Thursday, September 24, 2009

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds

Lucy Webb Bieber was born March 17, 1906, the fifth child of John (Spoony) Webb and Sarah Hamby. Lucy was quite possibly the strongest woman I've ever known and way ahead of her time.
Lucy was born in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee. The Webbs were a strong, self-contained family on a large farm where the hill dropped off drastically on one side, but the views were magnificent as the land ran adjacent to the Emory River. They raised their own garden and canned vegetables to sustain them through the winter. The Webbs raised their own hogs, and slaughtered and butchered their own pork. Like their ancestors before them, they also raised their own sheep, carded their own wool and made their own blankets. The Webbs were always well dressed, and yes, they sewed and tailored their own clothes.
Lucy learned all these life-sustaining chores very young, but Lucy excelled at all of them, a quality that would make her self-sufficient in an age long before women went into the workforce.
When Lucy was 15, she went with a boy from Glenmary by the name of Roger Human. Family lore has it that she had a baby out of wedlock, and the boy refused her. The baby died of unknown causes, and Lucy thought her life was over. She blamed Mr. Human for "ruining her life" and said she would never marry. She would take care of herself!
Lucy migrated to Erlanger, Kenton County, Kentucky in 1932, following her brothers, Will, Jim and John. She settled into a little house on Kentaboo and proceeded to raise chickens in the back yard. Lucy had quite a list of clients who bought her chickens, and she peddled them to restaurants up and down the Dixie Highway. My uncle Buddy remembered being in grade school and spending weekends with Aunt Lucy because she put him to work. He said she always paid him, but she demanded a lot of work!
Lucy sewed for people too. She made beautiful clothes and had steady clientele. She made blankets and quilts that the city people bought. Yes, my aunt Lucy seemed to be able to do it all. During the height of the depression, she was able to help her brothers by sewing clothes for their children and canning vegetables and drying beans.
Even with all these money making ventures of her own, Lucy also worked a job at Holiday Cleaners in downtown Cincinnati. She rode the Greenline bus from her house on Kentaboo into the Dixie Terminal and walked to the cleaners. It was at Holiday that she met her husband, Fred Bieber, a retired postal worker. She and Fred married in 1933, when Lucy was 36 years old. Fred had a son and daughter and was a widower. His son was a medical doctor.
Lucy and Fred lived in her house on Kentaboo for a number of years, but in 1950, they moved to Florida to enjoy their retirement. They lived in and around the Tampa area. I recall visiting them in Plant City, and the last place they lived was in a house in Holiday, Florida.
Uncle Fred preceded Lucy in death. Aunt Lucy died on May 10, 1978. She was 72. She is interred at Hillsborough Gardens in Brandon, Florida.
I loved my aunt Lucy. I thought she could just do anything! She was a snarly old woman by the time I came along, but for some reason, she loved me. She tried to teach me how to knit, but that never stuck. She used to crochet vests, hats and sweaters for me. In fact, even when I was up into high school, Aunt Lucy was still using colors she used when I was in grade school. I didn't appreciate them when I was sixteen as I had when I was six. I still loved her though!
Aunt Lucy embroidered by hand all the tea towels my mom had when I was little. She made these beautiful quilts that kept me warm, and she made clothes for my Barbie dolls that nobody else had! Whenever we visited her and Uncle Fred in Florida, Aunt Lucy always had watermelon for me. I remember how we used to play Yahtzee!
When we would go to the beach, Aunt Lucy would always go along, and I knew she didn't want to be there. She went because family do things for and with one another just so they can be together. She would pack lunch and make a day of it. I was less interested in spending time with her then, as I wanted to be in the ocean. Uncle Fred would walk out to the water's edge with me and show me how to look for shells. Together, they made beautiful seashell jewelry that I still treasure to this day. I never wear it, as it's too fragile, but I take it out of its box every so often and just look at how intricate the artwork is.
Uncle Fred also painted. I thought he was wonderful! He painted churches and barns. I guess that's where I learned to love taking pictures of churches and barns. My mom got all his paintings after Lucy died, but I'm not sure whatever happened to them. I inherited Aunt Lucy's diamond ring. I've worn it everyday since May 21, 1978 when my mother let me have it on my twentieth birthday.
Aunt Lucy was a wonderful woman, full of life and mischief. Hers was a life of extreme highs and plundering lows, but she never seemed to have a bad attitude. She was always jovial and happy to see us. She was a woman of faith, but she didn't wear it on her sleeve. She believed faith had to manifest itself in works, and she worked hard in life. I expect I will see her again someday. I hope she reads this.


Janet Iles said...

Paula, I enjoyed reading your description of all the talents of your aunt Lucy. She sounds like she was an amazing woman. I am glad to know that you were happy to spend time with her.

Anonymous said...

I remember once after Uncle Fred lost his vision, Aunt Lucy was serving soup for dinner. For some reason, she set the bowls down at the table empty and then was going to fill them. She put Fred's bowl down and he took about three spoonfuls with a funny look on his face. My mom was giving us one of those "Laugh and you die" looks, and Lucy said, "Fred! Put your spoon down! There's nothing there yet!" They were both nice to us and liked to talk, even if we were just little kids.