Sunday, November 12, 2017

Doc's Daughter - 4

Three of Doc's  four Stiles’ girls made their way pretty well in the world. There is no telling what the precocious youngest-of-the-four might have done, had she not turned aside from medicine; but … well, she did - she turned to ministry and the support of her pastor husband -  not overly self-serving or lucrative, I’d say now. At the time, however, it seemed like the right thing to do.
Essa Mae, the elder, became a quiet, fragile but pretty, old maid school teacher and Master Librarian. She survived her rough beginnings and lived a quiet full devoted life as a genteel, sensitive, single lady; except for her unfortunate encounter with Charles Pair who defrauded her of more than he gave her in a short marriage that cud not rob her of her character and her certainty of who she was.

After Tommie and I began our student days in Portland, Mae joined us. At one time or another we had both of my sisters, and Mae. Once in Portland; Mae became a vital communication link in the office staff of Pacific Bible College assisting A. F. Gray and Otto Linn, the President and Dean. Throughout the years following Portland, Mae spent long periods nearby, or living within our reach. Periodically, she was just another member of our household; she frequently enjoyed assisting in rearing our Meredith and Scott; they dearly loved “Aunt Mae,” and thoroughly enjoyed being “Aunt Mae” (no online pictures of Mae and Vi).

Mae struggled with some dementia issues later in life. She became quite settled in the Baptist culture of Waco, Texas and did well, living alone among her own circle of friends where she became quite well established in her own little domicile. By this time, Tommie was able to return the favor and spend considerable time with Mae in Waco and they enjoyed amiable and intimate harmony as the eldest and youngest sisters. She enjoyed her close-knit fellowship with the small and struggling Church of God congregation; taught a Sunday School class if I remember, and found Baptist culture quite acceptable.

Mae died in May of 1997, still in her eighties, just prior to my seventieth birthday. She was interred in the family plot in Welty, OK barely two months before the family would celebrate Ben’s faith-filled life under the direction of Freewill Baptist Pastor Berton Perry. Longtime friend of both the Stiles’ family and we Warner’s, Russell Noss, a pastoral fixture in Oklahoma  and a fellow student from our Bible College days, accepted it as a great honor to officiate at Mae’s Memorial Service.
Russell did a noteworthy job of fortifying the family’s tenderness for elder sister Essa Mae. Baby sister then invested the additional time and energy needed to expedite the closing out of Mae’s business affairs, but with Tommie now gone, I find I still have some of Mae’s most “personal”.

Viola first worked for the government in San Antonio. After she married Bill, a North Texas graduate of Texas A& M and fellow CPA, the two shuttled back and forth between Shell’s Houston and Midland offices building a comfortable living. Their home on North Big Spring became our get-away home away from home, a secure shelter during those early Texas years when Bill spent much of his time investing in his Midland business enterprises.

Simultaneously, George H. W. Bush the wealthy young New Englander and Military Veteran, was establishing himself in the Texas oil business by buying up right-of-way’s between oil leases and slant drilling, and trying to raise young George to follow in his steps.

Vi and Bill provided financial stability to the struggling wife of a poor preacher serving a Texas Mission church. Later, they made years of study possible at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary under Dr. Bob Naylor, the Jerusalem of Southern Baptist education. Those were invaluable years I would not trade--priceless to buy.

One of the trade-offs in later years was Tommie’s assistance to Vi around the time she was closing out her working years (1992). She assisted Vi for long months at a time, for reasons related both to Vi’s health and hers, as well as in getting Vi and Bill through the fourteen difficult years of Bill’s severe Alzheimer journey. That was a story all its own and it resulted in Tommie and I spending weeks and months apart, but so necessary, and in its own way, even rewarding.

Another aside: I still have a wide assortment of unused “Hardware tools and knick-knacks” in my “BC basement.” That “Assortment” originated with Bill when he closed his Midland Hardware venture prior to leaving West Texas, and it has served me in variously emerging times of need all the way from Texas, west to California, and back east to Michigan. You wonder about the “ridding out” that I need to do in Battle Creek, now that Tommie is gone … well don’t!

The third Stiles girl—the pretty one three-years older than Tommie, remained the independent sibling—the black sheep of sorts. Given the name Awana, she reflected both her beauty and her Cherokee heritage. She (Jam) pursued her independent ways by becoming a pilot like her next older brother Gib (Gilbert) - her idol.

“Jammy” (seen left) trained in dry, sunny Sweetwater, TX and became part of Jacelyn Cochran’s Women’s Air Service Program (WASP). HOWEVER, WHEN FLYING BROTHER returned from the military, he brought her days of ferrying planes to Britain to a flying screech. That was when she turned to Diplomatic Service where she became a linguist-cryptographer.

This took her abroad and introduced her to Foreign Service where she later had opportunity to reject a contract with Warner Brothers Studios. Beautiful in many ways, and highly photogenic, Awana (Jam/Jammy) lived a life many would envy. Filled with worldly glitz and glamour, her life of working in government service sometimes found her rubbing elbows, as it were, with world famous figures such as her dear friend “The Madam”  - General and Madam Chang Kai Shek). She enjoyed a long and personal friendship with this gentle Chinese Christian.

“Jam” terminated her personal career when she met and married Foreign Service Officer Ralph N. Clough, government Far East Expert. A graduate of the Shanghai University and the University of Washington, Ralph had been forced to leave his dying young wife without attending to her final details after being informed they were about to be overcome by ChineseCommunist forces and the only hope for him and the two boys was immediate flight.  

At his dying wife’s insistence, Ralph left her to the care of the native workers and he and the boys barely escaped with their lives. With his two young sons, one under each arm, Ralph fled the seven miles to freedom, hitch-hiking his way stateside. On reaching the States, he met his wife’s family, only to have his mother-in-law drop dead on the spot with a heart attack upon hearing the news of her daughter’s death (sometimes part of the glitz and glamour shared with fame and fortune). 
Ralph and Awana spent fifty-four years together serving around the world while adding two girls to Ralph’s two sons, while Ralph served various embassies as the administrative and career professional under the Diplomatic Appointee. They served together in Sweden, spent multiple tours of duty in Taipei, were part of  the 1964 Geneva Conferences and we will never know what all else they did.

I watched those years of growing intimacy, love, and appreciation extend for decades while developing into a tender, warm sisterly “twin-ship” of more than sixty-five years, during which I was a personal beneficiary. Three years apart, their sisterly bond was unbreakably strong, financially, materially, and emotionally . I cannot say “enuff” for Jam today. I owe so much to them — particularly to her--and perhaps more to their praying mother--Mary Violet Woodard Stiles. 
When I returned to school in Fort Worth after fifteen years of pastoring, tuition was there providing years of seminary study while pastoring the Ridglea church. Through the years, Mae spent long days and months at a time caring for our children. Jam showered “luxuries” and “niceties” on her baby sister that my German frugality could never have considered anything but extravagant.

Doc’s baby daughter had a year of pre-med under her belt at Tulsa University by the time we met. She remained Doc’s last fatherly hope for a successor in Medicine after his brood of boys rejected medicine for other pursuits. She finished high school at sixteen. Impossible as it seems, she starred in track and basketball and worked as a telephone operator in nearby Bristow. At the Telephone Company, she began learning the technician’s trade--hard for me to imagine—this soaking-wet 90-pound female running up and down telephone poles, which she apparently did as well as she ran track as her school’s “mini-mite.”

In late life, Tommie's Doctors discovered the real extent of the damage of her malformed back wall of the heart. Although she had had lived with it since childhood and experienced what they then called "Dropsy", the damage was such that she should never have been allowed to play basketball or compete in track, as she did, quite successfully, or even work as she sometimes did. But early medicine was not the miracle it is today. 
Upon reaching Tulsa, she acquired an office job at eastern Oklahoma’s 50,000-watt Voice of Oklahoma-(KVOO). She enjoyed a “brief” stint in broadcasting. It was a career that began and ended all at once in 1943 when news of FDR’s death in Warm Springs, GA marched across the teletype and the male newscaster was out of pocket when he should have been on cue. This precocious teen, with her usual aplomb and lack of timidity, marched herself into the studio, quickly read her teletype message verbatim to the mike, and announced to the known world that FDR is dead!” Her career lasted just long enough to realize the import of her teletype message, what she had done, and for a deflated male ego to announce her firing – she would never forget it.

By the time I arrived, dad had yanked her out of school at Tulsa to escape the wealthy thirty-year-old Houston Lawyer insisting on matrimony before she could finish her medical education. That upset Doc! As a compromise between Doc and Baby Doc, he shipped his baby girl out of state to Anderson, Indiana and the personal care of the Dean at Anderson College, Dr. Russell Olt.
In this way, Dad thought to insure that his young daughter would benefit from a minimum of one year of foundational Bible Study, assured that she had her head screwed on straight. Later … he would see about her career et al … and … well ...
I am

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