don ward

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Carolyn Rae Bartley was born at the height of the Great Depression, April 17, 1932. Today would have been her 85th birthday.

She grew up in Almena, KS, a small town, even by Kansas standards. The town was founded 1872 and had little to offer except being a shipping point located at the junction of two

Carolyn Bartley — approx. 4 years old. Thanks to Fran Post and Inge Bartley for the photo.

railroads. The population in the 1890 census was 366 and that’s about where it stands today. At its peak in the 1930 census, it was credited with about 700 citizens.

Mom was the youngest of three children born to Thomas R. Bartley, editor and publisher of a one-man newspaper, the Almena Plaindealer and Leona Bartley, known by her middle name, Ferryl.

My grandfather (born in Nebraska in 1894) was reportedly a brilliant man, but tragically alcoholic. I never knew him and the family never talked about him. Grandma divorced him when my mother was young, and this was quite scandalous in the 1930s — especially in small town rural areas of the Bible Belt. He died when my mom was 13, probably due to his alcoholism. My parents told me and my brothers that he died in a car wreck. When pressed for details, they said that a bee got into the car and he was trying to kill it or shoo it away while driving, lost control and had a wreck.

This story was supposedly better than acknowledging the shame of his “sinful” condition.

That’s really all I know about him, except that I have seen some of the newspaper columns he

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Carolyn Rae Bartley was an ordinary girl from a very small town in an out-of-the-way place.  Her greatest accomplishments in life were simple, personal ones.

Craig, Carolyn and Don Ward, Nov. 1955

Craig, Carolyn and Don Ward, Nov. 1955. I'm hiding under the newspaper -- I won't be born for 4 more months.

She married at a young age and had three sons.  Her family was the center of her universe.  She was happiest when surrounded by her kids and grandchildren.

Like every life, there are tragedies as well as happy events.  She struggled with health problems most of her adult life and lost her first born child to cancer.

She survived her first encounter with that same disease, but it returned years later to finally claim her life.

No — she wasn’t a saint or a celebrity or anybody who attracted a lot of attention.

But, like all mothers, she made priceless contributions to the lives of many others — including me.

Today is the anniversary of her birth.  I remember mama — every single day.

WADE

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