LEANNA YEATMAN, MATRIARCH
Editor’s Note: March is Women’s History Month. Nancy Patrick writes about a woman she met when helping her son move to Virginia to begin a position as pastor of a historic church. Send stories or suggestions for stories about women to feature during Women’s History Month to firstname.lastname@example.org
By NANCY PATRICK
My son’s position as a pastor in a historic church in Northern Virginia has introduced me to many wonderful people whose lives have been so different from mine that I have enjoyed becoming part of their church and family networks.
Many of the families in rural Virginia live on land that their families have owned for generations. Some properties still have old plantation homes standing on them. Of course, they now represent a historical time we have fortunately left behind, yet they symbolize a way of life in which not only does land belong to families but also families belong to the land.
Several of the church families in my son’s church, Menokin Baptist Church, have multiple generations of families living on the same land they have always shared. These places have a family home in which generations have grown up. When a generation grew up and married, the parents granted a part of the land to that new family to set up its household, where they now rear their own children. These traditions continue, with multiple nuclear families sharing land but living in their own homes as they use the oldest generation’s home as base camp for large family meals and all holiday activities.
These wonderful people welcomed my son into their congregation and their families eleven years ago when he moved there as their pastor. Fortunately, for my husband and me, these families have welcomed us into their extended families when we visit our son.
One of these families, the Yeatmans, has deep roots in Virginia. I don’t know how many generations ago they became Virginians, but luckily for me, I have known all the brothers in the Greatest Generation, those born in the twenties and thirties. As you might imagine, their children, now middle-aged with grown children of their own, face the inevitability of their parents leaving their Virginia home as they pass to their heavenly home.
I’ve written many essays about strong women because I admire them so much. Their resilience, strength, loving kindness, and tenacity fill me with awe. One of those remarkable women, Leanna Yeatman, recently left her Virginia homeplace to pass to her eternal home. I met her one hot, humid day in July 2008, when my son arrived in the small, rural community of Warsaw to take on his new position.
I traveled with him on the three-day trek from Waco, Texas, to Warsaw, Virginia. We arrived hot, exhausted, anxious, and a little nervous to find a large group of volunteer church members ready to unload the Penske truck and feed us.
Leanna Yeatman was one of those people. She introduced me to a delicious new salad that I named Leanna’s Waldorf Salad. The salad contains iceberg lettuce, chopped apples, chopped celery, walnuts, and a sliced banana. A delicious honey-mustard blend tops the salad. Talk about delicious! I don’t think I had ever eaten such a luscious salad and continue to make it for my own guests.
Leanna married Woody Yeatman in 1959, and the couple had four children: Bonnie, Beth, Mat, and Amy. I know all of them and have mentioned on more than one occasion that they would have made a great Norman Rockwell painting or sequel to the TV series The Waltons. That’s what Leanna and Woody’s home felt like whenever I visited. Woody had built a huge kitchen/family room years ago so the entire family would have room to eat, play, and visit together.
On Sundays, most of the kids and grandkids meet at the family home for a huge lunch after the Sunday service. Leanna reigned supreme in her kitchen. An excellent cook and hostess, she did allow her children to help with preparing dishes, but when I watched Leanna in her kitchen, I saw her in her element.
Leanna Yeatman exemplifies the roles of wife, mother, and grandmother to her family members. She worked alongside Woody for many years as the bookkeeper for their family’s construction company before she became ill in 2019.
Because her brain tumor was not malignant, everyone felt optimistic at first. When the tumor’s size began to affect some of her motor skills and cognitive abilities, doctors thought they could remove it and restore her to health. However, after the first surgery and welcome improvement, the tumor began growing again.
As often happens to people in the autumns and winters of their lives, they prepare for the inevitable. Knowing this, Leanna decided she would not go through the surgical trauma and follow-up treatment another time. Not only did her decision save her from further suffering, but also her desire to release her beloved family from further worry and concern illustrated her unselfish love. Leanna passed from this life on Feb. 15, 2020.
She leaves behind her loving husband Woody, her four children and their spouses, her eight grandchildren, and many nieces and nephews along with brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law. Leanna’s influence reached far beyond her immediate family, though. She dedicated much of her time to her church work in organizing special services and working to have special Christmas programs each year. She touched the lives of her community in many ways and has left an indelible impression on her Virginia home as well as everyone in her family.
Nancy Patrick is a retired teacher who lives in Abilene and enjoys writing