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There Be Camels!

A week and a half ago, I posted a picture on my Wordless Wednesday post that showed my mom riding a camel. Where? When? How?

From the time I was young, Mom had always wanted to travel to far off countries. She got an opportunity when my dad was stationed twice in Japan in the 1950s with the Army Air Corps (US Air Force). However, I remember her mentioning that she always wanted to go to Australia.  Why there? I don’t know because she never gave an explanation. There were other countries she wanted to visit, too.

In the late ’90s, Mom became very excited when she realized that she might be able to take a trip to the Holy Land as part of a church group.  She told me that she had always wanted to see Israel, although I don’t ever remember her mentioning that. Perhaps it was due to the fact she was getting older or it was something she hadn’t ever shared because it was so personal to her and her faith.

She was working full time and had put money back for the trip. Her minister and another lady from her church would be part of the group. At least she had another woman she knew to room with. Mom was still in pretty good health although I was concerned about the distance and speed at which any walking would take place, and if she would be able to keep up.

Then the time came – even though there was still quite a bit of unease in the Middle East (this was prior to the War) – she told me that if security was too risky, they wouldn’t have been allowed to go.

I waited until she returned from her trip, anxious to hear that she was okay and it had all been worth it for her. She loved seeing places where Jesus had taught and preached during his life. She had taken several rolls of film that she promised she’d send to me – just to look at but I’d have to immediately mail it back afterwards – as soon as they were developed.  The only hitch of her trip had come afterwards when they landed in Egypt for the international flight home. She had stepped off the debarking stairs and twisted her ankle. If it had to happen, I was glad it was after the trip instead of before.

Finally the box of information arrived.  Pictures, pictures, and more pictures – along with small posters, travel guides, and purchased pictures and postcards. It took me over a week to absorb it all. Unfortunately, I don’t think I ever “got” the entire picture at that time.

No, it would be years and years later – after she passed away – that my sister and I were discussing her trip – that the emotions she must have felt finally seeped into my heart. She had taken a pilgrimage to Israel – alone – without any blood relatives with her.  It was Mom and her faith and love of the Lord that had carried her to see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the hill where Jesus was crucified on the cross, the tomb that he had left after his resurrection. These places and the emotions she felt would never be something she could explain. Yet, she had all the reminders that she could look at every day through the photos she took and the maps of places she had seen.

While in Israel, she rode the camel. It was probably dirty and smelly but that was her way of being “really there.”

After her death, I became the keeper of all her mementos and photographs. She loved being able to travel there. I wish I could have been with her so I could have seen her face as she saw all those things up close. That would have been part of my memory. The camel photo was one that was used on the DVD I made for her memorial service. It showed her in a humorous setting (Mom on a Camel!) and in a country that she repeated over and over again as she aged that she was glad to see before she died.

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This is a continuation of Part 1, posted on January 12, 2012.  Please read the beginning of this journey before continuing.

As we stood in southern Idaho gazing at the Craters of the Moon, I remember thinking that this was what the moon’s surface was like (well, not in those exact words – remember I wasn’t even five yet!).  Man had not set foot on the moon yet – it would be another few years – but in my young mind, I figured someone knew what it looked like and had made this place to resemble it. Little did I realize that the Craters of the Moon was formed from lava flow.

We left Idaho and began our trek northwest toward Ellensburg, Washington.  We were going to the Gingko Petrified Forest before visiting friends and family.

And we have arrived!  Mom and I in front of the tourist center.  Notice how I’m always squinting or trying to cock my head at just the right angle to get the sun out of my eyes? I don’t know why Mom wasn’t looking at the camera – she was probably people watching (a favorite past time of her’s!). 

      

And a look at the information inside the tourist center. I thought it was really neat because the “petrified” trees looked like pretty rocks (which I collected and loved!).  I do seem to remember something about my parents telling me that I couldn’t pick up and keep anything on the ground because it was part of the “forest.”

The Washington State Park website explains that the unusual “forest” was discovered in the 1930s when highway construction unearthed the petrified trees.

And a last look at the waters off of the Wanapum Recreational Area.

On September 10th our family arrived in Seattle.  Mom and Dad knew a family who resided there from their time in Japan when they were all stationed there with the Army Air Corps (and then Air Force).

Darreld and Marilyn Manning and son with Mom, Dad and I. Check out the head scarf I am wearing – apparently it was rather windy at the top of the Space Needle.  Their daughter (also a red head as is their son) isn’t in this picture. I don’t remember why – maybe she was afraid to go outside for pictures. While we were at their house, we enjoyed a home cooked (or grilled) meal and a fairy boat ride to Victoria, British Columbia complete with a sightseeing tour of the area (pictures below).

       

All too soon it was time to leave the Manning family and head to our next stop – my grandmother’s sister’s home in Puget Sound.  John and Nellie Lilly had been living in the area for many years.  Nellie was almost four years younger than my grandmother and had been living “out west” since she was a teen due to her asthma.  Nellie and John had raised a son and a daughter and were enjoying their “golden” years and grandchildren.  My Aunt Nellie was especially proud of her flowers!  They had a beautiful home with a spectacular view. I remember my parents telling me not to get too close to the edge because it was a long drop to the water.

       

It was time to head south into Oregon.  What would we see there? And how much longer until we get to Disneyland?

Stay tuned for the next installment of our journey “Over the Rainbow”.

Sources: personal knowledge and written description published in the Beavercreek News (Beavercreek, Ohio), Oct. 19, 1966.

Photos: Photographer on all photos – Gene Amore**; all photos – print, slide, digital in the possession of Wendy Littrell to be used as needed.  No reprints without permission. (**Photograph of family at Space Needle taken by Unknown with camera owned by Gene Amore to be used by him.)

Copyright for this blog post 2011 Wendy J Littrell.
No part of this blog post may be used or reproduced without explicit permission from the author and must be linked back to this blog.

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SISTERS

(Original & Digital Image Owned by Wendy Littrell)

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Even though this is supposed to be “wordless” – I thought this picture would be great for “hump day”!!!

(Original and digital photo held by Wendy Littrell. Photographer – Unknown. Taken with my mom’s camera to be used by my mother however she wanted.)

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Mary Angeline Werts Amore

Mary Angeline Werts was born to William Washington Werts and Louisa Bookless on February 16, 1855 in Linton Township, Coshocton County, Ohio.  Her father died when she was two years old leaving Lousia to raise Mary and her older brother, George.  In the 1860 Census both children are living with others.  In 1961 Louisa married John Simon and three years later they had a daughter, Sarah Ellen.  On December 14, 1872, Mary married William Henry Amore.  In 1881 Mary lost her brother, George.

Mary – known as “Annie” and “Henry” had seven children – a daughter first, followed by six sons (“Clemmie”, “Zade”, Roy, Lloyd, Rollo, Bert, and Clarence).  The family was very involved with the Salvation Army.  I just didn’t realize how involved Annie was until I ran across an article from the Coshocton Tribune dated December 14, 1941 (nine days after Annie passed away).

In the “Fife and Drum” column written by Al Cline, he stated, “Back a quarter century ago, at the Christmas times even before the first World war, you might have seen a tiny, birdlike woman, her face rosy with cold, standing on one of Coshocton’s snow-swept street corners, ringing a Salvation Army bell.”  He went on to state that before many people knew what the Salvation Army was is when she joined as one of its first members. She was called “Mother” Amore, and as Cline reported, “very few people knew her first name was Mary. And there is no record how many derelicts she took into her little house, gave a bed and breakfast and sent on their way, because the true spirit of Christmas was with Mother Amore the year round.”

There were many Sundays she walked from her home in Roscoe to the Salvation Army home so she wouldn’t miss a service. My great-grandmother (her son Lloyd was my grandfather) saw the new citadel finished in 1929 when she was in her 70s. Unfortunately that was about the time she fell and was hurt pretty bad.  The columnist reported that for more than ten years after her fall, Mother Amore was “an uncomplaining invalid, tied to her bed and crutch.”  Salvation Army Captain Douglas Bethune told Al Cline that he always had a strange feeling in her house; one that felt as if she was comforting him instead of the other way around when he came to call on her weekly after her fall.

Cline summed up his story by writing, “I guess this is a story of faith. Mother Amore had faith, like an imperishable little . . . flame, burning inside her and shining thru her eyes. It took faith and vision to help build the snug Salvation Army citadel, and it took faith to lie calmly in bed, at 86, and wait for the quiet touch of death.”

As I read that article, tears sprung from my eyes.  No, I didn’t know my great-grandmother in the traditional sense (I also did not know my grandfather as he died six years before I was born).  I didn’t even really know her through memories of others.  The only thing my dad has said is that she was in bed all the time.  He was an adult by the time she died – so perhaps I can find out more about this woman from him.

However, I did learn a lot about this woman, just from this article.  It told me that she didn’t complain about any hardship that she encountered.  Whether she learned this at a young age from losing her father and then her brother and being “farmed out” from her mother, I don’t know.  I have a sense that she seemed to always have a sense of purpose – helping people, nurturing them, giving hope to others, and bringing the word of God into the lives of those who didn’t know Him. 

I have three pictures of Annie – the picture above is one that my cousin, Sharon Amore Brittigan, uploaded to Ancestry.  The picture below is one that my family has also shared with me of Henry and Annie and their children.  One other photo I have shows the couple surrounded by loving family members on the occasion of the first Amore reunion held at their home.

Annie died on December 5, 1941 seven years after losing her husband, Henry. Her funeral was held in the Salvation Army citadel and she was buried in Roscoe Cemetery.

R.I.P. Great-grandmother (“Mother”) Amore.

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Summer in the mid-1960s (not sure which year).  This picture was taken at my paternal aunt’s home in Zanesville, Ohio.  Pictured left to right: my 1st cousin, June (my dad’s oldest sister’s daughter), my Aunt Eva and Uncle Bervil (my dad’s brother), my Aunt Gertrude (Dad’s oldest sister), Eric (June’s grandson), and me.  Notice the span of ages between my first cousin – who has a grandchild a little younger than me – and me!

I haven’t seen June or Eric since the real early 1970′s. The last time I saw my Aunt Gertie was in the summer of 1972.  I saw my Uncle Bervil and Aunt Eva for the last time in the late 1960′s.  Luckily, I am now in touch with their son, grandson’s, great-granddaughter’s, and their daughter.

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Twenty seven years ago today, I was at work when my boss, the owner of the printing company for which I worked, opened the door to the graphics room and told me I had a phone call.  It was early afternoon and I still had an hour or so of work yet. No one usually called me at work.  As soon as I heard my brother’s voice, I knew.  I knew because that was how I had envisioned it happening a week or so before.  It wouldn’t be my mom calling me or anyone else – it would be my brother.  The words he spoke brought forth too many polarizing emotions.  I didn’t have to wonder anymore about when it would happen.  I knew that a life lived had been to the absolute fullest.  I knew that while everyone else in the family would be falling apart, that I would draw on my inner strength and remain strong for them.  This woman we spoke of had been a constant in my life since birth – the only grandmother that I knew.  When it seemed that my life was falling apart throughout different periods, she was my champion. When I was at my absolute lowest and disappointing everyone else, she hugged me and let me know that no matter what she wouldn’t be mad at me and would love me unconditionally.  Walking into my grandparents’ apartment later that evening and seeing my grandfather all dressed up in a suit – for he had been waiting to go see his beloved wife – stabbed my heart.  My mother expressed that my grandmother had really wanted to see her newest great-granddaughter, my baby, just a little over a month old, and had never gotten to.  I broke down in grief.

Within a week the family gathered to remember this matriarch of our family.  We laughed and we cried.  Six of us – grandchildren and great-grandchildren – were pallbearers.  It was such a cold day – the day we carried the casket out of the church into the waiting hearse.  Snow covered the ground.  We traveled to the cemetery and had a final service in the chapel.  It would be several more years before I went to the gravesite.  When I did return, it would be to visit not only my grandmother and my mom’s baby sister, but also my grandfather, who wasn’t able to go on after the love of his life was gone.  He passed away a year less a day after she did.

Like me, my grandmother was a child of divorced parents.  When I was young and going through the rough patches of my parents animosity, she would always comfort me and tell me she knew what I felt.  As a young child, I used to spend weekends with my grandparents.  I was the youngest of their eight grandchildren – by fourteen years – so to say that I was spoiled by them is an understatement!  In my defense, I never asked for them to spoil me and in their defense, during the time the others were young and growing, my grandparents lived in Germany and were always traveling due to my grandfather’s military duty or for pleasure.  They missed a lot of holidays and birthdays with my siblings and cousins.

Vesta Christena Wilt was born on May 7, 1898 in Noblesville, Indiana to Joseph N. Wilt and Martha Jane Stern.  She was the oldest girl and fourth child.  Another daughter and son followed her.  Before she was 12, her parents had divorced.  Her mother married her widowed brother-in-law, Frank Clawson.  The family moved from Noblesville to Anderson, Indiana and on Easter Sunday 1916 she met the man she would spend the rest of her life with.  Vesta dated Glen Roy Johnson for several months and the two got married at Martha and Frank’s house on Christmas Eve 1916.  The following December their first child, a son named after his father, was born. As the years went by the family added their first daughter, Genevieve, and then a second daughter, Mary (my mother), and lastly baby Lois Evelyn who was born prematurely and died just a little over 2 months later.

 

My grandmother knew her own heartache. She was separated from her beloved Glen for quite awhile while he went to training for the Signal Corps and then went overseas to France during WWI.  She had been separated from her mother and two youngest siblings after Martha moved to Oregon before my mother was born.  She lost a baby and then much later watched her oldest daughter suffer from a brain tumor and ultimately succumb to another inoperable one.  She lost the father that she hadn’t seen for so long without having that estranged relationship mended.  As the years wore on, she watched her youngest daughter struggle and grieve for the end of an almost 30 year marriage.  She lost her mother and three brothers.  She sat by her husband’s hospital bedside for months as he recuperated from a blood cot on his brain that he had suffered in a fall.

Then her health began to fail.  She wasn’t a stranger to health issues – having one ailment and surgery or another throughout her adult life.  But after she broke her elbow in the early 1970s, she was never as healthy as she had been.  All too soon she was experiencing a heart attack every three months.  I was very scared about losing her – not only for myself but for what it would do to my mother. After hospital stays and a change in her diet and medication, it seemed she rallied from the heart issues (although they were still there). 

The family would gather for a surprise birthday we had for her at our house.  She was so surprised when she walked in through the garage to the dining room and most of her family.  Then there was the 60th wedding anniversary celebration at their apartment complex.  Long time friends, church friends, military friends, and the family and extended family came to honor them.  We were only missing one of my cousins and her family.

I moved away for awhile and when I returned back to my hometown, I realized just how she had aged – my grandfather too.  I knew that as the years had ticked by, time was winding down for their life among us.  My grandfather had been the one who had several health issues before I had moved away and I guess I had thought that he might be the one to go first.  Then she was hospitalized and then again several weeks later.  That visit was one she wouldn’t return home from.  I learned later that she had told the apartment manager as the EMTs were wheeling her to the ambulance to make sure her husband would be okay.  Did she know she wouldn’t come home? Did she decide that it would be okay to go if it was her time?

My grandmother – Vesta Wilt Johnson – born on May 7, 1898 – died on January 19, 1984.  My grandfather – Glen Roy Johnson – born November 21, 1898 – died on January 18, 1985.  They were the glue of the family.  There are times during holidays and celebrations, the family left an empty chair – in honor of our grandmother.  Our Beloved Nana – the woman whose “grandmother” moniker I have assumed for my own grandchildren – the woman whom I will never live up to as a grandmother – the woman who is always beside me in times of trouble – smiling and cheering me on.

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The center of our home was – and always has been – the kitchen.  The above pictures (photographer: Gene Amore, held privately by Wendy Littrell) show the eat-in kitchen of the house I grew up in.  This was where smaller, family birthdays were celebrated; where the holiday meal preparations were done; where my dad marked the heights of me and my niece and nephew on the recessed door; where we’d sit at the table while talking on the telephone; and where I’d spend my meal times.

Dad and Mom preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner

The kitchen was the place I could find my mom if she wasn’t at her sewing machine or out in her flower beds.  She liked to cook and bake.  She taught me how to cook in this kitchen.  

Mom by the stove

On one side the kitchen was accessed by an open doorway that led into the formal dining area and on the other side it led into the living area – a recessed wooden door could close it off. 

This was not the kitchen my mom used for the last 32 years of her life but it was the kitchen I’ll always think of when remembering childhood meals and ocassions.

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(Continued from The Box)

After I had opened the box, unwrapped the tissue paper to find my mom’s baby sister’s bonnet and removed the tissue paper, I saw a calendar at the bottom of the box.

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Carefully I lifted out the Calendar from 1927 and slowly flipped the pages.  When I found the month of June, there were notes on the page in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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June 9: Baby born – 10 a.m. hospital – 3# 4 – Lois Evelyn

June 13: 2#s 5

June 16: I came home – left baby

June 25: Fabitis

Week of June 26: Baby gaining back

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July 9: 3-4 1/2

July 15: I came home

July 16: Baby home – 3# 6

July 23: 3# 12 1/2

July 30: Same

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August 1: 3# 12 1/2 oz

August 6: 4 – 3

August 13:  4 – 7

August 20: 4 – 12 1/2

August 27: 4 – 7

August 30: 4 – 5

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September 3: 4 – 7

September 10: 4 – 8

September 12: cow’s milk

September 15: 4 – 13

September 17: 4 – 7

September 19: 4 – 5

September 22: SMA, 4 – 4

September 28: Back to hospital at 9 pm

September 30: Died at 5 pm

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October 2: We buried our dear baby 3 months, 3 weeks

October 18: At Hospital

October 20:  Operated for appendicitis & perineal op

October 22: Real ill

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Lois Evelyn Johnson’s Death Certificate

Birth: June 9, 1927
Death: Sept 30, 1927 at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio
Normal residence was in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn), Greene County, Ohio
Female, White, Single
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Age at Death: 3 months, 4 days (this is incorrect just based on dates)
Father: Glenn (spelling incorrect) Johnson, born Anderson, Indiana
Mother: Vesta Wilt, born Noblesville, Indiana
Informant: Glen R. Johnson, Fairfield, Ohio
Death occurred at 6 pm
Cause of Death: 7 mo. premature birth; summer diarrhea, malnutrition
Place of Burial: Fairfield Cemetery, Oct 3rd 1927

It appears – based on calendar notes – that my grandmother was very vigilant about checking Lois’ weight and even changing what type of nutrition she was receiving.  Lois probably started out being breast-fed and then when she failed to gain enough, was switched to cow’s milk.  She did appear to gain some weight but then started to taper off again.  My grandmother then switched her to SMA Formula but that didn’t seem to help.  I believe the X’s at certain dates of Lois’ life probably indicated either the beginning of diarrhea or a dr. appointment. 

Talking to my mom a year ago, I discovered that Lois had been able to go home from the hospital.  I was always under the impression that she had to remain there.  Mom had told me that her baby sister had been put next to a heat source in order to keep her body temperature up. 

Lois Evelyn didn’t remain at Fairfield Cemetery.  Years later a family had lost their children in a fire (or some other calamity) and a call went out through the community for burial plots or money to help bury the children.  My grandparents gave up their plots and decided to remove their baby daughter to the cemetery they had chosen would be their final resting place.  Mom had told me several times the gruesome tale of how my grandmother had wanted to see her baby daughter one more time after she was disinterred and asked that her casket be opened.  Apparently she was pretty well preserved until the air touched her remains.  Lois was then interred – permanently – at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens in New Carlisle, Ohio.  Almost 40 years after she died, her parents joined her in eternal rest (in 1984 and 1985).  Now, though unfortunate, most of the family is together – lying close together in a very peaceful setting: Lois’ oldest brother and her next to oldest sister (my mother).  My aunt, the oldest daughter, is buried several miles away in the community’s Catholic cemetery.

Medical technology has come such a long way since 1927.  If Lois Evelyn had been born within the last 10-15 years, she would probably be well cared for and received the right nutrition.  Her gastric distress was probably due to her prematurity and she may have been placed on a feeding tube or receive IV nutrients. 

My grandmother spoke of Lois Evelyn often.  She never stopped mourning her last born child.  She had shown me one picture of the little one lying on a blanket.  I’ve not seen that photo again.  The picture I do have, I will not post.  It is her final picture – in her casket at her funeral.  A banner reading “Our Baby” is draped above her on the lid.  She was very, very tiny.  And for all these years, she’s been an angel.

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Rest in Peace, Lois Evelyn

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A New Leaf

One reason posts have been few & far between lately is because we were expecting a new little leaf on our family tree!  Time to be a Nana for the 4th time!  The little guy made his entrance early in the week and my daughter did pretty good!  This was her first child and our fourth grandson!  I would like to introduce Orion to you!

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And the really neat part . . .  He was born on my late mother’s birthday!  Do you think his Great-Grammy would have been pleased?

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