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Always a child at heart...

The year of 1915 was a good year. Why? Because that was when Zulma “Poupee” Angelica O’ghan (Crocker), was born. At 43 and then at 45 she was a mother again, thirteen years after she had raised a family. She married her first and only love and when he was gone they had lived 74 years together. At 97, Poupee had outlived her husband/best friend and her first born. “Doll” was what her father called her, he said it in french, “Poupee,” and it stuck with everyone but three people in her life. My dad called her “querida,” spanish for “dear;” my sister, DeeDee, called her “mom” and to me she was always just “mum.”

She spoke five languages and had lived in many countries. Her four great loves were Jesus, my dad, her family, and her children. In a nutshell, that’s my “mum”, “dear” to my dad, and “doll” to her father. She loved and was loved.

In serving she showed her love, and by listening to her stories, we showed our love back. Stories of her youth, the wild wind blowing through her ankle-length curly brown hair, deep green eyes laughing as she rode bareback on a galloping horse, racing the South American sun towards home with her wild Gaelic blood singing.

Spilling a bouquet on Prince Edward the future King of England, she tried so hard to be lady-like when the Royals came to stay at her father’s house when she was a child.

When Jim Elliot and Nate Saint sent letters out regarding their expedition to reach the Huaorani Tribe in Ecuador, my mother was asked by the Jesuits to translate them for the Ecuadorian Government before they were sent to America. (Nathanael “Nate” Saint was an evangelical Christian missionary pilot to Ecuador who, accompanied by four others including a missionary called James “Jim” Elliot. Both were killed while attempting to evangelize the Huaorani people through efforts known as Operation Auca.)

After World War II, my father was stationed in the American sector of Berlin in charge of its rebuilding. While there, mum did all she could for the poor women and children who suffered greatly after the war. Even with all this, growing up, she was always involved in my life be it Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, school sports, or PTA, and she continued to volunteer at schools long after I left.

This brings us to Calhoun County, where she poured out her heart on the children. Whether as first librarian of Kinard, working for free for many years, starting after school programs, or volunteering at Carr School always part mother hen and part child herself, serving the people she loved most—the children. Shortly before her death, she could still be found serving, this time teaching English to immigrants who were trying to get their citizenship.

“Mum!? Mum!? Where is she?” I would ask my dad, “They’ll be here any minute!” I would say. “You know where she is...” my dad would say with a smile in his blue eyes. “But she’s 83!” I would reply in disbelief. But there she would be, halfway up the big sycamore tree in the front hard, hiding from the great-grands and the great-great-grands….still 8 years old with the wild wind blowing through her long brown curly hair, green eyes laughing and her wild Gaelic blood singing…It’s always about the kids.

This story was written and submitted by John Crocker, son of Zulma “Poupee” Angelica O’ghan Crocker. Our January 2021 Calhoun County Local Legend.

*As an added personal note Ms. Crocker was loved by many but especially many children in the Kinard and Carr communities. 30 years later, the sight of flower shaped butter ring cookies and the smell of red kool-aid brings a smile to my face. I can still see her leaning over that tiny white wooden table in the kitchen of the Kinard Community Center, pouring kool-aid into tiny white styrofoam cups as she informed us the proper way to eat butter cookies was indeed not by wearing them as rings on our fingers. I remember visiting her home in amazement as it was akin to a world of wonder museum. Filled with artifacts, and treasures from around the globe, it always filled my childhood mind with wonder and dreams of adventures in far away lands. She was truly a Calhoun County treasure. You are loved and missed Ms. Crocker. - Jami Daniels Joe

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