World needs more moms, grandmoms like Thelma Blunt

Published 10:11 am Wednesday, January 25, 2012

by Chuck Lilley

Mrs. Thelma Blunt, wife of Gurnie Blunt Sr., passed away two weeks ago. The service for her at First Baptist Church on Hall Street, which I attended, was standing-room-only and was filled with pictures, films and, most of all, friends who paid their respects to her rich life.

The outpouring of love for her by her children, grandchildren and close friends was overwhelming and served as a tribute to her positive impact upon their lives and to the Franklin community.

I had the good fortune to experience some of that positive impact when I worked closely with her daughter, Claudette Mason, at Union Camp for more than 10 years. Claudette and her husband, Alfred, now reside in Memphis, where her prodigious work ethic was quickly recognized by International Paper management, and she was rewarded with a well-deserved position in sales. She has since become somewhat of a celebrity by surviving the US Air Flight 1549 that crashed into the Hudson River in January 2009 while she was on a business trip.

I stumbled into Mrs. Blunt’s life about five years ago. I was attracted to her well-kept home seeking support for a local political candidate. Although unsuccessful in gaining that support, I was warmly welcomed into her home by her husband and other family members, some of whom had put their own careers on hold to provide around-the-clock care for her.

At that encounter, Mrs. Blunt’s illness had unfortunately robbed her of the ability to communicate and function normally. Nevertheless, she sat attentively at the kitchen table, where I listened to family stories and had a bowl of her wonderful chicken-and-rice soup. Their love and respect for her was heartwarming and pervasive.

Since my encounter with Mrs. Blunt was limited by her illness, I can think of no better way to convey her importance and relevance as a role model to the community than through the following paraphrases from a few who spoke at her celebration.

Her son, Ricky, led off. Among his respectful remarks, none stood out more than the following:

“Mother, we thank you for the love and discipline that you provided us. You were hard on us at times, but deep down we knew that you loved us and that you were teaching us right from wrong. I wasn’t sure about college, but you made me go, and I thank you for insisting on my education. We will love you always.”

“I thank my grandmother every day for the work ethic and discipline that she instilled within me,” said one of her grandchildren who now coaches men’s basketball at Hampden-Sydney College.

“The community needs more grandmothers like Mrs. Blunt” was a comment conveyed by several of the pastors who spoke, one of whom had come from as far as Memphis to pay tribute.