Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Thelma, the Prodigal Daughter

Thelma Goff was born in Somerset, Kentucky on February 12, 1920, the third child and only daughter to Andy and Nellie Goff.

Night had not yet come to the Cumberlands in 1920, so the Cumberland River had not yet been damned. The family lived on the outskirts of town, where Andy worked for the Southern Railroad, and Nellie kept house. When Andy accepted a foreman's position, the family moved, by train, to Cincinnati, Ohio, eventually settling into the section house, owned by the Railroad in Ludlow, Kentucky.

By all indications, Thelma was the wild child of the family, head strong and beautiful enough to keep the family in turmoil. Although Andy and Nellie were both short and Irish in appearance, Thelma inherited the Dutch Irish genes. She was tall, with coal black hair, skin like porcelain and black eyes that could look through a person, no doubt she could stop traffic.

Thelma ran away from home when she was 14, which would have been 1934, the height of the Great Depression. Knowledge of her "lost years" is practically non-existent, but when she came back to Kentucky, she was married. Her daughter, Linda, was born during her lost years. Linda was a beautiful child with dark hair, like her mothers and piercing eyes. When Thelma and her husband divorced, Linda went to California to live with her father.

Thelma, later remarried and had two children, Donnie and Bill, by her second husband, William Jeffers. That marriage was short lived, and Thelma remarried. Her third husband was Albert "Bud" Buring, a cousin to her first husband. She married February 28, 1946 in New York City. Bud was in the U.S. Army, and Thelma lived the military life until her daughter, Brenda Jean, was born on April 5, 1947. Upon Bud's discharge from the service, the family settled in Ludlow, Kenton County, Kentucky. Albert Jr. was born on February 22, 1952.

The marriage couldn't have been easy, as Bud suffered from tuberculosis and underwent a stay in a sanitarium in Phoenix. Bud suffered an aneurysm in 1968, and remained incapacitated until he passed away in 1975. This, however, was the marriage that lasted for better or worse, and literally, in sickness and in health. For Thelma cared for Bud all his life.

Thelma Goff Buring Jeffers Buring was certainly worrisome for Andy and Nellie. They were strict Southern Baptists, and Thelma was their prodigal child. She returned to the fold in her later years, however, having made her profession of faith in Jesus Christ at the Covenant Christian Church in Newport, Campbell County, Kentucky. When Bud passed away, Thelma moved into Andy and Nellie's home in Covington, where she remained until her own health forced her into a senior citizen's apartment in Florence, Kentucky. Thelma suffered from lung cancer, and moved in with her daughter, Brenda, in Florence until she passed in September, 1986.

Thelma remained estranged from her daughter, Linda, and son, Donnie; they never reconciled in her lifetime. Bill and Thelma, however, had reconciled prior to her death. Brenda and Albert remained devoted to her throughout her life.

Thelma is the perfect example of Nellie Goff's understanding of child rearing, "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart." Proverbs 22:6. She did come back to the Lord. She did come back to her family. She was a wonderful aunt! She always had a warm hug for everybody. She was strikingly beautiful, but in her later years, it was an inner strength that made her radiant. She is among that great cloud of witnesses watching us run our race, and she will be among the first to greet us at the gates of Heaven and tell us all about it.

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