A Life Lived: Barbara Fraley blessed with the gift of hospitality

Published 8:47 am Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Barbara Joyce Fraley enjoyed her family, her church family and friends, but the one thing she enjoyed most was spending time in the kitchen and cooking up a delicious meal.

“The best memories I have of growing up was supper time and Sunday dinner at our house. Supper time was at 6 p.m. every evening, and Mom always cooked supper. She always cooked enough for us plus four or five more. If dad was working, he took his meal break and came home and ate with us, and usually he brought three or four policemen friends home with him for supper. Occasionally, a couple of the city firemen would also come with him,” said Brian, one of Barbara’s two sons.

When Sunday rolled around, Brian said his mother would start preparing for Sunday dinner on Saturday evening. “It was a like a feast on Sunday. She always prepared a couple of meats, six or eight side dishes and two or three desserts,” he said.

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Brian also remembers Sunday evenings after church when Big Lew Garrison and his mother would accompany them home after church. “In the summertime we would sit on the porch and enjoy leftovers from Sunday dinner. Sometimes, it would be 11 p.m. or midnight when Big Lew and his mother would leave. Big Lew and my mother were first cousins, so it was a family thing,” said Brian.

Barbara Fraley died Sept. 27. She was the wife of Bill Fraley, a retired city policeman, and the mother of two sons, Brian and Mike, and an adopted daughter, Mary Ann. Brian is a member of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Mike is a deputy with the Carter County Sheriff’s Department.

Barbara was one of 11 children of Elisha Powell, who hauled and sold produce. Barbara was nine years old when her mother, Mary Mae Garrison Powell, died. For a brief time she and her three sisters lived in a children’s home. Her father remarried a few months after her mother’s death, and had a second family. Barbara often shared that when she and Bill were dating, she always had to take one or two and sometimes three younger siblings with her when she went on a date.

Bill and Barbara married when he was 18 and she was 16. “They were married on April Fool’s, but didn’t realize it until they received their marriage certificate a couple of weeks later in the mail. Dad went to the house and asked Papaw Powell if he could marry Mom. When he gave his permission they went that evening and got married before Papaw changed his mind, not realizing it was April Fool’s Day. Mom told that story a lot and laughed about it,” Brian shared.

“Mom was not an educated person, but she had a heart of gold. She had what mattered. She cared about people, especially her family and her church. She was faithful to her church,” said Brian.

Barbara was a member of First Free Will Baptist Church and enjoyed singing in the choir. As long as she was able, she sang in the choir. “She and Dad always attended church and brought my brother and me up in church,” said Brian.

Church members remember Barbara with much fondness. “After the Flood of 1998, which did quite a bit of damage to the church, members and volunteers worked for a couple of weeks cleaning up from the flood. The inmates at the prison worked along beside us, helping with the cleanup, and each day we fixed lunch for them. Every day, Barb fixed and brought to the church a large bowl of banana pudding, and the inmates loved it,” said Peggy Davis, a church member. “Barb was a good person, and a lot of fun.”
Brian said his mother always made Christmas and Thanksgiving a festive occasion. “Mom loved the holidays, and at Christmas she made all kinds of candies – chocolate fudge, peanut butter fudge, cream sickle fudge, haystacks – and she would package it in small boxes, which she shared with others. She would send them to school with us and share it with friends. Both Mike and I love to cook, and we got it from our mother,” said Brian.

“We were a lower, middle-class family and couldn’t afford a lot, but Mom and Dad provided us with what we needed and a lot of what we wanted. Every summer they would take us on a camping trip to the beach, and sometimes in the fall, they would take us on a camping trip to Roan Mountain. Now, that I am older, I appreciate those times and the sacrifices my parents made for me and my brother,” Brian said.

“My mom never wanted a big house or a new car. She loved her family, her church, and she wanted to be there for friends. I remember when our church was going through a difficult time, I would go by the house, and when I went in, Mom often would be praying for the church,” Brian said.

Barbara’s health had not been good for the last seven years or so. “Mom suffered a nervous breakdown in the 1990s, and she was never quite the same. However, her quality of life remained good up until about seven years ago, and from there things went down. For the past couple of years, it has been a cycle from home to the hospital, to the nursing home,” Brian said.

One of the joys during her time of sickness was Brian’s two Yorkies — Bodie and Bailey. “I would take them by each morning on my way to work, and she and Dad would keep them during the day, and I would pick them up in the evening. If I happened to be called in to work at night and didn’t take them by the next morning, Mom would call and ask if she could come by and see them,” Brian said. Both dogs died this summer, leaving a big void in Barbara’s life.

“What more can I say about Mom? She was a simple woman, who loved taking care of others. She loved her family. She loved Jesus and her church. She overlooked our faults, and did all she could to show us love,” said Brian.

Perhaps the greatest gifts that Barbara Fraley imparted to her family and friends was that of hospitality and faith, and the storehouse of memories she left behind for them.