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The Last of the Apron Strings

Mama and Me

My Mama, Cheryl Darlene Johnson Rose was born September 26, 1944, as the baby girl and fourth child to Jewel and Flenoy Johnson at their family home in the Bodenham Community of Giles County, TN. She passed away Saturday, August 21, 2021, at the age of 76 at our family farm at Wales Station in Pulaski.

Her pall, a beautiful floral casket piece, was designed with a red rose at the top to represent Daddy, Troy Rudolph Rose, her loving husband for 59 years. Their 60th anniversary would have been September 1st. They married at Choates Creek United Methodist Church 59 years ago, in the same church we celebrated her life in just recently.

The next row of 4 pink roses ,with a touch of red, were chosen to represent her children and their spouses: Ritchie Rose and wife, Mary Carter; Tina Sheree Rose Kelley and husband, Alton Kelley.

Moving down the pall, pink roses were embroidered to honor her grandchildren: Trevan Rose and wife, Kristal; Grayson Rose Phillips and husband, Chris; Blake Taylor and wife, Lilly; Robert

Mama's pall

Kelley and fiancé Haleigh Greening; Cole Garner and wife MaKaylah; Bailey Garner and Britton Steve Taylor, who predeceased her. The last section consisted of hot pink roses to represent her 5 great grand-children (who are truly a hot mess), Tucker Rose, Julianna Rose, Olivia Kate Rose, Colbi Gray Phillips and Corban Rose Phillips.

She is also survived by her brother Doran Johnson and wife, Amanda and many loving nieces and nephews who affectionately call her Aunt Chennie.

Cousin David Leamon Kirby wrote and posted the sweetest memorial to Mama and I would like to share it with you, “My Aunt Chennie is home – surrounded by parents and siblings again. She was Mom’s go-to when things needed to be accomplished. She cared for the whole family in every need – big and small. She lit up a room with her smile. Pretty as the flower arrangements she created for all occasions and a tireless worker in all aspects of life. She and Rudy had a timeless love story and she just lit up when they were together. They raised 2 wonderful kids that have their qualities embedded. She gave the most resource of TIME again and again to those in need of help. She will be missed greatly.”

I could stop – but there is more to tell.

Mama had many talents and she shared them all. She was the best southern cook and always took more homemade dishes than required for every family, church meal, reunion, picnic, or her Bodenham Community Club meeting.

There was never a question about Sunday lunch, it was always at Mama and Daddy’s. She prepared a spread fit for a queen. She had many specialties, but our most favorite were her yeast rolls. On special occasions and sometimes as a surprise, she would turn those yeast rolls into cinnamon rolls for dessert. We fought over those hot, out of the oven, iced treats. We were sure to get a call on Saturday (if she had not heard from us) asking who was coming for lunch. She always had more than enough and expected us to take home any leftovers.

Mama hand stitched many a quilt, crocheted little booties for every baby in Giles County, made diaper bags and bibs for every baby shower invite. Her creativity and generosity never stopped.

She could grow anything. Alton and I were in SC at the French Market and came upon a vendor selling sticks that were to produce a beautiful pink bloom. I knew if anyone could make that stick grow – she would. And sure enough she did and entered it in the Fair to win a blue ribbon. Her floral designs were spectacular. Each year she studied the Fair book for the proper entry in each category and brought home countless Best of Show and Blue Ribbons. The altar in the Choates Creek United Methodist Church was adorned with flowers every Sunday made by her little hands.

It would be interesting to know how many cuts, perms, shampoos, and colors Mama has done on the hundreds of women in this town. As the owner of Curl Harbor Beauty Salon in the Green Acres Shopping Center in Pulaski, she was a hairdresser to many.

As an Instructor of Cosmetology at Giles County High School, she touched countless lives. We have seen and heard from so many of her students as she empowered them to begin their careers and open salons. There were two things she preached to those students: 1. You do not wash hair – you shampoo hair, and 2. You do not paint nails – you polish nails. You dare not say that wrong in Mrs. Rose’s classroom. When she would see you without lipstick on – she would say “Get your lips on-you look dead”. Mama was a lover of beauty and taught it well.

Cousin Beth wrote and posted a memorial: “Aunt Chinnie taught me to serve others, cherish memories, the value of family and to see the beauty in everything God created.” She also reminded me that Giles County is truly “God’s country.”

When Ritchie and I were little, Mama and Daddy would drop us off at Grandmommie and Granddaddy’s on Saturday night so they could go into town to the recreation center for the Saturday Night Square Dance. Mama could square dance and buck dance with the best of them.

She adored her Grandchildren and was always doing things with them, from playing Rook, checkers, and Chinese marbles and whatever THEY wanted to do. Blake reminded me of the time she took them to a pond somewhere close by and taught them to bait their hooks, take the fish off and clean them. Only a Nan like her would bring them home and fry them up for supper!

These were many of her joys before her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Daddy has said they have cried together and laughed together, but Mama would somehow come out with some of the funniest things during all of this. Daddy recalls watching TV and Mama kept asking him questions and he would say, “I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.” He was not really paying attention to her questions, and she finally said, “You need to get a book and start studying so you can learn something and answer my questions.” Daddy then turned to her, and they both burst into laughter.

Mama would relive teaching school every day and Ritchie finally set up a TV tray as her desk. One day, I heard her talking to her imaginary students and she would say, “Now girls, girls, let me have your attention, ‘Today we are going to learn about respect.’”

It was amazing how her mind was going, and she was in her own little world most of the time. Thankfully she knew all of us up until the end.

The last time I had her in the car with me, we were going to Columbia. I buckled her in and as we drove off, I placed my hand on hers and just left it there. She looked over at me and said why do you have your hand on mine? I said, “I just do.” And she said, “I love you too”. I honestly had my hand on hers because I didn’t know if she would try to get out of the car as we drove along.

When she was going to the doctor early on – she knew there would be a cognitive test and she would tell us that she had studied and was sure to know the answers to all the questions. She said, “I can draw that clock and cube – just watch.”

I recently read Pat Summitt’s book – Sum It Up, to hopefully glean some knowledge of this terrible disease. Pat had many quotes and Mama loved quotes – one of which was “Attitude is a choice. Think positive thoughts daily. Believe in yourself.” Mama was not a famous basketball coach, but she was a great teacher to all who knew her. She was a Christian woman who walked the walk and talked the talk. She leaves a legacy that will live on.

Mama was known for her big smile. She has certainly been smiling down upon us, as we have been surrounded by so many friends and family. Her last words were “Home, home”. We know that she rests in God’s hands in her eternal home.

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