Tag Archives: Mother-in-Law

A Life Well Lived


AlbertaI didn’t know Alberta well.  She was my mother-in-law for only six years.  She died Tuesday, August 13, 2019, at the age of 100 years, 9 months, and 9 days.  I met her almost seven years ago.  She was 93.  I am told that at the age of 91 she had a stroke, and that her personality changed after that.  She was not quite as self-assured, outgoing, and a helper to all any longer.  I will share with you what I know about Alberta.  She definitely had an interesting life.

1975_Walker_0039_aAlberta was born in Creston, Iowa, to Paul and Hattie Knudson Allen.  Paul worked for the railroad and eventually moved the family to Kansas City, Missouri.  During the depression, the biggest bank in Chicago couldn’t cash his paycheck. It seems as though Alberta’s family did not suffer like others during this hard economic time.  Alberta had a sister, Virginia, who was 14 years older than her.  Alberta had a horse named Gold Dust Tony.  She lived a good life during the depression.

I don’t have any information on the Knudson side of the family, although just recently Dennis (my husband) received information from a lady living in Sweden, who was a match to Alberta’s DNA.  The Knudson family originated from Norway.  Hattie’s mother was a young lady who would ride her horse out to the Indian Reservations in Iowa, get their attention, and then ride her horse back to the safety of her home after they started chasing her on horse back.  She died as a young mother in a fire at home, that her daughter, Hattie, witnessed. There is little information I have on the Allen family, but I do know that Paul’s parents were Swan (1848-1937)  and Carolina S. Allen (1858-1898). Both families were Norwegian, and immigrated to Iowa sometime in the late 1800’s.

IMG_9075As an adult, Hattie had a fascination with all things Hollywood.  When her daughter, Alberta, was 14 and was approached by a photographer to be a model, Hattie enthusiastically agreed.  A couple of Alberta’s girlfriends were already modeling, and she had gone with them to one of their photo shoots, when she was discovered by this photographer.  Alberta modeled for the local Kansas City department stores and businesses, and was in many beauty contests.  

One of the more interesting modeling jobs Alberta had was for Nelly Don.  Nell Donnelly was a dress designer in Kansas City.  As a young woman, she was unhappy with the clothing available to women.  The dresses most Nellydon2homemakers purchased had no style, were made of cheap fabrics, and cost sixty-nine cents.  Nell thought women should look beautiful even when washing dishes.  She proposed to the local department store in Kansas City, to manufacture pretty dresses to sell for $1.00.  The department store didn’t think these “expensive” dresses would sell.  With Nell’s persuasive selling, the department store made an order for 200 hundred dresses, figuring these would not sell.  Two of Nell’s friends and neighbors were hired to sew these dresses she designed.  The dresses sold out immediately, and thus, the Nelly Don line of dresses became a national success.  When Nell Donnelly met MomModelAlberta, she said Alberta had the ideal figure for her dress designs.  Alberta also got to keep these fashionable dresses that Nell designed.   I will not go into more of the story of the Nell Donnelly who later remarried a Missouri senator, and was kidnapped by the mob.  There is a a rare DVD video about her story, or you can also read about her online.  She was an interesting first boss for Alberta!

Alberta continued modeling after she completed high school until the United States entered World War 2.  She quit modeling and started working at the Remington Photograph (1)Arms Lake City Army Ammunition Plant.  Upon doing an excellent job manufacturing bullets, she was promoted as a final inspector of the ammunition before being sent to the military.  Many of the coworkers did not like working with her, because her inspections were stringent, and she rejected much of the ammunition as not being ready to ship.  Alberta said she wasn’t going to send faulty ammunition to the young men risking their lives for our freedom.  She was truly a “Rosie the Riveter.”  

Alberta met her husband, W.R. (Bill), at the plant, where he was also employed after his time spent in Hawaii as part of the Merchant Marines. Alberta and Bill eloped five days after meeting, and then announced their wedding in the newspaper.  She and Bill were married for 43 years, until Bill’s death.  Alberta has been widowed since 1988.

She and W.R. had three sons, Dennis born in 1946, and twins Bill family2and Dave born in 1949.  They started their marriage living on the family farm, but later W.R. became a salesman, and the family moved several times over the years, to Springfield, MO, Memphis, TN, and Fond du Lac, WI, just to name a few locations.  The Walker boys were always the new boys at their schools.  Alberta always made these moves an adventure for the boys, telling them about the new places and the new friends they would make.  After the death, of W.R.’s father, they moved back to Sampsel, Missouri, to work the farm.  The Walker boys spent their time working the farm with their dad.  Farming was not the dream Alberta had for her sons, and all three sons went to college, and became successful professionals.  The farm is still in the family, with the land being rented to local farmers.  

Industrial_Home_for_Girls,_1500_3rd_St.,_Chillicothe,_Missouri

State Training School For Girls

As times were tough on the farm, Alberta took a job as a supervisor at the State Training School for Girls in Chillicothe, Missouri, also known as the Chillicothe Industrial Home for Girls.  This was the latest and greatest way to care and rehabilitate young girls instead of putting them into the prison system with incarcerated adult females.  While she worked there, she was promoted to interim director.  They wanted to hire her as the director, but she did not have her college degree.  Alberta took an early retirement in order to care for her husband who had become ill.  Alberta was a retired pensioned State of Missouri employee.  During this time of retirement, she and her husband spent many of their winters as Snowbirds in Apache Junction, Arizona.

After W.R.’s death, Alberta wanted to move into town, so she designed her own home, and found a builder to build it for her in Chillicothe, Missouri. She was very proud of this home.  She entertained family and friends for years in this home.  Alberta was an expert player of Ponytail Canasta, and played weekly with the “girls” in Chillicothe until she moved to Columbia, Missouri, at age 95, when she entered an assisted living facility.  On occasion, she would return to Chillicothe for a day to play cards with her friends until she became to frail to travel.

I loved hearing stories about her and her adventures over the years.  When Alberta was in her early 90’s, she would drive from Chillicothe to Trenton, Missouri to attend Wesley United Methodist Church.  This was about a 20 mile drive, and she had a heavy foot, and was speeding over 90 mph.  She got pulled over by the local police, and the officer asked her why she was driving so fast.  She told the officer that at her age, there wasn’t too many exciting things she could do any longer.  Yes, she received a speeding ticket!  She was a bit embarrassed by that and didn’t say anything to anyone.  The following week, hair saloneveryone at church knew about it, because being from a small town, all arrests and tickets were published in the local newspaper.  Busted!

Ever since Alberta’s modeling days, she was very precise about looking good.  As a model, she woke up everyday, her hair and make up done perfectly.  She told her boys that if she got a call for a last minute modeling session, she was always able to take the job because, unlike her other modeling friends, she didn’t need any extra time to get gussied up.  She continued this practice all her life.  She was perfectly dressed, with hair, nails, and makeup.  She said she never knew who might knock on her door, and she wanted to be presentable at all times.  UNADJUSTEDNONRAW_thumb_9917Having only sons, she was thrilled when her first two grandchildren were girls, living in the area, and they played “beauty salon” often

Alberta was so healthy over the years that she celebrated her 90th birthday by taking her sons and daughters-in-law (before my day) to Cancun, Mexico for a week to celebrate.  She even went bike riding with everyone on that vacation.  

Alberta was all about family.  She was so proud of her sons, and their accomplishments.  She also loved her daughters-in-law.  She loved seeing all her grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.  She gave them advice on life and investing.

In 2014, at the age of 95, Alberta sold her home, and moved to Columbia, Missouri to live in an assisted care home.  She chose Columbia because it was close to two of her sons.  Although, she lived close to the third son, his wife was going through some health issues at that time.  Therefore, the other two brothers could help out with Alberta, if necessary.  She had her own apartment within this facility.  She did well there for a couple years, until she started falling.  She gave us a real scare three years ago when she fell.  She hit her head and actually had a brain bleed.  She was severely bruised down one side of her body.  What did Alberta do?  She bounced right back!  She had thirty days of rehab and she worked out on a stationary bike, and got her strength back, and she worked hard to get all her memory back.  It was amazing to see the remarkable recovery she had.  As the years moved on, Alberta did not recover from anything as well or as quickly as that.  She was definitely slowing down, but who wouldn’t when they are in their mid to late 90’s.  We sometimes referred to her as the Energizer Bunny because she just seem to keep going and going.

Dennis and I traveled a lot when we first got married, but had slowed some of that down as Alberta was becoming more frail.  We could travel more again at a later time.  The last year has been a tough one for Alberta.  In August of 2018, she got pneumonia.  It was hard, but she recovered.  She was also moved to a skilled care nursing home, where she lived the duration of her life.  It was hard to move to a new place with new help and new residents.  She struggled being there, and wanted her family around her a lot.  

Alberta was tired.  She was ready to go.  She would say that she didn’t know why God hadn’t taken her yet.  She was at peace with dying.  

I realized that dying is similar to giving birth.  Near the end it is very uncomfortable.  It seems like that uncomfortable time will never end.  There is nothing we can do about it.  It is all in God’s timing.  Then when it happens, you look back and see the timing is perfect.  We have our own timetable, and God has his.  His is always perfect.

100Alberta passed away at age 100, 9 months, and 9 days old.  She lived an amazing life.  She saw things in her lifetime that changed the world, from the use of a crank telephone on the wall to a smart phone today.  She saw music from being played on a Victrola to stereos and electronic devices.  Televisions came later in her life, and were small and in black and white, to the large screen color televisions we have today.  For the last five years, she read all her books on an iPad.  She could make the font large enough for easy reading.

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Voting 2 days after turning 100 years old.

Alberta saw many presidents, and war.  She was born almost two years before women had the right to vote, and when she became eligible to vote, she never missed an election, including the one last November just two days after her 100th birthday.

Alberta is now in Heaven, reunited with her faith family, and in the arms of her Savior.  She is at peace.  We will miss her.  She had an extraordinary life.  I am grateful I got to be a part of 6% of it.

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The Mother-In-Law

Mothers-in-Law . . . they are interesting creatures.  When I got married at age 21, I didn’t inherit a mother-in-law.  My husband’s mother passed away three years before then.  In fact, I had never met her.  I heard wonderful things about her, and I assume that she would have made a great mother-in-law.  My mom was a great mother-in-law.  If her daughters loved someone, she did too, because she loved her daughters.  I figured that is how mothers-in-law are supposed to be.  

In 2013, I got married again, and just being a few months short of 65, I got a mother-in-law!  Go figure!  Alberta who is now 100 years old, is my mother-in-law.  I don’t worry about her picadillos because I am older and more mature, and they don’t really bother me.  Being a young bride, can cause a difficult situation for a young lady who doesn’t realize how different their mother-in-law must be from their own mother.

Thus the story of my grandmother, Appolonia Agnes Vrazsity Tomich, known as Pauline Tomich.  She was born in Austria Hungary in January 1900.  When she was ten years old, her family which at that time consisted of her parents, and a younger sister and brother, emigrated to the United States, coming through Ellis Island on March 26,1910.  They settled in a home in Madison, Illinois, just across the river from St. Louis, Missouri.  

Pauline was the oldest in the family.  She had several sisters and brothers who were born after arriving in the United States. There were eight children in total–4 girls and 4 boys. Across the road, on Washington Avenue, lived the Kosta and Darinka Tomich family.  They had three sons, one being 14 years older than his younger brothers.  His name was Zsiva, but Americanized his name to David.  Both families were of Serbian Heritage.  The Tomich family was Orthodox Christians, and the Vrazsity family was Catholic.  

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L-R: Darinka Tomich (MIL), David Tomich, Kosta Tomich

One day Mrs. Tomich came to the Vrazsity home to help milk the cows, since Eva Vrazsity (the mother) had been ill.  She noticed the girls and commented that the oldest one may be good for her son to marry.  Pauline was only 14 years old.  Eva said that would not work since her daughter was so young.  Pauline did not attend school but had a job at the local can factory.  She walked to work daily.  One day as she was walking to work, David caught up with her.  This 19 year old young man also walked part of the same way to work, and they would split off in different directions.  As David walked along with her on their way to work, he asked her if she wanted to marry him.  Pauline said, “Okay.”  That was that.  Now David is trying to set a date to get married, and Pauline is putting him off.  The third time he asks, he says that will be the last time, so she agrees to marry him.  David has $10, and they get a marriage license and are married on May 15, 1914 by the Justice of the Peace.  They take a streetcar to St. Louis, and rent a room for a few days.  The following day,

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Pauline and David 1914

David goes to work, and returns to their rented room with a bucket of beer and a pound of “cold wienies,” as my grandmother used to say.  That was their own private wedding reception!

When they came back to Madison, her mother was relieved to know where she was.  David and Pauline moved in with his parents and two small brothers.  

This story is from my grandmother’s recollection which was recorded when she was 88 years old.  Disclaimer:  there are holes in the story, and details missing that would have helped, but this is what I have.

One thing that Pauline did not elaborate was that she apparently quit working when she got married.  She did say she hardly knew my grandpa, and it wasn’t about falling in love.  It just seemed like the right thing to do.  I think at 14 years old, she was tired of going to work and also helping with her siblings at home.  You know the thing, people get married to get out of the house.  Little do they know, they jump out of the frying pan right into the fire!

Pauline is living at the in-laws with her husband.  The men go off to work, and the Darinka  (the MIL) is going out for the day.  She tells Pauline to pick a bucket of beans Pauline & David Tomichfrom the garden and cook them for dinner.  Pauline went to the garden and picked a whole bucket of beans, cleans them, and then “schnivels” them which she said was to cut the beans in half.  She put them in a big pot with some onions and some fat, and started cooking them.  Here is where the story is a little fuzzy.  She is either cooking outside, or the kitchen of this home is detached from the rest of the house.

Darinka arrives home and Pauline is stirring the beans so they do not scorch.  She asked Pauline, “What are you doing?”  Pauline, who said she had done a lot of work picking and prepping the beans, replied to her, “I’m cooking the beans,” at which the MIL stated, “Who ever heard of frying the beans?”  Pauline replied to her that was how her mother cooked beans.  Darinka, in her anger replied, “I am not your mother.  This is my house.”  Darinka continue to give Pauline a hard time, so Pauline walked into the house, shut the door and sat down and cried.  Remember this 1948-David and Pauline Tomich - Mar. 28girl is only 14 years old.  When David got home, he went into the house and asked her what happened.  When he went back out after hearing the story, Darinka, took a dresser and pushed it against the door so that Pauline was locked inside.  This is where I think Pauline must have walked into a bedroom to cry, and the door was blocked with the dresser.  The rest of the family along with David and his mother sat down to dinner, and Pauline was not invited.  She stayed in the room alone.

Pauline became pregnant with my Aunt Angie about four months into the marriage.  She and David found a house down the road.  The day before Orthodox Christmas, which would have been in January of 1915, Darinka (the MIL) showed up at their home while David was at work.  She proceeded to show Pauline the Serbian custom of baking bread for Orthodox Christmas.  Pauline was not allowed to help but was to observe.  Darinka baked a whole bushel of bread and then left.  My grandmother, in relating the story, said she was wondering what she is supposed to do with all this bread.  She didn’t ask because she was afraid her MIL would beat her up—she stated this was the kind of woman she was.  Is that an exaggeration?  Who knows?

The next morning (Orthodox Christmas), David took the bushel of bread out to the back porch, and said to Pauline, “When I come in, ask me what I have.”  Pauline had no idea what he was talking about and found it to be quite funny.  She started laughing at him.  David got angry, slammed the basket of bread on the floor (which broke up the bread), and left.  Pauline thought that he left her for good.  She was pregnant and worried what she was going to do.  David had gone home to his parents.  His mother was angry and told him that Pauline must become Orthodox and observe their customs.  His father, Kosta, was more level headed.  He told David to go home, and act like nothing happened.  David came home and everything was peaceful.  They spent a happy Christmas together.  Pauline said she just did not understand Orthodox customs, that the Catholics did not celebrate the same way.

When Angie (their 1st born) was a baby, David told Pauline that they were going to move to Detroit.  He went first to find a new job, and then she and the baby followed him.  They rented a 3 room apartment on the first floor of a house where the French landlords

Tomich Family 1931

David & Pauline Tomich (back middle)  with their children from left to right: Angie, Gus, Mary, & Dorothy

lived above.  When she arrived, David was so happy to see her.  He said he had written many letters that she never answered.  She didn’t believe him, until he showed her the stack of returned letters.  My grandmother stated that they shared a post office box with her in-laws, and apparently her MIL would refuse the letter and have it sent back.  Pauline was glad to be away from them and with her husband and baby in Detroi

That did not last long.  One day the in-laws with their two small boys showed up in Detroit.  They rented their home out in Madison, Illinois, and came to live with David, Pauline, and Angie.  Kosta (David’s dad) got a job in Detroit.  One day the landlady told Pauline that she rented the house to her and David, not the extended family, and they would have to move out.  I am sure Pauline liked that news.  Kosta went to work and asked some of his Serbian coworkers if they knew a place they could rent.  One of his coworkers gave him a lead.  The next thing you know, they rented a larger place, and not only did they move in, David, Pauline and the baby also moved in.

At that point Darinka told Pauline that there couldn’t be two women in the kitchen, so Pauline had to go to work.  She got a job at a laundry, and she like working there.  I am sure she enjoyed her time away from the in-laws.  Of course, living with them required that they turn over their pay to them.  

The in-laws did not like Detroit, and they still owned a home in Madison, Illinois.  As my grandmother said, “They harped on Papa (David) to move back to Madison,” which is what he finally agreed to do.  Darinka told her son that when they get back, they will send Pauline back to her mother’s.  Pauline was mad, and went back to her mother’s but left the baby there.  When asked why she didn’t take the baby with her, she stated that she wanted to be free.  Of course, she is only around 16 years old, and life has not been easy for her.

Pauline and David stayed separated for seven months.  During that time David started attending a protestant church.  He and Pauline moved to their own home.  She became pregnant with my mother Darinka (Dorothy), who was born in 1918.  Can you guess who named that one?  Haha!  My grandparents were married for 58 years before my grandfather died in 1972.  I am not sure if my grandmother was ever truly happy.  She seemed rather stern to me.  I think my grandfather, was more like his dad, pretty easy going.  He worked full time as a salesman.  They had five children (one died young).  David also became a lay minister at his church.  Today people will tell me that my grandpa gave them a little Bible or a Christian tract.  He was out spreading the word!

Appolonia Agnes Vrazsity Tomich lived for 90 years.  After my grandfather died in 1972, she moved for a short time in Ohio with her oldest daughter, Angie.  Then she moved to Phoenix, Arizona where her only son lived, and enjoyed the rest of her days there.

The video I watched where she told this story about her mother-in-law was recorded the week of her 88th birthday.  I don’t think she regretted being married to David or the family she had.  I know she worked  hard.  She worked outside the home for years to help supplement her husband’s income.  She had a huge garden.  She loved to cook and bake.  She did the weekly ironing for our family and my Aunt Mary’s family all the way to the 1970’s while her daughters worked in their husband’s businesses.  Remember those days when all the clothes had to be ironed?

Checking the internet about mothers-in-law, I ran across a great blog called, “18 Mother-In-Law Behaviors That Deserve a Punch in the Face.”  It is an interesting list.  Funny, I never ever thought of rearranging the furniture at my son and daughter-in-law’s home.  Or have I thought of folding their laundry without their permission–I don’t even want to fold my own laundry (although I do).  I agree with this article, so if I ever do any of those things, feel free to come punch me in the face, but warn me first so I can duck!

I have heard many different “mother-in-law” stories from family and friends.  I think I took the lesson from my mother.  She never interfered with my family or my sisters’ families.  I think Pauline was the same way–I think she liked who her children married.  Recently, someone asked me if one of my children was planning on more children, and I told them I had no idea, that was not any of my business. They looked rather surprised.   I don’t ask my children things that are private.  If they want to volunteer the information, that is their decision, but it is not my place to ask or suggest to them how to live. I hope when I am gone from this earth, that none of my daughters-in-law can say I interfered with their lives.  I love my daughters-in-law because they love my sons and my sons love them.  That’s all I need.

So much for the “Mother-in Law Jokes.”

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Zsiva (David) & Appolonia (Pauline) Tomich 50th Anniversary 1964