Today is a day I have always enjoyed celebrating – the birthday of my great-grandmother, Mary Belle Jones-Clary.

This is a post from December 20, 2005…

Once upon a time, there was the most darling little lady, christened Mary Belle Jones, the daughter of Joel Monroe Jones & Anna Greenlee Jones. Mary Belle, or Belle, as she was to be called all her life, was born December 20, 1897, (one hundred eight years ago today) in Boone Township of Madison County, Indiana.

Belle, though a beautiful young girl, had a somewhat sad expression,but was always full of cheerfulness and tremendous kindness to all who knew her. Little is known of her early years – childhood or teens. We know she had three younger brothers, Alphie, Henry (who died at age two years) and Harry. However, beyond that, the accounts are thin.

In September 1920, she married John William Garrett Clary, also of Madison County. Garrett’s maternal family, the Nobles, were prominent pioneers of Clearmont County, Ohio, having lived in Snow Hill, Maryland since the 1600’s. The Nobles moved near the Ohio River settling Clearmont County in 1801. One of the Noble sons went on to become the first mayor of Cincinnati. Despite his “noble” ancestry, Garrett was a farmer, working a variety of odd jobs as a young man in Elwood, Indiana. How Belle and Garrett met is unknown.

A month past their first wedding anniversary, Ronald Monroe Clary was born, followed two years later by Donna May Clary (Barmes). Nine years after Donna’s birth, Joyce Ann Clary (Riser) was born. There are plenty of accounts about Belle and Garrett as strong, fun-loving, practical-joke-playing and loving parents. Still to this day, anecdotes of their humor is a familiar topic after family dinners.

In 1937, tragedy struck when fifteen year old Ronald was thrown,or fell, from a horse. Belle, a short woman standing barely 4′-10″, and 13 year old, Donna, who barely reached 5′-0″ as an adult, trampled a wire fence to recover the fatally injured Ronald. Sadly, Ronald died and was buried in Forrestville Cemetery with five previous generations of his family. Fifty years later, Donna’s son, Ronald, named for the uncle he never knew, was killed in a tragic automobile accident.

The years passed and Belle became a deeply beloved grandmother, and by 1964, a great-grandmother, when I was born. In the home of their family farm, there was a coo-coo clock. As a little baby, Grandpa Garrett would hold me up to the clock, wind the hands so the little bird would peek out to my delight. As I began talking, they were dubbed, “Mamaw & Papaw Coo-coo.” Until he died in 1997, I was the only one who could call him “Grandpa Coo-coo.”

Although I can barely hear the sound of her voice in my memory, her spirit is still very much a part of my life. Those who knew her often comment on her extreme kindness towards everyone. I can still remember the day in December 1968 when she was wheeled from her home in Elwood to the hospital for the last time. I was instructed to remain on the davenport in the living room and as they wheeled her past me, she reached out her hand for mine. “Be a good boy.” The following January, one of earth’s own angels went to be with the heavenly angels.

Every December 20th, I remember this darling little woman. Unlike the women in my previous submission who served as first ladies, Belle Clary never attained national prominence, and the only monument to her memory can be seen in Forrestville Cemetery. However, thirty-six years since she passed away, her indefatigable legacy of kindness and compassion is still enriching the lives of her family – even those who did not know her.

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