Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes' Life History

Remembering Ruth
Written By: Sarah Burnes Heiner

Ruth Imogene Adams Burnes, 88 years old, of Grass Valley, California returned to her Heavenly Father on April 2, 2011.

She was  born on February 22, 1923 in Arbela, Scotland County, Missouri to Gim William Adams and Maude Ethel Adams, Th 8th of 11 children. At a young age, her parents relocated & raised all of their children in a small farm town in Batavia, Iowa. She told me about how hard life was back then. Her father was a poor farmer trying to make ends meet, and with 11 children; that was a huge responsibility.  All of her siblings had hours of chores every day. Managing the corn fields, milking the cows, taking care of the animals, cooking, cleaning &  I asked her about Christmas morning and what type of presents she received. She looked at me in a strange way and replied “we never had gifts, that’s just how it was”. She told me her parents “gift” to the children was a huge dinner of potatoes, corn and butchered pork. I couldn’t help but to reflected on how much I take things for granted.  I asked her about what she did for fun when she was a child. She said “I loved playing hopscotch, horseshoes, and jump rope. Also, Croquet, Puzzles and cards, and with 10 kids in the family there was always someone to play with.”

Grandma remembers her first Jobs. She was selected to do a school job where she would walk to the post office to pick up the school mail and deliver it to the professor. She would also sweep the school floors, for only $1.75 a week. Grandma told me about her summer job as a water girl. She said “when I was 12 years old, I made .50 a day. I would take gallon sized jugs around to the local farmers working in the fields. In those days, there was one thresher machine that went from farm to farm and all the farmers helped each other until everyone’s field was harvested”  Grandma said “I would follow this thresher machine from farm to farm, offering water to these farmers. And one day, I was so excited because one farmer tipped me $1. It was a great job” . She also stated “ I did this job for 2 summers, but that’s all I could handle, because I didn’t want to mingle with those Old Dogs anymore.”

I knew it was a stretch, but I asked grandma if she ever had any boyfriends.  She quickly replied “no” giving me the look of death.  So I rephrased my last question and asked “ Grandma did you ever think any boys were handsome?”  Apparently, this was the better question. She lit up and replied “yes, Jimmy Creek. I thought he was so handsome, but we never went steady.” She replied

At the age of 18 years old, Grandma’s life would change forever. Grandma first met Grandpa at the local garage in Batavia, Iowa, that he owned. She told me she “fell in love” from the first time she saw him. She met the man she would soon marry; William Emry Burnes.  An incredible man! A World War 1 hero, The city Sheriff,  a Free Mason, A violinist, A successful Business Owner,  an Honest man, Hard working & intelligent. He was a man who had carried the heavy load of his family, through the death of his father during the time of the Great Depression.  He was the oldest of 8 children, and without hesitation,  he took on the responsibility to support his mother, brothers and sisters and their spouses through the painful years of the depression.  A second cousin confirmed this, stating “he even made sure his sisters and sister in laws had beautiful hats and shoes to wear.” 

A refined man of 52 years was finally ready to settle down and start a family.  The attraction between Ruth & William was mutual and he wanted a “fresh start” with his soon to be wife. He sold his business for $2,500 (equivalent to $32,000 now) and began their dream together as they jumped in his Ford car and took off across the country stopping in Carson City, Nevada to marry, and continuing on until they reached Napa, California. They built  their beautiful home there. Grandma was so happy. She told me about building the home with grandpa. She worked by his side, crafting the kitchen cabinets, framing the walls, and building the outside shutters.  With their home near completion, they gave birth to their first child, a son, Ronald Eugene Burnes on November 1, 1943. I asked grandma about how my father received his name, she told me “ I wanted to name him Jimmy, after my first crush, but grandpa told me he was going to name him Ronald after that famous actor; Ronald Reagan, and Eugene, after his nephew Eugene Henry; who was the son of grandpas sister, Nellie.” She then replies, “that’s okay, because I still got my Jimmy Burnes”. With a growing family on her mind, Grandma & grandpa gave birth to their second child on August 22, 1946,  This time a baby girl; Sandra Kay. And for a moment everything was perfect!  But, the fate of their first baby girl ended in death just a few hours later that same day. Grandma told me she never wanted anymore children after that. From the look in her eyes , it was very apparent to me that she suffered greatly during that time. She slowly recovered from the death of her child and focused on being a mother to her living beautiful boy. My grandparents spent much of their free time fishing & teaching their son how to fish.

I asked her “ What was your favorite memory of my father? She replied “your grandpa and I were so proud of Ronnie. He had the best manners. The school was even going to move him up in school because Ronnie was so smart.” She loved her boy!  After 13 years of marriage grandma was surprised to learn of her husband’s bad heart, and  he died suddenly on March 13, 1956 in their home. Widowed at only 32 years old, this amazingly strong woman whom I never remember crying, mourned for a moment, then “got to work”. She had a support group that helped her through this time. Her sister and best friend Bessie Mae lived only 30 minutes away. Her sister in law Nellie Henry  lived in Napa also, and her daughter Genevive known as Jenny  were two of grandmas greatest supports.

She educated herself through school to provide for her son, and went to work at Napa State Hospital where she worked and retired after 22 years of good and faithful service. Life was hard, but she was a hard worker. Grandma never remarried. A faithful woman to her man. When her son asked why she had never married again, she simply said, “I never found another man like your father.”

I would like to share with you what I remember most about grandma.  
  1. I remember spending time in the summer with grandma. My younger sister, Ruth and I would work for her, and for our payment, she would take us shopping for school clothes. I was so proud of my acid washed jeans and white tasseled boots as I walked down the halls on the first day of school. Thanks to grandma, I felt like a million bucks.
  2. I remember her incredible homemade stew. A simple recipe of beef, carrots & potatoes, but one I still haven’t been able to master.
  3. I remember her bag of candy she had waiting on her kitchen table on our arrival.
  4. I remember the distinct smell of Eucalyptus trees.
  5. I remember watching Jeopardy & Fantasy Island with her on her television.
  6. I remember her big warm hugs when we came to visit.
  7. I remember seeing her fake teeth accidentally fall out of her mouth and thinking she was a monster.
  8. I remember the 2 and a half hour long drive to get to her house that seemed like an eternity. While driving and almost there, I remember watching patiently for her very large tree that looked like dumbo the elephant.  
  9. I remember collecting snails that were stuck to the concrete steps and walls, and getting in trouble for it.
  10. When I was really young, I remember telling grandma she looked like Ronald Reagan. I’ll never forget it, because of the colorful words that came out of her mouth that day.
  11. I remember playing “Claim it” with my 2 older brothers on grandmas front porch. A game of  claiming the coolest car before the other person did. Yeah, we were pretty bored.
  12. I remember her pink shutters on her house.
  13. I remember how scared grandma was whenever we got too close to the road.
  14. I remember playing hide and seek outside grandmas house with my brothers and sisters and hiding in my favorite place; the bush that smelled like black licorice. To this day, I have a daily craving for black licorice, and eat it as much as I can.
  15. I remember our sleepovers at grandma’s house. Just image 11 grandchildren sleeping on her living room floor, this was quite a sight. Being very careful not to move while I slept for fear of disrupting my close by sleeping sibling.   
Here are a few more of the questions that I had the opportunity to ask Grandma.  I saved the best for last because they were the most important to her.
Q: Grandma, what really, really makes you Happy?
A: “ When my son comes over and we have a nice visit”

Q: What are some of the things you would still like to accomplish?
A: “To stay healthy, what else can I ask for?”

Q: What do you think is your best quality:
A: “I like most people, and I get along with most people ”.

Q: As you think about your life so far, what are you most proud of?
A: “My Son Ronnie!! And all my grand kids. Especially when you were all younger and you would come see me and stay the night.

Q: Have you ever had an encounter with Grandpa after his passing?
A: “I had a few. One time was when I was listening to a live concert. The performer was singing love songs and I could feel the presents of William on my right side and Carl on my left. The other time was when your brother William passed away. Grandpa was there that day in my room to take William home with him, I could feel him there, but I couldn’t see him.”

The name Ruth means: Compassion. Which fits her perfectly.

When my father called me to tell me of my grandmother’s passing, I was happy to know that she could finally be free from her pain and trials she was enduring very patiently.  Even when I spoke to her just a few months ago she was so worried about everyone else and wanted to make sure that we  were okay, even though she was in a great bit of pain.  I know that when she left this world that she was greeted by many people who loved her including her beloved husband William, her daughter Sandra Kay, her grandson William, her 9 siblings who passed on before her, her parents and many others.

We will all miss you grandma, and look forward to seeing you again. 

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