Easter calls to mind family history and a legacy of love

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Easter Sunday, April 5, 1931, my paternal grandparents repeated the vows of matrimony and started their journey together. Helen Myers was a teacher and was allowed to finish out the school year, but it was common knowledge that no married woman would be allowed to continue teaching. 

Encouraging

She gave up her last name and her career on the day she repeated those vows. Her students now called her Mrs. Young, and I imagine their happiness for her was tempered with regret, knowing she would be replaced when their one-room school opened at the end of summer. 

She encouraged her students in every way possible in that place and time. She kept a photo scrapbook, and it is clear she was proud of every child. Her surviving daughter, Miriam, shared the book with us a few years back on a visit home. 

Teaching

Miriam followed in her mother’s footsteps, becoming a teacher, awarded the Ohio Martha Holden Jennings master teacher award, followed by a federal fellowship to study programs for disadvantaged youth at the University of Alaska. She earned her master’s degree while living and working in Alaska and building her own family. 

Her career flourished far beyond classroom teaching, coordinating the federal Chapter 1 Program for disadvantaged readers, which later received federal awards and high praise as an exemplary project by the U.S. Department of Education. How proud her mother would have been! 

Seeing the scrapbook my grandmother had put together while still in her youth has stayed with me. It offered us a small glimpse of her joyful enthusiasm for young people, and how we wish we could have known her, called her Grandma, learned to read while sitting on her lap. It was not to be. 

Family business

Helen’s passion for teaching made her a wonderful mother and an enthusiastic community and church member. My father remembered her working around the clock at a typewriter, growing their business of raising English Shepherd puppies, shipping pups by railcar into all 48 states. Helen was working at marketing long before the term was ever defined. 

It was this successful business that helped the family thrive through the Great Depression. My dad gave me his mother’s hand-written record books, each litter and each pup listed with their destination noted. I treasure this, the only thing I have of my grandmother who died at 35, leaving four young children and her husband broken-hearted and lost. 

Married on a Palm Sunday in 1983, today marks 39 wedding anniversaries for my husband and me. I woke up this morning thinking of my grandparents and all that the couple’s love has built, beginning in a simple ceremony on Easter in 1931.

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Judith Sutherland, born and raised on an Ohio family dairy farm, now lives on a 70-acre farm not far from the area where her father’s family settled in the 1850s. Appreciating the tranquility of rural life, Sutherland enjoys sharing a view of her world through writing. Other interests include teaching, reading, training dogs and raising puppies. She and her husband have two children, a son and a daughter, and three grandchildren.

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