Monday, June 6, 2011

Amanuensis Monday - Mrs. Mary Ross, 91, is blind but she 'reads' many books

According to Genabloggers, "An Amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another. Amanuensis Monday is a daily blogging theme which encourages the family historian to transcribe family letters, journals, audiotapes, and other historical artifacts."

Today I'm posting a transcription of an article from the front page of the Lake City Graphic, from January 27, 1955. I found the news clipping in the collection of my grandmother. Mary Hay (Stotler) Ross (27 Jan 1864 - 15 Feb 1959) was my 2nd great grandmother. I've interspersed some of grandma's photographs with the article since the clipping had no usable photos of it's own. Click the Mary H. Stotler label for some of my previous posts about great-great grandma Ross. The article is after the jump...

Lake City Graphic, Thursday January 27, 1955, Page 1
"Mrs. Mary Ross, 91, is blind but she 'reads' many books" by Ethel Colvig

Mary Stotler, in the 1950s.
The loss of her vision has not prevented Mrs. Mary Ross, 91, from enjoying her favorite pastime. It has, however, forced the printed word to be replaced by recordings.

Mrs Ross, who has been totally blind for over four years, has read more than 30 books since last April using the federal government talking book machine service. She first learned of and took advantage of the service in California when she was living there six years ago. At that time she read about 32 books by record.

The service is provided by the U.S. government solely for the use of the blind. The records are made and pressed by the American Foundation for the Blind, through the library of Congress. Any blind person may take advantage of the service by application to the Iowa Commission for the Blind. The signature of a sponsor assuming responsibility for the machine is required on the application blank. The simple record player is furnished at no cost and selections from the library of over 2000 volumes are available to the user. Mrs. Ross receives her records from a distribution center at Jacksonville, Ill., and the postage both to and from the center is free. She sends a list of desired selections and as they are available at the library, they are mailed to her. At the present time she has three books of records.

Each record consumes one-half hour of playing time and operating the machine herself, Mrs. Ross repeats any portion that she has not heard distinctly in the first playing. She states that while most readers are exceptionally good, a few are difficult to understand.

Mary (Stotler) Ross with her daughters Clara and Helen
While all types of reading material are available, Mrs. Ross reads historical novels or historical non-fiction, since history has always been her favorite subject. She is one of those rare individuals who retains everything of importance that she reads. Historical events and dates are as familiar to her as current news is to the average reader. She does not read light fiction, she says, because she prefers reading a book that she can get something out of.

Mrs. Ross, who is observing the ninety-first anniversary of her birth today, says that being blind isn't such a handicap. She does everything for herself except serve her own food. She keeps a room at the home farm, about seven miles northeast of Lake City, now occupied by her son, Oliver and his family, where she lives part of the year. She says she is very comfortably situated with air-conditioning in summer, her own gas heater in the winter, two radios, each tuned to a different station to eliminate the need of tuning each time one is turned on, her own possessions, her record machine, her memories and visits from members of her family and friends. To break the monotony, she occasionally enjoys extended visits in the homes of her daughters, Mrs. Harold Whitted, who lives within a few miles and Mrs. Frank Fowlie, who lives near Lake View.

Her health is generally good and she is proud of the fact that she has not seen a doctor in two years. She has a few home remedies for treating minor ailments, has good use of her hands, and is thankful that she is not lame. She does not get out much because it makes her nervous to ride in a car. Alone, she comes down stairs for her meals, and she enjoys the company of her three young grandsons, Eugene, Steven and Philip Ross. She says, "When you live long enough, you learn to take care of things for yourself."
Mary Stotler, age 5
Mrs. Ross suffers from glaucoma, an eye disease which strikes without warning, and which she became afflicted with about 15 years ago. In 1949 in California she had surgery for this condition and for the removal of cataracts, which resulted in a temporary but short-lived restoration of her vision. Even though her sight is gone, she continues to suffer irritation and discomfort in her eyes in addition to the severe pain which is typical of glaucoma and which strikes her around dawn each day.For the relief of this pain she is required to take a mild sedative daily.

Her mind is keener and sharper than the minds of most people half her age and her interest continues in current political, national and foreign affairs. Since women have been privileged to vote, she has not missed a single election of any kind, until last November, when weather conditions prohibited her going out. Always interested in politics, she remembers songs, slogans, badges and early political rallies of many presidential campaigns. She feels that there is definitely a need for more good politicians today.
Mary Stotler, age 19

Of Pennsylvania Holland Dutch descent, Mrs. Ross was born in Piatt county, Illinois, in a one room log house built by her father, Hiram Stotler, near the Sangamon river. Her mother was Hannah Argo. She is a relative of John Hay, American diplomat, writer, secretary to President Lincoln and ambassador to Great Britain. An interesting coincidence is the fact that Cory Zybell of Lake City now owns the land on which she was born, which her father took up in 1861. She had two brothers, one a minister and one a medical doctor.

In her early girlhood, the family migrated to Minnesota where they joined a frontier colony near Worthington and lived for six years during the Sioux Indian war. Here she attended school for two summers. In 1878 her parents hitched up the oxen and a team of horses, loaded up their things and came through this part of the country, settling in southern Iowa. On this trip she kept a diary which is still in the possession of the family. In 1889 the family returned to Illinois where she again attended school a short while and acquired at [sic] certificate to teach, continuing this profession for seven years, four of which she taught in the town of Mansfield. During this time she had one year of college at a teachers' college in Danville, Indiana.

A drop leaf table from the log home in which her father and mother started housekeeping is now in the possession of Mrs. Whitted and one of the iron kettles used on a crane in the fireplace for cooking, is now owned by another daughter, Mrs. Ward Gillespie, and hangs in her mountain home in Arizona.
Mary Ross and her mother, Mary (Stotler) Ross

In 1889 Mary Stotler was married to John Ross and they came to Iowa, settling for a year in Audubon county. On February 12, sixty-three years ago, they came to Calhoun county, to the farm where she still makes her home. Occupying the site of the present home at that time, was a one-room house which was used as a stagecoach stop. Lumber from that house, as well as others in the neighborhood was hauled from Des Moines. Mrs. Ross says that her sons have told her that the wagon tracks from the stage coach can still be seen in the fields southwest of the farm.

Six of her seven children were born in a little house, situated west of the present farm buildings, which was later moved and now is used as the garage. Lots of hard work, depression and the worst drought in the history of the country were experienced by the Rosses in raising their family. Their small home held not only their own family but a great deal of the time relatives lived with them.

Ross Home on The Corner
The 1909 Ross farmhouse as seen in 2011
In 1909 the big new farmhouse was built, where Mrs. Ross has lived for over 45 years. Mr. Ross died in December 1934.

Until the last few years, Mrs. Ross did considerable traveling, which she greatly enjoyed. She made a number of trips to the west coast, making extended visits in the home of a daughter, traveled a number of time(sic) through the Black Hills, Wyoming, Colorado and Arizona, visited New York and Connecticut and regrets that she was not privileged to see the south or southeastern part of the United States. She is especially fond of the majestic Rockies.

She carries a mental picture of all the beautiful scenic places which she has visited, as well as the beauty of sunsets, sunrises, rain blowing in the wind, and the black thunderheads and storm clouds which for some unknown reason always held a great fascination for her. And she especially likes the one part of nature that she can still see - a sharp flash of lightning.

Her philosophy carries out the theory that when a person has completed his mission on earth, God then calls him Home. For that reason she believes that her work is not yet done.

Mary and her daughter Mary during a trip to California c.1930s.
For the first time in 28 years, Mrs. Ross enjoyed having all of hen seven children with her on Christmas Day, in addition to a number of the 16 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren. She head; a family of 60, including in-laws.

Her four sons and three daughters are: George Ross, of Fort Dodge, a decorator; Mason Ross of Lake City, a retired farmer and business man; Mary (Mrs. Ward Gillespie) of Los Angeles, an M.D. and anesthesiologist; Clara (Mrs. Frank Fowlie of Lake View; John Ross of Fort Dodge, who has several business interests there; Helen (Mrs, Harold Whitted) of Rockwell City, an attorney; and Oliver Ross, who farms the home place and with whom she makes her home.

Again, the article was transcribed from the Lake City Graphic, Thursday January 27, 1955, edition, Page 1, but the photos are either mine or from my grandmother's collection.