Saturday, April 25, 2015

Ginevra Mary "Neva" Smith Walker (1909-1975)

Great Aunt Neva was the third child born to Hiram and Estella Smith. She was born in Scranton Township in Greene County, Iowa on February 18, 1909.   Recently, I wrote about the second child, Merroll.  Some family members might wonder why I haven't written about, Nina, the first child. Nina was my grandmother, and I have lots to tell about her. I decided I would introduce her siblings first. When I write about Neva and Bert one should know they were my great aunt and uncle. I always just called them aunt and uncle and will continue the title in this post.

One of my first memories of Aunt Neva was in great-grandma Smith's house. She and her husband, Bert, lived in Illinois and had come for a family visit. She immediately hugged me, folding me into her arms, and almost smothering me in her fur coat. It is that fuzzy black coat that must have made the memory so vivid because I was very young. As an adult, I learned more about why they had moved to Illinois.  For several years, Bert, farmed Estella's ( great-grandma Smith) farm. Evidently, things weren't going so well and he was terminated. I understand there was family fall out as one might expect. There are other family skeletons linked to this aunt and uncle but for now let's just let them rest.

Uncle Bert and Aunt Neva never had children. I always felt like they considered my mom as their daughter and in turn, I was like a granddaughter. These realizations affected me strongly as a kid. I was very young when I determined that as a grown-up, I wanted my own family. I wanted children and grandchildren of my own. As special as we were to her, we belonged to her sister.

Bert and Neva drove my mom to the hospital when I was born. The story goes that there was a bad snowstorm. Dad had to stay behind to milk the cows but came later. I have always loved snow and believe the excitement of the occasion coursed its way  through mom's umbilical cord and reached me as an unborn child. O.K. Laugh if you must, but I actually did a study on this once.

Neva wanted Mom to name me Sarah Jane. This did not happen but through my study of my third great-grandmother Sarah Jane Swartzel Withrow, I feel like I have become very close to her.  It would have been an honor.  Aunt Neva also gave me a necklace that she always wore. I believe it belonged to her grandmother, Ginevra for whom she was named. (She is wearing it in the picture at the end of this page)

Aunt Neva's birthday was 3 days before mine. She wanted me to be born on her birthday, but instead I was born on John's birthday, February 21. John was brother to my mother and they were Aunt Neva's niece and nephew. When I was eleven John's first child was born. Oh, how I hoped the new baby would be born on February 21. Well, the new baby made Aunt Neva very happy because she arrived on February 18. On February 18, 2008 another family member was born. This time the baby born on Aunt Neva's birthday in 1956 was thrilled to welcome into the world her own first grandchild. Aunt Neva's wish came true a couple of times.

I have many, many memories of Aunt Neva.  I am not sure when they moved back to Greene County from Illinois.  Uncle John said she was his favorite cook in the family. When I was in high school, I would stay at Bert and Neva's house if Mom and Dad went somewhere overnight. In fact, I was staying with them when I was dropped off from a New Year's Night party that to this day is a momentous anniversary. (First date with the guy who would become my husband several years later)

Aunt Neva died in July of 1975 just two weeks after the husband of her sister, Nina. Of course, that was my grandfather, Bert Grisso, of whom I am speaking. I thought how hard it must be to lose a husband and then a sister so close together.

Neva and Bert Walker

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