Monday, December 20, 2004


My mother died this week. There were tears, but she was nearly 80 and had been slowly losing her fight with Alzheimer's. This is the biography I wrote for her memorial service.

Sybil Fullerton, a traditional southern lady, had a history of accomplishments, many of them very non-traditional.

While attending Searcy (Ark) High School, Sybil Lee Price, worked as a sales clerk and sold tickets at the local movie. That’s where she was when she and the town learned about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.

A cheerleader and homecoming queen in high school, she graduated in the middle of World War II with no definite career plans. At the time, the nation’s railroads were beginning to train women to replace the men who would soon be called up to operate the rail system in Europe following D-Day.

When a shy friend asked her to attend classes with her, Sybil agreed. At the end of the training, the friend was in love and didn’t want to leave home. Sybil agreed to take her place. That’s how she became a railroad telegrapher, depot agent, in tiny Howcott, Louisiana, for the Missouri Pacific Railroad and, in so doing, met her future husband.

He was Bill Fullerton, the telegrapher in nearby Georgetown. They were married in 1943. In 1944 he was shipped to Europe. In 1946, he retuned home. Ninth months later their only child was born.

For the next ten years, she was an “at home” mother, concentrating on her son and being very active in church and community activities. She also wrote for the Colfax Chronicle, and one year was recognized as the state’s top country correspondent. It was during this period that a friend asked if she’d like to serve on a Grand Jury. The state law had just been changed to allow women to serve if they volunteered. She did, and became the first woman in the state to serve as a Grand Juror.

Sybil taught herself shorthand and when she returned to work, it was as a legal secretary. However, she remained involved in church and community work. In the early ‘60’s she served as Worthy Grand Matron of the Order of the Eastern Star in Louisiana.

In 1964, Governor John McKeithen made her the first woman to serve as a member of the Louisiana State Parole Board. Eight years later, she became the first woman in the nation to serve as chairman of a state parole board.

After serving as chairman for eight years, she retired to enjoy her old friends, gardening, reading, a vast horde of cats, three grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

On Thursday afternoon, just six days short of her eightieth birthday, she quietly left us to rejoin her husband.


Blogger Egyptian Cowboy said...

Bill, sorry to hear about your mother. Thanks for sharing the bio -- I really enjoyed it.

She was truly a unique lady!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Monica said...

Bill, my condolences on the loss of your mother. She sounds like a truly remarkable woman.

12:56 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bill, My heartfelt condolences. You did a beautiful job on the biography, I'm sure your mother would be proud. From this brief glimpse you gave into her life, it is easy to see where you inherited many of the traits that I've come to admire and respect during our brief cyber-friendship. May God bless, keep and console you in your loss.
Old Newt

3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, I will say that this is Pam and I was so sorry to hear about your mom passing away. 80 seems pretty young to me, since my Mom, who is 83, just flew down from Memphis to Orlando, to be with me at Thanksgiving. She flew alone, but we do require her to get a driver to take her from Cleveland, MS to the Memphis airport (and pick her up at the end of the trip, too). We just think that she doesn't need to be in the "big city" traffic, but, she drives just fine around her small town. I just can't imagine not having my mom around. She is so full of spunk and so much fun and we are really just good friends. I wasn't as close to my dad, as I am to my mom. When I was young, Dad worked really hard on the farm, and Mom was the one that was always running us around and doing activities with us. She saw to it that we took ballet, piano, etc. Later she attended all our sports events, hosted supper club and made sure we had those special dresses for Proms, etc. She even sewed our clothes, at times! Because back then, we were pinched for money! Of course, we were fortunate enough to have maids, usually the wives of the men who were the farm help and lived out on our farm. The maids helped mom cook, clean, and babysit - so thing weren't all that bad for her - plus she didn't have to work. There were 4 girls over a span of 10 years, so she was quite busy, just tending to all of us! Mom did have a degree in Business from Bellhaven in Jackson, however and worked a very short time, as a Sec., for one of our relatives.

Your mom sounded like quite the woman. My husband's mom had Alzheimer's, too - it took us a long time to realize it, we just thought she couldn't remember things and it got on everyone's nerves. She ended up breaking her hip and never coming out of surgery for that, alive, (other complications set in). It is so sad to lose your mom, I just can't imagine how I will feel the day I lose mine. She is so loving and giving and would do anything for us. She ended up spending Christmas Eve alone this year, as everyone seemed to be busy with their own plans and nobody lives in Cleveland, anymore. I felt so bad about that. But, she did find a friend to go to candlelight service with her, at the Meth. Church - which she loves so. Also, she did go to Pat's, in Grenada, for Cmas brunch. She enjoyed that and two of my sisters were there with her, and a lot of other family - one of her great grandkids, and 4 of her grandchildren. Well, it seems as if I'm blogging on your blog site. I really just wanted to tell you how sorry I was that your mom died - but got carried away.

9:51 PM  
Blogger Bill Fullerton said...

My sincere thanks for all the kind comments. Everyone's mother is special to her children. But at her memorial service, I was reminded of the big role she played in the lives of many people outside her family. Slowly losing her to Alzheimers was tough on all of us. Bill

3:14 PM  
Blogger Pamela Goodwin-Daniels said...

Your Mother sounds like she was a wonderful, and special woman. We Goodwin kids lost our Mamma early, in 1971. Nine kids, well, because an older brother, that made it ten kids, preceded her in death. (in VietNam, 1966). She took care of all of us alone, when our Dad passed away in 1959, after a life-long illness!! She was wonderful, and so I know how it feels to lose you Mamma! *(Our Gran, her Mom, was an Eastern Star also, here in California). I pray that the memories of your Mother will always bring you happiness, and peace.

10:41 PM  
Anonymous Beth said...

Bill, my mom has Alzheimer's also. It's very painful to watch loved ones fade away, and the fact that they have gone through so much with this illness really doesn't temper our grief at losing them. Our mamas are our mamas. Forever.

This is a beautiful tribute. What a brilliant woman!

1:19 PM  
Anonymous Jack Ware said...

Bill, very sorry to hear about your Mom. I sat before her on two different occasions as a convicted felon in Louisiana. Both times, your Mom and the rest of the Board granted
me parole. I also was the inmate in charge of serving the parole Board when they ate
at DeQuincy(LCIS) in the late fall of 69. I only talked to her once and really didn't
know her personally but all the inmates knew she could be a tough cookie. She was quite
an accomplished lady and a great credit to the parole board in Louisiana as I am sure
she was to everything she was a part of.

6:45 PM  

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