Monday, April 02, 2018

Buttons from a great career ~ my column from Sunday's paper

A few weeks ago, I found myself in Jasper and had a little time on my hands. It had been a while since I’d talked to my friend Yvonne, so I gave her a call. She seemed a little down. She and her husband Charlie were together over half a century. This month marks the third anniversary of his death. 

She struggles at times. During our conversation, she mentioned a box of buttons. They were souvenirs that Charlie had collected through the years. She asked if I’d like to see them. That seemed like a perfect reason to visit an old friend.

Their Chihuahua Cookie met me at the door and barked me up. She’s as “old as the hills” as they used to say. We sat down at Yvonne’s kitchen table and talked. Her son Randall listened from the couch in the great room.

“Let me show you Charlie’s buttons,” she said. Pulling a cardboard shoebox out, she opened the lid. In the box were hundreds of buttons that Charlie had collected through the years.

Charlie served as field representative for Congressman Tom Bevill of Jasper. When
Congressman Bevill could not attend a function in the area, Charlie was on hand. He became the congressman’s voice in the district. This job put him and Yvonne in the public eye for many years. 

The box contained buttons from the Arley Chitlin’ Festival, grand openings, and one from the Centennial Festival for Nauvoo, Alabama. A big red button said, “Love is ageless, visit a nursing home.” He saved buttons given to him by Miss Alabama. Others were from Walker College, the Lion’s Club, and a button promoting the 1980 Census.

Yvonne and Charlie joined Congressman Bevill for the Tennessee Tombigbee Waterway celebration in 1985. There was a souvenir button in Charlie’s box that organizers gave him that day. Yvonne clanked through the box and pulled the memento out to show me.

Neither Yvonne nor Randy realized that Charlie had kept all the buttons until recently. Not only did Yvonne lose a husband of 58 years, but later that year, a fire damaged their home. 

Movers took their possessions from the house while workers made repairs on the house. It was when they were moving their belongings back in the house that they came across this box of mementos. 

Yvonne said she wasn’t sure why he never mentioned the souvenirs. Randy said he figures his dad didn’t think keeping the buttons was that big a deal. 

But flipping back through the box, it is evident that every button told a story. Keeping those buttons was a record that he was there. Yvonne and Charlie witnessed some of the most significant events in the state during those years he served.

He kept buttons to prove it. After our talk, she walked me to the door. “I still miss Charlie so much,” she said. Finding the buttons made her feel a little melancholy. Some of her friends tell her that she needs to move on with her life. I told her that’s easier said than done – especially when you’ve led an extraordinary life with someone you love.


  1. I love that she found these buttons and, at first I thought you meant actual buttons on a shirt or something. When someone spends that long with another and loses their partner, it is a part of the,selves that dies as well. That long chapter has ended and one is left with having to move on but in great pain. People who say that one must move on just don’t want to hear her talk about her loss because it makes them uncomfortable and they don’t know how to deal with it which is sad. She needs a listening ear so I am glad you are there for her. 3 years is not a long time actually so she will miss him...all her life but, in time, the pain will be less severe. She will always miss him and will cry on occasion but she will laugh more at the happy times and will always miss him.

  2. Dadgummit, Sherry is gonna hate she missed the Arley Chitlin Festival!
    I don't doubt a person connected with politics has some buttons. I have a few and ain't even connected! I know they were interesting. Neat!

  3. Thank you for reaching out to her. Of course she misses him. And of course it is hard. I don't believe that we ever 'get over' grief. We just find (mostly) a new way to live.

  4. A very interesting story worthy of the newspaper. I'm glad that you visited her and that she in turn provided the inspiration for your column.
    Hugs, Julia

  5. When I thought of buttons when I saw the heading of your post, I was way off. Thinking about the buttons on a shirt or jacket. That button collection is worthy of mention for sure. I have a few of those from when my children were growing up and even some with the grandchildren. I'm going to have to find a box to keep my collection in. Great idea.

  6. Yvonne should deal with her life at her own pace. She should know however that some of those buttons might be valuable. I am not suggesting that she sell them only that she might check to see if they are worth anything. I send good feelings to her and her son.

  7. I know that was an interesting visit. I used to collect button in the 80's but they have since disappeared.
    Thats a cute photo of Yvonne holding the "RollTide" button.


  8. My F-in-Law collected buttons wherever he went. When he died, we gave those buttons to our son who treasured the time he spent with Grandpa. I may have a button my mom gave me, Wilkie and Miller.

  9. What a lovely lady. Everyone handles grief in their own way and time. I don't think you ever "get over" someone who was such an important part of your life. My Mom still misses my Dad who's been gone 42yrs. I'm so glad she found those buttons! I'm sure they are a small comfort for her. You're a good friend!


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