‘Bucket List’ dwindles

Published 10:24 am Thursday, July 14, 2016

GATES – Three years shy of marking her 100th birthday,

Edith Holmes Freeman Seiling remains as spry and active as a person half her age.

This remarkable, 97-year-old woman has witnessed countless historical events, and even made history of her own….how many people her age do you know that have donned a helmet, saddled-up and rode a Harley Davidson?

Recently, Seiling marked one more item off of her bucket list, that of making a 1,000-mile road-trip to Little Rock, Arkansas to visit long time friends, Tom and Donna Gay. What she didn’t know was a surprise was waiting on the Arkansas end of the journey.

Edith Seiling poses with the esteemed Arkansas Traveler Ambassador certificate, one she was presented during a recent trip to Arkansas. | Contributed Photo

Edith Seiling poses with the esteemed Arkansas Traveler Ambassador certificate, one she was presented during a recent trip to Arkansas. | Contributed Photo

When Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson learned of the 97-year-old North Carolinian having visiting Little Rock as part of her bucket list, he got busy. During her visit, Governor Hutchinson arranged to have Seiling presented with an official Arkansas Traveler Certificate authorizing her to serve as an Ambassador of Good Will from Arkansas throughout the United States and beyond.

The Arkansas Traveler certificates represents the friendliness and hospitality that Arkansas extends to out-of-state visitors who have contributed to the progress, enjoyment, or well-being of the State of Arkansas or to her people. The certificate is signed by both Governor Asa Hutchinson and Secretary of State Mark Martin, and bears the official seal of Arkansas.

Included in the packet from the Governor was the story of the Arkansas Traveler, which is as follows:

According to legend, a tired and hungry traveler came upon a humble mountain cabin and found the owner sitting in the doorway, playing an old fiddle. The traveler stopped and asked the man why he only played the first part of the same old tune over and over. The fiddler replied that he didn’t know the rest of the song.

Taking the fiddle, the traveler played the rest of the tune. The fiddler was so happy that he invited the traveler to share in the comforts his home and to stay for as long as he wanted.

“Like the fiddler of this story, we want the recipient of the Arkansas Traveler’s certificate to enjoy our State, to have a pleasant, long visit, and to always say good things about the

State of Arkansas,” the Governor said.

Seiling enjoyed her week’s visit in Little Rock, taking a street car tour of downtown Little Rock, seeing The Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International Headquarters, visiting The Capital Hotel, as well as touring nearby Hot Springs and Garvan Gardens, and eating at The Whole Hog Cafe.

In July of 2013, Seiling removed another item from her “Bucket List” as Gates County’s senior historian experienced a ride on a motorcycle.

Mike Evans was her chauffeur, a happenstance meeting with Seiling who served as a tour guide of the old Gates County Courthouse for his Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) group that visited Gatesville.

“I had been down that way before, taking riders on tours of Confederate monuments and cemeteries there in Winton, Gatesville and Edenton,” said Evans, who resides in Courtland, VA and a member of the SCV’s Camp 1471 (Urquhart-Gillette Camp).

Evans, joined by Mike Armstead, the commander of his group, took a ride the day before to check out what was available in Gatesville to tour.

“I knew there were old archives in the old courthouse in Gatesville, so, of course, I wanted to see them for myself,” Evans said of the July 19 trip. “Mike and I went in; we saw the wall signed by Civil War veterans. We then went across the street to the (county manager’s) office and talked with a lady who was very helpful. We asked could we meet someone there to allow larger group into the courthouse the next day.”

Seiling was the person the group – 20 bikers strong – would meet on July 20, 2013.

“We started out in Churchland (VA) that morning and rode to Gatesville,” Evans said. “We parked our bikes and met Miss Edith and Pat Familiar along with a man by the last name of Parker. They gave us a history of the courthouse.”

As the conversation ensued with Seiling, Evans – whose family traces their toots to the Sand Banks area of Gates County – found out that his father (the late Jesse Evans) worked for her husband, Frank Seiling, at the paper mill.

“That was some great history to share,” he said.

The group then gathered in front of the old courthouse for a photo and purchased one of the Gates County Historical Society books from Seiling, who autographed it for the group.

“As we were preparing to leave, Miss Pat came up and told me that Miss Edith has a bucket list…one thing she has always wanted to do is ride a motorcycle,” Evans said. “We fitted her with a helmet and glasses, helped her onboard where she threw her arms around me and said let’s go. We rode for about four blocks. Miss Edith gave us a wonderful history of that building and in return we gave her a chance to scratch off something on her bucket list.”

As a long-standing member of the Gates County Historical Association, Seiling is among those active in an ongoing effort to restore the county’s old courthouse, built in 1836. She is at the forefront in plans to complete the Thadd Eure Museum upstairs in the old courthouse. She added that the Historical Society has their own library in the building, future plans call for an effort to get those books in order.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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