Monday, August 6, 2012

Remembering Edna Louise Hanson

Today would have been my grandmother’s 107th birthday. “Nana” as her grandchildren called her, was a very important figure in my formative years, so I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on her life a bit.

Edna Louise Hanson, also known as Betty, was born August 6, 1905, in Salisbury, MA, the daughter of Herbert Walter Hanson and Olive Jewel Boyd. Her parents married young and also divorced young and at least by age 14 if not much earlier, she was living with foster parents Joseph and Nettie Truitt who raised her.

As a child in Northwood, New Hampshire

On Sept 9, 1922, just barely 17, she married Jean Baptiste (aka John) Roy in Auburn and soon had a family of her own. Their eldest child, Joseph John, died at birth February 7, 1923. Betty and John went on to have three daughters: Beatrice Irene was born in 1924, Alice Jeanette in 1928 and Bernice Ann was born in 1933.

With her eldest daughter Irene

Betty’s adult life with John had its share of hardships as the family was poor and John battled alcoholism throughout his life, passing away in 1951 at the age of 53. However, the bond that was forged between Betty and her three girls was strong and enduring. Family was the most important thing in Betty’s life and her girls adored her. We're lucky to have many wonderful letters they exchanged throughout their lives and they paint a picture of four amazing, close-knit women that shared humor, mutual love and respect.

Betty, John and Irene Roy celebrating Christmas in 1949.

As a child she was a constant part of my life and no family gathering was complete without her. I fondly recall Sunday dinners and holidays spent together. As my family didn't have a vehicle, her and her close friend Henry Rose often took us kids on trips to explore New England, which made a lasting impression. She also kept a journal of all of the trips she went on and made scrapbooks from which much rich family history was gleaned in later years as I became interested in genealogy.

Henry Rose, Betty Roy, myself and sister Jeanine.

Betty passed away on November 17, 1981 in Lewiston at the age of 76, when I was 15. Despite the challenges she endured throughout her life, and mostly likely because of them, she was a very strong woman and could be fierce when she perceived injustice was being done, particularly to her “girls” and their families. Her sharp wit and sense of humor, kindness and empathy towards others also made a mark on me at a young age and which I’ll remember her always for.

Happy Birthday Nana! Thanks for being a wonderful influence.

Below are a few additional pictures:

With daughters Jeanette (on left) and Irene

With friend Sadie Feeney

Foster parents Nettie and Joseph D. Truitt