An oak tree for Opal

There is a new tree growing in the Lohn Valley Park, a Texas red oak, planted to commemorate the life of Opal Browning. Oak trees are known for their strength and durability. Opal’s life reflects those characteristics. Opal was born in Pear Valley, daughter of Henry and Lena McNeese Smith. She had three sisters, Bessie, Dora and Lura and one brother, Bill. The Smith family lived east of Pear Valley, walked to school, joined by other farmers’ children. She graduated from Pear Valley High School in 1929’in a class evenly divided’six girls, Ruby Ludwick, Thelma Ludwick, Merle Awalt, Helen Marshall, Ellen Parker and six boys, Lonnie Gault, Melvin Ludwick, Elvard White, Jessie Marshall, Garnett Moore and Lester Faulkner. Lester dropped out prior to graduation upsetting the balance. Garnett is the only one of the class surviving. Active in raising and showing cattle at stock shows, Opal had an entry in San Angelo in 1932; in Fort Worth in 1933 and Brady and Houston in 1934. At the Houston Fat Stock Show she won second place because a competitor poisoned her calf and took first place. A Mr. Lykes, owner of a shipping line, felt sorry for her and gave her a free trip on one of his cruise ships, the “Peggy Lykes.” In March 1934, Opal married Vernon Browning, son of Leon and Myrtle Browning of Pear Valley and they went on their honeymoon aboard the Peggy Lykes to San Juan Islands, Puerto Rico. The Brownings moved to the Texas Coast for a time. When the marriage ended, Opal and two children, Peggy and Burnard, made their home in Pear Valley. Opal bid on and was awarded the contract for the star route service between Lohn and Doole in 1943. Carrying the mail between these towns was pretty much a routine job except at this time the country was engaged in World War II, tires were rationed, difficult to obtain. Opal drove her dad’s old Hudson Terraplane. The car went many a mile, the tires were practically bald, flats were inevitable. Then there was the problem of muddy roads. When it rained, she would get stuck in the mud somewhere between Lohn, Pear Valley and Doole. Peggy sometimes went with her mother and she admits to crying a lot when they got stuck. Along the route lived a postal patron who eagerly awaited their arrival each day at her mail box. The lady dipped snuff, always stuck her head in the window to chat and Peggy was subjected to a fine spray of snuff during the conversation (seems like a good time for crying). After three years on the mail route, Opal was appointed post master at Lohn in June 1945. She and her family moved to Lohn. The Lohn post office has been in existence for 112 years, having been established on March 4th, 1890. The first post office was one mile north of Lohn and was moved across from Lohn Central School in 1907. There have been only 12 acting and appointed postmasters from 1890 until 1984, a period of 94 years. While the office was north of Lohn, the first postmaster was Morgan Stacy, 1890-1894; J.H. Drinkhard, short time in 1894; Willie Roberts from 12 years, 1894-1906; after the post office was moved, John Meeks, 1906-1907; Joseph Hill, 1907-1909. Willie Roberts, Jr. was postmaster from 1909 to 1915; Carl Lohn from 1915-1918, Willie Roberts, Jr. came back in 1918 and was there for 11 years until 1929. George Reed was appointed in 1929. Minnie Gattis served as acting postmaster between Roberts and Reed. George had the office for 15 years retiring in 1944. Jane Johnson ran the office from September 1944 until Opal received her appointment in June 1945. Opal served this community as postmaster for 38 1/2 years retiring in 1984. The post office in a small rural community is the hub of activity. The postmaster an important part of the community, he or she is privy to what’s going on, they know everyone, their families, the good and bad things. They must be the very soul of discretion as many people use them as confidants to tell their sorrows and joys. In a fourth class office such a as Lohn, the postmaster does all the jobs, sort and case the mail, dispatch the mail, work the window and bear the brunt of disgruntled patrons when their mail fails to arrive on time. Opal did all this, faithfully, for 38 1/2 years. She took care of her father after her mother died, reared two children who are a credit to her guidance. Her grandchildren, Cindy and Earl, have fond memories of time spent with her in the summers. Cindy and Earl would hang out at the post office until mail time, then they knew to leave and not bother Opal. The youngsters had motorbikes and rode around town even went to Pear Valley. Everyone knew them and called them the ‘motorbike kids.’ Opal pushed them around on an old lawn mower minus the motor. She enjoyed having her children, grandchildren visit, always made Burnard his favorite blueberry pie. Opal was an accomplished seamstress, could make any type of clothes, loved to quilt. She was a faithful member of the Lohn Baptist Church. After Opal’s sister, Dora Carrol, moved to Fort Worth and Lura Deck died, Opal was lonely and decided to leave Lohn and move to Temple. She lived there until her death on May 24, 2000. Besides her two children, Peggy Leonard Stoker and Burnard Browning, she had four grandchildren and six great grandchildren. Bill and Peggy Stoker of Temple, Cindy Kattner, Jennifer and Kyle from Lorena, Earl and Frann Leonard from Alvin donated the tree, in memory of Opal. We all missed Opal a great deal after she left. Her daughter penned this “Tribute to My Mother”‘ “Often I make a sentimental journey to my home in Lohn. I love to be in the house and community that my mother loved so. Whatever the economic limitations of those growing up years, I was rich beyond measure because she provided me with Christain examples and goodness that bless me today.” Other recent memorials and donations have been received from the following: Kenoth G. Moore, Laveta Curry, Don and Wynette Russell, Charles Moore for Neil Hayes; from Narvel and Nelda Rogers for Sidney and Willene Johnson, Perry and Fay Johnson; from Houston and Billie Kennedy for Wayne McBee; from the Bloomer family for Howard Bloomer. Donations have been given by Lohn Church of Christ, Moore Family Christmas, Kyle and Dawn Capps, McCulloch County. Del and Lisa Moore Albright have moved from Lohn having bought a home in Coleman. Chocky Moore, Lisa and Kylie Bledsoe were in Fort Worth on a Saturday while Corey Bledsoe was showing lambs at the Fort Worth Stock Show on Sunday. Lisa flew to California on Thursday and returned on Tuesday. Del has been called up for active duty with the Air Force. He left for the United Arab Emirate for three weeks or up to a year. He called Lisa from Spain and was leaving early the next morning on the last leg of the journey. The Moore family returned to Fort Worth for a surprise 75th birthday party for Narvel Rogers, given by Teresa Smith and Shari Gomez. The girls emailed and wrote friends hoping to get 75 cards to commemorate this occasion. They received 120 cards. Family members met at a restaurant in Hurst for dinner then back home to the Rogers for cake and coffee. Narvel was presented with two birthday card trees. Attending were Jerry and Nancy Simpson, Roy and Teresa Smith from Brady, Iris Hayes from Andrews, Chocky Moore from Lohn, Mark and Shari Gomez, Jonathan and Mary from Bedford, Johnny and Ginger Weeks from Burleson, Pat and Edna Stearns from Fort Worth. Folks celebrating birthdays this past two weeks were Trey Massey, Lavon Hutton, Al Carroll, Fred Willis, Lowell Bloomer, Sterling Moore, Martha Hemphill, Larry Lohn, Billie Bloomer, Dianne Hutton, Cheryl Bryan, Angela Perkins, Linda Alastuey, Steve Fischer, Elisha Schumann, Kimberly Hemphill, Ashton Goodenberger. Nelson and Peggy Solsbery have a wedding anniversary on Saturday, Feb. 16. Margaret Bloomer has had a series of company lately. Cheryl Bryan came from Winters for a visit and to do a few chores. Imogene was here to take Margaret out to lunch. Buddy came last Tuesday to spend the night and attend the last home basketball game for the Lohn Eagles, especially to attend his nephew, Garrett Bloomer’s last game as Garret will be graduating this year. The Bloomer family has a lot of birthdays this month. I’m not sure if the Sunday dinner at Margaret’s was to celebrate, but several of the family was here and they did have a big dinner after church. Jack and Linda came for overnight on Saturday. Arriving on Sunday were Brooke and Angela Perkins, Susan Hamilton from the Dallas area, Jeremy, Jason and Garrett Bloomer. The recent death of Pete Johnson brought back a lot of memories for those who attended school with him. Pete graduated in 1939 along with 17 others, eight boys and 10 girls. Oran Land is the lone surviving male of the class, Iva Dell Bratton, Madge Horne, Bernadine West, Novella Roberts, Grace Doyal and Florence “Pete” McBee are the surviving girls of the class. The deceased members are Reba Reeves, Deb Bloomer, Ralph Lindsey, Harold Williams, Joe Smith, W.B. Carroll, Hazel Crunb, Mabel Knight and Shorty Hester. My class, we were juniors, joined this class for an overnight trip to San Antonio to visit the Alamo, Buckhorn Saloon and several other old missions in and around the city. Pete’s parents were Bob and Lou Johnson. They lived on the Pear Valley road. His twin sisters, Itha and Vida, graduated in 1941. He also had some half-brothers, R. W. and Delma Johnson, a half sister, Alma. This is the obituary for Pete from the Fort Worth Star Telegram. “Forest Hill ‘Pete’ J.B. Johnson, 81, a retired teacher, died Monday, Feb. 4, 2002, at a local hospital after a lengthy illness. Funeral, 2 p.m. Thursday, at Southwayside Baptist Church in Fort Worth. Pastor Alvin Southerland will conduct the service. Burial: Rehoboth Cem. “Pete Johnson was born April 14, 1920 at Lohn, near Brady, in McCulloch County. He served in the Army Medical for five years, four of which were with the U.S. Army Base Hospital in England. Following his return he enrolled at Texas Wesleyan where he graduated with honors with a bachelor of science degree and attained a master’s by 1956. Later, he began work on a doctoral degree at North Texas in Denton. Johnson was an instructor in business education for 18 years at Trimble Tech High School. During his tenure, he was chosen as teacher of the year by the Business Teachers Association of Texas. In 1967, he was elected president of Texas Business Education Association. In 1969, Johnson joined the faculty of Northeast Tarrant Count College. He enjoyed working with eager young people and encouraged them to excel in their chosen field. While at Northeast Campus, he sponsored several winning teams in business related contests, both in state and national competition. In 1978, Johnson transferred to the Northwest Campus of Tarrant County College. While there he served as chairman of the Business Education Department, and later as president of the faculty until his retirement in 1981. Following his retirement, he became interested in horticulture and joined several plant societies. He was known for producing beautiful bromeliads, many of which were prize winners in competitive shows. He was very active in staging the shows, and served as president of the Fort Worth Tarrant County Society and the Greater Dallas Bromeliad Society. Recently, when he was unable to care for his greenhouses, he gave more than 500 bromeliads and orchids to the Garden Center in Kerrville. The proceeds from their sale will be applied toward scholarships for three students from that area that choose to study horticulture. “Survivors are his wife of 55 years; daughter LuAnn Anderson of Kerrville; sons and their families, Bruce and wife, Carolyn, and daughter, Amy of Fort Worth and son, Chris of Daytona Beach, Fla. and Sidney and wife, Claudia, son, Benjamin and daughter, Anna Rene of Wichita, Kan; sisters, Vida Blackwell of Burleson and Itha Case of Seagoville; and longtime family friend, Jackie Kayne.

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