This is the 97th birthday of my amazing Aunt Mary. As the last living member of our father’s generation, my sister Joan, brother Leo, and I keep hoping we’ve inherited some of her genes. I wish we could clone her in order to propagate her DNA, and keep her around permanently.
Mary Florence Gorman Rawson was born in Plato, Iowa on March 23, 1914.
She was the 8th child born to my grandparents, James Michael Gorman and Elizabeth Yedlik Gorman.
The year Mary was born, World War I began, The Federal Reserve Bank of the United States opened, and the Ford Motor Company announced an 8-hour working day, paid at a minimum of $5 per day.
If my aunt were to have a personal logo, she might share it with this chick. About the time Mary was born, the chick appeared as a logo for a new cleaning product which came on the market. (It’s still available today as an earth-friendly cleanser.) As I tell you about Mary, I hope you’ll figure out what she and this little creature oddly have in common.
Mary’s early childhood years were spent on my grandfather’s farm – 320 acres in Cedar County, Iowa. Besides general farming, he raised Duroc Jersey hogs and short-horn cattle. Our grandmother and all the kids worked hard on the farm, as was the custom among Iowan farm families.
This is the farmhouse in Tipton, Iowa.
The Gorman Gravel Pit was located on one corner of the farm.
As one of those childhood memories she can’t forget, Mary remembers how hard the work was. Our grandmother, Elizabeth, would lead the way through the field as she and the kids worked. Mary remembers one day when she followed a trail of blood down a row in a field of oats. Grandma was suffering one of her miscarriages. And she painfully remembers how Grandma buried the remains in the field and went on working.
Mary attended school completing 8th grade at St. Mary’s Catholic School in Tipton, Iowa. The Great Depression commenced when she was about 15 years old, and during the economic disaster which followed, her family lost their farmland and along with it, their livelihood. We can only imagine the desperation a large family without income faced in those bleak times.
All the kids worked as soon as they were able. One of Mary’s first jobs was at a dry goods store. She made $5 per week. She gave Grandma $3 each week and kept $2 for herself. It was while working there that my Aunt Elsie asked her to go to Ross Ice Cream shop one day in order to buy some ice cream; and it was there that she met Leslie Rawson.
Following a bumpy courtship, Leslie and Mary were married in Dubuque, Iowa on May 18, 1934. Leslie had been briefly married before, and in spite of the brevity and circumstances of his prior marriage, our strict Irish parish priest wouldn’t marry them in the Church, or baptize any of the children they were to have.
Their first home was a tent in a field. Later, Leslie built their first house. While he was at work, Mary dug the footings for the house. And did the farm chores, tended the chickens, delivered and cared for her babies.
Leslie and Mary had three children: Jimmy, Beverly, and Patty. They were married for 58 years before Leslie’s death from a stroke and kidney failure.
Besides her one stillborn child, all of Mary’s children died while young. Jimmy grew up to be a brilliant and successful inventor and engineer, but he took his own life by gunshot when he was 47 years old. Their youngest daughter Patty, 20 years old, died of a brain tumor, following 14 months in a coma. Their daughter Beverly died of cancer a few years ago. Only Mary’s two granddaughters remain among the living – Karen and Catherine.
Today, Mary – at 97 years old – still lives alone in her own apartment, but she is slowed down somewhat by her treatments for dialysis. She also suffers from macular degeneration so her vision is not the best. In spite of these inconveniences, however, Mary is as lively, full of fun, feminine, soft and gentle, as she’s been all her life.
But don’t let that unruffled, kindly exterior fool you. She may be small in stature, but you’re looking at one tough lady. Life hasn’t been kind to her, but Mary has faced every hardship, disaster, and heartbreak that came her way with an inner strength and grace that will awe us forevermore.
Now to explain why my Aunt Mary reminds me of a chicken – the Bon Ami baby chick to be specific. The Bon Ami chick’s slogan was – and still is – “Hasn’t scratched yet”. The product is tough, practical, effective, and hard-working – but it’s nonetheless soft and gentle.
It seems to describe my Aunt Mary perfectly. She too is tough, practical, effective, hard-working, soft and gentle. And, hey, she’s going on 100, but she hasn’t scratched yet either. She’s a cool chick!
Happy birthday, Mary! Time to party!