S: The Life of Lillian Bernice Varnado Watkins
BC: The End
FC: She lives proudly, laughs loudly, and loves unconditionally. | Lillian Bernice Varnado Watkins
1: There is nothing greater than the love of family. This book is dedicated to the life of Lillian Bernice Varnado Watkins - daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, and friend. To know her is to love her. Written and designed by Teannie Minott, Lillian's 4th child. May 2012
2: Lillian's life story begins with the immigration of the Carmichael brothers who came to America from Ireland in the early 1800s. One of the brothers settled in the area now known as Mississippi. William F. Carmichael is a descendant of this brother. He married Olivia Williamson on March 25, 1865. They soon began their family in the settlement of Canton, Mississippi.
4: William and Olivia had nine children, one of whom was Etta. As a toddler, Etta, who is Lillian's mother, sits at the knee of Olivia, Lillian's grandmother, and she is surrounded by her brothers and sisters.
6: All things grow better with love. | Etta, her brothers, and sisters grew up in rural Mississippi. There, she was educated in the schools for "children of color." During her late teens, Etta met an astonishing young minister, the Reverend Willie Varnado, whom she married and became the mother of his young child, Pearl.
8: Lillian's parents were Reverend Willie and Mrs. Etta Varnado. He was proud, determined, and strong. She was quiet, supportive, and sweet.
9: Rev. Willie Varnado, Sr. | Mrs. Etta Pearl Varnado
10: Etta and Rev. Varnado became the proud parents of four more children born into this marital union. Willie, Jr., called "Butter", was born in 1913. Doris, called "Tutter", was born in 1915. Lillian, called "Wynn", was born in 1917. Earnestine, who was the baby and called "Stine", was born in 1919.
11: Baby Lillian | Stine, Wynn, Tutter, and Butter
12: Lillian's childhood years were spent in Canton, Mississippi, with her siblings. Later, the family moved to Jackson, Mississippi, where her father secured a more prominent position as a Baptist minister. It was in Jackson that Lillian and her siblings finished high school at the laboratory school associated with Jackson State College. Later, the family moved to Jackson, Tennessee, where Lillian entered Lane College. She finished in 1939 with a teaching degree. Her sisters, Tutter and Stine, also graduated from Lane College. Pearl and Butter graduated from Jackson State College. During her years at Lane, Lillian and her sisters pledged Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority and the Varnado family moved to Memphis, Tennessee.
13: Lillian, a beautiful college student. | Those gorgeous Varnado girls, Stine, Wynn, Tutter, and Pearl | The Varnado children, Stine, Wynn, Tutter Butter | Father and son, Willie Varnado, Sr. and Willie Varnado, Jr.
14: Accomplishments while at Lane College
15: The Fabulous Four Varnado Girls: Stine, Wynn, Pearl and Tutter.
16: After college, Lillian received a job at Burt High School in Clarksville, Tennessee. In the Fall of 1939, she met a wonderful young teacher, Levi Watkins, whom she affectionately nicknamed "Pal". In the Spring of 1940, Levi and Lillian were married in Memphis, Tennessee, by her father, Rev. Varnado, in his home. The couple then moved to Parsons, Kansas, where Levi became a junior high school principal. Lillian became a homemaker and raised the couple's children. All except one of their children were born in Parsons. Marie was the first, born in November 1940, followed by Pearl in September 1942, Levi, Jr. in June 1944, Teannie in March 1947, and Donald in September 1948.
17: Lillian and Levi started their life together in 1939.
18: In 1949, Levi and Lillian moved their young family to Montgomery, Alabama, where he became employed as a Veterans Affairs officer at Alabama State University. Lillian worked hard to make their modest home on ASU's campus a warm and pleasant one. She also developed lifelong friendships with Jimmy Walton, Jean Walton, and Lucy Campbell. Her last child, James, was born in Montgomery in May 1950. Three of Lillian's children entered the laboratory school on the campus of ASU. The young family struggled financially but thrived in other ways, as Lillian guided her children toward the pathway of becoming successful adults. She learned quickly how to stretch a dollar by making their clothes, by teaching them from second-hand books, and by creating delicious and inexpensive meals.
19: In 1954, Levi and Lillian moved their young family to Memphis, Tennessee, where Levi became the founding president of S. A. Owen Junior College. Lillian was totally supportive of this move because it brought her closer to her parents and to Stine, who was both her best friend and sister. Lillian did not work outside the home. Instead, she raised her own kids while also keeping Stine's children (Beverly, Carmella, and Francine) since Stine worked for Levi at Owen. The Watkins family joined Metropolitan Baptist Church and became great friends with the pastor, Rev. S. A. Owen. These years were lean, but Lillian was truly happy during this period of her life.
20: In 1959, when Levi became the Administrator for Veterans Affairs at ASU, he and Lillian once again moved the family to Montgomery. Although Lillian loved her husband and was always supportive of his career, she insisted that the family not move anymore. At this time, the family lived in a tiny home on Faculty Circle, where many of the other faculty members also resided. Lillian was determined to settled comfortably. She made certain that the family sat together for both breakfasts and dinners, while ensuring that the house was clean and that the laundry was always done. She did what she could to make life easy for her husband and family. When the incumbent president of ASU became seriously ill in 1962, Levi was offered his position and became the eighth president of ASU.
21: Of course, Levi did not accept the position without first consulting with Lillian. After much prayer and discussion, Lillian told Levi that she would proudly stand by him in any decision he made. Those were very difficult times for Levi. There was much jealousy, hatred, and the civil rights movement in full force. He dealt with unrest among the students, he lost dear friendships, and faced life-threatening situations. Through it all, Lillian gave Levi all of her strength, while quietly raising their children. Lillian would say that it was her steadfast faith in God that carried them through those dark days. She was Levi's rock, his sounding board, and his biggest cheerleader. For this, Levi loved her more than life itself, and he always knew that she contributed in a large way to his success as the strongest president in ASU's history.
22: After Levi's retirement in 1982, Lillian took on yet another role when she became the primary caregiver for her father-in-law and aunt-in-law. Adam Watkins and Felicia Dardin lived with Levi and Lillian until each one passed away. They never doubted that Lillian would make their lives as comfortable as possible. Lillian's compassion allowed Levi to have peace of mind about his aging father and aunt. In true Lillian fashion, she once again supported Levi in his effort to save Bishop College, a small, private black college in Texas. Lillian faced her biggest challenge in 1993 when Levi became seriously ill with heart and kidney disease. His son, Levi Jr., brought him to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, where he performed open heart surgery on his dad. During those years, Lillian lovingly yet stoically nursed her husband until his death one year later in March 1994.
23: Lillian slowly adjusted to becoming a widow. She kept herself busy by taking care of her beloved home and by babysitting her grandson, Nicky, and her great granddaughter, Allison. She played Pokeno with her friends, went to church with her daughters, and visited other family members. In 2000, Lillian's children made the difficult decision to move her to Columbus, Ohio, where she could be closer to Marie, her oldest daughter. It was during this time that Lillian would experience the pain of losing her daughter, Pearl, and grandson, Nicky. Lillian remained in Ohio until 2010, when she moved back to 146 S. Anton Street in Montgomery. Today, Lillian thrives comfortably and peaceably in her "own" home where her grandson, David, is her caregiver. She is happy and content. She is surrounded by all of the "pretty little things" she loves so.
24: Through the years...
25: Lillian and Levi, an extraordinary couple.
28: HER CHILDREN | Donald | James | Levi | Pearl | Marie | Teannie
29: Her Grandkids
30: Great Grandkids
31: She loves them and they love her back.
32: Lillian, still as beautiful as ever in her 90s
34: FIVE YEARS SHORT OF A CENTURY OLD HER LIFE IS A STORY THAT MUST BE TOLD BORN OF PARENTS POOR BUT PROUD BORN ON A DAY THAT WAS MINUS THE CLOUDS. SHE TOOK FROM HER DAD THE COURAGE TO BE STRONG FROM HER MOM, LOVE THAT WOULD PROVE TO BE LONG HER BROTHERS AND SISTERS- HER PERMANENT FRIENDS SHE STOOD PROUDLY BY THEM UNTIL THE END. EDUCATED SHE IS - UNCOMMON FOR THE TIME DEVOTION TO HER BELIEFS IS WHAT MADE HER SHINE STEADFASTLY SHE GAVE TO THOSE SHE TAUGHT MORE KNOWLEDGE TO GIVE WAS WHAT SHE SOUGHT. LOVE FOUND HER ON AN AUTUMN DAY THAT MAN, HER HUSBAND, NOW SO FAR AWAY GAVE HER SIX CHILDREN WHO EACH WENT THEIR OWN WAY TO PLANT SEEDS OF WISDOM BUT ALWAYS TO OBEY. YET HERE SHE IS - SEASONED AND SLOW MAJESTIC, REGAL AND NOBLE WE KNOW, SURROUNDED BY THOSE WHO'VE BEEN TOUCHED BY HER MAGIC FOR SHE'S A WOMAN WHO'S BEEN DEEMED A CLASSIC. SHE IS OUR MOTHER, OUR GRANDMOTHER, OUR GREAT-GRANDMOTHER, OUR AUNT, AND OUR FRIEND. SHE IS--LILLIAN BERNICE VARNADO WATKINS
35: Miss Lillian, our pride and joy
36: A family is pieced together with hope and faith. A family is quilted and bound with love and grace. | And Lillian mastered the art of raising a family of whom she can be proud
37: Take your bow, Lillian. The applause is all for you!