Gone But Not Forgotten
Ray Whitlow – Gone, But Not Forgotten
Isabel’s late husband, Ray Whitlow seems to pop up often in my stories of the Faded Glory Farm; and, although he died more than two years ago, he still plays a major part in our lives here.
Ray was Isabel’s husband and true love for forty-two happy years. He was a Fannin County native, born within ten miles of here back in 1917. Isabel had moved with her family to Polk County, TN, from Lancaster County, PA immediately after the Great Depression. Her daddy was a railroad employee who was moved here in an effort to improve ore transportation at the copper mines in nearby Copperhill, TN. Ray met Isabel in September of 1939 while he was visiting a restaurant in Copperhill. To hear Isabel tell it, it was ‘love at first sight,’ one thing led to another, and they were married just before Ray enlisted in the Army and shipped out to France before Christmas in 1940.
Isabel and Ray moved in with Ray’s folks for a short time after Ray returned from France, and Isabel took a position as a second-grade school teacher in one of Fannin County’s elementary schools. Ray worked in downtown Blue Ridge at Hampton Hardware until he retired in the late 1970s. It was then that he and Isabel purchased the rundown 1896 Victorian that was later to become the Faded Glory Farm. Isabel and Ray never had any children.
Ray wasn’t a pretentious man; Isabel would often say that Ray would wear his old clothes around “until they were rags” if he could get away with it. Despite his years in hardware sales, he personally never liked to haggle. Quote him a price on something, and he’d either take it or leave it. Negotiating was simply out of the question for Ray.
Ray generally had to be ‘prodded’ to go to church, even though Rev. Calvin Payne, their minister, was one of his close personal friends. Isabel never could figure that out.
He usually enjoyed chatting with friends but he wouldn’t indulge in idle gossip, and he was honest to a fault. If you couldn’t handle a truthful answer, it was a mistake to ask Ray Whitlow for his opinion. Isabel says that she has returned more than fifty new hats to Montgomery Ward and Sears Roebuck in the last thirty years.
One exception, however; although it was well known that Ray never liked President Harry Truman, nobody could ever get him to say why. He was always silent on that issue. Isabel thought it was about the President’s use of the atom bomb in WWII, Now, nobody will ever know. Today, Isabel readily admits that she never really knew what made Ray ‘tick,’ but she sure did love him.
The restoration of this old Victorian farmhouse was originally begun with the intention of making it their home. This labor of love proved to be a major undertaking. During the restoration, both Ray and Isabel realized that this part of the north Georgia mountains was quickly becoming a popular vacation destination for Atlantans and folks from other cities in the Southeast, and they decided to develop the property as a Bed and Breakfast. With good carpentry skills and long experience selling hardware, Ray’s background stood him in good stead. With the help of Isabel, their neighbors, and several skilled tradesmen from the area, the sixteeen-room, gingerbread-trimmed Victorian “painted lady” finally came back to life,
I came on the scene in the early 1970s after the death of Ray’s beloved Plott Hound, “Old Jack,” who died of heart worm. Ray and Isabel hand-picked me out of a litter of six puppies born at the nearby Tipton farm here in Fannin County, and brought me home to live with them at Faded Glory.
Although I have struggled with a weight problem over the years, Ray never hesitated to put me in the back of his pickup and take me out to the marshes to hunt some birds. In the fall, whenever he had a hankering to get away from the farm with all its responsibilities, Ray would search out his worn red plaid windbreaker, oil up his favorite over and under shotgun, and off we’d go. Isabel used these times to work on the precious quilts she liked to create in the sunny rear bedroom on the first floor of the farm.
Ray was almost 64 when he died; and just over two years later, the work on the Inn is finished. The bills have finally been paid and, with the continuing efforts of Isabel, Micah, and our small temporary staff, Faded Glory Farm has become a very successful Bed and Breakfast. The paint and woodwork shine, and the floors still gleam in the morning sunlight. Wherever I look, I can see evidence of Ray Whitlow’s personal touch. Even today, with his old pickup truck still sitting out there under the shed roof, I would almost expect him to come walking through the front door at any minute to share a hug with Isabel and spend a few moments scratching my ears.
The splendor of Faded Glory has returned; and, for me, memories of Ray Whitlow are just as splendid. I truly miss him.