According to an uncle, two boys were blessed with “distressed-apple pie” faces: Opie Taylor and me. Opie was the TV son of Sheriff Andy Taylor in the 60’s sit-com, The Andy Griffith Show. He was motherless. Several weeks back I awoke one night wondering how that happened. The only clue given is the comment made by Andy stating that Opie’s mother died when he was just “the least little spec of a baby.” Helping to raise Opie was Aunt Bee from Andy’s paternal side. She was everyone’s resident aunt in Mayberry. Syracuse is no different!
Here, Kate Stoker and her sister Esther Sessions came to be affectionately known as Aunt Kate and Aunt Esther. During World War I, a flu epidemic raged in Syracuse. The two sisters were as close to a doctor as the community had. Their services as community midwifes made Aunt Kate and Aunt Esther household names. My own father was delivered by Aunt Esther.
Another revered woman is Maude Walker Bennet, the Pied Piper of Syracuse. She loved and devoted her life to the well-being of little children. She was recognized in the Deseret News – Church Section for a lifetime of service to them. She is remembered simply as Aunt Maude by generations.
Opie and I were linked by more than just our faces. Opie and I were motherless; he becoming such much younger than I.
It has been nearly 50 years since I’ve had the pleasure of Mother’s immediate impact in my life. I shall never forget these three traits:
Mother always seemed to recognize my need and was willing to service it before I recognized it myself. This began from the time I soiled my first diaper to a time, at nearly twenty-years-old, when she recognized that more than my face was “distressed.” Each time I reflect on her words of that day, I commit to become a better man. Perhaps, you know the feeling.
Mother taught me that I had value. My favorite lunch, though I’m sure some would question my choice, was tomato soup with buttered bread cut into strips for dunking. Mother said, and who was I to challenge, that: “Only princes eat buttered-bread cut into strips!” Perhaps, you know the feeling.
Finally, I’m a Boomer which is the name given to children born after World War II. But that title holds a different meaning for me. As a child, a tweener, and as a teen, I was frightened by the possibility of the “Big Boom” and nuclear war. The Cold War was at its pinnacle during those years. We practiced at school crawling under our desks in case of emergency. I remember having nightmares at night but finding comfort in silently creeping into Mother’s bedroom with a blanket and falling back to sleep at the side of her bed. Without a doubt, I knew I would be safe there. Perhaps, you know the feeling.
God bless the women of Syracuse: our wives, daughters, sisters, aunts, mothers, grandmothers and you very special greats. I can promise, you’re more cherished than good apple pie!
Michael Gailey, Mayor