Life Sketch Taken From Wanda Cole's Own Account
If Aunt Wanda were in charge of this meeting, we would probably be playing Boolah, Boolah instead of talking about her.
I am Debbie Owens Sistrunk, Wanda Cole's niece. Richard N. Owens is one of her little brothers and my father. This life sketch was written by Aunt Wanda several years ago and she had me type it up. When I type someone's history, I don't change their style of writing. I only fix a bit of punctuation, so I think you'll feel Aunt Wanda's personality in her own words:
On the cold winter day of January 11, 1910, I was born. This day in January was also my sister's birthday and I decided I wanted in on that birthday fun. So I came into this world and shared birthdays with Gladys, making a big celebration because there were two of us to party for.
We lived in Fairview, Idaho on a 160 acre homestead. It was one big sandhill with part of it being quite level. We had a two-room house, one room stacked on top of the other. In the spring of 1910, we moved from Fairview up to Preston in another two-room house, both rooms on the ground floor. Dad built a good-sized kitchen on and a back porch where the separator was kept. The separator was used to separate the cream from the milk. The cream was sold and the pigs got the skimmed milk that our family didn't need. We had a good cellar that mother filled with bottled fruit, jars of pickles and plum preserves, and where we kept the milk for our use. I must tell you about a special treat I would have when I came home from school after walking three miles uphill both ways. I thought I was starved by the time I arrived home. I would cut a thick slice of good, fresh homemade bread and take it down to the cellar with a spoon. I would skim some thick cream off the pan of milk, which was a no-no, and spread it on my bread. Knowing it was a no-no made it taste better. Then I would go upstairs and sprinkle it with sugar. If you have never tried this treat, you haven't lived. M-m-m-m-m-m!
We had a potato pit also, which I hated with a passion. There were waterdogs down there, ugly prehistoric looking creatures to me. I would have to go down in that pit and get potatoes while being frightened to death. One day when all of my brothers and sisters were in the fields working, Mother told me to get her some potatoes for dinner. I finally got brave enough to go down the ladder, but when I went to put my foot on the floor of the pit, I heard a horrible noise. I looked around and there was a big blowsnake, coiled up and blowing at me just daring me to put my foot down.
I flew up the ladder and sat at the top feeling so sorry for myself, but I knew I just couldn't go to the house without the potatoes and I didn't dare get them. Mother came out and called to me to hurry; she had to have the potatoes. I said, "But Mother, there's a snake down there!? She said, "Oh, there isn't either, now hurry" and went in the house. After she had come out three times, she came stomping out there to show me there wasn't a snake. As soon as Mother saw it, I moved as far away as possible. But, we had potatoes for dinner and there was nobody else there to get them. I knew my mother was scared too, but she always did whatever had to be done.
My dad had passed away at this time. I was seven years old when he died. I remember that he would sit in a big rocking chair outside of our house all summer, night and day. He couldn't get enough air as he had what we then called Dropsy. He filled up with liquid and died on August 14, 1917. He was a fun-loving dad and his birthday was on July 4. Before he was too ill, he would always take us to the Fourth of July parade and let us ride the merry-go-round and the ferris wheel. The town people would bring benches out from the old 2~d Ward church to the middle of town. My dad would sit there, always visiting with someone; he was Mr. Sociability. He would give us each a nickel or dime, whichever we needed. Rides were five or ten cents, as was the cotton candy, ice cream and popcorn. When we needed another coin, we came back and he would give us another. We thought he was the greatest. It never dawned on me until I was older that there was method in his madness. He hadn't just fallen off the turnip truck you know. He never had to hunt for us because we always hunted him up looking for another coin. With his bad legs, he couldn't run after us. He never complained about his health problems either. There were eight children in our family when dad died, the youngest being only one year old. The children from oldest to youngest were Serena, Eldred, Bernice, Gladys, Wanda, Morgan, Richard and Charles.
Mother's sister from Salt Lake City, Aunt Annie, would send two big boxes to us at Christmas time, one, to open immediately filled with candy, nuts, raisins, dates, and other goodies, and one labeled "Do Not Open Until Christmas Day!" It held gifts for everyone and it was so exciting. Aunt Annie's husband owned a store in Salt Lake City.
I was seven years old when Dad died and would be eight years old the January after. I hadn't started school then, but when I did start, I caught up with the students that had started when they were six. When we had moved closer to Preston, we were closer to church and school, just one and one-half miles away from school. Wow!
When I was a freshman in high school, I was sitting in my Ancient History class and a knock came at the door. The teacher told me I was wanted and I went over to see my sister Gladys standing there. She didn't have to tell me what she wanted; I already knew what it was. You see, my oldest brother Eldred was in the medical clinic after being operated on for a ruptured appendix. He was dying and they called us all in to see him. My teacher let me go without me even saying a word because she knew how sad I was. I simply adored my brother Eldred. He was a big blonde Swede and 22 years old. I think that when my Dad died, I turned my affection to Eldred. He would play the mouth organ and sing in the evenings when the day's work was done and we would sing along. It was "Home Sweet Home" to me and even more. It was a sad, heart-breaking time in our family. I knew Eldred loved me too. On the morning he died, his spirit came to my bedroom and told me good-by, disappearing right through the window afterwards. I was so numb with grief for quite a while, but he was with me to protect and take care of me all through my teenage years and beyond. My Ancient History teacher sent a pretty spray of pink sweetpeas for Eldred's funeral.
When I graduated from high school, my sister, Bernice bought me a beautiful pink graduation dress trimmed with black lace. I loved it very much. We didn't wear caps and gowns then. We were poor but we were so happy. We didn't realize we were poor until something like a graduation came along. Bernice worked hard for that dress helping a lady with her housework. My mother was a good seamstress or I don't know what we have done for clothes_
After Dad and Eldred had both passed away, Aunt Annie would always come up for Mother's birthday in May. Her husband, Uncle Joe, would fill Aunt Annie's car with 100 pounds of sugar and many other goodies. We would all have a great time.
When Morgan was about 17, he was sick in bed, so Mother called the doctor to see what was wrong. Morgan had a terribly sore throat and the doctor guaranteed our family for six weeks. He was so sick that Dr States came every day and eventually pulled him through. Morgan was so thrilled on the first day he was able just to sit outside and watch Dick with the horse, taking care of the garden plot. The next morning, Morgan got up and his face was all puffy and his ankles were swollen. Mother sent me on foot to take a urine sample to the doctor. I was waiting outside his office for the results when he came out and yelled at me, "He's going to die! Do you hear me: He's going to die! See that he gets in bed and don't let him have anything to eat!" I ran all the way home, (one and one-half miles), and Morgan was just sitting up to eat. I yelled, "He can't have anything to eat and he's to go right to bed!" Morgan had another six weeks of being very ill with Brite's disease. His fevers went so high and he was extremely sick, but Dr. States stuck right with him, our prayers were answered and Morgan recovered.
During my dating time, I went out with Ralph Cole off and on for about three years, along with other guys now and then. I was going along having fun and enjoying myself. I started going with a returned missionary from Logan and he was coming courting quite often. Ralph got pretty nervous, so he went to town and bought a ring, drove me down by the riverbridge and parked. He showed me the ring and gave me a shock, and then told me that it was either him or Harry, the returned missionary, and it couldn't be both anymore. I hadn't thought about getting married, (darn him), but he meant what he said and I just knew how much I would miss him if I said no. We just seemed to click somehow. So I had to say good-by to Harry. Harry came one more time after that and presented me with a vase he had brought from Czechoslovakia Ralph tried to break the vase by "accidentally" knocking it off the shelf, but it always landed safely.
We had only been married a few months when we moved to Fairview to run old George Egbert's place for him. I loved that house; it had big cheery rooms, running water in the house and the first bathroom I had ever had. I was an elegant lady, I'll tell you. We were so happy until that old serpent came into our garden of Eden. The house was made of rocks and the snakes would come under the house every fall and out from under the house every spring. Ralph carefully didn't tell me anything about this problem before we moved in. The first one I saw was when I was opening the door and felt something on my feet. I looked down and just froze to the spot as I watched it crawl over my feet and out the door. Ralph killed many snakes in season, and I still loved my comfy, beautiful house. I used to dream of ways to fix it so the snakes wouldn't come in. After two or three years, we bought 60 acres from Jim Chadwick. We put electricity down the lane to our house. In a few years, we bought young George Egbert's place. We raised hogs to make the down payment. We had pigs everywhere, but we made that down payment. Ralph never would have a pig on the place after that. We had a house and path with no bath, but we were even happier because the house was ours and we finished paying for it in three years. Then we built a new home there.
When we were still living in the old house, we filled out papers to adopt a baby, and that is quite a slow process. We had been waiting two years and had just about given up when one day, I received a letter in the mail from Boise, Idaho which said the agency had a baby for us. I ran out to read it to Ralph because I couldn't wait until he came in. He thought I was just funnin' him and making it up. We were so thrilled and it was around the 7th of January when we went to Gooding, Idaho to pick up our baby. On the way, we met a fierce snowstorm that was so heavy, we could see hardly at all. The heavy snow broke the windshield wipers and we arrived at the office too late to get in. Darn! We had to wait until morning before we could see our baby boy. He was a cutie, weighing six pounds and was three weeks old. We were in heaven all the way home. On our way, we stopped at Bill and Rilla's, (Ralph's sister's place in Filer, Idaho). Their little girls were showing us the dolls they got for Christmas and I said, "Ralph, go show them the doll I got for Christmas." Ralph went and picked up the bundle; Rilla pulled back the blanket and the baby moved. She was so surprised and they were nearly as thrilled as we were.
I had just been put in as the Primary president, so I had two extra busy jobs and loved them both. Ralph had some babysitting to do while I had to be at meetings. What a great life!
When our baby Morris was six years old, Ralph was called on a mission. He said he wanted to go across the ocean somewhere so he wouldn't walk home, but when his call came, it was to Butte, Montana Morris started school in September and Ralph left for his mission in October. He said he thought he was on another planet when he arrived there, as everything was so different. He was right in the middle of a busy, wild mining city. He really got homesick and to complicate things, Moms broke both of his arms while Ralph was gone. Morris' playmates pulled him on a rope to the top of the barn, which was empty, and then let go. He fell all the way down and broke both arms. Uncle Wayne was irrigating beets across the street and, bless his heart, he turned the water down the ditch and helped me get Morris to the doctor. Moms told us not to tell his dad or he might come home, but after things were settled, we told him. Morris was one sick little boy for quite a few days and Ralph was very worried when he found out about the accident.
When Ralph was released from his mission, Morris and I rode with one of Ralph's earlier companions to Worland, Wyoming to tour the mission with Ralph. When we arrived, Ralph was sharing a gospel discussion with a man in a parking lot. He looked over and saw us and never even said a word. He told us later that when he saw us, the fact that his mission was over hit him so hard and he had grown to love the Lord's work so much. As for me, well, I felt like just turning around and going home. But all is well that ends well.
We traveled up to Bismark, North Dakota and the police hunted us up there because Ralph's brother, Voss had died. We hurried home, just making it in time for the funeral. We drove continuously for 26 hours to make it.
After a week or two, we went back to Ralph's mission to see some things we had missed. We also stopped in Gooding, Idaho to see one of my nieces. They had adopted a little boy and girl. We really took to that little girl, Rebecca Lynne, and she took to us. A few weeks later, Kathryn, my niece, called and wanted to know if we would like to adopt Rebecca Would we!. Oh yes, yes! So we went right up and got her. It happened to be on Moms' birthday and we had a great day, a gold star day. We got our gold star when we turned down Beckstead Lane near home and a state patrolman stopped us and gave us a gold star on our windshield for good driving. That was a real gold star day in more ways than one. Becky was 3-I/2 years old and such a cute little girl. One of the kids in the ward said we picked all the best looking ones.
One year, as the kids got out of school in May, my appendix ruptured and I was in the hospital for ten days. I drug around all summer feeling rotten as all the modern medicines weren't available then to clear up infections. I felt lucky to be alive and I figured the Lord gave me a second chance. I surely hope I don't fizzle it up. Some people never learn.
Two or three years went by and Ralph was having health problems and found out he had cancer of the bladder. We went to the LDS hospital in Salt Lake City and he had his bladder removed. That was no picnic; Ralph would get infections and he was so ill. He finally went to a Dr. Yelderman at the Holy Cross hospital and he attached a bag to Ralph's stomach. As awkward as it was, it was better. He was so sick both times. We were at the hospital for about a month each time and Ralph was just a shadow of himself, poor dear. Morns stayed at home and did the chores, Becky stayed with different people who were helping us out. I stayed right there with Ralph both times. Glenda, Ralph's niece would take me to her place for a bath once in a while and for Ralph's second hospital stay, I stayed with Carol, my niece, at nights. She would do my hair so beautifully and take care of me.
We sold the farm in 1964 and moved to town. Morns didn't want to farm and it was too much for Ralph.
Morris married Judy Hymas on January 1, 1965. They had five sons, David, Jay Dee, Bracken, Travis and Justin. After their divorce, Morns moved to Soda Springs, Idaho. On September 15, 1984, he married Tamara Cellan from Soda Springs. They have one son named Cody.
On the 14th of March, 1970, Becky married Lee Booth. They had two sons, Shane and Eric. Hip, hip horray, that makes eight grandsons for us and how I do enjoy them! Lee is now deceased. Becky has since married Wynn Whitehead. After their divorce, she married Jim Havens on November 29, 1987. How I love and enjoy them. I have five great granddaughters and four great grandsons. We also have been blessed with 12 great grandchildren and l great grandchild.
Ralph died on August 20, 1977. Believe me, my life has surely changed since then. Ralph and I used to be going places and doing things all the time. We used to hear or read about some place and we would just jump in the car and go investigate these places for ourselves. There was never a dull moment. Now I just have to enjoy my life as it is and wish and wish and not complain, but my life was drastically changed when Ralph died.
When Ralph was alive, we went to Becky's place in North Carolina and then to the Palmyra pageant in New York. There were thousands of people there and we parked in a big hayfield. It took from 11 p.m. to 2 am. to get all the cars out of there as fast as they could move them after the pageant. Some of the cars heated up waiting their turn. One man asked the policeman where he could get some water and I overheard him. I went in the camper and got the man a bucket. He went to a nearby house and got water. The policeman said, "It looks like you got your water all right." The man replied in a spooky angry tone, "Ya, a couple of MORMONS came out to help me." The man didn't seem to like Mormons much and I told Ralph that the man would have died if he had known he had carried his water in a Mormon bucket.
I have many good memories and I haven't just sat and wished for something to happen in my life. I have gone on tours to World Fairs, to the Beautiful Canadian Rockies, to Hawaii, to the Book of Mormon country in Mexico, to Quebec, Canada and the surrounding areas, and also to Niagara Falls. Life does go on one day at a time, one year at a time, and I love it!
I have worked in every organization of the church. I guess not, (Whoops), I've never been Bishop, (ha,ha). I started teaching Sunday School before I was out of Primary. I've taught in Primary and been the president of the Primary. I have been the coordinator for the Junior Sunday School and taught in the Young Women's, along with being in the Young Women's presidency. I was in the Primary Stake Presidency when there were twenty of us who went to Salt Lake City to a conference and had such a grand time. I was baptized on June 1, 1918. My birthday was January 11 and my cousin Zelma Shaffer's was May 22, so we were both baptized on June l, 1918, in a canal just around the corner south of our place. Did I say June 1? It felt like May yet, and brrrrrr.., the water was so cold still. But the sun did shine!
This finishes her life sketch, but I wanted to add, Aunt Wanda, the sun really did shine all through your life because you made it that way. You are a happy, sweet, vivacious, spunky lady and we all love you very much. May the sun shine for you throughout eternity! I also wanted to say that I had an opportunity to stay with Aunt Wanda for a week before Becky came. I had time to think and ponder and as I sat with Aunt Wanda and saw her suffer, I wanted to write something to put on her door that would let her many visitors know that Aunt Wanda was on her way home. I wanted to let them know in a kind way, that she was sleeping most of the time, and while she slept, her pain was not so intense. I also knew she loved everybody who came and would want them to know it.
As I grew up, I would often hear my dad or Aunt Wanda quote these Words, "I am so trot, I valked a hoonderd milledod". (This is Swedish and I don't know the proper spelling; it is spelled how it sounds.) This statement means in English, "I am so tired, I waked a hundred miles today". So I began the note for her door with these words. I believe the words came right from Aunt Wanda's heart.
To My Dear Friends:
I am so tired,
I walked a hundred miles today.
I'm on my way home
To the loved ones who've gone before me.
My eyes won't stay open because I am weary,
And the pain of my old bones is always with me.
But if you'd like to gently hold my hand
And tell me you love me, I won't mind.....
I love you too.......
You may sit beside me, I can feel your presence.
Thank you for letting me rest.
I'm not very exciting company any more,
But hopefully, it won't be long
Before I'm teasing the angels in heaven.
With all my love, Wanda Owens Cole
I know Aunt Wanda is in a better place and she is happy. I asked her to be our angel and she told me she would if the Lord would allow. As I knelt with her one night to pray, I felt the presence of all of her family members and loved ones so strongly. They were gathered around us praying for Aunt Wanda also because they didn't want to see her suffer. I learned how much the Lord loves each one of us. I know our family members and loved ones who have gone before are praying for each of us, and they are helping us return to our heavenly home.
Forward and afterward written and given at Wanda Cole's funeral, Thursday, May 30, 2002.