Sunday, May 28, 2006

Grandma and Grandpa Gray

In the post on my recent family reunion I mentioned the common heritage we shared as descendents of my grandparents. Chester Arthur Gray was born in Kausooth, along upper Fish Creek in rural Marshall County West Virginia, in 1889. (His grandfather had been born in Kausooth in the 1830's.) He died in 1965 when I was in the first grade.

He married Katherine McWhorter in 1912. They had five daughters and four sons - my dad is the youngest of these. Grandpa Gray was a farmer, a preacher, and a bit of a politician. He actually served as the WVa State Highway Commissioner in the 1930's. I don't have many clear memories of him, but there are two images that do come to mind.

Sometime in the early 60's he and grandma moved from the family farm into town - Cameron. We would frequently make the hour drive from Wheeling to Cameron (it was only about 30 miles as the crow flies, but those are truly winding and twisty country roads). We would spend the weekend so my dad could drive grandma and grandpa out to Fish Creek (another 30 minute drive with some really cool switchbacks going from the ridge down to the creek) where he would preach at the little church in Kausooth. The image I recall is of him sitting on the front row next to the heater in the little church building while we sang and then standing up to preach. I don't remember what he said, but he said it forcefully.

The second image is of him sitting in his rocker in the apartment they moved to. He would have a tin can to spit his tobacco juice into, and always had these pink mints. He taught me to play checkers sitting in that rocker.

Grandma was a gentle woman. She lived for nearly 20 years after grandpa died. I never heard her complain or speak an unkind word. I didn't realize at the time how strong she was to keep up the farm and raise nine kids while my grandpa was frequently gone preaching at gospel meetings all over WVa and eastern Ohio. She lost 2 sons and 3 grandchildren that I can remember during her lifetime. During her latter years she came to live with my aunt. She loved to have visitors to sit and talk, and I wish I had spent more time listening to her when I had the chance.

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