Sunday, August 9, 2015

My Grandma Dolly Lucy (Britton) Bavin: A Tribute

I think I have already mentioned elsewhere how in the 1850's Lucius Britton brought his family from Vermont to Michigan, and his youngest, O. Wilber Britton came to run the grist mill near Pittsford, Michigan. In 1875 Wilber married Angela Elizabeth Sloan. It is through Angela we are connected to the New England Sloan and Beal families.

Wilber and Angela had a total of 13 children, of which two would die in infancy, another two sons would die, one at the age of 29 and the other at age 20, while a third son was killed as a soldier fighting in France in World War 1.

Their 8th child was a daughter named Dollie Lucy Britton, born August 15, 1889. Dollie was 28 years old when on June 2, 1917, she married Cecil Charles Bavin. A short nine days later her father Wilber committed suicide. Wilber’s death had implications for the family that have reverberated down through the generations to this very day. To addition to the family tragedy, it was that next year when her brother George was killed in France on October 21, 1918 in the midst of the Muse-Argonne offensive and three weeks to the day before the Armistice ended the war.

My Grandfather Cecil Bavin was four years younger than Grandma, and it was also somewhat unusual at that time for a single woman to marry at what was thought of then as a late age. I do not know anything about how they met or how long their courtship was.

My Aunt Joyce was the first to come along on October 15, 1918; being barely a week old when her Uncle George was killed in France.

My mother, Mildred Marie Bavin was born January 29, 1920. The story has been told that when Mom was born, the Bavin family was living in a log cabin house on Camden Rd, just west of the spot in the road that is called Betzer; the corner of Camden Rd. and Pittsford Rd. in Hillsdale County, Michigan. According to this story there was snow blowing into the house through the chinks in the log walls when Mom was born.

Uncle Bob came along on November 1, 1921; followed by Aunt Gela on June 21, 1923, and Uncle George on January 8, 1926.

My Grandfather was a farmer. In 1927 he was injured in a farm accident when runaway horses pulled a roller over him. This laid him up but he tried to do more than he should have, and a blood clot took his life. He died on June 12, 1927, just before his 34th birthday. My mother was 7 ½ years old when her father died.

Grandma Bavin never remarried, remaining a widow for the rest of her life. And she was to go on to raise her five children through the Great Depression, and as a mother, watch two sons and one daughter serve in the military in World War 2. Mother mentioned to me one time how the family had been supported through those times by public assistance.

Mom also had memories of the family getting on the back of a truck and heading off to Toledo for a Britton family reunion. That probably would have been at her Great-Uncle Quincy Britton’s place in Toledo, Ohio. Mom also had good memories of her Uncle Bill, George William Bavin who was a successful businessman in South Bend, Indiana. Uncle Bill was Grandpa’s younger brother, and Grandpa was in South Bend when he passed away. I infer from that fact that Uncle Bill had helped his older brother’s family through that time.

There was one pain and grief in my Grandma Bavin’s life that I was a personal witness to. Uncle Bob had served in the Army during the war. He never married and lived with and looked after Grandma. He developed health issues and had as I recall some kind of cancer or leukemia. I have a number of memories of Uncle Bob of which I will have to speak another time. My last memory of seeing him alive was when I went with Mom and Dad to visit him while he was in the ward of the Veteran’s hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In September of 1968 he passed away. I still remember going to Grandma Bavin’s house where the family was gathered together. She sat there in her chair, a solemn sober faced lady as the rest of the family made the funeral arrangements. I never saw Grandma cry or heard her complain, but etched into that face was a lifetime of mixed pain and grief and sorrow, not that there had never been any joy or happiness too, but nonetheless a life that knew much of tragedy. She loved all of her fourteen grandchildren and we all loved her.

My Grandma Bavin left this vale of tears on July 24, 1974. Nancy and I lived in Indiana at the time. We made the trip back to Michigan for Grandma Bavin’s funeral. We still miss her. Those fourteen of us who are her grandchildren had our hearts and lives touched by our Grandma Bavin to a degree I don’t think we realize even after a lifetime.