Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Love Story

This is a love story. Not between a man and a woman, but a love story between families. I consider myself blessed to have been raised in a family without boundaries. I can hardly remember a Christmas or special occasion when one set of grandparents was present without the other. In fact, they didn't need their children to bring them together, they frequently initiated visits and dinner invitations for their party of four - just Paul, Shirley, Bo and Happy. Individually, their support and love was incredible. Together, it was enough to make me feel like the luckiest granddaughter in the world.

Each couple loved the other and chose to spend their lifetime together. And when life on earth came to an end, they made arrangements to ensure their children would remember them together.

Paul and Shirley Ward and Bo and Happy Riseling

We celebrated the life of Grandmother Shirley this week. During her graveside, I nudged Papa Bo. He was either very wise, or extremely lucky...he had reserved a spot between two beautiful women. Not only were they incredible wives, they were loving mothers, grandmothers, great grandmothers, friends and heroes.

The grass has nearly filled-in over Grandmother Happy's grave. I sometimes forget she's gone, if only temporarily. Henry still asks to go to 'Happy's pond' on the weekends and often when we go, he'll ask, "Momma, where's Happy?" Now I can tell Henry that Happy and Shirley are together, singing and laughing in heaven. Just like they did on earth.

Shirley Ann Ward Martin was born on July 13, 1929, in Enid, Oklahoma to Orville Frank and Beaulah Martin (Taylor) Reim. As a young girl she moved with her family to Blackwell in 1936 where she attended Union Rural School and graduated from Blackwell High School in 1947. She furthered her education by attending Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, for a year before transferring to the University of Oklahoma in Norman where she completed a bachelors degree in music education.

Rumor has it that Grandmother Shirley wasn't a good fit for Stephens. I heard that she once got caught sunbathing on the roof of the women's dormitory. It's probably best that she later transferred to a place where sunbathing on rooftops was more acceptable.

She married my grandpa, Paul Ward on March 1, 1951, in Blackwell and they settled in South Carolina where Paul was stationed in the United States Navy. Following his discharge they returned to Norman where she began teaching elementary music. There were many more moves in their future, including Topeka, Kansas, El Dorado, Kansas, Anderson, Indiana and Clinton, Iowa. They finally settled in Oklahoma City.

During her life, Grandmother Shirley was blessed with two men (at least) who loved and adored her. Several years after my grandpa passed away (August 4, 2003), Grandmother became reacquainted with her high school sweetheart, Phil Martin. Both were preceded in death by their spouse, and both were blessed with love again. Shirley married Phil on June 1, 2006.

Grandmother Shirley loved painting, music, cooking, and most of all, her family.

Some of my favorite pictures of Grandmother

I see Henry when I look at this picture. Shirley was only 6 years old.

What I love most about this picture is Grandmother's signature in the bottom right corner - "Love, Shirley Ann". I wonder...could this have been the gentleman I met at her funeral on Thursday? He shared that grandmother was his first date and that he'd "never forgotten her...even after all these years."

Yes, sadly, my grandmother was photographed by what had to have been, Olan Mills. In other words, it was just a typical afternoon down on the plantation. In a business suit. (But I loved her regardless.)

Shirley and Paul

I do believe she knew how to have a good time

How I remember them

In 1993

In 2003


Grandmother, with her mom and dad (Beaulah Martin Taylor "Nana" and Orville Frank Reim)

Orville and Nana

Grandmother Shirley and Nana

Orville, Grandmother and me

I'm not sure which is worse - Grandmother Shirley's wig (it is a wig, isn't it?) or my dad holding a poodle.

On mom and dad's wedding day

With Papa Bo, Grandmother Happy and Larry's clan

I'll always remember Christmases at Grandmother Shirley's house. Pancakes every morning, her white Christmas tree, Rufus the cat, and reclining lawn chairs Grandmother always made into beds for the grandkids.

Grandmother, me and Craig

At Uncle Rob and Mollie's wedding

Grandmother and Phil, such a handsome pair

I'm told they called themselves the Four Musketeers

Minus one Musketeer and plus one Grandmother Happy...I told you they were close.

Classic Shirley Ann

I'll miss you (and your pancakes), Grandmother. Love you always and forever.


sue ann rodgers said...

What a lovely tribute and wonderful pictures. I enjoyed looking at all of them. Keeping your family in our prayers. Much love, Sue Ann

Heather Briggs said...

Warmed my heart