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What's in a name? Maybe a legacy, maybe a radio station's call letters. Maybe a company's motto.

J. H. Osborne • Jan 3, 2020 at 5:00 PM

My last column detailed a link between my mom and the late Rose Brooks. But there’s more to the story.

Another connection between Mom and Mrs. (Tom) Brooks is Rose’s sister’s name. Mom is Wanda J. Osborne, née Wallen. Rose’s sister is Sue Luethke, née Miller. Sue’s first name is Wanda — after Mom. Maybe.

Mom said she remembers having been told as a child that family friends K.J. and Bertha Miller had, in part, named their daughter after her: Wanda Sue Miller.

A bit over a year ago, I was introduced to Mrs. Luethke by Vicki Cooper Trammell as we exited the funeral of a mutual friend. Sue was with her niece, Mary Brooks Younger, and we all had a nice talk. The kind you often only have when you run into folks at funerals. Mary and Sue each told me how much they and others in their family enjoyed my columns, especially those about “down the country,” as I refer to the parts of Lee County and Hancock County from whence my people came. Their people, too. Sue said she had gotten a special kick out of column about giving directions now that there are street signs in the country, compared to when I was a child. She’d known exactly what my “old” directions meant. She recognized the landmarks.

I asked her about being named after Mom. She said she’d been told she is likely Mom’s namesake, at least on the “Wanda.” But she’d also been told over the years that the insurance man helped name her. Yes, the insurance man.

Back in those days, insurance salesmen went door-to-door selling policies — and came back through to collect premiums and offer renewals. And many of  those salesmen worked for the National Life and Accident Insurance Company, based in Nashville. More important to our story, and to radio listeners across our region back in the days of Mom’s childhood, National Life and Accident Insurance Company owned WSM, the radio station that created and broadcast the Grand Ole Opry.

If you haven’t connected the dots yet, Mrs. Luethke’s childhood initials — perhaps due to the influence of her parents’ friendship with Mom’s family and their interaction with the insurance man — were WSM.

Sue told me she’d heard, when she was young, that the insurance man claimed he’d sent her baby picture in to headquarters and it was displayed at the radio station that shared her initials for a while. But she said she realized that might likely have been a tall tale.

I searched online for phrases such as “WSM baby,” but didn’t get anywhere. I did, however, find out why WSM got its particular call letters: they are said to reflect National Life’s motto: “We Shield Millions.”

I also learned WSM first signed on the air on Oct. 5, 1925 and less than two months later launched its most famous show, the Grand Ole Opry.

I’ve meant to get Mom and Sue together for lunch since talking to her last year — oops, year before last! But I haven’t. Maybe we can make it happen soon.

J.H. Osborne covers Sullivan County government for the Times News. Email him at josborne@timesnews.net.