Erma was born August 1, 1916 to James Grover and Margaret V. (Kennedy) Alford in Painesville, Ohio. Both of her parents were of Irish descent. If there's any truth to the old sayings about Irish tempers, then Grandma had it covered. My uncles used to agitate her just to rile up that Irish temperament and then roll with laughter as they pushed their luck as far as they could go.
When Grandma was twelve, her mother died and she went to live with Margaret's sister, Aunt Jen and her husband, Uncle John Pike. This picture may have been taken at their home.
My grandparents were divorced in February, 1944. Erma was my grandpa's cousin. After Grandpa's divorce, he and my dad, who was 13, needed a place to live. Erma took them in. On March 20, 1945, Grandpa Nick and Erma were married. Within the next few years, my two uncles were born.
Grandma was truly a fearless woman. My grandpa died at the age of 48, leaving her with two young boys to raise. My dad was now married with a family of his own. Grandma was a hard worker who worked long hours to support her children. My parents helped as much as they could. My dad was as much a dad as a big brother to my uncles. Grandma worked at the Alpine Village Restaurant in Lima, Ohio for 35 years, first as a waitress and later as the office manager.
Grandma was a lousy cook. When Grandpa was alive, he always looked forward to coming to our house for a meal because my mom was a great cook. Although Grandma's cooking skills were nothing to write home about, she loved to garden and was a good gardener. I always looked forward to Grandma's garden being ready to pick. She'd always give me zucchini and I'd bake zucchini bread. She made up for her poor cooking skills in other ways. When everyone would prepare a dish for our family holiday gatherings, Grandma would buy jumbo shrimp from Alpine Village's suppliers. We would be treated with a huge bowl of delicious shrimp cocktail every holiday. My grandma passed away in 1988, but every holiday, someone brings the shrimp cocktail in her memory. Might seem like a silly memorial, but it works for us. It's simply not a holiday without Grandma's shrimp. It keeps her with us.
Grandma loved animals. She always had a dog or two and some cats with little wild kittens running around the yard and up on her porch. Then, she got Pokey. Pokey was a donkey. Grandma raised him from a baby about the size of a dog to a full grown donkey. She loved that donkey as if he was one of her children or grandchildren.
I was living in St. Louis in the late '80s. On May 16, 1988, I got a call. Grandma had passed away sometime during the night. She was a diabetic and had just had a toe amputated a few days earlier. All of my family had visited her on the evening of the 15th. She was doing well. During the night, a blood clot formed and struck her heart.
At the funeral, my dad wept and said, "She truly was my mom." After the funeral, I returned to St. Louis. When my employer transferred me there in 1986, my grandma faithfully wrote me letters every week or two. One day, I was walking to my mailbox, thinking it was about time to get a letter from Grandma. Then it hit me. I wouldn't get any more letters from her. Fortunately, I saved some of the cards she'd sent me over the years.
Grandma's been gone for a long time now. She was Mom, Grandma, and Nanna to those who loved her. She may not be here physically but she's in our hearts forever. I love you, Grandma.
If you enjoyed this post, see Wedding Wednesday-A Wedding Mystery, October 17, 2012