Natchez warmth reaches up North

Published 12:03 am Wednesday, December 3, 2014

My mom had a saying she and her brother had learned from their parents growing up in Natchez: “If you’re good, you don’t have to tell anybody; they’ll tell you.”

Well, this letter is to tell you good people that you have a native daughter of whom you can be proud, and that shows the good in Natchez everyday.

Carolyn (Bowlin) Luciani was born in Natchez in 1934. She grew up on Rankin Street in the shadows of one of the town’s finest antebellum mansions, but the life inside the mansion was one she would never be familiar with. Her upbringing was a modest one shared with a brother she adored. She played basketball and was a cheerleader for Natchez High School and faithfully attended Jefferson Street United Methodist Church. It was at that same church that she accepted Christ as her Savior, and dedicated her life to service in His name.

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Upon graduating, and with significant financial help from her church family, Carolyn left Natchez to attend a bible college in Iowa, fully intending to go from there into mission work wherever God sent her. God works in mysterious ways, though, and Carolyn fell in love with a man from Michigan who, like her, had been called to service for the Lord and was studying to be a Methodist minister. She married George and soon found her mission as a minister’s wife in northern Michigan.

Carolyn’s role as a “minister’s wife” was hard and no less one of ministry than her husband’s. She fully devoted herself to being half of a team that transformed thousands of lives throughout more than 40 years in the church. She traveled to Israel, China, Cuba, Brazil, Hawaii and throughout the rest of the United States spreading God’s love and inspiring others. She taught, and continues to teach, Bible studies and missions seminars and through that work has had an even greater impact.

Carolyn turned 80 this year. She is still teaching, leading, loving, laughing and telling the stories she learned on her father’s knee all those years ago in Natchez. Her ministry is largely in helping to care for George now. George suffers from dementia, but even so the two of them live together, still sharing a love each day others can only hope for.

She gets moral support from her weekly visits with her brother, Clarence, who still lives and works in Natchez and still leads the ushers at Jefferson Street UMC.

When Carolyn’s mother, Ella Bowlin, passed away, she left a small amount of money to her children. That money has been used to help establish a scholarship fund at Jefferson Street UMC for young people pursuing ministry or missions. The latest recipient of that scholarship was Bo Myers, Clarence’s grandson, who is in the final stages of becoming a Methodist minister. More lives touched and changed.

Carolyn and George have four children and 11 grandchildren. They have three great-grandchildren. Although we are all “Yankees,” we love our Natchez, Mississippi roots and have countless memories of our visits there — of black eyed peas and corn bread, fried catfish, barbeque, Fat Momma’s Tamales, Dixie Youth baseball, antebellum homes and parks, Civil War monuments, breathtaking vistas and other things that make Natchez home away from home. We wore Ole Miss and LSU T-shirts when everyone else wore Michigan and Michigan State.

But, more than anything, our treasured memories are of the people there; of family reunions and lingering over a Coke or a sweet tea and figuring out all the ways to solve problems wherever they might be. We remember hearing the uncles and aunts telling stories and the laughter that was ever-present. We remember the hugs where you could literally feel the “I love you,” and the good-natured teasing that somehow reinforced that love. We remember people — black and white — who always had a big smile and a “how’re y’all?” as they passed by or greeted you. And we remember the pride mom had, and still has, in that town she’ll always call home.

Thank you, Natchez, for helping to raise and instill a sense of value and purpose into a little girl you met 80 years ago.

Your good work changed the world and made it better. Merry Christmas, and best wishes for the coming year from one of your biggest fans up North.


Douglas Luciani is a resident of Traverse City, Mich.