion to Georgia Tech came from her son, Derrell, who played football for Coach Billy Henderson at Macon’s old Willingham High. Derrell was recruited by Bear Bryant at Alabama but signed with the Yellow Jackets, so that’s where Edna pledged her allegiance.

She even taught her bird, Pebbles, to whistle the “(I’m a) Ramblin’ Wreck from Georgia Tech” fight song. She was buried in a Tech sweatshirt.

“She loathed all things Bulldog,” Carrie said. She would cover up the “G” on her son-in-law’s shirt with Band-Aids. She would swap sympathy cards with her niece, Jo Lynn Moncrief, a devout Georgia fan, depending on which team won. (Jo Lynn, however, got the last laugh when she had a Bulldog flower arrangement delivered to Crest Lawn Funeral Home.)

Edna was buried next to her husband, James Pierce Parker, who died in 1979 and “has been lobbying ‘The Man Upstairs’ on her behalf ever since.”

They met while working in a Savannah shipyard during World War II. He was a welder. They eloped and were married on Feb. 5, 1944.

Today would have been their 70th anniversary.

Reach Gris at 744-4275 or egrisamore@macon.com.

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