Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Hazel Jean Hayward Wessman: A Biography, Part 2

Jean taught her son Keith through her attitude that a mother should be able to rely on her sons for support and help. Not just monetary support but emotional support too. John was her shining star in this area when they moved to Salt Lake. He was the one who made sure the house got fixed up and things like that. He was the organizer. Keith remembers cleaning a lot of wallpaper under John's command so that the household would run smoother for Jean.

After his father died, Keith (even though he was six) felt as if he had to grow up. He wanted to do things that would bring his mother comfort. He did not want to give her anything to worry about. He knew that she was counting on him to do what he should.

Jean enjoyed going out with her husband. At times, when her husband got off work early in the morning (from his night job), he would take her out for breakfast before the kids got up. That was a benefit of having a large family. There was always someone to pitch in if necessary to help with the daily events. Jean usually got up early so she could accomplish all that needed to be done.

Henry and Jean would go out with their friends or go out to dinner by themselves. The older kids would take care of the younger children. They made many good friends with Henry's coworkers from the newspapers. They would often socialize with them.

Henry had a good sense of humor. He loved to tell his wife jokes because she would not get them at first. Awhile would go by and then she would start to laugh. Henry thought this was cute and funny.

Jean and Henry liked to go out with Joe and Anna Wessman (Henry’s brother and sister-in-law). They would like to play cards. They had a lot of association with Henry's siblings.

Henry and his brother Joe had certain opinions about hair. They liked long, straight hair. Joe's wife Anna and Jean decided to have their hair cut one day. Their spouses were quite upset when they saw the new hairdos. Jean loved her haircut though. However, Jean did bring home her hair in one braided piece.

Jean did have struggles. One of her children was born stillborn. She never talked about it. Could it be that it was too emotional for her? She was sick after the childbirth. She kept things in and never talked about herself much. She bore 14 other children. It was very challenging raising that many children. Especially after her husband died. When he died, the older children gathered around to help make ends meet. She had a serious heart condition so she could not go out and work.

Jean was sick for four or five years after she had Keith. Her daughters Jean and Betty (also called Liz) had to take care of him. After that bout, she started to improve somewhat. She struggled with how much money was coming into the home. Especially since the jobs that the children had didn't go on forever... Different jobs were sought after at different times depending on the circumstances and the job availability.

Jean (center) with family members.

Merle was her daughter who was born with [neonatal hypothyroidism (cretinism), a condition which is very treatable today]. She was named after Jean's sister who had died. She required a lot of attention. When she was first born, Jean had a lot of pressure and ridicule from the outside to put Merle in American Fork, Utah where the handicapped lived. At that time, the handicapped did not receive the skills and training that they do now. She said "No way! She is my baby." Merle was a very happy but simple person with the mentality of a six or seven year old. She was treated like the rest of the family so when she died, it was a loss. Merle could do many things around the house such as iron, sweep, dishes, make beds, etc. Jean would help watch her daughter Jean's children (JoAnn, Elaine and John Shirts) while she worked and Merle would help her. She did a beautiful job. This was at 184 E. Street. They all lived together in the same house. Jean, her husband Joe Shirts and their family lived upstairs while her mother Jean lived downstairs. All Merle's brothers and sisters would work with her in different areas. She eventually was able to write her name like a first grader.

There were no hard feelings about Merle and her handicap even though the children knew it was a hard situation. Whenever the extended family met with Jean's family, Merle was always given hugs and kisses and accepted as the other family members.

To be continued...

The photos are from my mother's collection.

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