It's my life and I love it...most of the time.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Remembering Grandma

What a week we just had! Last Thursday, May 19, my grandma passed away. This came just as we were getting ready for 3 graduations over the weekend - but that is another blog. Today I want to share with you my grandma. I was privileged to give the Eulogy followed by more words about growing up with grandma from my cousin Tammie. No need to invent the wheel, these are the words I wrote and presented to a full room of family and friends that gathered to remember Grandma.

Good morning. I’m Lori Rankin, the oldest Granddaughter of Vivian Smith, the daughter of Gloria. The family would like to thank you for joining us as we remember our wife, mom, grandma, and great-grandma – and hopefully hear some new stories or even things you never knew about Vivian along the way. As you all know Grandma lived a full, long life. There is a lot to share – so settle in, this may take awhile.

Vivian Vernice Adams was born November 30, 1924 to Harold and Josie Adams. She is a descendant of some of Pratt Counties Early Settlers, the Williams, Baumgartners, McFarlands, and Adams, who began arriving as early as 1884 .

Vivian lived her entire life in Pratt County. She grew up North of Cullison in the Sand Hills.

In addition to her immediate family, Vivian is survived by the favorite Uncle, Ivan Adams, aged 99.

Vivian was preceded in death by her three beloved brothers. Morris was accidentally killed in 1942, shortly before graduation his senior year. Tommy was killed after the war in 1948. He was stationed in North Carolina where he was in a training exercise when the plane he was piloting crashed. Most recently, her brother Larry passed away in 2004. She had the most time with Larry, and enjoyed traveling to see him and his wife Melba on trips to Arizona where they had retired.

Vivian attended Cullison Schools 1-12th, the same schools her mother, aunts and uncles had attended, and later her own children.

She had fond memories of going to picnics and school activities at the Turkey Creek YMCA Camp. She loved playing at the Hughes home, a neighbor family down the road. There she met their cousin, Avola and enjoyed playing with her as well. A short time ago she became neighbors of Avola at Parkwood and was able to spend some time reminiscing.

She played the clarinet in band, was a member of the Girls Athletic Association, Salutatorian, and SR class vice president to Anfred’s Class president.

After high school, she went to school in Missouri, returning to Pratt and working at the Peoples Bank.

While she and Anfred were HS classmates, they were not sweet hearts. Anfred says he didn’t realize she existed until about 3 weeks before they graduated. After they began dating, Vivian didn’t think Anfred would ever kiss her. Anfred reckons he surely must have, finally. I should also tell you, as we were preparing for today, Grandpa heard some of us whispering and giggling and warned we better not share too much. I might be in trouble later.

Grandma wrote in Grandpa’s 1943 yearbook, “Anfred, It’s been nice to know you these four years in high school. Keep on smiling and you will get out of all your troubles.” Two years later she became a war bride when she married Grandpa during a leave from the Navy. He was actually to have come home sooner, but did not show up. There was a period of time when no one knew why he wasn’t there. They finally heard word that he had Scarlett Fever. After he had recuperated, he was able to come home and finally marry Vivian.

Vivian joined Anfred in California where he was stationed in the Navy. She attended the commissioning of the US McCafferty, a destroyer escort ship that Anfred served on.

During that time, Anfred’s brother and sister-in-law were in California as well. Virginia Smith once shared with me that when Anfred went overseas in the Navy, Vivian was pregnant and rode back to Kansas with her and Marvin. It was so Hot, and Vivian was so miserable on that trip. They had to make stops to go into stores to cool off. She said they realized then what a strong, loving person Vivian was.

Grandma attended the Wellsford church from 1948-1965. She told me one time that when she was pregnant with Uncle Morris, she fell in the hall of the church one day, and did the splits. What a sight that must have been. After 1965, she and Anfred were active members of the Free Methodist church in Pratt.

Grandma shared with us that in hindsight, her happiest years were when her kids were small. She liked to tell stories about her children. Uncle Morris did not like school. In fact, he would run crying from the bus when it came to pick him up. The bus would wait while she went to find him. She talked often of trying to get Aunt Jan to wear a dress, not an easy task. And she taught my mom many things about cooking and cleaning, as mom preferred to help inside the house.

Grandma was a farm wife, which meant she was a worker. She fed harvest crews and helped wherever needed. One time Anfred got a truck stuck in the trench silo. While trying to get it out, he got a 2nd truck stuck, eventually getting a tractor stuck, too. Finally, Vivian had to go with him late at night after the ground had frozen to help drive as they pulled everything out with a combine.

Aunt Jan shared a story of being on the farm where there wasn’t a basement to go to in bad weather. Instead you went to the cellar. Not only was the cellar a shelter against the weather, but it stored the many canned foods that were put up each summer, along with a variety of spiders and snakes. One particular evening, Vivian found herself trapped in the cellar with her children, and Anfred nowhere near home. When it was all clear, no matter how hard they tried, they could not get that cellar door open. They were resigned to having to wait for Anfred to get home and help them. Finally, they were able to force the cellar door open, escaping back into the house.

Grandma was a great housewife. She made their clothes. She gardened, canning green beans and tomatoes. For a time she churned her own butter. She was a great cook, although my mom, Gloria remembers the time grandma tried making cottage cheese and it was awful! One of the best things was being in the kitchen when she was baking. Grandma didn’t just make your average homemade bread. She made truly homemade bread, from getting the wheat out of the grainery and grinding it, to kneading and baking it. And there was always homemade Sandhill Plum Jelly to top it off. Not everything was homemade, as Allen found out. Allen asked Grandma to please share her Cream Corn recipe with his mom, he loved that cream corn. It took awhile, but she finally confessed her cream corn recipe involved a can and a can opener.

I know that Grandma liked to have a good time. This was evident in all of the old 8mm film that had been taken over the years. She would climb up into the attic and pull down the projector and let us watch all of the old movies of family events and vacations (not to mention Hopalong Cassidy). In those films, you got to know family and family friends that enjoyed her company. There were camping trips to Colorado with Delpha and Glen Clarkson and their children. There were family gatherings with parents, grandparents, children, aunts and uncles. The funnest to watch were our parents when they were little playing on the homemade merry-go-round with their cousins Delpha, Donita, Carol, Marlee, and Cathy. I think that must have been before Cousin Mark was big enough to play.

Grandma was also adventurous, and spent time traveling all over America and into foreign countries with Grandpa. In 1979, she accompanied Grandpa and his brother, Lawrence, to Washington DC during the Tractorcade. Uncle Lawrence drove the tractor, Vivian and Anfred followed with an RV as members of the American Agriculture Movement. She also went with Grandpa on 3 mission trips to Honduras, Mexico City, and Arizona where they helped build a school and visited Mission Stations to check on the activities of the missionaries the church was supporting. She even put her sewing skills to good use making drapes once. She also cut fabric squares for missions in Africa. The other night some of us decided that only God knew just how many squares she has cut over the years.

They continued their adventures in retirement, making numerous trips out west and to the Northwest to see their brothers. Lawrence, Uncle Lloyd, and Aunt Dorine went along to visit Uncle Marvin and Aunt Virginia in Washington one year. And Uncle Lloyd and Aunt Dorine, along with the Leeks, ventured to Arizona visiting Uncle Larry and Aunt Melba along the way. Just as in their younger years, they had a grand time being with their friends and family.

Even though Grandma was a child of the depression, she was not afraid to embrace the new world that grew around her. If you wanted to watch a video at Grandma’s you didn’t ask Grandpa, you went to Grandma for instructions on how to work their VCR and later their DVD player. She kept their accounts balanced with the help of spreadsheets on the computer. She embraced the internet, enjoying keeping in touch with her family through email initially, and with her own Facebook Account in her later years.

Grandma also enjoyed crafts. My cousin Tammie refers to her as a Folk Artist, and I agree. She was talented in many areas and loved to create. Among many things, she painted, and cross stitched, but is probably most famous for her wheat weaving expertise. She would go out to the field and harvest her own wheat straw every June. Grandpa always teased her that she took the best wheat, leaving him with the leftovers. She was asked to consult on a wheat weaving craft book that was written by another Kansas Wheat Weaver. She was interviewed for the Pratt Tribune in June of 1986 for an article on wheat weaving. But most importantly, she patiently shared her talents with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, teaching them how to wheat weave. I can still smell the wheat straw as it soaked up water from the trays she placed them into, making them pliable. And I can feel the cool water as it dripped down the stalks onto my bear feet as I sat in a chair, weaving a candle stick or a wreath. I think we all loved going to Greensburg with Grandma and taking a new supply of treasures to the Big Well to be sold in the gift shop. Teresa loved to go in the craft room off the kitchen at the farm. She remembers that Grandma would let us make anything. And she would. Kristy expressed it best when she said she taught us to not be afraid to try things. Once Kristy reupholstered a rocking chair and Grandma helped advise her when needed, as Grandma had reupholstered several pieces of furniture over the years.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention perhaps the most cherished craft that Grandma gave us. Over the years, she made Christmas stockings for every child, grandchild, and almost every great grandchild, as well as their spouses. They are a family treasure.

Many of the stories from today were shared with me as I made a scrapbook for Grandma and Grandpa one long ago Christmas. Many family and friends contributed stories to share. I think Tammie and Teresa best summed it up for all of the grandchildren when they shared “I do not think we could have a better set of Grandparents. We always knew we were important.” I would go on to say, each of us knew we were the favorite Grandchild, and that is how it should be.

Grandma lived a long, productive, happy life. There were few regrets. She did express that she was reluctant to leave and would not see all of her great grandchildren grow up. Tammie shared with me that right after grandma died, she thought to herself, “a part of me is gone.” That is also what is so great about having a grandma like we did. We have a part of her that will always be in us. This part of her that lives on in each of us is the legacy that she leaves for her great-grandchildren.

I would like to close with a special memory that each of her grandchildren shared with her. You couldn’t go to Grandma’s when you were little and not have her read a book to you at bed time. I won’t make you all sit through the entire book, but will share with you the final page of the story most often read.

So off to the palace went Cinderella in the King’s own coach, with the happy Grand duke by her side. The Prince was delighted to see her again. And so was his father the King. So was everyone. For this sweet, and beautiful girl won the hearts of all who met her. Soon she was Princess of the land. And she and her husband, the charming Prince, rode to their palace in a golden coach to live Happily Ever After!

The End.


  1. What a wonderful tribute to your Grandmother. Becky told me about your tribute to her. I am a cousin from Indiana. My grandmother was a Adams and the daughter of Reuben Adams's brother Albert Thomas Adams. Jim Gillis

  2. Thanks, Jim!! I am so glad you wrote to tell me who you are. I am thrilled that you could know a little about her.