By Magen McCrarey
LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. —
A year ago I wouldn’t’ have believed anyone if they told me that I’d be living with one of London’s very own living treasures, Ethel Huff. I have had the privilege to recently move into her elegant home, unaware of the immense comfort and joy that I was about to receive.
Upon exchanging our first “hellos” last spring, I realized that we both were going to get along just fine. This was especially true since we both have the ability to talk for hours, and about nothing in particular. We not only share a love of fellowship and cooking but also the love of her grandson. Day after day, I would sit on her snow-white couch as she rocked in her recliner adjacent to me, sharing stories of her beloved late husband, Senator and Reverend Gene Huff, or as her grandson would call him, “Papaw Huff.” She glows each time she shares with me the inspirational adventures they shared together in sickness and in health as missionaries, parents, grandparents, church and community leaders.
I admire the world travels she has had throughout her lifetime, including the harrowing stories of walking through the streets of an impoverished Sierra Leone, and her husband trading his watch to a good Samaritan in order to cross a closed border within eastern Europe during political turmoil. The narratives she has tucked away awaiting a patient listener can fill up an entire book, and if she’s willing to share — I’d be willing to write it! But she continues to always find a way to cut her stories short to casually laugh at the fact that she never really liked traveling all that much, and her favorite place is to be is, instead, in the comfort of her own home.
She grew up in Covington, Ky., but enjoyed staying summers with her aunts who lived on farms off of Old Ky. 80. Eventually, her family moved to Laurel County, where she began to spend even more time in the country during the Great Depression. One aunt in particular, influenced her spiritually and opened her up to a new way of life as a born again Christian. This new birth within her spiritual life is something she can’t help but beam about on a daily basis, and rightly so.
These first few days of settling into my new home have been nothing short of cozy. I set up the family Christmas tree, humming to Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin followed by a much needed fireside siesta. Our conversations have continued to be seemingly endless and never short on laughter. Mrs. Huff has embraced me as a part of the family, as I have her. As I settled in and began to move furniture around, her grandson and I agreed upon the placement of Papaw Huff’s photo upon my bedroom desk, a black and white impromptu portrait of a strong spiritual leader, and a man I never had the chance to meet. His influence was extraordinary within Laurel County and throughout Kentucky, and is still to this day creating a rippling effect in the hearts of those who knew him well.
Mrs. Huff has lived her life as an exemplary woman, a helpmate and support to her husband whom she continues to express her love for each and every day. I may have had other plans for the present, with many substantial opportunities knocking at my door, but I am more overcome with an overwhelming sense that I am called to drop my selfish desires and pursue a lasting friendship with this humble and inspiring woman.
I have much to learn in life and if I’m to learn it from anyone, I’d like to acquire it from her. She is a truly a treasure, hidden within the safety and comfort of her own Laurel County home.