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.
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.