Christmas always brings back memories of childhood for me. When I was a young child we sometimes spent Christmas at my grandparents farm in Iowa. There was an older lady that lived in their house, named Florence. I loved Florence. She lived downstairs in the large farmhouse and my grandparents lived upstairs. She spoiled me just like my grandparents did. I remember spending time with her; she would read to me patiently and I am sure this is where I caught my love for reading. I also remember she loved birds. She had a cuckoo clock and she had bird albums she would play on her record player. And every Christmas she would give us really big Christmas presents. I remember one year we couldn’t make the trip from Oklahoma to Iowa so she mailed us our gifts. The box was really big and at the bottom of the box was about an inch of hard candy.
I was really the only grandchild that really knew Florence. She died in January of 1979. My brother was 4 and I was 7; none of the other kids were born yet. But, although Florence never married and had kids of her own, she was also grandma to my mom and her siblings. I have heard a lot of stories about Florence over the years in my mom’s memories. So this year I thought maybe I would write them down and share them. I worry that, after me, future generations might not know about Florence. Even most genealogists might miss her because they usually focus on their direct lines. It saddens me to think that the world might forget such a sweet generous lady.
Florence Grace Miller was born July 21, 1899 in Morley, Iowa. She was the only child of Henry Delbert “Del” and Elizabeth “Myrtle” Farnham Miller. They had a son in 1892 that died as an infant. Del was a farmer and by the time of his death in 1946 he owned five farms. For work, Florence was a teacher. In the 1940 census she is renumerated as a public school teacher and lodger in Nichols, Muscatine, Iowa. After her dad died she was a teacher in Morley at the high school and later was the superintendent. Florence lived at home after her father’s death, remained single, and she took over management of the farms. She rented out the home farm to my Grandpa and when Grandpa married they moved into the farmhouse with Florence and her mom, Myrtle. After my mom and some of her siblings came along Florence had the farmhouse renovated so that the upstairs was a full apartment and that is where my grandparents lived. Florence was a constant presence in the life of my mother and her younger siblings. She taught my mom and her sisters to play piano. She enjoyed gardening and took in every stray cat that came to the farm.
When preparing for this post I asked my aunts for memories they had of Florence. Birds was a common theme. She even gave the girls bird models to build and learn the different kinds of birds. And they also mentioned her love for stray animals. And they remembered that Florence hated loud storms and would ask the girls to come down and keep her company while they were on. My Aunt Jan said it best though. She said “She always encouraged me no matter what…. she thought I could do anything I wanted.” I wish everyone could have a Florence in their lives.