It is hard to do justice to such a good person. You would expect her grandson to say kind things about her, but everyone I have ever met who knew her had nothing but good things to say. I can only describe her by what I saw and heard in my 34 years around her. There are lots of good adjectives. Steady, independent, quiet, proud, encouraging, content, giving, and unmaterialistic.
She never drove or owned a car. This was something I could never understand as a teenager. She worked and lived in an age when most folks said a car was a necessity. She never had one and she never lived in a big city with public transportation. I remember walking to the store with her in DeSoto when I was a young boy. I used to ask her why she didn’t learn to drive and get a car. She would say, ‘I don’t want to learn and I don’t need one.’
Grandma was a really good cook. We all loved her chicken and dumplings, but her chocolate cake with her homemade icing was my favorite. She was always the last one done eating, because she ate at a slow steady pace. Dad would always tease her and say it was because she ate so much, but Grandma would just say she was taking her time and chewing her food.
She was steady in everything else as well. I guess that is why she was such a good seamstress. Everything was done just right. She sent every child, grandkid and great grandkid a birthday card every year. It was never late and always had a dollar in it. Even when she was older and not feeling well, everyone always got a birthday card. I always looked forward to her card on my birthday, but I especially enjoyed the one when I was overseas.
Grandma never complained or gossiped about other people. I used to ask here to tell me about my dad and the past. She never would. She always told me people should live in the present and think about the future. She said she was not going to be one of those old people who always told stories and lived in the past.
Even though I never visited her as much as I should have, she never complained about it. She always told me how glad she was that I stopped by, and told me to come and see her again soon, but she never complained about me not coming more often.
Even as she grew older and her body hurt, she would never let on much. She would always just say she was getting old and that’s what happens. The only thing I ever knew her to complain about much was the food at the Baptist Home. She always enjoyed going out to eat and was a very good cook herself when she had her own kitchen.
She was very independent. She worked at the Baptist Children’s Home, and a house for young troubled teens in Cape. She was single as long as I can remember and she didn’t always live around her kids. She never wanted to be any trouble for anyone, but was always willing to help and encourage us however she could.
I can’t recall how many sets of curtains she made for Mom and Dad. We moved at least once a year for my fist six years of school and I know Grandma seemed to be there each time to help Mom pack, clean and make curtains. She was also there when Mom had Ruth and Courts. I know she did all of these same things for Uncle John, Aunt Mary Lou and Aunt Joan.
She used to take our family out to Captain Dee’s when we lived in Cape. Back then going out to eat was a real treat and about once a month she would take us out. To this day I like Captain Dee’s and always think of Grandma Jetton when I see one. She never had much money and now that I am grown I wonder how or why she did it. I asked her once and she told me she just liked Captain Dee’s. I was saved in the first grade at a James Robinson Crusade.
Grandma Jetton was there at the service. During the invitation, I turned to her and told her I wanted to be saved and go forward. Grandma took me up front and I let them know about my decision. She never said a whole lot about religion or preached to me during my life about what I should do. But I saw how she lived and would always see her Bible and Christian books in her room at the Baptist Home. I hope I can do less preaching and more doing in my life like her.
When she worked at the Baptist Children’s Home she adopted Uncle John and raised him once all of her kids were gone. I used to stay with her and Uncle John in DeSoto. I really can’t imagine growing up without Uncle John. We went fishing, frog gigging and sledding. If she hadn’t adopted him, I would never have gotten a chance to do all of that with him and he would have never met Aunt Karen and had such a wonderful family.
I asked her once why she adopted Uncle John. She said she just liked him and thought he was a good kid. Well he has proven to be a great person, but I can’t help but think that Grandma was part of why things turned out so well for him. As usual, she didn’t tell me much more about the past.
Probably the best compliment I can give my grandma is that she was content. That is what the whole world is looking for and few ever find. No matter where she was or how things were going, Grandma seemed content and happy. I always thought it was boring in the Baptist Home, but she liked it. I always thought that she needed a car, but she didn’t. I always thought Grandma needed more stuff, but Grandma was always content with what she had. If I could take one thing from her life, it would be her contentment.
Another thing about Grandma that I hope to copy is that she made a real difference in people’s lives. First, her three kids, then Uncle John and all those kids at the Baptist Children’s Home and the troubled youth house in Cape. She took the time to help other people. I think about how much easier her life would have been had she made different choices and not helped so many people and I wonder why she did it.
When I look at all of her children, I know they are the same (they even all look like Grandma). Uncle John and Aunt Karen have done so much for me, Lottie, Courts, Dad, and anyone who needs anything. Aunt Mary Lou is always begging us to visit her and anytime we were together she and Uncle Larry would do the funniest stuff. Aunt Joan and Uncle Tom let us live with them once and they have always been there whenever we needed anything.
The whole Jetton family is one caring, helpful and easygoing bunch. I have my cousin Ed’s TV in my house right now and you couldn’t meet any nicer people than my cousins Ross, Neal and Doug. All of us grandkids have Grandma Jetton’s blood in us. Like everyone else I would be much better to have that part of me show more often.
We probably never got together as often as we should have, but that is a little like Grandma too. She was quiet and never said a whole bunch. But if you asked a question, she would listen and always give you good advice.
I once asked Mom where Dad learned how to discipline us? Once I had kids I was so impressed with how Dad dealt with us and I wondered where he learned it. She said, “Grandma was the best at sitting down with her kids, talking about their problems and helping them out.” She added, ‘Grandma was very good at talking to them about how to be better.’
The world didn’t really notice a 91-year-old lady passing away on the 13th of May. But I did. She made it a better place. She made me a better person. My kids and grandkids will never understand how truly good she was. I hope they get to know and understand my parents and appreciate that they have that same goodness. They have it because of a good Christian woman who cared more about others than herself.
I have so many good memories of frog gigging in DeSoto, touring Carlsbad Caverns or White Sands, eating at Captain Dee’s or the Fort Davidson Restaurant and Grandma always being the last one done. I have a Teddy Bear she made me years ago that I have always kept to remember her by. She made me lots of clothes growing up. Clothes that looked like what all the rich kids wore, but she made them.
I will remember lots of good times and lots of things she wrote and said to me. But my favorite is, ‘Good, better, best. Never let it rest, until your good is better and your better is best!’ Grandma Jetton you are the BEST!!!”
I never really knew Grandpa Jetton. He died when I was five, and I remember seeing him in the casket. He was just over six feet tall, and when I was growing up I’d always hoped I would get his height. My only real memory of him was a visit we made to Arkansas when I was a very young boy. He gave me a bag of orange candy peanuts, which I liked so much that, to this day, when I see them I think of him. He smoked big cigars and when he saw me watching him, he told me to make sure I never smoked one. He said he wished he could quit.
Grandpa was an alcoholic and he and Grandma had gotten a divorce long before I came along. Grandma did not want Grandpa drinking around the kids so he got around it by coming home late and leaving early for work each day. I guess it was because of this that Grandpa was not around much when we were kids. I don’t know the whole story but Aunt Joan told me some of the details. She was the oldest kid and arguably had the most memories. She remembered her dad drinking a lot and her parents fighting. When they lived in DeSoto, Dad would never let him visit the house when he had been drinking.
Dad has told me stories about Grandpa taking him hunting and fishing when he was a boy and Courts has a 4/10 shotgun that once belonged to Grandpa Jetton. We all used it when we were hunting. Grandpa raised beagle dogs and knew everything about hunting rabbits. They spent a lot of time during rabbit season running the dogs and hunting. Dad also told me in an unguarded moment that Grandpa would go to the VFW hall to drink, taking my dad with him sometimes.
Grandpa worked at Pittsburg Glass Company and I guess he was your average hard-working, hard-drinking guy. Once he and Grandma had kids, Grandma stopped running around with him and stayed home to be a mother, but Grandpa was more reluctant to change his ways. Their fighting didn’t make for the happiest home.
The good news is that Grandpa stopped drinking and became an active Christian before he died. He married a nice lady named Bess and he was a deacon at the church he attended. He died of emphysema, which I suspect was caused by working at the glass factory. They say he was a very outgoing and friendly guy and that must be where Aunt Joan, Aunt Mary Lou, and Dad get their outgoing personalities.
One person I wish I could have spent more time with is Grandpa Lewis. He came from a big family, had very little education, and grew up poor during the depression. He served in the Navy during World War II and was the cleanest, neatest, most organized person I have ever known. Grandpa was also very patient.
Grandma wrote me several letters when I was overseas in the Marine Corps and Grandpa Lewis would always write a short note on each one. His brief notes always started with, “Hello Rod, this is your old grandpa. How are you doing? Fine, I hope…” Then he would say something about the weather and that he was feeling pretty good for a seventy-nine year old man. He always told me to come and visit him when I got home and he would close with, “By now, as ever, your old grandpa.”
I would bet that in my whole life I have only spent a total of thirty days with him, not counting Christmases. But, in those thirty days he took me fishing, squirrel hunting, canoeing, and taught me how to mow grass. His yard was perfectly mowed all summer, his garden perfectly weeded and maintained, his car spotless and the house in perfect condition.
He had a small dirt floor basement that adults had to duck down to walk through and it was full of tools. Actually, “full” doesn’t come close to describing it. That basement was packed from floor to ceiling, but everything had its place, and it was organized and clean. He kept his lawn mowers and fishing worms down there, too.
When I was at his house in DeSoto, we would go out on rainy nights and pick up night crawlers. For some reason. DeSoto had the biggest worms I’ve ever seen, and there were plenty to be had on those rainy nights. Grandpa kept them in a cooler in his basement so that we could use them when we went fishing.
Grandpa never sat down. He was always cleaning, polishing, fixing or working. The only time I remember him sitting was to eat dinner or watch the news. He couldn’t hear very good and he would have the TV blaring while yelling at us grandkids to quiet down so he could hear the weather.
He used an electric razor and baby powder to shave. It took him a long time to finish and we hated it when he did this because whenever his shaver was running the TV wouldn’t get reception. Grandpa would always come into the room afterward and rub his face on mine saying, “It’s as smooth as a baby’s butt, isn’t it?” He sometimes called me “Rodriguez” and if I was sitting by him at dinner, he would slap my hand real hard after we prayed and say, “Let’s eat Rodriguez.” After dinner, Grandpa loved to eat ice cream. Grandpa and Grandma were big fans of Swan’s and they always had ice cream when we were there.
I have been a fidgeter all my life. I rock my legs, scratch my face, tap my fingers or do anything to keep moving. I’m not nervous, but I move a lot. Grandpa Lewis used to say, “Boy, stop fidgeting. Why can’t you stop moving?” I told him I didn’t know, it was just something I did. When we were squirrel hunting, I used to wish I could sit still like Grandpa but it was so hard for me.
He had a cuckoo clock and some wind-up clocks that chimed all the time. I liked hearing the clocks go off each hour when I stayed at their house. Grandpa said that when I was little I used to pull on the pine cone weights of his cuckoo clock and almost broke it.
He had a canoe and he would carefully strap it onto the top of his shiny car to take me to Big River for a float. I only remember doing it twice, but man those were fun trips. Uncle Greg went with us, and we caught several bass while floating down the river. Grandma would drop us off and pick us up downstream later.
I loved going out to Clifford Copland’s dairy farm with Grandpa. They were our cousins and I would help with the cows before going fishing in a big farm pond they had. Grandpa would take me squirrel hunting there, too, but I had to be really quiet. Grandpa loved squirrel hunting and he was a very good shot. He kept track of how many squirrels he killed each season.
Grandpa was also our barber and cut all of the grandkids hair. Each year when we went home for Christmas, I got a haircut from Grandpa. During the seventies, I didn’t like his haircuts because he liked to cut it short and everyone had longer hair. I was older by then and wanted to follow the trends.
When I was little, I would fall asleep while he was cutting my hair. One time he cut the back side of my ear with the scissors and it started bleeding. He told me I was the first person in all of his years that he had ever cut. I felt kind of honored after he told me that.
Grandpa could fix anything. He tinkered with small engines, electrical stuff, and anything that others were throwing away, and he fixed them all. Grandma kept him busy fixing yard sale bargains she brought home just for that purpose. He had an old, red push mower that he bought at a yard sale and got running. After mowing, he would take a putty knife and scrape all the grass off from underneath it and then get a hose and wash the whole thing off. It had one rust spot on the frame, and he would oil that down. Every time we did that, he would tell me how much he paid for the mower, how long he’d had it, and explain that the rust spot had not gotten any bigger since the day he bought it.
Dad once told me a story that highlighted Grandpa’s patience. He said they needed to move one of those camper shells that fits on the back of a truck and as they lifted it up to move it they noticed that a big hive of bees had built a nest under it. Dad and Uncle Greg immediately dropped the camper and took off running with the swarm of bees close behind. Mom described it like a black cloud following them. They were both stung multiple times. Grandpa, however, just stood there not moving and was never stung once.
This reminds me of my yellow jacket story. The Lewis’s were a big family and we used to get together every Thanksgiving. For a few years, the reunion was held at a big log cabin down by Johnson Shut Inns State Park. Dad and other family members had helped Uncle Bill Affolter build the log cabin, so I was using a push mower to help clear the yard around the cabin. I mowed over a yellow jacket’s nest and they came swarming out and I started feeling the stings. I started running around like a crazy man, shucking my clothes as fast as I could. Dad helped me out of my britches once he figured out why I was going crazy, and I went off to the house where Mom put a baking soda mixture on all of my stings.
When I left, the mower was running right on top of the yellow jacket nest. Nobody wanted to go and turn it off, but Grandpa Lewis walked up and turned it off without getting stung. This feat amazed and impressed me. I asked him why they didn’t sting him and he said, “I just stayed calm, and they left me alone.”
Grandpa worked at the railroad shop in DeSoto and I’m sure he never made much money. He had a very frugal lifestyle. He never liked President Reagan because he did something with railroad pensions that Grandpa didn’t approve of. He woke up early every morning to go to work, and after he retired he would sleep in till 8 a.m. or sometimes even nine. When Uncle Greg or Gary would make fun of him sleeping late, he would say, “For thirty years I woke up early. Now I’m retired and I can sleep in if I want.” Once, he told me that he was replacing all of the windows in his house and that it was taking a long time. I asked him why he didn’t just do it all at once now that he was retired. Grandpa told me, “I’m too busy. I really don’t know how I ever had time to work, as busy as I am now that I’m retired.”
When Grandpa was older, he had prostate cancer. In those days, that meant serious surgery. Afterward, he had to have a bag for going to the bathroom. Then he had a stroke and lost the use of his left side. Grandpa had to wear a brace, and it was hard for him to do everything he used to do. Seeing Grandpa struggle with these health problems was hard.
Going to Grandpa and Grandma Lewis’s’ for Christmas was probably the highlight of my childhood Christmas memories. Aunt Phyllis, Mom, Uncle Greg, and Uncle Gary would all be there with their families. Their house only had two bedrooms and one bathroom. Having four families with thirteen grand-kids kept the bathroom busy.
Aunt Beth’s sister lived in DeSoto so she and Uncle Greg and their kids sometimes stayed with her. Mom’s sister, Aunt Phyllis lived close by, in Hillsboro, and I usually stayed with them since I was about the same age as their kids, Jeff and Sherri. Even with that relief, things were crowded at Grandma and Grandpa’s, but those were really happy times. One Christ-mas we got Grandma a nice stereo system and she cried like a baby. Uncle Gary had fun with that.
Grandpa always cut down a cedar tree from the woods for Christmas and Grandma would decorate it with that old silver tinsel that got all over the house. We would all pack into the small living room to open presents. As the family grew, we started picking names out of a hat to cut down on gifts but, no matter what gifts we got, I always looked forward to Grandpa’s. Each year all of the guys would find their hunting and fishing licenses wrapped in a pair of underwear. Every time I go buy my hunting license these days, I think of Grandpa and those underwear. He always said, “A man needs a hunting license and he can always use a clean pair of underwear.”
Each night, we would sit around the large kitchen table and eat strawberry pound cake with ice cream and play Monopoly, Life or Uno. Grandpa didn’t play the games much because he went to bed early. He was always cleaning around the house, polishing his car, working in his garden or fixing something that was broken.
Mom is so much like Grandma Lewis, it’s scary. Whenever we would go to Grandma Lewis’s she was always cooking and getting food out for us to eat. When I was older, I would drop in unexpectedly a lot and she would start putting all kinds of food out on the table. Mom does the same thing now. For some reason, Grandma always had food hidden behind her bed.
The kitchen was the largest room in the house. It must have been twenty feet long with cabinets and a countertop all along one side. On the other side, she had a big freezer, her icebox and the dinner table. This was a long table that was big enough to seat large groups. She had a large still-life painting of fruit on the wall that I later kept in my garage for years. Because of this, I’ve always liked to have pictures of fruit around my own table. Her china cabinet was also in the kitchen, and she had it loaded with games as well as dishes. The kitchen was where everyone hung out during the holidays.
Grandma was just as clean as Grandpa. When they put carpet over the old hardwood floors, she and Grandpa used to go around picking up all the dirt with their hands. Uncle Gary would always make fun of them and ask why they didn’t get the vacuum out. I don’t remember why they didn’t use the vacuum, but we all had fun helping them pick up dirt off the carpet.
Grandma had her own basement with a concrete floor and she kept all of her canned goods down there. We were constantly running down the stairs to grab a jar of something for her. The washer and dryer were there as well. She even had an old ringer washer in the basement that she couldn’t bear to part with.
Grandma always had two things that I loved, but that Mom never bought. Pringles potato chips and Kraft cheese slices. She would go into the bedroom and break out the Pringles, and I would beg her to let me have a cheese slice. At home, we never got cheese that was individually wrapped. My favorite thing that she made was strawberries and pound cake. No matter when you came to her house, she would get some strawberries out of the freezer and bring out some pound cake. I still love that combination.
Grandma worked with Grandpa in their big garden and grew strawberries, tomatoes, green beans and other vegetables. When they came to visit us, Grandpa could never stay long because he always had to get back and take care of the garden. Grandma did a lot of canning each summer.
When we visited them, Grandma would always come outside with us kids. She taught us how to play “Kick the Can.” One year we had a snow storm and went sledding at their house. Grandma was the only grownup to come out and sled with us. I can’t remember how old she was but I thought she was ancient and we were so happy that she cared to join in our fun. Grandma and Grandpa had a big yard with rose bushes and lilac bushes and two big walnut trees. Grandma always had walnuts lying around the kitchen that needed cracking. Sometimes her fingers were black from picking the nuts out of the hulls. She also loved Braunschweiger. She would try to get me to eat a Braunschweiger sandwich, but I didn’t like the stuff at all. I thought it was worse than baloney even though Grandma acted like it was an expensive delicacy.
When we had chicken, Grandma would always eat the neck, and when the toast was burnt she always took the worst pieces. She said she liked those things, but I think it was just that she didn’t want it to go to waste and knew nobody else would eat it. Since Grandpa was an avid squirrel hunter, she fixed squirrel a lot. I never liked it but Grandpa and her thought squirrel was a real treat.
Grandma Lewis’s father was a preacher and she lived in Marble Hill for a while as a young girl when he taught at Will Mayfield College.
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