The year was 1907. A brief survey of news headlines from that year reveal a handful of noteworthy events. The Chicago Cubs won the first of their two World Series’ before their infamous championship drought. Albert Einstein labored over the theory of relativity. Ford rolled out the Model R for the first time. Oklahoma became the 46th state to join the Union.
The year was 1907; the year my great aunt, Janie Frances Ruff, was born. I never knew my Aunt Janie. I have only read and heard what others said about her. I have never even seen a photograph of the woman. But in my mind’s eye, I picture her looking a lot like my daddy’s three sisters, in their younger years. Janie, though she died as a young woman, was loved by many for her sweet and thoughtful nature.
My Grandmama Ruff (Daddy’s mama) spoke highly of her sister-in-law. Grandmama loved to reminisce about the times the two of them spent together. She’d share tales from the late 1920’s, about the girl with deep blue eyes and a perfect smile, who lived in a boarding house and worked as a telephone operator. Janie was a kind soul and considerate of others. People loved her and she loved them back. And oh, how my Grandmama missed her.
Janie wasn’t born with a silver spoon in her mouth. She never knew her birth mother, who died in her infancy, and her father died when she was only 12. Sometime around her 20th year, Jaine was diagnosed with tuberculosis. At the time, there was no cure for TB. It was a slow and painful passing, and was the second leading cause of death in the U.S. at the time.
As I was doing a little research about my great aunt, I came across a poem that had been submitted to a newspaper in memory of Janie upon her passing. The poem was written by two of her friends, and represents the closing of her life. I honestly can’t think of a sweeter way to end this week’s post.
In memory of Miss Janie Frances Ruff, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Ruff, was born the eight day of November, year of (1907), departed this life the thirtieth day of November, year of (1930),
You have left us darling Janie,
Left the ones you loved so well:
And hid a last farewell.
You were always kind and gentle,
Giving all a loving word,
And our hearts have been kept tender
By the thoughts your memory stirred,
We only thought some time ago,
When you came close to our home,
We had you with us once again,
To love and be our own,
So much my life has been with yours
That part of it seems gone;
Through childhood days,
Together we did roam,
And home life I spent with you,
My Dearest Janie, who has gone.
Janie was a loving girl,
Sincere and kind and true,
Ready to lend a helping hand,
Where there was work to do.
A dear one from us is gone
A voice we loved is stilled,
A place is vacant in that home,
Which never can be filled,
We know that thy trials were hard,
And we know God’s will is best,
Thou didst bear them so patiently,
And hast now gone to rest.
When a year ago we gathered,
Joy was in your mild blue eyes,
But a golden cord is severed,
And our hopes in ruin lies,
Sleep on, Janie and take your rest,
God called you home; He thought it was best;
Upon your breast with folded hands,
Is sleeping beneath the silver sands,
No more sorrow, No more pain,
Can touch thy loving heart again.
I found this poem, taken from a newspaper clipping, posted about Janie on Ancestry.com. The resources there, together with my Grandmama’s stories, public records allow me to look back and have a good idea as to who my great Aunt was. I’m so thankful for the tales that are passed down through print and word. It’s our connection to our storied, sometimes ugly, and sometimes glorious past.
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I’d love to hear stories from your family tree! Comment below, and feel free to share this post on social media. We’ll also be holding our drawing for Heather Blanton’s book, A Lady In Defiance, next week. If you’d like to enter for a chance to win Heather’s book, be sure to join our mailing list below! Congratulations to Ryan, the winner of our quarterly Starbucks gift card!
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Information about Janie Frances Ruff was retrieved from Ancestry.com, and from family stories.
Information about tuberculosis was taken from wikipedia.com and time.com.