Thursday, July 20, 2017  

The Grand Dam of the Northern Neck


Life gives us many gifts: the vastness of the water, sunrise and sunsets, sails filling with wind, children playing in the water and special people who give texture to the fabric of our lives. This is about one of those special people.

Photos and story by Judy Ripley

Edna Earle Mizelle moved here in 1991 from Omaha, Nebraska where she had resided for fifteen years with her husband, Joe. Previously they had lived in Richmond, VA. Joe was one of the brains behind the “Virginia is for Lovers” campaign. She states that they first met during high school in the drama club. She lived for six months here by herself until Joe was able to join her. She brought with her among other things, several large planting pots and one glorious pink geranium. All of these grace her yard and sunroom today.

They had purchased a lovely Williamsburg style colonial on Tabbs Creek and immediately became an active part of the Tabbs Creek Civic Association. This association is noted for its active social life, holding dock decoration contests, great Fourth of July fireworks, picnics and community dinner parties several times a year. Edna Earle immediately engrossed herself in the social aspect of this group and built up quite a reputation as the hostess with the mostess.
Edna Earle (never just Edna!) began the process of adding her own special touches to this home. Over time a wall dividing the living room into two spaces was removed to provide an open space and views of the water. The screen porch that she “just had to have” evolved into a glassed-in all season sunroom. This became a wonderful sun-filled space for that geranium that blooms year round as well a fountain and orchids. What a delight in the wintertime!
“In Omaha there were no trees,” she said. This did not stop this creative lady who had an elaborate system of container gardens in her Nebraska yard, seventy two in all! Through a careful process of evaluation and vision she designed her gardens for the Northern Neck property and now there are “right many.” She played with groupings of plants that were suitable to this climate and the architecture of her home to find workable combinations.

Edna Earle believes in creativity with a capital “C”. The tables in her dining and breakfast rooms remain set with china, linens, crystal and centerpieces at all times, “just in case someone stops by for a meal”. Her breakfast room has glorious views of Tabbs Creek. Many a friend has contacted her for the loan of some of her vast array of accessories. Ceramic rabbits? “Sure I have 20!”

She is well known for elaborate parties and functions. Throwing a party for 20 or 100 is a well thought-out delightful and unique event. Planning her wardrobe takes a week or more for a special function. Her garage is fitted with shelves and racks with every possible accessory imaginable; belt buckles (gold, silver, black, sea shells….). Belts, hats (ah, they are wonderful!) and color, she is the queen of the use of color from her head to her colorful toes.
For a Fourth of July dock decorating contest Edna Earle not only decorated her dock with wreaths, streamers, flower arrangements and the appropriate theme based colors, but herself. She designed a costume with her interpretation of the Statue of Liberty and stoodthere holding her “torch” high as the boats passed in review. And you are right, she won!
This lady, and I do not use the term loosely, is also known as EWE. This is her maiden monogram, the name her grandchildren use instead of grandmother, the vanity plate on her car and the name of her boat. In one corner of her property there is a small watercraft, named “For You Too”, a play on words for the pronunciation of EWE and meant to be for her grandchildren’s use.

Edna Earle described her husband Joe as “the best, so thoughtful and kind”. Following fifty two years of marriage Joe died in 2001.

This Grand Dam grieved, adjusted and dove into life as was her pattern. Believing “there are more wonderful things to do here than there is time to do,” she has continued her challenging schedule. She has adjusted her practice of having a New Years Eve party and throws her “Pre New Years Eve Party.” This starts a bit earlier than other parties but others pale in comparison. Her house sparkles with hundreds of candles. Friends are assigned areas to observe in order to prevent a fire. Her dining room looks like the finest gourmet restaurant with the table heaped with turkey, ham and all the trimmings. Formal wear is encouraged and champagne is the offered beverage.

So what does she do with her days? Well now…. She taught swimming and currently swims weekly at the Y. She plays tennis three times a week. She works out at the Y twice weekly with total lifting of 16,000 pounds. She takes yoga once weekly and states that “ I cannot work in more with my busy schedule.” She was first vice president and president of the Rappahannock Garden Club for two years each. She steps up to host or assist in luncheons, dinners and other community events. Her feet have never touched
the ground.

Her stories and life are rich. Her one son swam the English Channel and her other one was in the Little League World Series with the Tuckahoe Little League All Stars. Her grandson, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, is currently assigned to a Navy Seal team as an explosive ordinance demolition team member.

Following the death of her long time companion Belle, a Newfoundland, she planted a memorial rose in her garden. Belle was a fixture in Edna Earle’s yard for 13 years and 3 months. With a normal life expectancy of 8 to 10 years,
this dog’s long life attests to good loving care.

Speaking of life expectancy, with so much to do and celebrate, Edna Earle remains in her youthful early 80s
with a sense of humor and what my mother would term “lady like behavior.” When her garden club ran a fundraiser with the prize being tickets to the musical “Wicked,” guess who decided to dress as a witch and confront everyone she
saw to buy the chances. For a month or so, everywhere she went she sold tickets. More than half of all the combined
members in the club!

So if you are in this area of Virginia and notice a whirlwind, an attractive and well dressed one, you may want to stop and observe, it may be Edna Earle Mizelle, the Grand Dam of the Northern Neck.