Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Tribute to a Pioneer Mother

A funeral address by one of her grandsons.

My first memory of Grandma [Margaret Godfrey Jarvis] Overson was when I was 3-1/2. I had been stricken with pneumonia and by Valentine’s Day in 1928 was just enough recovered to sit up in the crib made by my grandfather in his and my grandmother’s house where we lived, and enjoy the pre-arranged dropping of Valentines at the door. During these years, and for some years thereafter, my mother was employed at the Whiting Bros. cash store as bookkeeper. This was just across the street from Grandma’s and even after we moved to our own home on the hill, almost every day was spent in the companionship of Grandmother Overson. A memory of many hours spent with Peter, exploring every nook and cranny of the two story red brick family home, and entertaining all of the kids in the neighborhood with plays starring such well known neighborhood personalities as Irma Whiting, Marion Gibbons, Jr., and that newcomer, Darwin Grant.

I have memories of Grandma baking huge loaves of bread, making cottage cheese and butter and delicious preserves, and the sweet smell of spice cake in the pantry.

Memories of warm summer nights singing songs while sitting before a bonfire in the ditch with Milford Waite and other kids in the neighborhood, and Grandma calling me to bed. The cold nights in St. Johns of crawling into bed between icy cold sheets in an unheated upstairs bedroom, and Grandma coming up with warm flat irons wrapped in flannel to warm her boys.

I have memories of Grandma sewing all kinds of fine needlework, quilts, afghans, table cloths, decorative pieces of all kinds and the finest in the world—first prize winners at any fair.

Memories of Grandma in her living room studio with the skylight and that fine portrait camera recording generation after generation of St. Johns’ families for posterity. Grandma in her dark room working hour after hour over the developing and printing chemicals and letting a young grandson in to watch the great event of a picture emerging from a blank paper. All of these sold for just enough to get new materials to replace the old and just a few dollars to help with the barest of cash needs of a large family. Memories of year book pictures produced at almost no cost to provide photo records for St. Johns High School.

Memories of Grandma and her genealogy records carrying out the promise made to her husband’s dying father to preserve the family records. The many years of concentrated work to finish a lifelong ambition of a genealogical record of George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez, together with an Ove C. Overson history. Memories of a historical collection of St. Johns carefully put together to form a soul moving story of St. Johns and provided to the St. Johns Stake Genealogical Society for less than the cost of the materials.

The memories of a loving wife half chiding her husband who is entertaining a grandson with stereo pictures of London where he spent his mission many years before, and who has heard the stories many times before. Memories of a great old house with woodwork throughout, hand-crafted by a loving master carpenter for a bride, a wife, a mother, and a grandmother, with changes over the years to meet the ever changing needs of a growing and diminishing family.

Memories of months my brother Lee and I spent in Mesa with Grandma and Grandpa in 1933 after the death of my mother and Grandma’s only daughter, Eva, and the hundreds of baptisms for the dead and the testimony of a grandmother to her eight year old grandson of the truths of the Gospel and the necessity of Temple work.

The memories of a dynamic willful person who, after an operation for cancer, was up and out of the hospital and attending a play within a few days. Memories of an uncomplaining self-sufficient person many years in a wheel chair. Never complaining and taking care of herself and keeping busy—the fun time of an open house on Grandma’s 88th birthday with dozens of well-wishers to brighten up her day. At 90 the old friends are mostly all gone—even those five, ten and twenty years younger. Memories of a stalwart son Peter who cared for her daily needs for many years. This devoted service has been and is appreciated by all the family.

I have memories of Grandma saying just a few weeks ago that she wouldn’t be able to make things for the children this year as she couldn’t see very well and she was kind of tired. Her only complaint was that she couldn’t do something for others.

My memories cover less than half of the life of this great lady—all of these memories are of a woman who was older than I am now on the first day of my memory of her. I only hope that I and each of us here who have some time left can do as much with our lives as she did in her later years.

Tanner, W.O. Tribute to a Pioneer Mother: Margaret Jarvis Overson. December 1968.

The photos of the lace and crochet work by Margaret Jarvis Overson are from my parents. The photo of Maggie is from her book, Margaret Jarvis Overson. George Jarvis and Joseph George DeFriez Genealogy. Mesa, Arizona: Privately printed, 1957.

1 comment:

  1. Does anyone know where Margaret Jarvis Overson's photos and negatives went? We would certainly like to know. We would also appreciate knowing who, if anyone, has all the genealogy she gathered to write her book on the Oversons and Jarvises.