Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Consumed by a Story

Dear Friends,
I've spent the winter consumed by one story, one unwritten saga of a family who left Ireland and Scotland in the early 1800's and traveled to the U.S.A. to raise their family.  Sadly, the record of their lives is found in cemetery after cemetery from County Donagal, Ireland to Pennsylvania, to Indiana, and on to  the plains of Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas, and through the battles of the Civil War, the Spanish American War, and World War II.  In between many many babies were born, but death was always standing nearby collecting mothers, babies, and soldiers.

Mae Clendening Kneer

Of those strong stalwart people who were able to put off death long enough to raise families the pictures show the joy in their lives when time was spent with family and friends.  Pictures also show somber dark eyes starring into a camera searching my soul one hundred years later, wondering who will know them when they are gone.

Pearl Clendening Weaver and my mother Helen.
Postcards tell the journey of this family from Indianapolis to Lansing, Michigan and on to homes and oil fields in Ardmore, Oklahoma and Wichita, Kansas.  Postcards remind them of the family they left behind and of celebrations of Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.  Letters and postcards tell of adventures and travels by train and by car.  They tell how one woman traveled from Ardmore, Ok to Indianapolis, Ind with an 8month old son and 5 year old daughter and the help of a Nanny.  Letters tell the longer story of the human heart, its sacrifices and it's passion to continue beating through celebrations and heartache.
1912 A Happy Easter to You.

My grandmother, who's mother died when she was only 3 or 4 lived 75 years, but I was only 12 when she died in 1960.  Her story, and that of her sister, Mae, who died in 1915 at age 34 leaving behind 3 young children, remained tucked away in a box until 1960.  Then from 1960--89 the story lay hidden in a pair of hose in my mother's underwear drawer.  After my mother died the story came to me, and once again lay buried in a plastic tub in my basement.

One day last fall while writing a different family story I received a phone call that my nearest cousin by birth, Thomas, was in the hospital with a possible heart attack.  We had already buried our youngest cousin, Gary, and all of our parents.  My heart raced, and I knew I had to tell my family's story, our story, their story. Follow along in the months to come as I share "Bits and Pieces" of our journey. 

Letty (Clendening) Stapp Watt


  1. We appreciate your story, your research and your pictures.

    Lee Abrahamson
    Son of Mary Lois Pearl Kneer Abrahamson
    Daughter of Mae Clendening Kneer and Chas J Kneer MD

  2. Letty, I just finished reading some of your writings and the tears were flowing....Through your blog you have been an inspiration to me.....CH

  3. Glad you're back at the keyboard. My wife said to tell you she really enjoys your Blog. WS

  4. Letty, I look forward to the story you are uncovering... I, too, am the repository of much family history... but also have discovered there is much I will never know. My mom died in January 1984, and I still have the urge to ask her many questions about things that I've found out about since she died... and just wanting to know her views. I have long had an interest in knowing about life through my parents' and grandparents' eyes... unfortunately, as a busy working parent, I didn't have time to ponder those thoughts until they were gone. I've had questions that I am certain they would NOT answer, and in reading "Ordinary Heroes" by Scott Turow (good book by the way, I recommend it), I came across a couple passages that have pretty much resolved that for me:

    "They are both gone now. To quote a favorite author, 'Death deepens the wonder.'" ... and ... "When our parents talk about their lives, they relay what they think is best, for their sake and ours. And as their children, we hear what we want, believe what we can, and as time lengthens, pry and judge and question as our needs demand. We understand them in that light. And when we tell our parents' tales to the world, or even to ourselves, the story is always our own."

    I'm waiting for your story, Letty... with much anticipation. Luv Ya! M

  5. Your words and thoughts have touched my heart. Yes, I know how you feel about unanswered questions...those I'll never know. Only in the last two years of my mother's life did she begin to open up raw wounds from her life. It wasn't much, but it didn't need to be. I learned how human and frail our lives really were and how much we all carried deep down inside. Thank you for sharing Monty. I will carry that quote by Scott Turow, too, and will eventually read his book.

  6. Good stories Letty. Written creatively and with sensitivity. Thanks for sharing. JD

  7. Thanks for sending your blog. I enjoyed all of your stories. It is a great gift for your children and for your friends to share your life. LY

  8. Letty, I am just so proud of you—how you have pursued the stories of your family. I miss reading about your spunky protagonist, but good for you for moving the work forward. LDN