When Emily W. Myatt died the evening of February 1, at least two of her children were doing what she had raised them to do — giving back to the community.
Unbeknownst to Kelly St. Clair and Suzi Myatt, their mom died while they were volunteering at the Capitol Steps Benefit Show for UCM. She was also survived by her three other children: DeWitt O'Kelly Myatt II, Betsy Kellum and Vicki McWhinnie; seven grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.
"My mom would have been proud of us," said St. Clair, who sent an e-mail listing some of the things she remembered most about her mother:
"Beautiful smile, infectious, radiant smile. House a treasure trove to grandchildren, who delighted in her collections of items such as wooden beads which could then be used for art projects or other creative activities.
"Created miniature rose bouquets in mint julep cups for ailing friends, daughters' and grandchildrens' weddings. Decorating her home via auctions and tag sales. Teaching square dancing, maypoles and sword dances.
"Saved everything under the sun: baskets, peach pits, shiny black watermelon seeds, hearing aid batteries in a box marked 'presumed dead,' newspaper articles written by friends. Loved birds, loved watching birds in Tauxemont.
"Best room mother, made homemade piatas for Christmas parties. Made the best costumes for dance recitals, though they may have been pinned together for the dress rehearsal. Creative and enthusiastic to draw people in at the polls; always put in extra effort to make things pretty. Great writer and editor.
"Campfire Girl and Girl Scout leader, carpooler, the original ìsoccer momî for horseback riding lessons, dance lessons, swimming, etc. Always proud of the fact that she raised five children to graduate from college."
There were so many more things to remember, some of which were captured by Mount Vernon District Supervisor Gerry Hyland and state Senator Linda "Toddy" Puller (D-36), both of whom spoke at a memorial service that was held at Aldersgate United Methodist Church this week.
HYLAND ALSO REMEMBERS her smile. "She had one of those beautiful smiles that was always with her," he said. "Her smile was always there to get us past difficult times."
Those difficult times were during Democratic political campaigns, of which Myatt was very much a part of.
Directing his comments to the Myatt offspring during the service, Hyland said, "I would not be on the Board [of Supervisors] without the help of your mom. Emily was the most caring, loving, dedicated and courageous woman. She really made a difference in the world she lived in. She was our political godmother."
Hyland added, "Not only did she raise you so well, but she made life better for everybody. She was in every political campaign, she was special, loving and she made a difference."
Puller took time off from her General Assembly duties in Richmond to be at the service.
"This is the first time that I'm speaking at someone's funeral. I'm honored to be asked," she said. "Emily, I've missed you for some time, what a tribute that so many people are here even though you've been gone from the neighborhood for four years [she had been in an assisted care home in Richmond to deal with her illness]."
Puller then went on to speak about her warm friendship with Myatt over the years. While Puller doesn't quite remember exactly when she met Myatt, she does remember the enormous impact that Myatt had on Puller's life, especially her political life. Little by little, Myatt drew Puller into a life of politics.
"She was a wonderfully shrewd bargainer. I got involved in politics and am still involved in politics, thanks to Emily," said Puller. "When she was precinct captain, she ran it with ironclad rules and did things the old-fashioned way. Emily was willing to do everything; sitting on the sidelines was not an option."
EARLIER IN THE SERVICE, Reverend Dr. Dennis W. Perry shared his thoughts on Myatt. He compared her attributes to some of her many hats. Myatt was fond of hats, and to celebrate this, many in the audience wore hats. Not somber black ones with veils, but brightly colored, mostly red.
This is a takeoff from the poem that was read during the service: "When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple" (with a red hat that doesn't go).
Perry picked up on the hat theme, saying that hats are attractive, provide protection and have to be positioned 'just so,' all qualities attributed to Myatt.
"She collected beautiful things, and had a wonderful and undying faith that the world was filled with things that were good. She loved people and valued them; saw the goodness of human beings."
She also provided protection to those around her.
"She devoted her life to protecting people. I've never seen a family who is so comfortable in their own skin. That is because they were told that they were valuable, that they mattered," said Perry.
"I don't know where she got her political convictions, but people all over are indebted to her for her guidance and her convictions. She stood by what she believed and was a woman you could count on," said Perry.