Monday, April 3, 2017

Tucker looks to honor fellow centenarians

As she nears the century mark of a life lived exclusively in Crittenden County, Ethel Tucker is doing what she does best – planning to entertain.

On her 100th birthday, Nov. 29, Tucker plans to unveil her third book and invite other centenarians to celebrate with her at her Main Street home. There are at least six other Crittenden County folks who are, or will turn, 100 this year. They are Kenneth Drennan, Helen Springs, Birdie Thomas, Ida Belle Riley and Robert Lee and Ada White.

More than likely, Tucker will bake a cake and, perhaps with assistance, she’ll pull out the silver trays, punch bowl and matching cups and arrange them precisely on her dining room table and sideboard. 
Those are the images to which Marion folks are accustomed when it comes to Tucker and entertaining.  

Rarely are paper napkins used at even a casual lunch in Tucker’s kitchen.

“When I was a child, there weren’t paper napkins, so mother would make them out of sheets or other material,” Tucker said. “I didn’t know there was such a thing as paper napkins until I got older.” 

Only fresh-baked bread comes from the two ovens that are the centerpiece of her small kitchen. Again, when she was young, there was no corner bread stores or bakeries. 

Until recently, it was commonplace that Tucker host up to a dozen people for Sunday lunch, and for many years, a dinner party at her home was the social invitation of the season.

These pictures are being painted in a collection of oral history Tucker is putting into print just in time for her 100th birthday. Her penmanship isn’t as neat as it used to be, and her eyesight isn’t as good as it once was, but her mind can recall all the fine details of a long, full life of work, volunteerism, social events and travel.

Tucker is excited to celebrate 100 years with her friends, while passing along stories about her long life in Crittenden County to her family and friends.

“Around the time of her 99th birthday, Ethel approached me with a new project,” said Allison Evans, who has known Tucker her entire life, working with her to publish two cookbooks – “From Pilot Knob to Main Street” and “Tea Time of Life.”

“She wanted to preserve stories she had told family and friends through the years,” Evans said. 

“Knowing the best way to get those stories down on paper would be to record Ethel telling them, I turned to Leslea Barnes, hoping she could help connect us with a few teenagers in the 4-H program who might be interested in this project.”

Using the resources available through modern technology and the willingness of a half-dozen teenage girls, Tucker is narrating her memoir. Freshmen Hannah Bell, Ashleigh Dunkerson, Shelby Cooper, Kyron Hicks, Shelby Brown and Morgan Barnes accepted the call by 4-H and Youth Development Agent Leslea Barnes.

Using a voice recording app on their phones, the girls spend up to an hour and a half at a time with Tucker, listening to stories from her childhood on Pilot’s Knob through her married years on Main Street and life in Marion’s business and social circles. In turn, the teenagers are transcribing the stories before getting them to Evans for formatting and printing. 

“I was very happy that 4-H was contacted to help with this project,” Barnes said. "So many of our youth don’t have the opportunity to sit down with someone like Ms. Tucker and hear about all the changes, opportunities and experiences she has had throughout her life.

“This experience will help them gain confidence to step out of their comfort zone and help them learn responsibility as this project develops. It is a lot of hard work for them, but when they see it completed, the sense of accomplishment will be something they will never forget.”

Anyone else in the county turning 100 this year is also invited to Tucker’s in November to celebrate. To submit a local name, contact The Crittenden Press at (270) 965-3191.