Thoughts and Prayers for Ethel Cain

Music — 17.02.22

Photos and Words by Silken Weinberg

Since the passing of Rev. Joseph Cain, the community of Shady Grove has had a hole in its heart so big that you could lead a steer through it. Even as we approach an entire decade without him, a way to fill that hole still has yet to be found. All who met him would agree that one would be hard-pressed to find a better man, father, and preacher. Such a statement can be reflected truthfully in his only daughter, Ms. Ethel Lenora Cain. A bright-eyed and gentle girl, Ethel continues to uphold her father’s legacy through acts of servitude, as well as through their shared love of music and worship. Present every Sunday morning amongst the choir, she leads her late father’s congregation with heartwarming fervor. In remembrance of his life, Ethel will lead a special Sunday worship service on the 10th anniversary of his passing. Today, we sat down with her on her break at Packie’s Diner to chat about faith, family, and what she hopes the future looks like. 

Silken Weinberg: Hi Ethel!

Ethel Cain: Hi! So nice to see you again, how are you?


I’m well, thank you! Was so nice running into you at the hanging of the greens, even if for a moment. You looked pretty busy.

Yeah, the holidays put Mama on edge so I was trying to help her out.


Ahh yes of course. Speaking of which, how is your mother?

Oh, she’s good I suppose. Recently she’s been leaning back hard into sewing. You know, typical mama. Anything to stay busy. 


I know the feeling. Now, just to jump right into it, I wanted to give our readers a chance to get to know you a bit better! Everyone knows of you, of course, but we’d like to really know you. You’re more than just the preacher’s daughter! 

[she laughs again]
I am? 


Of course! Tell us, how was life growing up here in Shady Grove?

[she rubs her palms on her knees]
Well, it was the same for me as it was for everyone else, I’d imagine. Spent most of my time either at Shady Grove Baptist or playing in the field next to it. Lots of mosquito bites. Lots of cookouts. 


The cookouts! Nobody threw a cookout like your daddy did. I wish they’d start doing them again. 

Yeah, me too.

So what about nowadays? What do you like to do for fun? 

Well, I’m still pretty busy with church. Ever since Mrs. Cherry died, the choir has been a lot less… structured, I’ll say that. Between that, my shifts at Packie’s, and my chores and whatnot at home, I don’t really have time for much else.


That’s a shame! You’re young, you should get out some this summer! I hear it’s gonna be a hot one.

I heard that too. I’m sure I’ll find myself at the river at some point. 


What about your love life? Anyone special come into the picture lately?

Not exactly.


What about Willoughby Tucker? I know you two seemed pretty close before he moved away, have you kept in contact at all?

I don’t really wanna talk about him. 


Well, tell him I said hi if you run into him again, we miss him in church! 

Will do.

Now, I wanted to touch on your father a little bit. We all knew him, loved him, but you obviously had a much closer relationship with him than any of us. Can you tell us a little bit about what he was like at home, out of the suit?

Out of his civvies? He was a good man. He wasn’t perfect but I don’t think anyone could have come closer. Towards the end, he really gave it all to God. Spent long nights at the church preparing his sermons. I missed him those nights, and still do, but… he had a calling, and he only ever got closer and closer. When he did come home before I fell asleep, he’d never forget to check on me and pray with me before bed. He cared. I’m grateful. 


Gosh, I’m tearing up! He really did love you, it was clear in everything he did. That fire really did take something irreplaceable. I like to think he’s watching over us all, even now! 

Me too.


Do you have a fondest memory of him? 

When I was 7, he took me out of town for the first time. We went north to the interstate and took a day trip to the lake. I remember stopping at a farmer’s stand where he bought me a big bag of walnuts. My dress was covered in shell bits when we got there, he had to shake me off after he pulled me out of the truck. He had a stranger take a polaroid of us by the water that day, see?

[she pulls a polaroid out of her wallet and shows me]


You were so adorable! And what a handsome man he was, my goodness! 

You’re not the first person to say so.

Well, Ethel, I don’t wanna keep you too long but before I go, I just wanted to ask if you had any testimonies or words you wanted to share before we wrap this up?

Hmm, let me think… 

[She stares up at the ceiling for a moment before answering.]

Don’t wait too long for an answer or a reason, whether it be from God or someone else. You just might wind up spending your whole life waiting. 


Well said! You must get your wisdom from your daddy!

I sure hope so. 


Ethel, thank you so much for your time. Looking forward to hearing you sing on Sunday.

Of course, thanks so much. See you then. 

*NOTE: since this interview was conducted, we have been informed that Ethel Cain has been reported missing and last seen in Arlington, Texas.