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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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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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(Continued from The Box)

After I had opened the box, unwrapped the tissue paper to find my mom’s baby sister’s bonnet and removed the tissue paper, I saw a calendar at the bottom of the box.

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Carefully I lifted out the Calendar from 1927 and slowly flipped the pages.  When I found the month of June, there were notes on the page in my grandmother’s handwriting.

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June 9: Baby born – 10 a.m. hospital – 3# 4 – Lois Evelyn

June 13: 2#s 5

June 16: I came home – left baby

June 25: Fabitis

Week of June 26: Baby gaining back

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July 9: 3-4 1/2

July 15: I came home

July 16: Baby home – 3# 6

July 23: 3# 12 1/2

July 30: Same

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August 1: 3# 12 1/2 oz

August 6: 4 – 3

August 13:  4 – 7

August 20: 4 – 12 1/2

August 27: 4 – 7

August 30: 4 – 5

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September 3: 4 – 7

September 10: 4 – 8

September 12: cow’s milk

September 15: 4 – 13

September 17: 4 – 7

September 19: 4 – 5

September 22: SMA, 4 – 4

September 28: Back to hospital at 9 pm

September 30: Died at 5 pm

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October 2: We buried our dear baby 3 months, 3 weeks

October 18: At Hospital

October 20:  Operated for appendicitis & perineal op

October 22: Real ill

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Lois Evelyn Johnson’s Death Certificate

Birth: June 9, 1927
Death: Sept 30, 1927 at Miami Valley Hospital, Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio
Normal residence was in Fairfield (now part of Fairborn), Greene County, Ohio
Female, White, Single
Birthplace: Dayton, Ohio
Age at Death: 3 months, 4 days (this is incorrect just based on dates)
Father: Glenn (spelling incorrect) Johnson, born Anderson, Indiana
Mother: Vesta Wilt, born Noblesville, Indiana
Informant: Glen R. Johnson, Fairfield, Ohio
Death occurred at 6 pm
Cause of Death: 7 mo. premature birth; summer diarrhea, malnutrition
Place of Burial: Fairfield Cemetery, Oct 3rd 1927

It appears – based on calendar notes – that my grandmother was very vigilant about checking Lois’ weight and even changing what type of nutrition she was receiving.  Lois probably started out being breast-fed and then when she failed to gain enough, was switched to cow’s milk.  She did appear to gain some weight but then started to taper off again.  My grandmother then switched her to SMA Formula but that didn’t seem to help.  I believe the X’s at certain dates of Lois’ life probably indicated either the beginning of diarrhea or a dr. appointment. 

Talking to my mom a year ago, I discovered that Lois had been able to go home from the hospital.  I was always under the impression that she had to remain there.  Mom had told me that her baby sister had been put next to a heat source in order to keep her body temperature up. 

Lois Evelyn didn’t remain at Fairfield Cemetery.  Years later a family had lost their children in a fire (or some other calamity) and a call went out through the community for burial plots or money to help bury the children.  My grandparents gave up their plots and decided to remove their baby daughter to the cemetery they had chosen would be their final resting place.  Mom had told me several times the gruesome tale of how my grandmother had wanted to see her baby daughter one more time after she was disinterred and asked that her casket be opened.  Apparently she was pretty well preserved until the air touched her remains.  Lois was then interred – permanently – at Glen Haven Memorial Gardens in New Carlisle, Ohio.  Almost 40 years after she died, her parents joined her in eternal rest (in 1984 and 1985).  Now, though unfortunate, most of the family is together – lying close together in a very peaceful setting: Lois’ oldest brother and her next to oldest sister (my mother).  My aunt, the oldest daughter, is buried several miles away in the community’s Catholic cemetery.

Medical technology has come such a long way since 1927.  If Lois Evelyn had been born within the last 10-15 years, she would probably be well cared for and received the right nutrition.  Her gastric distress was probably due to her prematurity and she may have been placed on a feeding tube or receive IV nutrients. 

My grandmother spoke of Lois Evelyn often.  She never stopped mourning her last born child.  She had shown me one picture of the little one lying on a blanket.  I’ve not seen that photo again.  The picture I do have, I will not post.  It is her final picture – in her casket at her funeral.  A banner reading “Our Baby” is draped above her on the lid.  She was very, very tiny.  And for all these years, she’s been an angel.

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Rest in Peace, Lois Evelyn

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A New Leaf

One reason posts have been few & far between lately is because we were expecting a new little leaf on our family tree!  Time to be a Nana for the 4th time!  The little guy made his entrance early in the week and my daughter did pretty good!  This was her first child and our fourth grandson!  I would like to introduce Orion to you!

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And the really neat part . . .  He was born on my late mother’s birthday!  Do you think his Great-Grammy would have been pleased?

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I wrote this post about wanting to meet Maureen Taylor of Photo Detective fame and show her the portraits I’ve acquired.  Yesterday I had an opportunity to photograph the portraits – since they are way too large to scan – and look them over a little more.  I had to experiment a little because each time I used a flash, it would create a glare on the picture.  Thinking I might need to have my photographer daughter set up her studio lights & take pictures just so I can have better quality digital shots.  I don’t want to expose these fragile pieces to harsh lights any more than I should though. 

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This is a crayon/charcoal rendering of my 2nd great-grandmother, Malissa (Goul) Blazer.  The portrait is at least 16×20.  There aren’t any artist’s marks or other identifying features.  I think the drawing was made from a photograph rather than at a sitting. 

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This is another large rendering of my great-grandmother, Katie (Blazer) Johnson.  She is young and it is my thought that she wasn’t married yet.  Below is a photo that shows Katie about the same age – quite probably the photo that the drawing was made from.  The “smudge” on the lower corner of the picture appears to be an artist’s mark – except it really is just a smudge of some sort.

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This portrait of the Johnson family (below) appears to be an enlargement of a regular photograph.  It was very difficult to photograph.  Whatever material or chemical process was used, made areas of it too shiny to capture correctly.  This picture is poster sized.  The original photograph would have been made between 1906-1908.  I don’t know what year the enlargement would have been made.

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This is the only picture I have of my maternal great-grandparents’ (Katie and John Johnson) family that included both my grandfather (younger boy), Glen Johnson, and his older brother, Letis.  In fact, this was the first picture I saw of my great-uncle.

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Above is my other maternal great-grandfather, Joseph N. Wilt.  Written on the back of this 16×20 is my great-grandmother’s name (Martha Wilt) and her address.  There are also indications on how much brown, gray and black to use on the drawing.  All indications to me that they were still married at the time – which would have been before 1909.

Below are other renderings that were packed with those above.  Some of these people are still a mystery to me.

baby mary

This is actually a photograph (above) that is 16×20.  My mother seemed to think this was my grandfather’s baby sister, Mary, before she died.  Others seem to think it is a little boy – not a little girl.  When I look at this picture, I see resemblences to other member of my family in the eyes and mouth.

baby glen
My mother told me the child above is her brother, Glen, as a baby.  I have no reason to believe otherwise.  This is a drawing – slightly smaller than 16×20.

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The drawing above is of an unknown woman.  My mother told me she thought it was a sister of my 2nd great-grandmother, Malissa. I’m more inclined to believe it is my great-grandmother’s sister, Rachel (Blazer) Given.  I’ve seen pictures of her other sister, Martha “Mattie”, and this isn’t her. 

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My grandfather, Glen Johnson (baby) and his older brother, Letis, with the family dogs. 

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This is another photograph that has been enlarged.  It is of my grandfather, Glen Johnson, at Shadyside Park, close to his home in Madison County, Indiana.  Again this was very hard to photograph due to the materials or chemical used in the process.  The size is smaller than a 16×20.

My biggest challenge will be to figure out what to do with these rather large pictures.  I don’t have enough wall space to have them framed and hung.  Nor would I want them exposed to bright sunlight.  I’ll gladly accept any recommendations and suggestions.  Perhaps Maureen Taylor herself might give me some pointers!

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The topic for the 78th Carnival of Genealogy is: Pony Pictures.  I spent a lot of time watching the other neighborhood kids get their pictures taken on ponies instead of having mine taken.  I remember each summer a man would come walking through the neighborhood with the animal and coming on up the driveway wherever he saw kids playing.  One of my friends had three siblings so to save money, the parents put 2 kids at a time on the pony.  Running home, I found my parents working in the yard.  Breathless, I exclaimed that I wanted my picture taken on a pony.  When it was pointed out that it costs money for the picture, my hopes were dashed.  We just didn’t spend money on useless things.  Besides, what I really wanted to do was to ride on it – not just sit there.

I was 17 when I actually got to ride my first horse.  I went with my sister’s family to a relative’s (on her husband’s side) country house in Paris, Texas.  She had several horses and some ponies.  The first time I got on the pony, it promptly ran at a lower limb and knocked me off.  Fall off – get back on.  After riding around for awhile on that animal, I got up the nerve to try to ride a horse.  Wow – it was harder than it looked!  I sure didn’t get my riding skills from ancestors who had rode horses before me.

My maternal great-grandfather, John “Lafe” Johnson, had horses.  I don’t have a picture of him riding them. (*UPDATED 8/13)  *He also had several work mules.  The photograph below is one with him and 2 of the mules. (This large picture hangs on my hallway wall.)

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Gr-Grandpa Johnson with 2 large mules

My grandmother’s Uncle Dan (Stern) had horses – he used them to pull the wagon.

When my kids were young, we took them to Scarborough Faire Rennaisance Festival in Waxahachie, Tex.  There were elephant and camel rides so the oldest three got to ride VERY LARGE animals!  No horses for them – that would just be kid stuff compared to a camel & elephant!

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I’m a day late, but thought I’d participate in Randy Seaver’s Saturday Night Genealogy Fun over at Genea-Musings.  This topic was to post informaton about our 16 great-great-grandparents.

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1. William Amore b. February 6, 1828 in Albany, N.Y.  d. February 9, 1896 in Coshocton County, Ohio.  On the 1880 Census, he listed that his father was born in England and his mother was born in New York.  Nationality – probably English.

2. Charlotte Reed Imons b. August 4, 1828 in Ohio d. October 9, 1862 in Coshocton County, Ohio.  Nationality – unknown

3. William Washington Werts b. December 25, 1829 in Muskingum County, Ohio d. April 7, 1857 in Ohio.  William’s 2nd g-grandfather was born in Baden and the history documented about the Werts family suggests most of them originated in the German area.  Nationality – German

4. Louisa Bookless b. April 13, 1834 in Muskingum County, Ohio d. July 26, 1912 in Coshocton County, Ohio.  Nationality – probably English

5. Florus Allen House b. January 5, 1813 in New York d. June 25, 1891 in Coshocton County, Ohio.  Nationality – English

6. Julia Ann Lewis b. December 24, 1815 in Ohio d. October 6, 1899 in Coshocton County, Ohio.  Nationality – Unknown

7. Evan Ogan – He was the Foster father of my g-grandmother, Frances Virginia Ogan.  It is unknown if he was directly related to her.

8. Susannah Fritter – She was the Foster mother of my g-grandmother, Frances Virginia Ogan.  It is unknown if Susannah was directly related to her.

James Wilson Johnson, I think9. James Wilson Johnson b. August 16, 1829 in Byrd Township, Brown County, Ohio d. October 17, 1917 in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana. Based on family lore – nationality is English.

10. Amanda Evaline Mullis b. 1833 in North Carolina d. March 21, 1868 in Rush County, Indiana.  Nationality – Scottish

11. Franklin Blazer b. June 2, 1836 probably in Indiana d. August 25, 1869 in Madison County, Indiana. Nationality – English & German

malissa_blazer12. Malissa Goul b. Oct. 1832 in Champaign County, Ohio d. March 7, 1907 in Anderson, Madison County, Indiana. Nationality – German
isrealstern13. Israel Isaac Wilt b. September 9, 1827 in Rockingham County, Virginia d. September 11, 1919 in Henry County, Indiana. Nationality – German

14. Christena Nash b. abt. 1837 in Pennsylvania d. August 18, 1876 in Henry County, Indiana. Nationality – Unknown

emanuelstern_nancy15. Emanual Bushong Stern b. October 7, 1834 in Montgomery County, Ohio d. September 10, 1911 in Nebraska. Nationality – German

16. Nancy Caylor b. May 10, 1840 in Wayne County, Indiana d. December 21, 1900 in Noblesville, Hamilton County, Indiana. Nationality – German

Out of my 16 great-great-grandparents, 2 of them are Unknown – the biological parents of Frances Virginia Ogan.  It is highly doubtful that I will ever find out who they are since she was either farmed out or dropped on a doorstep as a small child.  Four of them are of English descent.  One is of English and German descent.  Three are of Unknown descent.  One is of Scottish descent and the remaining 5 are of German descent.

I am:  31.75% German
            25.5% English
             6.25% Scottish
           36.5% Unknown (although I believe it to be a combination of English, German, Scottish and French)

Interesting facts: William Amore was the only one of my 2nd great-grandparents who was the 1st generation American.

Most of my 2nd great-grandparents were born and/or died in Indiana or Ohio.

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