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Roots and resilience

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"In the Great Depression days, life was about surviving," says Roy Coltrane, wearing faded overalls and a green flannel shirt. He sits at the kitchen table in the quaint house he built for his wife, Margaret, on a winding country road in Pleasant Garden more than 70 years ago. Margaret sits next to Roy, her fingers laced with his.

Roy's father, brokenhearted after his wife died during childbirth, passed away himself four years later, leaving Roy to lead the family at 21. The Great Depression was unkind to farmers like Roy, but he fought to take custody of his four siblings and to keep the farm. To make it work, the entire family pulled together. Roy's sister Irene dropped out of eighth grade to raise her younger siblings and take care of the household responsibilities.

"Irene was more like a mother to me than a sister," says Ethel Coltrane Whitaker, the youngest of Roy's siblings, from the porch of the home she and her siblings grew up in. The one-story white house is immaculate. Old photographs and antiques fill the inside of the house while beds of colorful pansies and rosebushes bloom outside. A black-and-white picture of the family posing in front of the house with a horse and buggy sits in the living room, reminding them all of a very different time.

Ethel looks down at the enormous Bible spread across her lap. "My mama and daddy bought this Bible over a hundred years ago," she says. "All the births and deaths of our family members are recorded here." Her delicate finger points to the year Irene died.

All of Roy's siblings, his son, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren now live on the family farm. Despite the demanding nature of their work, there is still a simple rhythm to their lives. They have an unwavering commitment to one another. Every afternoon Branson and his wife eat lunch with Roy and Margaret. The breaking of steaming biscuits and fresh garden vegetables is more than a meal – it's a way for the family to constantly reconnect.

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