|Busy as a Bee
Havah Thurman is back in business -- at the age of 86
|Patti Sells | News-Telegram Feature Editor|
April 3, 2005 - Back in business at age 86, native Hopkins County resident Havah Thurman, the 42-year owner of Quilts Galore in Brashear, will be opening The Queen Anne, housed in the old Carter home at 106 Whitworth St. that she saved from demolition by purchasing and restoring the historical structure to its original beauty.
"Everybody thinks I'm crazy anyway, so I guess I just didn't want to disappoint them," laughed Thurman, of going back into business at her age. "The city was fixing to bulldoze that house down, and I just couldn't see that happening."
Thurman, who was raised in the Dike community, said that all the old-timers know who the Carters were, and Whitworth Street was at one time the main street that led out of town. Recalling the brighter days of its gingerbread trim and lavish beauty, Thurman said she felt the house was worth saving.
The Carters, according to Thurman, were prominent farmers in the community who built their home off the main road in 1925. The family eventually died off, the land was developed, and the house was sold and used as rental property for a number of years before finally becoming old and dilapidated. The owner, realizing the plight of the old homestead, did not have the time nor energy to commit to a restoration project due to his health, Thurman said, so he contacted her with an offer that she couldn't refuse.
"It wasn't the first house I'd restored, and he knew that about me," said Thurman, who recalled being in her 20s when the house next door to her home was torn down, sparking her interest in preserving and restoring homes.
"They were hauling off all this beautiful moulding and stained glass," she recalled. "I just couldn't stand it, so I marched right over and asked them what they were gonna do with all that stuff. And they just gave it to me."
It wasn't until the 1950s that she and her late husband, Grady, whom she was married to for 57 years before his death in 1993, seriously began buying old houses and fixing them up for resale purposes. They did so for many years with numerous properties, including the old Baughman Farm at Paint Rock located off State Highway 19 where she and her husband raised their only child, Don. Restoring houses was just one of her careers brought forth by a creative eye and natural abilities.
Havah Zora White was born Feb. 3, 1919, to Alvin and Leona McKenzie White, whose families were early settlers of Hopkins County. She was sewing her own clothes by the age of 12. That became her first means of occupation as she sewed for the public for more than 20 years before that led to her quilting business she operated for 42 years. As the proprietor of Quilts Galore she was able to combine her service of public sewing and quilt-making with custom orders for draperies and even wedding dresses. But quilting remained her passion.
According to Thurman, she had pieced her first quilt top before the age of 7 and suspects she has made several hundred quilts in her lifetime, many of them prize winners. She is also an artist. Using oils as her preferred medium, she has sold dozens of paintings throughout the years and has taught painting classes on and off throughout her lifetime.
"I didn't really realize I was so talented until one day someone said, 'Everything you do turns to money,'" she recalled. "It kind of embarrassed me, 'cause I really didn't even have to work that hard at it. It all just kind of came natural to me. And then it dawned on me one day that I was talented and the good Lord gave me these talents as a gift.
"I can do a lot of different things - even dig a pretty good ditch if I have to," she added, laughing.
The 86-year-old great-grandmother of four retired (kind of) at age 75, but remained quite active, enjoying yard work in addition to the previously mentioned hobbies. She even mowed her own lawn with a push mower a recent heart attack.
"I guess you could say I had a little setback with that," said Thurman, who recuperated at The Rosemont before returning to her home, where she takes care of herself. "As soon as I was feeling good, I was up and about meeting and visiting people in the home. My heart just bled for some of those people. They'd just sit there all day long with nothing to do. So, I went and got my stuff and set up my easel and my quilting frame and went to teaching them some classes."
The proud owner of a new, bright red Chevy Tahoe she calls "Big Red," Thurman actually loaded several of the Rosemont residents into her vehicle and took them on a road trip to Mesquite to buy supplies, which she purchased with her own money.
Stocking art supplies and giving painting lessons during the evening will be a couple of Thurman's means of revenue from The Queen Anne. Other items for sale at the Whitworth address will not only be "quilts galore," but antique jewelry, glassware, china, books, furniture, primitives, vintage clothing, decorated shoes and hats, quilted jackets, handmade dolls and pillows, custom covered headboards and hand-painted tables, as well as original Havah Thurman paintings.
"I really have enjoyed life and have done what I wanted to do," Thurman explained. "This is a big, beautiful world made for us to enjoy, and that's exactly what I'm doing."
Things are uncertain at 86, Thurman says, "but as long as I feel good I'm just gonna keep on keepin' on, kind of like the Energizer bunny.
"I'm not ready to leave this world yet. I'm prepared, but not quite ready. I don't dread death at all. I look forward to it. Grady's gonna say 'What took you so long?' and I'll just have to tell him, 'I've been busy.'"