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Mama’s death is Ronda Rich’s saddest tale

POSTED: March 6, 2008 5:00 a.m.

The South lost one of its great characters Sunday.

Bonelle Satterfield, mother of columnist Ronda Rich, died suddenly Sunday afternoon from a brain aneurysm.

Rich often referred to the 88-year-old Gainesville homemaker as "Mama" in her columns, and depicted her as a sage of sorts who spouted the kind of wisdom only a salty Southern woman could gain after decades of child-rearing, gardening and socializing.

The circumstances of Satterfield’s death aren’t unlike a scene painted from Rich’s tales.

"She had come to my house for my dog, Dixie Dew’s, birthday party," Rich said.

But when Satterfield arrived to the birthday party, she fell on the stairway leading into Rich’s living room.

"My sister tried to catch her, but she fell down the steps and hit her head on the corner of an antique trunk," Rich said.

Paramedics arrived to Rich’s residence Sunday afternoon and took Satterfield to Northeast Georgia Medical Center.

Rich said Satterfield fell as a result of the aneurysm, and was brain dead when she arrived to the hospital. She was taken off the ventilator at about 6 p.m., and died shortly thereafter.

"My friend, Karen Peck, sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘Precious Memories’ to Mama before she died," Rich said. "The family sang ... and then we joined hands and prayed her into the hands of the Lord."

Rich said Satterfield spent Saturday modeling spring styles at a fashion show Rich hosted to benefit the White County Meth Task Force.

"Saturday she was a star. She got in the car with me, and said, ‘I had a ball,’" Rich said. "At the fashion show, I held her hand, and I said, ‘Ladies, meet Mama.’ She turned around, and 400 ladies went wild. She was one of those really great characters. Everybody called her Mama, even people who didn’t know her."

Rich said Satterfield’s death comes shortly after her brother, Randall Satterfield, died of a massive stroke in December. Rich’s uncle, A.J. Miller, Bonelle Satterfield’s brother, also died in December due to a lung ailment. Bonelle Satterfield’s husband, the Rev. Ralph Satterfield, died in November 1998.

Rich said before the aneurysm, Satterfield was feeling well on Sunday and was celebrating the recent birth of her fifth grandchild.

"This is the day I have dreaded all my life," Rich said. "She was the heart of our family. It’s been such a heartbreak. We ask everyone to remember us in their prayers. I’ve just lost a lot of great material."

Rich said visitation will be held tonight and Tuesday night at Barrett Funeral Home in Cleveland, and the funeral will take place Wednesday at Shoal Creek Baptist Church.


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