A real family Christmas

Often I’m accused of promoting Judge Patti (Mungenast) Smith too much, but only of course, by Patti Smith herself.

No one else in Shelby County seems to mind because they know how truly unique and deserving she is.

Born one of 14 children, yes, that’s right, 14 children and both parents are still living if you can believe that.

Patti Smith and her siblings deserve a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Although, after spending a morning with the entire clan, I would say &uot;Ripley’s Believe it or Not&uot; would be more appropriate.

A military family, they are incredible people. They moved around throughout their lifetime and spent most of it in Montgomery. They are the Mungenast family.

Like having a family of 16 isn’t enough, they had to inherit a fairly tough name to spell and pronounce, too.

Their stories are hysterical.

They rival those of Erma Bombeck, Minnie Pearl and Phyllis Diller. But the successes the 14 children have become are even more incredible and an outstanding tribute to their character and their parents.

Three lawyers, (OK, so the others are successful &045; HA!) one a judge, one CEO of a major corporation, one successful entrepreneur, two accountants, three teachers, (one home schools &045; you think she would have had enough of that by now), a social worker, one engineer with military defense, one retired military officer working with FEMA, a Brigadier General and one of Mary Kay Ash’s most promising and aspiring makeup salesmen.

There’s not enough ink to print the other points of interests such as the various in-laws, one of which is a member of a professional circus family. Then again, some could say that the Mungenast Family is a circus family &045; a three-ring circus any time they’re all together.

After spending some time with the whole family over the holidays, I was amazed that there was not one bad apple in the bunch. There were no eccentrics, no wallflowers, no crazy brother, no &uot;Sybil,&uot; not even any mother-in-law jokes. Of course, if your mother-in-law had 14 children, would you say anything bad about her?

Every single one of them actually seems sane. They were bright, articulate, personable and caring people. Their love for each other was genuine and evident.

Then again, I guess if you lived in a house with 15 other people, you would have to learn to get along, share, nurture each other and be a diplomat. Patti reports the older children having to feed and dress at least one child every morning before they could leave for school. She was the only girl in junior high school who smelled like Pabulum.

There was the time seven of them had the chicken pox at once. And the time she and her siblings were watching soap operas they were told not to watch and baby brother fell out of his high chair on his head. They made a pact not to tell their parents, which was probably safeguarded until now. The good news is &045; it’s the brother who was just named CEO of a major corporation, so I guess he turned out OK after all.

I met Mrs. Mungenast, who, being the good Catholic she is, should receive Sainthood status &045; not because she’s a good Catholic, but because she gave birth to and raised 14 children. Just think, some days, I can’t even raise two.

What she has managed to accomplish makes the highly publicized mothers of sextuplets look like wimps. The real media frenzy should be made about any woman who can give birth to and successfully raise 14 children &045; without the aid of Prozac or Valium. Now that’s a story for TV talk shows.

Ms. Mungenast once said being a Catholic and having 14 children, you would think God would have given her a priest or a nun in the bunch. Needless to say, that didnt happen. I predict it’s because she had to have the heart and soul of a priest and nun combined to have raised them all.

Col. Mungenast, Patti Smith’s dad, a distinguished Air Force officer of 32 years, has flown 147 different types of planes during his career, but just days before I met him, as his son was being honored as one of only 75 Brigadier Generals in the country, he gave up the spotlight and sent a newspaper reporter away saying, &uot;This is not about me, this is about my son, go talk to him.&uot;

One of many selfless sacrifices he’s had to make for his family, I’m sure.

As most of the entire family was gathered for the military service, the icing on the cake was when Col. Mungenast stood and saluted his son, the General &045; something rare and heart-touching to see, I’m sure.

Judge Smith says the family rarely gets together as a whole because they’re so spread out and there are so many of them.

This was the first time that most of them had gathered in one place in eight years.

Twenty-four of the family members slept in her house while others stayed in local hotels. Her yard held more than 20 cars. It would have been the envy of any used car salesman in the area.

I think getting the Mungenast family together more often in Shelby County could be a huge boost for our economy. With all the food and gasoline they consume and the hotels needed to accommodate them, it could bring incredible tourism dollars to our county.

Through the years, America has seen the Brady Bunch, the Partridge Family, the King Family and the Osmond Family Christmas specials on television.

Well, this Christmas, Shelby County had the Mungenast Family Christmas special, and that’s the biggest, most impressive family of all.

Beth Chapman is a guest columnist for the Shelby County Reporter. She lives with her family in north Shelby County