Friday, October 28, 2016


27 August 1904 - St. Andrews, TN
15 July 1987 - Orange, CA

Mothers-in-Law get a bad rap, I think.  I suppose there are some of them, like some daughters-in-law, who leave something to be desired, but I've had two Mothers-in-Law and I count myself lucky with both.

I became Ida May Kirkpatrick's daughter-in-law in 1955. I was young, only 20 and in college.  I didn't really know then why people said that about mothers-in-law, because my dad's mom lived far away and died shortly after my mother and dad married.  Hence, I didn't even have a pattern of a mother-in-law's function in the larger family.  All I really knew was that often, there was mother-in-law trouble in a family.

Well, Ida May knew instinctively how to be a good one.  She was born and raised in the south.  Her first child was a girl, a few years older than her only son - the one that I had married.  She adored both her kids and was predisposed to adapt and adopt into the family whoever her kids wanted.  I was the beneficiary of her open arms as she welcomed me as if I had always belonged there.

She was a warm and caring person, good natured and very giving.  My new husband probably told her that I didn't know how to cook, so almost every weekend we were invited to their house – early enough to let me help in the kitchen, where we learned a lot about each other all the while I was learning how to cook.  (I never mastered fried okra, much to my disappointment!) 

After the babies began coming, the weekend visits didn't end.  She made sure we learned some of the southern tricks to entertain the little ones as well as the bigger ones as they grew.  I was always so grateful for her warm loving arms around the newest baby when it was fussy, and by singing to them, she taught me lots of old southern rhymes and songs to add to my repertoire of mainly Girl Scout ditties from my childhood!

Later after our kids got older, she made sure that when summer came there was always fresh plum juice in the fridge for the kids, because she introduced them to it, along with the fried okra and other southern delicacies.  My own mother, who hated to cook and therefore wasn't very good at it, had little to teach me about cooking, and I literally and figuratively ate myself to a substantial size on Ida May's lessons!

She worked hard during the day as a cook at a little local diner, but she was never too tired to do what needed to be done.  When she saw that a certain item would help me in my wifely cleaning or cooking duties, she always tucked one in my purse (or diaper bag!).   

She was a traditional southern wife to her husband, who was a somewhat difficult man who worked hard as a blue-collar worker in the Southgate area, and she also took care of her mother-in-law Gertrude, who lived in the tiny garage apartment.  Once Ida May's children left home to be married, Aunt Bettye, her single sister-in-law, moved in.  All this was Ida May's responsibility, but the only time I ever heard her complain was when Gertie hid a pound of bacon in between her box-springs and the mattress and it was up to Ida May to trace where that awful smell was coming from.   Gertie was nursed by Ida May until her dementia drove her into a nursing home.  And Ida May nursed her husband Ray until he died at home of emphysema.   

Life was not easy for her.  Between her two children she ultimately had twelve different sons and daughters-in-law – (yes, her adult kids were the marrying kind).  She was my mother-in-law for 16 years, and never once during that time did I ever have an occasion to "roll my eyes" at something she did or said.  I loved her a whole lot, which made the dissolution of my marriage to her son a double loss. 

She spent her own final year in a nursing home, and I was able to spend some time with her there.  She barely could carry on a conversation, but she was able to tell me that "Aunt Bettye" (her younger sister-in-law) was a good person and asked me to tell her that, and she apologized to me for my ex-husband's behavior.  She also said she loved me a lot. 

Ida May Barry Kirkpatrick was truly a good-hearted, warm person.  My children, now mostly grandparents themselves, know how lucky they were to have her in their lives, and I am glad that I had as much time with her as I did.  She helped me understand the role of a mother-in-law, though I really think I fall short of her in the image I try for.


Sunday, October 2, 2016


I wish I knew.  But unless I get more facts about him, it is hard to give him the fullness of an Immortal Nobody.  I only have two letters….

What do I know about J. J. Williams?  I know that in late 1891 in Grosebeck, Texas, he wrote a letter to a young lady of 17, who lived in Kosse, Texas.  She was Maud McConnell, who many years later would become my grandmother.  In December of 1891, he writes that she was "the sweetest girl in Texas" and he called her "sweetheart." 

Apparently a misunderstanding followed, and his letter written from Hubbard, Texas dated February 14, 1892, ends with "Maud, now write me a long sweet letter and tell me that you love me as in the by gone days."   


On February 18, 1893, Maud's family received word that her sister Lillie's husband, (Ben McCammon) a train engineer, had been killed in a railroad accident in Colorado, and the McConnells, which included Mom, Dad, Maud and little brother Bert, left for Colorado City.  Lillie and her children lived in a big house at 18th and Colorado Street, and that is where the family stayed to help Lillie through this terrible time.  In due time, the parents and Bert went back home to Texas, but Maud stayed with her sister to help with the children.  Once the kids were of school age, she got a job in town and in 1898 married Scott Dobbins, a rancher and musician from Las Animas, Colorado.

Here's the beauty of this story.  In 1984 when I went back to Colorado, I went to the still-standing old  house, which in the meantime had been turned into a commercial property.  When I introduced myself to the current owner of the property and told her of my Grandmother Maud's relationship to that house, she went to the company safe and returned with two letters for me.  "I've been waiting for you," she said.  "These are yours now."

She gave me Maud's letters from J. J. Williams.  I had no idea they existed until that time.  It is obvious that she did not marry J. J., but it is interesting and maybe significant that those letters came with her from Texas to Colorado.  Sadly, we will never know the details of this story.

I have always wished I could share these letters with descendants of J. J. Williams. For genealogical purposes, the lack of his first and middle names, while common in the South is a real problem for genealogists,  the commonness of his surname, and the lack of an 1890 Federal census has made all my research to find additional details turn up empty.  There are a couple of things in the letter that might be clues:  He had a friend named Webb Price; J. J. and Webb had dinner with Miss Jennie; he mentions his school is having a concert and he wants Maude to come and hopefully stay permanently; he hasn't been anywhere since Christmas except to Hubbard.  He confesses to a spell of the blues, to which Mrs. Wood said he needed some one to make a living for him.

This is all I know, which renders J. J. Williams as the most nobody of the IMMORTALNOBODIES that I know.  Lest he be completely left out, at least this much about him we'll know forever – or for as long as this blog stands.  

McCammon house at 18th and Colorado - taken in the 1960s

*If anyone has THIS J. J. Williams in their family tree, let me know at <>