My dear friend Geneva Poston was, in my mind, an unstoppable force. She grew up in Austinville, a place where tough women were made. I know that for a fact because of my great-grandmother, who left us three years ago at the age of 92, who was from the same place. She and Geneva were high school friends, and that friendship has extended from generation to generation in both families. My mother and Geneva’s granddaughter Debbie have been lifelong best friends as have Geneva’s great-grandson Jared and I. Our daughters, Lily and Bella, are continuing to carry on that tradition. When I heard the news of Geneva’s November 12th passing at the age of 93, even though I knew that she had been ill for a long time and I was relieved to hear that she was free from the illness she has suffered for so long, I was still shocked.
Some part of me thought Geneva would endure forever. I have memories of Geneva that go back as far as I can recall, but the biggest things that stand out to me were the fact that she opened her home to my entire family on holidays and birthdays. We would all celebrate together as one big family, who loved to laugh. Geneva was also known far and wide as the best seamstress in the county. She sewed until she could not sew anymore. Geneva was also very renowned within the local hotel business, being the last-ever assistant manager at the original George Wythe Hotel. When she was the manager of the Travelodge here in Wytheville, she was kind enough to let me stay there for a week at a discounted rate while my floors were being redone. She met Emily for the first time there and hugged her as if she had always known her.
“I’m so proud of you,” she said, turning to me. “I didn’t think you’d ever be able to get a girlfriend.”
Spending that time with Geneva is another memory filled with lots of laughs and joy. It tickles me to think that she was drawing unemployment when she left that job at the age of 87. When we were all watching proudly from the George Wythe High School auditorium when Jared won the Future Mr. George Wythe pageant, I remember telling Geneva that I was worried about my Granny Rose, who was in the hospital at that time.
She looked at me with a smile of assurance and said, “You can’t keep us Austinville women down.”
As per usual, she was right.
It touches my heart when I remember getting a call from Geneva the day before her 80th birthday to invite me to her party the following afternoon. “I wouldn’t have it without you,” she told me. When we had Bella’s baby shower, we had three of those Austinville ladies and special guests who were all over 90: Geneva, Granny Rose, and Annie Reynolds. Sadly, Annie also passed away just a few days ago. I remember that Annie asked for help to walk back to her car and Geneva was the first one to volunteer.
“Come on, Annie,” she said taking her arm. “I’ll help you get out.”
Mom took a picture of these two incredible women walking together.
Throughout her life, Geneva never failed to amaze me. I loved hearing stories about her driving her friends from church to Pigeon Forge in her own car much to the worried dismay of her daughter Dixie. Dixie tried to convince Geneva to at least take her car, but she insisted there was nothing wrong with her own and proceeded as intended down the interstate. I’m proudest of both Geneva and my Granny Rose in that they lived to see their great-great-grandchildren. Geneva, in fact, had two last determined plans for her life. One was that she wanted to see her granddaughter Jade’s wedding last November. Next, she wanted to live to see her second great-great-grandchild, Jesse Lee Warren King, who was born just a couple of weeks later. As was no surprise to me, Geneva made both of those goals.
The last memory I have of Geneva is a phone call I got from her telling me that she had collected Boyd’s Bears for a long time and wanted my wife Emily and daughter Bella each to have one. Needless to say, I was very touched and wanted her to know how much I loved her and that I was praying for her. Even though I know she knew how I felt, I would still like the opportunity to tell her that one more time and to give her one more hug. In addition to her beautiful family, the many friends Geneva had like me are grieving in unison today because she was like a grandmother to all of us. She had a sense of family that is seldom seen in younger generations. I know she is proud of her family as they carry on that feeling she created of welcoming anyone into her family, blood or otherwise.
I suppose, in that sense, that Geneva will continue on forever. With the love and friendship that her beautiful daughters, Dixie, Phyllis, and Vicky continue to extend to everyone along with her many grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and great-great-grandchildren, Geneva will continue to live on. She will always be that unstoppable force.