Monday, June 21, 2010

Imogene was the 'glamorous' sister

Imogene Fowler Gray
Imogene Fowler Gray was the "glamorous" daughter who loved expensive shoes, clothes, perfumes, and hosting fabulous parties. Her home always smelled like Estee Lauder or some other expensive perfume. Everyone in the family was happy to see her when she returned to Austin, because she bought home presents we could not afford to buy ourselves. Her mother, Leora (Leola), got the biggest and best presents.

On one memorable visit to Austin she and I went grocery shopping at a neighborhood supermarket. She was not dressed up, but she wore a mink jacket. The jacket angered the White cashier, who made some unflattering remarks. Out of the blue she called my aunt an "uppity nigger." Remembering the way she looked at my aunt, contempt in her eyes, I assumed the cashier could not afford to buy a mink jacket for herself. Sounded like she was jealous and resentful.

Imogene certainly did not like the cashier's attitude and she let her know it. Instead of paying for the groceries, Imogene left the items on the counter, along with a few choice words for the seething cashier to swallow. We walked out of the store, listening to the White cashier demanding that she pay for the groceries. Aunt Jean had always been my hero, but she became a bigger hero to me that day. She refused to be insulted by a racist cashier who resented her for having the gall to wear a mink jacket to a grocery store.

In addition to being a woman of fashion, Imogene was an excellent cook. She cooked a lot of fancy foods when she came to visit. I say fancy because what she cooked did not look like the foods my mother and Big Mama cooked. She taught my mother, Gertrude, how to make homemade rolls. She set the table to eat, something we never did. She had matching dishes and silverware.

Imogene was born to Mose (Mozell) and Leora (Leola), April 7, 1917 in Bastrop, Texas. She is the oldest daughter of two girls, and the sister to four brothers. When she married U. S. Army Sgt. Earl V. Gray in 1947, she had a 14-year-old daughter, Lola Mae Edwards. Gray accepted her as his own. However, Lola liked coming to Austin to visit her immediate cousins, who were me and my sister Marie. Imogene and Gray had no children together, making Lola an only child. Imogene did get pregnant but she had a miscarriage. The pregnancy was complicated, leaving her unable to have more children after that.

Because Earl was in the Army they traveled a lot. When they traveled overseas, Imogene usually left Lola to live with Big Mama. Because she married a soldier, Imogene got a chance to travel and see the world. When they finally settled down in Seattle, Washington, she came to get Lola Mae. Eventually Lola decided she wanted to return to Austin to live with Big Mama. At least with us, she had someone to hang out with.

After the death of her husband, Imogene moved to Austin permanently. Within a few years her own health began to fail. Her cancer had been in remission for years but it returned with a vengeance. It took her life August 24, 1961. She died at Brook Army Hospital in San Antonio, Texas.

Imogene is survived by her daughter Lola Mae Edwards, three grand-daughters Barbara Jean Edwards, Gigi Gertrude Edwards, Linda Gray, and one grandson Charles Henry Rector, all of Austin. Also her mother Leora Fowler Sterling, her father Mose (Mozell) Fowler; one sister Gertrude Fowler Smith, four brothers Mike Fowler of Los Angeles, Raymond Fowler of Lorain, Ohio, Israel Fowler of Washington and Johnny Mose Fowler of Austin. She left behind a host of nieces, nephews and friends. She was preceded in death by her grandmother Pearl Powell Brown of Bastop, Texas.

Funeral service was held at King Tears Mortuary at 2pm. Rev. R. A. Grant, officiated. Internment was at Evergreen Cemetery.

Imogene's only   daughter Lola Mae Edwards and her mother Leora Fowler Sterling.

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