Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Letter dated November 3, 1980 to Kathleen from Margaret Ruth Lytle/Sister Ruth

My cousin Kathleen found and sent me an essay by Aunt Laura entitled “My Chronicles.”  There are twelve pages to be transcribed; many pages of detail of her childhood and her brothers and sisters.  So, before I post Aunt Laura’s account, here is the brief account Aunt Ruth wrote when Kathleen asked her aunts to give her a description of their childhood.

Aunt Ruth is the next to youngest sister of my father.  Like Aunt Helen Rita, the youngest, Aunt Ruth was kind, gentle, soft-spoken.  Aunt Ruth was a nun, in the Immaculate Heart of Mary order.  I always felt that Aunt Ruth was moderate and gentle through training; Aunt Helen Rita was so by true nature.  Aunt Ruth was witty and funny and had a store of jokes to rival Uncle Bill’s. Aunt Ruth was a nurse and worked for years at St. Thomas Hospital in Akron.  At the end of her career, she taught nursing. 

She made the change to teaching in the early 1970’s, and approached me at a family gathering.  Dress policies were changing, nuns were appearing in less restrictive habits and even in regular street clothing.  Aunt Ruth was about to exchange her veil for a less restrictive headdress that would, oh horror, reveal her hair to be white.  She wondered if I could explain how to go about dyeing hair, as she thought she could better keep order among students if she looked younger.  I don’t remember if she dyed or not—I always remember her hair as white as Uncle Bill’s.

Aunt Ruth drove, and was responsible for taking other order members to appointments, shopping, and so forth.  She worked her driving responsibilities so that she could spend time with family.  When Aunt Ruth “retired” to her mother house in Monroe, Michigan, she drove back to Northeastern Ohio to visit family, and my mother often drove to Monroe with Aunt Helen Rita, Aunt Laura or Uncle Bill to visit her.

There was an annual rummage sale in Monroe, and Jan and I often sent woven rugs and other stock for the sale.  On a visit we asked Mother Superior if the nuns had enjoyed any of the contents of our boxes and Mother Superior said, “Oh, we can’t afford to buy any of it!”  We were shocked.  The next annual box contained the instruction that nothing went to the rummage sale until every nun had taken everything she wanted.  Then when we visited around the rooms with Aunt Ruth we found rugs on the floors and thanks for the warm feet in the morning.  I’m sorry; no one should have to deal with cold linoleum!

My best and final Aunt Ruth, and then on to her narrative. She died as unexpectedly as mom; went to bed with a cold and just gone.  We went to Monroe for her funeral and the nuns were so happy; Aunt Ruth’s funeral mass would be conducted by a visiting priest, his visit coinciding.  We visited with one of Aunt Ruth’s especial friends, too ill to leave her room. She said she had prayed for three days to die next so she could be buried for eternity beside Ruth.  But, Sister Ann had passed just that morning.  When we went to the cemetery I felt I was at Arlington.  Rows and rows and rows.  There was majesty in the beauty of a cemetery of rows and rows of lives of service.

Letter dated November 3, 1980 to Kathleen-Margaret Ruth Lytle/Sister Ruth-memories….

You probably have heard your mother remember that not much about our childhood was really happy!

Mom used to take us to the Perkins Woods quite often on Sundays.  We had picnic dinners and our chief amusement consisted of rolling down the hills or using the swings and sliding boards.  Often we visited the zoo (at Perkins Woods.)  The foxes’ dens smelt so terrible, we were glad to get away from them.

Even though we were “everybody’s kids,” I felt I belonged to no one.  Our relatives tried to do a good job of making us “hate” our parents.  They said our Dad “was no darn good” and Mom “could care less.”  (I know now that our Dad was dying with tuberculosis, and he probably didn’t want to contaminate us, so he just left home and went to Colorado Springs…where the weather was better for him.  (He died before I got to know him.)

We lived with Grandma (Hogue) for a while, but when things got too difficult for her (18 people living there) we moved out.  We lived so many places I can’t keep track of them.  (I only know Mom moved just about every time the rent was due.)

We were put in the Children’s Home because she couldn’t take care of us.  (I think we were being put up for adoption, but Grandma took us back with her.)

Shortly after we left the Children’s Home, Grandma told us we were going to visit in Cleveland.  She and Aunt Eva took Laura, Helen Rita and me to the Convent Orphanage.  (That was the best thing that ever happened to us, but at the time we detested their deception.)

However, we survived, hale and hearty, and lived to tell the tale.  Isn’t it tremendous what kids can live through.
At Jan's wedding in 1984
In the back line, me, our cousin (2nd) Pat from Texas, Aunt Helen Rita, her daughter Elaine, Aunt Ruth, Uncle Bill
Seated front, Aunt Helen Rita's daughter Marge and her husband Tom


  1. You are so blessed to have so many written records of your families life. Good for you to get them into print where they will never be lost. I hope at some point, you are going to make a book of all these stories.

  2. All these written records came about because genealogy records were pursued and older relatives were asked for and provided narratives--which have been preserved! Maybe I'll write a blog about asking the old people to write a piece about their childhood or marriage, or whatever.

  3. Sister Ruth - I thought you were talking about 'Black Narcissus' for a minute. This is good though.