Tuesday, August 30, 2011


She grew up on a side of the road
Where the church bells ring and strong love grows
She grew up good
She grew up slow
Like American honey
-Copyright Cary Barlowe, Hillary Lindsey and Shane Stevens

     Effie Rae Dial was born in 1919 near Delta, Alabama. The youngest of her siblings, she was doted upon and fussed over by an array of brothers and a dear sister after losing her parents to tuberculosis as a tiny girl. She blossomed into a sparkling, willowy beauty.

     My grandfather Excell was one of those older brothers. From the time I was knee-high to an Alabama grasshopper, I heard about Effie and her accomplishments in the great wide world. She was sent to business college in Birmingham after high school by her Sears & Roebuck executive brother, Roper. At a time when women were routinely denied opportunities for career advancement anywhere but schoolrooms and hospital bedsides, Effie went to work for Singer Sewing Centers. She was promoted from the factory floor early on. Suitors abounded. 

     The war started, and everything changed except her drive and ambition. When WWII ended, she was without a job. A call from Cabin Crafts Chenniles took her to New York for training and opened up a bright future. Effie had her dream job and met her dream man, Jim Wells.

     He was very handsome, charming and from Virginia. They ran off to Reno to marry and settled in San Francisco. His insurance career flourished. Though she lost Jim to cancer, she never left her adopted city.

     She remarried a nice man named Stan Lonning. He was a military officer, and Effie had years of fun and parties at The Presidio. She volunteered. She worked tirelessly for San Francisco General Hospital and their fundraising thrift shop.

     When Stan passed away, she continued to live in their home with its magnificent view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the City By The Bay. I visited her there last week, and my great-aunt is as wonderful a tour guide as ever.

     Effie Wells-Lonning is an inspiration to me and many others. I am deeply grateful to have shared a few days with her and enjoyed her company. A wonderful bonus was the discovery of some remarkable photos . . . they are priceless to me.

      I left a good many behind (with my heart) in San Francisco, but you get the idea. I am enormously proud of Effie (she doesn't really like the Rae part).

     She continues to inspire and captivate our entire family, and we're looking forward to her visit this October. I have promised her quality time with my chickens and a sunset from our deck at Lovie Lane.

     I can't wait.

Love from Delta.


  1. Sounds like you enjoyed a rewarding visit to San Francisco. And I have a feeling you will have Great Nieces and Nephews that will feel the same way about their Great Aunt one day!!!


  2. Ditto.....that's your job to inspire and make memories for the next. Generation...can do! C

  3. I am happy you have Beautiful Aunt Effie, and will look forward to hearing about her "running with my chickens" in October.

  4. Thank you, Cinda . . . I will try to meet that challenge. And Kris, I am happy I have Effie, too. Now you see why I was so unwilling to share her . . . :p. If you're willing to make the trip up here in October when she visits, I shall be happy to introduce you. She really IS phenomenal.