Connie, Ruthie, Elsie Dee, Florence and Mary June Adams. Connie passed away first, at age ninety one, in 2011. Elsie Dee, (above middle) lived to be 96, and died August 22, 2014. Then Florence, (second from the right) died exactly 4 years later on August 22, 2018 at age 96. My mother, June,(far right) is 90. She had a stroke in 2013 and can’t communicate or think clearly anymore. Ruthie (second from left) is 6 years younger than my mother. After Aunt Florence died this year, I felt an urgency to talk to the last surviving sister who could answer my questions about her family. She is the last spokesperson for her generation.
Last November, I drove the hour and a half, to Brigham City, Utah, with Jackie Bautista, who was Aunt Elsie’s caretaker for the last 8 years of Elsie’s life. Jackie is quiet and a good listener, and so she knows more about my extended family than I do, as Aunt Elsie had many visitors over the years.
We met and ate at Maddox, in Brigham City, a fabulous choice of homecooked goodness. Aunt Ruthie Iverson, 2 of her children, Vern and Elsie and a daughter-in-law, Erin came. Maryann Phipps, the only daughter of Aunt Connie, organized the whole event. Three of the five sisters were represented at our lunch.
I was hunting for gems of information. And Aunt Ruthie delivered.
She told a story, about visiting her Dad’s side of the family in southern Utah and shopping for school clothes in Las Vegas. I said, “My mother said she had to sew all of her own clothes!” Ruthie said, “She didn’t have to, she wanted to. We were tall and so the lengths were never right. And she wanted to pick out the fabric and figure it out. In one month, one summer, she sewed a new dress every day!” That made me so happy imagining my mother doing that. It warmed my heart to think of her industriousness, setting her heart on a dress a day during that long ago summer. Ah, youth!
Their father, my Grandpa Adams, had 6 brothers. He married my Grandmother and moved to Provo. He worked in Provo Canyon on the city water pipe, maintaining and repairing it. His brothers from Bunkerville, Utah, warned him, “It’s too cold and icy up there! You will die in that canyon.” Aunt Ruthie went on to say, “Grandpa did go work in another canyon where there was a mining camp one year, and I got to visit him for a week in the summer and stay with the foreman’s family.” I said, “What did you do all week, hang around and watch TV?” She said, “There was no TV! I hiked to the grocery story, I played outside. That’s what we did. But I saw how hard my Dad was working, and that he was willing to do it, work hard every day, outside, no matter the weather.” I felt this deep thankfulness that he worked so hard to support his family, no matter what.
Aunt Ruthie said she dated in high school but not in college. She said, “I think I was too outspoken and confident.” But she went on to say, “Your mother and Carol, (her first cousin closest to her in age) had many, many dates. They dated all through their college years.”
I didn’t know that Grandpa treated Grandma, (pictured above, in my blog heading, holding the baby, who is my mother) “like a queen”. I thought her life was hard, because her sister married a judge and lived around the corner in a much better house. My grandmother scrimped and saved to buy houses to rent to students, to help pay for her daughter’s college tuition. I didn’t realize that “the obstacle is the way”—it gave her life a purpose and a goal to get her five daughters college degrees.
I asked her about Aunt Florence, who lived away from the family and had stopped going to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as an adult. I said, “Did she stop going as a teenager?” Aunt Ruthie answered, “She went to church when she lived at home because that is what the whole town did.”
I asked Aunt Ruthie about Grandpa Adams not attending church as well. She said, “I asked him once as a child, why he didn’t go to church. He said, ” I work on Sunday so the young fathers can be with their families and take them to church.” I thought that was such a sweet answer. Aunt Ruthie did say, “There were some mean people in that Provo 4th ward” and maybe that had something to do with it.
I woke up in the night and thought, “Dang! I forgot to ask about Rich, my mother’s boyfriend who was killed in an accident!”
More questions, more trips searching for answers, north to the last living spokesperson of her generation.