The Avon Lady

Mrs. Ernestine Braswell Furlow turned 100 on January 23, 2018. Woodrow Wilson was President the year she was born. Gas was 15 cents a gallon. It was also the year that a global flu epidemic claimed millions of lives, including over 500,000 in America. That’s a sobering number, especially so to Miss Ernestine. One of those deaths was her mother.

Miss Ernestine was nine months old when her mother died on October 28, 1918. She has a picture of herself as a smiling baby that was taken a month earlier. Her father remarried, but he died when Miss Ernestine was only five. She lived with grandparents, uncles, and aunts, and came to Vienna in the fourth grade.

In July of 1934 she had a blind date with Anderson Furlow. She married him in September of 1935 when she was 17. They were blessed with three children, Belinda, Anita, and Andy. Anita passed away in March of 2000. Mr. Furlow died in 2001 after 65 years of marriage.

In November of 1948 Miss Ernestine joined Avon Products Inc. She worked in outside sales for forty years. She was a regular member of the President’s Club, a recognition for agents in the top ten percent. Another former Avon rep, Mrs. Martha Brown, lives just two miles away and will be 104 on February 23rd.

It’s remarkable that a rural community has two Avon ladies whose average lifespan is 102. If you see me wearing makeup, please don’t laugh. It might be worth giving it a try.

While making her customer calls, Miss Ernestine also did volunteer work for her church, Vienna First Baptist. She was the Extension Director for decades, delivering magazines and visiting the sick. One of her longtime fellow church members, Mrs. Bobbie Odom, is almost 101. It didn’t surprise me to learn that Miss Bobbie was an Avon customer.

Miss Ernestine celebrated her milestone birthday a few days early in Loganville surrounded by 21 family members. Her Sunday School teacher, Murray Stephens, organized a second party held in Miss Ernestine’s home. Her dining room table is filled with cards, pictures, and a giant scrapbook.

She enjoys her scrapbooks, which are of library quality. There are clippings about churches, community events, family, and friends. She had saved an article about her next-door neighbors, Jim and Debbie Bolton, who have been helpful in countless ways.

Miss Ernestine has lived in the same house for 70 years and is not saving any boxes for moving. She smiled when talking about her long life but added that she’s not about to buy any new furniture. With a confident faith, she said that a much better home is being prepared for her.

I squinted through my glasses to read some of the news items that she’s kept. Miss Ernestine wasn’t wearing glasses. Nor was she using a cane or walker. She stood for over 90 minutes as we slowly circled a memory filled table.

The memories she treasures most are of family. She mentioned Anita’s piano lessons from Mrs. Louise Lewis and her gift for classical music. She talked about Belinda, also a student of Mrs. Lewis, serving for many years as a church organist. An article about Andy notes that he developed a computer program so the Georgia Board of Regents could modernize college registrations.

Miss Ernestine recounts childhood memories of ringing the dinner bell when it was time to eat or listening to her uncle play his fiddle. But she’s even more interested in what’s going on right now, in keeping up with her family, church, and friends.

She told me that she enjoys my columns, and that she’s noticed I like to include some humor. She said I could tell folks that she was recently looking for her coffee jar and found it in the refrigerator. I didn’t tell her I had just stuck my head through an arm opening while trying to put on a vest. That wouldn’t be so bad, except it took me a while to figure out what was wrong.

We paused at the front door as I was about to leave. She smiled and said with a hint of mischief, “Neil, I was just wondering if you would mind playing the piano at my funeral?”

I said, “Miss Ernestine, I’d be honored to. But I was just wondering if you would be willing to speak at mine?”

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12 Responses to The Avon Lady

  1. Janice Bryant says:

    Truly enjoyed this article! Leonette (Stewart) Bryant


  2. Scott Cason says:

    I remember Miss Ernestine coming by our house on Pine Street selling Avon to my mom and grandmother. I remember thinking during one visit “if she stays this long at every house, she must get home really late”. Glad to see she’s still with us.


  3. Marcine Crozier says:

    I wasn’t an Avon customer, but I saw her once a week when she came into the library to see “Miss Sally”. Sally always bought something.


  4. Jeannette Tharpe Parker says:

    Mrs Furlow was my Mama’s Avon lady my whole life. She visited us on Pine Street also. Mrs. Brown goes to Lilly Baptist Church where my sister and her husband go, All three of my Dooly Co. sisters went to church there and were and are members.


  5. George Bailey says:

    Neil, Growing up in Vienna I lived on Church Street just
    a block from Mr & Mrs Furlow. I knew Anita and Belinda and always thought a lot of their family. I look forward to your “stories” each week and especially enjoy the “walks down memory lane” when I read about the folks that I knew. Thanks and keep up the great work.


  6. Jeannette Tharpe Parker says:

    In my first comment I forgot to tell you my sister Susan Wise was also an Avon Lady.


  7. Carl B. Shurley says:

    5 Star article, Neil! 🌠🌠🌠🌠🌠


  8. Michael Chason says:

    Classic! Avon Calling! Love the ending!!

    Sent from my iPad



  9. Anne Bert says:

    I have a friend who turned 100 and she told us: my friends in heaven must be thinking “I didn’t make it”!! Miss Earnestine may be thinking the same thing! Loved the story.


  10. Judy says:

    Think I need to become an Avon lady!


  11. Stacey Cason Wall says:

    How many times did mama send me to the door and there stood Mrs. Furlow. I remember as a little girl Ms. Furlow giving me sample sized lipsticks and perfume…I thought I’d died and gone to little girl Heaven. Wonderful memories. Thank you for sharing Mr. Neal. As always, you bring a little bit of home to my heart.


  12. Nelda Cairns says:

    My sister’s husband, George Bailey, sent me the article on the celebration of Mrs. Furlow’s 100th birthday in Vienna. I worked at Sears with Anita and we became very close friends. When we first met I learned she grew up in Vienna. When I mentioned to her that the only thing I knew about Vienna was that my brother-in-law grew up there she informed me she knew George and the Bailey Family very well! What a small world!

    Ms. Furlow, I feel so fortunate that I had the privilege of knowing Anita – she was truly a wonderful person and a great friend. After reading “The Avon Lady” I realize that she got a lot of her wonderful traits from you!


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