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Chapter 12


The Story of a Country Notary



Mrs. Walden did not ever hear the term "Notary Signing Agent" yet she could have performed her notarial duties on a stack of loan documents with the greatest of ease. To understand this, read on.



~~~Mrs. Julia Walden, The Story of a Country Notary~~

In 1983 my parents bought a Burgundy 1982 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme for me. After the initial purchase they decided to put it into my name. We needed a notary to make the title transfer so we dropped in on Mrs. Julia Walden.

As long as I can remember, Mrs. Walden had her little sign out beside her front door which faced Texas State Highway 36. Mrs. Walden notarized documents in that same spot until her death at the age of 93. She died three years ago.

If you lived in the the part of Brazoria County known as "West of the Brazos" you went to Mrs. Walden for your notary needs. It did not matter what kind of documents you showed up with, Mrs. Walden was going to notarize your signature on them for you and do it correctly. She did not try to "introduce" those documents back to you.  She knew she was not a lawyer.

If you had a deed and needed the notary's acknowledgment completed, everybody would direct you to go see Mrs. Julia Walden, Notary Public, in and for the State of Texas.

Need your signature on the Power of Attorney notarized?
Transferring a car title?
Selling a manufactured home?
Adoption papers?

Even if you had a will to get signed, no problem, go by and see Mrs. Walden. Mrs. Walden knew her notary "stuff." 


When we went there about the car, next door was the Sonic, and behind her was the new post office sitting right next to the new girls' softball field. Mrs. Walden's little notary sign had stood outside her home long before these modern structures were built replacing the dense brushy foliage, the poison oak, and huge native pecan trees that are so prolific along the Brazos River. No matter what changed around her, her notary procedures only changed with the lawThey did not change with the type of document put before her, or as she grew in experience.  She knew what the law was before she started her career as a notary.

If you would have taken her a pile of loan documents, she might have not fooled around with pointing to the signature line on the Truth in Lending statement, or the Notice of Right to Cancel and getting it dated it properly because these are not notarized documents, but I assure you that she would have notarized every single signature in that stack of documents perfectly where required.

Mrs. Walden did not care what you brought to her for notarization, she knew how to notarize signatures correctly. She knew how to identify you properly by the laws in place on the date of your visit, how to complete a jurat or an acknowledgment, administer an oath where appropriate, and she kept a notary journal.

Again, I repeat, Mrs. Walden did not ever hear the term "Notary Signing Agent" yet she could have performed her notarial duties on a stack of loan documents with the greatest of ease.

What? She could do that without having had one certification class?

Yes. Absolutely. Notarizations of signatures are notarizations of signatures. At age 93, and never having heard the phrase "notary signing agent," Mrs. Walden could have thumbed through the documents and found the proper place for the signatures and completed each notarization perfectly.

I read the notary forums regularly, as you know. What I am finding very disturbing about the questions there is the fact that "notary signing agents" do not "get it" that they are public notaries who do not need to review the contents of documents to know how to notarize the signatures on them properly.

Recently posted items on include questions such as:

------In reference to a set of legal documents related to securing a patent, "Anyone know what is the proper way to notarize it? Thanks."------


-------In reference to a set of legal documents related to adoptions, "Is there anything unique about these docs?"------

I assure you that Mrs. Walden would not have had to ask this question. That's because she understood that a notary does the same thing each and every time depending on the type of notarial certificate attached to the document.

Notaries who heard of the loan signing opportunity to make extra income as a notary signing agent need to recognize this:

If you are a loan signer who became a notary to do primarily loan document work, that's great, but you are still a notary public.

If you are going to do general notarizations, separate and divorce your handling method of general notarizations from your knowledge gained as a notary signing agent. You do not need to have some part in understanding the documents, interpreting them, or introducing these documents to the signer who presents them to you unless you are instructed by a hiring company to do so.

And, if this is required of you, you need specific instructions from the hiring company as to what you should say if they are of legal importance because you are not a pseudo-lawyer. You are not there to be important. You are only there as a courtesy to notarize signatures.

As a notary public, unless you are hired and trained by a personal of legal authority in matters such as adoption, for instance, you do not need to get into the business of the adoption, or what the papers say. You need to notarize signatures on the documents. Nothing more.

The notary explains nothing. The notary can only witness and notarize the signature. The notary must function according to the rules of the notary's state.

In Texas, a notary public's function is described like this:

The primary duty of a Notary Public is to show that a disinterested party (the Notary Public) has duly notified the signer of an instrument as to the importance of such document, and the signer of such document has declared that the signer's identity, signature, and reasons for signing such instrument are genuine. The signature and seal of a Notary Public do not prove these facts conclusively, but provide prima facie proof of them, and allow persons in trade and commerce to rely upon the truth and veracity of the Notary Public as a third party who has no personal interest in the transaction.

I feel relatively sure, without seeking proof of the same, that other states have a similar general description of the notary's function.

It's quite possible you have been trained in a class to do "notary signing agent" work. More than likely seems to be the case in recent years. You may have taken classes to learn to market yourself and to properly point to the blanks where the borrower should be signing. You have been trained to print and courier loan documents and to introduce each one properly, but you are not to act as a legal authority.

Put boundaries on your notary signing agent function. Do not let the concepts of "knowing" about the documents bleed over into your general notarization work.

Since you have not been trained to do so with all types of legal documents, upon presentation of legal documents to you for notarization of signatures remember that it is not your job on regular notary work to understand the documents presented to you.

Learn your handbook well because your notarial commission is based in law, not in a concept such as the function of a notary signing agent. In fact, in the eyes of the Texas Secretary of State, loan signers basically do not exist. Notaries do.

Mrs. Walden was a fixture in the little community where my mother still lives and where I chose to raise my son.  I needed the occasional item notarized and I went to Mrs. Walden's little house to get the job done when I did not want one of the other legal secretaries in on whatever business of mine the notarization pertained to.

She was a true professional, so very different from those of us who now make our livings as notaries. The reason for this story is to make her more human, to make her more real in your mind and to deliver a lasting message to you that this little elderly lady in Brazoria, Texas could have done the notarizations we do with no problem because she knew her notary rules.

No stack of documents would have daunted her and she never took a single notary class. I had occasion to observe her and have no doubt that she did, in fact, know her notary rules well.

The rest of this is just a little "human interest" story.  It is about...

Mrs. Walden's Untimely Death at age 93

In over 18 years the little town of Brazoria, Texas has not had a murder happen within its city limits.

The local newspaper articles shocked all of southern Brazoria County with a grisly tale of her son, Tommy, finding her dead in one late spring morning in 2003 obviously murdered by suffocation after a struggle which left lacerations on her forearms.

Her notary commission would not expire for another two years. She was 93 when she died.

The Houston Chronicle reported it like this:

The brothers, adopted when they were children, always struck outsiders as opposites.

"One was bad, and one was good. It's just like Cain and Abel," said Albert Weaver, 60, a family friend.

Brazoria, a town of 3,000 on the west bank of the Brazos River, hasn't had a homicide in at least 18 years. The only detective on the six-officer police force had known Johnny Walden since junior high.

After Julia Walden's funeral Saturday, the detective, Gary Epps, said Johnny approached him at the back of the church, saying he needed to talk.

On Monday morning, Epps picked him up at his small house behind Walden's brick home and took him to the police station.

Johnny, who had taken a polygraph on Friday that had shown some inconsistencies, was clearly troubled.

"He asked a lot of different questions about what would happen to someone for doing something like this, and could they get help," Epps said. "I told him personally, if it was me, I'd probably sleep a lot better at night knowing I had gotten it off my conscience."

Johnny then tearfully described how he killed his mother, Epps said.

On the night of May 20, Johnny told Epps, he and his mother argued over whether he had been molested by a baby sitter as a child.

Walden insisted he had not been, then went to bed. Early the next morning, police said, he smothered her with a pillow.

Her friends became concerned when the drapes remained closed and the porch light stayed on through the next day. Tommy found her body when he came home from work.

The town was shocked. Walden had been a part of their lives for years, working as a notary out of her home, even preparing taxes and wills in years past.

"Her mind was good, to be in her 90s," said Loyce Hutson, the owner of a local real estate brokerage. "The town feels a great loss because she's been here forever."

Even at 93, Walden, a devout Jehovah's Witness, continued to go door-to-door bearing witness to her faith. Though still energetic, she had quit driving a few years ago at the urging of her 16-year-old grandson, Johnny's son.

Her husband, Bill, had left her many years earlier and married another woman, friends said, and she raised the boys by herself.

"It just isn't fair for her to be 93 - to fight so long for life - and then have it taken away," said Doris Weaver, 52, who said she considered Julia her spiritual guide.

Tommy Walden, an electrician who is 18 months younger than his brother, declined to be interviewed, saying his mother wouldn't want her picture in the newspaper or a story written about her.

Tommy, who had shared the house with his mother after Johnny joined the Army, had urged his mother not to let his brother return home, said Sheryl Anderson, Johnny's ex-wife. Anderson said she and her 16-year-old son did the same.

"But she did, and he was here one month and now she's gone. I guess she felt sorry for him. When we heard she was dead, we all knew exactly who it was. We just all pointed at him 'cause he had a mean streak in him," said Anderson, 38, adding that Johnny had beaten her during their eight-year marriage.

Her son, Jonathon, she said, is devastated by his grandmother's death, but feels nothing for his father.

"Tommy was more of a father figure than his daddy ever was," said Anderson, who delivers pizzas for a living. "My son has practically been raised by her. She made sure he had lunch money. Made sure he had gas. If she didn't have it, Tommy made sure he had it."

In her will, Walden left everything she had to Tommy, with instructions to take care of her grandson, said Agnes White, 76, a close friend. "We're all just devastated."


Rest in peace, Mrs. Walden, and thank you for being an example for us all.




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