Thursday, March 08, 2007

Grandma's Story

After spending a great deal of time the past few days trying to decide who to write about for the "International Women's Day Challenge" I've selected my grandmother, Hazlette Aileen Brubaker Phend Dunn Ferguson (1902-1984).

Stages of life: 1902, 1910, about 1948, 1980.

In many ways Grandma was an "ordinary" person, but at the same time, she was really quite extraordinary. There were many sides to her personality. There were times, as a teenager and young adult, that I didn't "like" my grandmother. Some things were done and said that haven't been forgotten, though they have been forgiven. But even though I didn't always like her, I did love her and, I think more importantly, respected her very much.

Grandma's parents, Charles R. and Maud Wise Brubaker, moved from Whitley County, Indiana to Lorain, Ohio shortly after the death of their first child, John Wise Brubaker, on February 24, 1901. He was born prematurely and died 8 days after his birth. Maud's brother Harry and other relatives lived at Lorain. Grandma was born there on January 16, 1902. She was also born premature, weighing only 2 1/2 pounds. When she was 6 months old, the family moved back to Whitley County.

Her parents had a somewhat tumultuous relationship, which I am sure affected her in many ways. Grandma did not graduate from high school as she had a "nervous spell" when about 12 years old and never returned to school. When she was 15 years old, after recuperating from appendicitis and an operation, she began working as a telephone operator. She worked at several telephone companies in the area through World War I then got a job as an office clerk and "girl Friday" and learned bookkeeping.

On October 15, 1921 grandma married Rolland Victor Phend. They had five children between 1922 and 1934. They divorced in 1937 and grandma and the children moved to Elkhart. There she baked pies for her brothers restaurant, cleaned houses, took in a boarder with two little girls, and eked out a living. Then her grandmother, Malissa Joslin Brubaker Bower died and left her an inheritance of $500.00 which was enough to purchase a small house in Larwill.

Grandpa and Grandma remarried in 1939 and purchased a larger home in Larwill. She worked for a trucking company in Fort Wayne for a while, and then went to work for Jewell Tea Company. She drove a truck for them for two years during World War II then went to work for an insurance company. A few years later, they divorced again and Grandma moved to Auburn in DeKalb county. The three youngest children remained in Larwill with Grandpa.

In 1945 Grandma was married to Harold Dunn, but that didn't work out either. She worked for a dry cleaning business, then a milling company. During this time she took a high school course and learned the double entry system of bookkeeping. Changing jobs once again, she went to work for a Chevrolet & Buick dealership in Auburn as head bookkeeper. She belonged to and was an officer in BPW (Business & Professional Women) and worked in the Methodist Church.

About 1958 she moved to Fort Wayne and became manager of Miller's Ice Cream store and restaurant, at Five Points on Goshen Road. A few years later she moved to North Webster and opened her own restaurant which provided jobs for many family members, including myself.

In 1964, Grandma was married to Ray Ferguson. He died in 1967. I graduated from High School in 1966 and 3 years later joined the Navy, so I was pretty much gone from the area until 1979.

In 1972, after a visit from a distant cousin, Grandma began writing her life story and family history. She wrote: "When we were going thru Grandma Brubaker's letters from her parents and her sisters, I began to realize how important they were to Helen and me even though they were very poorly written and not always well done as to spelling and punctuation. So I have decided to write as I feel the urge and as I remember things and have a lot of enjoyment in doing it this way. Working with Helen I became enthused again with the genealogy and have worked all day on the records. I had planned on writing a book so that my children might know more about their ancestry. I am afraid I am too lazy and I know that I have no talent for writing. My typing is almost as bad as my handwriting and my spelling is outrageous."

At that time she only wrote a few pages but picked it up again in 1976 after being diagnosed with cancer. On August 4, 1976 she wrote: "Well, I did get a little writing done. I do hope some one of you kids enjoy it. Maybe one of the grandchildren or great grandchildren will really get some good out of it." Little did she know what she had started! She was right, her spelling was bad and her handwriting was terrible! But it was legible and we (her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren) have all enjoyed it. Her writings "Tales From the Life of Hazlette Brubaker" have been transcribed and posted online at my Kinexxions website. I can only hope that others enjoy her story as much as we have and I am ever so thankful that she took the time to write them down for us!

Grandma passed away at the age of 82, on May 3, 1984 after having suffered the indignities of losing a leg and having a colostomy. I think she hated that colostomy bag even more than losing her leg! But she dealt with it. She was a stubborn lady who just didn't ever give up, a trait that has been passed down to more than one of her children and grandchildren.

Updated January 3, 2011 Changed link to "Tales From the Life of Hazlette Brubaker" to a blog post. Kinexxions website will be taken offline the first of March and the articles on the website are moving to the blog.


Miriam Robbins said...

Becky, thank you for this interesting and well-written story. It's nice to know that an "ordinary" woman can be an example of extraordinary strength of character. How wonderful for you that she wrote her life story. I'm on my way to read it now...!

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

Your grandmother had a very interesting life. The number and variety of jobs she held is amazing, especially considering her education. You are very fortunate that she wrote of her history and memories. I enjoyed reading about her.

Anonymous said...

An honest and interesting story. I've enjoyed learning about your grandmother. Stubbornness runs in our family too!

Sasha Mitchell said...

Thanks so much for sharing your grandmother's story. And how lucky you are to have so much of it told in her own words.