Close to Nowhere
Lois Swaney-Shipp was a force of nature. A tiny woman, she had enough determination for about six big men. I’ve done stories with and for her, I guess, for 30-plus years.
I remember well the first time I went in the museum. We were going to do a story about something and while there, Lois gave me a personal tour. That museum is chock-full, brimming over with the history of this area, and most of it, Lois worked diligently to collect.
She came out to my house one day, years ago and she and my husband, the late Pop, squabbled the rest of his life about our petrified wood that Pop had around the front of the house. Pop, his late cousin David and his late brother John Paul had dug and carried the petrified wood out of a creek at his grandmother’s house and he was very sentimental about it. There are several big chunks and Lois was sure the museum needed at least one. She’d have eventually wrangled a chunk out of him, if he hadn’t gotten sick and passed away.
Accolades for Lois are pouring in and stories of her “bigger than life” life are being told and retold. There are many, many stories to tell. She was interested in everything and everybody and it showed.
But the Marshall County Historical Museum was her work. And she loved it fiercely.
She organized bus tours of the areas of the county, and found speakers who knew about where they were traveling. She organized the Christmas tour of homes for many years. She’d feature a house a week in The South Reporter and have a full spread the week of the tour.
She almost always had an interesting article in the paper about some bit of Marshall County history and for a while, she even hosted a radio talk show about our history.
I ran into Lois in Oxford not long after she moved there and, of course, she had something she wanted me to write and put in the paper for her. We sat on a bench in Walmart while she told me what she wanted me to do. It was almost like old times.
That visit was the last time I saw Lois although she did call us at the paper occasionally. The years were very kind to her. She was a beautiful woman when I first met her 33 years ago and the last time I saw her she was still a beautiful woman.
She was larger than life and ageless. She loved her family with true devotion and was justly proud of their many accomplishments, often putting articles about them in the paper.
Holly Springs lost a true character last week. Fortunately, her legacy will live on with the museum. And just for her – if you have anything in your home that pertains to the history of Marshall County, perhaps something of your grandparents’, please donate it, along with the history, to the museum. That way, our children's children will know where we came from and how we got here.
And Lois will smile down from Heaven and say “Thank you.”