Eleanor Lemon was “a gracious lady’s lady,” her grandson, Scott Lemon, said.
“I didn’t think of her like that because she was my Mimi, but she was calm and collected and so — gathered,” he said. “I watched her be the matriarch of our family.”
Gracious is a word that came up often in conversation Friday with people who knew Eleanor Lemon, who died Aug. 25 at age 101. Arrangements are through the Ocean Springs chapel of Bradford-O’Keefe Funeral Home.
“Mrs. Lemon was the epitome of the true Southern lady,” Ocean Springs Mayor Connie Moran said. “She was such a good friend of my parents, and a true matriarch of the Lemon family. She was gracious and active in the community. She loved her community, and she loved her Lord.
“There was a tremendous presence about her. Every time you saw her, she was beaming. There was just a radiance about her. She was radiant, and such a good soul. She would go out of her way to help others.”
She was born in July 1915 at the family’s home on Bowen Avenue in Ocean Springs. Her father, Fred Bradford, was a contractor, but when the Great Depression hit, the demand for contractors plummeted. In the 1930s, he was a supervisor and worked as a bridge tender. Lemon’s niece, Joey Rice, recalls a touching story Lemon often told about her father.
“She told me when she was a young child, in the winter time, her father would warm blankets at the woodburning stove at night and one by one, he would wrap each one of his four daughters in a warm blanket and put them to bed,” Rice said. “You could tell that memory meant a lot to her. All of them adored my grandfather.”
Young Eleanor would meet the love of her life, J.K. Lemon, in elementary school.
“They started first grade together,” Rice said. “He gave her a valentine every year from first grade on. One of her greatest regrets was that she lost all of them in Camille. They had a two-story house on Back Bay, and Camille tore through the first floor where they must have been.”
She and J.K. enjoyed playing bridge, Rice recalled. Her husband died in 1998, Scott Lemon said.
Marriage, bridge and business — all were ways the Lemons were perfectly paired.
Helping at insurance office
At J.K.’s business, which is now Lemon-Mohler Insurance in downtown Ocean Springs, she worked in the office.
“She did the books for J.K.,” Rice said. “As late as a few years ago, I was still taking her to the office and she was looking over things. She was looking over the books into her late 90s.
“She was very astute. I think she could take a person’s measure right away, but she was gentle about it. It was a real pleasure to have her this long.”
In addition to keeping the books, Lemon was active in and one of the founders of the Ocean Springs Hospital Auxiliary and very active in St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
“She and her son Brad talked every day,” Rice said. “We all knew you couldn’t call him when ‘Gunsmoke’ was on, and you couldn’t call her when ‘Wheel of Fortune’ was on.”
Lemon was known for her cooking.
“Oh, she was famous for her pound cake,” Rice said.
“Yes, pound cake and her cheesecake,” Scott Lemon agreed. “She made the cheesecake in a glass pie dish. You could eat it in layers. When I was a kid, at Easter, she would make fresh strawberry shortcake, and she always made fresh whipped cream to go with it. She would cut up all those strawberries and bake the shortcake, and that was our Easter dessert.”
A generous woman
Generous is another word often associated with Lemon.
“She was always giving to everybody, sharing with everybody,” Scott Lemon said. “That’s what I loved most about her. She was not judgmental about anybody. And she was down to earth.”
Granddaughter Amy Lemon posted a tribute to Eleanor Lemon on her Facebook page Friday.
“A piece of my heart was taken from me today with the passing of my precious Grandmother,” she wrote. “I have been beyond blessed by her presence, gifts and most of all her love. She was a Godly Southern lady and I will miss her tremendously but she is in a better place I hope we all long to be. She is celebrating in the Kingdom tonight with all her loved ones who have gone before her, especially my precious Grandfather J.K.
“Over the last year and especially in the last few weeks this is the verse that comes to me as I am reminded how blessed I have been by her and how much I loved her. ‘I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith!’ (2 Timothy 4:7)”