There is nothing complicated about Thanksgiving for Martha Branche.
“It is a time for remembering and being most thankful to God and for all He has done,” she thoughtfully explained. “It is also a time to be thankful for family, friends and neighbors. With that, all else doesn’t matter.”
Branche, who is a native of Lafayette County, moved to Suwannee County with her husband, Sterling, in 1989. He was a Baptist minister and pastored several churches in Suwannee County.
Sterling also served as interim pastor for many churches in the area and Martha has fond memories of those days, recalling the joy he received from serving in that capacity.
“Sterling always wanted to be a full-time minister and was able to do so for two years, after retiring from Alltel,” she said.
The couple married in 1961 and shared many wonderful years together, before Sterling’s death in 1998.
“We had more happiness in our 37 years together than many people have in a lifetime,” Branche recalled with a gentle smile.
Perhaps those memories are what make Branche’s Thanksgivings so meaningful. The memories of the great father and husband Sterling Branche was reiterate the significance of Thanksgiving for Martha.
“We’ve had so many good times,” Branche recalls. “The children all share stories about their father and we thoroughly enjoy the laughter and the memories.”
Some of Branche’s favorite memories are those of spending Thanksgiving in Lafayette County’s hunting woods. She reminisces how her entire family often joined 50 to 75 people at the hunting camp to celebrate Thanksgiving. Everyone carried food and enjoyed a wonderful feast in North Florida’s pristine wilderness. For the Branches, it was a memorable time of fellowship and love that required no television or video games for entertainment or satisfaction.
“The ladies walked out through the woods and picked up pretty pine cones after we ate lunch,” Branche recalled.
Indeed, the Branche family shares some beautiful memories of Thanksgiving, but they continue to make memories as Martha enjoys her children, Bruce, Bubba, Patti and their families.
“I have three children and four grandchildren,” Branche proudly said. “To the grandchildren, I am Nana.”
The Branche family enjoys a traditional Thanksgiving meal each year. With laughter, Martha explains that requests are usually made for her sweet potato souffle and pecan pie. This year, she plans to go to the home of her youngest son, Bruce, and his family in Mayo. There she will see most of the family and before the day is over, she will probably see them all.
Anyone who knows Martha Branche will quickly recognize that she doesn’t wait until the fourth Thursday of November to celebrate Thanksgiving. She is simply thankful for the gifts in her life, the blessings she has received and the family she shares them with on a daily basis.
Each morning, Branche begins her day with prayer and a Bible reading. Her days are devoted to serving God, her family, friends and neighbors. In a sense, Thanksgiving lunch is served in her home every day. During the week, Branche prepares lunch for her sons, who work in Live Oak. They often drop in and savor some of their mother’s delightful southern cooking.
Branche is also an active member at Westwood Baptist Church in Live Oak, where she is devoted to teaching Sunday school and singing in the senior choir.
As a mother and grandmother, Branche has an abundance of wonderful memories from Thanksgivings that have come and gone, but she looks ahead, anticipating the lingering joys of the family she loves and creating new memories. Through her commitment and unwavering example, others also realize there is nothing complicated about Thanksgiving.
As Martha Branche says, “It is a time for remembering and being most thankful to God and for all He has done.”