- Death & Loss of Life
Better known to me as Grandma
Florence Edna Crossley Pyles was born on September 12, 1921 in a little house in Ramsey, Ohio. You will find Ramsey on a map, but should you drive through, you might not be sure exactly where it is along that stretch of road. Ramsey is the name given to a place with a few houses along County Road 6 between Adena & Mount Pleasant in Jefferson County, Ohio.
The daughter of Winona Juliette Calhoun and Orville Wilbur Crossley, Florence lived in humble surroundings her entire life. Her father was taken from her before she was seven. Working for the railroad, Orville stepped in front of a train in 1928. Florence's mother remarried within a couple of years, and though she was never officially adopted, Florence Crossley became known as Florence Stanley for the rest of her unmarried life.
I'm creating this page as a tribute to a woman who impacted my life more than any other single person outside of my parents. The picture you see on the left is from the 1950s. Florence married Glenn Leroy Pyles in 1939, shortly after she graduated from High School. The two had only one daughter, my mother, and four grandchildren. Both lives were cut short by rare diseases, but despite the brevity of their years, I always knew I was loved. I hope you enjoy meeting these special people.
Florence, the daughter & wife
I obviously don't know a lot about Grandma's life before I was born. Because she died so young, I didn't even have a chance to hear many stories of her youth. Much of what I've learned, I've heard from my grandaunts (her two younger sisters), my mother and doing genealogy research.
Grandma's grandfather was an alcoholic, so her mother left home early to marry. When you consider that fact along with the tragedy of losing her father, Great-Grandpa Crossley, before she turned seven, we know that life was rough during those first few years of her life.
Great Grandma remarried before 1930, and David Carl Stanley became the patriarch of our family. By the time I came along everyone called him "Pap". Until I was about 12 or 13, I had no idea that this wonderful man wasn't my biological grandfather. So grandma grew up a "Stanley" rather than a "Crossley." My mother shares that when she was very young they often went to visit the Crossleys, but she didn't know until they went to get her marriage license that these nice old people she visited were her great grandparents. I knew Great Grandma very well, and would assume that she was the reason no one spoke about the Crossley connection.
Many years ago my mom gave me Grandma's 1937 diary. From this small book, I learned that Grandma played guitar, helped start the Sunday School at Rush Run United Methodist Church near Brilliant, Ohio and had at least one boyfriend before she met my grandfather. Grandma also was a very good friend of Great Grandpa Stanley's youngest brother, Arthur, who was the same age as Grandma. Her diary has stories of many friends including the Young family. Grandpa Pyles makes his way into her diary by late 1937. His first cousins were the Young children, the same friends mentioned in in Grandma's journal.
Grandma and Grandpa married in 1939. Because his father had walked out on the family, Grandpa had been forced to drop out of school before he was 10. Fortunately in the 1940s that diploma wasn't quite as important as it is today; however, he never had a real opportunity to have a lucrative career. So Grandma and Grandpa lived in a small, but comfortable home. My mom tells stories of Grandma driving a dump truck to church because Grandpa had a job driving it, and it was the only vehicle they had. Not much stopped my grandmother!
Grandpa passed away in 1970. He had a rare disease called Collagen Disease. Most of my memories of Grandpa are of him driving tractor trailer for Sealtest Ice Cream and then being in bed all of the time. He was sick and hospitalized a lot during those last few years. So Grandma only got thirty years of marriage, and the last few of those, she was the primary care giver for Grandpa. Despite all of the hardships I now know Grandma endured, I never heard her complain. In fact, until I got older and understood the reality of the circumstances of her life, I had no idea that her life was less than perfect.
Florence Edna Crossley Stanley Pyles
September 12, 1921
August 12, 1979
Her world revolved around four grandchildren
Grandma passed away when I was sixteen, yet in those few years, she made a huge impact on me. I loved spending the night at Grandma's. She was ill most of the time, but I remember combing her hair and reading to her. I threaded her needles, and she made me brown sugar sandwiches (I know it doesn't sound that great, but I loved them as a child).
Grandma had these small white pitchers. Each only held a cup of milk or less. Grandma would fill this with milk so that I could add my own milk to my cereal. She had a big box of old dresses that I, my cousins and siblings were allowed to use to play dress up. There was a small box of beads and jewelry we were allowed to use too!
And I remember the "button box". Grandma had a huge tin at least half full of buttons that would keep a child entertained for hours. We'd sort them by size, then by color. We'd line them up and count them. Who would have guessed such a simple thing cut from many shirts, pants, coats and what not, would bring so much pleasure?
Grandma was so creative! A seamstress, she sewed most of her own clothes, and she had more than a dozen pair of shoes. I don't know what they looked like when she bought them, but by the time I saw them, they were covered with fabric to match dresses she had made. Grandma made quilts (each of the four of us have one she made) and was always doing some sort of needlework. She always had cookies in the freezer. She put them in empty coffee cans, and it seemed as though there were always three or four different kinds of cookies in the freezer at any one time.
In her last years, after Grandpa died, Grandma was the secretary at the church. My sister and brother and I took turns going to work with her. We loved to help run the mimeograph machine and fold the bulletins. After I got my permit, I drove her everywhere, including work all Summer.
Because there was just the four of us, when one of us had a birthday, we each got a small gift. Grandma didn't have a lot, but she would often come over and give each of us a dollar or two just for spending money. She was just about the only babysitter I ever knew. There were only a few times, when Grandma needed to be someplace else, that one of the neighbors' older children would stay with us. I think Grandma would have done anything for us, and as I've grown older, I've come to appreciate her even more. Keep reading to discover more of how Grandma made a difference in my life.
That photo up there was taken in the mid 40's. It's a pic of Grandma in her prime! Not sure who the photographer was. That little blonde is my mom! (Who still sports coal black un-dyed hair) I found it in an old box of photos my mom let me have.
How Grandma Influenced my Life
Grandma was a strong Christian. There was no doubt about her faith and the weight of her love for Jesus Christ. She was incredibly humble about her faith, but in all of her trials, that faith was evident. No matter when or why she had to go to the hospital, she was positive and upbeat about it. She talked about Jesus whenever possible and told us often about His love and grace.
Because of her enthusiasm in the faith, I was always confident that God was exactly what He said He was. Grandma was a living reflection of the love of Jesus Christ. Grandma always showed love. Not just to me and my siblings, but to everyone she met. It bothered her when her when others weren't treated right. She gave of herself in every way possible. Grandma "paid it forward" before the movie made the concept popular. She was a beautiful woman with a love for life, a love for her family and a love for Jesus Christ. This love and living example played a huge part in making me who I am today. Grandma made a difference in my life and I hope to be at least that inspirational in the lives of my own grandchildren.
The Disease that Took Grandma
Grandma was diagnosed with Lupus even before my mother was born. Back then it was a relatively unknown disease so Grandma was on a lot of medication that was still somewhat experimental. Plus the Lupus caused her to have rheumatoid arthritis. When I was young I had no idea the pain associated with this crippling disease. Grandma's fingers were shaped much like "7's" by the time I came along, so you can imagine the pain she was in most of the time. As an adult, I came to realize that the reason there were always cookies in the freezer was probably because Grandma baked on the days when the pain was less severe so that she would have snacks for us every time we came to visit. I knew that Grandma was sick; however, I had no idea the severity of her disease. I don't ever remember hearing Grandma complain about her illness. I do remember her being in the hospital a lot. One year my grandfather was able to bring her home from the hospital for Christmas day and then she had to return. I was very young then.