COLUMN: A Confederate Yankee

Bill Mayers

Lela Marie (Tarbox) Blanford, Feb 20, 1920 – April 4, 2017. Mother of four, mother-in-law, grandmother of nine, great-grandmother of two and great-great-grandmother of two. She passed peacefully right round 11:30 that morning, with a number of family at her bedside. Ma was mentally sharp almost to the end. She knew what was happening and accepted it graciously. Her services are April 7 with burial immediately after.

My mother-in-law was a tough, resourceful, but kindly lady. Their mother and I both worked nights, so “Ma” would get the kids after school and mind them until one of us could come get them. She often had them on weekends, and they’d come home all excited about something new she’d shown or taught them. The old house had four fireplaces, only one of which “worked”. It was of the older design, with a wood-fired oven on the left. She would occasionally cook the kids’ lunch in that fireplace. They loved her meatball subs. They were impressed to learn that the Tarbox clan was mostly Mohawk. Even more fascinating was learning that they are distant relatives of the Earl of Blanford.

She’d worked as a waitress for years at a cafe up in “collegetown” just off the Cornell University campus. She got along famously with the college kids and would often get a letter from graduates thanking her for many enjoyable times at “Johnny’s Big Red”. She and hubby Al, who predeceased her by several years, had spent a couple years in California during World War Two, where he was a PFC assigned to the Signal Corps. They moved between Florida and New York several times over the succeeding years, eventually settling in Newfield in 1968. Al had taken up auto mechanics, but spent his last few years on the job as custodian at his grandchildren’s school. Throughout it all, Ma Blanford kept it all together. She and I had become good friends, and that continued even after her daughter had decided to end our marriage.

Her life was an inspiration, and that ain’t just hyperbole. She will be missed.

William D. “Bill” Mayers RT, RN, of Sullivan is a retired senior U.S. Army Corpsman. A certified healthcare professional since 1964, he holds two professional licenses, including that of Registered Professional Nurse licensed in New York, Alaska, Virginia and Louisiana. He has four children, two stepchildren, three grandchildren, a new great-grandchild and is an avid analyst of current events.

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