- Written by Jeff Summers Jeff Summers
Velene J. Hess Summers was born on April 22, 1916. She was the fifth child out of eight born to Jesse Wells and Kate Ellen Monson Hess. They made their home in Goshen Idaho where great-grandpa Hess farmed. As a child, Grandma Summers had many chores around the house, She milked cows, did house work, and any other task she was asked to do. Grandma was a hard worker and never complained about work that had to be done. Her brothers and sisters all commented on what a hard worker she was and she always seemed to get the dirty jobs and never complained. Grandma once said that when it came time to clean the chicken coop, her sister Norma would stick her finger down her throat and make herself throw-up saying the smell of the chickens made her sick. Great grandma Hess would then tell her to go lay down, Velene would finish the job. Grandma never minded doing the work that was asked of her.
During her childhood, grandma went to school in Goshen. She walked one and a quarter miles each way to school every day. It didn’t matter what the weather was like, she always went to school. When she wasn’t in school or doing chores, grandma spent her time swimming in the canal or going to church. Grandma loved her church activities and was very active when she was young. Great grandma Hess made sure all of her children took piano lessons when they were small. Grandma Summers was a natural musician. Norma always said grandma Summers could play by ear. If she heard a song once, she could play it flawlessly. Not only could grandma Summers play the piano and the organ, she had a perfect Alto voice. To hear her sing church hymns, it sounded like angels singing.
Grandma was very quiet and reserved throughout her life. When she was told something, she took you at your word. She never asked you something twice, once was enough. Norma said when she was growing up, she would ask great-grandpa Hess to take the car, he would always turn her down. She would then sit on his lap and beg him and he would then give in. When Grandma Summers came around, she would ask great grandpa Hess for the car, he would say no thinking grandma would do the same as Norma, but she didn’t. Once grandma got an answer, she would take him at his word and never ask again. Throughout her childhood, grandma never asked for anything for herself. She was grateful for what she had.
Grandma Summers was very close to her mother. Her brothers and sisters all say that she is most like great grandma Hess. Her mannerisms and her personality were very much like her mothers. Grandma loved her family very much and would do anything for them, but she was not one to make a fuss over them, that was for grandpa to do. But if any of them were in need or were sick, grandma was always at their side. We will all miss that quality about her, the selfless caring, the service to others, the uncompromising love she had for all of us.
When grandma was 16, she was attending a church activity at the church in Goshen. Don Summers along with his friend and one-time rival for grandma, Ambrose Williams took a ride in a Whippet car from Shelley down to Goshen. Ambrose said that if they went to the church in Goshen they would surely find some girls. So off they went. It so happened that one of the young women they picked up that night was grandma. They drove around awhile until it was time to go home. Don being the perfect gentleman that he was, walked grandma to the door of her house. There, he quickly stole a kiss on her cheek and then ran like mad back to the car. At that point, grandma was not quite sure what to think about this bashful young farm hand. Later on, grandma was selling the Country Gentleman magazine for Firth High School. One house she visited along her route was Don’s sister Mae. There grandma saw Don who did his best to show off for her by punching a bag of potatoes hanging behind the house. Later grandma commented to Mae, I came selling Country Gentleman and ended up buying a husband. Grandma thought grandpa was pretty special. While he was courting her, he bought her a candy bar and a package of gum. She ate the candy, but saved the gum which she has to this day unopened. Grandpa always teased her about her other boyfriends, especially Ambrose Williams, but her heart always belonged to grandpa.
Grandma graduated from Firth High School in 1934. That summer, grandpa worked a one and a half acre plot of spuds. His crop did well and he sold it for $80. He took $40 of that money and bought grandma an engagement and wedding ring. Grandpa felt that two years was long enough to date. Grandpa had a great farm dog named Carbolic Acid, grandpa called him Acid for short. Grandpa took the dog to Great grandpa Hess and gave him the dog in exchange for grandma’s hand in marriage. Grandma always told grandpa, “The dog ended up dying, but you have been stuck with me for 62 years.” They were married on October 20, 1934 in the Idaho Falls courthouse. They moved into a two room house in Shelley where grandpa worked at odd jobs. During the first few years of their marriage, they moved where they could find work many times moving between Goshen and Firth. Grandma and grandpa were married only a year when grandma gave birth to Jay Wendell Summers on October 14, 1935. Jay was the only one of their children born in a hospital. Grandpa is still complaining about having to pay the doctor $20 to deliver him. These were lean times during the depression and work was scarce. Grandpa did what ever he could to make money, but they were barely getting by. The first Christmas after Jay was born, they had no money for presents, grandma scrimped and saved a dime to buy Jay a rattle for a gift and that was all they had. Grandma never thought of herself, she was always more concerned with others happiness. In 1937, grandma and grandpa lived in a boarded tent. Each time it rained, she would set out pans on the beds to try and keep them from getting wet. She never complained about any of this, she merely did what it took to keep her family happy. During this time, grandma and grandpa took out their endowments in the temple in Logan Utah being married for time and all eternity. With this ceremony, grandma and grandpa committed their love to the Lord giving them an opportunity to be together as a family in the Kingdom of God. On March 20, 1938, grandma gave birth to Norma DeAnn Summers. DeAnn was born during a very bad snowstorm which stranded the doctor overnight at grandma and grandpas house in Goshen. Grandpa and Great grandpa Hess had to push the doctor’s car down the lane to finally get him out.
In 1940, grandma’s family came down with scarlet fever. Grandma was very worried for she was pregnant with her third child. Great grandma Hess was going to stay with grandma until after the baby was born, but as more of great grandma Hess’ family was taken ill, grandma Summers was forced to take care of her brothers and sisters during her last months of pregnancy. As the scarlet fever outbreak subsided, grandma gave birth to her third child, Jerry Garth Summers on April 24, 1940. Now their family was complete.
From Goshen, they moved to the Hays projects west of Shelley, but in 1945, the family moved onto a 100 acre farm in Rigby. This is where they would live for the next 13 years. Thus far in her married life, grandma never had running water in her house, but in 1946 grandpa plumbed water into the kitchen and bathrooms. Grandma felt like she was living in a palace. She always commented that this was the best house she had ever had.
In 1958, grandma and grandpa moved to Idaho Falls to their house on 1855 South Higbee. The house was built by my grandpa Olsen and my Dad. It was a grand house according to grandma with all the comforts she never had before. This would be her home for the remainder of her life. Grandma loved her house. Each spring she would plant lovely petunias and large Inca marigolds around the foundation. All summer the flowers would bloom in the most gorgeous colors. Each Christmas grandma would decorate the house. She always decorated the inside while grandpa was responsible for the outside. As long as I can remember she would put up her silver Christmas tree trimmed with handmade ornaments that she had made. She had a four color light that would dance across the silver branches. It always brought joy to everyone that saw it. A few years ago, grandma received a letter from someone who thanked her for the beautiful Christmas decorations and the beautiful silver tree. The anonymous letter-writer went on to say how the decorations grandma put up brought happiness to her heart and now to the hearts of her children. You see, grandma did not decorate her house for her enjoyment but rather for the enjoyment of everyone who saw it.
A few years after moving to Idaho Falls, grandma went to work at the Frenches Potato Processing plant in Shelley where she worked for 19 years. During that time she also bowled in a bowling league with the people she worked with. Grandma loved bowling and was very good at it. She always had cases of trophies which she won regularly. But she never liked being in the spotlight, she always praised others that she bowled with for her success.
As I was growing up, I had many memories of my grandmother:
I never went over to her house that I was not welcomed with open arms.
She always offered to feed me whether I had just eaten or not.
She was always thinking of others and never of herself.
She never said anything bad about anyone.
I never heard her complain.
Although she was quiet and reserved, my grandmother was a very hard worker.
She was a perfectionist. Everything had its place.
As a child, whenever we were hungry, grandma always had Ritz crackers for us to snack on.
Grandma never wasted anything. If there were leftovers from a craft project she had just completed, she would find another project to use what was left.
While playing the organ in all the years I visited her, I never heard her make a mistake, she played flawlessly.
Grandma loved mashed potatoes and gravy. I think it was her favorite food.
Grandma was a very good listener. It never failed. If we began a conversation talking about her, within five minutes she would have turned it around to talk about you. She was genuinely interested in you and always wanted to hear from you.
Grandma provided memories for everyone who knew her. Our lives were enriched by our association with such a sweet spirit. Through her generosity and talents, our lives were touched.
Throughout her life, grandma was always busy. I never saw her idle even for a second. She was very talented with her hands she made exquisite embroidery, she crocheted numerous afghans, dishrags, and sweaters, she made beaded ornaments and plastic canvas projects, but mostly she was known for her quilts. When it came to quilting, my grandmother was an artist. Within hours she could take a sheet of material and transform it into an heirloom.
On last Friday, February 2, 1996, I received a phone call from my mother. It was a call I had been dreading would come. My grandmother had died of cancer earlier that morning. She had been sick for quite some time though she didn’t tell anyone because she didn’t want to bother them. She was a strong willed person but she knew the Lord’s will was stronger. She had no regrets in her life; she lived it to her fullest. In her absence we are left with a gaping hole. She was an important part of our lives and now she is no longer here. Her death has left us empty. We must not think of her death as a sorrowful experience though. We must remember why we have been placed upon this earth. Our ultimate and highest goal is to return to our heavenly home to live with our Father in Heaven. Our purpose in life is to gain an earthly body, to be tested, to develop faith, to make and keep sacred covenants with our Heavenly Father, and to leave this earth. When the time comes for us to die, it should be as momentous as the time of birth. Birth is the gateway to mortal life; death is the gateway to immortality and eternal life.
March 13, 1985 Trina and I lost our daughter during child birth. She was a beautiful young lady who we named Lindsay Marie Summers. At that time, it was very difficult to lose something you have anticipated coming into your life. Trina and I were devastated. Grandma and Grandpa Summers were by our sides throughout this ordeal comforting us. Their love and caring helped but their faith in gospel principles provided us with guidance and knowledge that one day we will be reunited with our daughter and given a chance to raise her in heaven. Right now grandma is getting acquainted with Lindsay and I hope she is telling her how much her parents love and miss her.
As we remember grandma, we should spread her life out like a large piece of cloth. The memories she left behind were but a needle and thread.
- Her birth and childhood memories, a stitch in the cloth.
- Her marriage to grandpa and their life together, a stitch in the cloth.
- The three wonderful children she has left here on this earth, a stitch in the cloth.
- The generosity and service to others, a stitch in the cloth.
- The thoughtfulness and gifts she has provided all of us, a stitch in the cloth.
Today we review that cloth that was started 79 years ago. It is no longer a plain piece of cloth we once thought it was. With careful inspection, we see it is a beautiful quilt of memories she has woven for our warmth and comfort. Whenever I feel cold or lonely or forgotten I shall bring out this mystical quilt to remind me of how wonderful my life was by having a grandma like her.
I love you grandma.