To celebrate Nancy (Raden) Bekemeyer's 90th birthday in March of 2022, she was surprised by two of her daughters and their husbands with a trip to Tennessee to visit the area where she was born and grew up and to attend the annual "Mule Day Celebration".
Nancy was born at her parent's home in Fountain Heights (near Culleoka, Tennessee) on March 12, 1932, to Annis (Fox) Raden and John Earl Raden. As Nancy recalled, her mother told her it was a very snowy day. Unfortunately, her regular doctor could not make it out to their house due to the snow. Still, another doctor was able to come and assist in her delivery into the world.
Nancy fondly remembers growing up and playing on the family's 112-acre farm. They grew corn, cotton, and tobacco. Nancy says picking the cotton was really painful on her hands, but she had fun playing in the tobacco barn. She also kept her horse, Strawberry, in this same barn and enjoyed riding her occasionally.
John Raden (Nancy's dad) would walk six miles to Columbia with their family mule to attend Mule Day every year. Nancy's older brother, John Witt Raden, also attended the Mule Day with the family as a member of his school's FFA group. The FFA group had a refreshment stand on the side of the street, and they sold hot dogs and cold drinks.
Nancy went to elementary school in Mooresville, Tennessee, and high school in Winter Garden, Florida, where her family had moved to when they sold the farm. Nancy met the love of her life while in high school (George W. Bekemeyer). During their 67 years of marriage, they had 5 children, all with their own families.
Nancy never really left the farm life, as her father-in-law had a large garden and orange grove that Nancy always helped in. To this day, at the age of 90, you can still find Nancy out in the yard tending to her flowers that she loves and still working in the family farm with the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren, tending to a new hydroponic, up-pick strawberry, citrus, and vegetable farm. Nancy turned 91 in March 2023 and shows no signs of slowing down!
While on her trip to Tennessee for Mules Day in 2022, Nancy visited her childhood farm. Although the fields of cotton, corn, and tobacco are no longer there, she can still see them in her mind. The tobacco barn still stands and brings back many memories. The home she grew up in is no longer there, but it has been moved down the road by another family of owners, lovingly restored, and looks beautiful.
Nancy got to visit with some family members and friends that she had not seen them in many years and had a great time reminiscing with them. While attending the 'Mule Day parade last year, Nancy, her daughters, and their husbands had the great fortune and pleasure of meeting Mr. C.T. Johnson of Columbia, whom they had a great time talking with, remembering people and places from the past. Attending one of the evening events during the Mule Day week, Nancy also posed for a picture with the Mule Day queen and her court.
Although so many things had changed in and around Culleoka, Mooresville, Lewisburg, and Columbia, where Nancy and her family lived, fond memories remain of the beautiful surroundings and of family and friends.