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Mom & I, 1969

I have many names and titles:

  1. Mom/Mother/Momma/Mommy/that Woman – I have been called one of these or a variation of (and sometimes not in a good way) by one or more of my four adult children from the time they were born.
  2. Nana – the name my grandsons call me because they know better than to call me by the other “G” name (shivers!)
  3. Honey/Sweetheart/Babe/Darling/Bride – these and similar words are  what my wonderful husband has called me since we’ve been married.
  4. Sis – this is what my brother always called me or our sister and since his death, what my sister and I call each other.
  5. Mike-Wendy – It has to be said really fast and the person has to pretend that the first part hasn’t been uttered.  I was many years younger than my sister (Mike) so growing up, my mother – who only had one daughter for a long time – always called me by my sister’s name before realizing I had my own name. I even have caught my Dad calling me the same thing!
  6. “Aunt” – I put this title in quotes because my niece and nephews and I all grew up together as opposed to being born after I was either an older teen or an adult. One child calling another slightly older child “Aunt” was just too ludicrous to consider so now whenever one of them says “Aunt” – you can hear the quotes around it! However, the quotes come off for my 2 great-nephews and niece and for the children of my husband’s nieces and nephews.
  7. Daughter to my parents.
  8. Sister to my brother and my sister and the name some of my friends and I gave each other as we were growing up.
  9. Granddaughter to my maternal grandparents.
  10. In-law (daughter-, sister-, granddaughter-, cousin-, niece-) to all those in my husband’s family.
  11. Mother-in-law to my sons-in-law.
  12. Cousin to many.
  13. Niece to seven aunts and uncles and their spouses who were living at my birth.
  14. Friend to many.
  15. Wendy – the name given me at birth.
  16. Student – I became a student again (after high school) after my youngest daughter was born for a short time and then again four years ago when I returned to college for a few years.
  17. Woman of faith – Though there were a few years during my young adult life that I was not a member or regular attendee of a church, I have always had a deep faith and have relied on prayer and my relationship with God through most of my life.
  18. Waitress/Clerk/Publications Specialist/Typesetter/Paste-Up Artist/Graphic Artist/Technical Illustrator/Customer Service Rep/After Market Sales Rep/Administrative Assistant – these are all titles I’ve had through my varied employment history.
  19. Girl Scout Leader/Troop Coordinator/Cookie Mom – The different “hats” I wore when I was involved in Girl Scout Leadership.
  20. Group Coordinator/Treasurer/Public Relations Coordinator – More volunteer titles during my seven years with ToughLove International.
  21. Christian Education Board member, Cemetery Board member, Sunday School Superintendent, Board of Deacons member, Women’s Fellowship Secretary, Sunday School and Vacation Bible School teacher, kitchen worker, usher, greeter, refreshment volunteer, and many more – the types of volunteer activities I have participated in at my church as an adult.
  22. Student Council Secretary and Youth Fellowship President – offices I held at my Junior High School and in High School at my church.
  23. PTA Board member and Room Mom – volunteer activities I was involved in when either my kids or my grandson was in elementary school.
  24. Band / Choir Mom – cheering on from the sidelines at all the performances.
  25. Webmaster – for my ToughLove International group and my high school class many years ago, and presently for my church.
  26. Scrapbook artist and designer – a hobby that I loved until I ran out of room or time or desire to participate in.
  27. Digital scrapbook artist – what my “paper” hobby grew into!
  28. Family Historian and amateur genealogist – A “hobby” that I am quite passionate about because I love to seek out and solve mysteries, help others in my family learn new information, and to learn more about those who came before me.
  29. Blogger – I tried a journalistic type of blog many years ago after reading several types of “mommy” or “woman” blogs but I soon realized that not everything in my life is blogger material. For one thing, I don’t need to write about every aspect of my life and for another, I’m not as comedic as the ladies whose blogs I really enjoyed. I didn’t have that X-factor type of material to bring traffic to my blog. On April 19, 2008 I wrote the first post for this blog and “officially” became a member of Geneabloggers!  Participating in genealogy memes, carnivals, and other blog prompts, helped drive traffic to my blog. Those looking for a surname would find my blog. I realized that what I was doing was also “cousin bait”!  What a great feeling it is when a distant cousin contacts me and lets me know that I have given them information that they’ve been searching for over a long period of time!
  30. Cook/cleaner/laundress/chauffeur/referee – Cooking for a large family, cleaning up after children and grandchildren, chauffeuring kids and grandkids to their respective activities or even to their jobs, and refereeing arguing children or a neighborhood squabble.
  31. Dreamer!
  32. Wannabe writer/actress/teacher – growing up my “real” career field was always going to be teaching elementary school but my “dream” careers were always being a best-selling author and actress.
  33. Me!

Whew! That list makes me very tired! Have I really worn all those hats? Some I still try to balance. Yet, if it wasn’t for all the strong women who came before me, I may have never had the possibility of doing some of those things. For instance:

mom_xmas8Mary Helen Johnson Amore
Born to Glen R Johnson and Vesta C Wilt in September 1921 a year after women won the right to vote, she had never know what it was like to not be able to vote for the person of her choice. The first president she voted for was FDR during his second run for the White House, and he was her choice the following two times. I believe she only voted for one or two Republicans in her lifetime because she was a Democrat through and through. Mom worked from the time she was old enough and most of her early adult career was spent in civil service and then in middle age she engaged in hard physical labor sewing draperies or cargo covers for a company contracted by the military. In her later life she worked in accounts receivable and in office environments. The only time she wasn’t working outside of the home was after I was born until I was about nine, a few times when she was laid off and looking for another job, and when she finally was forced into retirement at the age of 70+. My mother also did a lot of volunteer work for Girl Scouts during my sister’s younger years and when I was in Brownies, for her church, for her Parents Without Partners group, for the Fraternal Order of the Eagles, and for school and community programs. She was opinionated, blunt to a fault, loved deeply (and consequently was hurt deeply many times over the course of her life), and was a brilliant seamstress and homemaker. When she was in high school she was on the girls’ basketball team and enjoyed watching sports of all kinds. Before she died, I found a photo of her on stage in her school’s drama production. Color me amazed as I didn’t know that she and I shared the love of theater. Divorced twice – the first time as a very young adult with a small son to support – she learned to “do” for herself and not depend on someone else. She loved to travel but wanted to put down roots where she grew up. And my mom was always right – always! That was just something those of us who loved her knew. She was the main caretaker for her parents in their last few years. Many things I learned from my mom, I learned from her example (well, except sewing – she will always be the best in my eyes).

wilt_vcVesta Christena Wilt Johnson
Her parents, Martha J Stern and Joseph N Wilt, divorced when in 1909 when she was just over 10 years old. My grandmother knew what it was like to be a child of divorce so as I struggled during my parents’ divorce when it seemed as if all the other kids I knew didn’t know what it was like, my grandmother would offer me words of love, support, and encouragement. She really never held a job except to help her step-father run his store when she was an older teen and before she married. One thing I ended up with in her honor was her grandmother moniker of “Nana.” She was the only grandmother I knew who did not go by “grandma” (that is until my own mother became a grandmother – she was “Grammy”). Each time one of my grandsons say “Nana” – I think of her – so that means I think about her about 100 times each day! And when I introduce them to her via her photo on a table in my living room, I tell them that she was my Nana and she is their Great-Great Nana!  And she was pretty terrific!  Nana was loving and patient. My cousin recently expressed that she remembers the “unconditional love she showed to us” and that was true. I don’t think there was anything any of us could have done to make her withdraw her love and affection for us. During some of my darkest days as a teenager, she always made sure I knew just how much she loved me and was in my corner. I think that was one of the reasons I didn’t go completely off the rails. Nana kept a very neat home. She had oodles and oodles of “stuff” but everything had a place. Unfortunately, one of the side effects of living through the depression, was the tendency to keep everything. Recycling, upcycling or re-purposing items are wonderful and frugal. But saving every piece of wrapping paper – even ironing it to make sure it folded nicely to be used the next time – is a little much. Saving every dry cleaning bag she ever had was also a little much. But that added to who she was plus it gave some of us stories to tell. As the wife of a military officer, she learned to live wherever my grandfather was sent. From being a girl from a small town in Indiana to a world traveler, entertaining other officers and their wives, she made the transition seamlessly. She was always concerned with the impact she had on others. When she was ill and hospitalized, she was always “sorry” to interfere in everyone’s lives and take away their time when they visited her in the hospital. When she relied on others to drive her and my grandfather somewhere, she felt like she was putting others out. But her loved ones and friends gave willingly because she had given of herself so effortlessly and willingly.

clawson_mjMartha Jane Stern Wilt Clawson
My great-grandmother – whom everyone called Grandma Clawson – was born to Emanuel Bushong Stern and Nancy Caylor in Hamilton county, Indiana in 1872. I wasn’t fortunate enough to meet her as she died five years before I was born. What I know is that she did what she could when my great-grandfather up and left her and six children – the youngest was about three. When she couldn’t get financial support, she went to court. Her oldest son, Clarence, was an adult and her second son, John, was living with his paternal aunt, Sarah Wilt Hofherr and her husband, John. The next son, Jesse, was living in another family’s home and on the 1910 census he was listed as “orphan” which was not true but makes me wonder what the thought process was in order to put that down. My mother had told me that John and Jesse had been “farmed out” by Grandma Clawson because she couldn’t provide for them. However, by 1910, she had married her sister’s widower, W. Frank Clawson, so I am not sure why Jesse and John remained living apart from the family. She and Uncle Frank managed to keep the other three children – which included my grandmother, her younger sister Nellie, and the baby of the family, Clifford – under their roof. However, my Aunt Nellie was asthmatic (according to what my mother told me) and the doctor had suggested that she should go “out west” in order to help her pulmonary problems. Finding Nellie in the 1920 census living with friends of the family in Oregon (they had known them when they lived in Indiana), before my great-grandmother also relocated to Oregon, gave me pause as I wondered how Grandma Clawson felt having her 17-year old daughter living so far away. Other things that I know about this woman include the fact that she wasn’t in the best of health herself. She had diabetes and my guess would be that she developed Type II diabetes in adulthood. She died of congestive heart failure due to arteriosclerosis. She spent the last thirty years of her life a widow and with her sons, John and Clifford, living with her in Oregon.  She never had to bury a child as they all outlived her, but she did have to live through the years that her son, Jesse, was away in WWI and in the hospital after he was injured with mustard gas. She met at least five of her grandchildren and eight to nine of her great-grandchildren. I don’t know if she ever met her son, Jesse’s four children or any of their children. I have one of her recipe’s and several pictures.

nancycaylorNancy Caylor Stern
Born to Abraham Caylor and Susannah Miller in 1840, she lived in an age where women didn’t vote and rarely worked outside of the home – especially in any field that men dominated at that time. She and my great-great-grandfather, Emanuel Stern, had eight children, and they all outlived her – almost a rarity to have that many children without a loss in infancy or early childhood from a disease, epidemic, or accident. Around 1898 (just about the time her granddaughter - my Nana – was born), she and her husband divorced. She moved in with her son, Samuel, where she lived until her death in December 1900. My two times great-grandfather was known for wandering around town with his potions and “medicines” and a local paper ran a poem about him called “Doctor Stern” so I wonder if Nancy was fed up with his potion-pushing. I have a picture of her with some of my grandmother’s brothers so I know she loved her grandchildren.

Susannah Miller Caylor
My three times great-grandmother was born to Joseph Holzafle Miller and Catherine Botafield at the turn of the nineteenth century on June 12, 1800 in Dayton, Ohio. She was the oldest of nine children. Until she was an adult and married to my Abraham Caylor, she remained in the Montgomery county area. Then the couple moved to Hamilton county, Indiana during the early part of their marriage where they remained until their deaths. They had eleven children and minus two that I don’t have death dates for, it appears they all lived to adulthood and outlived her.  That tells me that she and her husband probably kept a clean and (as much as possible) germ free home and environment for their family. They lived on a farm so if there were any farming accidents involving the children, they weren’t fatal.  I don’t have very much information about Susannah. When her husband died in 1855, she was entitled to one third of his estate or the sum of almost $346. Since she made her mark in acknowledgement of receiving the money, I believe that she could not read or write. (Source: transcription of Probate in Probate Order Book, Hamilton county, Indiana and posted on Rootsweb)

Catherine Botafield Miller
I don’t know hardly anything about my four times great-grandmother. She married Joseph Holzafle Miller in Pennsylvania about 1798 when she was about eighteen years old. They moved from their birth place of Pennsylvania to Montgomery county, Ohio before their oldest daughter, Susannah, was born in 1900. She and her husband both died in Tippecanoe, Indiana. Joseph died in 1833 and Catherine followed 22 years later. From her move from Pennsylvania clear to Indiana in her lifetime, I would imagine she was a strong and capable woman and prepared to endure whatever hardships that came her way. She was living in a “new” America as she was born soon after the Revolutionary War. Catherine is the last female I’ve been able to trace on my matrilineal line. She was the “mother” of many strong women. She and Joseph are buried in Hollywood Cemetery in Tippecanoe county.

These six women, their life experiences that were passed down to the next, helped to forge the person that I am and will be, whether it was due to the daughters doing opposite of their mothers or by doing the same. Just as I know that these woman and I also have created the people my three daughters are and will be. They will do some things the same as I, some that they will do completely different, and other things a combination (in their minds “better” than I did it).

This was written in honor of these women – Mom, Nana, Grandma Clawson, Nancy, Susannah and Catherine.

(all photos – original and/or digital owned and in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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While we were on vacation in Missouri, my father-in-law took us on a cemetery tour. We visited the graves of grandparents, great-grandparents, great-great-grandparents, grand uncles and aunts, and collateral relatives. Before we left to return home, I realized that we hadn’t been to the family cemetery in several years. This three person graveyard sits on land that used to belong to my husband’s 2nd great-grandfather, George Washington Littrell. After he died, it eventually ended up belonging to my husband’s paternal grandfather’s brother.  After he passed away, it ended up going into a bank sale and another resident of the rural community purchased that plot of land where the cemetery was located. Missouri statutes explain that even though a cemetery might sit on private land, and even if it doesn’t have a drive that takes it directly to the cemetery, family members are not to be blocked from gaining access during regular daylight hours. There really has never been an issue with us visiting the Littrell cemetery. The gravel road goes right up to the barn and corral areas and the cemetery sits just outside of that.  I wrote a blog post awhile back about our experience when we visited the graves a few years ago that you can read here.

As we pulled up, I looked in horror at the following scene.

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Someone – or several someones – had just placed whatever those things are (they look like steel sawhorse type of things) right inside the cemetery! I was mortified! And the steel cable “rope” that had cordoned off the graves was bent and pulled away from the corner posts. If the person who rents out the land knew about this, I know he would make sure the men who work for him would remove it and not ever do it again so I’m very hopeful that after my father-in-law speaks to him all will be taken care of. It’s just so sad that whoever did this, a) didn’t even realize this was a cemetery or b) didn’t care.  You may also notice that the stone on the right has been shifted as well.

And just to make a comparison – below is the picture of what it is supposed to look like.

gwlittrell-cemetery

Let’s hope this sacred family cemetery – small as it is - where George W and Kitty O (Blakely) Littrell are buried along with their very young daughter, Annie Elizabeth – will soon be properly cleaned of the equipment and I can breathe a lot easier.

(Photos by Wendy Littrell)

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(My grandson next to the Mickey statue at the Walt Disney Hometown Museum)

Where did Walt Disney get his idea for Main Street USA in Disneyland? Perhaps from the small, rural town in Missouri where he lived for several years during his impressionable childhood. My grandson and I had the opportunity to visit Marceline, Missouri during our vacation. Marceline is about 17 miles away from my father-in-law’s farm and driving down the main drag, conjurs up all sorts of ideas and thoughts about what many small towns in rural America are like. There’s a corner café where the food is out of this world and owned by a local resident. If you arrive during regular meal time hours, you might find Ma Vic’s standing room only – but don’t leave – a table will soon be available!  Down on the corner is Zurcher’s. Close to the old train depot is Ripley Park.  The park includes a Santa Fe railroad caboose and a steam locomotive as well as a gazebo.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA    OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Near there is the Walt Disney Hometown Museum where I took my grandson during one of our excursions while on vacation recently. The museum is open April through October and is only $5 for admission. It is well worth that! The tour begins in the first room where a guide provides a very rich and detailed history of not only the Disney family, but the Santa Fe Railroad and the city of Marceline. She was eloquent, personable, and very knowledgeable. Very large panoramic photos are displayed in chronological order around the room and at one side is Walt’s original school desk from Park elementary which he rescued on one of his visits to Marceline before the school was torn down. During the summer the desk is on loan to the museum from Walt Disney Elementary school and if you go, make sure to notice the large WD that Walt carved into the desk (which is how he knew that it was his)! There is a sign outside the museum which restricts the use of photos or videos, however, we were informed that photos are allowed because so many people are posting them to Facebook and of course, free advertising doesn’t hurt!

Most of the artifacts, especially in the several rooms on the first floor, were donated by the family of Walt’s younger sister, Ruth Disney Beecher. There were letters, photographs, objects – even the TV that Walt made sure Ruth had in order to watch the opening ceremonies of Disneyland because she didn’t like to be in big crowds. On that television set was the original special broadcast of those ceremonies which you can stand and watch. In another room was information, posters, records, videotapes, DVDs, and news clippings about the 1956 Disney movie, “The Great Locomotive Chase” with Fess Parker and Jeffrey Hunter. The movie is playing on a screen and anyone is welcome to pull up a chair to watch it.  Another room is the “Train” room and has many displays of Walt’s trains. There are cases filled with letters among the Disney family members, a phonograph (which is playing on a recording) of Walt interviewing his parents for their 50th wedding anniversary. In another room is a large screen and several chairs where a visitor can watch The Man behind the Myth hosted by Dick Van Dyke. My grandson and I watched about ten minutes of the documentary, and I wished we had more time to watch all of it.  My grandson also enjoyed the ten minutes of “The Great Locomotive Chase” so I will be on a mission to see if our local library has a copy to borrow. Upstairs, is a large room dedicated to a scale model (not complete) of Disneyland. Since I had visited the theme park as a very young child (see my series of Travel Thursday posts: Over the Rainbow Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5), I pointed out to my grandson the areas I fondly remember. There were several local news articles about Disney and artifacts elsewhere on the second floor. Downstairs, adjoining the large front room where we began the tour, was a room dedicated to the only ride that operated outside of Disneyland – the Midget Autopia. There is a car on display from that ride. Since there are 70 trains that run through town each day – the museum is located in the former train depot – we were able to look right out the window to watch them go by – another highlight for my grandson!

Exiting the museum through the same door that Walt would enter when he rode the train into town (Amtrak only stops in Marceline for groups of twenty or more with special arrangements), there is a smaller building toward the back that is the Railroad museum. That was very interesting as well. Even though the ladies who run the tour explained that if we wanted to leave for lunch and come back – our ticket would be valid all day – our time was very limited. Perhaps on another visit, we would be able to do just that and spend more time. In particular, I think I would have found the correspondence between the family members pretty interesting. We were told that on the north side of town, we should visit the “Dreaming Tree”, a cottonwood tree that grew on the Disney farm and where Walt and his baby sister, Ruth, would sit under while Walt would daydream. The Tree of Life at Walt Disney World represents Walt’s tree from Marceline. There are other spots around town that were pointed out as places to visit – Walt Disney Elementary School, the park with the flagpole that Walt gifted the city with during one of his trips back, the barn that used to sit on the Disney property, and even the Disney home (which is now a private residence, but people do drive by to look at it). Though the main drag of Marceline is on Kansas Street, the street sign downtown reads “Main Street USA” and resembles the famous mouse ears that Walt made famous!

I recommend that if you are within a 50-75 mile radius of Marceline that you drop in during the times the Museum is open – especially if you or your family are fans of anything Disney – or trains!

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martha_stern_obituary

The above obituary was found in a letter of my grandmother’s that she had probably received from one of her siblings as it was for their mother. My best guess is that it was clipped out of the Springfield Times newspaper as it served the Leaburg, Oregon area.

Death Notices
CLAWSON – Martha Jane Clawson, passed away at her home in Leaburg, November 6, 1956, at the age of 84 years.  Born in Clarksville, Indiana, February 9, 1872, and had resided in the Leaburg area for 34 years. She was married in Anderson, Indiana,  December 31, 1910 to William F. Clawson who preceded her in death. She is survived by four sons, Clarence Wilt of Fortville,  Indiana, Jesse Wilt of Indianapolis, Indiana, John and Clifford Wlt, both of Leaburg; two daughters, Vesta Johnson of Dayton, Ohio, and Nellie Lilly of Lee’s Camp, Oregon; nine grandchildren; 14 great-grandchildren. Funeral service will be held at Buell Chapel on Saturday, November 10, 1956, at 10 a.m., with Rev. C.R. Alsen officiating. Interment at Greenwood Cemetery.

clawson stone

Headstone for William F and
Martha J Clawson
Greenwood Cemetery, Leaburg, Oregon
(Photo by Glen R Johnson, original & digital
owned & in possession of Wendy Littrell,
Address for Private Use)

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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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(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 4: “Do you have marriage records for your grandparents or great-grandparents? Write a post about where they were married and when. Any family stories about the wedding day? Post a photo too if you have one.”

I am lucky enough to have original my maternal grandparents’ original marriage records as well as her parents (Joseph N Wilt and Martha J Stern) and my great-grandparents’ (Emanuel B Stern and Nancy Caylor). I don’t have wedding pictures of either of those couples, but I do have a wedding picture of my maternal grandfather’s parents (Katie J Blazer and John L Johnson).

katie_john_wedding

John Lafayette Johnson and Katie J Blazer – married on Wednesday, July 4, 1883
Katie was not quite 19 years old.

I have digital copies of marriage records via FamilySearch for John L Johnson’s parents (my 2nd great-grandparents), James Wilson Johnson and Amanda Eveline Mullis, and for Amanda’s parents – John Mullis and Darlett Stanley (married in Wilkes county, North Carolina) on February 22, 1811. Recently, I found the marriage license and certificate (digital copy) for my great-grandfather, Joseph N Wilt, and his second wife, Anna Park. On the line that asked if he had been married before, he listed “no.” When I saw that, I exclaimed “Liar!” at my computer screen (he had walked out on my great-grandmother, Martha, and 6 kids under 14 years old). Perhaps, he didn’t know if the divorce had ever been finalized (it had) and didn’t want to have to legally be bound to getting that information.

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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 2: “Post a photo of one of your female ancestors. Who is in the photo? When was it taken? Why did you select this photo?”

mom14

This is a picture of my mom – Mary Helen (Johnson) Amore – when she was a young child – about 1924. The reason I picked this photo is because it was one of the first pictures of her as a little girl that I ever saw. When I first looked at it, I could see myself in her face. I wonder what she was looking at when the photo was taken, what she had been doing, and where she would walk to afterwards. Was she having a good day? Did she feel well? How warm was it? Questions I won’t ever have the answers to now that she’s gone. Questions I didn’t even think about until I looked at it recently.

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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 month began with this prompt: “Do you have a favorite female ancestor? One you are drawn to or want to learn more about? Write down some key facts you have already learned or what you would like to learn and outline your goals and potential sources you plan to check.”

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It isn’t easy for me to pick a favorite female ancestor however I must choose my maternal grandmother, Vesta Christina (Wilt) Johnson – the woman I knew all my life as “Nana.” She was a large part of my life and lived close to us so I saw her at least once a week if not more. As a young child, I spent some weekends at her and my Granddad’s home and then later – their apartment in a senior citizens high rise building by the river in Dayton. I have letters that she wrote to my folks when my dad was stationed in Japan in the 1950′s. I have letters she wrote when she and my grandfather lived in Wiesbaden in the early 1950′s. I have letters my grandparents wrote to each other when they were courting and later when my grandfather was in training with the signal corps & after he was shipped to France in WWI. I have pictures of her when she was a child and a young woman as well as all the pictures she was in after she was married, had children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

If I had to list items that I would like to learn, it would be about her relationship with her father. He left the family when my grandmother was about 10 and her youngest brother wasn’t very old. I know she heard from him after she was married but I don’t know if she went out of her way to try to maintain that father-daughter bond or if she realized it was up to him. I know she was at his funeral and my grandparents helped pay for some of it. I have a picture of her and her siblings at his grave. Even without her father in her life. she kept close to her Wilt family members especially later in life by attending the family reunions once a year and traveling to Indiana to visit with her cousins at least once or twice more through the year.

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After two+ days of labor and delirium, Mary gave birth to her first born child (no, this isn’t THAT story!). The baby boy weighed over 10 lbs and came into the world on January 2, 1940.  His mother was just a mere eighteen – still a child herself. He was the first grandchild for his maternal grandparents who doted on him and cared for him when his mother was working.  In fact, he met his great-grandmother in Oregon before his mother had met the woman!

When he was five and a half, he found himself an older brother to his newborn baby sister.  The family lived in a state far away from the grandparents he loved dearlyjim picture new camera. He made friends with the neighboring family’s children.  As a young teen, he found himself – along with his mother and sister – on a sjim&sandykelso001hip headed to Japan to join the family patriarch who had been stationed there with the United States Army Air Corps (the forerunner to the U.S. Air Force). He made friends, participated in the Boy Scouts, learned to be a photographer, and tried to be a dutiful son and big brother.  Since they were so far from family – grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins – they sent many letters back to the States.  After a few years, they went back to their home state of Ohio, but then once again found themselves back in Japan again. He graduated from the American High School and joined the Air Force. Unfortunately, due to his eyesight and other physical issues, he was discharged before too long.

In February 1961, he married a woman that he met at work.  Soon after they were married, he heard that he was going to be a big brother again!  He and his wife took the new little sister under their wing, and she spent many weekends with them. As his baby sister grew, he found himself in a role that he never expected – being torn between being her big brother and confidante and a father-figure when their father moved away. At the same time, he was enjoying new fatherhood for he and his wife had just adopted their own little boy.

He had found his niche working for a printing company in Dayton and assumed he would be there until retirement. He and his wife had finally found a home they were fixing up and happy with that wasn’t that far away from both of their mom’s. He was an officer with the local Fraternal Order of Eagles and enjoyed the friendships and community service he found within the organization.

There were a series of losses – his beloved maternal grandmother and then grandfather and close friends.  After his son graduated high school, hardship struck when the printing company closed the doors. Dayton was experiencing a major downturn in the jobs market and he had a very hard time finding a job right away so he went to work for a cousin. He and his family moved to another home and proceeded.  Every so often he would find he and his mom on the outs – he avoided confrontation like the plague, and she sought it out.

thanksgiving98_3He found a new love in a far off state.  For a short time, he was remarkably happy. Then his health began to deterioriate. The worst part was that no one could tell him exactly why or what to do about it. By the time the doctors had discovered the pancreatic cancer, it was much too late. He only had a short time left. Too short of time for he and his mother to reconcile – although she tried to tell him while he was comatose. His two sisters were also grief-stricken but tried to remain strong for their mother – who should not have had to see her son succumb to his illness.  Far too soon and far too young, he passed away on the last day of August before the world fell apart and terrorists held the world hostage in horror.

He was survived by his wife, his mother, his father and step-mother, his three sisters and their husbands, his son, many nieces, nephews, cousins, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and friends.

Today, he should be turning 73, and I should be able to call him on the phone and say, “Happy Birthday, Jim! I love you!”

 (Photos: Mary and Jim, 1940; Jim and Sandy Kelso - 1945, photographer: Gene Amore; Jim at Christmas in Japan, photographer: Jim Amore; Gene and Jim Amore, Thanksgiving 1998 in Arkansas, photographer: Wendy Littrell.  All photos – originals and digital images held in possession of Wendy Littrell, Address for Private Use)

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As Thansgiving 2012 ends and the Advent season is a week away, I thought I’d reflect on what transpires in between. First up is Black Friday. While many get excited when this arrives – even plan routes, stores, and means of “attack” – I have only braved the early (early!) crowds once. Yes, that means one, uno, singular.
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Yesterday, I shopped but not at some inhumane time! I did some online shopping very late on Thanksgiving and went to three “bargain” stores mid-afternoon Friday.
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Second, the annual Christmas movie watching. Our family began by watching “Miracle on 34th Street” and “White Christmas” on Thanksgiving. Friday we watched “Polar Express.” There will be more viewing opportunities to come as we settle in to watch “Prancer,” the Santa Clause movies with Tim Allen & especially “It’s a Wonderful Life!” Is the original “Die Hard” considered a Christmas movie!?
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My birthday always falls after Thanksgiving – so that means a pizza dinner.
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This year the annual Ohio State vs. Michigan football game falls after Thanksgiving. My family has a long history with the Buckeyes and being from Ohio, I will be cheering for the boys in red.

Next Sunday – December 2 – will be the first Sunday of Advent. Our church Christmas Tree will be decorated and traditional Advent hymns will be sung. Sometime in the next couple of weeks, our home Christmas tree will be set up. When my children were little, they all decorated it while we took pictures. As they’ve grown up, the decorating has fallen to grandkids and which ever kids are here. It always is magical to watch the ornaments being selected and locating just the right spot for it amongst the branches of our artificial tree. Then it’s my job to pick out the garland. We’ve had tinsel, strand garland of gold or silver, pearl strands wound around the tree, and ribbon. Normally, an angel rests on top of the tree or a star. The year I used a giant red velvet bow was not looked upon fondly so I won’t do that again! By Christmas Eve the tree is ready for Santa’s visit.
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As I reflect upon our family’s activities and traditions, I wonder what my grandparents and great-grandparents experiences were. I’m pretty sure at the heart of the holidays was family – just as it is for mine.

Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

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