A TRIBUTE TO
DAYSIDEL DAY BRUISTER-BERRYHILL
(August 12, 1919 to April 2, 2006)
Del Ann Billingsley
Daysidel Bruister-Berryhill was born August 12, 1919, in Tutwiler, Mississippi, the daughter of James Ozro Day and Maude Barbara Reeves Day. Her father, best known as "J.O.," was born in Decatur, Mississippi, on November 30, 1888, to Samuel Marion Day and Eliza Frances Puckett. J. O. Day graduated from Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia, on June 12, 1912. He was a lawyer, a State Senator, a Circuit Court Judge and a U. S. Attorney for the Northern District of Mississippi. Mr. Day was also a World War I veteran, having served in the U. S. Army Infantry from 1917-1919. As an attorney with the U. S. Justice Department, he was one of the team sent to investigate the first election of Lyndon B. Johnson for the U. S. Senate seat of Texas where “the dead came back to vote.”
Daysidel’s mother was born November 18, 1890, to William Linus Reeves and Mary Belle Greer Reeves. Maude Barbara graduated from Mississippi Industrial Institute and College (MUW), Columbus, MS, on May 31, 1915. She went on to travel extensively throughout the state as one of Mississippi’s first county extension agents. Near the end of World War II when Maude was returning to Mississippi, she stopped in a service station to fill up her car with gas. The owner offered her land for her Studebaker (as cars were in such short supply) and she made the deal. Having second thoughts, afraid she had done the wrong thing, she called J. O. After listening to her story, J. O. told her they would make more cars but as near as he could tell the Lord had stopped making land. She caught the train the remainder of the way home with a land deed in her pocket instead of the car she had been driving.
How did the Day family end up in Tutwiler? It happened in 1918. Tutwiler was a thriving community then with doctors, dentists, insurance and furniture companies, a hotel and 13 passenger trains that traveled through the Delta town each day. Daysidel’s father, J. O., was returning by train to south Mississippi from a business trip when he stopped for lunch in the Delta town. During a conversation with some of the town leaders, he was offered a job - right on the spot – and he accepted! A year later, Daysidel was born.
Daysidel graduated from Mississippi College for Women (MUW) on August 14, 1940. She wanted to follow her father into the law profession - she was way ahead of her time - but her mother and father urged her to study music instead. She earned a Secondary Permanent Professional License which qualified her for a lifelong teaching position in the public high schools of the state. Her first teaching job was in Darling, Mississippi, a convenient location which enabled her to catch the train home to Tutwiler on a frequent basis.
During World War II, Daysidel moved to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the clerical department of Naval Intelligence. Thomas James "Tommy" Bruister, another Tutwiler native, was also in Washington at that time, working in the production of critical ordnance material at the U. S. Navy Yard.
Tommy’s father, Hiram Lafayette Bruister, was born August 20, 1879, and arrived in Tutwiler to work in a mercantile store that was owned by his uncle, Captain Fitch. Around 1908, Lafayette bought the Clay family farm (the Clays were the first white settlers in this area.) Tommy was born in Tutwiler on February 28, 1920, to Lafayette and his wife, Vera Leota Bacon (born August 11, 1883). Tommy attended Mississippi State College (MSU), graduating with a degree from the School of Engineering, Department of Mechanical Engineering on May 19, 1941.
Daysidel and Tommy married on April 19, 1942 in Washington, D. C.. Dr. Peter Marshall, the renowned minister of New York Avenue Presbyterian Church, officiated at the marriage ceremony. While in Washington, everyone was encouraged to have a "Victory" garden. Many of Daysidel and Tommy’s friends started gardens but soon tired of the effort to maintain them. Their gardens were eventually abandoned, but Daysidel and Tommy shared a love of the earth and a desire to finish a project started, so they ended up with five or six or more “Victory” gardens – and with an abundance of vegetables.
In 1948, after the estate of Tommy's father was settled, Tommy and Daysidel decided to return home to the family farm. They remained in Tutwiler for the rest of their lives.
Mary Louise Reeves Brister Burns, a maternal first cousin of Daysidel, relates a story she was told by her brother Wylie of a summer that Daysidel spent in Lincoln County, Mississippi, with her grandparents, William Linus Reeves and Mary Belle Greer Reeves. In Mary Louise's words:
"It seems there was a revival or as it is known here, a 'protracted meeting,' going on at Pleasant Hill Church (near Ruth, Mississippi). Aunt Rhoda decided it was time the grandchildren joined the church. Now remember they were 10 to 13 years old. So Aunt Rhoda marched them down the aisle to be 'saved.' The preacher was so pleased with the converts on that day. The children were: Wylie, Hazel, Daysidel, Ouida, Wilburn, Bill Hardy, and M.L. Wylie said they marched down like little goats. The way he told the story was so funny. I later borrowed a copy of the history of Pleasant Hill and a list of the church members and, sure enough, their names are recorded."
Mama never gave us children quite so many details as provided by Mary Louise, but we did go by the church with her, and she showed us where a clear creek gurgled along at the bottom of the hill from the church where she and her cousins had been baptized that summer day. While on one of our family jaunts in 2005, traveling from Tylertown to Brookhaven via Ruth, Mississippi, Mama pointed out where the creek once flowed. Today it is merely a spot of lush green grass, where water must still seep from the underground springs.
Mrs. Carroll "Janie" Bruister, a dear friend who married into the family in 1952, adds more insight: "One of the first things I discovered about Daysidel was her interest in genealogy. I should say her love of genealogy, which is more descriptive of her dedication to it. I remember her telling me that being the only child was a rather lonely thing, and since most of her friends had brothers, sisters, and relatives galore, it made her want a big family too. So, when she “discovered” a cousin at about 16 years of age, it made her want to enlarge her family even more, and the way to accomplish that was by knowing about her existing “cousins'” and those who came before her. Therefore, the hunt was on, and whenever she and Tommy traveled, she would visit the libraries on her quest for family connections. Up until her death, she was still finding “those who came before her'” , and even as late as December 2006 someone called looking for her, hoping to cement a lead he had gathered on a name they held in common. He told me of his visits with Daysidel and of her enthusiasm and help in introducing him to the Genealogy Department at the Greenwood-Leflore Library only the year before.
Daysidel joined the Mary Washington Chapter of the DAR, Daughters of the American Revolution (National #364638), on February 1, 1947, as a descendant of Lazarus Reeves, a sergeant during the Revolutionary War. She joined the National Society Colonial Dames XVII Century (1600-1701, National #8564) on May 26, 1968, as a descendant of Col. Williams Reeves, Sr. and The Order of the First Families of Mississippi (1699-1817, Membership #111) on August 20 1970, as a descendant of Lazarus Reeves who resided in Mississippi in 1810 and American Clan Gregor Society, Washington, D. C. (Certificate #2154) on August 19, 1984.
Daysidel and Tommy raised three children: James Day Bruister, born June 26, 1948; Del Ann Bruister Billingsley, born January 30, 1951; and Barbara Dayle Bruister Dunavent, born December 21, 1955.
In addition to her love of genealogy, Daysidel also traveled widely throughout her lifetime, beginning early in her marriage to Tommy. Both had accumulated vacation time during the war years in Washington, D.C. When they made the decision to return to Mississippi, they took seven weeks to travel around the United States. Throughout their years together, they toured all 48 contiguous states, visited Central America and made several trips to Europe. After Tommy's death on July 31, 1982, Daysidel continued to travel, always ready on a moment's notice when friends or her children called with the urge to hit the "back roads and perambulate."
Her son James Day Bruister recalls:
"Mama was one who knew her own mind. The only time I was able to change her mind from doing something that she had decided to do was when she was planning a cruise that would wind up in Columbia, South America. This was about a year after Daddy's death. I told Mama she had the money and plenty of time, BUT if she went and the revolutionaries 'got her,' not to call me; she was on her own.’ She decided not to take that particular trip.
Janie Bruister writes:
"Being reared by Godly parents, Daysidel became a fine Christian herself, using her talents and education in music to serve her church and community. An avid reader, she was a well-read person all her life---from enjoying novels to devouring the Congressional Record and other periodicals, from keeping abreast of the political scene to being very keen on issues prompting correspondence with politicians. She was just as dedicated to the jury system. A couple of years before her death (at age 84) she was summoned for Federal Jury Duty in Oxford, Mississippi, which was about an hour's drive from her home. She enthusiastically went, but the judge upon discovering her age and the distance she would have to travel, she was excused, much to her disappointment."
Finally, from another of Janie Bruister's accounts to us:
"Daysidel's mind remained sharp throughout her 86 years. Never did her special interests wane – those of travel, reading, playing bridge, being connected with the political scene locally and nationally, the hunt for cousins, and her enjoyment of a funny story. In the last weeks of her life, she would call and say, 'Tell me one of your funny stories.' We loved laughing together. Daysidel was a joy to know, to love as family, and to have as one of my dearest friends."
Daysidel enjoyed a rich and full life. She endured the Great Depression and the floods of both 1927 and 1937. She contributed to the war effort of the 1940s. She traveled throughout this country and saw much of the world – more than most. She discovered the world around her with an eager enthusiasm. She gave generously to her community and most importantly, she loved her God and her family.
Daysidel Day Bruister-Berryhill is truly missed.