Dispatches from Home: Kracker!

For those of us at dear ol’ First Baptist Church Gulfport old enough to remember our beloved Kraker, these snaps should bring back a memory or two! She was a pillar of our church, always ready with a bit of scripture or an uplifting word. Some of the happiest, carefree moments of my life were spent listening to her wonderfully funny stories of old days and times, usually spun after Wednesday night supper.

Here are a few of her memories “Tiger…please don’t ask me to slide down this water slide. I’ll stand on my head in the water but won’t do no sliding.” “Goodness, grashus! I didn’t think he’d ever stop praying. They outta put a timer on him.” “Skinner to the front! Skinner to the front!” “I’ll meet you in artificial flowers!”   

 These memories linger, too. Her sweet, humble prayers at the table in the old kitchen at FBC. She, Jean, Phyllis, Clara, and I often ate lunch there during the summer when I was out of school. Bacon and tomato sandwiches oozing with mayonnaise, tea sweetened to the point of intoxication, laughter, and delightful stories filled those carefree days of times long gone.

Kraker also told me about her dear husband, Peter Michael. They were a sweet couple who faced the world with laughter and love, even in the most challenging times. At the height of the Vietnam War, with riots in the streets and draft dodgers heading north to Canada, she laughed and said her beloved Peter Michael was a draft dodger, too.

When the Kaiser declared war in 1914 due to the assassination of the Austrian Grand Duke and his wife, German men were put on standby, standing at the ready to march off to war. Peter Michael disagreed with the Kaiser and his war, so he booked passage on the first steamer out of Germany, said steamer heading to the golden shores of America, where he made his lively hood cutting hair.

Peter Michael loved our beautiful beaches, often walking from Gulfport to Biloxi and back again with Kraker in tow. He loved Ship Island too, taking the morning excursion boat to the island, spending the day, and returning on the last boat back. One Sunday morning, he missed the boat and showed up at church, much to Kraker’s chagrin.

There he stood in natty shorts (in the days when that was a BIG no-no at church), a wrinkled shirt, and topsiders; said topsiders sporting a small, dead fish. Kraker could not whisk him away fast enough. When Peter Michael passed away, Kraker told me, “His passing has left a big hole in my heart, a hole I’ll never fill.” Her love and devotion to him always touched my heart.

Kraker’s passing was the death we should all wish for. She ate a big lunch, laughed with friends, and then decided to take an afternoon nap. Imagine going to sleep in this old world with its worries and cares, then waking up in Heaven with its golden streets and the golden promise of an eternity with God, his son, Jesus, and the friends and loved ones who had been promoted to Glory before her.

Ah! That each of us could leave this mortal coil as did that dear lady known to all as Kraker. To those of us who knew her, she personified her middle name. She was a Pearl of great price and wisdom. Her laughter was infectious, and her love for dear old FBC was boundless. And so her precious memory lingers, She’s gone but not forgotten! Miss ya, Kraker! Yes, that’s what we called her. Big hug, y’all!  

Kracker and Peter Michael’s church directory picture from the early 1970s. His tan from his long walks and days spent at Ship Island are self-evident.