When Lester and I came to Vernon County in 1956 for Lester to be one of the Extension agents, I was happy to be back with friends I had known most of my life. But just down the road was the young mother of three children about the age of our two, who I had not known before. Lula Pratt married Gene Welborn after they met at college and they came back to his home county to establish their home.
I looked forward to becoming acquainted, and it turned out to be a wonderful friendship that we shared for over 50 years. Last week, when Lula died in a Joplin hospital I felt like I had lost another sister.
Since she had moved into Nevada several years ago I hadn't done as much with her as I did when she was just down the road, but we always knew we could count on each other for visits and support.
As our children were growing up (she had a total of six and we had four) they played together while Lester and I were still living in the Ellis Community. They went to different schools, but shared summertime and weekend fun together. In fact one of my sons told me when he returned from spending some time at the Welborn's, "Lula has the most interesting threats!" He was not at all intimidated by her playful remarks about what she would do if they walked in her bountiful garden, or some other trespass.
After Lester entered the ministry we got together as two families for visits as often as possible. I remember one fun visit to the Kansas City Zoo that we took together. Lester and Gene enjoyed each other as much as Lula and I did, so it was a happy relationship.
After we retired back here, Lester had the sad privilege of presiding at Gene's funeral. Lula and I continued our friendship through the Ellis Domestic Science Club and sharing mutual friends and neighbors. I was very grateful when Lula agreed to work with me when I was director of the Neighbors Center in Nevada. Those days together will remain special to me because of her cheerful attitude and willingness to meet the needs of our participants in the program.
I remember with fondness her anger at the newspaper which described her as an "elderly driver" when she had a little fender bender. She announced that she didn't mind them telling her age, but she was NOT elderly. That was true. Even when her health began to fail somewhat, she still retained her youthful spirit and enjoyed travels with her family and friends, and kept in touch with what was going on in the world and in her neighborhood.
Although she had several very import jobs in her lifetime, such as teaching in the Bronaugh High school, she was proudest of her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. In spite of our long relationships, each of our families had grown so much that we found it hard to keep track of all the names, but as we shared pictures and stories, the pride and love for each family member was very evident.
I will miss knowing that I could drop by to visit around her dining room table, or call her for a long talk. But, I am grateful that I have so many wonderful memories. I know many, many people in our area share this thought. Her friendship was a special gift.
See you later, friend.