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JIM sends: A Tribute to Russell Co., KY, Mother, by Lilburn Phelps

MOTHERS DAY 2018: Remembering a remarkable Russell County mother, Sarah Prudence "Prudy" Bolin Phelps, whose son John Phelps was a late 20th century Russell County Judge (predecessor position now "County Judge Executive"
"Any man who remembers that he had a good mother has a rich heritage."
Click on headline for complete story, but save the epic ending paragraph for last, and grab a handkerchief before reading that. It will surely be a shared emotion for so many whose mothers are now memories. - EW


The following homage to a special mother came from the heart of her son, Lilburn Phelps*. It appeared in the August 26, 1954 edition of the Russell County News in the "Random Sketches" column. The subject of the sketch, Sarah Prudence "Prudy" Bolin Phelps, was the daughter of Capt. John C. Bolin and Ann Eliza(beth) Forrest Bolin, the wife of Capt. John L. Phelps, and the mother of five children, four of whom lived to adulthood.

A Tribute to Mother

[My mother] died at Somerset, Ky., October 1920. In all of the 33 years since then the nobility and purity of her life have not faded from my memory. Any man who remembers that he had a good mother has a rich heritage.
There stands in my memory an orderly household of obedient children. Above all, I remember the perfect ease with which he secured obedience. She seldom said, "Do this" or "Don't do that." She merely suggested that it was time for certain things to be done and they were done. She did not order me to go and work in the garden. She invited me to go with her and I felt honored.

She undertook to teach us the things that were right. I recall distinctly how she taught me one lesson. One day I was at the home Aunt Mary Phelps. There were gourd vines along a fence and there must have been 200 gourds. Some had dropped from the vine. As I started home I picked up one of these, took it with me and showed it to mother. She said, "Did your Aunt Mary give it to you?" I said "no" and told how many there were. Mother explained that it was wrong to take anything even of little value, that does not belong to us. She said I must take the gourd to Aunt Mary, tell her what I had done and ask her if I could keep it. The trip was quickly made. Aunt Mary gave me the gourd and told me I could have as many more as I wanted.

The lesson my mother taught that day has remained with me throughout a long life.

It has seemed to me that my mother's ability to secure obedience from all of her children amounted to genius. Maybe it was just tact and kindness. She seldom gave orders and I do not remember that any of us ever said, "No, I'll not do it." To carry out her wishes was a joy to all of us.

My mother seldom discussed religious matters with me. She never asked me to join the church. She emphasized right more than religion. One time she said, "Whatever you do, even if no one else sees you, I think God sees you."

I recall an example of my mother's will power that impressed me greatly in later years. A swelling in the palm of her hand had to be lanced two or three times. The pain was great and continued for many weeks. The fingers were drawn inward and could never be straightened. To relieve the pain the doctor left some small tablets, one of which she took three or four times a day. After some weeks she told me she had learned the name of the medicine. It was morphine. And she had decided she would never get well as long as she continued to take the tablets. So she said, "I'm quitting today, I'll not take another one." The next few days brought extreme agony. The pain in the hand and arm was still severe and there was the added suffering caused by suddenly quitting the habit forming drug. For three or four days, she spent much time walking the floor and wringing her hands. Once I saw big tears but she wouldn't give up. She would not take even an occasional tablet. She was firm and she won as nearly always did when faced with some great problem of life.

Mother died at the age of 72 a few weeks after an operation. The nurses said they never had a better patient. I went from Louisville to see her. The last time I was there she said I should go back and stay with my work. Said good bye very quietly while I was choking because I knew I should not see her again alive. She died as she had lived, calm and unafraid. In paying this tribute to my own mother, I want to pay tribute also to all good mothers everywhere. Perhaps you do not know how great your influence can be. You may join clubs and political parties and take a useful part in public affairs but there is nothing greater than being a good mother. While blessing the memory of my own mother, I salute you, good mothers, whoever and wherever you are.

* Lilburn Phelps was eighty-four years of age when this appeared in the newspaper. Born in 1870, he was the oldest of five children and taught for a few years before attending law school. According to his obituary, he practiced law for over sixty years and held a variety of elected and appointive positions at the local, state, and federal level. Judge Phelps passed in late 1956, a few months before his 87th birthday.

This story was posted on 2018-05-13 05:43:35
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