Leona Mae Hicks was born on November 29, 1913, to Milton Otis Hicks and Orie Lee (Stalls). Leona was the youngest of eight children. Her mother, Orie, was 44 years old when Leona was born. Leona was born at Model, in Stewart County, Tennessee.
When Leona was a teenager, she was madly in love with a man named Vonie Floyd Johnson (2-12-1902 – 7-11-1934 buried at Mount Zion Cemetery in Stewart County.) and they were to be married. Mr. Johnson was shot and killed before they could marry. Leona talked about him often throughout the years to come.
Leona married Elmer Eugene Smith on October 17, 1936. She was 22 years old at the time. To this union, four children were born: Orie Jerlene, Lillian Lorena, Hillman Eugene, and Raymond Earl.
Elmer had Parkinson’s disease and when he became real sick and an invalid, Leona took care of him. People tried to get her to put him in a nursing home, but she would not hear of it. Leona could doctor her family as well as Dr. Crow could. When the kids would cut themselves, she would pour coal oil on it and it would hardly ever get sore or infected. When a kid had colic, she would boil onions, put sugar in the juice and give it to the child. This always worked. For a rash, such as heat rash, she would scorch flour and put it on the rash and it would heal. Leona had a thousand and one old home remedies and they all worked. These remedies had been passed down through the generations.
Leona was a very complex person. She had more ingenuity than most people did. In the summer, she knew all the wild greens that you could eat and they were plentiful. She would go foraging and come back with poke salad, wild green onions, which were so good fried, and lambs quarters. She would also make wilted dandelion salad. She ran trot lines and fished, so there was always plenty of fish to eat. Leona always planted a large garden and it always did well. She always raised enough for everyone. Her tomatoes were the best! She could take anything and make a meal out of it.
When the family needed a new boat, Leona would make one. She always made ladders and plows. She would cut wood and do a man’s day of work.
Leona was a good mother and she also made toys for her children. She folded paper and cut it, making a whole line of paper dolls holding hands. She could make a lot of things from paper. She would take a small willow limb in the spring and make whistles; they were real good! She made her daughter a ring out of dime one time. She used different sized nails to get the hole big enough. Then she filed it. She could file in a diamond or square cut on the top. This took Leona many months to do, and Lillian was very proud of it.
Leona also told her children stories and taught them songs. Lillian and Hillman still sing these songs. Leona also taught them to play the guitar by ear.
The only thing that Leona was afraid of was that one of her children would get hurt. Leona would stand up to any man, woman or beast when it came to her children. She had a real bad temper, but she was funny, too. She was always telling her children funny stories, jokes, and rhymes; but if anyone messed with her or the kids, she was fighting mad. Leona was also a very superstitious woman. She always planted her garden in the signs. She could also stop bleeding by using a Bible verse that she repeated three times, the bleeding would stop. Lillian has seen this work many times. You are not supposed to tell anyone the verse, or it won’t work. The verse was Ezekiel 16:6.
Leona also had many sayings. She was very in tune with nature and knew every tree, plant, wild flower. There is a list of her sayings found in this book.
Leona Mae Hicks went to be with the Lord on April 1, 1981. She died from heart attack. She is buried at Scott’s Chapel in the Smith Cemetery. This is also known as P Z Ridge and is located in Cumberland City, Tennessee. Her husband and his family are also buried there, along with their son, Raymond Earl. Raymond died of colon cancer on July 8, 1986. They are all greatly missed. Leona’s children knew that their mother loved them more than anything in the world.