In Memory of Uncle Leland


Leland Bunch

This picture depicts the way I remember Uncle Leland better than any others that I have seen. I found it among Edgar's slides, taken in 1954. It's also a wonderful picture of his great niece and my niece, Janet Nave.

Uncle Leland was one of my strongest positive male role models of my youth. Although a quiet man, his actions and behavior spoke loudly. He had worked hard to become educated, worked tirelessly in his position as County Agent for Jackson County Arkansas for agriculture, managed an 800 acre farm, and was a major influence in forming the REA (Rural Electrification Agency) to bring electricity to the rural areas of Jackson County.

He and Aunt Pearl (our father Carl Nave's sister) were major supports and encouragers for our family, and all of Carl's children spent nights and weekends and many other events and occasions with them. Without their dedicated support our family history would be profoundly different. They provided many of the key opportunities for education, growth and accomplishment for all of us.

Uncle Leland's passing was very close in time to Rodney's graduation from high school.

In the late spring of 1957, Uncle Leland became ill and was hospitalized in Newport. After a couple of weeks of hospitalization, Aunt Pearl shared with our family the sad prognosis. He was told that he was in kidney failure, that there was nothing they could do, and that he probably had about two weeks to live. Aunt Pearl shared with us in a way that is indelibly printed in my memory. She said "He told me 'They tell me that I am going to die, but I want to live!'" The prognosis proved to be correct and he went to be with the Lord on May 29. Part of the sadness of the memory, looking back from the 21st century, was that there was no dialysis, and no kidney transplants at that time, so indeed there was nothing they could do.

My memories of Uncle Leland, in addition to all the time in their home and around their table, include two summers of working in the fields of their farm near Auvergne and many times of riding with him in his pickup truck as he surveyed the fields of Jackson County. As County Agent, he was always keenly interested in how the crops were doing. We always joked with him about keeping his eyes on the road since he would drive along with such attention to the crops beside the road.

Edgar with Uncle Leland Bunch in their back corner room that served as a sitting room and office as well as their bedroom. January, 1954.

Uncle Leland and Aunt Pearl Bunch in their living room, September 1954. It is a good example of the design of a nice formal living room of the period. They lived comfortably, but not extravagantly, and were very generous with the First Baptist Church of Newport and with needs around them.They were always very generous with us - in fact we would have had a hard time making it without their generosity.

Aunt Pearl and Uncle Leland around their kitchen table with the Guthries in September 1954. From my earliest childhood I remember sitting around this table with them during the many times we spent the night with them for special school events, etc. Behind them was a porch and then a back yard with a garage and small chicken yard. Every time I sneeze I remember the Uncle Leland would sneeze loud enough to startle the chickens in the back yard and you could hear their alarm clucking.

In my teen years I spent a good bit of time helping to cut the grass and maintain the yard, but the most unique part was helping Uncle Leland maintain about four beehives he had in the chicken yard. On one occasion he had a swarm of honeybees from the hive that had settled as a football-sized ball of bees on a limb of a pecan tree in the back yard. He enlisted me to help him try to persuade the bees back into one of the 18"x24"x36" box hives which had drawers that he could open to house the bees. He and I both donned long sleeves, gloves, and net headpieces and he built a smoky fire underneath the tree and we both carried smoky sticks from the fire to deter the bees from stinging us. With that garb I climbed up a stepladder and sawed off the 3/4" limb the bees had settled on and carried the limb with the bees over to a hive he had prepared. I got stung a couple of times, but was amazed that he knew what to do and could direct me.

Aunt Pearl and Uncle Leland in the back corner room which served as their bedroom but also as Uncle Leland's office and as just a casual sitting room, September 1954. We often spent time with them there, and sometimes Uncle Leland would play Rook with us in that room or on the dining room table. I remember Uncle Leland as being mostly serious, and he certainly had a passion for his work as the County Agent for agriculture in Jackson County. But he did have a sense of humor, and was generous with us kids.

In the upper right drawer of that desk, he always kept a box of Clove gum - and he would take us in there and give us a piece when we came to visit. As a testament to the memory-evoking power of a smell, to this day over 70 years later, I immediately connect the smell of clove to that top right-hand desk drawer. When I open the envelope of my favorite Constant Comment tea and catch a whiff of clove smell, Uncle Leland and that top desk drawer flash into mind!

Our earliest picture of Pearl and Leland is from 1920. We have a picture of Edgar with Uncle Leland in 1927 in Kentucky.

During 2012 I got an email from Robert Craig who had found this photo in our album and wanted to use it in an article containing information about Uncle Leland's involvement in the beginning of the Rural Electrification Administration (REA) electric service in Jackson County. I knew that Uncle Leland had played a major part in getting the REA and that a plaque in his honor had been displayed in the REA headquarters building for a number of years. I went there several years ago to try to photograph that plaque, but it couldn't be found.

This is a scan of a page from "The Stream of History", publication of the Jackson County (Arkansas) Historical Society, December 2012. It is part of an article by Robert D. Craig entitled "It Was Like Getting Religion - The Early Years of the REA in Jackson County".

Leland Bunch became County Agent for Jackson County in 1927 according to the information found by Craig.

Leland Bunch was still County Agent for Jackson County into my high school years in the 1950s, and was still passionate about the crops in the county. I rode with him in his pickup truck around some of the rural roads and he was always looking at the crops. In fact, it was one of the things the family joked with him about - he would be so intent on looking at the fields that he would nearly run off the road.

This is an entry from a Google book found by Robert Craig, who was doing a history of the REA in the Jackson County, Arkansas area. Leland was County Agent for a period and was a major factor in bringing electrification to the area through the REA. Further information about Leland's early education and employment from an article published in 1915.

Ode to Aunt Pearl

It would be hard to overstate the impact of our Aunt Pearl Bunch on the five children of Carl and Naomi Nave. She was always a major presence in our lives. All of us spent time at their house often, spending the night when we had events for which we needed to be in Newport. For example, I had monthly Boy Scout meetings, so I always spent the night with them in Newport to go to the meetings which were held at the Stamps home a mile or so from her house. She taught me in the fourth grade at East Newport School. She certainly wanted me to behave well at school, and I attribute my good handwriting to the fact that when I acted up she sat me up by her desk to write out pages of sentences in longhand. I really never resented the discipline because we all knew she loved us.

Aunt Pearl was also a tremendous support for Uncle Leland. For all his education and expertise, he was a quiet man and sometimes uncomfortable with social interactions. She was both social and articulate and could be a very helpful arranger and organizer.

Information about Aunt Pearl was found at Find a Grave

When Uncle Leland passed away in 1957 at age 76, Aunt Pearl was 71, having been born on November 14, 1885. She lived until age 92, passing away on May 19, 1977 almost 20 years after Leland. We gathered in Newport for her Memorial service. In her later years, Sue and Edgar and family lived with her for a period and provided care. Sue was her companion and caretaker into her advanced years even after she moved to an extended care facility. Sue says that she was mentally sharp until her final days, even though physically limited from a hip fracture and other skeletal issues.

Both Pearl and Leland were buried in Blackjack Cemetary, Franklin, Kentucky. Leland was born in Franklin, Kentucky to Baxter M. Bunch and Amanda (Roark) Bunch on November 25, 1881. Pearl and Leland were married on April 20, 1916.

Dorothy's family, 1958

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