Thursday, August 14, 2008

Happy Birthday, Mom!

Today would have been my mom's 85th birthday. She was born in Austin, PA on August 14, 1923 and passed away in Spartanburg, SC on March 1, 2004. This is my loving tribute to her.

Her father, Ray, and her mother (Grandma Jenny) on their wedding day

This is my mom's grandmother, Lily McLeod. This is Grandma Jenny's mother. My mother loved her to pieces!

Mom was the youngest of four children born to Raymond and Jeanette Blanchard. Her father died when she was just 7 years old, but her mother lived to the age of 105 years 4 months. Mom had a good life, although they were dirt poor during the Depression, but Grandma managed somehow to raise them on her own. She took in washings and did dry cleaning to make money. She also took in a couple of boarders. Plus, Gram had an admirer by the name of Wardie who helped her feed and clothe her children during those rough years. I posted about Grandma and Wardie's love in the previous post, in case you missed it.

Mom at age 7

Mom at age 7

My mother was a tiny little girl, ever so frail. Her nickname was "Squeek." She went by that name right up to the time of her death. She was called that as she had this tiny little squeaky voice. She proved them wrong, though. When she grew into a young lady, she had a beautiful voice for singing! She performed in high school plays and played Little Bo Peep in one of them. Grandma had made her costume entirely by hand for that musical. Mom played piano "by ear" and even played for local square dances when she was young, too.

Mom as Little Bo Peep

Mom finished her high school education, graduating with her small class. This was considered quite a feat back in those days, as most children had to quit school to help support their families. The one thing Grandma insisted upon was that her children get an education and graduate from high school.

The girls in her graduating class (Mom in center front)

Mom in her cap and gown

She grew up with 2 sisters, Naomi and Vivian, and 1 brother, Kenneth. He served during WWII and was stationed at Pearl Harbor on that dreadful day in 1941. The stories he told of that day, you would never believe. There is just one sibling left now, and that is my Aunt Vivian, but we call her Aunt Biddy. She will be 89 next month!

Vivian, Mom, Naomi, Kenny Grandma Jenny

Vivian, Mom, Grandma Jenny, Naomi

Young sweethearts

Her Wedding Day

Later, my mom and dad married. He was so good to her! She had 2 babies, first a son and then 3 years 4 months later, me. My dad had 4 children by a previous marriage, so those kids lived with us from time to time, too. My parents lived in Buffalo, NY where they both worked for Curtiss Wright, building airplanes during the war. Grandma Jenny lived with them and took care of my brother, Jake.

Mom with her new step-children, Mary, Arlene, Bill, and Jack (in back)

My brother Jake and me

My brother Jake and me a couple years later

When I was 3 months old, they moved from Buffalo back to PA where they purchased an old hotel. They worked hard at remodeling it from top to bottom. They opened their own business...hotel, restaurant, tavern, gas station, small grocery store. My mother was almost 23 years old at that time.

The old hotel a few years after they purchased it. Dad had the shingle siding put on it as it was just bare boards before.

The old hotel as it looked undergoing some porch remodeling, but mostly on the interior at the time this photo was taken.

A side view of the hotel as it looks today. This was taken from my mom's driveway.

Mom, age 31

She started keeping hunters and fishermen during the hunting and fishing seasons. That was quite an undertaking for such a young girl with no experience cooking for so many. But she was a hard worker and did quite well. It was hard work for her, as that was back in the days before there were clothes dryers. And at first, she used a wringer washing machine, too. I can remember her hanging all those sheets and blankets and spreads on the lines, and then bringing them in frozen stiff as boards. Dad bought her a new automatic washer and clothes dryer when they became available and also a dishwasher.

The old kitchen, complete with wood cooking stove, when they purchased the place. This is Mom and her friend, Anna Cooney, and a hunter who came to check out what's cooking!


Another dinner table!

Acting up for the photographer!

No, they didn't sleep 6 in a bed...they were just posing for the camera!

When I got older, I helped at mealtimes. I don't know how she did it...getting up at 2:30 each morning to start breakfast preparations. She had a system, and things went like clockwork. She always served homemade cakes and pies for dessert, too. I can remember helping pack sometimes 100 lunches every afternoon! Each lunch consisted of 2 meat sandwiches, 3 cookies, and a piece of fresh fruit, plus we filled their thermos bottles with fresh hot coffee each morning. The daily cleaning and bed making happened after the breakfast mess was all cleaned up and the hunters had all left for the woods. After the morning chores came the dinnertime preparations. 80# of beef roasts, or whatever the meat choice for the day was, went into the ovens. Huge canners of potatoes were prepared. Can after can of vegetables and applesauce or some other fruit were opened. Individual salads were prepared, too. Closer to mealtime, bread was stacked on plates and the gravy made. Mom could make theeee best gravy!!! I forgot to mention the planning and shopping she had to do beforehand!

Kitchen help L-R Grandma Jenny, Mom, Me, Rose Ripple
(Note the pop beads on Grandma! And also the aprons! Never see them worn much anymore.)

Mom worked hard her entire life and paid for it with health problems for many years. She and Dad made a great pair...they loved people, and they both worked hard! She was always cleaning or painting something!

The same hunters returned year after year, then the second generation came, then the third. Even after my folks sold that business years later and started another hunting lodge, the same hunters returned! I helped Mom even after I was married. It was like a big family get-together every year when they returned. My mom was really a great cook and served homestyle meals and never ran out of food and had very few leftovers, too. She just knew how much to prepare.

New Hunting Lodge

This is the place they bought after they sold the old hotel. This home was originally built for Mr. Costello, who the town was named after. He owned the tannery there in town, which at that time was the largest tannery in the world. My parents turned this into a hunting lodge without the tavern and gas pumps, though. The third floor of this home was a huge ballroom. I imagine they held parties and balls there during its prime. The woodworking in this home was something you can only imagine!

Mom was active in her church and received a 50-year membership plate one time. She was a member of the Ladies' Aid, and they raised money through bake sales and ice cream socials to buy the velvet fabric for the altar scarves and other things the church needed. We had a little country church with old weathered wood siding. One year my dad pulled his men out of the stone quarry and gave them the job of painting the church. That paint job was his donation to the church. It looked so beautiful! That church is still standing and in operation today due to the efforts of a few faithful church members. This is where I went to church from the time I was 5 years old. I can remember when there were just 4 adults, the preacher and me at Sunday services. In the wintertime, we'd sit around the pot bellied stove in the back to stay warm. I think I loved going to church at that age just for the singing. I always think of that little church when I hear these song lyrics: "There's a church in the valley in the wildwood, No lovelier church in the vale. No place is so dear to my childhood, as the little brown church in the vale!"

Costello United Methodist Church

Another view of the church

Mom was a good mother to us kids. I can never remember her ever laying a hand on us. She worked in a factory for a couple years one time to get ahead so my dad could start another business. She would catch the work bus at a quarter to 5 every morning and get home around 4:30 every afternoon. Then she would work in the hotel and restaurant in the evenings, get us kids' clothes laid out for school the next day before retiring at around midnight. We always had a home cooked meal every night, too. No TV dinners or pizza....ever! No matter how busy things got, we always ate supper together as a family!

Yes, she worked hard...Dad did, too, very hard. My dad quarried PA blue/green stone out of the mountains. He had to buy a big truck to haul the stone and also a stone cutting machine that cut the stone slabs into veneer stone to be used in the building industry same as brick is used. It was also hand cut into patio stones and also for sidewalks. He had a lovely home custom built with 2 huge fireplaces and stone veneer on the exterior, using his own stone. (His birthday is September 7th, and I'll be doing a post about him then with pics of the stone quarry.)

We had more family fun on this side porch!

Mom did get to enjoy life. She joined Eastern Star and loved it! She served as Worthy Matron one year. This is a photo of her and Dad the night she took office. I had never seen my mom look as beautiful as she did that night! Dad thought so, too! He looked pretty sharp himself!

We kids really lucked out as far as parents go. They gave us kids everything we wanted. Yes, we were spoiled, but then every kid is to an extent when you think about it. Now that I look back, I would rather not had everything but more time with them while growing up. Not that we didn't have a good childhood...we did! We went on vacations across the United States and went to Florida every winter over the Christmas/New Year's holidays...we even attended school in FL one winter. But both of them worked such long hours. Sunday nights were our only family nights, and Mom always made those nights special...homemade chocolate peanut butter fudge while we watched Lassie and The Ed Sullivan Show on TV. Dad would flop on the couch with our boxer dog "Dutchess" beside him while parakeet "Petie" would play on the coffee table with his toys. This little bird could talk up a storm!!! He was just too cute for words!!! My mother spent a lot of time teaching him to talk. This pic taken in the old hotel was dated 1959. Gee, has it been that long???

I keep telling my own kids.....take life a little's only "stuff" that you spend your money on, and someday that "stuff" won't matter one bit to anyone.

My dad passed away in 1995. I think that's when Mom started to give up. She became dependent on everyone, as Dad had always been there for her. I'm sure it was quite an adjustment for her without him in her life. She was bitter at times, and we all must try to understand how we would've felt had we been in her shoes. We will someday. I love this pic of them together!

Mom had several surgeries during her lifetime...I believe we counted 27 one time! She needed surgery again and that is when she came to live with me. I told her I would take care of her but I was working, and she would have to come to SC. So that's when she came to live with me. She had hopes of returning back to her own home in PA, but that never happened. She had 3 surgeries in 3 months when she lived with me. She was in the hospital for 13 consecutive weeks! She had bowel obstructions, one after another, and it is so hard to see someone you love suffer like she did. She lost over 50 pounds, and with a high-calorie diet, I had just got her up to 111 pounds. Then one day I went to get her for lunch and found her lying on her bedroom floor. She'd had a stroke. The EMTs arrived in 5 minutes, but 4 hours later she was gone. I held her ice cold hand when she left me. She had a history of high blood pressure and heart problems, having had a heart attack in 1986 and coding blue 3 times that night! She was just too weak to survive anything more.

I know she loved us kids, and she gave us a better life than she had. I think that's what all parents strive to do.

I love and miss you! I am thinking of you today. You are finally resting in peace. Happy Birthday, Mom!

Below are some pics of where my mom is resting for eternity. This is where she wanted to be. It was the last wish I could fulfill for her.

Front of Mausoleum

If you count the 4 pillars going down the walkway, her drawer is the first one to the left of that last pillar. She is on Level 3. This was taken from where I park my car when I visit her.

Level 3

May you rest in peace, Mom.


Diane@Diane's Place said...

What a wonderful tribute to your Mom, Nancy. I read every word of it. God bless your Mom. Who can ask anything more of a parent than that they do their best to give their kids a better life than they had?

Happy Birthday, Oliene, and may you rest in peace.

Love and hugs,


Old Lady Lincoln said...

Like Diane said, what a wonderful tribute to your Mother. Sounds like so much love was there in your family. You must have had a wonderful childhood and two wonderful parents, plus your Grandma that was always around. Thanks for sharing.

Diane said...

That was beautiful! I've heard you talk about Squeek, and of course I met her while she lived here, but I never knew she did so much. I enjoyed reading this and I'm sure your mother would be honored with this memorial.

The pictures were SO good. It was interesting to see the hotel, the was a delight!


raccoonlover1963 said...

Great post, Nancy. Love the old pictures. Especially the old hotel.

Monogram Queen said...

Another very touching tribute, it brought a lump to my throat Nancy. Happy Birthday to your darling Mom and may she soar with the angels!

Steven said...

This is truly worth reading. this is history ..... this is quite a nice !Greeting for you ! Steven

Jess said...

This was so sweet and loving...she sounded like a wonderful mother. May she rest in peace and I hope that she knows how much she is missed by you! Lots of love to you Nancy...this was so nice.

Lib said...

What a wonderful tribute to your mom ! I enjoyed reading it very much!Loved the photos you shared!
Have a great wk.end!

zzop357 said...

I think Diane said it all Nancy.
I know we still miss our Mom and Dad too.
Lots of hugs, and God bless.

Midlife Mom said...

What a beautiful job you did writing your mother's history! That was just beautiful, I hope you printed it off to save for your children! Your Mom was quite a woman and worked so hard making a good life for you all. The pictures are wonderful, I got such a kick out of the hunters all lined up in the bed! lol! This must have taken you a long time to write but it was worth every minute that you put into it!! Great job!!!

PEA said...

Dearest Nancy,

Such a heartwarming post and after reading it, I have tears running down my cheeks. Your mom and dad sound like they were amazing people and how very lucky you were to have them as parents. We'll never experience the hard work people had to do back then. Makes you wonder how they survived working so hard and raising a family as well. I so enjoyed seeing all the photos, your mom was just beautiful! Happy Birthday to your darling mom. xoxo

hippochick said...

Hi Nancy,

I've had company all weekend and this is the first chance I've had to read your post all the way through. What a wonderful tribute to your mom.

I remember her so well. I knew that your folks were named Oline and Maynard, but Squeek and Windy was all I have ever heard them called.

I remember coming to your house to stay overnight when you owned the restaurant/tavern/etc., etc. It was such a fun time. I was pretty much afraid of dogs, but liked Duchess a lot. We went up the road to visit uncle Will (?) and Grandma Gusty. It was really fun.

I loved all the pictures. Did your mom graduate with Josephine Hofer? Also, loved the pic of Anna Cooney and Rose Ripple. Great memories.

This was just a wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing with us.

~hippo hugs~

Susie said...

Hi Nancy,
I can only imagine how long your worked on this post to compose such a great tribute to your beloved mom.
I'm quite sure she was smiling down from heaven on her birthday.

Niki said...

Those are great photos! Thank you so very much for sharing. I'm sure she is missed by many. HUGS! niki

Niki said...

Those are great photos! Thank you so very much for sharing. I'm sure she is missed by many. HUGS! niki

Michelle said...

What a beautiful and loving tribute, and so much history!

I hope you are well Nancy!

Abraham Lincoln said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your mom, Nancy. I also really enjoyed your photos. said...

I loved reading all about your sweet Mother. You did a wonderful job on this loving tribute! I am like Pea who said she had tears in her eyes. It brings back so many happy memories for me of my Mom and sister. My sister, Margaret who passed on in 1998 was born in 1924 so the pictures you have are like the ones in our album!
Thank you for sharing this with us! Love and hugs, Grams

Gramma Ann said...


That was a nice tribute to your mother. It sounds like you had a wonderful mother and grandmother...What a happy childhood you must have had.

Thanks for your comments on my blogs. And, BTW, I am 67 years old.

Have a nice week...


Renie Burghardt said...

What a touching, loving tribute to your awesome Mom, Nancy. And the photos are beautiful. She lives on in your heart, and mind. And no wonder you're such a hard worker. It's a wonderful trait your Mom passed on to you.

Sorry this is late. I read it several days ago but blogger refused to let the comment go through, so I gave up. I hope it goes through this time.

Take care, and God bless!


Heidi said...

Nancy, You are one special lady my friend. What a loving gesture and great way to convey to several people how much you loved your mum.. You made me cry ya know - so thanks!!! LOL The older generation is SO valuable, they can teach us SO Much yet we dont delve into the library of knowledge they have for us. :)

Rick said...

An interesting photo/text history of your family. I would LOVE to have someone do that for my familys history. I'm sure that your children really appreicate this post.

Mrs Mom said...

Oh Miss Nancy! How lovely!! You had me tearing up

I love the pictures of your Mom and Dad, and all your family. Knowing the history is so fantastic, and it is sad how many people these days don't know about their roots.

What a wonderful and beautiful tribute to Mom Miss Nancy. You are a truly amazing lady, and it makes me so happy to know you through the blogosphere!!

HUGE hugs on this day, and every day!

Mary said...


This tribute to your Mom is beautifully written and I can feel the love in every word. What a terrific job you've done. Your Mom would be proud.

I remember the days of frozen sheets and wringer washing machines - of cookstoves and hauling water from the pump. Yes, we worked hard but those were better times.

I certainly enjoyed my visit with you. Have a great Thursday.


Tracy said...

What a wonderful tribute - I loved reading your mom's story. I can't imagine how much work the hotel was. Your pictures are great. My grandma always wore aprons like that, too. I think I'm going to hunt for some vintage aprons for myself to wear! Ebay? idk

Tracy said...

What a wonderful tribute - I loved reading your mom's story. I can't imagine how much work the hotel was. Your pictures are great. My grandma always wore aprons like that, too. I think I'm going to hunt for some vintage aprons for myself to wear! Ebay? idk

Cecil said...

Nancy... What a family legacy you have! First the tribute to your Grandmother and now to your mother... what precious memories you have! I never knew what the word "bittersweet" actually meant until my Mom and Dad died... the memories are wonderful and yet sometimes are a little painful.. and yet I wouldn't trade them for anything in the world! I think that your Mom, Dad and Grandmother did a great job raising you... how do I know that? just by reading your blog. You are a precious lady and you bless my heart! Hugs to you and Happy Birthday to your Mom... Hugs... Cecil

Train Wreck said...

Wow You have the best old photos! How great that someone held on to those! I have a little "Photo" for you over on my page! Come get it and add it to all the rest!

Merle said...

Dear Nancy ~~ This is a beautiful post about your wonderful mother.
These two posts are very well written and enthralling and the photos make it so much better. I really think you could write a book about your family.
Sorry I am so late replying, I have had a lot of visitors and have been
busy. Thank you so much for your comments and I am glad you liked the Cherokee Legend and the post about Choices nd glad you enjoy the jokes.Take care, my friend, and very well done. Love, Merle.


Nancy - What a wonderful post. And the pictures are priceless. You have a wonderful heritage!