Tad had been ill for some time, disabled by a congenital heart condition that as doctors cautioned, had the potential to take her from this earthly plane before she was thirty. She beat the odds makers and with the help of an internal tenacity and modern medicine, extended her maturity to 52 years (9-15-1956 to 1-7-2009). Those last twenty-two years shone like a beacon in the wilderness for this writer. Tad and husband Mike are my best Friends.
Tad was a member of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Asheville, NC and not surprisingly had been to their Theophany (Epiphany) Service commemorating the Baptism of Christ and the divine revelation of the Holy Trinity just hours before her passing. She returned home with the always predictable giant headache from driving those ninety-two miles to Asheville and back that prompted her to take her meds and lay down for a while. Tad never woke up.
Seems appropriate that one of her last acts was to partake of the Eucharist and have a long heart-to-heart with the Reverend Father Demetrios Iliou, Rector of Holy Trinity. After notification of her passing a shocked Father Iliou praised Tad and her presence at Holy Trinity that day as a tangible gift from God and that Tad had been a positive example for all she touched.
Tad had aggressively and lovingly researched and choreographed her transition from the Anglican Church to Greek Orthodoxy. As is the custom in the Greek Orthodox Church Tad appropriately adopted the persona of the Celtic Saint Hild(a) (614 to 680), the iconic Abbess of Whitby who the great theologian, author and scholar - the Venerable Saint Bede - enthusiastically praised as one of the greatest women of all time and the adviser of rulers as well as of ordinary folk. Yep, that was Tad… Hild means “battle” in the old Norse language and seems most appropriate for Tad as she waged a war against any injustice she perceived, not to mention the pain she experienced every minute of every waking hour…
Father Iliou recently reminisced about Tad and their meeting in September 2004 at which point he reflects that he and Tad became very close Friends, where Tad became not only his spiritual daughter, but a sister to him. Father Iliou continued, "Hilda was always full of the Spirit, smiling and rejoicing in the Lord. I still can not believe that she is gone, but I thank the Lord that she was at church on Holy Theophany on January 6th, and received Holy Communion. We talked in my office for a while after services, and she left our church for the last time. I know she is in heaven, and now rejoices with the Angles and the saints. I will miss her until my time comes. May her memory always be eternal in all our hearts and souls. God bless you Hilda!" Now isn't it just fitting and natural that Tad became a Sister to us all...
As husband Mike knows, I have been in an earnest platonic love with this Lady since I met her in 1987. Mike, a retired police officer from Adrian, Michigan was her special and singular Man, Tad’s soul mate with whom she was able to draw her inspiration and motivation. Mike’s kilted swagger attracted Tad whilst they were in attendance at the always majestic Grandfather Mountain Highland Games in 1988 in Linville, NC. Tad had been introduced to the American Scottish Community and ultimately to Mike “Mad Dog” Wilson by Chip Walters, also of Greensboro, NC. I was at those same Scottish Games, knew both Mike and Tad and the details of their meeting that had Mike warning off all other potential suitors and proudly barking that he had finally met that special other half that would make him whole. The rest was history with Tad beaming and holding on tight to her like sign. They never let go of each other.
Mike & Tad were married in 1989 in the Chief’s Tent at Grandfather Mountain in some “Blue Ridge mist” that had wreaked havoc in western North Carolina blowing and washing away homes, trailers, tents, etc. Father David MacBeth Moss, Captain-Chaplain to the 78th Fraser Highlanders, officiated though along with chalice bearers Randy Cline and this writer, overestimated the wine required for this moderately high Episcopalian Eucharist ceremony. Though a credible and enthusiastic crowd was in attendance (many from The Kingdome of Raknar), the severe weather kept many more expected guests from attending. To the amusement of most in attendance Randy, Father Moss and I spent much post nuptial time consuming the remaining consecrated wine as there was no sacred well. That mission accomplished the challenge was then pursuing and recovering some degree of sobriety. Amen. I don’ think I drank wine for a couple of months following that episode.
Tad, like Mother Beverly (Big Red to some), was a nurse from Greensboro (with Fairfield, Iowa origins). She attended the University of Iowa, Guilford College in Greensboro before finally earning her degree from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Tad eventually earned her Bachelor of Science in Nursing and her Masters from the University of North Carolina-Charlotte. She worked at the VA Hospital in Michigan and later transferred to the VA Hospital in Johnson City, Tennessee in 1990 where she was involved in Nursing Education and performed admirably as an adjunct professor at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
Tad loved life and all her Friends. Her allegiance never wavered and she held all around her to a higher standard. The ever captivating Tad was also known to close Friends (and even herself) as “Tadpole” a name given by Mike; borrowed from his Father’s pet name for Mike’s sister. Though her pain was at times excruciating, Tad always maintained her composure and dignity and was always first thinking of others and their health and well being.
Tad along with piper husband Mike were active in several Scottish Clan organizations to include Tad’s own Clan Fraser, Mike’s Clans Gunn and Keith and the legendary Kingdome of Räknar - that Scots-Norse Family where both held iconic status, Lady of the Kingdome Tad as the Countess of Calm and Mike as Duke Olaf of Unicoi, High Constable of Erwin. Tad was especially proud of her status as a Lady of the Regiment for the 78th Fraser Highlanders, New Inverness Garrison. The Gentlemen and Ladies of The Regiment adored her. Tad never veered from her unabiding love of Mother Scotland always proclaiming that she would someday retire to the auld sod.
Tad was also a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) of Greensboro, NC and, interestingly, the Towne Family Association. Her interest in history and genealogy found her a descendant of William and Joanna (Blessing) Towne who came to America from Great Yarmouth, England and settled in Salem Village around 1635. Three of William and Joanna's daughters, Rebecca (Nurse), Mary (Esty) and Sarah (Cloyse) were all victims of the Salem Village Witchcraft Trials in 1692. Rebecca and Mary were executed (hung not burned as is often erroneously reported). The witchcraft trials ended nine months after they began when the Colonial Courts recognized the hysteria and their grave error in the execution of these and other innocent citizens. The 1985 PBS airing of Three Sovereigns for Sarah which chronicled this tragedy, opened another door for Tad and I. It seems that one of the original complainants that started that mess was one of my not so august ancestors, John Buxton. We both recognized that sinister part of our nation’s history (lest we forget) though Tad would take an occasional jab at this writer by reminding me (with a faux stern gaze) that one my ancestors had hung one of hers. And so it went.
Mike and Tad lived in a cabin in a hollow surrounded by tall trees near the top of Spivey Mountain at around 3,500 feet in elevation in Erwin, Tennessee where their most frequent guests were some feral cats, raccoons and several black bears that developed an affection for cat food though still respected the sanctity of the Sims/Wilson home. Tad always joked about their lack of a view, stating that they preferred to be, “part of the scenery.” Indeed, they were part of the flora and fauna of a very special place. They were able to find solace in the peace and quiet of the east Tennessee mountains where this very computer literate pair rejected computers, cell phones and to the frustration of this writer, even telephone answering devices. Their one concession was their TV and VCR where they could watch special programming and movies like the Scots classic, The Blood is Strong which they gfted me. Mike and Tad were in control of their environment though their spring-fed cistern and front yard stream were their only sources of water and would occasionally remind them that they needed to keep civilization close by. A full blown drought or even a dry summer meant shorter showers and a trip down the mountain to do laundry.
Oh, I will miss our regular and entertaining conversations punctuated by Tad’s always sage counsel and her incredible sense of humor. I will forever remember her deep and sincere laugh that was the reward of a joke well told or just plain celebratory gusto. Mike always made her laugh often and well. Tad was a fearless egalitarian who loved life and made us all the better by her participation in this great exercise. Tad and Mike helped shape me, my ideas and attitudes, methinks all for the better.
As many of you are aware the Buxton Family lost our Matriarch, Ellen Buxton Salander on December 23rd, so an already anxious time for us and me personally was heightened (understatement) with Tad’s passing. In addition a recent small flood made part of my home uninhabitable and limited my time in Richardson. Fed Ex had been trying to deliver a package for a couple of weeks and I arranged to pick it up today (1-10-09). I went to Fed Ex, asked who it was from and was told – yep – Patricia Sims. You could have knocked me over with a feather. Tad would have really appreciated that irony and timing and may well have choreographed the whole scenario. I immediately called Mike and thanked him for his great Friendship and the gift of an absolutely beautiful gift basket with lots of quality chocolate, cheese, crackers and two really good bottles of Chardonnay and Merlot. The note read, “Have a Blessed Merry Christmas! Much Love, Tadpole & Mikey.” Would that I could share it with them… True to form Mike called back about an hour later asking if I was OK...
While I grieve over the loss of this exceptional Lady, I do celebrate a precious person and a life well lived. I dedicate this blog to her memory and hope that I can capture her matchless spirit, embrace her example and legacy and do her justice. My love and sincere condolences are extended to Beverly, Mike and Charlie and all her Friends and to those unfortunates who didn't get the chance to meet her.
So what do we do from this point? We need to reject Auden and dare not stop all the clocks, silence the pianos or muffle the drums. Instead we will unleash the great Highland pipes and drums and play them loudly and long. Tad like John Gillespie Magee, Jr. has slipped the surly bonds of earth and is enjoying endless pleasures, a reward for her good deeds. She dances, laughs, soars and chases the wind. “And, while with silent lifting mind she trods the high untrespassed sanctity of space, puts out her hand, and touches the face of God.”
Well done, Tad. Sleep well...