Friday, January 12, 2007
James Dickey's first wife, Maxine Syerson, was the only child of Maxine Webster and Valdemar Sejersen, who changed the spelling of his name when he immigrated to the United States from Denmark. This is a picture of the Sejersen family in the old country. Val is seated on the far right.
Maxine Webster and her sisters were raised in Union City, Tennessee, by an imposing father who bore a certain resemblance to President William Howard Taft.
One of Maxine Webster's first loves was Reggor Motlow, heir to the Jack Daniel distillery. But Maxine was a flapper and a free spirit. She went out West with some friends and met Val at a campsite in Yellowstone Park. (She drew his attention when she sang "Pistol Packin' Mama Don't You Two-Time Me" by the campfire.) The courtship was quick and Maxine was soon pregnant.
Their daughter, nicknamed "Ting," was born in 1926.
Val and Maxine separated when Ting was still an infant, and Maxine Webster got a job in Nashville working in the attorney general's office. Ting was sent off to Birmingham, where she was raised by her aunts. Eventually she moved back to Nashville, where she graduated from Saint Cecilia Academy.
In her late teens during the war, Ting briefly married a Naval ensign and jeweler named Joe Watts. They divorced after about a year, and young Maxine got a job as a ticket agent with American Airlines. On a blind date, she met Jim Dickey, who was studying at Vanderbilt on the G.I. Bill.
They were married in 1948.