Barbara Sommer and Deanne Sommer

Recorded June 20, 2010 Archived June 24, 2010 45:52 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: SCK002078


Life experiences of 77-year-old mother, wife and woman.


  • Barbara Sommer
  • Deanne Sommer

Venue / Recording Kit


StoryCorps uses Google Cloud Speech-to-Text and Natural Language API to provide machine-generated transcripts. Transcripts have not been checked for accuracy and may contain errors. Learn more about our FAQs through our Help Center or do not hesitate to get in touch with us if you have any questions.

00:05 Hi, my name is Diane and I'm 48 years old today is June 20th night 2010 and we're here in our home. I might home in outside of Decatur, Illinois.

00:24 And I'm here with my mom. Her name is Barbara.

00:29 Go ahead mom. Say your name. My name is Barbara Ann summer.

00:35 My age, I was born April 5th 1933.

00:42 Okay.

00:45 Let's start with the family heritage. What is your ethnic background? I'm a mixture of English and Swift.

00:57 Okay, where is your mother's family from?

01:02 From Basel Switzerland area and your dad family from England and Wales.

01:11 Have you ever been there?

01:14 No.

01:16 But you were in Switzerland. Yes, I was.

01:20 What was that like beautiful?

01:24 What traditions do you think I've been passed down in your family?

01:30 The usual Germanic when's Christmas and Easter? Of course, I'm probably

01:42 A wasp white Anglo-Saxon Anglo-Saxon president

01:51 Who are your favorite relatives? Did you have any?

02:00 Well, I'll probably.

02:06 My custom Stanley. I was very very close to his parents, but I don't know what man I loved everybody. I thought you liked. I thought you used to talk about your grandmother a lot.

02:22 King

02:24 My grandma my grandma king of with a Collins.

02:31 Her father was born in Doylestown, Ohio. He died before she was born.

02:39 And her mother was required to raise the poor children in a very hard area and took in washing and did other people's clothes to raise her family.

02:52 Do you have any family stories or songs or jokes or anyting that you can think of passed down?

03:02 Well on the English side my grandpa and grandma Hudson. He thought he was English and she was wealth and he always made it it like it was different, but I don't think he really was because when I looked up Hadley hills on the English map, I think it's in Wales.

03:22 Okay. Well, let's talk about your childhood. Did you like school when you were a kid? Oh, yeah. I enjoyed School very much kind of student. Where you

03:37 I got to be in obedience for talking too much.

03:42 Any other subjects that you liked?

03:48 School subjects. I really thought I was going to be a gym teacher then I thought I was going to be a missionary and then I met my husband Herb and was a house when you were in school. What did you do for fun?

04:06 We play Kick the Can and the evenings till it got dark and then I had to go in before the other kids cuz my mother was really tough about that and have to hear the other kids still play on. Okay, how do you think your classmates remember you?

04:25 I'll probably as a bookworm type of person. Are you still friends with anyone from that time of your life, Yes. I have lots of friends from that time of my life. Were you having up? Did you have a reunions this year or the community? I grew up in Orville itself is having a high school reunions type meeting and taking an entire weekend with the help of the JM smucker company, which would say I held my first job with your stimming strawberries. We'll get to that way her mom. What what were your best memory? What are your best memories of grade school or High School?

05:11 Oh.

05:15 Probably the sports I participated in in high school level but if a kid in grade school, we played a game called boys after girls and your taste around the playground then we'll be safe if we made it down to the fence.

05:32 Do you have any other favorite stories from school or was there any teacher that made an impact on you?

05:40 Oh my 4th grade teacher.

05:44 You remember her name his or her name was Miss Geiger, and I can't remember when she married. Okay, what was it about her that you liked? She was a wonderful teacher. She taught reading well want to use sound as a basis and I feel like I've always been able to read and spell more than most better than most people just because of her. Okay, you talked about meeting Dad when you were young. How old were you when you met him 14. I actually had met his sister first in the summer when they moved into town from a farm.

06:25 And I will I just thought the world of her and so when I met her brother, it was kind of like a little while.

06:32 What did you think about him when he first time decides? Well, well did he was just

06:40 Really good, looking and energetic and love to swim and had a motorcycle.

06:49 I was only 14 and he was 19. So naturally that made a difference. Okay. Do you remember your first kiss?

06:59 My First Kiss was underwater in the swimming pool was that with Dad or somebody else someone else? Okay. What do you remember your first serious relationship was that with Dad? Yes my first through first and only

07:21 Do you believe in love at first sight?

07:25 In a way because that's what happened but not completely types of

07:36 Relationship

07:40 How did you know that Tom, you know Dad was the one for you?

07:46 Because I didn't want anybody else when we get in an argument or a fight my uncle. So tell me there's other fish in the sea, and I'd say I didn't want any other fish.

07:58 Remember a how he proposed when he proposed marriage? Yes over the telephone. He was a soldier going drafted into the Korean War and he called and asked me to marry him over the phone, but we had already determined that someday we would marry.

08:21 What were the best times you remember having with Dad?

08:31 Raising our children real both love music. We had a lot of intellectual things in common, and he told me he was never born.

08:44 What were some of the most difficult times?

08:50 Well as We Grew Older there were several problems came up.

08:57 Like what?

09:00 Well alcohol was one of them and the

09:06 And then he had cancer in his later years and that was a rough one too. So you're saying he had the alcoholism the problem with alcohol? Yes, right. Did you ever think of getting divorced? I would threaten my head off, but I never could do it because I said I couldn't see life without him.

09:30 Okay. What advice would you have for young couples?

09:38 Well

09:39 That's very hard.

09:42 Question because I can't really judge for someone else but I would hope that they would understand. I didn't know what alcohol them was or have any understanding of the problem.

09:59 Let's talk about kids. How many children did you have?

10:04 When did you first find out that you were going to become a parent?

10:11 Well, we married young and so when I wasn't expecting by the age of 21, I saw a doctor and he said not to be impatient to wait till I was Twenty-One. I was around Seventeen at the time and while reading 19 and so

10:34 By 21, I was expecting our first daughter.

10:38 How did that make you feel?

10:41 Being pregnant was thrilled to Pieces we both for.

10:46 I had the rabbit test. I was so anxious then rest her what's having no surgery in a rest of us Bill to tell him.

10:59 Could you describe the moment when you first saw your first child?

11:04 Oh, yeah, if they didn't bring her in right away and she was a little bit early. She was supposed to be August and it was July so has quite worried about her and they didn't ring and didn't bring her and I really got upset but I counted everything toes fingers the whole works and saw that she was fine.

11:25 Okay, and is there anything that you can recall about any of your other children when you had them?

11:37 We were all always happy when we had our children. They weren't necessarily planned at such but we really wanted six all all along. I decided that we had five under eight and that was going to have to do so, I made it in just under the wire. I like to say that I usually had to stop when you got the best one. I am the youngest let's talk about some

12:12 Are you as my parent?

12:16 How did you choose my name Deanne? Well herbin worked with a girl at the company where he worked and he just like the name so well in Murray what's his sister's name? And I thought they went very well together.

12:34 Me and yes, they do.

12:38 Do you remember what what kind of baby was I?

12:42 A sweet adorable blue-eyed

12:48 Black haired baby soft and cuddly like every baby. Okay. What about as a young child? What kind of a child did you think I was?

13:03 Well, you were really quite special to me is that we lived her sister Maria and smother lived with us in our home at the time in their own area. So I had lots of help even though you were V and there were quite a few other little ones 864 room too. So I was quite busy, but I just really enjoyed you you remember what were maybe the hardest moments that you had when I was growing up.

13:49 We are you became quite upset over incident junior high level and I was very worried about how to get settled you were being kissed and threatened and void more or less. And I know that that was Janet my art my sister Janet the who is two years older than I am. Yeah. She's the one who had the threat from the bully.

14:19 But what about time when I was a teenager and I started hanging around with older girls. And and I don't remember exactly when I told you that I was a lesbian, but at some point you probably had to think about that. Did you have any thoughts about that?

14:40 Well, I guess I had my head in the singing. I didn't really question your ability to judge for yourself who you needed to be and then when you told us about it.

14:57 I really thought if that's the way it is. That's the way it is and that is the way you were born.

15:05 Yeah, but I can kind of recall.

15:10 You saying that you are disappointed that I wouldn't get to have children and enjoy that kind of a life and you felt really sad for me. Do you still feel that way? No, I don't and I'm sorry. I did feel that way. That's okay. I'm I'm just was just wondering if you you know felt the same way that you didn't you know initially.

15:35 No, not at all. We all have different lives to lead and we do the best we can with the time we have okay.

15:46 If you could do everything over again, would you raise me differently in any way?

15:51 You know, I don't think so. I really don't.

15:56 Okay.

16:04 Oh, I meant to go over your childhood a little bit more. I talked about school. But what about your your siblings when you were growing up? What siblings did you have? I had a brother for years younger and a sister 12 years younger and another sister 15 years younger. So I was the building babysitter and we had quite a good time growing up my brother and I together before Carolyn that he came along and

16:37 Then when they did I was at an age where I could really appreciate having a little one around so there was a photographer. So he took many pictures of Carol and Vivian different one of the cutest Betty tying your shoe cuz she got so bored with what we were trying to get a ready to take the picture. She decided to entertain yourself when you are kid you ever get in trouble with your parents? Oh, yes because I was very mouthy in one time. I assess my grandmother and I never left the house so fast in all my life went back to our house and got spanked with the good old black.

17:20 Yardstick, what was the worst thing was sassing the worst thing that you did?

17:31 Well the worst thing I did that I never told my parents about was when I was babysitting my brother and I was 12 and he was 8 and I got severely annoyed with him started choking him and then paid him said I'd pay him a dime if it didn't tell my parents.

17:49 Did he tell him know he never

17:52 And I never got its time either accuse me the rest of my life.

18:01 I was called the terrible tempers miss being by the way who called you that other your father?

18:09 He was into sports and we'd spent a lot of time at the local park or park because he played baseball.

18:19 Okay, what's your best memory as a child?

18:26 Oh my goodness.

18:32 That's the problem. I can't think of a best memory.

18:38 Then just a good one. Good one would be the Christmas that dad fixed up a used bike because it was for time and pain is our doll up and I had no idea it didn't matter but I had no idea it was she was there anything it was just wonderful to get a but more time was at World War II. Yes it is.

18:57 I'm giving the other memories from that time.

19:01 I didn't have the hardship that I understand a lot of children had in Europe. We had Ray schening but it really didn't bother me a whole lot and I remember mother trading's different stamps like if she wanted better, but somebody else wanted gasoline and then switch stamps somehow or other barter them we could have what you wanted. Who are your best friends when you are a kid?

19:30 Oh a couple of girls from

19:34 Rochester New York move to Oroville and they were so sophisticated when I was in the fourth grade and so pretty and I just really admire them. And so I spend a lot of time playing at their house with them and a little Mennonite girl named Archer Miller that had a big family of brothers and sisters and I practically lived there in my first grade school.

20:00 But as We Grew Older see what's not allowed to do a lot of things that like Girl Scouts and things and so we kind of fell apart. Do you know why she wasn't allowed it had was connected with her realism. Okay, what religion a big part of your childhood? Yes, I think so. I was sent to Sunday school every Sunday and my mother was an only child so she had the advantage of my her parents keeping us every weekend and Tom and I have to

20:34 Play at the house we got to do the most just about anything. We felt like doing reasonably like me tense of the dining room table one.

20:44 So did you get the yellow P-38 Lightning? It's my airplane. Did you did you?

20:53 I stopped going to church at some point. Did you go to church every week up till you are 18 or longer or what will Sunday school mostly I never was a big church of Tim to Rojas to say that then after I married into her mother was very very religious and has helped start the first Christian Missionary Alliance Church in our community, and so

21:19 Was going to their services which were quite different than anything in my own search of the Reformed Church know that Christ event.

21:31 And what was different about it the way I hope the the services were totally different. They had these these Services where you go for a second and call out that you accept Christianity. So unknown to my mother. I got baptized in there 30 never told her okay.

21:55 Immerse that is immersed Ramirez

22:02 Let's go back to working. You know, you mentioned that you worked at smucker company in Orrville, Ohio. How old were you when you got that job? I think.

22:16 And we all sat on long table stemming strawberries such fun. And then I got to pick potatoes in that same time of life and in a big potato grower hologram Cyrus in Smithville, and of course, we got to ride there in the truck and got to pick the potatoes with the girls screaming when they sell mice and it was just too. Do you remember what you got paid for those jobs? I think I got about $0.15 an hour at Smuckers the potatoes. I've totally forgotten.

22:52 What other jobs have you had?

22:55 Well, I went from there to a telephone operator to a shipping clerk at had to get Federal clearance because it was the Farnsworth Electronics in Fort Wayne.

23:11 Then I got became a stay-at-home mom for 30 some years. Then I started working again at Bell and Howell and Wooster, Ohio.

23:24 Okay knock.

23:29 I don't know you were stay at home. Mom for 30 years. I can remember you working at Bell and Howell when I was a teenager.

23:36 Well, I've got to add again.

23:43 Well, that's okay. 221. I did have to work after Suez I had to work briefly after Susie was born. I was pregnant with Jimmy when her graduated from college and became an engineer got his degree and started this first job. And we moved to Corning Glass. He went with Corning Glass in Harrodsburg, Kentucky, which is quite an adventure and I have lovely friends. I still have from there at that point. He was County agent then he became a very well-known professor and work for a ID which was AIDS

24:22 Took the other country setting up markets. This is your friend that you're talking about.

24:30 What time what other places have you lived besides, Ohio?

24:34 Our first apartment was in

24:41 Richmond, Virginia

24:44 Well Service in the service and that was just briefly of Summer and then we work trance then we went to Harrodsburg Kentucky with Corning Glass and then he decided to get a job closer to home and we move back to Orrville, Ohio and you went with BF Goodrich then BFGoodrich transfer him out to Miami Oklahoma with the big truck tires plant and so we were out there when my daughter was born and and it hasn't turned out it made citizen born in Indiana Jim born in Kentucky Mark born in Ohio.

25:23 And so my dad sent me a letter and hopeful and Janet for an in Oklahoma. So my dad sent me a letter saying that I know how many other states there were and then your fifth when was born in Ohio against that kind of broke the time.

25:44 Okay, let's talk of just briefly about religion. I know we've had a lot of conversations about religion lately. Can you tell me what your religious views are you know now?

26:02 Well

26:06 As far as I'm concerned.

26:10 I truly still believe in Jesus and his rules just think that nobody's following them very well.

26:19 Him that we aren't following what he wants us to be as people, okay?

26:28 In what ways do you think people aren't following what he wants us to be?

26:34 Because we're to love each other not kill each other. We aren't even following the Ten Commandments of the Hebrew faith.

26:42 And I just

26:46 Really feel that if we really followed the plan he set down for us. It would be a different world and not at world so divided by friction peso

27:01 So you basically have you believe in a god.

27:05 Well, basically I do do you believe in an afterlife? Yes. What do you think? That would be like?

27:15 I don't know. I'm waiting to find out if you have any ideas what you what are you anticipating?

27:23 I don't know that either.

27:25 I I sometimes feel that maybe we just get what we believe.

27:31 Okay.

27:32 Well, when you I'm sorry, go ahead. Well when when you'd would meet say you could meet God what would you want to say to him or ask him? Is there anything?

27:44 Probably asking for forgiveness for the mistakes I've made in as a human being.

27:51 Are there any questions you'd like to ask him?

27:56 I hadn't thought about it.

28:00 I guess I would just like to thank him for the plan he made when he made nature, okay?

28:12 Okay, let's see.

28:19 Who would you say has had the biggest influence on you and your whole life?

28:27 I didn't say the questions would be easy.

28:33 I suppose my husband Herb.

28:36 Okay, in what ways would you say overall? What's the influence you would say?

28:44 Well, we had a stormy relationship. But basically I considered him a really intelligent person.

28:53 It was wonderful qualities, so

28:58 I enjoyed his companionship and miss him. And so I feel like

29:05 If we could be together again someday, that would truly be wonderful.

29:15 You said that you miss him what happened to him? My husband passed away eight years ago.

29:24 I think it's 9 years ago mom cuz it's going to be 9 years ago.

29:31 If

29:35 Almost 10

29:40 I'm sorry. What was the question again?

29:44 I'm just what happened. You know, what? What did he die of or okay, he's had had lung cancer at 8:55 and then he was able to successfully go through losing a part of his lung and then you had prostate cancer and he battled that and one to a certain extent but didn't General.

30:15 Physical condition deteriorated from having what they called out COPD and emphysema from cigarette smoking his whole life.

30:28 Yes, didn't he? What did he used to say about when he started smoking?

30:36 That he

30:38 He was really young wasn't he like a kid when he first started smoking yet. He had older brothers who was the last boy in the whole field and they had nine children.

30:53 And he smoked basically most of his life most of his life.

31:01 I wanted to ask you a minute or two about.

31:06 When my sister your daughter Janet died, she was just turned 30 and it was 1990.

31:17 Yeah, I can you tell me how how that was to go through for you. It was probably the most painful thing that we ever anticipated going through.

31:30 I'm not faced with other problem similar as I have a son that may be dying, but it was unexpected. She had two little children. It was so painful to know that the doctors couldn't help her with this type of thing. It was so rare and she went downhill and basically was paralyzed and became unable to even breathe and nothing could help and it was just an awful horrible thing to go through and we miss her so much. She was such a part of our lives and I think really that hurt her father never really got over it.

32:10 Yeah, I can remember that.

32:14 Well that the whole family was very different after she was kind of like a igloo for us and the whole family seemed the kind of fly apart and away after she was gone and she was as I recall she was diagnosed with something they called paraganglioma and it was

32:36 Basically tumors that invaded her in a different place. They normally do and hers were on her spine. I think and her at her neck base of her neck. And so the brainstem are at one point she ended up with hundreds of tumors in her brain and then down her spine and which caused the paralysis and she was suffered with that up-and-down roller-coaster. There were times we thought he might you know pull through or they might have gotten it all initially. It was a single tumor.

33:07 So we had a lot of ups and downs. It wasn't a terminal diagnosis at the very beginning. How do you how do you think you survived? I mean, do you remember how how you got through that?

33:22 I really don't know you didn't have any choice just had it was so going to happen and there was nothing you could do about it. So you just had to find a way to

33:34 Get through this feels too good. And I know every parent that loses a child certainly feels the same way no matter what way it is. Yeah. I know and we often hear that said that there's nothing worse than a parent than losing a child. You know, she was Thirty but she was still in your child and her kids were three and four or for almost 4 and 5 for 4 and 5 and 1/2 phone number and I know you spent a ton of time helping to raise her kids. How do you think that that turned out?

34:19 Well, it was just something we had to do. I will never know how it may be changed what the together enough Urban. I would have had I try not to think about it because it couldn't be changed and though I felt obligated to do whatever I could to help the children her husband didn't remarry in all those years till they were grown. So I'm kind of like my daughter Dan and I are both almost like Janet's

34:54 Helper for all this time and the children feel that we are.

35:04 Do you lie?

35:07 What do you think got hurt there? Her kids lives would be like any difference if she had died.

35:14 Well, I really

35:17 I think they would have been.

35:20 What if I can't prove that because we don't know how things would have gone under those circumstances, but I know they sadly missed a mother and things were out of balance in their life. And in a father Real by himself does the best Dino's to do but I just think they need both of us. Okay. What was your relationship like with your kids?

35:51 Like with each of them with what would you how would you describe your relationship with your eldest child? Sue Sue Sue and I have difficulty getting along. I basically think we're too much alike. And so we react to strongly and then it doesn't go. Well. Okay. And what would how would you say your relationship is with the gym or something to my have a warm loving relationship with him. He thinks I talk too much, but then I'm used to that. Okay, and then Mark

36:33 I my son Mark as also has been very good to me and I love him very much, but I'm not pleased with the person he is right now and hope the day out, he'll wake up and realize he's not being the person he could be.

36:53 Can you be a little more specific?

36:57 Well, he seems to have lean to me too much with the radical right and I I just don't think if I don't agree with them in any way so I find myself torn by that change in him. Okay, and what about your relationship with Janet who passed away?

37:21 OC what's just

37:25 So special and so kind and always understood me and then say mom, why are you doing this way, or that way? She just went along with me and thread to keep me on an even keel.

37:38 Kind of seen dolphin to kind of be that kind of mediator or level-headed person. I know if it's a middle child thing or not. But what about your relationship with me?

37:53 My relationship with dating has always been good. I imagine I really didn't spoil her but she thinks of course, but but I did learn I think the first two and I don't think I ever spank mark that I can remember or Janet or did I gave her a spanking?

38:15 Okay. Well, I kind of remember maybe not beneficial over your lap spanking. But I remember getting whacked plenty of times across something my thighs are my even my face will Kaiser me, but but that's how it is when you're a kid.

38:40 Do you have any advice for young people who are parents now?

38:48 We'll just remember to love them.

38:52 And remember their little sometimes since we have so many at once. I don't think I had time to really appreciate the different age levels as much as I would have.

39:06 Okay C

39:12 How has your life been different than you like imagine? That would have been?

39:21 It's been a little harder than I imagined. It would have been my husband. Got you. I went to work. It was says it's a struggle and no.

39:35 But with the help of my children of successfully made.

39:40 Made it. I don't have much to leave them. But my love that's plenty for me.

39:51 How would you like to be remembered someday?

39:58 As a person of a dilettante of a person that tried to think and learn the right thing and do the right thing to every other human being.

40:12 Okay, I'm do you have any you no regrets at all about your life. I mean everybody has some but do you have any really big regrets?

40:23 Well, I suppose I couldn't deny regretting that. I couldn't help my husband in with his alcoholism and became an enabler in many ways.

40:37 Okay, I think that that's you're not the only one that has that experience.

40:47 Is there anything that you've never told me that you'd like me to know?

40:55 Well just for the record not just with you but with the world.

41:01 When I was in the third grade, I was abused by a janitor and I don't know if I ever told you that or not.

41:08 But I didn't really realize it was abused I guess because I was so young and he fondled me in a private area. He got fired for that later on. He was an older man. He was kind and I and I don't know who else has happened to but I never told anybody and just tried to forget about it basically successfully did forget about it because it wasn't a life-threatening or any huge experience and I was scared stiff to tell my parents because I thought my father probably get him a lot but you don't think it had any kind of an adverse impact on your relationships with other people or with your husband or anyting.

41:59 I don't think so. I can't be positive. Maybe I'm a little more wary of.

42:07 Strangers, but he wasn't really a stranger. He was a common person to it that that type of schools in that level in that time.

42:17 And of course, he did get lose his job over that. I just I never told anyone that I had been in the picture. So he there were other people that did tell him that he lost the show everything. Okay. Is there a is there anything about me that you want to know that you've never asked me?

42:42 Not really did and I didn't think that could I saw that question and I thought you don't we talk openly so much about so many different aspects of Our Lives that we don't tend to keep secrets by a lot of people think we share too much information. So too easily, so I'm not surprised that you didn't have any questions for me I guess.

43:10 I wanted to just ask a couple things. Is there one and one in your life have you? Is there a time that you felt really really alone?

43:22 Well, I probably feel the most alone that.

43:26 Because I do live by myself and I do miss my husband. I have a dog thank goodness, and no.

43:35 And I have lots of friends but there's just time for when you're sitting in your apartment by yourself watching TV knowing you should probably be doing something more meaningful, but yet not wanting to date you just feel lonely.

43:53 And I also kind of wanted to know.

43:58 Do you feel or I mean, are you afraid of dying have you thought about that? I'm not I'm not afraid of dying that I know of. I'm afraid of suffering in a rest home not knowing who I am and having to be a

44:16 Log, laying there waiting to die. You'd rather avoid that if possible will most anybody would I guess you believe in living wills.

44:28 How you know the documents you sign to not be resuscitated that kind of thing. Definitely. Definitely I have already taken care of all that. I hold of my sister and for me, I will need a power of attorney to make it all happened. Even though I signed the paper right you need a durable power of attorney, I believe.

44:51 Etsy

44:54 I sat at the end with this. What what would you say is the proudest moment of your life that you felt proud of yourself?

45:09 I'm just really proud of the fact that my children are educated and they have educated their children.

45:19 I think that's something that you had a big part of.

45:23 I still am not in all of us at the value of education and I think that you should be proud of that. Okay. Is there anything else you'd like to say before we end?

45:35 Oh gosh.

45:38 Well, the United States is a Melting Pot for a good reason and I hope it continues to be a Melting Pot. Okay. Thanks, Mom. Love you. Love you, too.