11 March 2012

Fearless Females: March 11 - She left us too young

I've told this story before. I was a sad one that had a huge impact on my husband's family.
The woman in the photo is my husband's great grandmother Flora Mae Manning. In the photo is her husband Ernest Gahmo Connor.
The fell in love and were married. Ernest was part Native American and Flora was not. This created a rift with her family and she became estranged from them. They lived near Ernest's parents in a little shack in Hominy, OK.
In that little shack Flora gave birth to a set of twins on 29 May 1929; a girl, Estelle Connor (my husband's grandmother) and a twin baby boy whom left us the same day. To hear grandma talk about them you can tell that they were deeply in love. They were always loving on each other. She had three more children after they moved to Amarillo, TX; Mattie, Lotti and Billie.
Flora had a heart of gold. I wished I had a chance to meet her. I'm sure she is where grandma found her heart of gold. Always giving and always loving. At one point they lived along a railroad track. Life was good then. Grandma remembers there being parties and a lot of get togethers with friends. They were happy. Flora must have felt blessed. Many times she would bring a plate of food out to men who were traveling on the railroad. If Ernest wasn't home she would keep them outside and not let them in the house, but she never turned anyone away from their door. When they got back on the railroad it was always with a full stomach.
In March 1940 she was pregnant again with their fifth child. She gave birth 11 Mar 1940. It was a difficult birth. They named the baby girl Geneva, though she also left them the same day. The real tragedy was a few days later. Flora never recovered from that birth, and on 15 Mar 1940 she joined her two baby's in heaven. She and Geneva were laid to rest beside each other at the Llano Cemetery in Amarillo, TX. I wrote about finally finding their graves in a previous post and how emotional it was for grandma when she discovered that they barely had a marker.
The loss of a child is a tragedy, but the loss of a mother can have staggering effects on the family she leaves behind. Grandma experienced this first hand. She was the oldest child, and basicly became the mother. At first Ernest needed help, so he went back home to be close to his mother who could help him with the raising of four children.
In those days, sadly, society thought it wasn't possible for a father to raise his children on his own. All four children were taken from him and placed into an orphanage, we believe in OK, for a while. He had to remarry in order to get his children back, so he did. This time it was not for love, it was out of desperation. It soon became clear to him that he couldn't stand the woman enough to be married to her. She was mean to all of them and he couldn't take it any more. He packed up the kids and took off one day while she was away. They ran to Arizona. Here's what isn't clear, either Ernest was like many men and had the inability to remember those important dates and ages of his children, or he did it on purpose as a way to hide his trail. But when they settled in Arizona he used incorrect dates for the children's birthdays when he registered them for school. To this day grandma had celebrated the date of her mother's death as her birthday, until I finally found her true birth certificates which had mistakes that made it impossible for the state of OK to find her actual birth certificate. None of us new what the significance of that date was until I began to do our research.
Ernest and the children lived from one farming tent community to another. Grandma says that she never knew what The Great Depression was because they were already living it. They continued to live it long after The Great Depression was over as well. She lived from one farm to another in a tent harvesting. She meet her first husband on one of those farms in CA. Eventually they found a way to get on their feet and live in a home.
Ernest did once again find love and married another woman whom they all loved as a second mother. Though they all found their way in life and got back on their feet, it is clear that Flora's death left a huge hole in all their lives.


Paula said...

Wow! What an amazing story! How wonderful that he left with his children instead of staying with that mean lady.

Joan said...

A touching story. A love story. A story of resilience. Well done.