Sunday, July 15

The Brock Family Eulogy ~ prepared by Veronica, Robert & Thom ~ Spoken by John Mayberry

Those of you expecting a standard run-of-the-mill eulogy might want fasten your seatbelts; Jo really enjoyed a good roller coaster.

Born in Freeport, TX, on February 27, 1951, Joyce Elaine Parker was the daughter of James C. Parker and Mary Howell Renshaw.  We had all come to know her well as Jo Brock of Roan Mountain, TN, who passed on June 26, 2012 at the age of 61.  Biological mother to surviving children Robert James Alva Brock and Veronica Toys Brock, Jo tirelessly assumed the role of mother, caretaker and advisor to everyone she met.  Stunned at the situation surrounding her passing, we are taking solace in that she is now finally able to rest in peace.

In addition to Veronica & son-in-law Damon Steele of Richmond, VA, as well as Robert, daughter-in-law Codi Taylor Brock & Jo’s only grand-daughter Sydnie Hellane Brock of Elizabethton, TN, Jo is also survived by her former spouse, Thomas Van Brock of Newland, NC; her sisters and their husbands Ceci & John Mayberry of Pigeon Forge, TN, Carol & Larry Maechler of Mena, AR, as well as Bonnie & Jack McPeck of Spokane, WA.  Jo has gone to meet her maker along with her parents, mother Mary Howell of Gatlinburg, TN, father & step-mother James & Isabell Parker of San Antonio, TX, as well as her sister Marty Farwell of Austin, TX.

If anyone here is in the wrong room, now is the time to tell us.  We will pause for a moment, while you clear the room.  Any takers?

No? Moving-on then…

Although Jo shared almost four decades of her life within Roan Mountain, she always considered herself a Texan.  She maintained this home-state pride, even though she was in Sarasota, Florida when she and her husband-to-be, Thom, met on December 21, 1967. Thom and his two best friends, who were home from college, were invited to a Christmas party at Jo’s mother and stepfather’s home.  At that time, meeting Jo also meant that you had to meet all of her sisters as well, Ceci, Marty, Carol and Bonnie.

Jo was set to return to San Antonio, Texas, after the holidays.  She lived there with her father, Jim, and her stepmother, Mama Belle. She helped her dad in San Antonio in his landscape maintenance business.

Her sister, Ceci, was working at a Burger King in Sarasota during this era.  When Thom stopped there one day after classes to say hello, he was pleasantly surprised as Ceci informed him that Jo was returning to the area to live with her mom and finish school. 

As Thom attended the University of South Florida, he and Jo saw each other whenever they could.  After high school, Jo attended Bauder Fashion and Merchandising College in Miami.  Jo’s graduation from Bauder on May 30th of 1970 briefly preceded another ceremony in the celebration of Jo’s life.

Less than two weeks later, Thom and Jo married on June 12, 1970 in Sarasota, FL, at the Pine Shores Presbyterian Church.  They lived briefly in Tampa, where Jo worked for Zayre department stores and Thom finished his degree. The “still newlyweds” returned to Sarasota in 1971 to operate Thom’s father’s landscaping and garden center business. 

When the opportunity to buy a farm in Roan Mountain, TN, presented itself, they jumped at the chance.  Thom’s folks had moved to Newland, NC, previously.  Thom’s father found the farm on Hampton Creek, which was bought, site unseen.

Jo worked hard when they moved to the farm.  The mobile home they had purchased in Florida was totally destroyed by the trip.  They were forced to live in a big barn when they arrived.  She helped turn a barely livable situation into a very viable one.  With time, ingenuity, help from friends and family, that old barn became a house and then a home.  It was perhaps as much of a one-of-a-kind original as Jo.

She endured taking baths in an oak barrel with water heated on a wood stove.  She endured taking showers outside the barn with a black plastic pipe laid across the pasture to heat up the water during the day.  She used a portable chemical commode until the plumbing was installed the following year.  Thom and she had to sleep on the bales of hay in the barn.  The moonlight beamed through the barn boards and they could see the mice dancing all around.  She endured, much to her credit, a great deal more than many people would ever even consider: No electricity, no bathroom, living out of coolers, kerosene lamps… the list was seemingly endless.

As much as Jo claimed to be a Texan, her personality traits were very much her own brand.  She never made excuses for herself, rather she made her strong-willed vibrant spirit very much known and never ignored.  Jo was stubborn, obstinate, cantankerous, ornery, and opinionated.  She was also said to have the tact of a water buffalo.   

But she also had a gregarious side.  Over the years, she reached out to help many people.  Her role as earth mother reached-out to everyone she encountered.  Her save-everyone philosophy knew no end.  If you needed the shirt off her back, she would not only offer it, rather she would insist upon sharing it.  Whether the people around her were friends, acquaintances, strangers, or otherwise, every one of them benefited from being around her, in one way or another.  Whether it was food, money, gifts, tough love or whatever was needed.  She did this so often, it was more than second nature.

Thom and Jo bought a service station business in Pineola, NC.  They ran it along with Thom’s sister, Dee, and her husband, Dewayne.  Simultaneously, Thom was also running a newspaper route for the Asheville-Citizen Times.  When Jo was seriously injured in an automobile accident in the fall of 1972, she lost a child she didn’t know she was carrying at the time.  She never fully recovered from her back injuries.  They had to close the service station business.

When Thom started teaching school in Roan Mountain, Jo had even more responsibilities at the farm.  The interaction with the public school system allowed Jo her first ability to meet and make impressions upon the mass of locals.  Jo contributed to a community fund-raising event one evening by setting up a palm-reading booth on the stage in the school gym.  At first the line was minimal, but after a few people had their opportunity to hear someone else elaborate on their private truths, the line quickly filled and formed all the way through the building and out the door into the parking lot.  Afraid that the locals might think Jo a witch, Thom wisely asked that she not do that anymore.   

If she weighs the same as a duck... she's made of wood!
And therefore…

In the following 17-18 years, she helped grow Christmas trees, as well as raised sheep, goats, hogs, cats and St. Bernards.  She always tended a big garden that was planted every year.  Veronica still remembers this garden even today with every fruit and vegetable she is offered.  Understandably, nothing has ever tasted as good as the harvest from the Elm Hollow farm.  Raised with merely hard work, nature, and love, nothing could compare. 

Veronica “Toys” was born in 1976. When Veronica was young, the family returned to Florida to run a landscaping business.  When it was time for Veronica to start school, they returned to Roan Mountain to start an arts and crafts business.  This endeavor had them traveling to a variety of locations and meeting a myriad of interesting people.  Thom started work at the animal hospital in Roan Mountain in 1983.  Jo kept the home fires burning.  Much to everyone’s joy and surprise, Robert  “Bobby” James Alva “Big Al” was born in 1987.  A few years later, he actually grew into all those nicknames.

As the arboreal crop matured, Thom and Jo also began to sell Christmas trees during this time.  Travel then was more focused on the annual trips to Florida just before Christmas each year.  It was during this era that Veronica learned the truth about a certain Jolly Old Elf.  On December 23, 1989, a massive snowstorm settled into Florida.  Previously, Thom had always managed to return home before Christmas, until that year.  The traditional Brock family celebration always began on Christmas Eve, and also lasted well into the New Year.  However, this snowy holiday, highways were closed and Thom did not arrived in time to help Saint Nick deliver his presents.  However, the holiday remained unspoiled for all, as Thom returned shortly thereafter. 

The winter holiday season was always a magical time for the Brock family.   All four of their birthdays were huddled closely around these holidays.  One of the best and most memorable eras was when Veronica turned 14, on November 7, 1990.  Thom followed with his winter solstice eve birthday on December 21 of that same year as he turned 44.  Robert was not far behind with his 4th birthday, January 8th, a day he shares with the late-great-king-of-rock-n-roll.  Jo’s birthday was always saving the best for last, February 27, as she reached the pinnacle age of 40 in early 1991.   14 - 44 - 4 & 40. It was a numerological masterpiece, like it was meant to be, perhaps even made in heaven, so to speak.  

It was not too long after this, the family Jo had helped to hold together, began to go their separate ways.  For good or bad, Jo and Thom separated in early 1992.  Thom moved to North Carolina and Jo remained in Tennessee with Robert and Veronica.  As with any divorce, life became confusing and all felt lost for quite a while.  Eventually the magical Elm Hollow farm was sold and Jo soon re-located to another nearby property that she and Thom had owned.  She remained at that property, the one we have all come to know as Hemlock Lane until this most recent unexpected event. 

The memories and stories continued to build on Hemlock Lane as time marched along.  Jo was occasionally challenged by certain domestic mysteries.  The rather inventive way she used cleaning products was the source of more than a few familial tales.  One of the most prominent of these involved young Master Robert in 2004.  It seems Jo felt that aerosol engine degreaser would make an exemplary oven cleaner.  Later in the day, Robert attempted to cook a pizza within that self same oven.  The air and the pizza became saturated with the fumes of overheated chemicals.  This was the first time both Jo and Veronica ever heard Robert curse. 

The moral of this story:  Don’t get between a boy and his pizza.

Jo never stopped caring about her daughter and son.  She and Thom inevitably came to talk and correspond again.  Most of the conversations revolved around the children.  Each member of the family had to move on with their lives, but none of them could ever leave behind the most precious concerns of their hearts, one another.  When Sydnie Hellane, Jo’s granddaughter, came into their lives, they had yet another common gift which re-enlivened communication.

Jo loved her mom and dad, her sisters, and all of her family from Washington State to New Jersey, with a healthy dose of Texas, Arkansas and Florida in between.  She loved to work and be outside.  She loved to mow; it seemed to be therapeutic for her.  Perhaps the only thing she loved more than Roan Mountain, itself, were the people she encountered living on it. 

The fact that she was taken from us cannot be understood.  We can only join together here as those who love her, miss her, and will always remember her.  May she have lasting peace.  We all wish her God speed.  Bless her memory. 

John, at this point we want to invite everyone to listen (and perhaps sing along) to Aaron Neville’s rendition of “The Lord’s Prayer.”  By the way, John, you should not be reading this part aloud and if you are ... now would be a good time to shut up. 

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