The Pope/Clement Sofa, A Family Heirloom

My family doesn’t have a lot of heirloom/antique items that have survived the generations. One of the few pieces that has survived is an old sofa that had belonged to my great grandmother Nannie Elizabeth Clement Pope. The sofa was never in use during my life. It always sat in the back of Grannie’s shed, hidden under piles of junk, slowly decaying away. When I was a teenager I told Grannie I wanted to get the old sofa and fix it up. I never had a chance to do that but not too many years later my mother did. She recounted her memories of the restoration for me:

In 2001 I got the old homemade couch out of the big shed. The rats had eaten it up. Mama had just been told her breast cancer had gone to her bones and I wanted to fix it for her to see.

When mama was still living in the white house she had that couch in the back den that had been closed in when I was about 10. She had gotten the couch from her parents when they died and it had been handmade–possibly by J.C. Clement, Lizzie’s father.

Mike tore the couch apart and removed the old green paint Mama had painted it with. He had to put some new wood in it. It used to open up and make a bed but he removed the springs and then took it to an upholsterer in Summerville to have him re-pad it. I selected an old fashioned tapestry fabric to recover it. Only a couple of small pieces of the original fabric were salvageable and I used that to make two small pillows for the couch.

The heirloom is all the more special knowing a bit of the history behind it–and the love that went into restoring it. Today my mother displays the sofa proudly in her home in East Armuchee.

The photos here show the sofa. The first photo was taken in about 1957 and shows my great grandparents Nannie Elizabeth “Lizzie” Clement and Ben Hill Pope. Note the photograph of my aunt Charlotte’s wedding on the mantle behind them! The second photo was taken during the restoration process. The third photo was taken by me of Grannie on the sofa in 2001 after the restoration was complete. Notice the wall of family portraits behind Grannie.

Do you have any treasured family items? Do you know any stories about the heirloom? Furniture and other tangible objects often carry a lineage their own and make up an interesting part of family and local history.

One Response to “The Pope/Clement Sofa, A Family Heirloom”

  1. Mom says:

    It was a labor of love for my mother. I wasn’t able to help your father with the work because I was sick the entire six weeks it took him to restore the old relic. We took mother to radiation every morning. I came home and went to bed. Your father worked on the restoration. I was finally diagnosed with gallstone and had to have my gall bladder removed on my birthday. I had also just fallen at Julie’s house and was in lots of pain from that. I delayed going to the doctor because I thought the pain came completely from the fall. Removing the gall bladder solved part of it, but then a year later I had to have a third spinal fusion surgery. Life can be difficult sometimes but I loved my mother so much that I would sacrifice my own health to help her. She lived longer than the doctors expected–over three more years when they gave her only six months. She had a strong faith and a family that cherished her. I still miss her. Not only was she my mother, she was my friend. Thank you Jordan for loving her and preserving her memory.

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