It all began in 1976, that bicentennial year of Jimmy Carter and Bruce Jenner and Silly Love Songs. But the Minden St. Jude Auction still resonates in this small town because the battle against childhood cancer still rages, no matter the year or what songs are on the radio.
So it was in 1992, when the auction was dedicated to the memory of a Minden teenager named Denise Whaley, who lost her battle with AML the summer before.
She was, said her mother Susan, “just your normal teenage girl.” She liked Bon Jovi and Aerosmith, and the movie Ghost. She had a twin sister, Lori. She was on the Minden High drill team, the Louisi-Annes.
Told that she had leukemia and was bound for St. Jude, she asked, “Am I going to get to graduate with my friends?”
Denise died less than two weeks later, her battle over nearly before it began. But the town rallied, as it had before, as it would again. Susan remembers arriving home from Memphis to a street lined with cars, to a house full of people who cared, including Cora Lou Robinson, the twins’ teacher from kindergarten and first grade.
Robinson’s painting, Friends Forever, in which Denise and Lori are front and center in matching powder-blue dresses, holding hands and surrounded by other children during an Easter egg hunt, raised nearly $5,000 for the auction.