Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Andy & Nellie

Andrew Montgomery Goff was born, July 23, 1892, and Nellie Hughes Goff was born, July 10, 1892. Andy was the son of Richard and Mary Ellen Goff (nee Stephens,) of Somerset, Kentucky. Nellie was the daughter of Bud and Mattie Hughes, also of Somerset.

Andy used to talk about the first time he saw Nellie in almost fairy-tale prose. She was running across the meadow with her long red hair blowing in the wind, and she was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. They eloped to Huntsville, Tennessee and were married by Justice of the Peace, James McDonald, on April 29, 1913.

Andy found work on the river barges, moving coal up and down the Cumberland River, while Nellie set up housekeeping. Their first child, Herbert, came along on February 28, 1914, but died on March 21, 1914. John Milton Goff came along on June 20, 1915, followed by Thelma, born February 12, 1920.

By 1920, Andy was working for the Southern Railroad, and he moved his family to Ludlow, Kentucky to become a foreman. They moved into the section house, a home owned by the railroad. Nellie would give birth to three more children, Richard on November 17, 1924, Paul Martin on June 12, 1927 and Abel on April 2, 1930.

The child rearing and discipline fell to Nellie, as Andy's job took him away from home five days out of the week. The depression hit the Goff family hard, as they were beyond poor but still had it better than some, since Andy always had work. Five children tried the patience of the fiery redhead who was known for her Irish temper. Nellie sometimes took drastic measures to keep her children in line. One legend that surfaces at every family reunion is about the time she tied Johnny to a tree to teach him not to run away from home!

Andy and Nellie were strict Southern Baptists. That defined who they were and how they lived their lives. Andy believed in the cooperation of churches to advance missions. He believed in that old fashioned, soul saving grace. Members of the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky, Nellie attended as often as she could when her health permitted. Andy sported a perfect attendance pin 35 years of faithful service. They reared their children in the church, and when they were grown, they too reared their families in the church.

Andy retired in 1955, and with all his children married and on their own, he and Nellie bought a little home in Covington, Kentucky. The house on 18th Street is where they were living when I would come to know them. I can remember walking up the steps and into the front door. On the left was their master bedroom. Walking past that, the living room was a big open room with two huge windows that Nellie had covered with venetian blinds and white lace curtains. There was a couch on the front wall, and two chairs on both side walls. The main attraction, though, was the huge black iron wood stove with the smell of Andy's cornbread emanating from within.

The kitchen was simple with linoleum floors, white walls. It was very utilitarian with a stove and refrigerator and a table with six chairs. Nellie's signature dish was chicken and dumplings, and that is what she served whenever the family gathered there for dinner. Dinner was often followed by Andy playing his fiddle or banjo.

Nellie died on December 4, 1972, five months shy of being married sixty years. After Nellie died, Andy moved in with his youngest son, Abel. Abel's wife, Cora, took care of Andy when Andy could no longer care for himself. In the four years following Nellie's death, Andy got weaker and weaker until congestive heart failure finally took him home in May, 1976.

Andy and Nellie are together now in Gloryland. They watched the big Goff Reunion of 2004 from the Great Cloud of Witnesses, and must have been overjoyed by those of us who came together. Strangers met at Appalachian Park in Renfro Valley and came away family. Relationships were made that will endure forever, despite distance and absence. The Goff legacy is well established.

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