July 30, 2014

Medina
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The Dash Between: For George Mowery, hard work & family were life

The dates of birth and death that appear like bookends on a tombstone do not matter as much as the dash between those dates. Award-winning writer Alana Baranick has made her living writing about the dash between. She’s focusing on Medina and Lorain counties and those who have made our area the unique and interesting place it is. Look for her stories on the first Monday each month in The Gazette and visit www.medina-gazette.com to find additional photographs.
To suggest a story or make a comment, contact Baranick at abaranick@chroniclet.com or (440) 865-2518.
Today, Alana Baranick examines The Dash Between Oct. 6, 1917, when George Mowery was born in Bennett, W.Va., and Jan. 9, 2012, when the Litchfield farmer died at age 94.

George S. Mowery’s farm was the place to be for Litchfield youngsters in the 1950s and ’60s.

“Everybody knew, if they couldn’t find their kids, they were always at the Mowerys,” said George’s daughter, Judy Wolfe.

Mowery family portrait, 1991: Standing, from left, are Ronnie, Terry, Jerry and Jimmy. Seated, from left, are Judy, Brenadine, George and Rhonda. (COURTESY PHOTO)

George, who died Jan. 9, 2012, at age 94, and his wife, Brenadine, who died in 1993, began renting the farm and living in an upstairs apartment on the property in 1947. In the late 1950s, after the owner died, they bought the farm from the widow.

The Mowerys raised beef cattle, pigs, corn, hay and six children on the farm.

“My mother would tend to welcome all the kids in town like her own,” their son Ronnie said. “They had plenty of room to play. So that’s where they all gathered.”

The Mowery farm became even more popular when George turned the property next to the farmhouse into a baseball field.

The youth baseball teams, which fell under the umbrella of the Lorain County Hot Stove League, had been playing their games at Litchfield school. But they needed more room. For George, who served as a coach, dedicating a portion of his property for young athletes to use seemed like the right — and most practical — thing to do.

“They played ball there until 1966, when they moved it to the property south of town where they still are today,” his son said.

George also sold Christmas trees at his farm to raise money for the Hot Stovers.

“They sold geraniums every Mother’s Day, too,” his daughter said. “I remember a basket of eight geraniums was $5. We used to sit up at the circle all weekend in the middle of town and sell them.”

George was born Oct. 6, 1917, in Bennett, W.Va., an unincorporated community in Lewis County in the north-central part of the state. He was the second youngest of seven siblings.

His father, Augusta, was a farmer. His mother, Cristina, died when George was 4 years old, according to his son, Ronnie. George lived for a time with the aunt and uncle of Brenadine Beane, who years later would become George’s wife.

“He went to a one-room schoolhouse,” their daughter said. “He never went past the eighth grade. I was his oldest girl. He always told me I was going to be the first one (in the family) to graduate from high school.”

George held various jobs as a young man in West Virginia.

“He delivered mail and rode on horseback to do that,” his daughter said. “He often told us that the horse got him home because he would fall asleep.”

He also drove a truck for a lumber company before joining the exodus of relatives and neighbors to Akron and Grafton in the early 1940s.

“My dad tried to enlist during the war, but he was too short,” his daughter said.

George, who stood 4 feet, 11¾ inches tall, worked for the war effort, making aircraft parts for Goodyear. He married Brenadine in Orton, W.Va., in December 1944.

“My dad went with my mom’s sister before he went with her,” their daughter said. “He was eight years older than my mom. Since she was under 21, (her father) said she couldn’t get married yet. They married before she turned 21 in January — just because Grandpa said she couldn’t.”

The couple became the parents of four boys and two girls.

“Their names in birth order are Judy, Jerry, Terry, Jimmy, Ronnie and Rhonda,” their son Ronnie said. “And, yes, these are their proper names as they appear on their birth certificates.”

After the couple moved to Litchfield, George went to work at a saw mill at Mallet Creek. Within a short time, he took a job as a miller at Sunshine Biscuit in Grafton and began the practice of working three jobs at a time to support his family. He also worked at the service station in Litchfield and delivered meat to people’s homes for the Medina meat-packing plant, also in Litchfield.

“He was a very hard worker,” his daughter said.

George also worked his farm and served as a volunteer firefighter with the Litchfield Fire Department for more than 30 years.

“He joined the Fire Department around 1948 and ’50,” his daughter said. “When he wasn’t working his three jobs, he fought fires.”

After he retired from the Fire Department, George continued to show up at fires when he heard the siren.

“We had to keep him out of trouble and out of their way,” his daughter said.

In his retirement, George went daily to what is now the Hungry Bear restaurant in Litchfield for sausage gravy and biscuits in the morning and chicken fingers for dinner.

“All the farmers used to go up there and have coffee about 9 o’clock after the chores were done,” George’s daughter said. “Dad was one of the last ones left.

“The people at the Hungry Bear took very good care of him. If we didn’t take him up after he quit driving, they were calling one of us to find out if he was OK.”