Early Settlers of
Their Descendants...Their Stories...Their Achievements
Lifting the Mists of History on Their Way of Life
By: Ethelene Dyer Jones
In tribute to my friend, Barbara Ruth Sampson
Waiting for the
postman will not have the same anticipation again. My long-time friend
and pen pal, Barbara Ruth Nicholson Collins Sampson retired her "living
pen" and slipped beyond the vale on
Even now as I consider her life and work, I seek words that will paint a picture of who she was: daughter, sister, life-long student, teacher, friend, writer, painter, wife, mother, grandmother, lover of nature, friend to people and animals, proponent of mountain living, appreciator of family heritage and history. And even this list does not cover the multi-faceted person known as Barbara Ruth Sampson.
She was born in
James M. Nicholson, was born in
and genealogy fascinated Barbara Ruth Sampson. She had traced the
families of Nicholson, Chastain and other lines, appreciating the
contributions made by ancestral patriots and pioneers to the freedom
and growth of
Her father met
Flora Manard as both were students at
academically gifted and competitive, was valedictorian of her 1931
teaching as her career. Her early years of teaching were at
She loved her
role as grandmother. From her elder daughter Frances Nelle came three granddaughters, Rebecca, Leah
and Dabatha. Barbara Andrea has two sons,
Jarrod and Ryan Freeman. Ryan is now serving with the U.S. Marines in
Barbara had a gift for painting, for catching the essence of a scene, a still-life or a flower on canvas. She had the gift of words and used this gift to encourage through teaching creative writing in the classroom, in her correspondence to friends, family and acquaintances, to elucidate through essays, to craft stories and a novel (unpublished), and to write exquisite poetry. She won numerous awards for her poetry, among which was National Senior Poet Laureate for 2004.
I had the privilege of writing the review for her book of poems, Earth is a Splendid Place, published by Sparrowgrass Press, 2000. As I read and reread her book, I noted immediately how her skill with meter, rhyme, rhythm and poetic language was akin to Byron Herbert Reece's style. In my correspondence with Barbara over the years, we often exchanged ideas about Reece's poetry. Although she was three years his senior, they were contemporaries and had exchanged poems to benefit from each other's critiques and suggestions for improvement of their poetic craft. She greatly admired Reece.
With her, poetry-writing and other personal literary productions had to be relegated to being "stress busters," a catharsis, a well-loved hobby. Her life was devoted to teaching, making a living, making a home and rearing daughters. The 63 poems in her one published book are but a miniscule number of the ones from her prolific pen. She wrote me once, "Poetry writing does not pay the bills!" How well we who are writers by avocation know that truth. We could wish that all her poems could be collected and published posthumously. We would all be richer if we could read all that she has written.
She expressed a sense of concern about what would happen to her writings in this poem (page 12, Earth Is A Splendid Place):
What of All the Little Words
What will become of all the little words
I've breathed into the listening air,
When I am gone, long, long gone,
’Till no one can hear me there?
And what of all the little words
I have entrusted to my living pen
To keep my joy alive and vital,
As I will not be then?
Will all be gone when I am gone-
No permanency - will they surely pass
Like apple blossoms faintly falling,
Fast forgotten in the dewy grass?
I have a fat file labeled "Sampson, Barbara Ruth - Letters." To me her regular letters were not "little words" but dear missals worth saving. I have my replies to her, dated, and copied, attached to her letters. Now that I won't be going to the mailbox to receive an envelope with her hand-written address, I will be reading through the file, remembering how we shared what pleased us of life and living.
My life has been enriched from the influence of her father and mother as my teachers, and in more recent years of their daughter as a dear friend and correspondent.
She wrote a quatrain and its title became the title of her published book of poems:
High the sky to the edge of heaven,
Bright the sun as a smiling face,
Life is a treasured blessing given,
And earth is a splendid place.
When I heard of her passing, I quietly reread her book of poems and then wrote this quatrain:
Quiet the night when transition came,
Her life a rich tapestry woven
Was folded and labeled with her name
As she gently slipped into heaven.
Barbara Ruth. Though wheelchair bound, your mind knew no bounds of high
and noble thoughts. We will miss you, your words, your ability to pluck
thoughts from the wind and write deeply of life.
c2006 by Ethelene Dyer Jones; published
Dyer Jones is a retired educator, freelance writer, poet, and historian.
She may be reached at e-mail email@example.com;
phone 478-453-8751; or mail