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Today, June 2nd, would have been my great-great grandmother’s birthday. Anna Greenlee Jones, the daughter of Andrew Taylor Greenlee and Prudence Anna Ball, was born in 1875 in Boone Township, Madison County, Indiana.

As young girls, Anna and her sisters, Carrie, Mary and Esther, were quite a tribe of pranksters and, in some ways, holy terrors. The stories passed down from my grandmother about her own grandmother were generally quite funny, but also somewhat unbelievable.

One story was of a young Anna and her sisters taking darning needles and piercing one another’s ears. They took a piece of straw to stick through the new openings. However, Anna’s ear became infected. Now, in 1890, this was serious, but Grandmother Greenlee (my third great-grandmother) took the opportunity to gently box Anna’s ear when she got out of line.

Anna was fortunate to marry a jokester, and prank-loving man, Joel Monroe Jones (1873-1946). Together, Anna and Joel were a fun-loving, jovial couple that instilled an incredible sense of humor in their own three children: Mary Bell, my great-grandmother, and her younger brothers, Alphie and Harry. Their brother, Henry, died at age two.

As a grown woman, Anna was known to have thrown buckets of water on unsuspecting farm-hands walking around a barn’s corner, or stringing a line of tin cans from the front screen door and up the staircase only to come crashing down on a timid maid coming home late in the evening from a date.

When my great-grandmother was a teenager, she held a Sunday school party at her home, the Vinson-Jones farm just south of Forrestville Cemetery, and down the road from the Greenlee farm in Boone Township. All the teenagers arrived in their horse and buggies – the kind where the wheels in the rear were larger than the wheels in the front. While the party was going on, Joel kept himself, and several farm hands busy reversing each buggy’s wheels. Considering the amount of work to change these wheels, it had to be an incredible task! So, when the party disbanded, the teenagers were forced to drive home barely able to see over the dash of their buggies! The funny thing is, Grandpa Jones was very stern looking, and the photos taken of him do not reveal his wit, and devilish humor.

Photos of Grandma Jones (1875-1950):

I am certain my great-grandmother, Belle Jones Clary (1897-1968), had a sense of humor, but it was surely eclipsed by the orneriness of her younger brothers, Alphie and Harry. I can only imagine the laughter, and many pranks in the Jones family home.

In 1973, my great-great uncle, Alphie Jones, died on his mother’s birthday.

Although Belle married the slightly witty, John William “Garrett” Clary (1898-1997), I don’t recall Grandpa Garrett being as much of a prankster as he was the target of so many pranks. His two daughters, Donna (1924-1992), my grandmother, and Aunt Joyce (1932) were forever creating a plethora of hilarious stories that still keep our family howling to this day. Poor Grandpa Garrett never knew whether he would find his shirt sleeves buttoned to other shirts, or his bed short-sheeted or filled with corn flakes. His standard response was a comical growl, “Those damned girls!” That phrase continued clear through the years when Donna and Joyce were grandmothers, themselves!

My Grandma Donna and Grandpa Leroy Barmes (1921-2004) maintained the legacy of humor, instilling it in their own three children: Diana, my mother, Uncle Ron (1952-1987) and Uncle Tom (1954). Grandpa Leroy came from a long line of practical jokers, as well, and the stories of my great-grandfather, Virgil Barmes (1900-1971), could fill a book! Grandpa Virgil, along with his brother-in-law, Harry Daugherty and some of the other Daugherty brothers, filled a completely separate treasure chest with memorable stories!

One of my most treasured impressions of my grandparents will always be their sense of humor. As a little boy, my earliest memories are filled with family laughter, mostly stemming from my grandparents. I often tell, and retell the hilarious moments that accompanied me through the years. Although my grandparents are no longer living, their spark of humor and laughter is eternal.

The one thing I have so enjoyed as a father is laughing often, and heartily! Fortunately, Jose has an incredible sense of humor, and there is scarcely a day that is not filled with three-fourths laughter. We have our serious moments, but we continually find them merged with chuckles, or outright laughter.

I am so grateful that part of my DNA has included a sense of humor. I do hope I will one day be remembered by my grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren for my sense of humor, and pranks!

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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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