A life remembered

Coming from a large family taught this woman to live life to its fullest

Coming from a large family taught this woman to live life to its fullest

January 14, 2007|by MARLO BARNHART

Editor's note: Each Sunday, The Herald-Mail publishes "A Life Remembered." This continuing series takes a look back - through the eyes of family, friends, co-workers and others - at a member of the community who died recently. Today's "A Life Remembered" is about Lela Lorraine "Lil" Greene, who died Jan. 5 at the age of 65. Her obituary appeared in the Jan. 8 editions of The Morning Herald and The Daily Mail.

For Lela Lorraine "Lil" Greene, growing up in a family of 18 children was something to celebrate, not overcome.

Lil and her twin sister, Lola Mosby, were born on Christmas Day in 1941 - the 15th and 16th children of the late William and Elizabeth Burnett. Two more children brought the total to 18 in the family's West Bethel Street home.

"Our daddy had two jobs," Lola said as she remembered growing up with her twin sister.

Lil died Jan. 5 at the age of 65 following a battle with cancer.


Though times were tough then, Lola said the Burnett household was warm and happy. Homework was done, chores were completed and the Lord always was present.

"We made a lot of our own clothes," Lola said, recalling one very special Christmas when the twins got their own sewing machine.

When Lil and Lola were children, she recalls that the Burnett family's rules were strict.

"We couldn't go off the porch," Lola said.

It wasn't much better when they reached dating age, but somehow, Lil was able to meet a young man from Martinsburg, W.Va., at a sock hop at the Hagerstown Armory in 1957.

"I remember dancing a slow dance with her that night," said Wendell Greene, who said they dated occasionally for the next few years.

Before they married in 1960, Wendell was working at Melart Jewelers in Martinsburg. He then went into the U.S. Army, and Lil stayed with her parents until he got out of the service in 1962.

Through their years together, Lil and Wendell had two children - a son, Wendell Leon Greene Jr., and a daughter, Denise Greene.

Lil worked at a number of jobs, but retired from Pangborn after 30 years there.

In recent years, she and her twin sister went into business together, opening L&L Classic Clothing in 2000.

"We always wanted to do something like this," Lola said.

Denise said she loved to shop at her mother and aunt's shop.

"She was off and running at that shop," Denise said of her mother. "Even when she wasn't feeling well, she was involved."

Lil's niece, Ruby Wilson, was just 16 months older than Lil and Lola, and grew up with them until her family moved to Connecticut.

There were many good times over the years - talking, laughing, snacking and visiting back and forth, Ruby said.

Having just had her last holiday with her mother, Denise said she now will have to rely on the thousands of memories they shared.

"Christmas, birthdays, all the family dinners, where this house was always the hub of the activities," Denise said.

Lil was very close to her only grandchild, Eryn Greene-Peacher, now 15. Denise said the two of them were a good pair, and enjoyed each other's company.

"Because of mom, I was able to go back to work," Denise said of her mother watching her daughter.

Beyond her family, Lil was very active at Ebenezer AME Church and with young people. The Rev. Leroy Jackson said Lil was hoping to set up some youth activities.

Lil arranged trips for children, and set up games and craft activities through a group she called Kids Night Out.

Jackson said Lil also volunteered to be church secretary for more than 10 years, doing the books and serving as a steward.

In 2000, the surviving Burnett children and their families gathered at Pangborn Park to rejoice in the family values they learned growing up.

Lola and Lil both were at that reunion, recalling a lot of memories of church and rules about behavior.

The highlight of the afternoon was the reading of the Burnett family tree. In turn, designated grandchildren began with one of the 18 siblings, and traced the lineage to the present generation.

With Lil's passing, there now are seven surviving Burnett siblings.

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