Maternal Side, My Family Tree

My Maternal Grandmother – Alberta Lou Fleming

One of my favorite photos of my Grandma, here is Alberta between 1944-1945 as that should be her youngest brother, James, she is holding (he was born in 1943),

Today would have been my grandmother’s 93rd birthday so what a better day than today to share the life of Alberta Lou Fleming with you all!

My grandmother was born on 2 October 1929, a preemie, to Mildred Laura Dunbar. The name listed on her birth certificate for her father was Albert Nank, her namesake, as he and my great-grandmother had gotten married just 3 days before on 29 September 1929 (I have since determined her biological father was actually my great-grandmother’s first husband, Paul Geer, whom she filed for divorce in January 1929 and it was finalized on 5 September 1929). The story goes that my great-grandmother was sent home with her little girl and a hot water bottle, and that if she somehow made it through the night to feed her the next day. Lucky for me, she survived. No one alive now seems to know how premature she was as I have asked.

The marriage to Albert Nank was over by 1933 as that is when Mildred got her second divorce and married her third and final husband, Howard Fleming. He was the man who raised my grandmother along with the two boys that he and my great-grandmother had. (Don’t feel sad at all for Albert, he chose not to see my grandmother growing up, and when my grandfather made my grandmother visit him as an adult, he didn’t say a word the entire visit. I think he knew that she was not his daughter but never said anything. And in other documents I’ve found, be it when he joined the military or when he died, it always said “no kids”).

Left to right: Mildred Laura Dunbar, Alberta Lou Fleming & Howard Fleming on the porch of 639 Carpenter Street, Akron, OH 44310

Initially times were tough, Howard, Mildred, and Alberta lived with Mildred’s mother Mazie at her home on Carpenter Street. Howard, a carpenter, would go out every day with his tools doing odd jobs to make a living to support his bride and daughter. Alberta’s childhood was during the time of the Depression, where food was rationed and grease and aluminum foil were saved for the war effort. Eventually Howard Fleming provided a good home as he was hired as a carpenter at BF Goodrich, one of the 3-big rubber companies in Akron, Ohio. In 1936 Alberta’s brother, Herschel was born and in 1943 the youngest son, James, was born.

Herschel Fleming, most likely age 9, James Fleming, approximately age 2, and Alberta Fleming, a guestimate of 16

Alberta and her brothers grew up in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio. It is where their kids grew up, where myself and my cousins grew up, and where my own children go to school now. Cuyahoga Falls is a suburb of Akron, Ohio and is the Indian word meaning “crooked”, referring to the river that runs from Lake Erie and the “falls” were notable, as they had a drop off longer than Niagara Falls. While reading up on what Native American nation that coined the word Cuyahoga – it’s a cross between the Mohawk, Wyandot, and Iroquois that all seemed to have left their mark in this area.

Alberta Lou Fleming, VJ Day 1945

Meeting Harold Fairhurst

At the age of 17, Alberta Lou Fleming met Harold Fairhurst. He was 7 years older than she was and had been previously married. On 29 June 1947 they got married, with my great-grandmother, Mildred, signing off on the marriage license and giving her approval.

The wedding cake of Alberta Lou Fleming and Harold Fairhurst 29 June 1947

A few months later on 22 December 1947 my mother, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, was born. A total of 5 children were born of this marriage. Their life wasn’t easy as Harold was not a very nice man.

Christmas 1957. Alberta Lou (seated), Howard Fleming & Mildred Dunbar Fleming
with Alberta’s 5-children.

While Harold was a golf pro and also worked in construction, Alberta took care of the children by day and bowled in the evenings. She was an excellent bowler, often being invited into leagues where you had to have a very high average to be a part of the group.

From the 9 December 1974 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal found on Newspapers.com. She is mentioned in the “Other High finishers” paragraph.

Harold and Alberta were divorced on 14 November 1968. Less than a year later she married Bernard Szemplenski on 2 September 1969. This marriage didn’t last very long as according to my uncle he was an “old school man of the house”. She divorced him on 16 March 1973 and married James Edward Metzger on 31 March 1973 (Grandpa Jim often eluded to how he paid for that divorce).

Her Life with Jim

I know Alberta as Grandma Metzger, as she married Jim about a month after I was born. Jim was the complete opposite of Harold Fairhurst, he would talk in a funny voice to get a laugh and was a much happier guy than the grumpy, silent man that I knew Harold to be.

James Metzger and Alberta Lou Fleming

Their (Alberta’s and Jim’s) time together seemed like it was filled with joy, they managed apartments and condominiums together, she worked in the office while he was the handy man for the complexes. It suited them. When I was about 3 or 4 they moved to Florida to do their thing in the Sarasota area.

One of my favorite photos of my Grandma Metzger (Alberta Lou Fleming) and her husband, Jim Metzger. This photo was amongst those found amongst my Grandma’s pictures.

My family and I visited them when I was 6 over Spring Break from school. I remember going to the Ringling Museum and stopping to see my Aunt and her family as they lived in Tennessee on our way down. We went down with my Great-Grandma Fleming (Mildred Laura Dunbar) and it was a fun time.

My mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst and my great-grandmother, Mildred Laura Dunbar, visiting in 1979

My sister and I went and visited my grandparents after she graduated from high school in 1986. We spent 6 weeks in Florida, helped them move, went to Disney and Busch Gardens Tampa and got reacquainted with my Aunt Teri and her youngest son. Strangely enough my Grandpa Fairhurst was living with Aunt Teri at the time, so he was there too. There was a Sunday when everyone came over where they lived at the condo where you walked about 100 steps out the front door and you were at the pool, a 100 steps out the back door and you were at the Gulf of Mexico. This was my favorite of the two places she worked while we were there. It was on Turtle Beach as part of the Siesta Keys and was just a great place.

Muffin, my grandparents cat, laying on a balcony at Sunset Towers in Sarasota

It was this trip to Florida that I really got to know my Grandma and her wonderful sense of humor which included an extremely quick wit. I wish I had her comebacks because she was the absolute best. I forget what was going on when but out of the blue she exclaimed “Shit! Fire! and save matches!” and I had never heard that expression before but I giggled so much from it.

A working girl

It was this same trip that I learned how abusive my Grandfather, Harold Fairhurst, was to her and her kids. It was something that my mom eluded too but I didn’t really know how bad it seemed to be.

Cancer

In 1988 Alberta was diagnosed with throat cancer. I remember the year from when I was driving up with my sister to visit her at University Hospital in Cleveland. Her and Grandpa Jim had moved up to Ohio the year before and began managing apartments in Bedford (a suburb of Cleveland). The radiation treatments and chemotherapy got rid of the cancer, but they destroyed her salivary glands, and she had a difficult time eating after that. My sister just commented the other day about how Grandma could make an amazing sandwich and she was unable to do so after cancer.

But the big C didn’t get my Grandma down for long. She still had her Christmas Eve party each year and normally had a celebration on the 4th of July for her oldest son’s birthday. I enjoyed the get togethers as it was the one time of the year when the whole family would get together and I’d get to see my cousins.

Her 65th Birthday

I’m going to guess it is her 65th birthday that Grandpa Jim had a surprise party for her. Below are some photos from the special day. From left to right is James Metzger, then a photo of me (my back is turned), my cousin Tommy Weekley (his back is also turned), and my other grandma, Anna Maria Morgart, then a photo of Alberta Lou Fleming heading up a line of well-wishers, and the large photo at the bottom is me again (still my back is turned), Alberta Lou Metzger, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst (my mom, she is profiled), and then on the far right you can see the face of my cousin, Jaclyn Dawn Fairhurst (with the white baseball cap on).

Eventually my grandparents moved to Columbus in the mid-1990’s and finally settled at a trailer park in Groveport. There were a few family get togethers the weekend before or after Christmas, but never the same as Bedford (not everyone had the time to drive a few hours to and fro).

James Edward Metzger and Alberta Lou Fleming at their trailer in Groveport

Her Last Few Years

After Jim passed away in 2001 her children moved Alberta back up to Cuyahoga Falls for her to live near them. She still had her own apartment but for the last 3 months of her life she lived with my aunt as she had both dementia and COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease). My aunt said they “played Scrabble every day and the last day she went in to feed her on her feeding tube and she said, ‘You ready to eat, and she (Alberta) said no but if it makes you feel better go ahead’ and she died a few hours later”. If memory serves my cousin Tracy and my mom (Cynthia) where with her when she passed. She died on 24 July 2006.

Memories

At the very last minute this morning I had the idea to contact my aunt, uncles, and cousins about their favorite memories of Alberta, and here are the responses I got in order of receiving them back.

My cousin Amanda said… “Well one of my favorite things to do at Grandma Metzger’s was to play with her seashells and shark’s teeth. I used to love going over there on my Dad’s birthday to watch fireworks in her side yard when she lived in Bedford. Staying with her when I had chicken pox… Watching “Wheel of Fortune” and “Jeopardy” when she would cook, and every time I see a cardinal, I am reminded of her. I also miss her fish kisses”.

My cousin Stacy wrote… “My favorite memory was when I was pregnant with my daughter and Jim was very unsupportive and told me that I should get an abortion and Grandma looked at him and said “If i did that every time I was pregnant at not the right time in life there wouldn’t be anyone in this room”. Subject was done after that. Also, I will never forget the tinsel tree at Christmas. Her hugs were hugs you felt into your soul. Her smile was infectious. I did not get a lot of time with my family on dad’s side but when I did, she showed me so much love. My mom and I were just talking about her and how when Eddie and I were little she would ride the bus over to help mom get Eddie out of bed and helped with me, put Eddie back to nap and she would get on the bus and go to work. My mom said she was a great mother-in-law and loved her very much”.

In honor of Stacy remembering her tinsel tree, here is a photo of Alberta when she lived in Bedford at one of her Christmas Eve parties – and said tinsel tree behind her.

Kellie, my sister, remembers… “How much fun her Christmas parties were… and a very specific one. I was living with them in Columbus, and I was wearing a particular dress, she says ‘Kellie, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but that dress makes you look fat’. I looked back and said, ‘Grandma, it’s not the dress, I am fat’. She spit out her water and laughed until she cried. I also used to love to hear her sing”. My sister later remembered that our mom (Cynthia Anne Fairhurst) often said she “gave her a son-in-law for her birthday” as today would have been my parents 51st wedding anniversary.

My cousin Tracy responded with… “Christmas time is a favorite … all her orange cats … I did spend a day gathering data and writing a paper for a Women in History class I had and that was cool to learn about too. I wish I knew where it was because I know I kept it. We had to pick someone born in the 20s. and she fell into that range”.

Her youngest son, Stephen wrote… “I have a memory of my mom and I sitting around listening to 1940’s music. Mostly Glenn Miller, but other swing bands also”. Another memory was… “When I was in High School and we were living on Loomis. Mom had just married Jim. Mom and I had plenty of evenings where we would get time to ourselves. Maybe I had just gotten home from working at the bowling alley. We would put on some of her music., mostly Glenn Millers Greatest Hits. Sometimes a compilation of 40’s swing artists. We’d talk about what was going on in life. Mostly about me (parents find out so much that way). Got a lot of history that way. She knew a lot about the depression, WWII, and the way Cuyahoga Falls was back in the day. How much public transportation was used. Not many had cars and very few families had 2. Stories of the collectors coming around during WWII to collect aluminum foil and used grease. How her dad, Howard Fleming, would walk to the Silver Lake area to do woodworking and housebuilding jobs before he got on at the Goodrich. Which is how they spoke of it. The Goodrich like it was its own little entity. Also, when I learned that unlike most of her friends, she liked Bing Crosby and the crooners more than Frank Sinatra and those type of singers. It wasn’t a long period of time that we did this, but the nights are still etched in my mind. They all kind of blur into one long night of sitting around and learning about each other”.

I know one of her favorite songs was “In the Mood” so here is the Glenn Miller Orchestra performing it

One of my favorite memories was when my sister graduated from high school and my grandparents took everyone out to dinner at my favorite restaurant (though this occasion was my first time going there), the Triple Crown. I had my very first Shirley Temple and everyone was there in my family…. or at least many of us living in the area of Cuyahoga Falls… and it was just a happy occasion. I held onto the red drink mixer thing for all these years (and that I just went to the basement and retrieved it from a plastic bin I think has my hubby a little weirded out).

Drink mixer from the Triple Crown, one of my favorite restaurants. It was in my very first Shirley Temple.

My cousin Emily commented…. “My love of ginger cats (orange) came from Grandma Metzger and Muffin. I always loved going to her house to see her and Muffin. When I was about 10 years old, we went down to see her and Grandpa in Columbus and she had this tiny ginger kitten that had walked up to her out of the woods. She had taken him in, and I fell in love with him. She knew I wasn’t leaving her house without that kitten, and she was right. Arthur came home with me and growing up with him I always felt like Grandma and Muffin were always there with us because the connection of how Arthur became to be my cat”.

Alberta’s oldest son remembers “when Mom and Dad would start arguing over something stupid like the definition of a word they would go back and forth and back and forth until she said ‘I’ll bet you’ then Dad shut up”.

Her youngest daughter, Debbie, recalls… “I’ll never forget the day I was about I don’t know, seven or eight, and she had to explain to me what a douchebag was because I kept calling Terry a douchebag”. She went on to further comment about how good her mom was at Scrabble “I’ll tell you what, she would have a fit about “Words with Friends” and some of the words they allow, she was all about following the rules when it came to Scrabble, and it was hard to beat her. She would win at Jeopardy every night, we told her she should go on the show, but she never would”.

My cousin Todd remembers…. “My favorite memory of grandma was when she took me in when things were stressed in Florida. But I would fish during the day and in the evening me and her would work on puzzles together. We would talk and build those it was my warmest best memory of her and Florida”.

My cousin Tim added… “Ah, Grandma Metzger, funny that Kim, Patrick, Timmy and I went bowling last night- A small venue (24 lanes- I remember Falls Rec as having 20 but I could be mistaken). I guess we were channeling Grandma. I will say that no Fairhurst or Fleming would claim us if they saw the sorry scores we put up. My memory of Grandma Metzger was that of an unflappable family matriarch. She helped each of us through some good times, some bad times, and some in between times. You would never know which of the three you were in because Grandma was the same – unfiltered and funny, caring and graceful”.

Many could have given me more but it’s so nice to know that Alberta has such a wonderful legacy. We all should be so lucky.

Rest in Peace, Grandma. And know you are loved.

Getting ready for a New Year’s Eve party at her friend, Margie’s
52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree, Paternal Side

Week 51: Holidays

All my life my favorite holiday has been Christmas. My mom always preferred Thanksgiving because family would get together for simpler things: family and food, she felt with Christmas and Easter the gifts and candy were the reasons people got together. But it wasn’t just gifts that have made me love Christmas, it was the tree and all the decorations, baking cookies and that little bit of magic that all the very special ornaments and lights can bring.

As I have gone through the photographs that once belonged to my Grandma Blair (aka Anna Maria Morgart) and her mother, Margaret Dora Wise, I saw photographs of Christmases past. This delighted me to no end, as it made me feel that my love of Christmas was something that is in my soul, and that I have inherited from those who came before me.

Christmas 1953 – Margaret Dora Wise standing in front of her tree.
My Grandparents – Leroy Blair and Anna Maria Morgart in their home on Christmas Day, 1963 (You can see the photo of my dad as he was off in the Navy at this time).

But not on just my dad’s side of the family, oh no, my maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming, loved Christmas as well. I have so many photos between Christmas day and her yearly Christmas Eve parties when she returned from living in Florida.

Here is a photo from Christmas 1949 of Santa, my aunt, Terry (Teri) Mildred Fairhurst, and my mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst.
This one is from Christmas 1957 and has all my mom’s siblings. From left to right is Alberta Lou Fleming, Howard Fleming, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst (in blue), Mildred Laura Dunbar (in red), and the other blue-grey jumper is my aunt, Terry Mildred Fairhurst. The other three are still alive so I’ll respect their privacy.
This was either the late 80’s or early 90’s at a Cardinal Village home that my grandparents use to manage in Bedford, Ohio. My mom, Cynthia Anne Fairhurst, is seated to the left, her face partially covered by her hand), standing is my Grandma Metzger (aka Alberta Lou Fleming, and facing the tree in red is her husband, James Edward Metzger.

Though Christmas is my favorite, to me the holidays more or less begin on Thanksgiving and don’t really end until New Year’s Day. So many wonderful memories throughout the years and sometimes they all just flow together. If no other time family gets together, it’s a holiday. We get together with my husband’s family on Memorial Day and Labor Day each year. We changed it up and have gone to my cousin’s on the 4th of July (which is nice as it’s our shared uncle’s birthday, too).

All in all, holidays are just very special days, no matter how you celebrate them. It’s just extra special to share them with those you love.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Maternal Side, My Family Tree

Week 34: Character

I’ve really had a hard time coming up with someone for this week’s theme for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. I contemplated writing about my third great-grandfather who was a deeply religious man, but I haven’t done much with him yet, other than figure out all his kids (there were 16 – and thankfully someone wrote a book to assist with finding them all).

The person who kept popping in my head was a man who is not blood-related to me, but he was family, and the only man I can remember being a grandfather to me. My dad’s dad passed away when I was 2, so I didn’t really get to know him. My mom’s dad was just mean and I didn’t like him so there’s that. But my mom’s mom remarried (twice) and her third and final husband was James Edward Metzger, whom she married the month after I was born. He was a lively sort and for a very long time I thought he was just one of the greatest people ever.

So for this week’s post I’m going to write about my Grandpa Jim, and hopefully he will make you smile as he use to make me.

James Edward Metzger

James Edward Metzger was born on 12 May 1930 to Howard J. Metzger and Gertrude Mary Rule in Columbus, Ohio. In a few years time he was joined by a sister. I’ll admit I haven’t done a great deal of research on him just because I get so caught up in blood lines, but I believe Howard and Gertrude must have divorced and she remarried Marty Roush, but I’m not sure when.

James Edward Metzger, sitting at the dining room table at my parents house (aka my first home) sometime in the 1980’s (the sofa and curtains were the originals)

Marriages

On 2 September 1950 Jim married Mary Jo Williams, with whom he had two sons. He divorced Mary Jo in 1956 and remarried a woman named Florence and they had a daughter. Their marriage also ended in divorce in 1962. His third marriage would be his last, to my maternal grandmother, Alberta Lou Fleming. He always made sure that he told everyone that he paid for her second divorce (as it was final 16 March 1973 and James and Alberta got married on 24 March 1973 (1 month and 2 days after I was born).

He Was A Character

Not that my grandparents ever had much, but they would do what they could to help you. My Grandpa Jim was a drinker, but he wasn’t the type to get mean and violent, the more he drank, the louder he became, and the funnier he thought he was (it was hit or miss to those around him).

But my Grandpa Jim always took the time to be involved in what mattered to me, as well as my other cousins. When I was into swimming, he was my biggest supporter. I remember him taking the time to cheer me on when I visited with him and my Grandma in the summer of 1986, it was my sister’s graduation present but I ended up tagging along too. For the 6 weeks we spent in Florida with them, except for the days we went to Disney and to Busch Gardens Tampa, all my time was spent with me swimming in the pool. I’d get up and swim, take a lunch break between 12-1 to watch my favorite soap at the time, Loving on ABC, then I’d swim in the pool until 4 when it was adult swim time – at that point I’d head to the Gulf of Mexico for an hour and then I’d eat dinner, only to return to the pool again from 6-10, my Grandpa calling me in when he went to close the pool for the night, I went inside and be it a chair, recliner or sofa, that’s where I fell asleep and I’d get up in the morning and do it all again, which was easy as I was still in my bathing suit.

Grandpa Jim was different from anyone I knew. His passion was singing, and he sang so beautifully, so much so that he joined the local Barbershop Quartet (or choir as it was sometimes) in Florida. He would burst into song (not like a musical, but if a song fit the moment, he’d sing it).

Everything he did was a bit larger than life. And though I know life wasn’t a bowl of cherries, he always tried to make it seem that way when all of us younger grandchildren were around.

He was a die-hard Ohio State Buckeye fan and would brag at no end about how his step-dad, Marty, would caddie for Jack Nicklaus (this seems to be true).

Jim Metzger in his red sweater & Buckeyes mock turtle neck (my grandma, Alberta Lou Fleming, is to the left)

His Occupation

At some point in his life I heard that Jim Metzger sold dental equipment before he began managing condominiums and apartments with my Grandmother. Alberta was the manager while Jim fixed things. It was a good set up.

A Funny Story

I consulted with my mom’s sister for this next story as it was one that always made my mom cry she would laugh so hard. So here is what my Aunt told me, the story includes my Grandpa Jim, my Uncle Jim, and an outhouse.

“A death occurred on Howard Fleming’s side of the family in Corsica, Pennsylvania. The house they were staying in belonged to an Aunt Margaret (possibly Martha). She was apparently a hoarder by frustration as she got tired of picking up after everyone, so she began stacking stuff and eventually everything became full except a little path from the bedrooms to the kitchen.When she got up in the morning the boys had gone outside to use the outhouse (there was no indoor bathroom). As they were standing there, taking a leak, the floor gave away. Somehow they were lucky enough to have both feet land on a pole that was ran underground under the outhouse, but they were still waist-high in poop.

My Aunt doesn’t remember what they did for clothing but they had no shoes for the funeral. My Aunt could only wonder what Jim Metzger was thinking.”

I don’t think he was married to my Grandmother yet.

My Grudge

I’ve been told by both sides of my family that I am as stubborn as the other side. My mom telling me I’m as stubborn as the Blair’s while my dad says I’m all Fairhurst. I have learned that deep down I’m probably a combination of them all.

One such time of my showing how stubborn I could be was when I’d hold a grudge against someone, and I had such a grudge towards my Grandpa Jim. He embarrassed me one day when he was drinking really heavy in front of my best friend. doing a really bad imitation of Jerry Lewis, it was never good, but this day had him doing it repetitively trying to get people to laugh, and it wasn’t working. Top it off with the fact that I was in 10th grade, so you know how that age can already be, but he was slurring his words and just going a little too much over the top. Even my mom would admit that was a bad day. He ended up getting in his car and driving to Columbus after an altercation with someone (that part escapes me now but I remember my mom being horribly worried something really bad would happen, to our knowledge nothing did).

After that day I never was the same around him, giving him the silent treatment and the like (well, he and my grandma forgetting my 18th birthday a year or so later didn’t help, but maybe I brought it on myself).

Where I ended up making my peace with my Grandma Metzger, I never had the chance to really do that with my Grandpa. I was young and stupid. And then I was in my twenties. They had moved back down to Columbus so I didn’t see them all the time. I’d like to think he would forgive me, he was the first person who drank a lot that I was around. I have/had all kinds of addictive personalities in my extended family, but he was the first person who I truly “saw”. And he was one of my heroes, they aren’t suppose to fall off their pedestals.

How Scanning Photos Changed My Mind

I also think my opinion really changed last year during Covid when I began scanning my Grandma Metzger’s pictures that my dad gave me and I found the one below of my Grandparents. Look at them looking at each other. And I can tell this was when they lived in Florida which was a good 13 years into their marriage. So much love. I can just hear him calling her “Dear Heart” (well, he called everyone that). He may have had his flaws, but you can tell he loved my Grandma.

Alberta Lou Fleming and James Edward Metzger circa 1983-1985

James Edward Metzger died 21 July 2001 from lung cancer in Columbus, Ohio. He was far from perfect, but he was full of personality, and considered everyone he came in contact with a friend.