Hundreds gather to remember Windham

Published 4:39 pm Sunday, June 26, 2011

Church Street United Methodist Church pastor Fred Zeigler welcomes the hundreds who turned out Sunday afternoon for the special memorial service honoring Kathryn Tucker Windham. -- Tim Reeves

Hundreds crowded the sanctuary of Church Street United Methodist Church Sunday to share laughs, music and some of their favorite memories of Kathryn Tucker Windham.

The ceremony proved to be more of a celebration of Windham’s life than family and friends mourning her death.

Close friends shared the tales of their relationships with Windham and the church choir even performed a song with combs and wax paper as a tribute.

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Church Street United Methodist Church pastor Fred Zeigler said he felt privileged to know Windham as a pastor and as a person.

“I was so enlightened to be her pastor,” he said. “She has touched the lives of every one of us.”

Fellow storyteller Donald Davis, who Windham asked to speak at her memorial service many years ago, said he would miss Windham, but was honored to have the chance to share his stories with the crowd.

Davis said he always learned valuable life lessons from Windham. One of the most important, he said, was to always keep a good sense of humor.

“One of my learning experiences taught me that humor is the greatest source of power in life,” he said. “Things that cannot be overcome can be overcome with humor.”

Davis said Windham also taught him that this was only true if you could laugh at yourself first.

The lessons, Davis said, keep Windham’s memory alive.

“If we remember the things we learn then she is not lost to us,” he said. “She’s with us always.”

Windham’s influence drew people from all over to her memorial service. Representatives of the LaGrange, Ga. Azalea Festival made the trip to Selma to pay their respects to Windham, who had appeared at the festival many times.

“She was truly a blessing,” event organizer Mary Ann Keck said. “We will miss having her every year.”

One fellow storyteller, Ed Stivender, flew in from Philadelphia, Penn. for the event. His first encounter with Windham, he said, was a memorable one.

“It was in Jonesboro, Tennessee in 1976 and it was the first time I had ever been there,” he said. “The first time I met her we got into a fight about photography at the festival and how they shouldn’t be in people’s faces. She very properly put me in my place. That is my first memory. Being put in my place.”

Over the years, Stivender said the two developed a great deal of respect and admiration for each other.

The event closed out with members of The Dill Pickers and the audience joining together to perform some of Windham’s favorite hymns before attending a reception in the hall that bears Windham’s name.