Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sentimental Sunday: A Woman Called Nana (Eva Philpott)

My first contact with FindAGrave was comparatively recent, as in last fall. I was looking for a specific Burns relative, which showed up in FindAGrave. After that I registered to do volunteer lookups in my area.  A  couple of weeks ago, my first request showed up in my "inbox." It took me by surprise when I read the name -- Eva Philpott. Memories came flooding back to me of a time when my children were small and we lived in a quaintly, though aptly named place --- Hungry Hollow in the Hildebrand area in eastern Klamath County.

I never knew her by Eva, or even Mrs. Philpott. She was Nana, Nana not to only her granddaughter , but all of the people in the area. We were the “young newcomers” trying to “make it” in Hungry Hollow, and Nana and her son, D, befriended us. They invited us to their home regularly. We would all sit around their very small living room watching Lawrence Welk on television. (We didn't have a television in Hungry Hollow. In fact we didn't have electricity, except from the gas-run power plant, which was too expensive for us to run except when absolutely necessary.) The Philpotts lived in a small house in the little community of Dairy.  They were not well-to-do and careful with their money, but Nana always had “something” to serve guest, cookies and milk, or popcorn.  Every once in a while she would make a pie when she knew we were coming to their home.

Nana was a tiny, quiet and somewhat wizend woman of nearly 80 years when we knew her. I loved to hear her tell stories of when she, her husband, and children homesteaded a 160 acre dry land farm a few miles south of Bonanza. The first years were rough for the Philpotts, as Nana would relate how they had to drive a wagon, or a sled in the winter, down to Lost River, which was their only source of water.  They filled barrels of water to haul back up hill to the homestead. Nana, even when we knew her some 50 years later, still watered her flowers with dish water. Some habits die hard.

She taught her children to think and do for themselves. They would make intricate toys – wagons, tractors, plows,  cars, or anything they could imagine - out of tin they cut from their fathers tobacco cans. Her son D was a gifted mechanic and could make anything run  that had wheels, tracks, and/ or an engine  – and usually at a cost far less that the city mechanics in Klamath Falls.

At one time with their frugal ways and hard labor, Nana and her husband had increased their ranch to a couple thousand acres. They ran some stock, raised some fruit, and dry land grain. After Nana's husband died, over a decade before, the ranch was sold, debts paid off and she went to live with D and his daughter.

Nana was the mother figure for her granddaughter as the mother was not a part of the household. I remember how loving and gentle she was with her granddaughter, as well as my young children. Those evenings spent in the Philpott home were a gift  to us then, and now the memories are indeed special.

About the same time that we left Hungry Hollow for a new life as college students at Washington State University, Nana's health was failing and she went to Portland to live near or with her youngest son. We lost contact with those good people in Hildebrand and never saw Nana again.

. . . 

I went to the Mt. View Cemetery with a mission, a final gift for Nana. Having looked at the cemetery map with the Sexton, I knew the location of the graves of Nana, her husband James, and their oldest son James, as well as the graves to either side. I then headed out with my flowers, soft brush, and camera. I walked the area a couple of times, not wanting what I found to be true. There were no gravestones for the Philpott family. My heart broke as I remembered that strong, resilient but gentle woman, now all but forgotten in an unmarked grave next to her husband and son. But the sun was shining on the lovely setting, and the nearby marble Mausoleum had a  lovely luminous glow the shaded light.

I took the best picture that I could and said my goodbye to a woman called Nana.

7 comments:

  1. She sounds like an amazing person! You did a wonderful job of painting a picture with words of her resilient spirit.

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  2. Sweet memories! Unmarked graves break my heart too.

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  3. What a lovely tribute. Thank you for sharing this great story, as usual, you weave it so well.

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  4. How sad that their graves are unmarked. I hope you were able to share these memories with the person that requested the photo.

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  5. Apple, good point. I uploaded the picture of the cemetery site. The requestor was a voluteer, but I know enough of the family that I can backtrack to leave a message. Thanks for a good reminder.

    Carol, Dorene, and SWArkie, thanks for reading and commenting. I am glad that you enjoyed my memories of Nana.

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  6. Joan:

    What a beautiful post and what wonderful memories to share. Unmarked graves make me so sad.

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  7. What a beautiful tribute to a strong, wonderful woman. As Carol said, "you weave it so well." I can see you sitting around, eating the popcorn, feeling the fellowship and caring. You've given me ideas for a Sentimental Sunday post on a giving person in my small hometown. Bless you for sharing!

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