Friday, February 9, 2007
Born in Truro, Madison, Iowa, Home of the Bridges of Madison County, to Charles Worthing and Nancy Ames Hanson on 9 February 1917.
The more I learned about my mother, Gracie and her world, the more I admire her. I grew up not knowing much about my mother's childhood as much as I should have. Now after mom’s death, I have put together stories she told us as we were growing up and this has helped me to understand and appreciate her more. I came to have a high regard for her fortitude, strengths in adversity, self awareness and genuine respect and love for other people. I marvel at her will to survive and thrive in the face of extreme circumstances. This seemed to be built into her genes. She follows a long line of Ames' and Worthing's who have this trait.
Nancy Ames, her mother grew up on a homestead in the freezing winters of Lake Koshkonong,Wisconsin, later living in Milton Junction, Wisconsin near Janesville. Nancy was one of 10 children who lost their mother in the winter of March 1893 at the age of 10 years old. No one should have to have endured this at age 10 ... starving, freezing cold, living on a lake in a one room cabin with no heat and very little clothing and very little food. The settlers of the 19th century had a deep-boned determination to carve out a life for themselves despite the challenges wrought by Mother Nature. We can learn lessons from their examples. They had dreams and overcame tremendous obstacles to achieve them. Nancy Ames’ dad, Ira Daniel Ames, fished for a living and really toiled to keep his family warm and fed but they just couldn't seem to make it. They must have been so poor. The winter of 1893 was particularly cold. On the morning of March 5, 1893 a blizzard hit them hard. Nancy’s mom, Cornelia Palon Ames, and her 2 month old infant died from probable starvation or froze to death. The house on Lake Koskonong, Wisconsin, that the family lived in was mostly cardboard material. In the aftermath of the event, the nine surviving Ames children were sent to an orphanage near Albion, Wisconsin. Ira was heart broken over the death of his wife and child and the children being taken to away.
He never really recovered. In 2 years, he too was dead. He died mainly of a broken heart on September 21, 1895.
As Nancy got older, she met Ludwig Hanson a Danish orphan. Ludwig's mother had died in New York City being hit by a streetcar. For some unknown reason Ludwig found himself in Janesville, Wisconsin later moving to Aurora. Nancy met and fell in love with Ludwig. They were married on March 16, 1904 in Aurora, Kane, Illinois.
Possibly Nancy was impressed with Ludwig's wealth and car. They made a handsome couple. As you can see in her wedding picture this is a beautiful haunting young lady. Ludwig and Nancy lived in Aurora and had a daughter Blanche born on April 7, 1908. Nancy and Ludwig circulated amongst the good life crowd in Aurora enjoying parties and festivities. One such activity was roller skating with a couple, Robert and Mary Linden Fermazin. Another good friend of this couple was the Jeffreys. We have their picture but not sure how they were acquainted. Things went along smoothly. They had a nice house and furnishings. However, Ludwig was insanely jealous of Nancy's good looks and personality. He was so jealous he used to beat her. Probably out of love but this is not the way to show a loving relationship. So they divorced and Nancy and Blanche lived alone. Nancy began work as a cook and maid. During this time she met Charles Charley Worthing from Cambridge Ohio. Mr. Worthing too was divorced. He had worked in Ohio in the steel mills and was quite wealthy when living in Ohio. We are not quite sure of the circumstances of his divorce. He left his wife Laura Mitchell Worthing with two houses and three children, Forest, Walter, and Kenneth. After his divorce from Laura, Charles settled in Truro, Madison, Iowa where part of his family was residing. He worked for his father Richard Seth at the Worthing Hotel in Winterset, worked for his cousin in the cigar factory and worked a little on the Worthing farm. Charles decided one day to take off for greener pastures and went to Illinois. He resided in Wheaton where he was able to obtain a job as chauffeur. Here he met the beautiful, haunting Nancy Ames Hanson whom he immediately fell in love with. Together they saved their wages. During their courtship they dated on days off. Movies, roller skating, rides in the lush green countryside around Wheaton and Carol Stream. Charles was getting home sick for his family and Nancy was getting annoyed with Ludwig's constant visits to try and win her back. So after some thought and permission, Nancy was able to take Blanche and move to Truro, Madison, Iowa with Charley. There they settled into this small house on Main Street. Here they raised Blanche and along came Gracie and her twin brother Charles Edward. Charles was still born and Gracie weighed in at 1.5 pounds. Since the doctor who delivered Gracie didn't expect her to live he did not file a birth certificate. Nancy placed Gracie in a shoe box and covered her with cotton and blankets and nursed her. She cuddled her and fed her and held her lovingly and praying the whole time to God to save her baby girl. God answered her prayers and Gracie started thriving and gaining weight. She made it! Gracie grew up very small and petite and lived a happy life in Truro, Madison County Iowa with her sister Blanche. Blanche was nine when Grace was born but loved her baby sister dearly. As Grace was growing up in Truro she loved Blanche and admired her big sister. She wanted to go everywhere with her and just be by her side.
In the years 1928-1932 Gracie experienced two great losses, the loss at age 12 of her beloved mother and at 16 the loss of her dad. Grace's mother died of a brain tumor. Both crises occurred to a young woman at the same time her half sister Blanche whom she'd grown up with was sent to Illinois to live with her father, Ludwig Hansen. I presume this makes one a stronger person. I cannot imagine losing a mother at age 12 and then losing your father and then your sister. How tragic.
Mom, Grace remembers growing up in Truro during the depression era. America battled the Great Depression and the whole world seemed to be changing. The economy struggled: the average weekly wage for a family being only $2.39. Wall Street floundered as banks closed across the country. People lost their homes, their farms and bankruptcy was prevalent. For families, every cent counted, and none could be spared on frivolous luxury of any kind. Grace would have been 12 years old in 1929 and 15 at the heart of the depression in 1932. Grace's mom had died in 1928. And, Blanche was now living in Illinois with Ludwig. Gracie was living with her dad, Charles Worthing who was ill during the Christmas season in 1932. Times were tough. They lived in town and Charley worked at the school as a custodian. Most of their other relatives lived on farms so in this way they were real fortunate as Gracie remembered trading eggs for pork chops and meat and milk. They never remembered going hungry but Christmas was approaching... The day after Thanksgiving, November 25, 1932 it was particularly cold. Dad and Gracie closed off extra rooms in the house so the house would stay warm this winter. Heat was at a premium. They closed off the front porch and the extra bedrooms. They were used to the cold. They closed off the big dining room, the library room and three of the bedrooms. They moved the dining table into the living room. Gracie's Dog slept in what he considered his boudoir, the closet. Dad got the bedroom and Gracie slept on the couch. They saved $ 6.00 a month on coal by doing this. Gracie and her dad needed every penny because of the Depression. Charley still had his job at the school but the hours got less and less each week. They were not as bad off as most. Charley never talked about money. His eyes just got dimmer and dimmer every evening at dinner when he returned from work. During this time, Gracie and Charley did not realize this would be his last Christmas. Cancer was taking over his body.
1932 was an odd Christmas, no doubt about it. Instead of sugar plums and stockings stuffed with goodies and stacks of presents under the tree---a Time of Bounty---this was a time of Dwindling. In spite of diminishing money, the light of day, and Charley's dwindling hours of work Grace knew the Worthings were tough. She knew that somehow, someway, there would be a Christmas. Not the same kind of Christmas past, but one to remember all the same.