07 April 2014

Visiting the cemetery and remembering our ancestors

My sister and I spent some time at the local cemetery Saturday afternoon. The weather was warm and sunny, and we had to walk around and search for a while before locating our relatives' and ancestors' graves. We'd been there many times before, but mostly with my mother as a guide, and she knows the cemetery better than we do. This time, she stayed at home.

Above are the graves of our great-great grandparents — the grandparents of our maternal grandmother. I think I've got that right. Benjamin J. Willis was born in 1851 and died in 1924 when the horse pulling his wagon bucked and threw him to the ground. At age 73, he didn't survive the fall. Benjamin was a farmer and a carpenter. His wife Ida L. Willis née Lawrence outlived him by 11 years. She gave birth to 10 children over the course of their marriage — five girls and five boys. She died of a heart attack of some kind on Christmas Day in 1935, at age 70.

On the left is my great-grandmother's grave. She was Annie Pamelia (Millie) Willis née Daniels, my maternal grandmother's mother. She died in the Great Flu Epidemic of 1918 at the age of 32. Her husband Howard Closs Willis, my great-grandfather, is buried in a grave without a headstone.

Howard and Millie had two daughters, one of whom (my grandmother) I never knew but a second (a great-aunt) who I knew very well. Howard was born in 1879, when his mother was very young, and as an adult was a butcher and grocer by trade. He died in 1935, not long before his mother Ida had her heart attack.

I never knew any of these people. Nor did I ever know my maternal grandparents, Joseph Allen Miller and Mary Daniels Willis ép. Miller, who also had two daughters. My mother says she remembers seeing her grandfather Howard and great-grandmother Ida each only once, toward the end of their lives. She remembers Howard as a very old man sitting in a straight-backed chair, his knees covered by a lap robe. He was about 56 years old at the time of his death. A few years later, my maternal grandfather died shortly before his 40th birthday in 1939, and my maternal grandmother died, at age 43, one month after I was born in 1949.

The place where all these ancestors of ours are buried is called Bayview Cemetery. My father, paternal grandparents, numerous aunts, uncles, and cousins, and many other relatives and family friends are buried there too. I knew many of them before they passed away. If you look carefully, you will see that most of the graves in the photo above carry the name of Willis. None of these deceased Willises were close relatives of mine, as far as I know.


  1. i can practically smell that salty sea air - what a lovely view.

  2. Ce cimetière marin aurait probablement aussi inspiré Paul Valéry.

  3. I love reading your family history posts. Very interesting. The gravestones are very touching.
    Beautiful setting.

  4. cemetaries always have the best views in town


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