Lelia Galloway and her amazing adventures

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A common sight as you drive or walk down Nabors Street in Montevallo is the almost 98-year- old Leila Galloway working among her beautiful flowers.

In the spring, she&8217;ll be almost hidden in the gorgeous red tulips and yellow snapdragons. In summer, she&8217;s cultivating an array of colorful zinnias, in the fall vivid marigolds and during the winter, pansies brighten her yard. She is well-known for her flowers and for sharing them with her church and her friends.

Not only generous with her flowers, Leila loves to share interesting yarns about her adventurous life.

During a recent visit, she reminisced, mixing expressive Spanish phrases in the telling of her story. She was born in south Alabama into a Presbyterian minister&8217;s family. She was the youngest child with two brothers and two sisters.

They didn&8217;t have very much in the way of material things, but when they complained about not having the things other children had, their mother responded, &8220;Yes, but you have a wonderful heritage.&8221; Leila remembered that, as a 9-year-old, a new dress was a lot more important than a wonderful heritage.

Much was expected of the children and they gave much. Leila graduated from Brewton High School as class valedictorian. She had not missed a day of classes nor had she been tardy. The local bank awarded her a $15 cash prize. She remarked, &8220;I don&8217;t know what I spent the money for, but I do know that was more money than I had ever had at one time.&8221;

In the fall after high school graduation, young Leila took the train to Alabama College in Montevallo where she earned a degree in sociology. Montevallo was a great experience.

She gained not only an education but a bit of independence.

After college, she accepted a job in Huntsville where she worked in social services.

It was in Huntsville, too, that she met and was courted by her future husband. She remembered, &8220;His sister and I were very good friends, and I think the whole family courted me.&8221;

Doc, as she called her husband, was a family doctor who was working in Columbia, South America. He thought, at the time they married, that he would soon finish up there and return to the United States. &8220;I was young and in love and I thought living in Columbia for a short time would be fun and exciting,&8221; Leila commented.

The promised short stay turned into 35 years. Arriving in Columbia, she found their home to be three rooms and a kitchen behind her new husband&8217;s office in downtown Pereira. As the doctor&8217;s new wife, she was an immediate celebrity. A great number of the ladies in town called on her and expected a return visit; quite a challenge for a young inexperienced bride.

In addition to the other demands of her social life, she and her husband entertained many visitors to the city.

In those days there were almost no overnight accommodations, so the Galloways had many overnight guests. Leila adapted quickly to the role of a gracious hostess. Because she had been trained in social services, she immediately recognized the needs of the women in Columbia.

She organized a club to help these women gain status. Later she became friends with the U. S. Ambassador&8217;s wife, who, with Leila&8217;s encouragement, initiated the first welfare program in Columbia.

When son John came along, Dr. Galloway built a large comfortable brick home. Later they bought and managed a 2000-acre farm where they had a dairy and raised beef cows and sheep.

Trips to the farm were difficult because of the mud and poor roads.

Someone had to meet them with horses for the last 10 miles of their journey. Leila became an expert horsewoman, and little John soon learned to ride and to love horses and the country life.

Dr. Galloway thought that when John had his 10th birthday he needed a &8220;proper education,&8221; so they sent him to the United States.

His mother joined him there, but they spent their summers back in Columbia.

When John graduated from high school and began his medical studies at Vanderbilt, Leila rejoined her husband in Columbia. Leila is very proud of John, a general surgeon, and her four very accomplished granddaughters.

Upon the death of her husband in 1966, Leila remained in Columbia two years, taking care of their personal business and disposing of property. She then returned to Alabama and settled in Montevallo where her sister, Mary Kennerly, lived and where she had gone to college.

Catherine Legg can be reached via e-mail at mailto:clegg2@bellsouth.net