I was lucky enough to know both of my Grandmothers in their 70’s and 80’s. This post is about my maternal Grandmother, Lillian Elizabeth Cozier Baer – 1886 to 1966.
She and my Grandfather were both born in New York City and they both died in Boise, ID. During that time they experienced many things and the Grandmother I experienced and have heard about is certainly a product of those experiences. She also made her own way. I believe she confronted her times with two different approaches to the situations that she faced in life.
Grandpa Baer worked in construction finance and accounting. He began his career in Railway work, and then moved to road building and other types of construction. The travels of Allison Harvey Baer and his wife, Lillian, are relevant here because they helped form or perhaps solidify my Grandma’s beliefs and practices that make up this story. They were married in 1911 and in late 1914 moved with two little girls to Peking, China. Grandpa went to build Railroads for the Chinese Government of Sun Yat Sen and Grandma did what Mothers always do. Keep home and hearth.
My Aunts, Betty and Ruth were the two little girls. When they returned, Aunt Jean had joined the family. They returned to Brooklyn, NY and my mother, Barbara, was born. Then Grandpa joined the company building the Moffett Tunnel in Colorado. So the family picked up and moved to Denver, with the newest baby, my Uncle Scott. After they finished the tunnel, Grandpa joined Morrison-Knudsen of Boise, ID. Now you know the family itinerary.
I have been told 2 stories about my Grandmother and how she dealt with her family and the world. The first by my mother, and the second by my cousin Betty. Betty is the oldest daughter of my Aunt Ruth. She grew up in Denver, except during WWII, when her father was in the US Navy, they stayed at Grandma’s house in Boise – on Warm Springs Avenue! Any one that has driven down Warm Springs Avenue, also US 30, in Boise will remember the aroma of the warm springs. Appropriate for an Energy Auditor, my first experience with a renewable power source, hot water heat.
During WWII Grandma was active in the Red Cross. One day she left for a Red Cross Meeting. Betty remembers noticing her shoes. Perhaps you remember the tie type shoes popular then. Three standard colors, Brown, Black and Blue. Betty asked Grandma, “Why are you wearing two different color shoes?” Grandma’s response was simple and yet, not quite so simple. “I am going to the election of Officers for the Red Cross. I am running for President of the Chapter. The competition is very stiff. So some of those ladies will look at my shoes and think, poor Mrs. Baer and vote for me.” My Grandma is on the right receiving the check for the Red Cross.
Growing up, I remember my mother explaining why I should eat all my dinner. Especially when it was something like Egg Plant. She would tell of hearing from Grandma about the poor in China. It was readily imprinted on my mother that she should not spurn otherwise good food, because the starving orphans in China were not a lucky as she was. She always told me that she wouldn’t talk about the starting orphans of China, but she would talk about the starving orphan in Korea.
Here was a lady that had graduated from college, one of 0.04% of her age group. She took her family to China maintained the raising and education of her children; and taking time to better her community. Returning to the US, she went with her husband and family continueing to raise her family, see to their education and still work to improve her community. All within the limited avenues available to her during the first half of the 20th Century.
In demonstrating these values through out her life, she made the world a better place. Directly through her efforts and indirectly through the lives of those she loved and raised. Looking at her Great Grand Children, we have 2 that are heavily into IT and teaching; an Army Officer – just returned from his 3rd or 4th tour in the Mid East; a Navy Seal with service in Iraq, a physician, a nurse, a non-profit PR person, a college professor, her g-g grand children number 9 at this point, the oldest a Freshman in college.
In a time where travel was a novelty, most people did not go more than 50 miles from their birth place during their entire life; Grandma went around the world with her family. She worked to make the world a known place and to shrink the distance. I think Grandma would be proud of the strides made over the years in continuing to shrink the world, and to make the diversity we have in this world, something that is not so strange and scary. In parting, I share this picture of a small part of her family, two of her Great-Great-Granddaughters, Kim Nhat and Quan Minh.