The featured family for April, Nat and Neal Sumner, are dedicated parents and true Ole Miss fans who have just celebrated their 57th wedding anniversary last month! The two met at Ole Miss in the 60’s when Neal was in her junior year of undergraduate and Nat was in his second year of law school. After graduation, they married and moved to Winona where they raised their 3 children: John, Susan and Harry Hall. All three children attended Ole Miss, where they also met their spouses. So far, 5 out of their 7 grandchildren have all attended Ole Miss and they are hopeful the last two will continue the tradition. Nat and Neal enjoyed visiting Oxford so much, that they purchased a residence in 2002, mainly for games and events. Finally, in 2013, the family decided to reside here permanently.
They have two cats, Mama and Sister, who is Mama’s baby. They also have their wonderful maltese, Gracie, who they were gifted by a neighbor and late dear friend, Mike Ellis. Mike and Gracie made frequent trips to the Sumners; where Gracie would come for the cheese, but stay for the fetch and abundance of love. Gracie’s dad, Mike, cherished and loved her so much. When he became ill and began to struggle to care for her, Nat and Neal stepped in and asked if they could help care for her and promised to bring her to see her dad everyday. Gracie’s move to the Sumners was an easy transition for her. She had a bed all set up in Nat and Neal’s room, which is now just a prop. She quickly acclimated to sleeping in their bed, and has done so ever since. Before Mike passed, within one short year of becoming ill, Gracie got to see her “Master” everyday and get cheese. She was a wonderful support for him during his illness and was lucky enough to be able to tell him goodbye. Before he died he wrote them a beautiful letter thanking them for keeping her for him and told them they could have her if they wanted. That was a very easy decision. They became her parents and are forever grateful to Mike for entrusting them with such a sweet, precious girl.
When they take Gracie out for her walks, the cats go too. They walk really close to her face and rub on her the whole way! They never miss an outing. On late afternoons, some of the neighbors bring their pups to the gazebo, where they all enjoy watching the pups play. Mama and Sister tag along, but usually stay at the end of the sidewalk should a quick getaway need to be executed.
Gracie is usually ready for bedtime around 8pm. She goes to Neal and stares at her until she gets up and heads for the bedroom. Then Gracie grabs her leftover dog bone and prances to the bed, where Gracie is covered in her blanket and cuddled into a happy slumber. Sometimes Neal tries to return to the living room, but Gracie barks until she comes back to bed and loves on her until she really falls asleep, which is what she wanted all along.
Neal faithfully keeps Gracie’s monthly “beauty parlor” visit, where she is pampered and treated like the true princess that she is! When loading her into the car, after her appointment, they have to take special care to keep the sun out of her eyes, as they are sensitive to bright light! Neal has confirmed that she does have sunglasses, though not the biggest fan of them. Gracie is always very proud of herself after her pampering, and her mom comes to retrieve her and admiringly places her on her travel pillow in the car. What a lucky little lady she is to have such devoted, adoring parents… and what an inspirational story that brought them all together. Happy Spring!