Vivan’s dad worked on a farm in the river bottoms of Tennessee. When a dam was constructed, the land flooded and he moved his family to Trigg County, Kentucky. The time period was around 1940. Young Vivian began to attend Upper Donaldson Creek School, which was, as most were back then, a one-room school house. Fast forward to Jan. 3, 1948. That was the day that Vivian married Ellis Futrell. She was just a few days shy of her 18th birthday.
Ellis and Vivian soon settled into married life in Trigg County. They lived out on Princeton Road for a while, then on Ladd Hill, and finally, in the early 1970s, they moved in town to Cunningham Avenue. Vivian still lives there today. Ellis spent some time serving our country in World War II and then worked at Thomas Industries in Hopkinsvile for nearly 25 years. Vivian was called to a different vocation, and that is what this column actually centers around. In this new job of hers, many soon knew Vivian as Mrs. Futrell. Therefore, I am going to switch horses in mid-stream and from this point on refer to her as Mrs. Futrell.
Nearly 50 years ago, Mrs. Futrell was asked if she would care for a young couple’s son. The little boy was Tony Fowler. Mrs. Futrell said yes, and the rest is history. Over the next five decades, Mrs. Futrell has babysat literally hundreds of children. If there was such a thing as an All-American babysitter team, Ms. Vivian Futrell would be a lock for first team. As a matter of fact, she would be team captain.
Before I tell you more about Mrs. Futrell, let me tell you about her late
husband, Ellis. First, the children always called him Daddy Ellis. He loved the children in their care just like Mrs. Futrell did. Mrs. Futrell loves to tell how Daddy Ellis picked at the kids and they picked right back at him. Whenever any parent went into Futrell’s to pick up their children, they could count on Daddy Ellis being in his chair by the door monitoring the situation. The love Mrs. Futrell had for Daddy Ellis is evident as she can quickly tell you they were married 55 years, one month and 19 days.
Now, back to Mrs. Futrell. The first thing that one will notice about Mrs. Futrell is her Christ-like attitude. She said, “There is no doubt to me that God called me to this job. All the kids that have stayed with me have been a blessing to me. As soon as I began keeping a child, the child and all of his or her family became a part of my family. It means the world to me to this day when any child that I kept comes back to pay me a visit.”
The love that Mrs. Futrell provided to the children in her care was not the only thing legendary about Futrells. The food she provided was beyond legendary. All the meals at Futrells were home-cooked. Every lunch was stews, roast or tenderloin-type meats and vegetables. The kids never ate sandwiches at Futrells. It was always old-fashioned, home-cooked meals. One of her desert specialties was fried apple and peach pies. Now, I must interject a short story here. Mrs. Futrell used to keep my two boys and Coach Dixie Jones’ two daughters. One day, she asked Coach Jones and I if we would take her television off to get it fixed. We said sure. She insisted on paying us, but we would not take any money. Therefore, she made us accept some fried pies as compensation. Well, old Dixie and I could not refuse that pay. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Futrell still laughs at how many pies we ate. I guess you could say we were grossly overpaid.
To this day, Mrs. Futrell still cares for children. Her philosophy over the years has remained tried and true. We could all probably learn something from it. Mrs. Futrell says, “You have to have confidence in young people. Always encourage them. Never do things to discourage them. We adults are an influence on their lives whether we want to be or not. Someone is always watching the way we live. I just hope and pray that I have been the right kind of influence.”
Mrs. Futrell, let me assure you this. Hundreds of children who have grown up to be adults and all their parents want you to know that you been just the right kind of influence. The love, care and life lessons that have come out of the little white house on Cunningham Avenue have definitely made our world a better place. THANK YOU!
OT: Mrs. Futrell and Daddy Ellis also raised six children of her own while caring for the kids of Trigg County. Their own children are Jimmy, Robert, Elwanda, Angela, Lanita and their late daughter Betty.
Enthusiasm Makes the Difference
Mike Wright is the former head coach of boys basketball and cross country at Trigg County High School. Emails concerning Coach’s Corner can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.