her name was Eunice Dunn

I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was younger
I wish that I knew what I know now
When I was stronger

Lyrics by
Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood
Sung by Rod Stewart


(Eunice and mom / June 16th, 1953)

Throughout my entire life, I only knew her by her first name…Eunice.

Eunice passed from this life shortly after I arrived into this world–
into this family…

I was born in 1959 and eventually adopted in early 1960— Eunice,
on the other hand, had already long since “retired” from the years she spent
with my grandmother, mother, and aunt.

I imagine that our family’s circle was somewhat complete when Eunice finally
met me when mom and dad had brought me home from the adoption agency in 1960.
They were so proud to show off their new baby to this very special part of my
mom’s story.

I had always heard about Eunice but really knew very little about her.
As long as they had lived, both my mom and aunt spoke of Eunice with
only adoration and abiding love.

For you see, Eunice was more the mother to these two girls rather than their
own mother.

Eunice was a black woman, only a year older than my grandmother.
A black woman who raised two white little girls.

I found her listed on the Atlanta 1940 census records.
She was listed as a part of the household of my grandfather…listed as a servant.
And it was in that census record that I first learned of Eunice’s last name…Dunn.
And that she was but a year older than my grandmother…
My grandmother was 36, Eunice was 37.

This, however, is not a tale about the well-to-do verses something akin to “The Help.”

This is a story about a young working widow and the other woman who helped her
raise her daughters.

Two women working to make ends meet during a precarious time in our Nation’s history.

The part of the story that I always knew was that my grandmother was widowed in 1940,
at the ripe young age of 36.
She had two young daughters–one who was 6 and the youngest who was 1.
My grandmother’s husband, my grandfather, died of alcohol-induced TB while
spending his final days in a TB sanatorium–dying at the age of 40.

My grandfather had squandered their entire life’s savings during the great depression.
My grandmother, as long as I had known her, had a deep wariness of men and
never trusted a man who drank…despite her affinity for Vodka later in life.
Over the years, she liked my dad yet despised my uncle, my aunt’s husband.
Probably with good reason but that’s a story for another day.

Growing up, I can never ever recall my grandmother ever speaking of her husband…
my grandfather.
A man who died nearly 20 years before I was born.

This man–his name, his memory was deemed persona non gratis within this small family.
No pictures.
No stories.
No recognition.

But Eunice…Eunice, she was special.

My grandmother, at 36 years old, while during a depression and world war,
had two little girls who she needed to provide for.

Eunice at 37 also had a family she needed to provide for.

My grandmother went to work and even took in borders during the War.

Yet despite these precarious times, I always knew that my mom,
aunt and grandmother had Eunice.

Eunice was a black woman who worked as a housekeeper for my grandmother.
Later, in order to make ends meet, my grandmother actually took in her older unmarried sister.
The two opened a beauty salon for the upper crust women of Atlanta.

While they spent their days cutting, perming, and dying the hair of Atlanta’s upper crust,
Eunice tended to my mother and aunt.
She cooked, cleaned, and fed the family.
She bought groceries, got my mom and aunt ready for school each morning
and met them each afternoon following school.
She always had supper ready and waiting for my grandmother and her sister after they’d
take the bus home late each evening.

Eunice would arrive each Monday morning and would stay until Saturday morning.
She had her own room and basically kept the house running.
She would go home to her own family on Saturday afternoon, only to return to my grandmother
every Monday morning.
This routine ran for 20 plus years.

Years later my aunt and I would both lament about the sacrifices Eunice had made
for both her own family and my grandmother’s family.
It was a difficult time as the world suffered through both the Great Depression and a world war.
This was a generation that was more familiar with the idea of sacrifice over protests
and demonstrations.

I remember my aunt telling me about how, as a little girl, she would have to ride
in the back of the bus with Eunice.
This being life in the South during segregation.

However to my mother, aunt, and grandmother…there were never any color barriers…
no segregation…all they knew was what made a family, family…
and Eunice was very much a part of that family.

The only pictures I’ve ever seen of Eunice were found in a musty old envelope of photos
that had been stored away in our attic…in a box of things that had been dads following
mother’s death in 1986.

I’ve looked and looked over the internet for any little nugget I could find regarding
Eunice—but the only thing I found was the 1940 census record which listed her
as a part of the Watson’s family.

I wanted to write something that would provide Eunice with the place of honor
that she so rightly deserved and held in the hearts of both my mom and aunt…
but with so little to go on, that has proved difficult.
With the loss of my grandmother in 1989, mother in 1986, and Martha in 2017—
those who knew best are now long gone.

I wanted people to know that despite what our current culture screams about racism,
there has been love that remained colorblind long before the radicalism
of movements such as the Black Panthers or today’s Black Lives Matter.

So I want to say thank you to a woman who I never really knew but who had met me
a very long time ago.

I want to thank her for making both my mom and aunt into the women they become,
in turn, making me the woman who I have become.

Love and family are strong bonds.
Bonds that have each helped to make me the person I am today.

Thank you, Eunice.


(Mother and Eunice, 1953)


(Mother on her big day / 1953)


(Mother with her mother, Mimi / 1953)


(mother with her father in law, my beloved Pop / 1953)


(Mother and dad off to a honeymoon / 1953)

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household,
he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

1 Timothy 5:8

21 comments on “her name was Eunice Dunn

  1. Frank Hubeny says:

    I like your remembrance of Eunice from what remains of the stories. They contrast with your grandfather, but you remembered him as well in the story of Eunice.

    • The grandfather pictured was my dad’s dad- much more the father that my mom had never known — he was a wonderfully kind and generous man— sadly he had a stroke when he was only 67 and I was 7

  2. Wyldkat says:

    This man–his name, his memory was deemed persona non gratis within this small family.
    No pictures.
    No stories.
    No recognition.

    I have a great-uncle that almost fits that description. Always given to drink, he was worse after WWII. What little military records I could find suggest that he had problems while in uniform – hospitalized at least once for “nerves”. Most of the family was ashamed of him, which is odd since 3 of the 4 children in the family were alcoholics. Any photos of Uncle Martin are gone, lost. Most of the family is gone. I think I am the last person to remember him, and think of him with any fondness and respect. Sadly, I barely knew the man, all I have is a few hazy memories.

    Mom use to talk about a negro woman who worked as a cook/house keeper for my grandmother when Mom was in her teens. My grandmother worked at a local department store. I wish I could recall the lady’s name. Mom wanted her to come to her wedding but she refused because “that’s a white peoples church”.

    Thanks for sharing this wonderful piece of family history. Gone, but not forgotten.

    • I have two pictures of that grandfather I never met. I was struck by how much my aunt favored him and how much mother looked like my grandmother, their mother.
      For good or bad, these people contribute to who we are today— when my grandmother died, my aunt discovered that their dad having died in 1940 never had a headstone— so she had one made for him— And whether my grandmother would have liked it or not, she was buried by him— that always gave my aunt and I mischievous little a smile 😅

  3. atimetoshare.me says:

    I love this story of love and family. That’s what really counts in life, doesn’t it. Happy new year, my friend.

  4. Lynda Clayton says:

    Lovely story and beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing.

  5. oneta hayes says:

    The Bible speaks highly of people who showed hospitality. I think we (even the dictionary) portray that as people who welcome others into their homes exhibiting loving generosity. I think people like Eunice served God in that capacity even though she did not “own” the home. She sounds like a rock of security and love. Hopefully her family got to share that during their two days per week. I would guess they did. Sounds like Eunice was just that kind of kindness.

  6. her name was Eunice Dunn

    On Thursday, December 31, 2020, cookiecrumbstoliveby wrote:

    > Julie (aka Cookie) posted: “I wish that I knew what I know now When I was > younger I wish that I knew what I know now When I was stronger Lyrics by > Ron Lane / Ronald David Wood Sung by Rod Stewart (Eunice and mom / June > 16th, 1953) Throughout my entire life, I only kne” >

  7. Citizen Tom says:

    @Julie

    With a small exception, I heard thankfulness, thankfulness for Eunice.

    Years later my aunt and I would both lament about the sacrifices Eunice had made
    for both her own family and my grandmother’s family.
    It was a difficult time as the world suffered through both the Great Depression and a world war.
    This was a generation that was more familiar with the idea of sacrifice over protests
    and demonstrations.

    I suspect we usually lament the wrong things. Eunice made a choice. In her judgement it was the best choice. I expect some people were dependent on the money she brought home.

    We have a bunch of busybodies these days who would impose their choices upon the rest of us. Of course, you don’t want to go there. We both know the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

    Instead of lamenting the sacrifices people make, we should remember to be grateful. Through such sacrifices we show our love and learn to love each other. Romans 8:28.

    • you’re right Tom—it was simply a matter of necessity and choice. It may not have been ideal but folks worked to make things work.
      That’s what I eluded to—that was a generation, no matter color or creed, that rolled up their sleeves and did what had to be done–no whining.
      Oh there were barriers for sure, but the circumstance of the time seemed to quell all of that.
      Not like today with riots and protests abounding when one just doesn’t care for the way things are going.
      Forget rolling up your sleeves.
      Forget working together/
      Just grouse and cause havoc.

      My mom and aunt loved Eunice…as Eunice loved them.
      There was no sense of difference or being less then. All were in it together… heart and soul!
      I just wish I had known her.

  8. SLIMJIM says:

    Beautiful tribute

  9. SharaC says:

    This is beyond inspiring! We have made everything out to be so black and white these days (no pun intended!) that we forget these generations who loved and loved as humans, within the confines of hard and unfair times, sin, war, all of it… we have forgotten the humanity that the vast majority of us still possess. We’ve whittled everyone down to a class, gender, race, victim, whatever… it would do everyone some good to remember stories like this and that we are connected by far more than the identity politics we’ve boiled everything down to. Ugh hot button topic for me clearly lol. Beautiful story.

    • I mean really—we have indeed forgotten our humanity. Our compassion. Our connectiveness…
      It didn’t matter that Eunice was black, in the South, during segregation…she was loved and knew she was loved—she was an integral component to the women my mom and aunt grew to be…she was a huge piece of the puzzle!!!!
      I just wish I could have known her.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.