I lost more than my son, Larry, during the past 10 days and want to pay tribute to the great people I knew, loved and respected over many years.
A lovely lady who befriended me when Ann Kennedy sent me to Moorefield in Harrison County for an OAGC Region 12 event back in the 1980s was Fern Nevlis.
Ladies from many garden clubs came together. They traded flowers that grew in abundance in their garden; sold garden shears, trowels measuring how far to dig into the earth and growing guides; and I think they handed out awards - too many years and too many meetings have clouded my mind there.
Ann said it was covered dish, and I did not have to contribute, a good idea on the luncheon part as there were no food establishments around for miles. Little did I know that you needed to bring your own table service, even if you did not tote in any food. I had none and was wondering where I could go to either buy a sandwich or a packet of plastic plates and forks.
Up stepped Fern, handing me a plate and cutlery, along with a big smile. We sat together and broke bread. She learned I did not know much about flowers, and I learned she was nearly an expert in horticulture. We formed a bond and went to garden club events, homemakers meetings and Survivors and Seekers luncheons together thereafter.
She died May 16, and I failed miserably in paying her monthly visits at Martha Manor, quite close to my employment, always saying that I would do it tomorrow. I miss her terribly.
When hunting for a Memorial Day story, John Parkinson mentioned Ferruccio Tabacchi, a World War II C-47 troop carrier pilot, who flew missions across Europe and received four air medals. He died May 19. I never got that story but have taken photos of him at past Adena American Legion events, so it was not all in vain. I remember him as a gentle and dignified man.
Bob Rish, a friend since the time Larry started Little League in 1970, died May 22. Lamont and I visited him May 20 at the Wyngate facility. While he could not talk, I reminded him of the many youth in Smithfield he had provided with recreation in his capacity as manager of the Jets Little League and serving as president of the Tri-County Baseball Association.
For years, we would have a luncheon date about every six weeks, and I told him that we needed another one soon. He just gave me a sweet smile. I will remember that smile.
Bob was a World War II veteran, with the 1st Army Batallion. He did not see action but was stationed in southern England just after the war. I remember him talking about what he had seen over there just after the fighting had ended. I have a picture of Bob and Lamont talking without knowing that I was taking photos at the Fort Friendship Veterans Memorial Park. Both are in their American Legion jackets and caps and looking very military and handsome for "more mature men."
Charles Cole, someone I remember as a big part of our Smithfield Christian Church, leader of the Sunday School songs, adult Sunday School teacher, deacon and elder and even a lay minister, moved to an assistant living home in Cleveland several years back.
We traveled with Butch and Carol Ann Garcia and the lovely companion of Charles, Mildred McCullough, to see him last year. He was very active for being 90-plus-years. He died two weeks ago, too.
I will tell everyone who sent a card, called, put something on the Foster website or spoke of Larry on Facebook that it was all appreciated. I often think I don't want to bother people when there is a death, but I won't feel that way anymore. Make that call, send that card, say whatever thoughts come to your head. Everything is totally appreciated and helps so much. We know.
We have received cards from the Stitch and Hitch 4-H Club; Jefferson County Farm Bureau; Jefferson County Fairboard; Rosebud Garden Club; Wintersville, Steubenville and Mingo woman's clubs; Mount Moriah, St. Paul A.M.E. and Smithfield Christian churches; 92-year-old Glenn Kithcart who apologized for being late in getting a card to us because he couldn't get out to shop; Jean Digman who is recovering from knee surgery; Joe and Lea Bickerstaff, who lost a son themselves; Scott and Joann Hornsby, whom we traveled with on the Gable Foundation bus trip to New York City, and she is Jackie Rocchi's sister; Charles Govey, who was my first publisher at the Herald-Star; Chris Doyle, another publisher who sent best wishes; Naomi Matthew, our Christmas candy lady for years and her daughter, Janet Hanshaw, who rescued me after a car problem back in March, using her cell to call her husband, who came to make repairs; and June Bodo, who was my hospital mate when Larry was born. She had a daughter many will know as Leslie Piergallini.
Ethel Todoroff, the head officer for the Buckeye Central Athletic Boosters, when I was vice president there for six years, sent a card and condolences. I had seen her in early March at a Dillonvale branch library cooking class after many years; Joan Rose, retired deputy registrar at the Steubenville license bureau; my cousin, Joan Drescher Gray, who had never seen a grown-up Larry and commented that he looked very much like my dad in his obit picture; Polly Sergeant, who was a Holiday Cookbook winner one year and remembered us; Colleen Mindzak, who drove from the far side of Weirton two times to bring us food because she felt she did not bring enough the first time, then came for a funeral visit and sent a card; Ileen Baldwin, a friend I made this past year; and Charlotte Curry, who lost a son in a Utah mine fire.
There were so many more, and we appreciate them all so much. Please know that you can call us any time you feel the need. There might be some sniffles at our end of the line, but they are both tears of joy for having a friend call and for all our happy memories of Larry.
"Keep Larry's memory alive. Don't let a single day go by without saying his name and as time goes on you won't be so sad, knowing that you had a wonderful son for this short while," was written by Lea Bickerstaff in a short note. She knows. Her son died 22 years ago, and she still remembers him well.
I especially liked the card sent by Carl and Jean Johnson, owners of Smithfield Hardware and good church friends for years.
"Memories Build a Special Bridge"
Our memories build a special bridge when loved ones have to part.
To help us feel we're with them still and soothe a grieving heart.
Our memories span the years we shared, preserving ties that bind.
They build a special bridge of love and bring us peace of mind.
This is by Emily Matthews in Moments of Inspiration.
Thanks again to everyone who had a part in sharing Larry's life and in sharing our grief in his passing.
(McCoy, a resident of Smithfield, is food editor and a staff columnist for the Herald-Star and Weirton Daily Times. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.)