by my cousin Robin. I think hers may be better than mine.
This week, our family lost its most prized treasure. My great grandmother, Goldie Grody Stambach died on July 4th, 2009. Almost all of us realized this day would eventually come. However, in a way, I think all of us find it hard to believe she is no longer with us. As my cousin Crystal said, Grandma Goldie was a constant in the family. She was a regular attendee of parties and family get-togethers. Her birthday was like a holiday to all of us and we all took pride in celebrating with her or letting others know we had a family member who was over 100 years old.
I decided to write this note about her because many of us are announcing to our own circles of friends about her passing and the first thing we tell everyone is that she was 109 years old. However, it’s important to note not only did she have a long life, but she had a full life. This is a woman who raised 10 kids. Part of that time was as a single parent after her first husband died. Not only did she anchor the household, but she also worked at the Fairborn Post Office, when it was located in the building that is now the public library. In fact, in 1970, she was asked to retire because of her age. Had her supervisors known she would have been around 39 years after that time, I wonder if they would have forced her to retire so early.
That family of 10 kids has grown into an impressive legacy. Twenty-nine Baby Boomers proudly called Goldie “Grandma.” I tried to find out how many great grandchildren she had, but I haven’t been able to nail down an accurate count. My guess is the number is greater than 50. Despite the large number of children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and even great-great-grandchildren,
I don’t think any of us felt like a number or statistic in the family. She always made a point to wish me a happy birthday, whether it was by attending the party, or sending a card with a dollar in it. I always knew she was thinking of me. One of the last times Goldie got to go to an event other than a doctor’s appointment was when she attended our wedding in October 2005. One of my favorite pictures of the day is the one of me sitting beside her on the steps of the church smiling up at her in her wheelchair. Needless to say, it was an honor to have her there on that day. I knew her memory was starting to fail when someone told me they showed her the picture and she asked, “who is that old woman?” She wasn’t able to remember my name sometimes when I went to visit, but she knew me as “that girl who got married,” or “that girl who moved out west.”
I did a little research about changes that happened during her lifetime. William McKinley won the presidential election the year she was born. His running mate was Theodore Roosevelt. The Titanic sank 4 days after her 12th birthday. She was 20 when women got the right to vote. She lived through both World Wars, prohibition, the ratification of 12 constitutional amendments (including the enactment of the income tax) and saw 5 territories become U.S. States. I never asked her, but I’ll bet she had her own story about where she was the day Kennedy was shot. Speaking of presidents, she received a letter from President George H.W. Bush on her 90th birthday, but her greatest presidential encounter was when she received a kiss from the future President Bill Clinton at a campaign rally in Wilmington, Ohio in 1996. Yes, friends, she could say she had something in common with Monica Lewinsky.
Despite our recognition of these events as historic moments, they were just details in her day-to-day life. I always enjoyed asking her questions about what life was like when she was growing up. Her eyes would light up and her eyebrows would wiggle rapidly as she relived memories of living on the farm, tending to animals, riding the carriage to church. In 1997, a relative asked her, “Grandma, what do you think was the greatest moment of American history in your lifetime?” I don’t remember her exact words, but she had a simple, memorable response: “indoor plumbing.”
Goldie was a fitting name for her. Not only was she brilliant and precious, but she always looked polished and refined when she went out (and she had a noticeable passion for fine jewelry.) I started attending the Methodist Church in Fairborn around the time she could no longer attend regularly. As people discovered I was Goldie’s great-granddaughter, they eagerly told me stories about what an amazing woman she was. Most of them made a point to say how neat and ladylike she looked with her hat and gloves—two accessories a class-act like her would have never attended church without. Perhaps that’s where the women in my family get their affinity for jewelry and where I get my preferences to be all dolled up before I leave the house (as well as my contempt for cleaning the house.)
As every other member of the Grody family, I could go on forever about my memories of Grandma Goldie. I bet our family could write a book with a diverse collection of memories we have about her. I’ll always think of her as the lady who looked neat and dressy for church Sunday morning, but was up to her elbows in flour while baking pies later that afternoon. She was the little girl who fed chickens on the farm, and kept canaries as pets well into her 90s. She was the lady who caught attention everywhere she went, but handled her small town celebrity status with grace and poise. In her last days, she may have been a frail little woman in a nursing home, but I will remember her as the symbol of strength as she survived two husbands, all four of her younger siblings, all but two children-in-law, raised ten kids almost single-handedly, drove until e-checks on cars were enforced, and lived independently until the age of 102. We will all miss her, but I imagine now, she is free, catching up with all the loved ones who went on before her. Welcome home, Goldie!