Lessons learned from a Lambert lady

Published 8:24 am Wednesday, June 1, 2022

On Saturday at the Methodist Church in Lambert there will be a celebration of life service for Frankie Bridges Hudson. She died last Wednesday at a Memphis hospital.

Wells Funeral Home has charge, so the service will be professional and warm for the family. There will be laughter and tears. 

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And then Sunday the sun will rise in the east, set in the west, and another day will have come and gone. Life will go on, and while family and close friends will think often of the dearly departed, the mortal life of Frankie Bridges Hudson will begin to fade from our collective memory.

But, those of us who had the great privilege of knowing Mrs. Frankie understand the world has lost a gem, and know there won’t be another one like her. 

Some people don’t fade as fast as others, and I will be remembering Mrs. Frankie a long time, mainly because of our shared interest in youth sports. She loved softball and basketball like I do baseball.

We met at J.P. Hudson Park more than 15 years ago when our Lillian was playing softball. She was put on Mrs. Frankie’s team and she asked me to help. Bill McGee was the other assistant coach.

Bill and I visited Monday at the Memorial Day program on the Square, remembering fond days of J.P. Hudson ball and telling our best Mrs. Frankie stories. Bill recalled the time an upset parent wanted him to tell her something he was afraid to say himself. 

“I told him right quick to tell her himself. I was as scared of her as he was,” Bill laughed.

Her enthusiasm for winning wouldn’t allow her to give an inch, or listen to much criticism about her lineup. It wasn’t that she loved winning as much as she hated losing. Hated it with a passion, and couldn’t understand why everyone else didn’t. If she couldn’t win, then she tried to not lose – stalling for the time limit, slowing the game to wait on an approaching thunderstorm, anything to keep from losing.

My daughter wasn’t a very good player, but what she learned from Mrs. Frankie was far more valuable than mere ribbons and trophies. She learned teamwork, tenacity, and a grittiness that has no doubt helped shape her into the remarkable woman she has become.

Bill’s daughter Maryann was on that team, and Sabrina Beard, and Frankie’s granddaughters Mallory and Madison, Erin Snyder, and others I can’t remember at this writing.

I do remember our star pitcher. Her name was Jessica Chambers. Thin as willow, but she would shake her blonde hair, wind up, and throw bullets that most batters couldn’t hit. We had a great summer at J.P. that year.

I’ve thought many times of those days, of Jessica, and what shouldn’t have been. It’s much easier to remember coaching with Mrs. Frankie. A pure joy every day at the park, because if we didn’t have a game, she wanted to have practice.

Mrs. Frankie could stay at the ballpark all day, and often did, coaching or watching other kids play. She was the same with Upward Basketball that she coached for many years in Crowder, Marks, and Batesville. She was well into her seventies before she hung up her whistle.

Bill shared his favorite memories, and I vividly recalled mine. It was the day at J.P. when she met me getting out of my truck with a granddaughter in tow.

“Tell Coach Jeremy what happened to you today,” she said, both of them grinning like the proverbial mules eating briars.

Surely, I thought, they have won a great prize or caught a big fish because they were so excited. It was something better I soon learned as the granddaughter told me how she had asked Jesus for forgiveness of sins and had chosen to follow Christ.

“I believe in getting them saved early, coach” she told me.

Perhaps I most admired Mrs. Frankie for her ability to face adversity, find a way through the negative, and march on through life not allowing heartaches and failures to define or shape her years.

Mrs. Frankie had, in some respects, a hard life. There were family problems, personal failures, sickness, grief. Her smile, her faith, her spirit were never broken.

Mrs. Frankie was a member of both Baptist and Methodist churches I read in her obituary and it made me smile. Just like her. She wanted to be around everybody and loved all the same.

When a youth choir in Lambert needed leadership she jumped right in, raising money for a bus and taking them on trips. The fact she had no musical training didn’t bother her, she likely never thought much about it. 

She saw an opportunity for ministry and went all in. Like she did for everything, especially church and sports.

In the folly of my youth I admired the older people who had attained status in business and life, seemingly with no blemishes or bad marks. To arrive at retirement with the perfect haircut, perfect 401K, perfect family, and perfect plans was the goal to reach, I thought.

Later I realized that the most interesting people, the ones that you learn from and remember, are the ones that didn’t tiptoe through the tulips of life. Folks that took a licking, but kept on ticking. 

People who had dusted themselves off and got back on the trail when life led them on a detour through the thorns and thickets of the human experience.

I can’t be at the funeral, but I will be thinking of Christi and Natalie, and her sweet sister Vera Mullins, a family friend for 50 years.

Mrs. Frankie wouldn’t mind at all, especially if she knew we will be in Dallas for youth baseball. 

“Don’t let them beat you,” she would say. And then she would say, “I wish I could go with you.”

The world may not remember Mrs. Frankie, but her influence on the lives of people across Panola and Quitman Counties will not soon be forgotten, unless it’s by some umpire who had the misfortune of making a bad call with Frankie Bridges Hudson standing in the third base coach’s box.