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Archive for the ‘Life and Death’ Category

There_was_no_bridegroom_there_(NYPL_Hades-463957-1255500)

Estella (“Stella”) Blazer was born to George W. Blazer and Amanda (maiden name unknown) in 1864 in Indiana – probably Madison county. The beautiful dark-haired girl left her parents’ Anderson, Indiana home at the age of 18 for the big city of Indianapolis. There she found employment in the home of Judge Foutz as a domestic.

Close to the Union Depot located on South Illinois street, Albert Hercules ran a restaurant on West Louisiana street. From all appearances, he was of good character and very attractive. Stella became enamored of the man who in turn, according to The Cincinnati Enquirer (13 Dec 1883), “on the 20th of August, under the promise of marriage, succeeded in her ruin.” It was quite probable that at the time, Stella did not feel “ruined” since she was to be married, and the couple continued to be together when they could. The news continues on that Albert “continued his attentions till she was in a delicate condition” and then took her back to her parents’ home. He told Stella to begin planning for their Christmas wedding. Four months would be a very long time for Stella to wait to be married – especially when there was a child on the way. The earliest date agreed upon was December 2nd.

Albert Hercules left Anderson and went back to his home in Indianapolis. As the wedding date drew near, he went back to Stella’s hometown and obtained a marriage license. However, she became ill, so he left. She was to send a letter to him when she felt well enough to marry which she did soon after.

Following Albert’s instructions, Stella’s father, George, invited a large number of guests and had a large wedding feast ready on December 12th – the new date for the nuptials. The groom failed to show nor did he miss his train as Stella had feared. He had left Indianapolis but was not coming to be wed. Fearing for her child’s future as well as her own, the young woman went directly to the prosecutor and filed two affidavits. One was for bastardy and the other for criminal seduction. A warrant for Hercules’ arrest was issued. The Chief of Police of Indianapolis was telegraphed to arrest the man and hold him until the Marshal could pick him up. Unfortunately, by all appearances, Albert Hercules had flown the coop. Not only was there to be no wedding but Stella was looking at a future filled with disgrace and hardship.

 

What would happen to Stella? Would Albert Hercules be found and brought to justice? And what about the unborn child?

Stay tuned . . .

(Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons; image in public domain)

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Two years ago, I posted an article about my my great-grandfather’s brother, Jacob Marion Wilt. If you haven’t read it or need a refresher, please go here.

In summary, I have not been able to locate any further information on Jacob nor on his wife, Sena Gibson, for the last two years. I located their son, Russell, and his wife, Ferna Potter (I learned her maiden name!), along with their daughter, Thelma. Or is she (more on that below)?

Yesterday, after checking Find a Grave one more time, lo and behold! There was the headstone for Jacob. Checking in the same cemetery, I located Sena, Russell, and Ferna! Yes, I did a happy dance – not so much of a dance rather than some arm and fist pumps in my chair!

Now, I have a more detailed picture of Jacob’s life and death than I had two years ago. It turns out that Sena Gibson was born Marsena Gibson to Wilson Gibson and Cynthia Ann Maddy about 1856 in Indiana. Sena’s mother, Cynthia, is found at the age of 12, living in the household of Andrew and Marcena Maddy in the 1850 US Census in Henry county, Indiana. Cynthia’s siblings included James, Isaac, Elizabeth, George, Rhoda, Philena, and Sarah Jane.

Cynthia and Wilson married in Henry county about Feb 1855. Besides Marsena, they had two more children – Rhoda and George (which coincidentally, are the names of two of Cynthia’s siblings). The family is found in the 1860 US Census in Jefferson, Henry county, Indiana – along with a girl named Amanda, age 9. Amanda is possibly the daughter of Wilson Gibson from a previous marriage. By the 1870 US Census, Wilson has died (about 1864) and Cynthia has remarried Thomas Ray on March 7, 1866 in Henry county. Son, George, is not in the household giving the impression that he died between 1860-1870. Included in the household is “Sena” Gibson, age 14; Rhoda Gibson, age 12; Sarah Ray, age 4; and James Ray, age 1. In the 1880 US Census, Cynthia and Thomas with children: Sarah, James, Albert, Josie, and Alta are still living in Henry county. Marsena (“Sena”) is found living in the Anderson Sherman household in Henry county as a servant.

The following year on August 5, 1881, Sena Gibson and Jacob Wilt marry in Henry county. About nine years later, their son, Russell Ray Wilt, was born in the same county. Due to the amount of time between their marriage and the birth of Russell, it seems likely that other children may have been born – and died (as a result of stillbirth or miscarriage). However, no records have been found. Sena does report on the 1900 US Census that she is the mother of only one child and that child is living. It wouldn’t have been the first time that a woman did not list stillbirths. It is also possible that couple may have had fertility issues, and Russell was their “miracle” child.

Jacob and Sena are found – still residing in Henry county – in both the 1900 US and 1910 US census records. Jacob does not list an occupation in 1900 but in 1910, he says that he is a “railroad worker.” At that time, the family owned their home “free and clear.” By June 1917, their son, Russell, is a resident of California as shown on his draft registration for WWI and is self-employed. Was that the reason Jacob and Sena moved to California from their native Indiana? To be closer to their only son? Jacob’s father, (my 2nd great-grandfather) Israel Wilt, was still living. Was it difficult for Jacob to move clear across the country from his then 80-90 year old widowed father – knowing that he would probably never see him again? Sena’s mother, Cynthia, had died in August 1911, so she wouldn’t have been leaving her parents.

The couple has been very hard to find in the 1920 US Census. Up until today, I wasn’t sure if they were in Indiana during the enumeration or on their way to California. Jacob Wilt has been found in the 1920 US Census! He is a renter living at 439 King Street in San Bernardino and listed his age as 57 (several years were shaved off his age!), born in Indiana with father born in Virginia (yes) and mother born in Pennsylvania (yes). Jacob is a laborer on the railroad. And for the kicker – his marital status shows he is divorced. What? Divorced? So where is Sena? Has she died?

Yes, Marsena Gibson Wilt died on December 26, 1913 at the age of 57 years in San Bernardino. She is listed as Mrs. J Wilt. So does that imply that prior to Russell moving to California by 1917, the entire family moved? Did Jacob and Sena divorce prior to her death or did Jacob marry someone else between the end of 1913 and the census in 1920? But what happened to Jacob Wilt? In 1930, he is renting 1745 W. King Street in San Bernardino next to the rail yard. He lists his age as 69, working for the railroad “at home” and is widowed. By the 1940 US Census, Jacob had already died. His death record shows that he died at the age of 70 on September 26, 1931 in Los Angeles county.

Jacob and Marsena are buried at Mountain View cemetery in San Bernardino. Thanks to Lynette (Find a Grave member: Gooffson), she not only uploaded the cemetery information to Find a Grave but also photos of their headstones. She has allowed me to use her photos in my family tree.

Jacob Wilt gravestone

Marsena Gibson Wilt headstone

(Headstone photos by Gooffston – AKA Lynette – used with her permission.)

Finding Jacob and Marsena’s headstones and where they are buried enabled me to find even more records and information for my great-grand-uncle and his wife!

Their son, Russell Ray Wilt, had moved – either with is parents or by himself – after 1910. On his WWI draft registration, he lists his birthday as September 6, 1890 and place of birth as Newcastle, Indiana (in Henry county). The address he resided at on June 5, 1917 was 1120 S. Madison in Stockton, California. Russell was a self-employed oilman with a wife who was dependent upon him for support. In 1920, Russell and his wife, Ferna, are roomers in the household of 64 year old Isora M. Oulland in the 7th Ward of Modesto living at 142 Rosemont avenue. Russell’s wife, Ferna, is listed as age 28 born in California with her father born in “English” Canada and her mother born in Illinois. Russell does not have an occupation listed.

In the 1930 San Diego, California City Directory, Russell and Ferna are living at 2351 Boundary street. If that address is still current today, the home is duplex. Russell’s occupation is salesman. By the 1930 US Census enumerated on April 11, 1930, the family is living at 1382 36th street in Oakland, California. They are renting for $30/month. Living with them is their “daughter” Thelma, age 12 born in California. So where was Thelma in the 1920 US census? She wasn’t shown to be living with them in Stockton – unless the landlord, Ms. Oulland, provided the information to the enumerator and failed to mention Thelma. Russell was 22 and Ferna was 21 at the age of their first marriage – putting their marriage as taking place in about 1912. That leaves the impression that Russell was in California by that time. His occupation in 1930 was a specialties salesman.

The 1940 US Census reports that Russell and Ferna were living in Chillum, Washington. By 1940 they are residing in Alderton, Washington. Once again, the couple are roomers in the household of a widow – 69 year old Charlotte Laidlaw, who was born in Canada. Russell lists that his occupation is a self-employed artist and had worked 30 weeks in 1939 and only 6 hours between March 1 and March 30, 1940.

On March 27, 1937 Thelma L. Wilt and James M. Norris were married in Kittitas county, Washington with the approval of Russell Wilt and John Norris Jr (fathers of the intended). Thelma would have been almost 19 years old. James McGovin Norris was born on October 29, 1906 in Roslyn, Washington. The couple are living on the United States Indian Service Government Camp located in Yakima county, Washington in the 1940 US Census – along with their year old son. Thelma reports that she has completed one year of college. Her husband is a surveyor for the government.

By November 30, 1951 Thelma and James had divorced. She then married William Christensen in King county, Washington.

By the time of the 1942 WWII Draft registration – to register older men – Russell and Ferna were back in California, living at 1700 “F” street in San Bernardino. Russell was unemployed at the age of 51 years. He had a scar under his right arm – no mention if it was a large scar or not.

Russell died on August 4, 1954 in Orange county, California. He was buried in Mountain View cemetery – the same as his parents. Ferna followed on August 1, 1963.

Now, back to Thelma and the answer to where she was in the 1920 US Census since she did not appear in Russell and Ferna’s household. I still haven’t located her but I have learned that Thelma was born Thelma Serrano to Lucille Rogers and Arthur Jesse Serrano in March 1918 in Alameda, California. Apparently, the child’s mother took off and left her with Arthur who in turn moved in with his parents. Soon, Thelma’s biological grandparents came down with tuberculosis. Arthur feared for his daughter’s health and put an ad in the paper asking for a couple to take his daughter. It is unknown if an adoption ever took place after Russell and Ferna took young Thelma into their home as their own daughter. Thelma tracked down her biological family in the late 1970s.  She passed away in Washington on February 21, 2000.

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franklin blazer grave

(Photo of gravestone by Gaye Dillon taken on 23 July 2009)

A year ago I wrote about my great-great-grandfather Franklin Blazer in Week 1 of the 2014 Edition of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. Up until today, the cause of his death was a mystery. He died on August 25, 1869 so I thought he may have died due to injuries sustained in the Civil War or perhaps he was killed in a farming accident or died of some disease. I was so very wrong.

What could only be termed a tragedy is what befell poor Franklin. He and Malissa Goul had been married at least ten years and possibly upward to 14 years. Their children, two boys and three girls, ranged in age from 2 years to 9 years old. In fact the oldest son, John F., was a month from turning ten – not yet a teenager and definitely not ready to be the “man of the house” at such a young age. Malissa’s son from a previous relationship, James Oakland Goul, was about fourteen.

Thanks to a post on Genea-Musings by fellow geneablogger Randy Seaver, I learned about a new free search tool call Genealogy Gophers. It searches for names in texts of Google books. I plugged in the name of Franklin Blazer and the first result that popped up listed not only Franklin Blazer but Malissa Goul. I knew I had found the correct person. I clicked on the snippet and lo and behold it was an entire book that included tons of information on those with the surname of Blazer and everything within the soundex of B-426 written by John Allison Blazer from Hendersonville, Tennessee. There isn’t a date on it except for the filmed date of 2000.

The information concerning Franklin reports that he was married to Malissa Goul and listed her birth and death dates and they lived in Pendleton, Indiana. It listed their children – four correctly: John, Philip Wesley, Kate and Rachel but listed Martha Ann erroneously as Matthew. Of course when I saw that, I thought perhaps there was another son that I hadn’t heard of but then realized that Martha had been left out. (She is also listed further in the book – still as Matthew – with a child named Chase – so I knew that the name had been mangled). But then I saw something I didn’t know: Franklin died “when struck by lightning in his home.”

I can’t even imagine what the rest of the family went through after that. Did Malissa and any of the children witness this? Did they try to revive their husband and father after he had fallen dead? Was a physician summoned quickly? The weather must have been pretty fierce. It was still tornado season so I wondered if they were also terrified of what else Mother Nature had in store for them.

Franklin had just turned 33 years old. He would never be able to enjoy a life of watching his children grow up and get married. His wife, my second great-grandmother – would never celebrate another wedding anniversary. She remained a widow the rest of her life. Martha, Katie and Rachel all married without their father giving them away. John and Wesley grew into men quickly in order to take on what their father had once done. Twenty-six years after his father’s tragic death, John died of self-inflicted gunshot wound.

As I think about my great-grandmother, Katie, who lost her father when she was almost five years old, I wonder if she had been a “daddy’s girl” and missed him terribly the rest of her life. Or was she so young that she barely remembered him? Did losing Franklin at such a young age change Malissa – her outlook on life, personality, or how she handled sorrow from then on?

His tombstone stands in Grovelawn Cemetery in Pendleton, Indiana. It reads:

FRANKLIN
son of
J & M BLAZER
DIED
AUG 25 1869
AGED
33 Y. 2 M & 23 D.

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stamps

Before delving in to “the” letter, let me back up a bit. When I created my very first genealogy website (still online – just not as updated as I’d like) over ten years ago, I had posted some information about my grandfather’s foster sister, Eva. Imagine my surprise when someone left a comment for me that informed me that Eva was her mother! Say what?! The writer had been put up for adoption similar to how Eva’s life began. Then I saw a picture of the person who had contacted me, and there was no doubt at all that she was Eva’s daughter. She told me her story and how she eventually did get to meet Eva before her death. And just like Eva, she was searching for the elusive Clara as well as the man who would have been Eva’s father. I vaguely remembered that somewhere in my possession I had a letter that Eva had written to my grandparents that mentioned her biological parents. So one day several months ago – on the off chance that I could find the letter – I went into the black hole that is my genealogical filing cabinet. (Okay, disclaimer here – I really didn’t go looking for that letter. I was going through papers to see if there was something I needed to scan or enter in to my family tree database.)

But then – there “it” was. My grandmother – oh, if she were alive – I could have kissed her – she had written on the envelope “Eva’s letter about her father.” OHMYGOODNESS! So I took it out, sat down and read the letter. As with the news article (and everything else I’ve been told about family stories), I took the information with a grain of salt. I needed documentation. But – I needed to tell Eva’s daughter what I had found.

Instead of typing the letter word for word on Facebook private messaging, I gave her a few highlights and then emailed her a scan of the letter so she could read everything in her biological mother’s handwriting. She shared with her half-brother’s daughters. Granddaughters of Eva who had known her – yet it was still a mystery to them. Anything their father, Eva’s son, knew – he didn’t disclose for their relationship was pretty non-existent for several decades.

And now, I present to you, the reader, THE letter.

 

So now you understand my excitement! I had two new names to research! And just what would I find?

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I have three pictures of my Johnson ancestors with mules – two of them in particular. I can’t say for certain these two mules were used to plow the fields.  The first photo (above) wasn’t easy to scan – it is in a frame, and I don’t want to take it out in fear of damaging it. The only way I could digitize the picture was to take a digital photo of it. The “bubble” glass isn’t conducive to that (and without the flash the photo wouldn’t have come out at all). This is my maternal great-grandfather, John Lafayette Johnson, born in Howard county, Indiana on March 2, 1861. The first census (1880) I found for him shows him as a 19 year old man working as a laborer on the Isaac Goble farm in Rush county. (I have been unable to locate the 1870 census for him.) In 1900, he is married to Katie J Blazer and living at 1524 Forkner Street in Anderson with their two sons, 13 year old Letis, and 1 year old Glen (my grandfather). His occupation is listed as “rod roler.” Ten years later the family is still living in Anderson but at 434 17th Street. This time Letis (age 23) and Glen (age 11) are joined by baby sister, Mary, age 1, and John’s father, (James) Wilson, age 80.  John’s occupation is listed as huckster – a salesman. In 1920, John and Katie have lost their oldest son and baby girl but have added Glen’s wife, Vesta (my grandmother), and a foster daughter, Eva, to the family along with a grandson (my uncle – age 2 1/2). John’s occupation is Vendor – Retail and my grandfather’s occupation is Expressman.

johnson mules 001My grandfather, Glen R. Johnson, with the mules
johnson mules 002

So about those mules?

The only thing I could come up with is that the family probably did have a garden – more than likely a very large garden. Perhaps they used the mules to plow the garden or maybe they just had mules! Notice that I don’t have pictures of the mules AND a plow. Just mules. Some people have horses – my Johnson ancestors had mules.

I tend to prefer this cute little mule: donkey on farm

Mule and Flower Box on the Littrell family farm in Missouri

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time! This week’s challenge is “Plowing Through” – do you have an ancestor who had to plow through – fields, snow, a tough time?

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eva_newspaper

Mother and Daughter to Be Reunited By Story In Herald

Echoes of twenty years ago were sounded yesterday when a mother and daughter who had been separated for that length of time found each other through the medium of The Anderson Herald. Twenty years ago October 2, 1910 a baby girl was born on an interurban car at Fortville. The child and mother were brought to St. John’s hospital here.

Limited circumstances prompted the mother to give her daughter to a woman at Fortville, who promised to rear the child. Four years ago the foster parent, Mrs. Charles Johnson, died. Shortly before her death Mrs. Johnson told her daughter, Eva Mary, about the adoption.

Several years ago Miss Johnson married John Skinner of Fortville. During the past four years, Mrs. Skinner has made every possible effort to find her real mother. Several days ago a letter was received at the Herald office from a woman in Chicago who saw an advertisement in a magazine carrying the name of Eva Mary Johnson mentioning her adoption when three days old at St. John’s hospital.

The woman, Mrs. Clara Badgly Grennells, 810 Berry Avenue, Chicago, requested The Herald to print her appeal. Mrs. Skinner read the story which appeared Tuesday and is in communication with the Chicago woman. A meeting is to be arranged soon. Mrs. Skinner said she is confident that Mrs. Grennels is her mother as her mother’s maiden name was Clara Badgly.

And with that newspaper article, the search for the missing Clara began. I urge you to go back to a previously written post – Independent From Birth to read about the woman searching for Clara – my grandfather’s foster sister – Eva – before continuing on.

Go ahead – I’ll wait . . .

Now for the inconsistencies that I know of: Eva’s full name was Eva Louise Johnson. The only reason I can think of that she would go by Eva Mary is because Mary was the name of the birth daughter of her foster parents. My grandfather’s baby sister, born in November 1909, died before she was a year old so perhaps my great-grandmother smashed the names together when she spoke to Eva. Maybe she really did grow up as Eva Mary but somewhere along the way became Eva Louise.

The next error is the name of the woman who agreed to take Eva – it is not Mrs. Charles Johnson. It was Mrs. John Johnson. My great-grandmother was married to John Lafayette Johnson. In the 1910 census there are two other married adult “Charles Johnson’s” living in Anderson, Indiana. One is age 63 and married to his second wife, Fannie, age 37 with their fourteen year old son, Stanley. The other Charles Johnson is 23 and his wife, Alta, is two years younger. In the 1920 census there is not any household with a daughter, Eva, aged 9-10, with Charles Johnson as Head of the Household.

The third error is the birth date. Eva’s date of birth has always been given as October 5, 1910 but if there is truth that she was three days old when Great-grandmother Katie took Eva then it would make her birth date October 2 but was given the October 5 birthday instead. Katie died in May 1930 so that would make the article dated in 1934 as it says “four years” since Katie’s death.

evaskinner

eva_john_skinner1

Eva as a young married woman and with husband, John Skinner

On the 1930 Census taken a month before Katie died, in April 1930, Eva listed her age as nineteen and reported she had been married at age 18. They also had a son, Charles, who was four months old. The family was living at 1618 Cincinnati Avenue in Anderson, Indiana – a three bedroom, one bath two-story home built in 1900. They were living there with two other families and renting a room. John was a machinist working for an auto parts factory.

1618 Cincinnati Avenue Anderson Indiana

1618 Cincinnati Avenue

Within four years after that census was taken, Eva would begin her journey to find her biological mother.

The newspaper clipping mentions a reunion. There were blatant errors in the first two paragraphs of the article. Could there possibly be more? Would Eva get the reunion she so desperately wanted?

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52ancestors-2015

Amy Johnson Crow, of No Story Too Small continues the challenge to the geneablogging world to write a blog post weekly on one ancestor. This could be a photo, a story, biography, or a post on the weekly theme. To read her challenge please go to Challenge: 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2015 Edition. Feel free to join in at any time!

The theme for Week #2 is “King” and Amy noted: “January 8 is Elvis’ birthday. January 15 is the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr. Do either of these “Kings” remind you of an ancestor? Or, taken another way, do you have a connection to royalty? Did you ancestor flee from an oppressive king?”

Of course the first thing I saw was “Elvis Presley” and all other thought went out the window!  My sister-in-law was an Elvis fan – a very big one! She was born Phyllis Anne Pearson on August 9, 1941 to Forrest Orville Pearson and Helen Jane Manning in Troy, Ohio. When she was born, her older brother was almost three. Her parents were divorced and by 1952, Forrest had remarried and was expecting a child with his wife. Unfortunately, the little boy was born prematurely and didn’t survive. Phyllis also had a younger half-sister. Her mother had also remarried. As a child, she contracted polio; consequently, one leg was a tad shorter than the other and that foot was half the size of her other one.

By the end of 1960, Phyllis was working at Miami Valley Hospital in Dayton and met my brother, Jim. He had tried to enlist in the US Air Force but due to his eyesight and a bad shoulder, he was honorably discharged. Unable to follow in the footsteps of our father and grandfather, he found work at the same hospital as Phyllis. On February 1, 1961 the two of them married at the parsonage of the First Reformed Church of Xenia (Ohio) by Rev. Russell Mayer. Their friends, Mr. and Mrs. Donald Fuchs, were their attendants. The reception was held at my parents’ home in Beavercreek, Ohio. My brother had turned 21 years old a month previous – on January 2 – and Phyllis was 20.

I wasn’t at the wedding – because I wasn’t even born yet!  When my mother asked my grandmother on Easter of 1961 how she would feel about becoming a grandmother again, everyone looked at Phyllis, who immediately exclaimed, “It’s not me!” So Phyllis had been a part of my family even before I was born. She and my brother would keep me at their house on weekends here and there. I was at their house when I broke out in chicken pox at the age of six. They would get real ice cream for me from the ice cream truck whenever I spent time with them.

michele wendy jim phyllis

My sister, brother Jim holding me and Phyllis

Phyllis’ personality was big. Everyone knew when she had entered a room. She had a voice that carried and a laugh I still hear in my daughter – who laughs a lot like Phyllis. She was tall and carried quite a bit of weight but she could dress in lovely skirt suits and blouses. Her blonde hair was always coiffed. I remember her purse – she always had a big one. We always teased her that she needed an even bigger one! To her family, she was Anne, but to us – Jim’s family – she was Phyllis. She and my brother took me to see “Jaws” when it came out in the movie theaters. I can still hear her yell when that shark came up out of the water!

When she and my brother adopted their son, she was so happy – they both were. I had a new nephew, and he was a darling. Phyllis was always laughing and making jokes. And she would talk about possibly going to an Elvis concert. It was after he had released “Moody Blue” but then he died. She was in shock – along with half of country.

She and my brother divorced in 1998 but she would always be my sister. Whenever we traveled to Ohio to visit my family, I always made sure to see her. She was a passenger in a car accident which badly damaged her polio stricken foot. The doctors weren’t sure if she would be able to keep it but she did. By that time her weight had ballooned, and she spent a lot of time in a wheelchair. She was afraid to use her foot as damaged as it was. Then came the answer we all thought would help – gastric bypass.

After the surgery, she would write to me that she wasn’t sure it was worth it. She wasn’t able to keep anything down and some of her family members were treating her differently. I kept teasing her that soon she could go bikini shopping! When we saw her in the summer of 2006, she still had that wit and laugh, but truth be told, her appearance was startling. She had gone to from at least 400 lbs to under 200 lbs. Her face, which had always been round and “jolly,” had lost that roundness. Then when we saw her the following summer, she was walking with a walker and seemed to have a breathing issue, as if any movement just wore her out. She didn’t speak much, and I can’t remember if I heard her laugh that evening. She seemed to have a hard time sitting. Her face was devoid of joy and happiness. I know she was still in mourning after losing her mother earlier that spring. Looking back on that evening, I should have realized something was off but I chalked it up to her grief and not seeing her for a year. She had lost even more weight.

In 2008, we were in Ohio in June, to visit my mother who had her own illness to battle. I called Phyllis to ask her if we would be able to see her but she said that she just hadn’t been feeling well and wanted to rest. I thought she might have a kidney infection or something but the following month I received a call from my nephew who told me that Phyllis had been hospitalized, and it didn’t sound good. He didn’t go in to detail but I could tell that he was scared. The next day – July 27, 2008 – my cousin called in tears to tell me that Phyllis had died. I just couldn’t believe it. She had been so full of life for as long as I had known her. I wondered if having the gastric bypass had done her in since she hadn’t been able to eat very much after she had the surgery. It wasn’t until that fall when my sister and I were visiting our mother in Ohio that we asked my nephew exactly what happened. He said the doctors had told him that she had kidney cancer. I wonder if she even knew and had chosen not to endure chemotherapy. Now, I believe that when I had seen her in the summer of 2007, she probably had the cancer then, and was starting to feel the pain. I think she had just given up.

I miss getting letters from her – I miss her laugh and the way she could tell a story! I miss her because even though she and my brother had divorced, she was a link to him after he passed away – to the life they had lived happily when I was a child. Not only did my mother survive her son but also her daughter-in-law. My nephew had already lost his father, then his maternal grandmother, then his mother and the following spring, my mom – his paternal grandmother. A few weeks after my mom died, Phyllis’ brother passed away. My nephew endured a lot in a short span of time. It was times like that, I wish we were closer.

So, on the anniversary of Elvis’ birth, I remember my sister-in-law, Phyllis Anne Pearson Amore. I hope she’s at peace and laughing.

phyllis 001

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