All She Wrote: JoAnngela’s Ashes: notes on a funeral

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by Nicole Crews (photos by Sam Froelich)Nicole_Crews_01

Me: Mother, what am I going to do when you go? I won’t have any material.

Mother: Nicole, you’ve got enough material for a few lifetimes.

It’s hotter than Hades when my mother’s Thomasville neighbor and rock-star florist John Herron rolls up with an overflowing centerpiece of refined rustic flowers, a wreath and eight empty gallon-bottles of mom’s Gallo crammed with wildflowers.

“John that’s perfect. Mother would think that’s hilarious,” I say.

“Do you like the ribbon? It’s Lily Pulitzer,” he asks.

“Mom would say, ‘Lose the ribbon.’”

Maria Salakovich Fangman of Maria’s Catering in Greensboro is on his heels with a truckload of Greek food plated pleasingly on platters. Mother’s caretaker, Tracy Whitley, and I have been Greek-slaving it all week to get the house up to snuff, so the floors are gleaming and the linens are crisp. FrankenBrad have supplied a keg of Sierra Nevada and there’s enough champagne, wine and hootch to float your molars. It’s a garden party, you see, the perfect way to send off my mama whose ashes reside amidst the fray in a beloved Saltine tin. Ladies in hats begin arriving aside men in seersucker and folks from as far away as New York City and Atlanta have made the pilgrimage. I think mama would have been proud.

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Frank Slate Brooks and Nicole have known each other since childhood. Their daddies went to Davidson College together, and now they are both members of the Dead Parents Society.

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Matt Obst — aka the Viking — was on hand along with his parents Dottie and Don, who drove in from Hickory for the gathering.

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Tahe Zalal is often confused with an early JoAnn Crews.

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Diedre and Clay Grubb (whose mother was a dear friend and JoAnn’s partner in design) made it from Charlotte.

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Kay Kay Lambeth, whose mother Kay founded Erwin-Lambeth Furniture, and was responsible for bringing JoAnn south from New York, joined in the revelry.

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David Williams, John Whisnant and Todd Garcia trucked it from Greensboro for the Cocktail Wake.

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Beth Alexander, Lori Lovell Bryant, Katrina Lindquest, Janna Myers Grant, Sarah Hubbard, Cindy Everhart Collins, Cindi Osborne McCorquodale and Hillery Rink are all childhood friends.