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Posts Tagged ‘Tom Fuller’

A Brief Social History of 20th Century America, As Told By Porches

February 27th, 2013 Sears Homes 3 comments

When you cut a tree down, you can learn a lot about local history by examining its exposed trunk. How many rings does it have? How old is the tree? During which years did the area experience a drought?

By studying America’s early architecture, you can learn a lot about life in that time period. For instance, in the early 1900s, why did the Victorian Manse fall from favor so fast? Why did the diminutive bungalow gain ground so fast?

What ignited The Bungalow Craze?

The germ theory.

In the late 1800s, about one in five children died before their 18th birthday. Parents were desperate to do anything to protect their children’s health. When it was discovered that “germs” were the culprit and that sanitation was the cure, people couldn’t get out of those big houses fast enough. It’s a fascinating topic, and to learn more about this one slice of American architectural history, click here.

Porches also tell a story about the social fabric in early 20th Century America.

In the mid-1800s to the early 1900s, we loved our front porches, and by design, they were intended to “woo and welcome the weary wanderer.”

Men, women and children passed many happy hours on the oversized front porch, and it was an open invitation for folks to drop by a “set a spell” (as we say in the south).

In pre-air conditioning days, the front porch also provided a welcome respite from the summer heat.

Last but not least, there were the salutary effects of fresh air. Primitive heating systems (usually fired by coal) had no filtration, and were probably partly to blame for the fact that so many children suffered from pulmonary diseases.

And there was a body of belief that fresh air was a cure for so many diseases. Being “cooped up” in an unevenly heated, often drafty old house was a recipe for disease, according to the prevailing thought of the day. In the early 1900s, a daily dose of fresh air was akin to today’s fascination with vitamins and herbal remedies.  (In the 1920s, “sleeping porches” became the rage for this very reason.)

And we were a society of walkers. Most communities were full of walkers, on their daily rounds. Without modern refrigeration, excursions to the butcher, the grocer, the baker and the general store were daily events.

And if you passed by The Thornton Home on Thornrose Avenue and saw Rose sitting in her wicker swing on the front porch, it was de rigueur to walk up to (but not on) the front steps and say hello. If Rosemary was in a fittin’ mood, she’d invite you to “set down for a bit and rest a spell.”

Front porches were a significant piece of our social construct in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

When houses got smaller, so did the front porch. By the 1910s, they were significantly downsized. And by 1920, a funny thing happened on the way to the wicker swing. The porch got moved to the side of the house. We still wanted to be part of the community, but we also wanted our privacy, and some alone time with our loved ones.

And in the 1950s, the porch moved again - to the back of the house. After making the commute back home from the foundry or the mill or the Skippy Peanut Butter Plant, we wanted to relax and put our feet up and enjoy our own little oasis in the back yard, away from the madding world. If someone wanted to drop by, they’d darn well better call first, and if they just showed up at the door, we could ignore them, and remain safely ensconced (and hidden) on the back of the house.

As I said, it’s a fascinating thumbnail sketch of American society.

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Aunties home

My great Aunt (Addie Hoyt) lived in this classic Victorian home, which was extensively remodeled (completely rebuilt) in 1895. Note the massive front porch, replete with three hammocks hanging from the porch posts. This photo as taken about 1899 or 1900.

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close up

Here's a close-up of those three hammocks. Very inviting!

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auntie poker

Front porches were very inviting - by design - and also became kind of an "outdoor den" and social center. Here is Addie (facing the camera) playing poker with an unidentified woman friend on the front porch of her home. She captioned this photo, "We have a real kitty for the kitty!"

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contemporary shows off porch

A contemporary view of Addie's home (2012). This photo really shows off those amazing porches. The second floor porches facing the street were sometimes known as "Parade Porches." This house has two second-floor porches. BTW, this house is now a famous Wisconsin landmark, and it's also a B&B. It's known as the Fargo Mansion Inn. Look below for a link to the site.

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1920sw

In 1957, my parents moved into this house at 515 Nansemond Street (Waterview) in Portsmouth, Virginia. It was built in 1924, and you can see the open porch is now on the side of the house. By the early 1920s, porches had migrated to the side, giving the homeowner a little privacy.

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side porch

My parents loved this house, and they captured a picture that really showcases the idea of the "private oasis" and the side porch. This house was in the suburbs (of the time), and not many people were likely to be walking down the street (compared to downtown districts), and yet we still wanted a bit of privacy from the world. Between the long awnings and the tall shrubs, it's hard to see much of anything on that porch, and that was probably by design.

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house house

Close-up of the side porch. In the late1950s, my mother stepped out to her beloved side porch one summer evening and saw a bat hanging upside down in the corner. The next week, a contractor was at the house, screening in Mother's porch. She dearly loved that screened-in porch and spent many happy hours there, looking out at the side yard.

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front porch shelter rain

By 1925, front porches were a place to stand for a moment, sheltered from the elements, while you dug out your house keys. Or in this case, pose for an Easter photo (1957). My brother Tommy stands on the left, with Rickey on the right.

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house house

By the 1950s, porches had migrated to the back of the house. After a hard day at the office, we wanted our privacy and we didn't want to share our quiet time with strollers meandering down the street. There were new social rules. Visitors were by invitation only, and if someone decided to drop by (without calling ahead), we could hide safely in the back of the house. This house (my house) was built in 1962. The porch on the back is invisible from neighbors on either side. When built, this was a screened-in porch with a cement floor. In 1979, the windows were installed, and the 12x14' room became a sunporch. We purchased the home in 2012, and did a few more improvements to the room (some repairs and the installation wall-to-wall carpet). This is now the place where we spend 95% of our time.

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house house

Even before proper porches, people tended to congregate in the front of the "old home place." This is a soddie ("the first house") in Dighton, Kansas. It was made of sod - literally.

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To learn more about Addie, click here.

To stay at Addie’s home, click here.

To read more about Rose’s much-loved mid-century brick ranch, click here.

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Cooking - Off the Grid!

November 24th, 2012 Sears Homes 3 comments

As has become our annual tradition, hubby cooked our 18-pound turkey on his Weber Charcoal Grill. It was one of the most delicious birds I’ve ever enjoyed. The best part was that it was cooked 100% “off the grid.”

The charcoal is a no-brainer. Lots of people know how to use charcoal to cook their meat.

But the secret of a well-cooked bird  is the rotisserie attachment which spins the meat at a slow speed. This year, the small but powerful rotisserie motor was powered  by our new “Solar System,” three 15-watt solar panels which we recently installed at The Ringer Ranch.

These three photovoltaic panels convert the sun’s rays into electricity, which is stored in a 12-volt deep-cycle marine battery. The inverter (shown below) converts the 12-volt system into 120 volts, suitable for household use.

To learn more about how we installed these solar panels, click here.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

Hubby proudly points out his delicious turkey spinning on the grill.

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Look

Our three 15-watt solar panels are on top of the shed roof.

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The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed.

The electrical items (inverter, solar controller and battery) are inside the shed. Notice the orange extension cord coming out of the inverter? That is powering the rotisserie.

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The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power.

The most amazing part is that the solar panels were charging the battery *faster* than the rotisserie motor was drawing off power. And this was at 8:00 am.

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Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

Safety first. Hubby uses the five-gallon bucket to keep the cords out of the wet dew.

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It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

It was indeed a most splendiferous bird!

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Want a “solar system” of your own? We did it for $351 (total cost). To buy your own, click here.

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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To read about a very happy Thanksgiving in 1918, click here.

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A Very Presidential House: The Garfield

November 5th, 2012 Sears Homes 1 comment

Okay boys and girls: What was the remarkable fact of James A. Garfield’s presidency?

Here’s some nice music to get you in the mood for answering questions.

Give up?

Hmmm.

James Abram Garfield became our 20th president on March 4, 1881 and was shot by an assassin on July 2, 1881. He died from his wounds on September 19, 1881. Only one president (William Henry Harrison) had a shorter term as president.

Garfield’s assassin, Charles Guiteau, was a special kind of crazy.

Guiteau’s murder weapon was a .442 Webly caliber British Bulldog revolver, purchased with $15 he’d borrowed from an acquaintance. The large caliber gun was offered with wooden or ivory grips. Giteau chose ivory, because he thought that would look nicer on display in a glass case in a museum.

At Guiteau’s trial, an expert, Dr. Spitzka, testified that Giteau was quite insane.

“Guiteau is not only now insane, but he was never anything else,” Spitzka testified.

He also said that Guiteau was a “moral monstrosity,” and “a morbid egotist, who misinterpreted and overly personalized the real events of life.”

Guiteau was enraged by this “crazy talk.” He believed that he’d ascend to the presidency after Garfield’s death.

Repeatedly ignoring his lawyers’ pleas to keep his mouth shut, Guiteau argued to the judge that it was the “the doctors that killed Garfield. I just shot him.”

There was a wisp of truth in that statement. In all the probing and poking for one of the bullets that had lodged in Garfield’s abdomen, the doctors introduced all manner of germs which in turn caused infections.

President Garfield died two months shy of his 50th birthday. The only other American president to die so young in office was President Kennedy.

To learn more about Giteau, click here.

To see pretty pictures of the Sears Garfield, scroll down.

Garfield

The Garfield was a two-family house (1928 catalog).

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Garfield also

Pretty distinctive looking with that wide porch and those sturdy columns. Note the unusual window arrangement down the side.

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Garfield

"A pleasing exterior and modern interior..."

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Garfield

The Garfield was an upstairs/downstairs duplex.

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Garfield

The hallways on the far right led to the second floor apartment.

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Garfifeld

This is the only Garfield I've ever seen, and it's in Janesville, WI.

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Janesville

Another view of the Garfield in Janesville.

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Janesville

Side by side, they're a sweet match!

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To learn more about Sears Homes, click here.

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On Behalf of a Grateful Nation…

June 20th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

The piece below was written June 20, 2011 (Monday).

Today was the day of my father’s memorial service. And it was also the day that I delivered my first eulogy. Thanks to a lot of kind souls and a lot of help, it turned out to be a beautiful service and was well attended. More than 60 people showed up to pay their respects to Thomas Hoyt Fuller.

The service was opened with remarks from retired Methodist Pastor Dabney Walters, with readings from the Old and New Testament, followed by my comments (see below). After I spoke, Pastor Walters offered a closing prayer. At the end of the service, the Honor Guard did their presentation of the Military Honors, an honor earned by my father’s years of service in World War II.

A sombre and soft version of taps wafted from the back of the room as the two soldiers - in their Army Dress Uniform - walked toward the front of the chapel with the flag, stood ramrod straight before us, gently unfurled the flag, and then refolded it. After it was folded into a triangle, one of the soldiers turned to me, and then slowly and methodically knelt directly in front of me. Looking directly into my eyes, he spoke softly and respectfully and said,

On behalf of the people of a grateful nation, may I present this flag as a token of appreciation for the honorable and faithful service your loved one rendered this nation.

Heretofore, I’d maintained my composure and hadn’t shed a tear, but when that young gentleman presented me with that flag, and spoke those words with such conviction and tenderness, I felt the tears come to my eyes. And everyone behind me and beside me was doing a whole lot of sniffling. It was a beautiful service, and it was a day I’ll always remember.

The eulogy I delivered today at my father’s memorial service follows the photos (below).

My father in January 1943.

My father in January 1943.

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The folded flag I was presented today (Monday, 6.20.2011) at my father's memorial service.

The Eulogy

You may have noticed a statement in the obituary that said my father was moved into assisted living under “strong, strident and consistent protest.”

That’s an understatement.

But it doesn’t begin to describe how he felt when I took away his driving privileges.

Sometime in his late 80s, he became firmly convinced that four-way stop signs were an egregious violation of his constitutional rights and he’d roll right through those stop signs, boldly declaring, “I’m a veteran of WW2, and these stop signs violate those very rights I fought to protect!”

Frequently, he’d get pulled over by local law enforcement, but he told me one day that he’d never been ticketed, because he knew the magic words to say at such a time.

“I start shaking real bad when they ask me for my license,” he explained with a wry smile. “And then I tell them that I’ve already had three heart attacks, and that I’m feeling ill, and that I have to get home immediately so I can take my nitroglycerin tablets.

“They always put away their ticket book and tell me to get home and to be more careful next time.

“It never fails.”

In 2006, he called me and said that he’d had a little car trouble on I-264.

“I’m near the Rosemont Road exit,” he explained. I’m pulled over on the shoulder of the road, and I’ll wait for you here.”

Talking to him as I drove, I said, “Where exactly are you?”

“Oh, I’m easy to find,” he told me. “Just look for the fire trucks. They still have their lights flashing.”

“Fire trucks?” I said with my voice rising.

“Well, they put out the fire, but there’s still a lot of smoke rising from the car. You’ll be able to see me from miles away.”

When I got there, I found him - dressed in one of his fine suits - and standing next to a still-smoldering car. His engine had overheated and literally caught fire.

He got into my car and we got the Caddy taken care of. Heading back to the interstate, he said, “Listen, I was on my way to a dinner date with Cathy Creekmore. I need a ride out to her house and she’d love to meet you.”

I declined the date, and took him home.

After several more months of drama, which included the revocation of his driver’s license and disabling his cars, and removing the license plates from his vehicles and burying them under his azalea bushes in the front yard, and having two cops and one commonwealth’s attorney visit him in person and threaten him with arrest and criminal prosecution, he finally stopped driving, but it was under the most strong, strident and consistent protest.

In 2008, several weeks after he’d stopped driving, I dropped in on him one Sunday morning.

Walking up the front steps to his house, I saw the morning paper still resting on the porch stoop, and I felt a wave of panic.

He was an early riser and usually, he’d have read half the paper by now. Something must have happened to him.

I used my key and entered his spacious brick ranch, yelling his name repeatedly. No response. I moved through his house slowly and deliberately, gently pushing open each door.

As I entered the rooms one by one, I took a deep breath and steeled myself for whatever awaited on the other side, but he was nowhere be found. I left a note on his favorite table and went on to church.

He called me later that day to report that he’d caught an early ride to his church. He told me it was Senior Pancake Breakfast Day at church.

“I’m glad to hear from you,” I told him. “When I saw that newspaper on the front porch, I thought that maybe you’d…”

Died, was what I intended to say, but that sounded so cold and hard. In those fast few milliseconds when the brain scrambles to fill in any gaps in conversation, my alternate for “died” turned out to be a little wordy.

“I thought that maybe you’d…gone on to be with your parents.”

Immediately he replied, with the anger rising in his voice, “How am I going to get there? You took away my car!”

It was hard to know how to respond to that, so I did what I always do when the old man left me flummoxed. I changed the topic and asked what a Senior Pancake tastes like.

He answered by saying that he’d sat next to a beautiful woman at the breakfast and that even though she was 95 years old, she didn’t look a day over 75.

“A real babe?” I asked.

“The pancakes were excellent,” he replied. “And that reminds me, I need a ride to the liquor store soon. I’m almost out of booze.”

That’s Tom Fuller.

He was famous for documenting everything, and he’d take copious notes and then file them safely away. When I cleaned out the house on Briarwood, I found notebook after notebook on every topic imaginable.

The most interesting documentation was a small tablet I found in the living room. It was his “Roach Log.”

He started documenting the physical well-being of the roaches he found in his house, and their specific physiological reactions to being sprayed with toxic chemicals. Each entry was marked with a time and a date.

Knowing that I’d found the mother-lode of documentation, I immediately took a picture of the log and forwarded it to my children. They loved it.

One such entry read, “Unusually large roach found behind sofa. Sprayed at 8:32 pm, and adverse reaction was immediate. Re-checked at 9:15 pm. Legs still wiggling, albeit weakly.”

After he was moved into assisted living, my husband started taking bets on the odds that my father would be evicted from the beautiful facility within 30 days. Problem was, no one would take a bet on him NOT being evicted.

The manager of Province Place called regularly, and she was an angel. Just an angel.

The most interesting incident can best be described as “Grand Theft Rascal.”

Seems my father had walked to the Kroger behind the facility, and “borrowed” one of their electric scooters, and drove it back to Province Place, and parked it in a handicapped spot and then went inside the facility, and asked one of the female residents out on a date, explaining that “now he finally had wheels again.”

The last few years of his life were quite an adventure.

My happiest memory of Tom Fuller comes from my childhood.

When I was about 12 years old, I returned home from a school trip to Washington DC late at night. The chartered bus rolled up to our junior high about 1:00 in the morning and we all scurried off the bus and ran off to find our waiting parents. My father was waiting for me in his recently purchased car, a 1967 Buick Electra 225. It was 1971, but that was the newest used car he’d ever owned and he loved it. It had a 430 cubic inch engine and a four-barrel carburetor.

He told every one who’d listen that it was a one-owner car, and had been owned by a funeral home, so it had never been driven over 25 miles per hour. It was, in his words, a real cream puff.

My father and I were driving down High Street in the wee hours, headed west to our home in Waterview and the streets were deserted. I loved riding in the car with my father and I was so happy that he finally had a nice car. We spent many happy hours riding around in that car and talking, just father and daughter.

That powerful V-8 just purred as we rolled down the quiet streets. Relishing this quiet time with my beloved father, I turned to him and said those three simple words that every father longs to hear.

“Dad, goose it.”

He looked at me and smiled.

“Just this once,” I pleaded. “Let’s see what that V-8 will do. No one’s around for miles. Please Dad?”

He looked at the street for a moment, looked back at me and smiled.

“Hold on,” he said with a lilt in his voice.

And then he floored it.

You could almost hear that powerful engine whisper a quiet “thank you” in that millisecond before it roared to life. As the four-barrel carb drank in great quantities of fuel, those 360 powerful horses came alive. The torque was so powerful the car lunged a bit to the left as we took off. We hit 75 mph in the blink of an eye. That was one of the most delightful memories of my life.

My father eased his foot off the gas, hit the brake and we went back to 35 mph. Felt like we were standing still.

Next week, he took the car in for repairs. Turns out, that powerful torqueing and twisting had busted a motor mount which was an expensive repair. He told me about it later that week adding, “We won’t be doing that again!”

When I was 14, he left home one night, and for the next 30 years, by his choice, he was mostly absent from my life.

Thanks to the grace of God, at the very end of his life, I was able to be there for him, talk to him, comfort him, and kiss him on the forehead and tell him sincerely, “I love you Dad, and I always have loved you, and I always will love you.”

Sunday night, five days before he passed, he sat on the edge of his bed and made three simple statements, and they came from the depths of his soul.

He said, “Mother’s been gone a long time, hasn’t she?”

I asked, “Do you mean, Betty, my mother, or your mother?”

He said, “Betty.”

I said, “Yes, it’s been 10 years.”

He said, “She was the mother of my four children.”

I said, “Yes, that’s right.”

He said, “My four children turned out very well, didn’t they?”

I said, “Yes, your four children turned out well.”

I was comforted to know that at the end, my brothers and I were very much on his mind. It was like the pain-filled distance of those 30 years had closed a bit.

On Tuesday, his last good day, he told me that his parents had come to talk to him. He said they had a long talk, and a good talk. He also said that Betty had sat with him for a time, and they’d had a nice conversation.

He finally was at peace and was ready to go.

He passed on early Friday morning, and I was with him.

He came into this world surrounded by love, and 92 years later he stepped out of this world, again surrounded and embraced by love.

It was a good ending.

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“Where’s My Little Shoe?”

June 15th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

Those last two weeks, when I knew that my father was getting close to the end, I’d visit him every morning and every evening. He was sleeping 22+ hours a day at this point, only awakening for a few minutes when someone was speaking to him.

In the morning, I’d arrive early and sit with him and talk to him for a few minutes. I’d put my arm around his shoulder and tell him that everything was going to be okay. He was a little agitated at times, and worried about so many things. I told him that I was taking care of everything, and that there was nothing he needed to worry about.

He’d frequently tell me, “I don’t know what I’d do without you and Wayne.”

In the evenings, I’d arrive around 7 pm and sit by the bed and turn on a night light and fix his blankets and turn up the heat (per his request).  Our evening ritual could best be described as me “tucking him into bed.” Tuesday evening, four days before he passed on, I visited him and he was very worried.

The first words out of his mouth were, “Where’s my little shoe?”

I knew exactly what he was talking about. About three months earlier, he’d sent me to the store to get him a tape dispenser. At Office Depot, I was looking for a boring old beige dispenser when my eyes lighted upon a bright red high-heel shoe tape dispenser. The moment I showed it to him, his eyes lit up and he laughed out loud.

“Oh that’s great!” he exclaimed. “I like that.”

For the rest of his days, he kept it right beside him. And when the nurses came into his room to clean up and put things away, he’d always dig out that little red shoe and put it back on his favorite end table, beside his favorite chair.

At the end, he was bedridden and it was Tuesday night that he asked about his “little shoe.”

“Dad,” I told him, “it’s in a small box under the end table where the nurse put it. I can see it right now. Do you want me to put it on your dresser so you can see it?”

“No,” he replied. “As long as I know where it is.”

Throughout Wednesday, I stayed with him, leaving at 6:30 pm when a freshly hired private duty nurse came in to sit with him. It was not a good day for him. Thursday, I was with him throughout the day. He was more comfortable and happy, but no longer in his right mind. He lost consciousness Thursday evening and passed Friday morning at 2:25 am.

Monday night, as I was cleaning out his apartment, I happened upon that little red shoe and tears filled my eyes.

Even though I have plenty of tape dispensers, I couldn’t bear to put his “little shoe” in the give-away pile. I dropped it into a box and brought it home with me. And I’m not even sure why.

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The little red shoe.

My father as seen in 1972. When I think of my father, this is how I remember him.

When I think of "my father," this is how I remember him. (photo taken in 1972)

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Rediscovering Innocence

June 12th, 2011 Sears Homes No comments

June 10th (Friday) at 2:25 am, my father passed on. He was three days shy of his 92nd birthday. I was with him those last few days, and thanks be to God, it was a peaceful ending. The blog below was written in October 2010, soon after he was moved into assisted living. Today, I’m so grateful that I was enabled to glimpse his inherent, God-given innocence. Because of that, I was able to comfort him at the end, and tell him that I loved him, and that I forgave him, and that he could go in peace. Two days before he passed, he told me that his parents had come to talk with him, and prepare him for his new life. I found that immensely comforting.

I’ve made a few poor choices in this life, but I’m thankful to see that now - in retrospect - I can lay my head on my pillow at night with no regrets as to the way I handled my father’s last years, weeks, and even days.

To God be the glory.

In June 2010, my 91-year-old father moved into assisted living. It’s been a flurry of activity, closing up his house, moving him to a new place, getting things settled, and dealing with the 101 details of his life. As his POA, the details seem to be endless.

Making all this ever more difficult is the fact that my father made many poor choices in life, such as walking out on his family in 1974. Suffice it to say, “Forgiving Our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves” was one of the most important books I ever read.

In 2001, after my father’s second wife died, my father reentered my life bit by bit. He was 82 years old.

Now he’s 91, and old and frail and needs a lot of help on a lot of fronts. Sometimes, despite my daily prayers and best efforts and dogged determination, there are days when I still feel angry with him.

When we were cleaning out his house, we found a baby book - his baby book - from 1919. I’d expected to find a few loose photos stuck within its brittled pages. Instead, I found an incredibly detailed record of a little boy’s life from June 1919 to sometime in 1926. The “baby book” was filled with vintage photos and detailed information and stories and even a locket of baby’s hair, safely ensconced in a tiny envelope with a delicate blue ribbon.

Looking at the handwritten notes, I saw my father in a new light. More than 90 years ago, he was someone’s beloved baby boy. This cute little baby, smiling back at me from the faded-pages of an antique book, warmed my heart and softened the wrath I’d felt.

I’ve heard it said that the kindest thing we can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to his children. It occurs to me that - in addition to the divine command - perhaps the kindest thing I can do for my paternal grandparents is to be kind to their youngest son, their beloved little boy, Thomas.

Baby Boys in 1919

My father was a twin, born ten minutes after his brother "Junior." Here's their picture from Fall 1919. The caption (written by my grandmother) said, "In their buggy, Junior always reaches out to hold Thomas' little hand."

babies

"Junior" and Thomas at the park. Apparently, Thomas doesn't like the fact that Junior (left) has a toy and Thomas does not. Thomas is so rattled, he's on the verge of falling over.

Another

Thomas (left) and Edgar with their maternal grandparents, the Whitmores.

January 1920

January 1, 1920. Junior is on the left, Thomas on the right.

moew babies

Edward Atkinson Fuller Junior (left) and Thomas Hoyt Fuller (right)

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Not sure who's attending to the babies, but I'd guess it's Mother (Florence).

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A wicker basket built for two!

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A day at the park, July 1920. Edgar is on the left.

Boys

Somewhere in Denver, this photo shows the boys with their grandparents, but I wish I knew more.

babies

Thomas and Junior (front and rear) with their maternal grandparents, the Whitmores. Thomas is ready to get this tub on the road!

dad

Thomas (left) and Edgar about at about two years old.

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Awesome necklace

The Muscle Twins at Santa Monica Beach.

The Muscle Twins at Santa Monica Beach.

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Junior (Ed) on left, Mom (Florence Whitmore Fuller) and Thomas.

Thomas with his horsie

Thomas with his horsie

Being Californians, I guess Mother decided the boys needed private art lessons. I love the little berets on their heads.

Being Californians, I guess Mother decided the boys needed private art lessons. I love the little berets on their heads. This was from 1926, and the teacher is Mrs. Betts.

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Thomas is on the right. Edgar is holding "Stripes" (April 1926).

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Thomas (left) and Edgar (Jr) in first grade in Los Angeles. This was a panoramic class photo, whittled down to the two boys. When I showed this picture to my father, he said they put a band around his head to keep his out-of-control thick hair in place.

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children. He had a tremendous physique and at 6'4" he was a commanding presence. In the late 1930s, he was a founding member of Muscle Beach on the Santa Monica shore. He and his twin brother worked out each morning on the beach. One morning when they appeared, one of the lifeguards yelled out, "Here come the Muscle Twins!" It was a name that stuck, and soon they became widely known as "The Muscle Twins." As friends started to join them for the morning workouts, locals dubbed the area "Muscle Beach."

My father in 2007, at my wedding. He was 87 years old here. Photo is copyright Dave Chance and can not be used without written permission.

My father in 2007, at my wedding. He was 87 years old here. Photo is copyright Dave Chance and can not be used without written permission.

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May God Bless Him and Keep Him

June 10th, 2011 Sears Homes 2 comments

He was not always in my life, but I always loved him just as any little girl loves her father. May he rest in peace.

Thomas H. Fuller, Sr., of Portsmouth, Virginia, passed on June 10, 2011 at the age of 91. He had suffered a stroke in June 2010, and moved from his residence to an assisted living facility, under strong, strident and consistent protest.

Mr. Fuller was born in Denver, Colorado on June 13, 1919, to Edgar A. and Florence W. Fuller.  At the age of four, he and his twin brother Edgar A. Fuller, Jr., moved with their parents to Santa Monica, California, where they grew up.  Mr. Fuller was a graduate of UCLA, and a founding member of Muscle Beach on the Santa Monica shore. He and his twin brother worked out each morning on the beach and soon became known as “The Muscle Twins,” and as friends started to join them for their morning workouts, local residents dubbed the area “Muscle Beach.”

Mr. Fuller enlisted in the United States Army after the attack on Pearl Harbor, and was a combat soldier in the European theater.   As a member of General Patton’s Third Army, he was in a number of battles now distinguished in history.   One of his favorite memories was entering Paris in his combat fatigues,  having left the battlefield only hours before making a trip into the liberated City of Lights.

Returning stateside, he married Betty Mae Brown, a Navy Lieutenant, of San Francisco, Ca.  He worked for Skippy Peanut Butter in Alameda, California, and in 1953 moved his family to Portsmouth, Virginia to manage the Skippy plant located at Confederate and High Streets.  He was active in the Portsmouth PTA, Chamber of Commerce, Boy Scouts, and several other civic organizations.

He is predeceased by his wife of 28 years, Betty Brown Fuller. Survivors include their four children, Mrs. Rosemary Fuller Ringer (Wayne), of Norfolk, VA, Dr. Thomas H. Fuller, Jr. (Sue), of Elsah, IL, Mr. Richard B. Fuller (Margie) of Pickens, SC., and Dr. Edward E. Fuller, Sr. (Kathy), of Raleigh, North Carolina. He is also survived by his twin brother, Edgar A. Fuller, Jr., of Rolling Hill Estates, CA.

Tom Fuller is also survived by ten grandchildren and six great grandchildren.

A memorial service is scheduled for Monday, June 20th at 11:00 at Monumental Methodist Church in Portsmouth. In lieu of flowers, memorial donations can be made to the Portsmouth Humane Society, 2704 Frederick Blvd, Portsmouth, VA 23704.

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad

Left to right is Rose (me), Dad, Rick, Tommy and Eddie at Hoover Dam (1966).

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My father (right) with his father, in Santa Monica.

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Eddie (far left), Rick, Dad, Rose, Dolly, and Mom.

My father and my brothers at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

My father and my brothers (Rick and Ed) at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

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Dad, Part II

June 4th, 2011 Sears Homes 3 comments

One year ago, we moved my elderly father (almost 92 now) into an assisted living facility here in Portsmouth. In the last couple weeks, he’s started slowing down quite a bit and his needs have increased quite a bit. At least once a day, I drop by and visit to make sure everything’s okay. I don’t know how full-time caregivers do it. I really don’t. Just dancing on the fringes of caregiving takes a whole heapin’ helping of my emotional energy.

These days, the time I’d normally spend writing new blogs is devoted to helping him as he writes the last pages in the last chapter of his earthly life.

When I was a little girl growing up in Waterview (Portsmouth), my father would walk around our neighborhood every evening after dinner. He called it his “evening constitutional.” He never walked out that front door without me running after him yelling, “Daddy, wait for me!”

I was his shadow, following him wherever he went. I adored my father. I thought he was the smartest, handsomest, most wonderful person on earth.

And then when I was 14, he walked out the door one night without me and didn’t come back. It was 30 years before I would be a regular part of his life again. And now, as his life draws to a close, the little girl in me still feels a little trepidation about saying good-bye for another 30 years.

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad

Left to right is Rose (me), Dad, Rick, Tommy and Eddie. I'm not sure where we're at here, but this photo was taken during our trip to California in 1966.

Dad

My father (right) with his father, in Santa Monica.

Dad

Eddie (far left), Rick, Dad, Rose, Dolly, and Mom.

My father and my brothers at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

My father and my brothers (Rick and Ed) at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

To read more about my father, click here.

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Rediscovering Innocence

October 11th, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

On June 10, 2011, my 91-year-old father passed on. Almost to the day - one year prior - we’d moved him into an assisted living facility. This blog (below) was written soon after that event.

In June 2010, my 91-year-old father moved into assisted living. It’s been a flurry of activity, closing up his house, moving him to a new place, getting things settled, and dealing with the 101 details of his life. As his POA, the details seem to be endless.

Making all this ever more difficult is the fact that my father made many poor choices in life, such as walking out on my mother and me in 1974. I could go on, but I won’t. Suffice it to say, Forgiving our Parents, Forgiving Ourselves was one of the best books I ever read. I highly recommend it.

In 2001, after my father’s second wife died, my father reentered my life bit by bit. He was 82 years old.

Now he’s 91, and old and frail and needs a lot of help on a lot of fronts. Sometimes, despite my daily prayers and best efforts and dogged determination, there are days when I still feel angry with him.

When we were cleaning out his house, we found a baby book - his baby book - from 1919.  I’d expected to find a few loose photos stuck within its brittled pages. Instead, I found an incredibly detailed record of a little boy’s life from June  1919 to sometime in 1926.  The “baby book” was filled with vintage photos and detailed information and stories and even a locket of baby’s hair, safely ensconced in a tiny envelope with a delicate blue ribbon.

Looking at the handwritten notes, I saw my father in a new light. More than 90 years ago, he was someone’s beloved baby boy. This cute little baby, smiling back at me from the faded-pages of an antique book, warmed my heart and softened the wrath I’d felt.

I’ve heard it said that the kindest thing we can do for our heavenly Father is to be kind to his children. It occurs to me that - in addition to the divine command - perhaps the kindest thing I can do for my paternal grandparents is to be kind to their youngest son, their beloved little boy, Thomas.

Baby Boys in 1919

My father was a twin, born ten minutes after his brother "Junior." Here's their picture from Fall 1919. The caption (written by my grandmother) said, "In their buggy, Junior always reaches out to hold Thomas' little hand."

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"Junior" and Thomas at the park. Apparently, Thomas doesn't like the fact that Junior (left) has a toy and Thomas does not. Thomas is so rattled, he's on the verge of falling over.

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Thomas and Junior (front and rear) with their maternal grandparents, the Whitmores.

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Edward Atkinson Fuller Junior (left) and Thomas Hoyt Fuller (right)

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A wicker basket built for two!

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Awesome necklace

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Junior (Ed) on left, Mom (Florence Whitmore Fuller) and Thomas.

Thomas with his horsie

Thomas with his horsie

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.

My father in the early 1950s with two of his four children.

Dad

August 31st, 2010 Sears Homes No comments

Despite my personal commitment to post something at this blog each day, I’ve fallen short. In June, we moved my elderly father (91 and counting), into an assisted living facility here in Portsmouth. I’d hoped that ONCE he got into assisted living, my troubles would cease. I was wrong. Nearly every day, there’s something to be done, or someone to be called, or paperwork to tend to. It’s a lot to deal with.

In 1974, my father left my life for several decades. I didn’t re-enter his life in any significant way until 2000, when his second wife passed on. When I think of my father, I think of him as I remember him as he looked in the late 60s and early 70s. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

Dad with Tommy and Rickey, mid-1950s

My father and my brothers at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.

My father and my brothers (Rick and Ed) at the Fleishhacker Zoo in San Francisco, about 1966.