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Archive for the ‘personal’ Category

Vacation at the Farm

barn on farm

Recently, my family and I spent almost two weeks in Missouri at my father-in-law’s farm. Mornings of clear blue skies over acres and acres of corn and soybean fields with a nice cool breeze blowing the tree leaves. Some days the wind whipped the tree branches, and I gave up thinking I could just hairspray my hair to stay out of my face! Besides the sounds of birds singing, an occasional car or truck churning up the gravel roads, were the train whistles. About 70 trains a day run close to where we were – far enough I didn’t see one from the house – but with no other environmental or man-made noise – I could hear that mournful sound. We would wake with a general purpose for the day. With my mother-in-law’s passing just over a month ago, my father-in-law was learning a new path in life that didn’t include his beloved wife of almost 65 years. He grew up in a time when men in that part of the country took care of the business end of the farm – and the home – and the women took care of the rest – cooking, cleaning, gardening, and nurturing. We knew he was looking forward to someone else besides just him roaming around the large home. So each morning – even though it was vacation – we set our alarm in order to get up and have breakfast on the table by 7 a.m. My husband and I took turns fixing breakfast. Most days, not only did I cook the evening meal but I fixed a decent sized lunch – smoked sausages, a beef roast, or stew. Sometimes my husband and grandson grilled burgers or steaks. My sister-in-law deep fried catfish one evening and ordered pizzas another night. Besides the meals, there was the washing, dusting and vacuuming. My husband and grandson spent time helping my father-in-law clear brush and vines as well as mowing the grass. There were electrical issues in the shop to take care of and accompanying his father on two long drives (over two hours each way) while we were there. Our days were filled with “helping work” but not so packed that we didn’t have time to enjoy ourselves. For the first few days, I helped my sister-in-law in her quest to put together three scrapbooks of photos. After church services on Father’s Day, my father-in-law treated us to a delicious lunch at a nearby (eleven miles!) restaurant. He is a visitor and talker so as we ate, several folks dropped by the table (you know you are in “small town America” when that happens!) to chat. Unfortunately for him, by the time he was done talking with the two or three folks who stopped by, only half his lunch had been eaten and it had gotten cold. Before we left, he made the rounds of other tables.  It was good to see him out and about and chatting with folks. A few days after we arrived, all of us piled into his mini-van and set out on a cemetery tour.  Since it’s a rural area, there were miles and miles between one cemetery and another so we spent the better part of four hours in the car. However, unlike the last time we had done this (many years ago), we did stop several times and get out so I could take pictures of the gravestones belonging to my husband’s great-grandparents, great-uncles, and various other family members. My grandson was able to stroll down to south pond (the farm boasts two stocked ponds except one now has a herd of cattle – mainly bulls – on that section of land) to do some fishing. Each evening ended with the daily television show on their local PBS station – “Cook’s Country”, then “The Doctors”, and then the 9:00 news from Kansas City. About halfway through that, my father-in-law would head to bed, and the rest of us would watch my grandson’s new favorite “old” show “That 70s show”(!), followed by Rod Serling’s “Night Gallery” (yes, we saw the episode with a young David McCallum before he was NCIS’ Ducky and a young David Carradine). Then the next morning we began all over again. I took my grandson on some fascinating excursions for two consecutive days before we left (but that’s for other blog posts). It was very difficult – especially for my husband – to leave knowing that his dad would be alone as my sister-in-law (who lives across the street) was out of state for over another week. Now we are home again and standing out on the front porch here is just not the same as being able to see miles and miles in the distance with the train whistles the only loud sound to break the silence.

 

(Photo above: barn on the farm, photographed by Wendy Littrell, June 2013)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 11: “Did you have any female ancestors who died young or from tragic or unexpected circumstances? Describe how did this affect the family.”

My 2nd great-grandmother, Charlotte (Reed) Amore, born August 4, 1828 to Zachariah Reed and Margaret Pope died at the age of 34 years 2 months and five days on May 15, 1862 in Coshocton, Ohio. She had been married to William Amore for a little over 11 years and had borne him five sons – all but two died as young children or infants. She died a year after their youngest son died. Charlotte was not able to watch her two oldest sons grow into men or see them marry or hold her grandchildren. I don’t have any information about her death. I wonder if she was pregnant with another child but died in childbirth. If so, perhaps William didn’t even consider listing the child on a gravestone. Perhaps she caught an illness that killed her. Unless I find a news article about her death, I probably won’t ever what the circumstances were for her death. After Charlotte died, William married Elizabeth Spencer three months later. Elizabeth raised my great-grandfather, William Henry, and his brother, George Washington, along with the seven children she and William had together (one son died as a child, one at 5 months, and another at 15 days).

My maternal aunt, Genevieve Vesta (Johnson) Steffen, died from an inoperable brain tumor on May 2, 1958 a month before her 38th birthday. She was a wife of 16 years to John Steffen, mother to three ages 14, 13, and 12, and was working as a nurse. She was the middle child of my grandparents. My grandmother documented her daughter’s medical problems in letters sent to my mother in Japan. When things took a turn for the worse, a telegram was sent dated April 25, 1958.

telegram_genhealth

Genevieve operated on today
Tumor cannot be revoved
Doctor gives no hope of recovery
but may linger on for
sometime
Mailing tape with complete information
M
other Dad

My mother left for the states in order to be with her family. A few days later, she sent this telegram to my dad.

telegram_gendeath

Genevieve passed away
Funeral Monday morning
Love Dad and Mary Helen

Aunt Genevieve’s death left a void in the family. My grandparents had to lose another daughter (their baby died when only a few weeks old), worry about their three grandchildren who were left without a mother, and do what they could to make sure their son-in-law knew that he would always be a part of the family. I never met my aunt since she died several years before I was born but through all the written words of my grandparents, audio of the tape they sent my parents while she was recovering in the hospital after one of her surgeries, pictures, and the stories told by my grandparents, mom, and my cousins, I feel as if I would have really loved her. I have missed her even without knowing her. I also wish I could have witnessed the family dynamic between my mom and my aunt!

My paternal grandmother’s sister, Julia Ann (House) Tuttle, also died at a very young age. I wrote about her in Meeting Juila.

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 10: “What role did religion play in your family? How did your female ancestors practice their faith? If they did not, why didn’t they? Did you have any female ancestors who served their churches in some capacity?”

My dad’s sister, Marie, was active in her church and it became her life’s calling. She traveled from Coshocton, Ohio to New York to attend the Salvation Army College in the Bronx. My Aunt Marie served the Salvation Army, rising to the position of Major before her death at the age of 101 in 2010. While she didn’t become an officer in the church, my great-grandmother, Mary Angelina (Werts) Amore, believed that helping and taking care of those less fortunate was her calling – especially late in life. I wrote about this in an earlier post – “Mother” Amore.

Trinity UCC

Trinity UCC

My maternal grandmother (Vesta Wilt Johnson) came from a family who were members of the Church of the Brethren (the Stern side). My maternal grandfather’s (Glen R Johnson) parents were members of Central Christian Church in Anderson, Indiana (a Disciples of Christ congregation). After Vesta and Glen were married and moved to Ohio in the early 1920’s (after my mother and her two older siblings were born), they joined Trinity Evangelical and Reformed Church in (present day) Fairborn, Ohio. When the E&R churches joined with the Congregational & Christian (not Disciples of Christ) churches in the early 1950s and became the United Church of Christ (not to be confused with Church of Christ), Trinity’s name became Trinity United Church of Christ. My mother had been a member and then later, after she had been away from the church due to military moves, etc., she re-joined Trinity in the early 1970s. That was the church I was baptized as an older child and then in eighth grade became a confirmed member. In eighth grade, I joined the church choir and participated in the youth group all through high school – serving as the President of the Youth Group when I was a senior. Trinity provided the foundation for my Christian education and faith. Through my church camp experience, I met friends – one of which I remain connected to via Facebook. Several other friends from my youth group have remained friends as we approach (maybe are now “beyond”) middle age.

My mother served Trinity in many capacities: member of the Women’s Guild and hostessing meetings at our home and many terms on the church council as well as President of the Congregation. For her Trinity was “home” – her connection with her childhood, her parents, and people she had known in her adopted hometown of Fairborn most of her life. It is where we celebrated her life after she had passed away.

My mother, especially, modeled “serving” the church for me. As an adult, after I had drifted away from worshp – but never God – I found that something was missing from my life. I had a wonderful husband and four beautiful kids. I was no longer working full time outside of the home. It was time to get back to church and give back to others through service. We began attending the church where my husband and I had our reaffirmation wedding (as we didn’t have a “church” wedding when we were married). Our youngest was just a little more than a year old on that Mother’s Day when we walked in to Round Grove United Church UCC in our city. That “baby” is now a 23 year old mother of a three year old, and we are still there. I have served on the Christian Education Board, been Sunday School Superintendent, served on the Cemetery Board, taught VBS and Sunday School, served as Women’s Fellowship secretary, ushered, greeted, served refreshments and worked in the kitchen for meals, and fifteen years ago, I was offered a position as the part time administrative asisstant. It’s a position I enjoy.

Round Grove United Church

Round Grove United Church

When my mom’s sister got married, she converted to Catholicism so her children were raised in the Roman Catholic faith. The oldest daughter decided to take steps in order to become a nun. Divine intervention ensued when she met the man she was destined to spend her life with, raising a daughter, and enjoying their two grandsons – a man who was about to take his vows to become a priest! Even though they didn’t take “formal” positions within the church, both of them were very active in lay ministry and serving in other areas.

Religion, faith and church have been very important in the lives of so many of the women in my family and in my ancestral past.

(Photo of Trinity UCC courtesy of General Preservation Corporation; Photo of Round Grove United Church in possession of Wendy Littrell)

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(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 8: “Did one of your female ancestors leave a diary, journal, or collection of letters? Share an entry or excerpt.”

As I’ve reported many previous times, I have a large – (read that LARGE) collection of letters that include:

  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta Johnson) wrote to each other during their courtship.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other during the time my grandfather was in training with the Signal Squadron and overseas in France during WWI.
  • My grandparents wrote to each other whenever they were apart (for military or visiting other relatives).
  • My great-grandmother (Martha Stern Clawson) wrote to my grandmother (Vesta).
  • My grandmother’s (Vesta) brothers and sister wrote to her as they lived in Oregon/Washington and my grandmother was somewhere else (usually Ohio).
  • My parents and my grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to each other when my parents were stationed in Japan in the 1950s.
  • My grandparents (Glen and Vesta) wrote to my parents when my grandparents were stationed in Germany.
  • Postcards several members of the family sent to each other.

washington d.c. postcard

Postcard my grandfather sent to my parents on January 28, 1951 from Washington D.C.

paris postcard

Postcard from my grandfather to my parents on December 6, 1950 from Paris, France

I feel immensely fortunate that I have this collection of letters from the past because it gives me a glimpse into their lives during a time before my birth.

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Crisco_Cookbook_1912

 

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 7: “Share a favorite recipe from your mother or grandmother’s kitchen. Why is this dish your favorite? If you don’t have one that’s been passed down, describe a favorite holiday or other meal you shared with your family.”

There aren’t that many “real” recipes that came from my mom. Most of her cooking was “little of this, little of that” because she “never measured.” In order for me to duplicate her spaghetti sauce, I had to stand next to her and write everything down as she made it. Since I didn’t have exact measurements of spices, I had to guess. I also added my own spin on it. My favorite pie was Mom’s butterscotch pie! Yum! So after I was grown and was cooking for my own family, I asked her for the recipe. Imagine my surprise when I found out it came from the red and white Better Homes and Gardens cookbook!

My mother-in-law used to send me recipes or write them down for me so I have many of those: cinnamon rolls, homemade biscuits, deletable desserts, beef jerky, salads, and other wonderful dishes. My sister has fixed some scrumptious lunches when I have gone to visit her, and I’m always asking her for the recipe. I hope I can pass down some of the recipes that I have either created, found, or “tweaked” to my four kids.

(Public domain picture of Cookbook cover from Wikimedia Commons)

 

jkjk

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Heirloom

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 6:” Describe an heirloom you may have inherited from a female ancestor (wedding ring or other jewelry, china, clothing, etc.) If you don’t have any, then write about a specific object you remember from your mother or grandmother, or aunt (a scarf, a hat, cooking utensil, furniture, etc.)”

My most treasured heirlooms include some jewelry I received after both my mom and grandmother passed away. I have my grandparents’ wedding bands and her engagement ring that I wear on my right hand. After my grandmother passed away, I received one of her small Hummel’s. I have a china set that I received after my mom passed away. While my sister and I were cleaning out my mom’s home, I found some heirloom recipes with all the other cookbooks. One was from my great-grandmother, Martha Clawson. I also have photos and books that belonged to my grandparents.

The photo above is a small dish that came to me from my grandparents. Obviously it is something they picked up when they lived in Germany.

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Anillos

(I started this blogging prompt late in the month so will try to catch up!)
Lisa Alzo of The Accidental Genealogist has listed blogging prompts for each day of March to celebrate Women’s History Month. The blog prompt for March 5: “How did they meet? You’ve documented marriages, now, go back a bit. Do you know the story of how your parents met? Your grandparents?”

I do know how my parents met – mom was working at Wright Field (now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base) outside of Fairborn, Ohio (back then it was Fairfield) in Greene County, Bath Township. She met my dad in early 1941 when he was stationed there. They spent the next couple of years dating until they married in December 1943.

On Easter Sunday 1916 (April 23), my maternal grandparents, Glen R Johnson and Vesta C Wilt, met at church. Life would never be the same for either of them again! Such began months of daily correspondence for even though they lived in the same town, they sent letters to each other every day – and since the mail service ran twice a day – it wasn’t just one letter they sent, but two! Luckily for me, I have each and every one of those letters. To me they are priceless! A window into their lives that helped me witness them falling in love with each other (although I suspect, it was love at first sight for both of them!).

glen_vesta_eastercherry_hill

The following is parts of a letter from my grandfather to my grandmother that he wrote to her on May 31, 1916 – a little over a month after their initial meeting.

You told me that you were not cold last night but I think you were. I am afraid you (my little girl) will be sick. But I hope not. Do not work to hard to-day. I hope you had a good time yesterday. I did I know. So good-bye Dear
I still remain yours forever
                                       Glen
To the one I love best Miss Vesta Wilt signed Glen

Later that summer – apparently after my great-grandmother, Martha, had words about Glen with my grandmother, he was very scared and wrote the following to my grandmother:

Vesta Dear I am afraid your mother will make me quit going with you. Oh! I can’t stand to think of it. I have cried all evening. But listen Dear you have a good time, don’t think of me. Whatever happens I will take it as best I can, I can go west or some other place and die. But I never will forget the Little girl of Mine. Vesta. The dearest girl there ever was. Hoping you will forgive me for all I have said and done. I will never do them again. After I leave you can forget me and find some one just as good and better than I am. Hoping you will not think hard of me for all this talk, but I think it will happen. I had a dream I never told you of. I don’t know whether I will tell you now. I think you can guess it. And just think I caused it all I am simply crazy. Well dear I have told you all I know and more to. I will be there Sunday morning if I am alive. Hoping you will not worry. Let me do all the worrying. I will close. Forgive the writing. I will close again with lots of love and kisses.
I still remain your lover and sweetheart, bit I am afraid never yours to be.
                    Glen
                 The broken hearted boy.  9:30 P.M.
5:30 A.M. Aug. 4, 1916
P.S. Well Dear I past through the awful night. I got about one hour sleep. I was thinking or crying the rest. Crying the most. Well Dear I guess I will try and work to-day. I don’t know whether I can or not.
                    Glen

My grandfather needn’t have worried because just a few short months later, they were engaged and married on Christmas Eve 1916 – eight months after they met. They were married 67 years before my grandmother passed away. My grandfather wait a year and then joined her. I am so very fortunate to have boxes and boxes of their letters to each other that allows me to feel their deep abiding and eternal love for one another.

I don’t have any idea how my paternal grandparents met – that is something I will have to ask my dad about! (Took a 15 minute break and called my dad!) Loyd W Amore and Ella M House were introduced to each other by his brother Isaiah H (Zade) Amore and wife, Lula (St. Clair). Lula was a sewing teacher and was teaching my grandmother how to sew. She asked my grandma if she wanted to meet someone and she said that would be ok (or as my dad said “Whatever they said back then.”) So they were introduced about 1901-02 and were married on April 11, 1903 in the Presbyterian Manse in Coshocton, Ohio.

Photos: Wedding rings from Wikimedia Commons. Glen and Vesta Johnson – photographer: Wendy Littrell, original and digital photo in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for private use).

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