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Lula Anderson, Person of the Year

Written By The Mountain Eagle on 2/9/24 | 2/9/24

By Michael Ryan

ASHLAND - There are several simple reasons - none of which she would agree with - that Lula Anderson is our 2023 “Person of the Year.”

It’s not that Lula is disagreeable, although she has been known to go toe-to-toe with somebody to protect her fellow members of the Windham-Ashland-Jewett-Prattsville-Lexington Golden Agers Club.

She became a bear with a sore head, a year or so ago, when the county closed down the Meals on Wheels program in the town of Jewett.

The county said it was about being short-staffed and temporary, cutting off the provision of warm meals for elderly and homebound folks.

Lula understood the economics but didn’t want to hear any nonsense about dollars and cents, loudly demanding the center re-open. Fast. It did.

She was 90 years old at the time and has only gotten saltier, still serving as WAJPL president and watching over her seasoned citizens flock, being a relentless voice for the voiceless.

Lula isn’t ornery either…well, that might depend on how you define ornery because she’s not afraid to tell you what’s on her mind about anything.

One favorite way to speak her mind is as a lay minister for the Methodist Church, though she’ll tell you it surely isn’t her mind she’s speaking.

Lula doesn’t preach typically. She tells little inspirational stories such as the woman with the Alabaster Jar, pouring perfume on the head of the Savior.

The disciples of Jesus found fault, saying the fragrance could have been sold, using the money for the poor, but the Master said to them…

“When she poured this perfume on my body, she did it to prepare me for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever this gospel is preached throughout the world, what she has done will also be told, in memory of her.”

Perish the thought that Lula would allow herself to be compared, and that isn’t the intention. There is something about her, however, that lingers, similar to a sweet fragrance, when she is in your presence.

“Everyone needs a person they can call on. Anytime. Happy, sad, to vent or to settle themselves,” says Shannon Garraghan, a friend.

“For a lot of people it's Lula. No judgment. Not critical. That's rare and beautiful,” Garraghan says, expressing the sentiment of many.

Lula lives in the town of Ashland, just down the main road from where she was born, at home, in 1931, upstairs over a garage.

Her grandfather had a small hotel next door called the Maples. There were five brothers and sisters. Lula was the third of five, which is perhaps why she often ends up in the middle of things, willingly or not.

Lula’s father, Leslie Holdridge, cobbled together an old truck into the first school bus for Ashland kids, carting them to Windham.

A sense of community and being there for others saturates her soul and Lula, growing up, always figured she would be a nurse.

That dream didn’t happen the way she imagined. Instead she worked as a telephone operator, having served an apprenticeship in school.

Some small towns had dial up in those days, some didn’t, so callers had to go through Lula with all the switchboard cables and party lines which kept her busy but wasn’t all work and no play.

She met her future husband, George Anderson, when he was a lineman for an electric company, getting hitched in 1964 and spending a handful of years in Florida before returning to the mountains.

George had a barbershop in the house with the swirling red-white-and-blue barber pole outside, cutting hair until he simply couldn’t anymore.

Lula and George had four children, a daughter and three boys who require

mothering than usual which is fine and dandy with their mom.

Over the years, Lula has shared her poignant and sometimes pointed observations in a weekly newspaper column, doing her darndest to maintain the increasingly elusive feeling of community.

The ideas are all hers even as the actual writing and compiling fell into the hands of Opal DeLong and Judy LoPresti (who, in the fight with the county and many other adventures, is “Pancho” to Lula’s “Cisco Kid”).

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Lula is utterly devoted to the Golden Agers, a group founded in part by her mother and father.

And she is clinging like a peach to the precepts set before her by her parents, saying, in a recent conversation, “my father always said technology was a good idea.

“But he believed sometimes we put the cart before the horse. We aren’t ready for it. Like now. People don’t just talk to each other anymore.

“When you text somebody, you can’t tell their emotions at all. We’re leaving people behind. I guess I’m a thorn in the side of a lot of people when I say things like that but it’s not the right direction.”

Which explains, in an inarguable nutshell, why Lula Anderson is our Greene County 2023 “Person of the Year,” for being simply human everyday, which isn’t a simple task at all.

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