ODESSA It was Monday. She was in her chair, and he was in his. They were quiet until her small voice said to him, “Let’s go together.” He looked at her and smiled…and he left that day and entered heaven, leaving her behind with a heavy heart and frail body. Her strength rallied and she made preparations for her Jessie saying several times in the process…“I wanted to go with him…I wanted to be with him.” Wednesday night, March 24, 2010, Bessie Beryl Pugh put her hand in JT’s and they walked through heaven’s gate together.
It’s a love story, genuine and real, beautiful and honest. Two hearts truly became one and spent their years being partners, being friends; teasing, loving, growing a family, growing a church, loving others, loving themselves, worshiping God. We, her family, surrounded her bed after she left us, and sang “We’re Part of the Family,” the same song she sang when Uncle Jay walked to heaven the day before. It was a larger crowd at her passing, because that’s who she was. She loved having everyone together. A few weeks earlier, family had come into town and she was so disappointed when she was told that she couldn’t have a big dinner party that evening as it would tire her out. So we talked and laughed and remembered while she held court and one by one, we would venture to her bed to say a word or cry bittersweet tears. She wasn’t there, but we were comforted. Terry mentioned it first…this amazing love story. I asked him what she would wear and he said, “The clothes she had picked out for the funeral.” Bessie Pugh will be together with JT Pugh, her husband of 65 years, for the viewing on Thursday, March 25, 2010, and their funeral Friday, March 26, 2010, at 1 p.m. at the First United Pentecostal Church, where they are lying in state together.
The little girl, born and raised on a Beattie, Texas, peanut farm to Snowing and Lula Halbrooks on May 11, 1924, was a beautiful brunette with sparkling eyes and the most loving, infectious spirit. She was the sixth of seven children (six of whom were girls) and she and my mom were the babies. The Halbrooks women were strong, creative, tenacious and outspoken with Bessie being the gentlest of the seven. She never liked her name, I mean she really didn’t like her name even after Aunt Blackie started calling her “Bug,” “Bessie Bug” (because she loved to play with roly polys as a child.) Now her name can be anything she wants it to be.
She never wrote a book, and she didn’t do much teaching. Her influence was from her heart and from her spirit. Her kind ways and hospitality were legendary. Even as her body became thin and frail from the ravages of disease, she ran her household like a queen. One lady told me that Bill and JT are good men, but look how great they became after they married the Halbrooks women. Bill Stroud is my dad and Jo (Stroud), Bessie’s sister, is my mother. She and Blackie (Lavoyce) Elrod are the two surviving sisters, the first generation of the Halbrooks legend.
Her children, Datha Jo Dees, Terry Pugh and Nathanael Pugh, rise up and call her blessed. Misty Dees Hollis, Trace Dees, Elizabeth Dees Taylor, Jared, Brandon, Landry, Breanna, Reagan, Corbin, and Gavin Pugh call her Nana.
There’s more. She has five great-grandchildren, and one on the way. Her many nieces and nephews call her Aunt Bessie. Her church calls her Sister Pugh. Uncle Jay calls her beautiful. Jesus calls her His and welcomes her.
This little country girl from East Texas did not become a movie star or an opera singer or a model. She became her best. She became her best at giving, at loving, at serving, at kindness, at compassion, at living. She became her best for God, her Savior, friend and Lord of her world. I’m not sure I’m portraying this lady in the way she really was. You just had to know her. And if you didn’t, I’m so sad for you.
Aunt Blackie, her sister, called Wednesday after trying to get her several times and Aunt Bessie said, “What do you think I do all day? Sleep?” There’s no chance to call her anymore. Dad went by Wednesday and she told him, “It won’t be long.” I didn’t see her that day, and I’m sad. I wouldn’t change a thing, though. The spirits of Bessie and Jessie live on in their legacy and they are together at the feet of Jesus. It’s amazing love, a true story of that started…and ended…in heaven.
From Odessa America Online