Sunday, August 28, 2011

Backward Glance - Luella Mae Bemiss

When Luella Mae Bemiss Avery Epps died on July 2, 1988, I not only lost my 'Gram,' but I lost a great mentor and one of the best friends a girl could have. I miss her still.

As the oldest grandchild, I had the privilege of representing all of her grandchildren and speaking at her funeral. It was an honor, and helped us recognize and chuckle a little at her special-ness! Somehow, she made each of us think we were her favorite grandchild.

Gram was the eldest daughter in a family of nine children. She had five older brothers: William Elmer, Marvin Charles, Alan Edgar and James Edwin; and three younger sisters: Florence Olive, Nellie Virginia and Edna Marie. She was born in Grinnell, Gove County, Kansas, to Fredrick James and Maud May (Morgan) Bemiss on August 28, 1916. I'll bet Freddie and Maud were thrilled to have a little girl after five boys in a row. Look at that beauty!

On July 3, 1935, 'Lu' was married to Carl Orson Avery, the son of Hugh and Corinne (Brownell) Avery, in Denver, Colorado. Carl's  parents lived in Oakley, Kansas. Their first child, Virginia Gayle, was born March 23, 1936, in Oakley. In search of work, they traveled to Bakersfield, California, where their second child, Carl Alan, was born on March 6, 1937. By the time their third baby was born, Fred Wayne, on October 4, 1938, they were back in Grinnell. Sometime in 1939, Carl and Lu were divorced.

Howard Lee Epps, also of Oakley, asked Lu to marry him. She accepted, and they were married on July 6, 1940, in Denver, Colorado. Howard and Lu had two children, Gary Lee, born February 1, 1942, and Sally Louise, born July 29, 1945. Howard loved Lu's oldest three children as his own, and was always considered their 'daddy.'

When Sally was born in 1945, the family had removed to Seattle, King County, Washington. They remained there until about 1973, when Howard and Lu moved to Maple Valley, also in King County. Howard died in January 1977. Afterward, Lu moved back to Seattle, in the Ravenna area, where she remained until her death.

She left her family with many fun traditions and sayings. Among the sayings are these (or something very like them):
  • "he'll never have the guts to do that again" (when a bug hit the windshield)
  • "It's just the way I like it" (if you didn't like a meal when she was a child, you had to do the dishes; hence, this saying)
  • "mell of hess" (we would never swear)
  • "my stomach thinks my throat's been cut" (hungry?)
Gram also instilled in us a love for our heritage, with a special emphasis on the Irish. She and her sister, Virginia, loved to dance a jig, now and again! 

She had beautiful, blue, mischievous, sparkling eyes. She was kind and good and hardworking and gracious. She was willing to spend time with individuals, no matter what she might have been doing. She helped me sew, helped me can, helped me with my babies ("Ain't no big thing, Joley, it's just a baby"). I am grateful for her example. But, mostly, I am so, so grateful to have been loved by her.

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