A Christmas Present for Mom

 By Donald D. Erwin

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Charles Ellis Hayworth, my mother’s father, passed away April 12, 1941 on a farm near Fargo, Oklahoma. He was just seventy-five, but old for his generation. At the time he was living with Alpha and Lon Stoner, his eldest daughter and son-in-law.

The Great Depression was easing somewhat, but times were still tough, and money was scarce. The families of his two living children were able scrape enough money together to purchase a plot in the Fargo Cemetery, but not enough for a marble marker. The best they could do was mark the site with an eighteen by twenty-four inch concrete slab, with his name and the dates of his birth and death scratched into the wet cement.

It was pledged that the concrete marker would be replaced with one of marble, when “times get better,” but eight months later Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Although times did improve as the nation rapidly shifted into a wartime mode, all thoughts were on the war effort, and whether the young men of the two families would return home from Europe and the Pacific.

The war finally ended, and most of the young men came home safely. But everyone, old and young alike, wanted to put the horror of war and death out of their minds. Time passed. The young people found jobs in a vibrant peacetime economy, bought homes and raised families. The older folks retired and enjoyed their grandchildren.

Everyone seemed to forget Charles Ellis Hayworth and his plain concrete grave marker...everyone that is except my mother. It was always her goal to replace it with one of marble. But again time passed. Soon after I entered the military in 1950 my parents left the farm in southeastern Kansas and retired to a small house in town. They managed to get by in retirement...but just barely. There was never enough money available to think about the concrete marker at my grandfather’s grave site, but someday...perhaps someday...

As the years passed my family and I visited from California every couple of years or so. At least once in every visit my mother would mention her father, and tears would come to her eyes as she wistfully regretted that she had not been able to replace the original grave marker. In the beginning I wondered what the big deal was. Although I had seen a lot of death in Korea, up to that time there had not been any deaths in our immediate family, and I had never been to a funeral, family or otherwise.

But, as they say, things change. Since the 1960s I have been to many funerals, and visited many cemeteries. My father passed away in 1966 and my mother followed in 1976. My son Ron died in 1985, my four oldest siblings have passed away, and many other family members and close friends are now gone as well.

In recent years, and especially since I became interested in family research and family history, I have come to understand the sadness in my mother’s voice as she recalled her father’s gravesite. I think that she was afraid that his memory would be lost to succeeding generations if his resting place became indistinguishable.

So, together with my brother Odes “Bud” Erwin of Fresno, my sisters Helen Erwin Campbell of Hemet, and Mary Erwin Plog of Lodi, all in California, we set about making our mother’s wish come true.

 

 

 

In October 2006 the concrete marker was replaced.

 

Merry Christmas Mom!

 

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