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I don’t know if anyone else has a “travel” day of the week, but I’m going to start one!  This fits really well as I began my latest travels a week ago Thursday, March 31.  I added 3 more states to my list of those I’ve visited or traveled through. One I had been to but only when the plane stopped there and we were able to get off and outside the terminal (pre-9/11).  Didn’t think that really counted.

In early March I started thinking about my dad – he was getting ready to turn 90 years old.  I haven’t seen him in several years – since his and his wife’s last trip from Florida to Texas around Christmas.  Age and some illnesses have curtailed their long road trips so I knew that they probably wouldn’t be back for a visit.  Wishing there was some way I could see him around his birthday, I thought about how I could pull it off – especially with all my responsibilities at home plus my college course.  I thought about checking for an inexpensive flight – but I wasn’t sure what the nearest airport would be and really didn’t want to add the expense of a rental car or having my dad drive any distance to pick me up.  I went to sleep that night thinking that I’d think some more about it in the days to come.  The next morning I woke up with the thought that it would sure be nice if my sister also decided she wanted to see Dad on his birthday and perhaps we could ride together.  Our road trips have become famous (if only between ourselves)!  As I was thinking about it, I checked my email and saw that she had sent me one about 30 minutes before.  Her first sentence said that we needed to take a road trip to see Dad for his birthday because of his birthday and the second sentence mentioned that it felt like she’d been hit over the head with a hammer with that thought while she was out walking her dog.  Sister ESP! 

So with the opportunity, I made the necessary arrangements and she contacted Dad to let him know that we would like to come to visit him – there’s no way you surprise a 90 year old man like that.  I’m not sure who was more excited – my sister and I or our dad. 

So last Thursday morning she picked me up and by 7:30 am we were on the road going east toward Florida.  We traveled through Louisiana – even going through the town of the airport I’d seen briefly back in early September 2001.  Then on through Mississippi and we stopped for the night on the east side of Mobile, Alabama.  We arrived at our Dad’s about early afternoon on Friday.  My sister has been to his home a few times.  I have never been to Florida – it was never a state I really wanted to visit. 

The next day my sister’s daughter – who is only a few years younger than me – drove down from her new home a few hours from Dad’s and spent the rest of the weekend with all of us.  They took us out each evening to the club they go to and the meals fixed at the house were delicious.  We talked and visited and took pictures and relaxed!

My dad’s birthday was the day we left so we all went out to breakfast that morning to celebrate. He had not wanted a birthday cake or party or any fuss and at his age, he can get or not get what he wants.  Yet I ask you – does he really look like he’s 90?

Dad and I

Leaving was bittersweet.  Not knowing if I’d be able to get back and see him soon but so very thankful I had the opportunity to spend just a few days with him. 

Where do your travels take you?

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If you have not read my previous articles: Lester’s Despair – Part One and More Tragedy for Lester House, then I urge you to do that before continuing.

I learned more about Lester and Mary’s (Besser) son, Jarold, than I really cared to know.  It was concerning why he was sent to the state mental hospital and to jail.  The morals charges were of the worst kind – out of regard for his living descendents I will not post the details.  I will, however, say that it is all spelled out in some newspaper accounts (so if they go looking, they will find the stories). 

Jarold and his wife, Margaret, had four sons.  I don’t believe they were very old before they were sent to live with foster families.  Since some of the sons are still living I will call them Son One, Son Two, Son Three and Son Four (again some of the events of which I will write about are all available to be found in newspaper reports). 

In the mid 1970s, Son Two and Son Three, along with at least one other young man, killed a man.  Apparently there was kidnapping and mutilation involved.  As I perused the newspaper articles, the nagging thought I had, was to wonder if the father’s actions towards his sons had any bearing on their emotional states as young men.  At least their grandfather, Lester House, had already passed away.  This new tragedy would have been more than enough for him after all that he had been through.

Son Two and Son Three were convicted of kidnapping and murder and sentenced to prison.  Son Three was killed in prison and Son Two is still incarcerated.  Son One passed away several years ago.  I haven’t uncovered any information on Son Four – so it seems he has left his family and past behind – and really who could blame him?

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Mary Angeline Werts Amore

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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This past weekend as I perused newspaper articles in Ancestry, I ran across a boatload of information concerning some distant cousins and an in-law of one of my great uncles.

Susan Peterson posted on her blog, Long Lost Relatives, an article, What To Do With Skeletons in the Closet” on February 26, 2011. She asked some pertinent questions (I urge you to go and read what she posted).  When I ran across all the information that made it abundantly clear that not only does our family have skeletons in the closet, but some scandals, and then those who are just plain screwed up, I realized that I would have to answer those questions.  My belief is that if the involved individuals are deceased – and more importantly – that the next generation is also deceased, and if the information is a matter of public record – especially when it was in the newspaper or on a document that anyone could obtain, then I will tell the story.  If there are truly sensitive aspects, I won’t lay them out in such detail, but respect the fact that there are possible descendents who either don’t know or have chosen not to acknowledge such behavior. 

A little over a year ago, I wrote Georgia On My Mind about my great-grandfather’s niece, Georgia Amore. This weekend I’ve learned some new information in addition to bits and pieces I’ve discovered since I wrote that. Soon, you’ll see that post again – with all the newest items added!

Many years ago when I first started my genealogical journey, a cousin mailed me some information – before either of us were proficient at scanning – and my email system back then wouldn’t even allow attachments. If it had, I’m sure it would have taken a very long time to download as I was still on dial up. One of the news clippings he mailed to me concerned someone who died in prison fairly recently in genealogy time (the 1970s). The man had the same last name as my paternal grandmother’s maiden name. Neither of us had heard of him or even if he was part of “our” House family. Fast forward ten years and I’ve made a connection – and a pretty sad one at that. Some of you might remember the series I wrote about my grandmother’s brother, Alva Lester House, – Lester’s Despair – Part One and More Tragedy for Lester House, concerning several losses that he experienced during his life.  The news clipping concerns Lester’s son and his grandsons.  After I assemble all of the new items, I will write a post about what I’ve learned.

Another news item that caught my eye, was about my great-uncle’s sister-in-law.  I found it only because I’d put my maiden name as a keyword to search Coshocton newspapers.  I saw the name “Mayme Amore” (first name spelled incorrectly) and wondered what it was about.  She was married to my grandfather’s brother, Roy. (Yes, a real consanquity chart would say that Roy is my grand-uncle, but as I’ve mentioned before, I grew up having him referred to as my great uncle.)  I clicked on the news article and it was about Mamie testifying at her sister’s trial.  Whoa!  What? A trial?  What sort of trial?  And that my dear readers, is something you’ll have to ponder for awhile – but I will give you the answer and all the particulars soon!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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With the brand new year, I will try to keep this blog updated a bit more often. Today marks the beginning of a new column – if not daily – then weekly or monthly – called “On This Day.” I will list some genealogical facts – births, deaths, anniversaries – of those in my family history file.  I wanted to start yesterday – so for argument’s sake – we’ll just pretend it’s January 2nd.

On This Day – January 2nd – in 1940 my brother was born.  He weighed over 10 lbs according to the story my mom told me. She went into labor on New Year’s Eve 1939 and told me she was delirious due to the pain. When she realized he’d been born, she thought he was a New Year’s baby – then realized she’d been out of it for 2 days.

Mom had turned 18 a little over 3 months before Jim was born.  Doesn’t she look so young? 

Due to my dad’s military service (and being stationed in Japan twice in the 1950s), my brother learned to fly an airplane, became interested in photography, participated in the Explorer Scouts overseas, and graduated from an American School in Japan.  He later became very active in the Overseas Brats and attended several reunions.  My brother became a member of the Eagles and played “Santa Claus” for children at Christmas Events.  He loved to dress up for Halloween and on one ocassion, dressed as a vampire and had a “coffin” built for an Eagles Halloween party.  He scared many people that night when they would all check to see if that was a “real” person in the coffin and at the right time, he would raise up and scare them!

My brother was 21 by the time I was born and had been married 9 months.  As I got older, he was more than just an older brother to me.  He became somewhat of a father figure – as my dad and I rarely saw each other due to the physical geographical distance between us.  My brother was the one who took me to my first rock concert – to make sure nothing happened to me.  He was my “date” for one of my school dances.  He chaperoned my first boy-girl party (and got so bored he ended up spending the rest of the evening talking with my mom upstairs in the living room).  He was thrilled when he got to hold my kids.  He would call me “Sis”.  He made me laugh.  He and his wife blessed me with another nephew.  Then 10 years ago, after an undiscovered illness, he became very sick.  It was discovered that he had pancreatic cancer. After the first chemo treatment, he faded very fast.  I got to see him the week before he passed away and can only hope that he knew I was there. 

I especially miss my brother on holidays and birthdays – still waiting for that phone call and hear him say “Hi Sis!”

January 2nd for me will always mean Jim’s birthday.

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

Dad and Mom preparing a Thanksgiving or Christmas Dinner

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

Mom by the stove

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

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

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