In 83 years Callye Fears Chatman’s life has undergone dramatic changes. From her beginnings as the daughter of sharecroppers (“It was my job to carry water to the workers and to ring the dinner bell”), to her educational journey at Clark College in Atlanta, to her work as an educator, to her and her husband’s decision to move their family to a white suburb so their children could attend better schools, Mrs. Chatman witnessed the social, economic, and political changes that shaped the South in the 20th century. Yet, when Mrs. Chatman and her daughter, Faye Capers, participated in the StoryCorps Memory Loss Initiative, Mrs. Chatman did not come to talk about the social and political changes she had lived through. Instead, she wanted most to talk about her mother, who had died a month earlier at age 103.
“It was a true blessing to have five generations and everybody able to communicate with each other,” says Mrs. Chatman of her life with her mother, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. When Faye asked what Mrs. Chatman would write in a letter to her mother, the words sprang forth immediately:
“Dear Mom, how are you doing with the saints up in heaven? I know you are still singing, especially your favorite song, ‘How Great Thou Art.’ We really miss you, but we know you are there with the rest of your family, your eight siblings, your mother and father, and all your friends who passed on before you. So we are looking forward to joining you as well.”
Part of their story was edited by WABE and aired during City Cafe on Tuesday, December 28, 2009. Listen to that broadcast at www.wabe.org/storycorps.