Posted by: Banta | May 11, 2014

Mothers Day Gratitudes

Carrie Belle

Carrie Belle

This Mothers Day I celebrate the strong lineage of women on whose shoulders I stand, and the remarkable daughter who now stands on mine. I honor my maternal great-great grandmother Isabella Denham – known as Belle – who bore six sons and one daughter, Carrie Belle, my great-grandmother. Carrie was born in 1882, in the era of the Gibson girl, and came of age during Prohibition and in the early days of women’s suffrage. Her family likely did not own a car until she was nearly thirty, and she herself did not have the right to vote until the age of 38. A fiesty woman sculpted by grit and gutsiness, she lived to the ripe age of 95, and she voted every chance she got.

Virginia (Nanny)

Carrie married at eighteen to a man eight years her senior, and they had a son and two daughters, the younger of whom became my grandmother, Virginia. Dubbed “Nanny” by her grandkids, Virginia had quite a flair for the dramatic. Born in 1909, she grew up in the jazz age, at the peak of art deco, and claimed the Roaring Twenties as her proving ground. She cut her hair, wore makeup, smoked cigarettes with the men, drank, danced and voted. By all accounts, she was a “flapper” and a risk taker, who loved to sing and do the Charleston. At 19, she eloped in Rye, NY with Babe (Samuel Banta) Hilyard, a handsome Manhattan banker. Eight months later, in October 1929, the stock market crashed, lighting the fuse for the decade-long Great Depression.


Ginny (Mom)

My mom, Virginia Turnbull Hilyard, arrived on the scene in May 1930, the only surviving child of Virginia and Babe Hilyard. Ginny learned to read with the Dick and Jane books, first published in 1931, and grew up dancing to the Big Band sounds of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, Glenn Miller and Tommy Dorsey. She once described the day in December 1941, when she walked home from a Sunday afternoon movie to find her parents huddled around the radio, listening to President Roosevelt declare war on Japan – following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor that morning.

Donna (Bruce’s mom)

My mother-in-law, Donna Aldrich Fichter, was for more than three decades my second mom, and I have missed her every single day since her death in 2010. To her I owe, not only the great gift of Bruce, but also her lessons in love and loyalty, and her quiet grace.

The world that these women walked was vastly different from the one into which our daughter Jordan was born in 1985. That year a man in the UK made the first mobile phone call, Windows released Version 1.0 and the first .com was registered. The music  world introduced the first compact discs (CDs) and the FDA approved a blood test for the AIDS, a growing pandemic.



Now, more than twenty five years later, Jordan stands tall in her own right – a young woman of strong character and conviction, deep empathy and compelling vision. Watching her at work and play, I have great hope for her generation, as well as deep gratitude for those who came before, their lessons and their wisdom.

For today, that is all, and it is more than enough. To nurturers everywhere, our hearts are full of thanks. We are richly blessed by your love and care.





  1. a beautiful tribute, Banta. so nice seeing you, and meeting your girl today.

  2. Great tribute to your family history.

  3. Beautiful!

  4. Oh for that long-ago photo of you, Ginny, Virginia and Carrie Belle in which you each held a golf club, poised and ready, standing in a sweetly cropped age-ascending/descending line. There might have been a notation on the back saying the photo accompanied a Ray Knight article for the TU. I don’t even need to unearth that photo, obviously it’s already written across this old heart of mine!

    Thank you for yet another gorgeous piece of writing and remembering, Banta — annnnnd a glimpse of Virginia/Nanny in front of what I think might be the Fair Lane house. She DID have a knack for fabulous houses, didn’t she?

    Great big love to you and yours, Banta!


  5. I remember your Grandmother, Virginia, well! What a lady. Kammy and I both agreed we wanted to be just like her when we grew up. And, I had the awesome privilege to preside and preach @ her Celebration of Life @ St. Mark’s, Jacksonville. What a woman of inspiration she was to me and so many!

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