Father’s Day Reflections: Uncle Johnny

Last weekend, after a few years absent, I attended the Carlton Family Reunion in Georgia, otherwise known as the annual meeting of the Carlton Memorial Cemetery Association. My great-great-grandmother, Nancy Barrett Carlton, deeded an acre of land to her son, John Bolling Carlton, for a cemetery in 1847. The Association was formed later as an official nonprofit organization for the care and upkeep of the cemetery. This annual reunion has taken place for over 100 years, started back in the time when family members lived close to the family farm in Monroe, Georgia. My father was the youngest of ten children of James Edward and Eugenia Sheats Carlton. The original ten have passed and today the gathering includes their descendants, many of whom have scattered far and wide.

As a child, I recall sitting with a full plate on the big wraparound porch of the old farmhouse in Monroe when we came to the reunion from our home near Washington, DC. My father brought us every year. The house had a breezeway down the middle; one side had a living room and kitchen and the other had bedrooms. There were more bedrooms and another kitchen on the second floor. My father once pointed out to me the first floor bedroom where he was born in 1909.

And oh, the food. Everyone brought something: from Brunswick Stew to fried chicken to Lima beans to sweet potato pie and Rocky Mountain cake. There was a big tub of sweet tea with a ladle to fill your cup from. It was a feast.

Sadly, the house has long ago left family ownership. This year I learned it had burned to the ground. We met nearby at the Hot Rod Diner in Social Circle, Georgia for a delicious lunch including Parmesan chicken, green beans, mac’n’cheese, black-eyed peas and peach cobbler.

Cousin Edward, 83, President of the Association and son of Uncle James, led the meeting. He asked each person (around 25 in number) to introduce themselves, saying from whom they had descended and sharing whatever stories they wanted to tell. This took up most of the time for a family of story-tellers who love to laugh.

Edward’s son, John Thomas Carlton II, my father’s namesake, told of going at age eight in 1982 on the airplane all by himself from Atlanta to Washington where Uncle Johnny met him and took him on a tour of the White House. He came home with an autographed photo of President Reagan. It was his first airplane trip and quite a thrill.

Cousin Carol, granddaughter of Aunt Mary, told of a time when she and her husband lived near my parents in northern Virginia. My dad brought flowers from his garden to her office every week. She told me Uncle Johnny was very attentive and it meant a lot to her to have family nearby.

Cousin Richard, grandson of Uncle James, told of being the ring bearer in a backyard wedding when he was seven. This would have been 1970 when I was the bride. He was told (he didn’t specify whom but it sure sounded like something my dad would have done) that if he didn’t drop the ring as he walked down the aisle, he could have seven pieces of wedding cake. Richard said he got two pieces of cake into him before his mother, Cousin Eugenia, stopped him from having any more.

After eating and meeting, we drove by caravan to the cemetery at Good Hope, Georgia. It took a while for the person with the key to arrive, but then we continued our visiting while admiring the shining white tombstones that Edward and his wife Sue had cleaned and other signs of upkeep by the caretaker hired by the Association. Cousin Marcia, daughter of Aunt Lucy, brought flowers to place on her parents’ graves. Others walked around to pick their own plots for their future final resting places.

Marcia told me one more story about Uncle Johnny. As a young man, he had had a car accident that left him with a dent in his forehead. The doctors said they could fix it, but his mother, my Granny, pitched a fit, saying “You’ll kill him!” Consequently, he didn’t have it fixed and had this dent the rest of his life. As a child growing up, I’d run my fingers over it when I sat in his lap. To me, it was just part of who he was.

These were stories I’d never heard before. Later John T. told me that he’d talked to his dad, Edward, saying “We have some great people in our family, but Uncle Johnny was the best.”

Uncle Johnny, my father, John Thomas Carlton, died in 1996. At this reunion I saw that his spirit lives on.


  1. Carlton Ed on June 18, 2023 at 2:05 pm

    Thanks for the blog, and sharing !

  2. Caroline Romano on June 19, 2023 at 7:09 pm

    A true honor is to be remembered for kindnesses not forgotten.

  3. Marie Elizabeth Preston on October 6, 2023 at 4:11 pm

    Wonderful, heartwarming reminiscence!

    Who is the cemetery association contact for the yearly reunion? I would like to attend in 2024. My great grandmother was Lucy Carlton Preston, and my great great grandmother was also Nancy Barrett Carlton. I am a 7th generation Waltonian living in Monroe, Ga.

    • Alice Carlton on October 9, 2023 at 1:40 pm

      Hi Marie Elizabeth,

      Contact Edward Carlton (edcarlton13@gmail.com) and welcome!


      • Marie Preston on February 13, 2024 at 8:05 pm

        I contacted Ed Carlton at the email address back in October as suggested and never got a response. If you get a notice of a June Carlton family reunion for 2024, would you please share with me date, place, and time?
        Thank you.

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