My Mom-a Very Special Lady
Mom looks so happy here on her wedding day. After all she was 19 years old, in love and had her whole life ahead of her. It is probably a good thing we cannot look into the future, because I think it would have been very frightening to realize the challenges she would have ahead of her.
Mother has overcome many hardships and struggles during her lifetime, but has done so with the help of God and the love and support of a good man. Mom has always put other people before herself and I truly believe that demeanor is what helped her through everything that life threw her way.
Mother's mind will no longer let her look back and reflect on the past, but I believe if she could she would say she had a good life. She had a loving husband, four children, nine grandchildren and now great grandchildren. She and Dad ran two successful businesses and enjoyed traveling to many places.
This then is the story of my Mother. A women of courage who believes in love and family.
unless otherwise noted all photos are from my Mothers files
Life in Washington, Missouri
Mom grew up in the small town of Washington, Missouri. She lived with her mother, father and older brother. Her father worked in a corn cob pipe factory and her mother worked in a shoe factory. Their house was on a large lot just off the main street and my grandfather had a large garden and also raised chickens.
Here are some of the highlight of Mom's early years.
- She was born on October 17, 1926 and named Anna Marie.
- Her grandmother lived with the family during her early years and she was quite ill.
- Mom had two good girlfriends, Alice and Mary.
- Mom graduated from Saint Francis Borgia High School in 1944. During her senior year there was only one boy in the class because all of the others had gone off to war.
- Mom's love during her high school years, was Erwin. He was the brother of her friend Alice and also lived around the corner from her. Erwin joined the Navy in 1943.
- After Mom graduated from high school, she took a train up to Maine to visit with Erwin while he was on leave from the Navy. While they were there they got married. When Mom arrived back home to Washington she did not tell her parents because she was afraid they would disapprove. They liked Erwin, but he was Lutheran and Mom was Catholic.
- A few months after she was back from Maine, Mom told her parents she was married. At first they were very upset, but over the years they became very fond of my father. Mom eventually joined the Lutheran church so she and Dad could raise their children in the same religion.
Growing up in Small Town MidAmerica - Washington, Missouri
This photo of my Mom was taken with her parents in the park across from their house.
photo from the collection of Ann Schroeder
Married Life- the Early Years
Joys and Hardships
When Dad returned home from the war, Mom and Dad moved to the big city, St. Louis, Missouri. Their first house was in a garage in the back of a house in south St. Louis. Dad worked at a shoe factory during the first years of their marriage.
After a couple of years they bought their first house in the suburb of St. Ann. The house was small but they worked hard to fix it up and Dad added an additional room and a garage on to the house.
During their early marriage Mom began to have a pronounced hearing loss. This was just the first of her medical challenges. The hearing would gradually decline till she was nearly deaf. About fifteen years later she had an operation that restored much of her hearing to one ear, but she was destined to wear hearing aids all of her life.
In 1949 I was born and two years later by my brother John joined me in the family. In 1953, when Mom was pregnant with her 3rd child she woke up one morning and could not walk. Dad took her to the hospital and it was discovered that she had Polio. My main memory from that time is my father taking my brother and me to the doctors to get the Polio vaccine. We were among the first in the area to get the vaccine. I also remember standing outside the hospital and my Mom waving to us from her window. I'm not sure how long she was in the hospital but I know that she was very ill and in danger of losing the baby. My sister, Donna, was born a few months later and although premature she was a healthy 4 lb baby. When Mom came home from the hospital my paternal grandmother stayed with us for a few weeks. After that Mom was alone with three small children. She walked with braces during the first years after getting polio.
Polio - Part of America's past
Polio is virtually unheard of in America today thanks to the vaccine, but in the 40's and 50's it was a terror for many people. My Mom has struggled with the effects of polio since she first contracted it in her late 20's. First she had the fear that she would never walk again and the awful fear that she would lose the baby she was carrying. In mid life she had the embarrassment of walking with a limp and trying to find clothes to cover her " bad" leg.
As she has gotten older, her weak leg has again failed her and she can no longer walk on her own. She walks short distances with a walker but the fear is always there that she will fall. For the most part, she now stays in a wheelchair.
For many people who have not grown up knowing about Polio it is a unknown disease. This book shows the effect on America of the polio virus.
Mom's Life-the Middle Years - Age 30-55
During these years Mom continued to live life to the fullest. She worked through her hearing challenges and at this point in her life the main effect from her polio was that she walked with a limp. Along with Dad she raised her children, ran a business and enjoyed traveling.
Here are some of the highlights from the middle years.
- In 1957 Mom and Dad moved the family to a new larger home in St. Ann. This home gave them more room for their growing family and allowed Mom to have a large flower garden which she really enjoyed. Gardening was a relaxation for Mom and she loved working in her garden.
- In 1957, Mom became pregnant again. She was somewhat fearful about the pregnancy because of her issues with moving around, but all went well and my sister, Julie was born in November of that year.
- In 1958, my Dad had partnered with another man and started a small home improvement business. Once Julie got to school age Mom and Dad bought the partner out and ran the business together. Mom signed up for a nighttime bookkeeping class to enhance her skills and she took care of the book work part of the business. Mom also worked in the shop while her children were in school. She worked as the office manager in running the day to day tasks at the office.
- Mom and Dad loved to travel and every summer they loaded all of us kids in the car and we would head out to see America. We went south to Florida, west to the Rockies, and east to see Washington D.C.. I have many great memories from our family vacations.
- In addition to gardening, Mom enjoyed doing needlework, sewing dresses for her girls, and taking ceramic classes.
- Once the children were out on their own, Mom and Dad took longer vacations. Each winter when the business was slower they would spend some time in a warm climate. Florida and south Texas were two of their favorite locations.
Mom and Dad also started going on big trips every other year. They traveled to Europe and to the Holy Land. They also took cruises to Alaska and the Panama Canal.
Family is Special - Love,commitment, memories
Mom has always put family first. I remember when my children were small she would change her plans whenever we needed her to help. She was always wonderful with the children and they have many great memories of times spent with Grandma.
Mom particularly likes babies and small children. That is true to this day, whenever she sees a little one her face lights up. In this photo she is holding her Great Granddaughter, Ella.
photograph by Mary Beth Granger
The Retirement Years
Grandpa Erv's Christmas Tree Farm
Mom had inherited a 70 acre farm in Illinois from her Aunt. When Mom and Dad were in their 50's they started to make plans to turn over the business to my brother and start their next business on the farm. After much research and attending some meetings they decided to start a Christmas Tree Farm. They started by planting the trees at the farm and having a house built on the property.
When they were in their early 60's the trees were ready to harvest and the house was completed so Mom and Dad moved to Mount Olive, Illinois and started Grandpa Erv's Christmas Tree farm. It was a " choose and cut" tree farm and kept them very busy most of the year. There was planting and trimming to be done in the spring and summer and then getting ready for Christmas season each year. I think their "easy" retirement turned into a bit more work than they expected, but Mom and Dad seemed to enjoy it. They got very involved in their church and people from the church worked for them during the busy times. By this time Mom and Dad had 9 grandchildren who also enjoyed working and playing at the tree farm.
Right after Christmas was always a slow time for a couple of months, so Mom and Dad made plans to travel during that time period. When I talk to Mom about our travels she always says "Go while you can, that is what Dad and I did".
Mom and Dad ran the tree farm for 15 years till health issues forced the decision for them to move back to the St. Louis area to be closer to their children. It was Mom's health issues that forced the move, but as fate would have it, it was Dad who became seriously ill shortly after their move and he died a year later.
Mom and Dad Enjoyed Traveling
Struggling with alzheimers
Dad died in 2005 and Mom took it very hard. They had been so very close for nearly 60 years. At first Mom stayed in the condo where her and Dad had moved when they saw they needed to be closer to their children. She did well there, with the help of my sister Julie, but after a short time we saw that she was getting rather forgetful. My siblings and I were afraid that she would fall when she was alone or that she would forget to take her medications.
Julie went with Mom to visit several assisted living care facilities and they picked out one that they felt would work well for Mom. Mom loves activities so she was soon gathering residents to go with her to every activity they could find. She loved bingo, ceramics and the outings that they took. Mom just loved to keep busy.
After two years, it became apparent that Mom's memory was getting worse. She was diagnosed with Alzheimer's and we were now on a search for another place for Mom to stay. We found a lovely place that had a memory unit with just 12 residents. Mom could have her own room and furniture and there were plenty of activities to keep her busy.
Alzheimer's has been another challenge for Mom's life. It is a terrible disease, robbing her of many of the memories of a lifetime. We use the photo books Mom kept of her trips and she smiles and remembers the places and people sometimes. She seems to want to keep looking at the photos and they make her happy.
photo of Mom's 85th birthday taken by Mary Beth Granger
Here is the card I made for Mom for Mothers Day!
Swimming Solo - A family struggling with alzheimers
This book is a moving story of another family who struggles with Alzheimer's. Although the disease is different with each person, I could see many similarities between the people in this book and the struggles that we face with Mom on a daily basis.
We read this book for my book club and the author came and talked with us. She was very interesting as she related in a loving manner the experiences she had with both of her parents and both of her in-laws who suffered with Alzheimer's in a ten year period.