Founder of Beaufort's Brenda Club remembered for sharing home-making talents with others

features@beaufortgazette.comSeptember 3, 2013 

20120301 Casserole chic

"There is joy in sharing and sharing is my joy," says Norma Powell Dunca, daughter of Brenda Powell, founder of the Brenda Club.

JOHNSON — MCT

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In 1957, a group of ladies began meeting in each other's homes to exchange ideas on improving their home-making skills through arts and crafts, needlework, home beautification and millinery.

Brenda Powell was responsible for getting this group together. During a cookout at her home, a club was organized with the following charter members: Minnie Davis, Joan Hood, Jane Lambert, Margie Pettus, Ruth Qualls, Marlene Smelser and Ruth Smith.

Norma Powell Duncan, Brenda's daughter, shares a bit of her mother's story:

"My parents, Brenda and Durward Powell, moved to Beaufort in 1951 when my dad wanted to farm. Dad purchased a large tract of undeveloped land on Lady's Island, but it became evident farming in the Lowcountry was not what he knew in Tennessee. Needing to clear land on his tract he purchased a small bulldozer and began learning how to use it. It was not any time when passersby stopped and asked was he for hire. He returned the small dozer and purchased a larger one and for 10 years he was the only heavy equipment operator in Beaufort County.

"Mother began establishing herself in the community as a very talented person who was eager to share her talents with her friends. When the group of ladies were invited to our home in 1957 ... they started out calling themselves 'Sew-Sow Club,' but later the name was changed in honor of Mother to the Brenda Club. They met monthly ... always bringing a covered dish to share, crafts and items for show and tell. The club made many day trips to further enhance their knowledge of gardening and homemaking. It was during the days of the Beaufort County Fair; club members would enter products for judging, and many ribbons were won.

"The club continued to thrive, even though my parents returned to Tennessee for early retirement. This retirement time was cut short as my dad died of a massive heart attack at the age of 51. Mother then returned to Beaufort, opened a fabric shop where she not only sold fabric but taught many classes in sewing, hat-making, arts and crafts; (she) made wedding dresses and rejoined the Brenda Club as a member. ... She loved to cook and share recipes. Our home was always open, and there was always a bounty of good food to share.

"As the years passed, the Brenda Club matured and their members continued to meet regularly but because of age and the fact that their homes were full of things made in the past the club evolved into a friendship gathering, where they continued to share wonderful covered dishes at lunchtime.

"A shock it was when in 1968, mother was diagnosed with a rare cancer. She decided to close her business and return to Tennessee to be near her sisters. There she purchased a home that she had lived in for a short time as a child and began its renovation. Because of her desire to always serve, she was accepted as an experimental patient at MD Anderson in Houston, where she received experimental drugs being tested for the market. The cancer was arrested, however it metastasized to her brain and there was nothing that could be offered. After 18 months she passed.

"An amazing woman, she never gave up. Even being gravely ill, she continued to work on handwork, making sure she completed projects in sets of three so each of her children would have one of each project she was making. Each of her three children possessed talents and developed them in ways they could share. My brother and sister have passed; each gave of themselves as we were taught. There is joy in sharing and sharing is my joy."

From the cookbook, "Favorite Recipes: Beaufort Brenda Arts and Crafts, the recipes of Brenda Powell":

ONE-HOUR YEAST ROLLS

For a printable, 4x6 recipe card, click the link at right.

2 tablespoons sugar

6 tablespoons shortening

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup milk

2 packages yeast

4 cups sifted flour

Mix sugar, shortening, salt in a small bowl and set aside. Warm milk to lukewarm. Stir in the yeast and stir until dissolved. Add the shortening mixture. Mix. Add the flour, mix well and beat with a spoon until smooth. Cover and let rise 30 minutes. Punch down. Shape into rolls. Let rise 15 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees about 15 minutes.

ASPARAGUS CASSEROLE

For a printable, 4x6 recipe card, click the link at right.

1 cup melted butter

3/4 cup silvered almonds

1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs

1/2 pound English cheese

2 tablespoons flour

4 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cup milk

Salt and pepper to taste

2 cups drained asparagus

Melt butter and pour over almonds and crumbs. Brown lightly. Combine cheese, flour, butter, milk, salt and pepper and cook to medium thickness. Lightly butter a casserole dish and place alternate layers of crumb mixture, asparagus and cheese sauce, ending with the crumbs on top. Bake at 250 degrees until lightly brown, about 20 minutes.

LEMON SPONGE CUPS

For a printable, 4x6 recipe card, click the link at right.

2 tablespoons butter

1 cup sugar

4 tablespoons flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

5 tablespoons lemon juice

Grated rind of 1 lemon

3 eggs separated

1 1/2 cups milk

Cream butter and sugar. Add flour, salt, lemon juice and lemon rind. Beat egg yolks and add to milk. Add to mixture. Fold in stiffly beaten egg whites. Pour into buttered custard cups. Set in pan of water and bake 45 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool. May be baked in 2-quart baking dish.

Columnist Ervena Faulkner is a Port Royal resident and a retired educator who has always had an interest in food and nutrition. Email her at features@beaufortgazette.com.

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