Women seem to fade into the background of our family trees, their lives and stories so quickly forgotten. Researching my father’s family, I recently realized I had asked him very few questions about his beloved grandmother, Annabelle (Boyd) Rogers, who, with Dad’s grandfather Joseph Rogers, raised my Dad and legally adopted him.
Annabelle was a sweet, kind woman who was a “mail order bride.” She and Joseph married about 1918, and in 1919 their first child, Floyd, was born. He was followed by Bessie, in 1921, and Josie, Dad’s biological mother, in 1924. The night Josie went into labor with Dad was quite stormy and the doctor was unable to make the trip over dirt roads to assist the young mother give birth. Joseph assumed the role of doctor and delivered his grandson, Wayne.
Joseph and Annabelle were wonderful parents to Dad. While they didn’t have much money, they made sure he had what he needed. He was given the typical toys little boys crave, including bicycles and toy guns and other playthings. One of Dad’s favorite things, however, was not a toy: he enjoyed visiting the nursery with his mother and gardening. It was his love of the nursery that caused Annabelle some grief early one morning.
Annabelle, as she did most mornings, was taking Dad to preschool. When it was time to take him in, Dad refused to budge. Annabelle had shared with him her plans to visit the nursery that morning, and Dad, upset he would be at school instead of outside gardening with her, carried on something fierce. Annabelle, always considerate of his feelings, made a deal with Dad. She told him she expected him to behave like a big boy and to get out of the car, and if he didn’t fuss any more, she would change her day and visit the nursery in the afternoon instead so he could join in on the activity. Annabelle’s willingness to completely rearrange her agenda showed how much she cared for the little boy and wanted to spend time with him.
One of Dad’s best and earliest memories is of Floyd, Annabelle’s oldest son.
Floyd was a kind young man and made Dad feel loved. Unfortunately, their time together was short; Floyd was killed 12 July 1944. He had left some money for his family in the event of his death, and this money was pivotal in the next of Dad’s stories about his beloved Annabelle. The following is shared in his words, which I’ve edited slightly for posting:
When I was about 9 I broke my bike frame and Mom said not to worry about it, we would see about it in the morning. So the next morning I was up and ready to go. She made my breakfast and we left home and were on our way.
I noticed we weren’t going down town where the bike shop was. When I asked where we were going, I was told to get some flowers at the nursery, one of my special places to go. After making a few selections we were back in the car and headed to the bike shop. We went in, taking my bike with us. Mr. Young met us and said, ‘Wayne what did you do?’ I told him that I did not know but my bike had broken. He kind of grinned and said, ‘I think you have gotten too big for this one.”
So, my mom told me to look around and see if I could find one I liked. Like all men can pick out a high dollar car, so little boys can pick out a high dollar bike. Now this is around 1951 and I picked out a $79.99 bike.
Mr. Young said, ‘I don’t think your big enough for that one.’ But I told him that’s the one I want. Then mom asked Mr. Young how much the bike cost. Her reaction to the price was ‘That’s a lot of money.” Mr. Young tried to talk to me about another bike but I did not want that. He told me if I’d go look around he would try and find me a deal. Well, I returned to hear Mr. Young say ‘You give me ten dollars and take this used bike and when you come back to get the bike he wants I’ll give you back your $10.’ To hear this made me broken hearted. I guess it showed on my face because Mr. Young kneeled down with me and said, “Now Wayne, why are you so sad? You are going to take this bike home and get used to riding a big bike first so you don’t mess up your new bike.” Now, nowhere did I see the big, beautiful, red bike I wanted with the chrome fenders. Then he said, “When you get used to a bigger bike you can get this one.” It just did not compute to my thinking.
Apparently it didn’t make sense to Annabelle either. Money was tight, but she came up with a plan.
Then my mom said let’s take care of this now. She said, ‘You know my son was killed in the war and left me some money and $100.00 was for Wayne. She then dug into her purse and pulled out some bills. ‘This is for Wayne’s bike,’ she said. And as I looked in her eyes that were filled with tears she handed Mr. Young a $100.00 bill. Then before I knew it she held me tight and kissed me. Then she said you know Floyd really loved you. That was my most special time with my mom. And I had such a good memory of my brother Floyd.
Annabelle died on 26 January 1956, a month before Dad’s 14th birthday.The pain of losing Annabelle was tremendous, but Dad was truly blessed to have had her in his life and to have to known her incredible love and gentle spirit.