By Violet R. Eye
The families of the late Gordon and Lula Smith gathered at the Staunton Church of the Brethren pavilion on Sept. 3 to celebrate their 58th reunion.
Gordon and Lula Smith were parents to nine daughters and three sons. The two remaining Smith children, Cleo Simmons (Vernon) and Wanda Pitsenbarger (the late Harvey), were in attendance. Only aunt Cleo could speak about Grandma Lula as she passed away when aunt Wanda was just four weeks old.
The late Wilda McDorman was Wanda’s twin sister. Granddad Gordon would raise his 12 children to adulthood with the help of the oldest girls serving as mother to the twins and younger children.
It was custom in those days to let relatives or even non-relatives raise children if the parents/parent couldn’t provide for them. Granddad Smith was determined to keep his children with him and raise them alone. The 12 children grew up as a close-knit family and over all these years has remained so.
Cleo Simmons, 98 years old, and Case Smith Wheelbarger, 10 days old, took oldest and youngest positions, respectively. Representing the 12 Smith children were 18 grandchildren, 11 great-grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren, plus spouses and other guests. There was a total of 60-plus people in attendance.
Family members were invited to write down a favorite memory from days spent in Stony Run visiting with Granddad Gordon and each other. The writer has included these memories in their original wording as she feels history should be.
Violet Eye: I remember playing with Wilda’s and Wanda’s corn fodder cows up in the stable loft and swinging on the big oak tree over against the hill.
Evelyn Varner: After getting her dress caught in the spokes of a bicycle, “bitches to hell, back it up a little.”
Cleo: My mom passed away when I was 13 and I had to help with the babies and have done so ever since. I’ll always love West Virginia.
Jenna Williams: I will always cherish the time spent with the family at the reunions, playing ball, playing in the creek and hiking to the flat.
Sally Smith: Finding the board in the outhouse that said, “Sheba loves Delbert.”
Karen Smith Whetzel: The beautiful scenery and walks in West Virginia and the amazing homecooked foods and catching up with aunts, uncles and cousins.
Shawn Belcastro: Always looking forward to family reunions. The fellowship and delicious food. Hikes to the flat.
Phil Downs wrote his to Aunt Cleo: I remember you as UZZ6-D Gray’s Hill Ft. Belvoir, when I got into rabbit poop and you had to clean me up. I still don’t know why you made me do that. Love ya as always.
Loretha Bland wrote hers to Aunt Cleo: You are like a sister to me. Love you so much.
Greg Moyers: Softball and horseshoes during reunions with my favorite cousins.
Aaron Moyers: Playing with my cousins around the house and in the river.
Henry Moyers: Running about in the woods with my cousins, exploring the house for the umpteenth time, and eating wonderful desserts.
Rose Smith: As a child climbing the ole apple tree and riding Ole Gin.
Tammy Hall and Susan Kuykendall: There are so many memories—butchering day, planting potatoes, putting the bridge across Stony Run. When we went up the hill to get the men for lunch and the men shot a gun and we took off down the hill so fast I couldn’t keep up with you. Hiking in the woods.
Barry Simmons: Granddad catching me as I rolled off the back of Ole Gin the horse.
Whitney Sager: Wading in the creek with my cousins.
Kim Bodkin: Just good times!
Larry Simmons: As kids we played across Stony Run in a rock outline of a house created by Phil and Wayne.
Debi Simmons: Walks to the flat.
Joeann Moyers: I remember going with Wanda and Wilda over across the run to play in the woods. One of the last times I stayed in the house with Wanda, Granddad was sick. Homer made gravy for breakfast and it was too lumpy for me to eat.
There is no way we could write all our memories down. I am a firm believer that every person has a story they could tell and the best place to start is with your memories. What a treasure memories are.
Several of the cousins mentioned “the flat.” That was land that was up over the hill across Stony Run and it was customary to walk up there whenever visiting or at reunions. We usually found some good apples and would visit with the William Puffenbarger family as they lived over there.
We would always go to the flat with this warning, watch out for copperheads and rattlesnakes!
The message on the board in the outhouse would have been put there by my mother, Sheba, about my dad. I did not know about this until this last reunion. That bit of history shared by Sally was very much appreciated.