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~Three Cousins University Graduates ~

Graduation Party Photos Follow Invitation

You are cordially invited to a
Graduation Celebration
 to honor three industrious Cousins who
have earned their respective Bachelor's Degree:
(In order of birth):
Jenna Ann Dewith
M. Breighan Ladd
Taylor K. Anderson
Thursday, May 17, 2007
Six o'clock in the evening

The Party was a Blast!!


Above to left: The Three Cousin University Graduates cut the cake:

Taylor K. Anderson, Michele Breighan Ladd, and Jenna Ann Dewith.

(Click on thumbnail to enlarge... it's worth it!) 

Above to right: Everyone is looking with angst... "Will Taylor even try to cut the cake properly?"  LOL.  We're all forever teasing our cutie Taylor (his eyes are extraordinary!).  Breighan and Taylor have been like vinegar and oil since birth... you'd think them brother and sister instead of cousins... yet they do love each other dearly.  It took them to be in their 20s and University Graduates to finally appreciate one another.  {From left to right: Little Hailey, Taylor's mom (my cousin) Letitia Dewith-Anderson, , Moi, my dearest friend for three decades Iris Lugo (we had the party at her house), and Iris' daughter {Hailey's mom} Alison Powers Storm (my goddaughter).  

University Graduate Jenna A. Dewith (my cousin Enyo's daughter) is one of the sweetest sweeties on the planet.  I love her so much.  Here she sits with two of her good pals.

University Graduate Michele Breighan Ladd (my daughter!) receives

"Highest Mickey Mouse Honors" from her God-niece (and cutie pie) Hailey-Baby.

University Graduate Taylor K. Anderson sits proud and handsome with his younger sister, the doe-eyed beautiful talented sportswoman that she is (this girl can play some B-BALL folks!), Alison.  Both are my cousins' Letitia (Dewith-Anderson) & Bill's (Anderson) children.  And no... Letitia and Bill aren't cousins... they are both MY cousins.  There ain't no backwoods breedin' allowed 'round here... LOL.

My cousin Letitia and her husband Bill Anderson.  Proud parents of their edjumakated son!

Charmaine reunites with childhood schoolmate and dear friend Jay Dee Shattuck.  He goes by Jay Shattuck now... but I ain't listen'.  I love you JAY DEE.  Jay Dee's parents were always so good to me.  Not only as a child, but also as a married adult when Bill and I moved just a few houses down from Jay Dee's parents.  Just two wonderful and loving people.  I was so saddened to hear of the recent loss of Jay Dee's father.  Here's a big kiss and a hug to your lovely mother, Jay Dee.  You make sure she gets it!  Love you very much and it was so wonderful to be with you again.

{Click thumbnail to enlarge.}

Lord have mercy... I had no clue, nor did Jay Dee... that we have a common bond very close to us both.  Jay Dee didn't know I was Letitia's cousin.  Jay Dee works closely with Letitia and her husband Bill Anderson.  Too funny.  So here I invite Jay Dee to the Graduation Party and totally forget they all work together.  So when I sneaked up on them at their little "Pow-Wow" corner I gave 'em hell about it!  LOL  Not really... but it was kinda funny.  Letitia is my cousin by way of her mother - Juanita Barton - who is my father's sister.  I call her Aunt Tete {pronounced "Tee-Tee"}.  That was her childhood nickname my father gave her.  And she is so petitie and adorable she has always fit her nickname, well... to a TEE.  We love you Aunt Tete!! 

Graduate Breighan modeling her handcrafted shawl given to her as a gift from the maker Jo Powers (Sister's mother-in-law).  Sister is to Breigh's left and little Hailey Baby watches as Carter takes a picture.

"Girls, we are having a blast!  Okay... now what was it I was saying?"

What is Taylor doing now?  Alison, her Uncle Enyo and his girlfriend Lisa chuckle.

Graduate Jenna can now relax!  Her father, Enyo Dewith, is behind her.

The Smith Ladds and The Sloans.  I love it and Cec and Bob we love you!!

I ask my God-daughter's husband...  "Jim, do you want a bite or not?

Jim replies, "Only if you feed it to me, Char."  Well Okie Dokie!

Definitely Sisters.

Graduate Taylor in the kitchen as his Dad Bill watches.

Moi and God-daughter Alison.

Jay Dee... "I don't remember that..." I say, "Yeah... you do!" 

Jay Dee turns to Bill and Letitia and says, "Now this is the Charmaine I remember!"

LOL  "Little Miss Bossy" would you say, Jay?  Love ya!

Graduate Jenna's pals.

My fireman (Lieutenant) cousin: Enyo Dewith.  Love ya Enyo!

From left to right: Jay Dee, Letitia, Bill, Lisa and Iris.

Graduate Taylor sits to chow with his sister Allison.

Iris, Lisa, and Enyo.

Daughter Breighan with our lifelong family friend, Bob Sloan.

Daughter Breighan and her beau, Ryan Carter.

Hailey-Hay pointing to Breigh and her mother Alison : "No.. it was over there... see..."

Graduate Jenna and her cousin my Bill.

Breighan talks with cousin Jai who lives in Cordoba, Argentina.  Jai Dewith-Jones, a newlywed!!  Her husband, sweet Juan (whom I love to refer as "Juan-in-a-Million") called her everyday and then some while she was back home caring for her mother, my Aunt Juanita "Aunt Tete."  Most everyone was up at the hospital nearly every day.  But Jai and her older sisters: Cecine (Dewith- Jones), Letitia (Dewith-Anderson) and Shannon (Dewith-McCormick of Philly)... they DID live up at the hospital.  Aunt Tete was never left alone.  Someone was there 24/7 and I am sure that is how their loving mother survived -- they made it happen!  During the graduation party they were taking shifts so each one could attend.  Bless your  hearts my darling cousins.  How very, very much we love you. 

Our God-children: Grand-Goddaughter Hailey and her mother, our God-daughter Alison.

Yup... they're dancers!

Cousin Enyo's friend, Lisa, isn't sure what's so funny.  Lisa is a sweetheart.

Edwin "Sonny" Lee Jr. {his sister Edith is a dear, dear friend from way back... she was not able to be here this night... but we sure did miss her presence} laughs as Cheyenne says "Not funny."  Ted Draper, longtime family friend and close to my cousin Enyo, looks on... "You shootin' me with that camera, Man?"  LOL  Ted is a HOOT!!  Funny, funny, funny!  He had Jim and Alison Storm, my sister Cheyenne, and moi in stitches out on the patio.  It was late and few were left... but Ted made up for it!  I thought I would PMP listening to him.  The man was on a roll and had us ROLLIN'.  Love you Ted... and thanks for the laughs.  I laughed so hard I could actually feel I had ABS.  Dang!!

Ryan (our daughter's boyfriend) Carter and Bill talk in the background as the author and Godchild Alison conjure up some "Juicy Fruit."  My sister Cheyenne seems to be making sure no one sneaks up on us... LOL.  I can hear saying to me now... "Why are you so bad!"

Cousin Bill and I talking (to left) and husband Bill talking to longtime family friend Cecilia Sanders Sloan.  Cecilia and Bob Sloan finally got married after more than two decades of being together.  We couldn't have been happier for them both.  Two absolutely wonderful souls.

Bill and Letitia's daughter, Alison Anderson and I having fun.  She's so adorably cute.  She said she was full... I was showing her right where that cake went (and I should know!).  LOL.  Wanted to test those basketball abs.  She got 'em too!  LOL  Alison was actually named after Letitia's oldest sister... her Aunt Alison... whom we all adored.  We lost our sweet Alison a long time ago to sudden illness.  It's so wonderful to still have an ALISON in this family.  And we have TWO!

Charmaine talking with Lisa and her boyfriend, my dearest cousin -- firefighter Lt. Enyo Dewith.

Hugs and Kisses all around as the Graduates disperse.

Charmaine holds her cousin Bill (Letitia's husband) tightly.  How much I love you Bill.

Graduate Jenna (orange jacket), turn around.  Lisa is to right and you can see Graduate Taylor in green.  Looks like his little sister is between he and Lisa... sounds about right.  LOL  Just kidding!

"Who is that behind those Foster Grants?  Is that YOU, Buddy-Bud?"

Breighan and Alison grew up as sisters.  Breighan calls Alison "Sister" like a name.

"Mom, where's Sister?"  -- "She's sitting right up there behind those sunglasses!"

Our Cawluge edjumaketed gradjuet baby chile... Sweet and Beautiful Breighan.

The spread was delicious and plenty of it!  Fantastic!

Charmaine's crew (actually family who helped in every way): Hailey Baby with Grandma Iris and her lovely dancer mommy Alison.  In fact, they all dance (well, not me... I don't wear clogs!)... ha.  Just kidding.  I'm proud of my dancing family!  Grandma Jo should be in this picture too (Jo Powers is Alison's father Jim's wife and is one of the dearest people I know).  They ALL dance in shows together.  No, not Jim... but all the womenz.  Shows ya what women can do!  Let's see some guys try that.  HAH!

Jo and Jim we missed ya, darlings!  Hope to spend some time with ya both next trip. 

"Honey, we pulled it off.  Whew!  I love you!"

Our heroic photographer... whom I call "Brother"... the dashing and charming John Porter!

Thank you John!  Big Hugs and Lottsa Kisses!

One Last Note from Behind-the-Scenes:

This was a superb graduation party for three cousins who richly deserved one.  This was a very trying time for our whole family.  Times were (and still are) more of illness and stress... and strain.  But somehow this family, the Smiths & Dewiths, we just don't let it get to us.  We keep on keepin' on.  It was my daughter Breighan's idea to have a graduation party for all three cousins.  I said, "But I thought you can't stand Taylor."  She said, "No, Mom.  I actually love him very much and you know it."  GASP!!!  Took 23 years to hear that.  LOL

Breighan's idea was a perfect one.  My great friend (she's really family as her daughter is my God-daughter and her granddaughter is my God-granddaughter...) Iris Lugo said "Let's do it!"  We stay at her home when we visit Springfield and it all worked out perfectly.  Everyone helped in any way they could.  Even my BUDDY {aka Iris' daughter Alison} baked a beautiful and delicious carrot cake.  That cake went FAST!  LOL

And my dear friend, Iris' longtime companion John Porter came down from Chi-town to take part.  He's family too... been for thirty years whether he knew it or not!  Ha.  John is a Vietnam veteran who endures to this day chronic pain from injuries of so long ago.  But he took all the pictures of the graduation party and one can't just sit down and make that happen!  It was so great to get to spend some time with John after such a dry spell.  John Porter and I share the same birthday, along with another dear friend as well (Renae Whiteside Matlock).  We're all family.  I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who worked so hard to pull this last minute party off and running.  And we all had an absolute blast!

~ ~ ~

If some of us look a little haggard (yeah you, 'Tish... LOL) 'Tisha's mom, Aunt Tete, has been recovering from a massive stroke and she is the reason we all got together in Springfield much earlier than planned.  We jumped on the first plane (as all her children did) and got to Springfield as fast as we possibly could.  We adore our Aunt Tete and she is still doing remarkably well.  Given only a 10% chance of recovery... she is making those doctors rewrite their books of prognosis!  Aunt Tete is also the Aunt we all got together and celebrated her 80th birthday last October.  Aunt Tete... WE LOVE YOU!  To Letitia, Jai, and Shannon, The cousins I call "The Three Musketeers" because we always said their names at once... "LetitiaJaiandShannon" and their older sister Cecine - I say this: Your unwavering devotion to your mother should be a model for everyone on this planet.  It is because of your total commitment to her recovery that the recovery actually IS. 

I can hear my darling cousin Cecine saying, "It's God's work not ours."  Well... yeah, sister.. but you listen to me on this one: God does his works through others.. have you seen him at Wally World lately?  LOL  No.  God sent you sisters to your mother's side and there you stay.  Love you all with all my heart.  And to their brother Enyo, my cousin whom I so adore and always will, I say: Worry not... As your mother wrote before this happened: "... give me the patience as I wait upon Him."  It was something like that, perhaps not verbatim, but the meaning is the same.  She waits.  So we wait.

And I love you!

And the same goes for Letitia's husband, Bill.  Bill has a rare form of what used to be considered solely a children's cancer.  Diagnosed over three years ago and given basically no chance of survival... Bill jogs and goes to work every day despite his rigorous schedule of chemotherapy and other strength depleting treatments -- he's been doing that for over three years now!  When Bill smiles you feel it.  When Bill laughs you laugh... even if you don't know what he's laughing about... because it just feels so good to be around someone with so much heart and soul.. and, LOVE.  I have never heard Bill complain.  At the party his eye was blackened and he was going to the doctor the following day to see what it was all about.  He wasn't worried.  I wasn't either.  Because he wasn't.  And it came out to be all good!  I am loving you Bill Anderson.

I have told Bill many times... when he's totally recovered, I want him to enter the Iron Man Contest and I'll bet everything I got on it.  LOL  Bill and Letitia together are living proof that FAITH, LOVE, and HOPE really are necessary beliefs for the strength needed to preserve mankind as a whole.  Letitia... I am soooo lovin' you too!




April 23, 2008

Hey my Lovelies,

We are yet in Illinois.  We'll return to Marathon in another week or so. 

Didn't want any of you to miss the Illinois Times' article about my dearest cousins, Bill and Letitia.  We attended Letitia's beloved Bill's funeral and Celebration of Life yesterday.  Many of you were there as well, but perhaps are not aware of the newspaper article.

Letitia is doing well ("well" is definitely relative), surrounded by family and friends who love her and her Bill dearly.  She is a pillar of strength at this most difficult time.  Their children, Taylor and Allison, are doing astonishingly well.  Bill and I will forever be grateful for the blessing of having shared our earthly existence with the incomparable "Superman," the late, great, Bill Anderson.

Dusty Rhodes writes for the Illinois Times and was in attendance at the Celebration of Life for Bill.

Dusty Rhodes' literary piece on Bill: "The Death of Superman."


The death of Superman
Bill Anderson’s journey through cancer had a healing effect on everyone around him



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Letitia Dewith-Anderson once scared me silly. She rang my phone, which she didn’t do very often, and when I  answered I could tell that this call was of some gravity. “I’ve got bad news,” she said solemnly. My heart dropped. A few years earlier, her husband, Bill Anderson, had learned that he had neuroblastoma, a common childhood cancer that rarely strikes adults. When it does, it’s virtually always fatal. In fact, Bill and Letitia didn’t know of another adult who had survived the disease as long as he had. Bill was a miracle. Superman. “My mother’s in the hospital,” Letitia said. “They’re trying to figure out what’s going on, but she may have had a stroke . . . .”Wait a minute — her mother? I mean, I love, respect, and adore Mrs. Juanita Barton, and I was sorry to hear that she was in the hospital — but she has grandchildren. She has lived a full life. Bill, on the other hand, had just turned 40. I told Letitia that if she planned to call other people, she might want to rephrase her speech. “Oh, you thought something had happened to Bill she guffawed like I’d made the funniest joke ever. “Bill’s fine. We don’t even consider Bill sick,” she said. We chuckled about that phone call again Sunday night as we sat at her kitchen table, sharing a box of tissues and reminiscing about Bill while Letitia’s mother, among other assembled friends and relatives, dozed in the den. They met in the late 1980s while working for House Speaker Mike Madigan. Letitia says she never really noticed Bill, except that he “looked like a geek,” until one day, sitting at her desk, she heard the voice of God speaking directly to her and saying, “You are going to marry this man.” She looked up, and there stood Bill. The next day, they attended a meeting in Chicago and wound up going to a Halloween party, smoking cigars, and walking in the rain. Bill gallantly and jokingly laid his coat on the ground for her to walk on. They’ve been together ever since.
Even when Letitia was attending law school in Chicago, she drove home to Bill every night. “We couldn’t sleep without each other,” she says. They were a well-matched and complementary pair: Letitia took charge of the intensity department and Bill presided over all things mellow. They grew together — their family, their careers, their faith.
  “We woke up and had breakfast together, we went to work together, we hung out at the Capitol together, we ate lunch together, we hung out with our friends, we came home and went back to bed together,” Letitia says. When I met them, Letitia had taken a high-profile job with Mayor Tim Davlin’s administration. Just 10 tumultuous months later, she resigned [see “Leaving Oz,” Jan. 15, 2004] and went back to working as a lobbyist, like Bill. Within two months, the City Hall circus faded into a fleck of a memory when something happened that put worldly cares into perspective. On March 29, 2004, Bill was involved in a carwreck. Though he initially felt fine, he began experiencing back pain. Tests revealed a stage IV neuroblastoma the size of a grapefruit pressing against his spine. Letitia’s natural reaction was to move any mountain to find a cure — only, with neuroblastoma, it wasn’t possible. “We did the research and we realized they can’t do anything,” she says. “It was very clear: This is not something that man can do.”
  Bill underwent surgery and extreme chemotherapy so powerful that its aroma stung Letitia’s eyes. She administered her own treatment: massive doses of love and constant infusions of passionate prayer. To the amazement of everyone else, Bill got well. He returned to work, resumed his daily jogging, kept going to their daughter’s basketball games. Letitia asked me to come “interview” Bill on video so that they would have something to memorialize their journey through cancer. Clearly they had moved past it.
  Over the next couple of years I would ask about Bill whenever I touched base with Letitia about other stuff (mostly how to dredlock my son’s hair). Sometimes she would mention that Bill was undergoing more chemo or radiation or receiving platelet transfusions, but she always said he was doing fine. And indeed, every time I saw him, as recently as October, he was the same sweet, wonderful guy — happy, healthy, Their preferred treatment — prayer — had also continued, to the point that Bill experienced an intimate awareness of the Creator. Last year, when he bought a new car, he got PFT PWR 1 on his license plates, not because his BMW M3 was so fast but because he had connected with the perfect power.
  “Bill always had strong faith,” Letitia says, “but believing and knowing is something completely different. This journey taught Bill that our lives are not about ourselves but about God, the universal mind, that perfect power.”
  Three weeks ago, the doctors said that the chemo and radiation had induced acute leukemia. “I say this hesitantly, because I know they told me, but Bill and I don’t believe in paying attention to the doctors. They mean well,” Letitia says, “but they give people no hope.”
  He died Friday night, in their bed, in her arms. Letitia, though, knows in her heart that he was healed.
“What’s most important is the spirit, not the body. The healing wasn’t just Bill; each and every one of us has been healed,” she says. “The outcome may not have been everything we thought it would be, but it may have been even greater. Bill touched so many lives, he’s never going to die.”   Contact Dusty Rhodes at


Vaca Key Bight Clouds & The Sunset

Dedicated to the Memory of my Beloved Cousin

William J. Anderson

September 18, 1964 - April 19, 2008

There was no doubt which of my photographs I'd dedicate to Bill's memory.  It had to be this one because it is indicative of how weather can be bad and good even when it is side by side.  It can be raining on one side of the street and sunny on the other.  Bill's health, after being diagnosed with Neuroblastoma, was turbulent: he'd be jogging one day and in high spirits and then he'd be in excruciating pain the next.  I don't know how Bill did all the things he did... he never showed me he was in pain... but as one with chronic back pain due to a congenital deformity... I could see that look behind the smile on his face. 

Even so, I am still convinced that Bill Anderson was truly healed.  Letitia's sister, my cousin Jai Dewith-Jones, said "I too believe Bill was healed.  God must have needed him for something very, very special."  Bill Anderson was indeed a very, very special human being.  He was actually much more than special.  He was, as I had written here after the graduation party: he was my IRON MAN.

My family is a great one.  We have repeatedly endured hardship, illness and death.  Even though Bill was suffering he never asked to be treated any differently... he was always there for his immediate family and very kind, generous, and loving to all we in his extended family.  It is people like Bill who make us put things in perspective.  He has served to show us the way it should be.  And that solidifies the strength we have always had.  Bill is the exclamation point of faith.  We are strong and we are proud in that we were blessed to know those who have left us.  The love we have for those who have gone and our fond memories of them will keep them alive in our hearts and serve to elevate our heads and our spirits when times are low.  We cannot be downtrodden -- for the Heavens have opened its gates for us through those like Bill, my son Bj, my parents, my brother, I could go on and on.  Bill Anderson is in great company.  He, Daddy and Bj are shooting pool and being reminded by one of the Saints that "You don't 'kick butt and take names' in Heaven." 

And one day we all will hopefully be there too.  We shall see our love ones again.

We love you Cousin Bill.  Sleep and Smile.  We shall one day hold you in our arms again.

Charmaine (& Bill)

~  Charmaine's spectacular "Sunrise to Sunset" Gallery ~