Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grandma Gage

If you try to picture the perfect grandmother - Grandma Gage might have been who you pictured...at least I know she was for all of her grandchildren.  There was gentleness about her that was innate.  One might have thought she was dainty lady - but she was still around 150 pounds and 5'6 or so.  She was always interested in what her family were doing and listened to each one of us intently when we talked to her.  She made you feel as if you were her favorite.  Her voice and way might have been gentle but there was a spine of steel and anyone who thought they could manipulate her were sadly mistaken.

When she passed away at the age of 93, she had been widowed a few short months - but she and granddad had been married for 73 1/2 years.  They had had 10 children, 33 grandchildren, 49 great-grandchildren and 23 great grandchildren.  My father is the oldest of her grandchildren and I am one of her great grandchildren. By anyone standards that is a large family.  What was so remarkable is that I think she could have told you the month and year of the birth of all of those descendants.  I used to joke to Granddad Gage that when God said "Go forth and multiply" Granddad took him seriously!

Florence Christine Shawver married Ora Silas Gage on 5 Sept 1917 when she was 20 years old.  She had already taught school for a few years and also taught the first year of her marriage.  From the time she was 21 years old until she was 42 - she had 10 children - six sons and four daughters.  Her youngest son, Gary, died at the of 8 when he drowned in the Palouse river and her daughter, Norma, died at the age of 55 of lung cancer. She once told me that Gary's death was much harder.  He never had the chance to grow up, marry, have children - in short, live a life.  Norma at least had loved and married and had a family.  I think her faith helped get through those two difficult blows.

Grandma and Granddad both converted to Catholicism and were faithful and devout Catholics their entire lives.  Grandma began her married life in a nice little farm near Mapleton, IA - not too far from her family and close to friends.  By the early 1930's, the depression was taking it's toll.  My grandparents decided that rather than lose their farm to taxes they would sign it over to a close friend and move elsewhere.  For the first time in her life, my great grandmother truly moved away from home.  They made their first stop in Philip, SD.  It was a short stop - only about a year.  They then decided to move west.  So, in November 1933 they traveled across Montana in a Model T with six children.  Most of their possessions traveled by train but the family traveled by car.  They had to leave behind their oldest son in a sanitarium in South Dakota near Rapid City.  He had what they thought was tuberculosis.  So with a baby on her lap and her older children taking care of the other young ones in the back seat - they traveled across Montana.  They stopped for a short time at her brother's place in Jordan, MT and then they began their trek west.  My uncle Bernard said that they ate a lot of eggs.  They would stop along side the road - Granddad would build a fire and Grandma would cook fried eggs to make sandwiches, make egg salad or anything else she could think of to feed her family.  They made it to Dover, ID and settled down to make their home for a short time.  Their son joined them the following February (that is a whole other story).  A few months later, Granddad found some land in Hatter Creek, ID and moved his family there and began building a home.

The loggie (as the new home was called) wasn't terribly big and when all the kids were home - it had to be a tight fit.  Grandma was a true pioneer wife - she had a huge garden and canned vegetables and fruit to feed her family in the winter, baked copious loaves of bread each week, made clothes for her family.  My father still tells the story that he very rarely ever heard his grandmother speak sharply - unless you slammed the door when she had an angel food cake in the oven.  I think a home made angel food cake is still one of his favorite things - thanks to the wonderful cakes that Grandma Gage made.

I remember when I was in college and taking education classes.  My great grandmother was so interested in hearing about those classes.  She may not have employed as a teacher for a long period of time - but it was still a big part of her makeup.  I was planning on going up to my great aunt's to visit my great grandparents on a Friday.  During my class that day, my professor was telling us that we would have to teach books that we didn't like...she remembered having to teach "Silas Marner" and she said that was probably her least favorite book...when my great grandmother and talked later in the day - she said the same thing.  My professor was impressed that my great grandmother expressed the same dislike for a book that she had had to teach about 70 years ago.  We both wondered why the book was still being taught :)

60th Anniversary - Taken 1977 - Ora & Florence Gage Family
You can't write about my great grandmother without writing about my great grandfather.  They were married for over 73 years and I believe that they had a true love story.  Grandma survived him for a few months after Granddad's death...I'm sure he was waiting for her to join him and they are together up above watching over their family - just as they did in life!