Friday, December 25, 2015

52 Ancestors – A special Christmas ornament (week 52 – 2015)

My mother-in-law, Mary (Athya) Murphy
It’s Christmas day—a special day to spend with family, but also a bittersweet day for me. Christmas Day 2006 was the last time I saw and talked to my mother-in-law, Mary (Athya) Murphy. She suffered from emphysema and was in the final stages of the disease that year. We knew her time on Earth was drawing to a close. On Christmas morning 2006, we made the hours’ drive to my in-laws house to spend the day with the two of them. We arrived mid-morning and found Mary still in bed, not wanting to get up. Rather than forcing her out of bed, I pulled up a chair, sat down, and put her hand in mine. We talked when she felt like it and sat quietly holding hands when she didn’t. Eventually, my father-in-law convinced her to get up and she moved into the living room to join the rest of the family. It was obvious though that she wasn’t in any shape to celebrate the joyous day. She was incoherent part of the day, hallucinating at one point—having a conversation with presidents from the 1800s when she was actually talking to my youngest son and me. When we left their house that night I knew in my heart that she wouldn’t make it through the night. I prayed for her at bedtime, asking God to end her suffering. He must have heard my prayers because she passed away early the next morning.

Last night after dinner, I sat in my chair gazing at all the ornaments on the Christmas tree. Each one has a memory attached to it, including one I made for Mary many years ago. I knew then that my last blogpost of the year would be to share the story of the special ornament I made for Mary.

We once got into a heated discussion as to whether Disney’s Goofy was a dog or a horse. She was adamant that he was a horse and I told her she was crazy, that of course he was a dog. We argued and argued about this until I finally decided to end the argument and wrote a letter to Disney asking for their help. I knew they were the only people that could end this argument. Disney responded by sending me a copy of Goofy’s bio—yes, Goofy has a bio—stating in no uncertain terms that he was a dog. There was my big “I told you so” moment! Feeling the need to gloat later that year, I cross-stitched a Christmas ornament for Mary featuring Goofy wearing a Santa hat and ringing a bell and gave it to her for Christmas. We had a good laugh when she opened her gift and then every Christmas when it came time to hang Goofy on her tree.

I was fortunate enough to have a mother-in-law that I loved. I know many people can’t say that but I honestly can. I was happy to inherit the ornament after her passing and now I smile every year when hanging the ornament on my tree of memories.

Friday, December 18, 2015

52 Ancestors – Max B. King Jr. (week 51 – 2015)

Max B. King Jr., son of Max B. King Sr. and Blanche Cornelia Ellison, was born March 18, 1925 in Belton, Anderson County, South Carolina. He was the second child of seven—Frances Marian King, Max B. King Jr., Laura Jean King, Sherry King, Brenda King, Larry Randolph King, and James Donald King.

Max’s story is a sad, tragic one. According to the Anderson Independent and Tribune, at about 7:30 p.m. while playing with other children in front of his home in Greenville, South Carolina on May 27, 1929, young Max darted around a parked Standard Oil Company truck and was struck by a new “Ford Machine.” The Ford was driven by 14 year old Carol Campbell, the son of Dr. S. D. Campbell of Piedmont, and rolled about 75 feet before coming to a stop. Max died instantly from a fractured skull. A coroner’s jury, led by Coroner Joe Wooten, determined the accident to be unavoidable with witness testimony “indicating that the driver was powerless to prevent striking the small boy” who was just four years old.

Max was buried at Cedar Grove Baptist Church Cemetery in Cheddar, a rural neighborhood located in Belton, at 4 p.m. the next day. He was survived by his parents, two sisters, Frances Marian King and Laura Jean King, and his grandparents Walter Monroe King and Minnie Lee (Holland) King of Belton.

Friday, December 11, 2015

52 Ancestors – Chris' Christmas stocking – a family heirloom (week 50 – 2015)

Today’s blog post won’t be a timeline of an ancestor’s life. Instead, I thought I’d share the story of my oldest son’s Christmas stocking—one of our newer family heirlooms.

Christopher was born in January 1984. At the time I did cross-stitch in my spare time so decided to make him a Christmas stocking. I hadn’t been doing cross-stitch for long and don’t think I really knew what I was getting into. If I had, I might not have started the project. It was a big project for a new mother and full-time working woman. But I didn’t let that stop me and got started that same year. As you can see from my signature in the photo below, it took two years to finish the stocking. Now that I look back, I wish I had signed it with my actual name instead of “Mommy” and added the “19” in front the “84/85.”I’ll consider that a lesson learned. Anyway, once the cross-stitch part of the project was finished, it was time to figure out the next step—turning it into a stocking. I didn’t sew so what was I thinking! But as luck would have it, my office mate Evelyn did. Another hobby I had at that time was making and painting ceramic Christmas ornaments. So Evelyn and I made a deal—I would make her 12 ceramic Christmas ornaments and she would turn my work of art into a stocking. Then I had to figure out what kind of material to use for the back and lining of the stocking. Again, as luck would have it, my co-worker and still friend Jan had an old red velvet dress lined with red satin which she contributed to the project. So Evelyn and I both got busy—she began sewing and I started pouring, cleaning, and painting the 12 ornaments. By the time Christmas rolled around in 1985, we had a beautiful stocking for Chris and it still hangs in our house today.

My youngest son Kevin was born in 1987. Of course, I thought about making a cross-stitch Christmas stocking for him as well. By this time though, I was just too busy raising two children and working full time. I had good intentions and actually bought a pattern and material to make the stocking—but it still sits waiting to be made. I eventually bought a “temporary” stocking for Kevin. I purposely picked one that was larger than Chris’ hoping that would make up for it not being handmade. We’re still using that stocking for Kevin and I feel a little guilt every year when pull it out of the box and hang it. Hopefully he doesn’t hold that against me!

The photo on the left shows the satin lining.
The photo on the right shows the red velvet back.
Kevin's stocking

Friday, December 4, 2015

52 Ancestors – James Close – (week 49 – 2015)

James Close, son of John W. Close Sr. and Margaret Athya, was born in Bellshill, Scotland in the year 1905. He was the oldest child of three—James Close, Ina (or possibly Jemima) Close, and John W. Close Jr.

James was only seven years old when he and his family left his home in Scotland on May 8, 1912 departing from the port of Glasgow via steerage on the S.S. Grampian, Allan Steamship Line. They arrived in Quebec, Canada on June 16. On the outward passenger list, they declared that their “Country of Intended Future Permanent Residence” was Canada. James’ father was a miner so upon arrival in Canada, they settled at Joggins Mines in Nova Scotia where they lived for two years.

In 1914, James’ father left the family behind in Nova Scotia and traveled to America, arriving on July 9, 1914 via Class D at the Port of Vanceboro, Maine. From there, he traveled to Steubenville, Jefferson County, Ohio where he joined his uncle, William J. McCandler. James, his mother, and his sister left Nova Scotia in November 1914 to join his father in Steubenville. They arrived in America via the Port of Buffalo, New York on November 8, 1914. Immigration papers record the address they were going to as 320 Reserve Avenue in Steubenville and that they planned to stay there permanently. His grandmother, Jemima Athya of Garndale Road in Glasgow, Scotland, was listed as his nearest relative “in country whence alien came.” James had a fair complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes.

James’ uncle David Athya, who served as a private in the Second Highland Light Infantry during the Great War, was killed in action at France and Flanders on May 10, 1915. David’s name is inscribed at the Le Touret Memorial in Pas de Calais in France.

James’ brother, John Jr., was born in Steubenville on July 30, 1917. He was the only Athya sibling born in the United States.

On January 22, 1920, James lived with his family in Steubenville. He was able to read and write and had recently attended school. The census enumerator listed him as an “Alien.” A family friend named Della L. Harvis, age 51 and divorced, lived in the home. A student in 1921, James lived with his parents at 641 Grandview Avenue in Steubenville. He still lived there in 1924. Both he and his father were tinworkers.

At the young age of 19, James died at home in Steubenville of bilateral lobar pneumonia on February 21, 1925. He was buried at Union Cemetery in Steubenville on February 24, 1925. James’ uncle George Athya was the informant on James’ death certificate. A Union Cemetery record listed James’ occupation as a chemist.