Copyright © Janice Tracy, Mississippi Memories

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Three Sisters, Three Lives

Right: Etta PorterParker and Vertie Porter, circa 1925

Daughters of J. J. Porter and Margaret Meriweather Porter, and sister of Lelia Porter Branch, pictured below. Lelia Porter Branch was my paternal grandmother.

Vertie, Etta, and Lelia were the daughters of John James Porter and Margaret Meriweather Porter, and all were born a few years apart around 1900. Lelia Porter was my grandmother. The three sisters were close growing up, but as adult women, they would venture down three separate and unique paths.

Lelia (pictured to the left) married my grandfather when she was only eighteen, and my father, their only child, was born exactly one year and one day later. Her entire life centered around being a wife and a mother, and later, a doting grandmother to three grandchildren. And she never forgot her roots in Attala County.

As a young woman, Vertie became engaged to the love of her life, but life dealt her a cruel blow when he was killed in an accident shortly before they were married. This event seemed to shape the remainder of her life. She continued to wear her engagement ring on her left hand and never married. According to her family, Vertie never met another suitor who could quite measure up to her deceased fiance. After studying at a normal college, Vertie became a schoolteacher and taught school in several states, including Louisiana, Arkansas, and Missouri. Eventually, she retired from teaching and began working at the University of Tennessee Dental School in Memphis, Tennessee, where she retired during her mid-sixties. Vertie was well ahead of most women her age. She was a career woman, an independent thinker, and she believed in women's rights from an early age.

Etta, the oldest of the three sisters, married a local man named Fred Parker, but that marriage would end after only a few years of marriage. She became a very young widow when Fred fell to his death while working on the construction of a steeple at a Memphis church. Sadly, they never had children. After Fred's death, Etta began working as a nurse's aid at the old Baptist Hospital in Memphis (now Baptist Medical Center) and continued to work there until she retired at age 65.

In their later years, Etta and Vertie lived together, sharing expenses in their retirement.

Three sisters, three separate paths, one descendant.

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