Love comes along like a popular song
by Mark H. Hunter
One day in November 1947, a tall, lanky young man strode into Sterling Department Store in downtown Little Rock, Ark., and was smitten by a beautiful girl with a big, bright smile working behind the counter.
He was 26 and she was 16. He asked her to go out with him, and she agreed.
“He had a nice car and dressed quite well,” Verlia Mae “Mae Mae” Kennedy Hogg said about Thomas Medford Hogg, known as “T. Med” or “Med” to his many friends.
“We just hit it off from the beginning,” Med said during a visit to their spacious home in Westminster subdivision. He sat up straight in his recliner, pointed to his bride across the room and broke into a popular song from the 1930s sung by Bing Crosby.
“I found a million dollar baby in the five and ten cent store,” he crooned. It made her smile. (Search it on You Tube.)
They were married on July 30, 1948, and will celebrate 68 years together this summer, she said. He is now 94 and she is 85, and their eyes still sparkle when they’re talking about each other.
Both were raised in Christian homes and in church — she was Pentecostal and he was Disciples of Christ. The Christian principles of faith and family are central to Hogg family values.
Med grew up in Poplar Bluff, Ark., the son of a store-keeper and butcher who left Med’s mother and brothers, went bankrupt in the Great Depression and committed suicide.
“I wanted to be different [from him],” Med said. That’s why he worked hard, was faithful to his wife and provided for his five children.
She grew up in the Florida panhandle with five sisters and a brother.
“Daddy was a sharecropper,” she said. “We were very poor but we never went hungry.”
Her father was also a Pentecostal preacher who couldn’t read. Her mother would read the scriptures and he would preach, Mae said.
His gift of healing was so powerful, she said, “He’d pray for people and their cancers would fall off – literally!”
Now she uses her own gift of powerful prayer to close out son Jim Hogg’s syndicated, country music radio program, “Hogg Heaven,” that airs each Sunday morning.
“I mean – she calls down the power!” Jim, 60, said. “Sometimes I think she’s going to break out in tongues!”
“Our commission as being born again in Jesus is to tell others,” Mae says with a smile. “We’re to be used of Him.”
When Med and Mae were married, he was clerking for the Missouri Pacific Railroad and they drove his 1946 Plymouth Sedan – the one she liked so well – from Arkansas to his new posting in Phoenix, Ariz. The railroad moved him back to Arkansas in 1950 where their first son Thomas “Tommy” Edmund was born. Tommy passed away from a lengthy illness on July 22, 2014.
God’s grace pulled them through the grief of his death, Mae said. She quotes Romans 8:28, “‘And we know that all things work together for good to those that love the Lord and are the called according to His purpose.’ No matter how hard it is you just hold on.”
Med changed jobs over the years, and they lived in New Orleans awhile then settled in Baton Rouge. They always attended church as their family grew: Judith was born in 1952, Jim in 1956, Trudy in 1960 and John in 1966.
Med has written five books, one of which is poetry, “The Cornbread Poet.” He credits his writing talent to his Scotch-Irish heritage and a 1700s relative, James Hogg, “the Shepherd Poet” of Scotland. “Tales from the Hogg Pen,” a collection of 39 short stories relating to many of his experiences, is witty and interesting.
For their 20th anniversary, he wrote a poem to Mae that she quotes from memory decades later:
“Twenty years ago today/We got married and rode away … We may not be wealthy in money/But we have blessings more than a few/One of them is ‘I love you,’” she says with a smile.
A musician in her own right, Mae yodels so well, “she should have been on the Grand Ole Opry,” son Jim says.
Jim credits his mother’s musical voice and his father’s ability as “a wordsmith” to his own son, James Linden Hogg, 15, who was named the best fiddle player in Louisiana in the 2015 Northwestern State University’s Folk Festival. James, who is home schooled by his mother Linda and specializes in early American history, performs in Revolutionary War garb with his father who strums a guitar.
James also plays a tin flute, drums, guitar and banjo, and recently released a CD of his music titled, “College Fund, Vol. 1,” available on his website: www.jameslindenhogg.com.
“I’ve learned a good bit about politics from my grandpa,” James says about Med. “I wouldn’t be interested in history in general, and Scottish history in particular, and would not have pursued the fiddle as heartily as I have.”
Jim is proud of his Hogg heritage and the family values his parents lived.
“I saw their sacrifice – both of them – give and take,” Jim said. “When I was growing up, when dad was out of town on business, she ran the house. I’m sure it was tough for her [but] they hung in there.”
“At the end of the day we’d sit around the table and hold hands and my dad would pray and ask God to bless us and bless the food,” Jim said. “He would always spend as much time with us as he could, playing catch [or] taking us to a ballgame. Mom would do anything she could to help us in our schooling. I had a good childhood — it was wholesome and safe. I want a safe home for my family — as for me and my house we will serve the Lord.”
So what advice do Mae and Med have for young couples?
“We disagreed on some things, but we agree on most things,” Med said. “We worked it out.”
“Let Jesus be number one in your household,” Mae adds. “You have to forgive and give and take – go to church together – raise your children together as a family.”
“We’ve had a good life. God has blessed us with a good family, all of them are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ,” Mae said. “That is the best blessing we could have.”