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Posts Tagged ‘Titusville’

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My great grandfather, Harry McWhirter Barrett (1869-1940) was adopted by his aunt,  Eleanor “Nellie Blake” Barrett (1846-1930) and her husband, Charles S. Barrett (1841-1924) in December of 1878.  He became the oldest of their 6 children, and their only son.

His adoptive sister, Mary Zuba Barrett (1878-1955) married George Rowe Staley (1874-1961) in Titusville, Crawford, Pennsylvania, on 26 June 1902.  They settled with their family in Rome, Oneida, New York. They were the parents of Eleanor Staley Keiser (1903-1937), Marion Staley Sharples (1909-1999), and Charles Barrett Staley (1911-1988) who went by his middle name, Barrett.

Early on in my family history research I found record of this family, but it took me years to find any specific information about Barrett.

Recently I came across a eulogy for Barrett’s wife, Ruth Sprague Staley (1918-2000), posted on Ancestry.com by Bill Thompson.  The eulogy was given by Steve Sharples at Ruth’s funeral in August of 2000. Bill was kind enough to give me his permission to post it here.

As I was reading through the text, I realized that in addition to it being a eulogy, it was also, very much, a love story. And, like every other female on the planet, I’m a sucker for a great love story.

Here it is. =)

Ruth C. Staley (Sprague)

June 10, 1918 – August 9, 2000

Ruth Staley was born to Ruth and Charles Sprague on June 10, 1918, in Herkimer, New York. It’s a small town located on the Erie Canal just 70 miles south of the Adirondack Mountains. Her mother, Ruth Cleaves Sprague, was a kindergarten teacher and her father, Charles S. Sprague, worked as the county’s Surrogate Clerk preparing wills and handling safety deposit boxes. It was a simpler time when electricity was still considered a luxury and common courtesy was, in fact, still common. There was a woodworking factory in town which made desks and bookcases and nutcrackers and nut picks and, according to Ruth, it was a good thing too, as Herkimer had more than its share of nuts.

Her father Charles and his close friend, Frank Dingman, each married school teachers. The couples had become friends so they decided to move into together with Ruth and her folks living upstairs, and the Dingmans living downstairs. The Dingmans also had a daughter named Margaret who three months older than Ruth and so it was appropriate that they should grow up and become lifelong friends.

Although Ruth had relatives on her mother’s side of the family, they lived far away and she didn’t see them very much. “It wasn’t that we didn’t talk with them,” she explained, “it was just that they lived so far away. I never saw my mother’s father and we were even born on the same day, June 10th, but he sent me a puppy for my fourth or fifth birthday. Oh, you should have seen the look on my face.”

During the summers Ruth and her folks would make their way up into the mountains in upstate New York where there were many lakes and cooler weather. She developed a love of fishing and told a funny story regarding her father. “See my father didn’t use the rod and reel like other people, he liked to troll for the fish. He’d go out in the row boat, drop a net and then row for them. And a neighbor friend by the name of Ross Slider use to comment. “There goes Charlie, out taking his fish for a ride again.”

Lake George, New York

I’m not exactly sure of the year her father died. (Charles died in 1944) She undoubtedly learned some hard lessons at that age, after losing family members and friends. I seem to remember a statistic that one in four families at that time had someone who had died as result of the war. They were tough lessons.

She went on to business school with the help of an Uncle, probably between 1936 and 1940. Perhaps this is about the time her father passed on.

I’m not sure when exactly Ruth met Barrett, but I assume it was after high school. This is the way Ruth tells the story… “I had known Barrett for several years before we were married. We had a lot of the same friends in Herkimer. My cousin introduced us.” I believe they dated but chose to be friends. Later, each became engaged to someone else, but things didn’t work out and neither one of them married. After the war, Barrett was working in Detroit for Essex Wire by day, and for a company called Print-O-Tape by night. Print-O-Tape offered him a full time job as office manager, but he’d have to work in the headquarters in Libertyville, Illinois. He accepted and moved in September of 1948. Despite the move, he continued his friendship with Ruth in the many letters he wrote to her. “I like being a big cog in a small wheel” he said, explaining life in small town. Libertyville had a population of 5000. He was office manager of a small company and although there wasn’t a whole lot going on, he found it to his liking. He spoke of bowling and golfing and if he could just swap the two scores, well then, he’d be pretty good.

In 1951, Ruth was hit with another hardship. At age 33, still single and still living in Herkimer, Ruth’s beloved mother passed away and Ruth was now pretty much alone. She expressed her grief to Barrett and within six weeks Barrett asked Ruth if she might like to come live with him in Herkimer. “This was Barrett’s way of proposing,” she explained. “I said pretty much anywhere I hang my hat is my home, so, I said yes. One week I was meeting the family up at Lake George and the next I was living in Libertyville.”

Ruth and Barrett were married August 10, 1951 on the banks of Lake George at father Staley’s cottage. Now we’ve all heard the story of how they had to wait for the motor boat to go by before exchanging their vows. But this, ironically, is a pretty good example of how things have gone for them. They‘ve had to wait sometimes for goods to come their way. But eventually they would make it. They had to learn to roll with the punches, and they eventually persevered.

Sunset at Lake George, New York 

Barrett was 7 years Ruth’s senior. He was 40 years old, and she was 33, that was rather old to be living single at the time. But together, after years of friendship, they decided to start a marriage. And as we all know, the foundation for any successful marriage is that of a loving friendship. Over time they fell deeply in love.

They became inseparable, spending time together watching ball games, visiting with friends, going to parties, or just hanging out reading Andy Rooney. They spent almost all their time together as Ruth got a job at Print-o-tape. “Barrett kept bringing work home with him and I helped him do the work. Well when he started bringing more work home with him I told Barrett to tell his boss he was crazy if he’d thought I’d keep that up. I knew they had an extra desk lying around and I wanted it, and so I got it, and that’s how I got hired.” So together they worked at Print-o-tape, together they went home for lunch, together they went back to Print-o-tape, and together they went home. How many marriages you think could have survived that? They truly loved each other.

Barrett Staley & Ruth Sprague Staley c 1960

(Photo courtesy of Bill & Marti Thompson)

After more than 25 years at Print-O-Tape, 37 years of marriage and more than 40 years of friendship, Barrett passed away on August 12, 1988; Ruth’s heart was, once again, broken.

 

Barrett was everything to her. He was the love of her life. She thought of him daily and didn’t know if she could carry on without him. But despite the uncertainty of life, she did it. Libertyville continued to grow and the world around her changed. And Ruth discovered she still had a family in us.

She gave of herself, donating her time to Blue Smock, which raised money for the local hospital. She gave of herself, in the phone calls she made to us, in the letters she wrote, and in the cookies she baked. When she discovered the amount of money she had in her estate as a result of Sara Lee investments, she decided to give all away rather than spend on herself.

In June of 1998, Marti Thompson arranged a birthday party for Ruth. Ruth’s family showed up and it was grand. We continued to write and talk on the phone and occasionally get together for holidays. In a diary entry around Christmas of last year (1999) Ruth wrote, “My only wish was that Barrett could have lived to have the fun too.” She continued, “I find that crying is the only thing I do best (now) but doesn’t help much.”

I recounted this story to Ruth the last time I saw her, whispering it in her ear while she lay there in bed. Her eyes were closed and she’d been fading in and out, but it drew smile. We both knew it was time. I told her that it would be all right, just like Barrett said. And then I gave her a kiss and I said my goodbyes. And I then headed back to California. Ruth died a day later on August 9th of this year. Oddly enough it was just a day before her 49th wedding anniversary.

I bet she probably wanted to spend it with Barrett. And after all these years, I don’t blame her. It’s as it should be, together again, this time forever.

Ruth & Barrett Staley’s Gravestone at Rome Cemetery , Rome, Oneida, New York

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