These two Wonderful Women of West Virginia are long-time best friends and the very definition of upstanding citizens. Former cheerleaders in high school, Barbara would go on to be a high-school teacher and Dotte would become a Magistrate Court judge. They also, along with their husbands, founded the Greenhouse Florist which is now growing by leaps and bounds in the hands of Barbara's daughter, Kaki. My friendship with Kaki has presented me with many gifts and two of the most treasured of those gifts is the friendships I would develop with these two Grande Dames.
Dotte is one terrific lady. When I was first getting to know her, I will admit that I was a tad intimidated. Hers is a family of lawyers and judges, and they tend to be imposing figures but my initial reactions to them were more about my own insecurities than their personalities. I would come to find that Dotte possessed a wicked wit and a completely engaging personality. Her laugh is infectious. Dotte has a fierce love for her family and friends. As we found ourselves at various functions hosted by her son Bruce or the Reckards, she and I decided that we would be "datemates" and get photographed together. To this day, our "couples photo" remains a staple at every function. Whenever Dotte is present, she is forever smiling and laughing and always a joy to be around.
Barbara would have a long-lasting impact on my life for various reasons. She was my History teacher in high school. Her Psychology class, however, was my absolute favorite during my high school years. I found myself utterly fascinated by her lectures.....although "lecture" sounds a bit highbrow for her always fascinating blend of humor and human interest. She knew how to capture our teenage wandering minds.....she could throw you by referring to Harvey, the invisible rabbit from the Jimmy Stewart film and then once she had your full attention; completely enlighten you with facts about psychology or human development. This class was legendary....everyone scrambled to attend. The standout characteristic of this class was the end of the semester parties. The Christmas party would pair us up and challenge each team to collect toys, clothes, etc. for needy kids. We would then host these kids at the Christmas Party. I'm not always up to every challenge but I went after this one like a man possessed. I called everyone I knew and went through every motion I could muster to find as many toys as I possibly could. I had all kinds of folks calling my exasperated but proud parents telling them what they'd found for me. The day of the party when we gave those kids their gifts was one of the greatest moments of any school year for me and one that had a profound impact on me for life. I believe my parents instilled that drive for helping others in me but Barbara Reckard crystallized it. I loved that class so much that I connived my way into the second semester as well. After repeatedly begging Barbara to let me do this, she could have said, "Please go away, you weird, obsessive kid". Instead, she let me be her teacher's assistant for a semester. I don't think I was a very good assistant but I did get to experience that class one more time. This time, we ended the semester spending the day with some physically challenged kids at Colin Anderson and once again the experience completely impacted me.....I would go on to make Colin Anderson my summer job for several years.
As important as Barbara was to me as a teacher, I never dreamt that one day she would become such a vital figure in my personal life as well. As my friendship with Kaki deepened, Barbara and her husband Jim would become friends as well and in time, they would treat me as a member of their own family. When we lost Jim to cancer several years back, I would try to look after Kaki and we would descend on Barbara's home to surround her with love the best way we knew how. It was during these days when I would truly see the vulnerable side of Barbara and it seemed disconcerting at first. Barb had held such a lofty position in my mind and now I was seeing her fully human and my heart just broke. I felt fiercely protective of her at that moment and have remained so. Over the years, Barbara has simply become more precious than ever to me. She is also like a second mother to me and I'm not alone...the entire Greenhouse Gang refers to her as "Maw" as she has become the den mother to us all. For Christmas this year, Barbara was gifted with her own Facebook page already filled with tributes from friends and former students. The outpouring of love to her is completely expected and yet, still utterly amazing. You deserve every bit of it, Maw.
Of course, there are food memories with Barbara and Dotte. Dotte hosted wonderful Easter dinners featuring her famous lamb dish. Barbara and Jim hosted the consummate Christmas Eve bash and those were a foodie's paradise. There were oysters and pate and food of every type, including the beef tongue that Jim kept challenging Jeffy and I to eat. My single best food memory with these two ladies is also one of my favorite memories, period: the Jekyll Island Club Sunday Brunch. Not too long after Keith and I moved to Jekyll Island, Georgia, there was one particular weekend when we had two sets of beloved friends come to visit. Karen Paul, our former Lafayette co-worker and her friend Larry came from Hilton Head and Barb and Dotte came to spend a long weekend at the Jekyll Island Club. Keith and I also had a roommate and co-worker named Annette who would become a lifelong friend. That Sunday, Barb and Dotte, Karen and Larry, Annette, Keith and I would join at this historic hotel for their famous Sunday Brunch. I was the only one at the table who knew everyone in attendance. The meal itself was fantastic. The Jekyll Island Brunch is, to this day, the best Sunday Brunch I've ever experienced. Every detail is perfect, every item is incredibly fresh and delicious and the choices are over-the-top. As we settled into this sumptious meal, I was also completely enjoying the company. It was like the most perfect mix of people you could put together and it happened completely by accident. I watched Barbara entertain the table with her always memorable stories and was delighted to see everyone having the best time. It was a truly delicious moment in every way.
The title of this post is not only a reference to Barb and Dot's high school cheerleading days but also to the fact that these two ladies remain two of our greatest cheerleaders in life. They are foremost in cheering and supporting all that they love and their beloved hometown of St. Marys, not to mention their families and friends have all reaped the benefits of it. I'm forever grateful for their continued presence in my life.
We love you, Barb and Dot.....Long May You Cheer!!