#52Ancestors: Treasured Heirloom, MIL Betty Sue Pace’s Well-Worn Bible Allowed Her to be Part of Our Wedding

Betty Pace's Bible
This is one of the items we grab if the house catches fire…Betty Pace’s teaching Bible.

My 24th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge for 2015.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

Amy’s 2015 version of this challenge focuses on a different theme each week.

The theme for week 24 is – Heirloom: What heirloom do you treasure? Who gave it to you? What heirloom do you wish you had?

My 24th ancestor is my husband’s mother, Betty Sue Pace (d. 2002).

Betty Pace

About Betty

I met Betty decades ago, a couple of times, when my husband Jeff and I first became friends in college. But Betty died far too young, five years before Jeff and I re-met in 2007 (long-lost friends by that time), started dating in 2008, and married in 2009.

Betty was the youngest child of Roy Delmar Pace (1913-2000), from Texas, and Rebecca Haley (1916-1991), from Arkansas, the only one of their children born after Roy and Becky moved their young family to California from New Mexico. Betty and her siblings grew up in the California Central Valley.

So although Betty technically was/is my (first) mother-in-law, I never knew her as my mother-in-law. By the time Jeff and I became reacquainted with each other, Jeff’s father had remarried to the woman I have always known and loved as my mother-in-law. I have written before about Jeff’s wonderful stepmom. She was Betty’s best friend since childhood, and had been divorced a very long time when Betty became ill from the tragic disease that took her from us way too young. Knowing she was dying, Betty–as my husband likes to tell the story–selflessly “fixed up” his dad and her best friend. When Betty’s husband and best friend were ready to move on from their shared grief, they started dating and eventually married (read this heart-touching story).

Betty’s Teaching Bible

Betty had a very strong Christian faith, bringing her peace and comfort as she grew more ill, knowing the end was near. She was very active in serving through her church and in teaching Bible study during my husband’s childhood. Betty remained an active teacher and leader with Bible Study Fellowship, an international interdenominational organization, until her illness made her too weak to teach anymore.

Betty Pace's Bible
The dedication page of the Bible, with Betty’s notes about when she received the Bible and started using it for her teaching.

When Jeff and I were dating, he showed me his mom’s teaching Bible, which his father gave to him after Betty died. The Bible is well worn, with all sorts of highlighted passages and notes in Betty’s hand.

Betty Pace Bible
The inside cover of Betty’s teaching Bible.
Betty Pace's Bible
One of many pages heavily annotated by Betty.

After Jeff and I became engaged and started planning our wedding, we began pre-marital counseling with my family pastor. I had an idea. I wanted some tangible way to have Jeff’s mom Betty involved in our wedding ceremony. I remembered her Bible, and asked my pastor to marry us using Betty’s Bible instead of his own, explaining what that Bible meant to Betty.

My Wedding Bible
My future husband and future son, my pastor, and my groomsman nephew, watching me enter the sanctuary on my father’s arm. Pastor Gary is holding Betty’s Bible in his hand.

As the wedding date approached, I asked Jeff to let his dad, mother-in-law, and brother know about us using Betty’s Bible in the ceremony. I did not want to catch Jeff’s family by surprise during the ceremony; Jeff and I wanted them to be emotionally prepared.

My Wedding Bible
Pastor Gary (holding Betty’s Bible), Jeff, and our wedding party full of kids (our kids, nieces, and nephews) watching me walk down the aisle with Dad. They’re laughing at my 3-year-old groomsman nephew, who sat down from boredom a few minutes into the ceremony.

Pastor Gary made a point during the ceremony to talk about Betty’s Bible–about our request, and about the Bible’s significance. He told the wedding guests how worn and annotated the Bible was, and how obvious it was that Betty heavily and regularly used it. He told our guests what Jeff had shared during our counseling sessions…how much comfort this Bible brought to Betty as she sensed her death drawing near.

Tears were heavily shed by us and our guests.

My Wedding Bible
Pastor Gary reads from Betty’s Bible as Dad prepares to hand me off to Jeff at the altar.

I cannot pretend to know how much my husband, his brother, his father, and his stepmom still hurt from losing Betty–especially losing her so young. I realize I will experience that same hurt and grief someday, but I am fortunate to still have my mom with us. I do know that my husband would have given anything to have had his mother there with us, in person, at the wedding. So it brings me such joy to have found even just a tiny tangible way to have included Betty in our ceremony and special day.

My Wedding Bible
Pastor Gary reads to us from Betty’s Bible as Jeff and I exchange our wedding vows.

Because of how much that Bible meant to Betty, what it means to my husband, and the role it played in our wedding, Betty’s Bible will forever be a cherished family heirloom.

#52Ancestors: Bible-Walking-and-Talking Great Grandmother “GG” Veronica Dorris

Veronica Dorris GreeneMy 50th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 50th ancestor is my husband Jeff’s great grandmother Veronica Victoria Dorris (1883-1982). Called Ronnie by close family, her great grandchildren affectionally refer to her as “GG”.

I have briefly mentioned Veronica and her husband William Wallace Greene (1869-1944) before, when I found them in June 2012 on the then-newly released 1940 US Census. And I have written quite a bit more about her son, William Wallace Greene (1908-2003), the U.S. Army Lt. Colonel and surgeon I profiled as my week 5 ancestor, who helped treat concentration camp survivors when the camps were liberated at the close of WWII. Veronica and William Sr. also had a daughter, Nelle Dorris Greene, who I have not discussed yet.

My husband talks fondly of his GG, and still owns the Bible she gave him as a little boy — his very first Bible. Our Christian faith is important to my husband, so he has hung on to and treasured this special significant gift from his great grandmother.

Bible gift from Veronica Victoria Dorris
Christmas gift from GG to 9 year old great grandson Jeff Greene. His first Bible, well worn.

Until recently, I only briefly did any research on Veronica’s side. But have focused on this line quite a bit over the past month, and her family history has been fascinating. Veronica’s extended family is credited with pioneering and building up what became the city of Phoenix, and also being among those most influential in gaining statehood for Arizona. But, I will share those discoveries in later posts about those family members.

Birth and Childhood

Veronica was born 20 May 1883 in rural Mississippi, allegedly in the small town of Kilmichael (Montgomery County). I have not found a birth record for her, but secondary records indicate this as her birthplace. Her father was Luther Green Dorris (1856-1931). I have not confirmed her mother’s name, however. I find three different names listed on various family trees for the wife of Luther Green Dorris: a Dorcy, Charlotte Rebecca Ingram (the most referenced), and a Ledonia F. Since I don’t have a birth record yet for Veronica, I don’t know which of these women were her mother. I also haven’t yet found any marriage records for Luther to confirm the name of his wife or wives.

Veronica appears to be the oldest of five children born to Luther, and probably Charlotte. I have identified the following siblings, listed in birth order: Maud Mae Dorris, Luther Caswell Dorris, Reba Rececca Dorris, and Lizzie Dorris.

I also think Veronica was named after her aunt Veronica Emma Dorris, Luther’s youngest sibling, and only 13 years older than our Ronnie.

Arizona and Marriage

At some point Veronica moved away from her parents to Phoenix, Arizona, where her father’s brothers were already established pioneers and businessmen who are credited with helping to shape Phoenix’s history. Ronnie married in Arizona, and lived there the remainder of her life. I do not know when Veronica moved to Arizona, but it was at least by 1906, when she married.

I am greatly curious about why she moved to Arizona. Although she had a lot of family there, Veronica’s parents do not appear to have left Mississippi. She was a good Christian girl, but was she seeking a bit of adventure  by moving to a wild west territory, yet safely, among a network of family there? Her wedding took place just 25 years after the famous gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tucson. Did respiratory issues force her to move there? Did she move to help care for a family member? I have not yet found Veronica and her parents on the 1900 U.S. Census or the elusive 1890 one that probably no longer exists. I am hoping those records will lend a bit more evidence to the suspicion that Veronica left her family behind in Mississippi, or refute that suspicion and show me that her father — like so many of his brothers — moved to Arizona as well, but later returned to and died in Mississippi.

Veronica and William married on 14 June 1906 in Phoenix (now Maricopa County), Arizona (a territory for six more years). Ronnie was 24 when she married, I imagine this was considered late for a southern Christian woman. William waited until 37 to marry! The Arizona Republican covered their wedding (remember, Veronica came from an influential Phoenix family), describing it as “one of the prettiest church weddings celebrated in Phoenix in some time.” They called the couple “well known young people of this city” (William, young?..at 37?) and noted that “both of the couple are prominent members of the First Baptist Church.”

Wedding article about Jeff's great grandparents.
The Arizona Republican, 15 Jun 1906, Fri, Page 4. Courtesy of Newspapers.com. Click image to view a larger copy.

In a family history handwritten by her father-in-law on 25 May 1908, Veronica’s husband’s father mentions that his son William Wallace is “married to a dear girl Miss Ronnie Dorris a great church worker, who loves loves [yes, stated twice] “Daddy” Greene.”

Post-Wedding Years and Death

Veronica appears to have lived in Phoenix for the remainder of her life, even after her husband William died in 1944. I find her there on the 1910, 1920, 1930, and 1940 U.S. Censuses, as well as on city directories up through 1956.

Veronica Dorris with Children
Veronica with her son William Wallace Greene and daughter-in-law Jean Alice Harless.

In the 1940 Census, it notes that 8th grade was the highest level of education achieved by Veronica (her husband completed high school, but no college). Ronnie must have been immensely proud that her son went on to college, med school, and became a surgeon! She also lived long enough to know that her grandchildren finished college as well (her grandson went on to earn a Ph.D.).

She died 29 April 1982, and is buried in Tempe Double Butte Cemetery in Tempe, Arizona, in what looks like a Greene family plot, I assume next to or near her husband.

Veronica Dorris, Nelle Greene, Greene Boys
Veronica Dorris with her daughter Nelle and great grandsons (from her grandson). My husband is on the left.

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