The story of Cora Belle Sommer Greenlee begins in a little town in Rockcastle (Jackson County) where she was born on October 27, 1890. She was the daughter of W.R. and Eveline French Woodall. She had three sisters — Lola, Edna and Bertha as well as three brothers — Charles, Okey, and Benjamin.
When Cora’s mother passed away she had no choice but to help raise her younger siblings. At 16 years of age she and her older sister, Lola, lovingly stepped in the role of homemaker and mother. In order for Cora to graduate from Ripley Normal School, her aunt Dona came to live at the Woodall home and became the wife of her father.
Cora went on to Salem College and became a teacher.
She taught school for 12 years in Putnam, Jackson and Mason counties. It was about 1916 when Cora became the Leon principal.
She wasn’t in Leon long before a doctor came to set up practice. Dr. B. F. Sommer was establishing his practice with an older physician, Dr. J. H. Dunlap. Dr. Dunlap passed away shortly after B. F.’s arrival.
For two years the doctor and Cora kept company with each seeing others. One of the men Cora dated was Frank Greenlee. He was her sister Lola’s, brother-in-law. Soon World War I began and Frank went off to war.
After Frank was gone the doctor had little competition so he proposed to Cora. She said “yes,” but it was not smooth sailing for them. The doctor enlisted in the United States Army and served as First Lieutenant in the medical corps.
When the war was over in 1918, the doctor returned home. B. F. and Cora were married in her parent’s living room in Jackson County by H. K. Riffe on February 25, 1919. Dr. Sommer had his practice on the Main Street with their home located behind his office.
They were blessed on Cora’s 30th birthday with the birth of their daughter, Mabel Louise. On May 27, 1923, they were blessed with a son, Benjamin Franklin Sommer, Jr. A third child, William Richard was born on March 16, 1925.
Cora and B. F. faced the devastation of losing their middle child. Frank passed away from a brain tumor on July 3, 1940. Cora described to her family and friends that it was the worst thing that could happen to a parent. Dr. Sommer was especially devastated because he could do nothing to save his son.
Cora’s interests were centered around the community. Church work occupied much of her time and she was a long-time member of Leon Baptist Church. She was a fine Christian lady.
Cora was a charter member and officer of the Leon Farm Women’s Club whose projects included building a new community center to replace the one which burned. Also, she was a member of the Point Pleasant Chapter of O. E. S.
The life of a small town doctor was not easy. As “Doc” Sommer, as he was known, traveled often out in the rural areas and meals were late. He was called out in the middle of the night to deliver babies as well as attending to sick patients. At first, the doctor went by horseback when the roads were impassable. Later Cora drove the car for him because she thought he wasn’t a very good driver.
Together, Cora and the doctor were great contributors to the welfare of the people in their community. They were married for 46 years.
Dr. Sommer passed away on February 23, 1965.
Cora’s friend from years ago, Frank Greenlee, was now a widower. He began writing to her and calling her. In 1968 they were married. Cora was 78 and Frank was 79 years young. They lived in Charleston and spent their winters in Florida.
Frank passed away in 1978. Cora moved back to her home in Leon for a while, but later moved to a home in Point Pleasant to be close to her daughter. Her sister, Lola, moved in with her. They lived together until Cora’s death on April 3, 1984. She was 93 years old. She is buried beside her first husband in Leon Cemetery.
At the time of her death, she was survived by her daughter, Mabel (Sherwood) Costen, son W. R. “Dick” (Vala Randolph) Sommer, sisters Lola Greenlee and Edna Kay, grandchildren Carolyn Costen (Kip) Hartenback, Frank Sommer, Jill Sommer (Dennis) Quire, William “Bill” Sommer, great-grandchildren Jamie Hartenbach, David Quie and Daniel Quire.
Cora’s granddaughter, also a teacher, Carolyn Costen Hartenback, contributed to this story.
Submitted by Alice Click.