My mom and Aunt Winona were riding in my car, discussing the latest family birth, when I asked them each what hospital they were born in. They both laughed and said they were born at home.
When I asked them who helped my grandmother with the birth, they told me their Grandma (Lucy) Smith was there. “Grandma Smith was a very well-known midwife in the area and even helped deliver Omar Bradley.”
I said “What? Wait. Do you mean Omar Bradley, the famous Five-Star General?”
My mom said, “Yes, and she was very proud of it.”
This prompted me to do an Internet search and gather some family history to learn more. Lucy Belle Carter, my great-grandmother, was born in 1860 in Moberly, MO. She married John O. Smith in 1878 and moved to Renick, MO, where she gave birth to six children; the last surviving child, my grandmother, was born in 1898.
Omar Bradley was born near Clark, MO, in 1893, the son of John Smith Bradley and Mary Elizabeth Hubbard. The distance from Renick to Clark is 7 miles. My great-grandmother Lucy was 33 years old at the time of Omar’s birth and had four children of her own by then. The math and the geography make Lucy’s involvement in Omar’s birth feasible. Very interesting.
I know many of you probably do not know who Omar Bradley is, but he is definitely worth a Google. The point is a random question gave me a glimpse into my family’s history that I would have never known about otherwise. More discussion focused on the many changes my mother and aunt have witnessed in their lives. I remember when there were no color televisions. They remember when there were no televisions, and record players came with a crank. That’s quite a span of human development.
Encouraging your family members to share stories becomes their legacy to future generations. Without a little effort, these experiences could be lost or forgotten. Patience and a few open-ended questions can be rewarded by an insight into a fascinating family story or encounter. With a little encouragement, I might tell you why my brother and I were featured in a full-page picture in our local paper when we were kids … or the time I was introduced to Miss America at a car show in Pittsburg. Maybe in another column.
Patrick Harness is a community liaison with a long history of experience in health insurance. If you ask him to pick a color, he always chooses orange, and he is known for his inability to parallel park.