EMILY HALL: A MEMOIR OF AN EXTRAORDINARY RESIDENT AT WOODS EDGE THE FINAL EIGHT YEARS OF HER LIFE
As a friend, confidant and neighbor of Emily Pannill Yager Hall, I propose to write about what I know about her as a result of our relationship during the last eight years of her life. Apart from brief biographical information this discourse will be based on my personal association with Emily, i.e., my relationship with her and what I observed about her involvement, particuarly, in activities at Woods Edge, in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Emily Pannill Yager Hall was born in Raccoon, Virginia in 1925 and departed this life on August 29, 2010, having surpassed the age spoken of in the Bible that says "The length of our days are seventy - or eighty." She was preceded in death by her husbands Hugh "Dick" Claude Yager Sr., and Cecil Clayton Hall. She is survived by a daughter Dale Yager Breeden and two sons, Hugh "Earl" Clarke Yager Jr., and "Claude "C.W." Yager. Emily lived in Viginia most of her life except for a brief period when she lived in my native state of Alabama where Cecil was empoyed.
I first met Emily in 2002, exactly eight years ago when we both became neighbors. It was her enthusiastic interest in music, something I love as well, that attracted us to each other beyond a casual acquaintanceship. We became friends and confidant(e)s. Her love for others compelled her to be involved in helping others to find more meaning and joy in life. Her love for music would help to facilitate that mission. Emily was small in stature and bent forward, making her appear to be shorter than she actually was. She never talked to me about her physical posture but it appears that she had what medically is called "Ankylosing Spondylitis," a chronic progressive form of arthritis, as described in "The Merck Manuel." Her forward leaning increased over the years I knew her but that did not seem to interfere with her movement and participation in a variety of activities. She never ceased being creatively productive.
No one at Woods Edge contributed as much, certainly not more, than Emily in providing activities for residents to experience and enjoy. She was known as House Mom by some and as the Avon Lady by others. For fifty years she was a represenative for AVON. She was very much concerned about her appearance as indicated by her frequent visits to the on-sight beauty saloon and foot manicurist. She made personal use of the AVON products in more ways than one.
For a number of years Emily was in charge of the weekly Tuesday evening pot luck. In that role her leadership was evident as she was able to enlist a team to work with her in doing what was needed to be done in a timely and orderly manner. Shortly after pot luck she played the piano for a sing-along for persons who wanted to remain and sing or listen to her play music and others sing. There were times when only she and I remained for the sing-along, but she played the piano and I sang with gusto as if we had an audience. However, most times there were other people who participated in the sing-along. Some Tuesdays Barbara Rae, a non-resident musician conducted the sing-along but most Tuesdays Emily played during the post pot luck sing-along. After I suggested to Emily that I felt it would be helpful to have a music club with members to assist her in presenting musical events to which she agreed a music club was formed. The music club was organized in February 2003 with eight people becoming members. Music Club meetings are held once a month. Howerver, Emily continued to make most of the contacts to invite music groups to perform at Woods Edge. Management invited fewer music groups. Some months as many as three groups performed on weekdays at Woods Edge. Some of these groups rendered religious music but there were others that rendered a variety of music, including appropriate music for dancing, something Emily enjoyed doing. During her funeral service an officiating minister said that Emily liked to dance when she was young. During my comments at the funeral I stated that Emily enjoyed dancing when she was passed eighty. I should know because I danced with her. The last group Emily invited to perform was the Front Porch Singers who gave a performance at Woods Edge on June 21, 2010. She had also scheduled for July, The Expressions, one of Woods Edge's favorite music groups, but because of illness of two of their members that event was canceled.
Emily was also instrumental in promoting the in-house talent shows performed by residents at Woods Edge. The first talent show was presented on December 7, 2004 and periodically there were others.
At the age of 84 in 2010, Emily was still teaching her music students. It is worth notiing that the piano at Woods Edge belongs to Emily. It was a gift her husband Cecil gave her long before they moved to Woods Edge. She made it clear that all the residents had access to play the piano. It is also a good time to mention that, at my suggestion, we created a piano fund to pay for having the piano tuned. About once a year we made an appeal to residents for funds for that purpose. Just before Emily became disabled I prepared and gave to her a master copy of an appeal leaflet requesting funds to tune the piano leaflet. She had planned to have copies of it made in the office and distributed a few days before the August 3rd pot luck when it would be announced that the piano appeal fund is being launched on that day. Providence had other plans, so that did not happen.
I do not recall that any Sunday worship service had been held at Woods Edge earlier than Sunday January 23, 2005 when the first such service was held. On Saturday before that Sunday I called Emily and said that since people are snow-bounded and cannot go to church tomorrow that we should have a worship service at Woods Edge. She agreed with me. I prepared leaflets inviting residents to attend church service at Woods Edge on Sunday, January 23, 2005. I delivered the sermon and Emily played the piano. We had a spirited worship service.
In late 2006 and early 2007, Emily and Paula Nelson, also a resident, at Woods Edge asked me if I would join with them in starting an every Sunday church worship service at Woods Edge. I told them that I would not be able to attend the Sunday services but promise to help them get started and would support them. Having served as a pastor, I was aware that I had knowledge about establishing a worship service that they did not have. I suggested that they find out how other residents feel about having Sunday religious services at Woods Edge. They agreed, and that led us to circulate a questionnaire to residents with these three questions: (1) approve of having a weekly Sunday church service at Woods Edge - Yes or No; (2) Would you attend Sunday afternoon services at Woods Edge? - Yes or No; (3) What hour would you want the Sunday afternoon service to be held - 2:00 p.m., or 3:00 p.m.? The responses were positive.
On March 18, 2007, the first of what would be an every Sunday worship service was held. Rev. Roi Svai'inaea, Associate Pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, delivered the sermon. Emily played the piano as she has done for nearly every service since except when a visiting pianist was present. Emily has been responsible for inviting ministers to preach. She was able to secure commitments from ministers to preach once a month on a given Sunday of the month. For example: Rev. Robert Price agreed to preach every 5th Sunday. Seldom have I attended the Sunday worship services. However, I have preached a few times when a scheduled minister was unable to come or we were snowed-in and Emily asked me to deliver the message. For the first two years of this church operation each Sunday I have arranged chairs and tables and set up for the service before I attended church elsewhere. I have also made leaflets on a number of occasions to advertise the worship service and a sign that was displayed in the lobby on Saturdays and Sundays announcing the service.
About two months or so ago before Emily's demise she was admitted to a local hospital. When I called the hospital and spoke to her she asked me to bring some of my writings with me when I come to see her. From time to time I had shared some of my writings with her and she had purchased two of my books as well as visited my website. When I visited her at the hospital I gave her three of my writings. She appeared to be comfortable, i.e., she was not in pain but was anxious to return home. Later she was moved from the hospital to a Health rehabiliation center. About two or three weeks before she died I made my third visit to see her. We talked, she said that her son, C.W. had come to see her earlier that day. She wanted to know who was playing the piano for the Sunday services? And she said to me, "When I come home I will need you to take me to the food market." I replied, "Yes I'll be glad to take you to the food market." And I thought about how just in January, some seven months earlier, when she learned that I was having analgesia when I go to the dentist, she had driven me there. About a week after the aforementioned visit, four days before her death I visited her. She was sitting in a wheel chair with tubes in her body and, I believe it was an oxygen tank sitting on the floor beside her. Her eyes were dazed. A nurse brought her a small cup with a staw in it and put the straw in her mouth but I am not sure she received from it. Then the nurse placed the cup on a small table within her arms reach. Neither am I sure that Emily recognized me. Maybe she did because she extended her hand toward me and we held hands for a moment. On two occasions It seemed that she attempted to talk to me but when she moved her lips no words came out of her mouth.
As noted earlier, on Sunday August 29, 2010 Emily exchanged mortality for immortality. A memorial service for Emily was conducted September 2, 2010, at Calvary Baptist Church, her membership church, with pastor Reverend Roi Savai'inaea and the Reverend Robert Price officiating. Interment was private at Holly Memorial Gardens in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Emily you are being missed at Woods Edge. Your work is done there but your works will continue to inspire residents of Woods Edge and those who learn about your legacy.
Personally I miss you Emily. My memories of you will continue to nourish my soul.
Your Friend and Confidant
Uriah J. Fields
Copyright 2010 by Uriah J. Fields