Written by: Devon Noel Lee
Valentines cards. roses and chocolates. romantic getaways and jewelry.
The stores would have you believe that these are the expressions of love. However, I have great-grandparents that exemplify true, lasting love.
Love that I have found with my husband, though not necessarily in the same manner or with the same trials.
Great-grandma Evaline was actually engaged to be married to a man named Carl Short. Twenty year-old Carl was a driver for the Am Ex Co in Columbus, Ohio. Evaline, aged 23, was a phone operator.
The couple had photographs taken leading up to their nuptials. Evaline had met her soon to be mother-in-law the widow Bessie Short and they got along fabulously. Bessie was happy to have Evaline marry her only son.
But the couple were never united in marriage, as Carl was involved in an automobile accident on May 18,1916. He could have recovered from the accident but traumatic pneumonia triggered by the crash claimed his life on nine days later on May 27th.
Evaline would not abandon her would-be mother-in-law. In fact, Bessie helped steer Evaline to the man she would marry two years later.
The family legend is that Bessie and Evaline were attending a fair in Columbus. She pointed out the 30-something young man and encouraged Evaline to connect with him.
On June 6, 1918, the man at the fair and the unofficial daughter-in-law exchanged vows when George Geiszler and Evaline Peak married. It’s very likely Bessie was in attendance at the wedding held at the Mt Vernon Avenue Methodist Church and the reception at George’s parents home shortly thereafter.
George and Evaline’s relationship deepened as they added children to their family. A daughter was born in 1920 and was named after George’s mother. Another daughter was born prematurely and passed away in November 1921.
What her name may have been is unknown, but may have honored Evaline’s mother and possibly Bessie. That is based on the naming of the next two children: A son was born in 1923 and named after George’s side of the family.
The next son was born in January 1925 and named for Evaline’s choices. His first name was Carl, in honor of her deceased fiance.
How joyful that day must have been when Bessie held her son’s namesake! How much love George must have had for Evaline to let her select this name to honor the man she didn’t marry?
In fact, rumor has it that Evaline kept a photo of Carlton Short in her bedroom and her first daughter would remember this treasured keepsake. George must have really loved Evaline.
Another son joined the family in August 1926. Bessie lived to meet all of Evaline’s children and she likely died a happy woman knowing her son’s name would live on, even if he didn’t have a blood relative. Bessie Short died in December 1926.
Unfortunately, a strange turn of events would end the memory of Carlton Short when Evaline’s young son Carl died at the age of 3 in April 1928. Apparently, George and Evaline had taken their four children to see some baby chicks to celebrate Easter. Upon returning from the farm, young Carl became very ill.
A doctor was called and he was diagnosed with influenza. It’s possible that he was having some sort of allergic reaction to the elements on the farm.
Whatever the case, Carl’s dear mother Evaline rocked her son as he struggled to breathe and when he took his final breath. In twelve years, Evaline had buried two beloved Carls, a premature daughter without a name, and the woman who could have become her mother-in-law.
How much heartache must she have felt? How much comfort would George be required to share at this time?
George and Evaline did recover from this tragedy and loved their children, their grandchildren, and their great-grandchildren very much. They celebrated 41 years of marriage before Evaline passed from this life.
I am unable to flesh out all of the details about the kinds of love that Evaline experienced in her life. I do know that her story of love is better than a novel or movie, because it is real. She lost the man she loved enough to join in marriage between their engagement and before the ceremony that sealed the deal.
She loved the woman who could have been her mother-in-law as if she was that role the remainder of her life. Bessie was in family photos and attended family events with Evaline’s children.
Evaline experienced love from Bessie who didn’t want her to live alone the rest of her life. Evaline married a man, had five children with him, three of whom lived to adulthood. They experienced joy and tragedy and were able to continue on.
Love stories like these are in your family. Love stories that have more rich details of what true love really is haven’t been recorded.
Take the time this month to give the best gift of love. One that can be treasured when the chocolates are eaten, the roses wilt, and the red heart cards are thrown away. Record the love stories of your parents and grandparents and then share them with those around you.
Don’t just focus on the how they met or how they married. Be sure to go deeper. You’ll be so glad you did.
Family historian, author, and home schooling mother of five, Devon Noel Lee has 20 years of genealogy and memory keeping. Her purpose to is help others capture and preserve their family history before the stories are lost forever. You can learn more about Devon’s passion for family history on Amazon.com and on her blog at A Patient Genealogist.