We were squeezed into one tight knit group in front of the 150 year old mantle, but someone kept escaping or someone stood when they should have been kneeling. “No, you are the next tallest; you stand in the back. Michael, you get outta the chair and sit in your Grandaddy’s lap. Mama, come get in the chair.” A space opened then, so we all had to shift ranks and move to the center. I laughed, feeling really good for the first time in days. Someone put an arm around me and pulled me closer in so that I, too, would be in the photographer’s frame. It felt just like a Family Reunion, trying to get everybody still and posed. I laughed out loud again. I loved it! I felt like family. What joy!
What it was the regular monthly meeting of the Senoia Area Historical Society and our guest speaker was Mrs. Regina Herndon Alexander of Haralson, along with her delightful family and friends who came to give Regina “moral support.” They gave a lot more than that; Tommy, Regina’s husband of 44 years, had the packed room cracking up when he took over the microphone to tell tales on his wife, who had told a few on him first. And her brother, Eddie, four years older than his sister, added lots of helpful details about their childhood and about their mother known to all of Senoia as Miss Gertrude.
Miss Gertrude, who served as cook, helper, and nursemaid to most of Senoia for 70 years, was known for her delectable fried fruit pies and her light and fluffy dinner rolls. Regina, like her mother, was born and raised in Senoia and can make as fine a fried pie as Gertrude, but not those signature rolls. No, Miss Gertrude “took it with her!” Meaning her closely guarded recipe of course.
A warm and receptive audience applauded when Tommy told how he had spent over 30 years with Southern Mills without missing a single day! And that he was the first African American to hold a management position with the Coweta County School System. But Regina got the best of him when I asked what they used to do as young marrieds, and did they go to the movies? She shot her husband a feisty look and said, “He never took me to the movies!” Again we laughed when Tommy, a little flustered, promised to take Regina to the movies.
This lady gave up a track scholarship to marry her sweetheart instead. Regina said that was all she wanted at 18 years of age, just to marry handsome Tommy Alexander who had finished two years at Griffin Tech while waiting on his bride-to-be to graduate from East Coweta High School. Regina had no trouble fitting in to the newly integrated high school and was voted Miss Black Freshman of 1970. She served on the Homecoming Court a second year as well. Their wedding picture attested to by her beauty, showing two very handsome young people looking very pleased with themselves. There was more laughter when she told how after saying “I Do” at the Courthouse, Tommy took her for their wedding supper to The Dairy Queen!
Regina, who had often worked by her mother’s side growing up, put the skills learned from Miss Gertrude in cooking, housekeeping, and nursing invalids to good use as a young wife. When no children came for some years, the couple…wait…Regina decided she wanted to adopt. Tommy wasn’t so sure and frankly balked at the idea. Until a baby girl needed their home; he fell in love with Amy just like Regina knew he would. Later their little family was complete when Jason was adopted as well, just days old. This handsome young man with a big beard and a bigger grin, and who according to his adoring older sister can “fix anything and everything,” now manages the cleaning business his mama built. “Regina’s Helping Hands” includes 15 employees who are available not only for housekeeping chores but also were chosen to offer caring help to the sick and dying, an important part of Regina’s life as well as her business. Miss Gertrude herself performed this final rite when at age 92 she sat by the bedside of a man who had been her longtime friend, his ” people” themselves like family to this remarkable woman—her life another incredible story for another time.
I sat with Regina Alexander for almost six hours in two sessions, charmed by her warmth and by her life’s story, as I prepared both of us for last Thursday night’s meeting. I laughed a lot then too, but I also admit that I used quite a few tissues even after placing my damp hankie back in my bag.
Daughter Amy Majors, just 32 years old, is waiting on a double lung transplant. Her early story is a happy one of high school and college achievements, of a proud work history and an even prouder personal achievement…her young son Michael! Until the illness and the shocking diagnosis that shook all their lives. Like everything else, the Alexander family faces this with their strong faith and with the love and support of many, many friends.
Please visit Go Fund Me at www.gofundme.com/help-amy-majors for the touching story of this beautiful young woman and see how you can be a part of her future. Thank you. I fell in love with Amy—and with Michael, and Jason, Eddie, Tommy and of course with the warm, witty, and completely irresistible Mrs. Regina Herndon Alexander!