Whitesburg KY
Mostly clear
Mostly clear

My cousin, Josephine Vanover, was my teacher

My first cousin, Gloria Polly of Jenkins, sent me a very nice story about our cousin, Josephine Vanover, a Jenkins High School teacher for many years. The three of us had the same greatgrandparents. Our greatgreat grandmother was a Cherokee Indian who lived is Ashe County, North Carolina.

Josephine’s grandparents were Henry and Jane (Bentley) Vanover. Henry was deeded 900 acres of land in Burdine and East Jenkins for his services in the Civil War. Henry was ambushed and killed while he hoed corn on his farm in June 1887. As was the family tradition, he was buried between his parents, Daniel and Nancy (Collins) Vanover. Henry’s wife, Jane (Bentley) Vanover, deeded their large farm to their nine children.

I never knew Josephine Vanover until my classmates and I went to Jenkins High School. Most of my Burdine classmates and I were poor folks. Most of the Jenkins students ate in the cafeteria or went downtown to eat. I always took my lunch in a poke sack.

Going to high school for me was like being in another world. The guys were dating the girls, some were drinking and smoking. We did not do those things in Burdine School.

I was very shy. Josephine tried to help me with my shyness. My aunt, Ida Mae Sexton, would give me her son’s hand-me-downs that kept me in school during this time.

During Christmas break in 1945, I left my mom a letter and left Jenkins to join the Army Air Corps. I had never been away from home before and, boy, was I homesick for a long time.

One of the first things I did was join the USO Club and learned to dance. The other thing I did was to meet other shy men to talk about our shyness. At the end of my three-month basic training, I could get up in front of these guys and talk up a storm. Later in my radio class I would be talking as a radio operator on a B-17 bomber. I was coming out of my shyness with flying colors.

On my first leave home, I ran into Josephine Vanover at the post office in Jenkins. She chewed me out for leaving home when I did.

She told me if I had come to her, she would have helped me. She always called me Cuz. She also told me a couple of my female classmates asked her, “What happened to the cute Vanover boy?”

I never saw her again until one of our class reunions. She was sitting with a couple of her student I did not know. I walked up and asked her if I could have this dance. She said, “Cuz, I see you are no longer shy.” I loved that lady.

I did not get leave to come home often with the job I had, but I would always call her when I did get home.

Contributing writer Everett Vanover lives in Fairfield, Calif.

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