The best thing about visiting with our elders is to gain perspective on life.
Alice Hood, age 91, says she is in the “tea time,” of life, that time of day when the light grows soft and the room is still warm from the sun. She punctuates the reverie by saying, “And I hope to live into the night,” reminding us that there’s still things on her bucket list.
Hood held court Thursday afternoon from her “throne,” an expansive chair surrounded by books and papers, after summoning this reporter to look at photos she had set aside as possibilities for the Register’s upcoming Chronicles of Allen County.
Looking at the photos served as a stepping stone back across her life.
She was born on a farm in the high plains of northwestern Iowa.
A childhood memory that still stands in sharp relief is when at age 10 she was given the honor of reading the Christmas story to her family.
“It was probably from the book of Luke,” she said, and rehearsed multiple times over.
The setting was magical. She and her father and three siblings had hooked up the family’s two Clydesdales, Cap and Minnie, to a sled to make the 12-mile trek through a blizzard to her maternal grandparents’ home, where her mother was convalescing from a recent surgery.
“They had a magnificent home, with a parlour, a bathroom, an upstairs. In the warmer months my grandmother kept flowers all around the veranda and in every room.”
When it came time for the reading, small candles affixed to the Christmas tree were lighted and little Alice read in solemn voice the story of Jesus’ birth in a manger.
Eighty-one years later she quips, “You know, I don’t believe Jesus was born in a stable. After all, Joseph descended from royalty. They could have stayed anywhere.”
A blessing of age is that people feel more comfortable, or perhaps the need, to say what’s on their mind.
SIGNIFICANT childhood memories include being 15 when she first saw an African American; 14 when she first realized some adults were illiterate; and 15 when she first met a divorced woman.
She’s also a little superstitious.
“The number 11 has played a big part in my life,” she said, ticking off instances such as the date she and her husband, the Rev. Don Hood, were married, the number of letters in his proper name, the number of towns she has lived in, the number of times he had traveled to Israel, the number of siblings left in his family when he died in 1995 and the date of her birth.
Such coincidences are fun to note, she said, laying to rest any suspicions it’s more than that.
After high school Alice moved to Des Moines to attend the American Institute of Business, whose initials, she notes, resemble those of her maiden name, Alice Irene Blunt. She shared an apartment with two other girls, “right above the streetcar. Somehow we go used to the noise,” she said.
From there she attended Drake University part-time while working as a secretary to the dean of the Bible College, where her older brother Gordon was a student.
“He was so handsome that he was the model for the school’s catalog,” she said. It was through her brother that she met Don. They married in 1946 when she was 21. He died one year shy of what would have been their golden wedding anniversary, in 1995.
“Being a preacher’s wife, everyone assumes you to be an expert on the Bible as well,” Hood said, noting that the women of a congregation were especially wont to test her biblical knowledge, as if it were a measure of her suitability.
Nobody’s fool, Alice graduated with degrees in psychology and religion, and assumed the role of a preacher’s wife, moving around the Midwest as he took up positions at churches, first with the Disciples of Christ and then as a Methodist minister to congregations in Mildred, Moran and Bronson. The Rev. Hood also served as a chaplain at Osawatomie State Hospital for a time.
“I was born to be a Methodist. It was in my heart my whole life,” Hood said, of what she feels is a more expansive interpretation of the Bible.”Not all preacher’s wives have to be of the same denomination, you know. Billy Graham’s wife was a Presbyterian. Her parents were Presbyterian missionaries in China,” she said in a defiant tone.
THESE DAYS, Hood is focused on getting her life story onto the printed page per wish of her her two daughters, Julie, Springfield, and Caroline, Iola. A son, Doug, died in 2007 from congestive heart failure.
“I’ve got the categories separated into childhood, college, marriage, and family,” she said of the outline for her autobiography.
Its title is “Tea Time.”