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 Thelma <I>Burke</I> Brady

Thelma Burke Brady

Death 19 Oct 2004 (aged 87)
Montgomery, Montgomery County, Alabama, USA
Burial Hope Hull, Montgomery County, Alabama, USA
Memorial ID 55796308 · View Source
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☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ONE OF HEAVEN'S BRIGHTEST STARS ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

☆☆•*¨*•.¸¸.•*¨*•☆☆ Best known as Mama ☆☆•*¨*•.¸¸.•*¨*•☆☆


Thelma and her twin brother Elmer were born to Jessie Jeanette "Ford" Burke and Pallie Tor Burke. They had an older brother named James Bluent, but many details of their early childhood are not known since the children were orphaned when she and Elmer were between three and four years old and J B was about eight or nine. From details learned later, her father was born in 1887 and died in 1918. Her mother, born September 2, 1888, cared for the children until her death March 2, 1920. After their mother's death, their paternal grandmother, Jemima Burke kept them with her, but when state authorities came to take them away, she told them to run and hide in the woods, but they were forcibly taken from her and made wards of the State of Alabama. Their grandmother died in 1922 at the age of seventy-one. Thelma and Elmer were placed in a foster home together, but J B was placed in another, and they had no contact with him. When she and Elmer were about seven, they were placed in separate foster homes. After that, she never saw either of her brothers again until she was an adult. Not much is known about her early years, but she recalled walking with her brothers behind the hearse that carried their mother to the cemetery.

It is not known how many homes she lived in, but in her teens she lived with Mildred Smith, a columnist for the Montgomery Advertiser in Montgomery, Alabama. Thelma was well educated, loved to read, and recalled how she drove the car when she was only fourteen while Mildred Smith sat in the back seat typing her newspaper column. She also lived with Mrs. Clara Marshall who cared for foster children in Montgomery. She formed a lifelong bond with her, calling her "Mama", and stayed in close contact with her. Later, she stayed with a Mrs. Harris, who lived in Hope Hull, Alabama, not far from Montgomery. This is where she met, and at the age of eighteen, married Lewis Brady, aged twenty-two, and where they lived throughout their marriage.

Thelma went through many difficult years after her marriage. Shunned by the one person who could have befriended her, (because she was an orphan without a proper background), she lived a very lonely and solitary life, with no close neighbors to whom she could turn, and Lewis, away from home working from before dawn until well after dark, she walked two miles to a neighbor's home, where she gave birth to her first child. Left virtually alone, with a little baby that became ill, she did not have the means to give her proper care. When it became apparent that the baby might die, it was taken to the home of the grandmother who had the money and means to care for her. This caused Thelma much grief, longing for the child taken away from her and with whom she was allowed almost no contact. For years, the child was not told that her grandmother was not her real mother until Thelma and Lewis moved nearby and she learned the truth. She was then told that her mother did not want her and had given her away, but as she began to play with her brothers and sisters, when allowed, she came to know her real mother. In her late teens, she chose to live with her parents and siblings, bonding with her two closest sisters as they shared a room together.

Lewis helped Thelma locate her twin brother Elmer, and she was re-united with her older brother J B, which is what she always called him. She and Elmer remained close and while he was in the Navy he would come home often to visit. He had a great personality, always smiling and happy, and was well liked. Those were happy times, with the two of them talking over cups of coffee at the kitchen table. She lost contact with J B and never heard from him again, but in her thirties, received a War Bond he had put in her name. She tried to locate him, but was unsuccessful, and never learned what had happened to him.

Thelma and Lewis were to have eleven children, eight girls; Daisy Anne, June Clara, Dannie Patricia, Verba Lee, Sarah Elizabeth, Sharon and Sandra (the twins), Carol Dianne, and three boys; James "Buddy" Lewis, Lawrence David, and Allen Anderson. With little money, she cared for the children as best she could, sewing clothes for all of them by hand and washing clothes outside in a tub with a scrub board. Life was hard, but she and Lewis made Christmas special for them, managing to get each child a desired toy. On Christmas morning, Lewis would tell the children to stay in bed until he had made a fire in the wood stove to warm the house a little. Without fail, there would be a red Radio Flyer wagon for one, which they all played with until it wore out and one of them got another the next year. Each child got an apple and an orange, and Thelma made a special breakfast of cheese toast and hot cocoa, (a rare treat).
Lewis, up before daybreak, working until long after sunset on the farm, also did carpentry work, painting, and trapping. Thelma took care of the children, doing the cleaning, washing, sewing and cooking, picking vegetables from the garden for meals. All food was home-grown, with hogs raised for meat and a cow for milk.

Thelma tried to do fun things with the children, making picnic lunches in the summer and taking them to the old swimming hole, picking blackberries for cobblers, and making home-made ice cream, a special treat. She was very creative and told them stories and sang funny songs, which they loved and begged for more. She had many little witty quips, many of them still remembered by some of her children. Lewis grew peanuts on the farm, and while sitting around the old stove together at night in the winter time, they would have parched peanuts or make peanut brittle.

After a time, when two of the girls were old enough to care for the younger ones, she got a job in Montgomery at the Ideal Cafe on Dexter Avenue, working as a waitress to supplement the family's income. She knew nothing about the job but learned quickly and came to know well most of the people who worked downtown, including legislators from the State Capitol, the Montgomery Advertiser newspaper staff, owners of the many downtown stores, and drivers from the Greyhound Bus Station. She was a friendly, sincere, and outgoing person who made friends easily, and formed lifelong friendships with many of them.

Thelma worked hard, but it was a sad time for the children who missed their mother at home. She rode the Greyhound bus to work at five in the morning and sometimes did not get home until the bus dropped her off around ten at night. Their financial situation improved and she was able to buy things they needed but had not been able to afford. She made sure the children were dressed properly for church on Sunday, and at Easter, would sew beautiful dresses for all the girls. They all wore hats and gloves, which, at that time, was proper attire for all young ladies. The boys wore slacks, white shirts and ties, and well polished shoes. She made extra-special Sunday dinners, to make up for the time she was not home during the week. Even so, the children missed having her at home because it was never the same without her there.

When her three oldest daughters got jobs in the city, the Ideal Cafe became their home away from home, because that was where their mother was. They each worked at different stores on Dexter on the weekends and she kept a vigilant eye on them. Heaven help any young man who got on the wrong side of her where her girls were concerned for she had no problem taking any of them to task, even if it was in a restaurant full of people. Very protective of her daughters, she knew if one of them had a problem because her customers, who were also her friends, kept an eye on them too. As the younger ones grew up and got jobs, they too came to know the Ideal Cafe as their second home.

After retiring from her job in the city, able to relax a little, she kept her home neat and clean, and enjoyed sewing and reading. Being a gifted poet, she began to compile a book of her poetry, typed on an old typewriter at home. Several of her children were married by then and had families of their own, and she was there to help with the grandchildren, taking care of some when needed, and nursing one back to health when he contracted scarlet fever. She loved all of her children equally, but was there to help the one who needed her most at the time. She liked having her children come home to visit, and on Sunday after church, would prepare a meal to feed all who came. She enjoyed having company, welcoming anyone who dropped in to visit for a while but was not known to gossip, since she herself knew well the hurt caused by others who did.

The children grew up, following in the traditions of their parents, good, honest, hard workers, with families of their own. Two daughters were married to ministers, one son was a minister, later becoming a missionary, the others with good jobs, and some choosing home-making as a career. She remained close to each of them, often "meddling in their affairs" when she deemed it necessary.

Sometime after the death of her husband Lewis, after fifty years of marriage, she moved from their home in the country to a retirement home in Montgomery. One might think that she would have been lonely, but her apartment became a cozy little home, where she enjoyed her sewing, crocheting, craftwork and reading, and the friendships of many friends, both there and at church, which she continued to attend faithfully. Always a warm welcome extended to her children who visited often, and gave her much love and well deserved support, she loved holidays, and showered with gifts on all occasions, was welcomed when visiting each of them, never staying for long, because she missed her own little home.

She often took trips with her daughters, not wanting to be left behind, because she might miss out on some fun. An active supporter of the missionary work of one of her sons to Panama, she saw a great need and began to sew dresses for the little girls there, thus beginning a mission work that would spread nationally, with thousand of dresses now being made for the girls through the Panama Missions work. She also contributed in many other ways, and at the age of eighty-four, went on one of the mission trips and was lovingly greeted by those who had come to know her through her son and by her good works. Contributions were raised, and a kindergarten was built there for the children, and named in honor of her.

Her children wrote a book together recalling memories from their childhood growing up, entitled "Through the Eyes of a Child", which she loved, sharing it with her many friends. A most cherished possession was her book of poetry, "Life's Memories - My Legacy", which had been copywrited, edited, and published for her by her youngest daughter. Though constantly surrounded by her loved ones, she could often be seen sitting silently, with a faraway look in her eyes, as though seeing some distant past image, making one wonder what memory was calling her back; not daring to ask, but later, wishing so many times that you had.

She died at the age of eighty-seven, surrounded by the love of her eleven children: Daisy Anne, James Lewis (Buddy), June Clara, Dannie Patricia, Verba Lee, Sarah Elizabeth (Betty), Lawrence David (Larry), Sharon and Sandra (the twins), Allen Anderson and Carol Dianne.

One poem not included in her book was her last one below, written to her children.


To My Family

The time has come to say goodbye
But nothing will ever sever,
The wonderful memories we shared
With a love that will last forever.

Death has dropped the final curtain
And the body separates from the soul,
To soar to that beautiful city
Where the streets are paved with gold.

Look up at night to the sky on high
And pick out a star or two,
Somewhere there along the milky way
I will be looking down at you.

Rejoice now that the time has come
When pain and sorrows are o'er.
Rejoice for me that a better home
Waits on that beautiful eternal shore.

Love, Mama

(written by Thelma Burke Brady and left for her children)


Family Members




Gravesite Details This was taken from Mama's book of poetry.
  • Maintained by: Patriciaღ
  • Originally Created by: Rick & Kat
  • Added: 2 Aug 2010
  • Find A Grave Memorial 55796308
  • Patriciaღ
  • Find A Grave, database and images ( : accessed ), memorial page for Thelma Burke Brady (11 Jul 1917–19 Oct 2004), Find A Grave Memorial no. 55796308, citing Brady Cemetery, Hope Hull, Montgomery County, Alabama, USA ; Maintained by Patriciaღ (contributor 47440549) .