Rekindled memories of an artist, musician

Dean Simmons, of Clarksville, poses Thursday with paintings he found while cleaning a storage building. The paintings were given to his mother by artist Yvonne Gregory.

You never know what you are going to find in an old storage building when you start going through the things that were your parents. All of the sudden, you find something you saw as a little child and barely gave any attention.

Dean Simmons, of Clarksville, who was reared in Pembroke, did just that recently when he started going through his late mother Laverne Simmons’ belongings soon after she died. He was looking through things that were stored in an old well house and found four paintings by Yvonne Gregory, a retired art teacher and musician who died in 2003.

“I can’t imagine that they stayed in such good condition with all of the humidity in the well house all these years,” Simmons said. “Yvonne Gregory must have given the paintings to mother. I remember her being at a meeting at our house when I was a little boy. The paintings hadn’t been framed, and I had them framed.”

He thinks Yvonne was at a Saint Elmo Homemakers Club meeting because she and his mother were both members.

“That was about 50 years ago,” he said.

Yvonne was multi-talented. She was not only an art teacher and musician, she was also very active in community activities. She was a president of the Kentucky Retired Teachers Association and member of the Hopkinsville Art Guild and Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church.

But before she made Pembroke home, Yvonne had been a staff vocalist for Nashville radio station WSM from 1943 to 1956. She also performed in the Big Band era, and in 1939 she won the Gateway to Hollywood competition in Atlanta. She was a member of the Phil Spitalney All Girl Orchestra and recorded with Frances Craig’s orchestra and Beasley Smith at NBC.

Then she met Joseph Eldridge Gregory. She married Joe, who was postmaster in Pembroke for many years, and settled down to raise a family. They had three children.

I remember Yvonne telling a story about losing her voice for a good many years, and then one day in church she tried to sing and her voice was back. She called it a miracle. I also remember her singing at local functions, including the talent shows Junior Auxiliary had years ago.

So I thank Mr. Simmons for reminding us of such an interesting lady. You never know what your parents have saved until you start looking.

Now, changing the subject, last week when it was too late to add anything to my column, two deer were out in our yard eating green leaves on the honeysuckle, and a short time later a flock of turkeys came through. Six more deer were out this morning, and more turkeys. So I haven’t been so lonesome. The wildlife is back.

One reader who didn’t want to be identified called to share an interesting story. He has a little farm and a chicken house. He put a golf ball in the nest to get the chickens to lay eggs. A few days later, he found a chicken snake in the hen house and a round bulge in the snake. It stayed about 10 days before it died. Snakes should know the difference between eggs and golf balls.

Thanks again to New Era Opinion Editor Jennifer P. Brown. I dictated this column to her.

Reach Mary D. Ferguson at 270-885-5839 or send mail to her home at 4345 Pembroke Road, Hopkinsville, KY 42240. Emails sent to editor@kentuckynewera.com will be forwarded to Ferguson.

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