Call Her “Susie”; A Life of Both Hardship, and Strong Faith. Part One; The Indianapolis Years.
Mom as a child
My Mom; Saint in the Making.
I've decided to write mom's story, because it is her faith which inspires my faith. In fact, mom has touched countless lives through her example of faith and perseverance, even through what for many would be impossibly tough times. I hope that you will gain some inspiration, as her story unfolds.
Part one is a very brief overview of her early childhood in Indianapolis. Mom had no idea growing up that her mom was raised Catholic, but her mother's example of trust in God did help in my mom's formation, even at an early age.
As Told to Her Son, Stuart.
Born at home on Wilcox Street, Indianapolis, Indiana, on December 19th, 1926, as the second child to Cyril and Wreatha Mae Elwood, Betty Joyce Sexton has, from her early childhood, gone through a lot of joys and sorrows. Named “Betty” by her domineering paternal grandmother, her father started calling her “Sis” very early on. Soon, her nickname evolved to “Susan” (her parents’ first choice, before overridden by the aforementioned grandmother), and finally, to “Susie”, a name which most who know her call her by, to this day.
Susie’s earliest memories of her mother are that she was very beautiful, with long, black hair, and piercing brown eyes (Wreatha Mae was about one quarter Cherokee). Wreatha Mae’s maiden name was Murray. Raised ostensibly by her sister, Zeta, Wreatha Mae spent much of her formative years in a Catholic orphanage. While her husband, Cyril, forbade her from practicing her Catholic Faith (which was kept hidden from the children during that time), Wreatha Mae was able to pass on to Susie her very strong trust in God very early on. Susie will tell you to this day, her mother always said, “the Father in Heaven knows best, so trust in Him.” This, to Susie, is an axiom, which she still quotes to this day.
Susie’s siblings during her Indy years included her older brother, James (known as “Dick“, due to his middle name of Richard), and her two younger brothers, Ronald (“Ron”) and Roy. At some point early on, the family had moved to U.S. 52, where most of her time in Indianapolis was spent. Her Father had a gas station there at the time, and her mother, and a Mrs. Brown, made and sold doughnuts out of the front of the station.
One of Susie’s memories includes a time when her father saved the life of her brother, Ron, when he was still a toddler. He had run out into the road (wearing just his diaper), and a truck was barreling down on him, when Cyril snatched the boy out of harm’s way in the nick of time. Another memory she has while growing up included going with her brothers down to the White River, and skipping stones, even though it was dangerous to do so. She now reflects that God must have been keeping a very close eye on them in those days.
Another story, which Susie will recall with a bit of amusement, was in the summer of 1934, when her father came home, and ushered everyone inside the house, and told the kids to go upstairs, and hide under the bed, until he gave the all clear. She somewhat disobeyed her father, however, when she looked out of the window, and saw a funeral procession, en route to Crown Hill Cemetery. The hearse contained none other than the body of John Dillinger, and there was fear that his mob might cause trouble.
As stated above, Susie’s mother, while not allowed to practice her Catholic Faith, did impart much of the Church’s wisdom to her children. Susie and her brothers were taught by their mother to respect all people, regardless of the prejudices of the times. Some of her fondest memories were playing games with some of the African American children in the neighborhood, which, in Depression Era Indianapolis, was not exactly looked upon with favor. (Indianapolis of that time was still a hotbed of Klan activity.)
Susie doesn’t recall the name of the school she attended in Indianapolis. She can only recall that, as far as math and spelling were concerned, she didn’t do so well. She did, however, excel in art. To this day, she is very creative, often sketching things in either pencil or crayon, or cutting things out for decorations.
Susie also recalls attending several nondenominational churches at the time. There was also a strange interlude at that time, when she attended Christian Science meetings, though she doesn’t now recall much about them, except having listened to various musical performances, including one man with a musical saw. Throughout her Indianapolis years, however, God seemed to be gently guiding her toward a future date, when she would come into Full Communion with the Church.
Susie’s family moved North, to the Fort Wayne area, circa 1937. Part two of her saga will pick things up there. Until then, thank you for reading, and God bless you and yours