My mother’s family, the Motley’s, was a large and loving one—what a privilege to be born into it! Living my first few years of childhood in their family home in Danville, Virginia, just after the U.S. entered WWII was a great start for my adventurous  life. I can see from old photos how loved I was by Mom’s parents, her five sisters and one brother. All of that joy came back to me recently after talking to my Cousins Jackie and Penny, who still live in the South. I cherish those times, especially now that my grandparents and all my aunts and uncle have departed this world. Thankfully, I have many cousins still around and lots of wonderful memories.

Motley siblings

Motley siblings on the front steps of the Danville, Virginia, Motley home.

I’ve posted a photo of the siblings, in order of age, on the steps of my grandparents’ spacious home on a corner lot in Danville. Years later, on the same steps in the 1950s, my dad took a photo of me and sister Tupper, cousin Jackie and Beth, a family friend, a photo I’ve also posted.

The photo poses the siblings from the oldest on the bottom to the youngest at the top. Inez was not the firstborn, baby Edwin had that honor, but tragedy struck when he was given the wrong prescription for an infection when he was nearly 9 months old. Grieving over her baby’s death, my grandmother, Bertha Jake, wanted more children and Inez came along 11 months later in 1906. She was probably the most serious of the siblings. Maybe it was due to her alcoholic husband, though she was blessed with a son and daughter who were both full of life, intelligence and humor. Her second husband years later, was a theater owner, not a good choice since he was pursued for tax evasion. Inez left this world in 1994.

Louise, on the second step, looks serious in this photo, but I know she had a fantastic sense of humor. She was born in 1908 and was married in 1933. She became a widow too early, but she enjoyed living with her daughter Nancy in Hampton, Virginia, in later years. I got to spend some time with them when I attended the College of William and Mary. I will always remember the laughing fit Louise and I had one evening over something really silly. Louise didn’t stick around very long and died in 1978.

Miriam, born in 1910, became a nurse and married a lawyer. I was told her husband Willie had a nervous breakdown and decided to give up law in favor of owning and running a motel on Daytona Beach, Fla. She had a son and daughter, still thriving. She lived past 90 and died in 2001. I have a fun memory of her as a senior affected by cold, even in hot Daytona Beach. She was wearing a sweatshirt and earmuffs and had taken her false teeth out when I visited one summer, a few years before she passed on.

Above her is Penn (formal name—Pendleton Koons Motley), the male of the female-dominated family. Penn found his mate, Dorothy, in high school and they were married in 1934, when he was only 19. Dorothy, an amazing and loving woman, might as well have been a Motley by blood since she was like a sister to all the other siblings. My cousin Penny, his daughter, always reminds me how much Penn loved his sisters. My sister and I visited Penn in Florida in 1997, and I can testify to his outrageous sense of humor! He didn’t depart until 2004 some years after his beloved Dorothy died of ALS.

Rosebud Peace Motley was an appropriate name for a baby born in December, just weeks after the WWI Armistice in November 1918. Rosie (her appropriate nickname) was like a substitute mother to me for many years, especially appreciated after my own mother died at age 51. She and my mother, Garnette, (on the step above Rosie – note: they both wore polka dots!) were best buddies to the end of my mom’s life. Rosie was volunteering her kidney to my mother suffering from kidney disease in the 1970s. Rosie was there to comfort my brother and my dad in Texas for the last few months of my mother’s life. Rosie and my mother were both married in 1942, but neither of those marriages lasted. Rosie keep up her spirits and was the last of the Motley siblings to pass away – in June 2007. During her last years, her daughter Jackie made sure she was loved and well taken care of. Rosie never lost her sense of humor.

Garnette, my mother, always had a sense of style—look at those two-tone shoes! She was named after her mother, Bertha, and the doctor who delivered her—Dr. Garnet. When my stepfather wanted to annoy my mother, he’d call her Little Bertha. After graduating from high school, Mom went to live with some relatives in Fayetteville, North Carolina, and got a job at the nearby Fort Bragg. She met a dashing Infantry Capt. Victor Hobson, a West Point graduate. Their attraction resulted in me. Victor did the right thing and married her not long before he was sent to Italy as part of the U.S. invasion. Their marriage was over at the end of the war, but my Uncle Penn and Aunt Dorothy had already introduced her to a handsome Lt. Darby Williams stationed at Ft Belvoir in the Army Corps of Engineers. My new dad took us both to Murnau, Germany, where he was part of the U.S. occupying troops from 1947-49.

My mother, Garnette, and her youngest sister, Anne, were the adventurers in the family. Mom married twice, both of them Army officers, and we traveled a good portion of the world. Anne married a professor who had his own plane and after teaching in Kansas, Japan and Alaska, they settled in Fairbanks. All the other siblings remained on the East Coast

Anne Motley, the youngest, was a fair-skinned redhead and born in 1926. One of her bosom buddies was Amy Lee (oldest sister Inez’s daughter). My grandmother gave birth to Anne one month before her own daughter, Inez, gave birth to Amy Lee. Aunt Anne and her niece Amy Lee grew up together. Anne was the only Motley sibling who got a college education. She died young of a brain tumor, only 58 in 1984. My mother was 51 in 1974.

Hope you enjoyed my trip down Memory Lane. Below: 1950s photo – L to R: Viki, Tupper, Beth and Jackie with dark hair.

Viki, Tup, Jackie, Beth - Danville




One Comment

  1. Diana Becker Mullins says:

    Great sentimental journey❤️

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