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Inglenook Book Club

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The Inglenook Book Club held its August meeting at Lakeside Senior Living Center with Geneva Johnson and Shelia Rogers serving as hostesses.

During the business portion of the meeting, Zia Locke, who serves on the library board, reported on her meeting with McKenzie Memorial Librarian Jean Alexander concerning the proposal for the club to donate funds and where these funds could best be used. The library currently needs money in many different areas, such as general operating funds and building repairs. State funding has been cut drastically, as well as monetary donations from various service clubs in the area. Much discussion was devoted to the need for community support and the vital service the library provides to the community, not only in stocking a wide assortment of books and DVDs, but also in making available its several computers, which are constantly in use by the general public.

The donation amount was increased at this meeting by unanimous decision and will be made pending additional input from Ms. Alexander on where the money will be most beneficial.

Our program presenter was Geneva Johnson, whose subject was Doris Freeman of Jackson, Tennessee, better known as “Cousin Tuny.” Her children’s show (1955-1967) was very popular on the WDXI television station in Jackson which later became WBBJ. It could be said that she had two personalities: Doris Freeman, the professional, and Cousin Tuny, the entertainer. Minnie Pearl was a close friend of hers, and she became a legend and an icon for the Mid-South.

Doris Freeman was born in 1925 in Jackson, Tennessee, to Felix Matthew Branch and Mattie W. Branch. Felix Branch was a tap-dancer in Vaudeville. After her mother died, her father remarried and they moved to Fulton, Kentucky, when Doris was 14. She started performing at age five, dancing at a hotel. She had four children and reared them as a single mother after divorcing their father, Jimmy Freeman.

Doris Freeman began her career in the ‘30s and created Cousin Tuny as a child-loving, adult-entertaining character who wanted to teach children five things: respect of country, love of people, healthy habits, laughter and love of God. Cousin Tuny wore a red-checkered dress with pantaloons to match and high-button shoes. She blacked-out two front teeth and painted freckles across her nose. She wore a hat with a daisy dancing around on top of a pipe-cleaner. Every show was telecast live and always began with the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag. Then there would be commercials, many of which had jingles she wrote herself: for Coca-Cola, Sealtest Milk and Kelley’s Foods. Cousin Tuny would interview a birthday child and a few others, then follow with either a cartoon or a Gene Autry or Roy Rogers movie.

Doris Freeman continued to be active for charities and children’s benefits for many years and was a pioneer for women in radio and television. Instrumental in starting the Cerebral Palsy Center and the Exchange Club-Carl Perkins Center for the Prevention of Child Abuse, she did nearly 100 telethons raising millions of dollars.

She was not only an on-air personality for WDXI-TV but a sales executive for WDXI Radio. Freeman was inducted into the Tennessee Radio Hall of Fame and was one of the first women to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame. She managed the Old Hickory Mall, was Marketing Director for Jackson-Madison County General Hospital and was very active in the Jackson Chamber of Commerce. She served on numerous boards and was involved with many groups to make Jackson a better place, especially for those places involving children.

Doris Freeman’s book, Cuz, a memoir, was published in 2003. When she turned 90 she was asked what it felt like to be 90. Her reply: “It feels good. Life is what you make it, and I try every day to tell my body that.”

In 2015, she sold her home and moved to Regency Retirement Village. Doris Freeman died at age 91 in August 2016 at the Village. In 2017, the Therapy and Learning Center dedicated a Garden of Peace there in her honor. A quotation from her book, Cuz, reads: “A hundred years from now nobody will remember who I was, what I did, or how much money I had. But the world may be a little different and a little better because I was important in the life of a child.”

Our September meeting will be hosted by Jean McKinnie and Donna Ward at Lakeside. Zia Locke will present the program.

The annual Southern Fried Food & Sweet Tea Festival will take place in the downtown Veterans Park on August 24 and 25.

The fundraiser dinner for Beating Hearts isThursday, September 6 at the Carroll County Civic Center in Huntingdon from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are free but donations are appreciated.

Members present at the meeting were Peggy Chappell, Juanita Finley, Carolyn Goodwin, Suzanne Howell, Geneva Johnson, Zia Locke, Gena Manner, Shirley Martin, Jean McKinnie, Carolyn Moore, Mary Newman, Carolyn Potts, Marilynn Putman, Shelia Rogers, Genia Sherwood, Sally Sutton and Donna Ward.

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