Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Least Likely Person

Growing up, I had two sets of grandparents, like most kids. Probably not like most kids, my grandmothers were step-grandmas, both of them. You see, both my blood grandmothers died when their kids were young. In dad's case, his mother died when he was 13 on vacation. In mom's case, she was 7 when her mother died as the result of surgery for tuberculosis. Right before Christmas.

At this point, I want to tell you that this woman was grandpa's second wife. His first wife died on Christmas eve in 1914. Wife number two, our grandmother, was buried two days before Christmas. After that, Grandpa went on a nearly decade long bender, resulting in him going so far as to drink Sterno (for the alcohol) and living on the Detroit equivalent of skid row. Our uncle found him and was able to get him into a CCC* camp where he met his third wife, Ruth.

I'll admit I didn't know my step-grandma well. They lived in Pinconning and we lived in Detroit and later in Redford, Michigan, and I-75 didn't exist yet. Also, having never lived with Ruth and Grandpa for more than a few weeks, and not being raised by her, mom never cared to call her "mother."

I think all of us kids knew she had been married before. I think we all knew she had a son. I certainly tried to find out all I could later on, but was unfortunate not to be told this stuff until it was too late to question Ruth.

This woman was the most unprepossessing woman I have ever met. The most striking thing about her was the streak of white in her hair - a la Rosemary DeCamp. She was a great cook, though. I remember when she still had her eyesight before the glaucoma took over, she made the best bread - until she accidentally mixed in some kind of soap. Ick. I remember having a farm breakfast, eggs, tomatoes, pork chops and potatoes. That sort of breakfast today would probably harden our arteries faster than you can say LIPITOR!

So when handed papers that belonged to Ruth and being given some strange names, I was able to discover these husbands.

1. Albert Hessling. Ruth married him in 1914 while she was 14. Actually, no marriage certificate on this, but I do have the divorce decree. Her one and only child was born of this marriage in 1916, shortly after her 16th birthday. Ruth was young, Albert was not very stable. They divorced in March of 1918 and Albert was given custody of their son. Actually, the son ended up with Albert's sister and brother-in-law, a good thing since Albert committed suicide. Ruth did not contest the adoption, something she regretted the rest of her life.

2. David Stanley. Ruth married him 4 months after her divorce decree from Albert. Barely 18 and into marriage number two. I found this one quite by accident while researching the divorce between Albert & Ruth. They were divorced October 20, 1920. Absolutely no idea why they divorced - decree says extreme cruelty.

3. David Stanley. SAME David Stanley. The were remarried on November 27, 1920. No idea why the divorce or the remarriage. No idea what happened to him. No other decrees found for them. Actually I just found this second record today while reviewing some of Ruth's relatives marriages.

4. Thomas Lloyd Moore. This is the one I had also known about. Apparently Lloyd "forgot" to mention that he was still married. Oh and this made him a bigamist. They were married October 28, 1928. Not only did Ruth divorce him, but she filed for an annulment in order to marry her next husband in the Catholic church.

5. Charles Zimmeth. This is Ruth's last marriage. Somehow she took this double widower made him clean up his act and married him. Their marriage lasted from 1944 (civil ceremony with a church ceremony in 1953 post Moore annulment) until Charlies' death in 1979.

As I said before, I'm really sorry I didn't know some of this stuff before Ruth died. And that I had the courage to ask her about it. I was able to contact her granddaughter, after finding an obituary for Ruth's son, Maynard. Her granddaughter said she tried for years to get her dad to contact his mother. He rightly thought he had been abandoned by her. Apparently her overtures were too little too late.

*CCC-Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal program instituted to put men to work during the great depression.

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