My mom wrote the following memories of her mother, Mary Jane Dudley Donaldson:
My Mom was a strong woman; she had to be. Although she was only about 5’4” and weighed around 115 pounds, she was wiry and energetic. When I was seven years old, my Dad, Eddie Earl Donaldson, died, leaving my mother with a year-old baby and three other children aged fifteen and under. This was during and shortly after World War II.
When I was nine, Mom sold the Dodge car Dad had left (he had no insurance, only the car) and put the $50 she got from the sale on a house in Afton, Ohio. There was a house, a dilapidated garage/shed, an outhouse and a chicken coop. Mom planted a half-acre garden (by hand and a hand-pushed plow) and bought a few chickens and a couple of roosters. She canned the vegetables she grew, as well as blackberries we would pick in the summer. Dandelions were Mom’s friends. She would pick the greens and either cook them or wilt them with hot vinegar, sugar and bacon grease and chopped up hard-boiled eggs.
We had a barrel by our backdoor to catch rainwater, with which we would wash our hair. We bathed in a galvanized tub, since we had no indoor plumbing. Water was carried from the well for drinking, cooking and laundry. Mom cooked on an old-fashioned wood stove, which had a water reservoir and a warmer oven. We would often walk along the railroad tracks which ran behind our house to pick up coal that fell from the cars. Since the house was heated by a pot-bellied stove, we used this and whatever wood we could find, along with the coal Mom bought, for heat. While we lived in Afton, we were given a long-haired Chihuahua puppy who we named “Penny.” Penny became not only our pet, but also a beloved member of our family.
When I was 12 years old, we moved to Florida to be close to my Aunt Dot and Uncle Clarence Dudley. The only time I ever saw Mom wear slacks was once on the beach while picking up shells. As usual, money was “as scarce as hen’s teeth” (as Mom would say). Once we dug up periwinkles at the beach. Mom took them home, rinsed and boiled them and made chowder. It wasn’t bad and tasted a lot like oyster soup.
At the age of 13, we moved to Newtown, Ohio and lived in a converted barn. The house was a duplex with five rooms on each side. My oldest brother, Clarence Donaldson, and his family lived on one side and we lived on the other.
Throughout the years Mom worked at numerous jobs to keep her family together. She baby sat, took in laundry, cleaned houses and even helped in the butchering of pigs. While we lived in Newtown, Mom did house cleaning at The Children’s Home of Cincinnati. She had to walk about a mile to catch a bus then transfer to another in order to get there.
Many times, she and I would carry our fishing poles and bait and walk about a half mile or so to Clear Creek and fish. I truly believe that she would have rather fished than eat.
When I was 19, we moved back to Fairfax, Ohio. Mom loved Fairfax and especially the Church of the Nazarene. She was at every service unless physically unable. The wonderful friends we had there were like another family to all of us. Mom loved flowers and had many rose bushes. She was the happiest while she lived in Fairfax.
Wherever we lived, when one of her neighbors was ill she would be there to offer her help. She would make tummy bands for newborn babies. (These were used in the “old days” until the umbilical cord fell off.) She would also make baby quilts.
Mom never missed decorating the graves on Memorial Day. If she didn’t have the money to purchase decorations, she would pick flowers from her garden and wrap them in damp paper towels or newspaper.
Mom was not an affectionate woman, but there was never a doubt about how much she loved each of us. She sacrificed for us more times that I can count.
My Mom was the dearest, most special, wonderful mother God ever created. When she passed away, Heaven rejoiced and I wept. I believe Mom is walking down those streets of gold, carrying her fishing pole to the crystal flowing river, listening to the angel choir and Jesus is saying to her, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant. Enter in to your rest.”