The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Cora Lee Beatrice Allen Heafner

By Bob Heafner © 1984-2012

Issue: March, 1984

cora heafnerCora Lee Beatrice Allen HeafnerAt 5:30 in the morning of January 28, 1984, we got a telephone call saying Mom had died. Her health had been steadily getting worse since before Christmas and she was ready. She said if she could make it till Sandy and Suzie (her granddaughters) “have their babies and Jeanette gets home” she would die happy. Sandy and Suzie both made Mom a great-grandmother and my sister Jeanette, who lives in Philadelphia, was with her when she died. Her last wishes were granted when just before daylight, on January 28, she took a deep breath and closed her eyes for the last time.

She lived in a seventh floor apartment in Hall Towers, a high rise for the elderly, on North Church Street in Greensboro, North Carolina. Her neighbors on the seventh floor were some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. They will always have my gratitude for the help they provided during Mom’s last days.

When I told her of our decision to start The Mountain Laurel, Mom looked me in the eye and said, “Good luck to you. I hope you can do it.” She meant it and although she never told me, I’ll guarantee that The Mountain Laurel got her prayers and best wishes on a daily basis.

Tucked between the pages of her bible we found a clipping from The Mountain Laurel. The fact that it was cut with a shaking hand was apparent by the jagged edges left by her scissors. The clipping was of an article I wrote for her in our May [1983] issue; neither her name or mine appeared in the article, but she knew it was for her, from me. It meant a lot to her and I’m so glad it did. The following is a reprint of that clipping. It is dedicated to the memory of Cora Lee Beatrice Allen Heafner, a wonderful mother.


She was born right after the turn of the century and raised on a farm. Her “schooling” ended with the fourth grade when she was twelve years old. Those days spent in a one room school still bring a smile to her wrinkled face as she recalls them. They were days of fun, spent listening to stories of far away places and learning the three “R’s”. Those days were over too soon, but you’ll never hear her say they were.

By the time she was thirteen, she was working twelve hours a day in a factory and her spare time, except for Sunday’s were spent working on the farm.

She was born the fourth of seven daughters to Irish and Dutch parents. They were hard working farmers and the values they instilled about God and right and wrong are still with her today. The changes she has witnessed, over more than three-quarters of a century, have not been easy for her to accept and many of them, she never will.

She was married at eighteen and by the time of the “Great Depression” had two small daughters of her own. It was a hard time to survive but they did. A deep look of sadness still crosses her face when she tells of pulling spring onions from the garden and putting them in cold biscuits for her toddling daughters who were hungry.

With Dad's help, they survived the depression and by the end of World War II, she had two sons. With the end of the war came a prosperity she had never before known. During this period there was indoor plumbing and a wringer washing machine replaced her wash board and iron pot. Life, it seemed, had suddenly improved beyond her wildest dreams. Dad had a good job and her days were spent “keeping house” and raising her sons. Her daughters were now married and starting families of their own.

By the early 1950’s this new serenity was shattered when Dad became disabled. Once again she turned to factory work in order to provide for her family. Dad tried to help all that he could but bad health frustrated most of his efforts.

Anyone eating at her house would never have known how hard her life was or how hard food was to come by. The table would always be filled and the variety of foods she prepared would be astounding to most folks today.

Halfway through the 1950’s, her health collapsed as a direct result of too many hours and too many worries. She could no longer work in a factory but both her, and Dad, stubbornly refused to give up their garden.

Our garden provided the family with food and her sewing provided clothes and her love made a home. Today she has heart trouble and diabetes and at times, arthritis makes bending her fingers almost impossible, but she lives alone, by her own choosing. No amount of assurances from her children would ever make her believe that she wouldn’t be a burden if she came to live with them.

In her life, her family has always come first. She endured hardship upon hardship without complaining so her family wouldn’t have to do without. Welfare never occurred to her, she didn’t take charity. She is a mother of the type that Mother’s Day was created for. My words could never convey the gratitude and love I feel for this little white haired old lady who gave so much of her life for me. Every day should be Mother’s Day for mothers like her.