She walks in beauty, like the night
Of cloudless climes and starry skies,
And all that's best of dark and bright
Meets in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellow'd to that tender light
Which Heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
And half impair'd the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress
Or softly lightens o'er her face,
where thoughts serenely sweet express.
How pure, how dear their dwelling place.
And on that cheek and o'er that brow
So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
But tell of days in goodness spent.
A mind at peace with all below,
A heart whose love is innocent.
The Utley Matthews Family
from left seated - Utley, Donald, Ethel, standing - John & My Mother, Ruth
Riding On the Back of the Mouse
I was born in Plattsburgh New York on November 15, 1946 at Physicians’ Hospital. It was long before I ever had the inclination to travel and see the world. I was my parents’ firstborn. We lived in an apartment in my maternal grandparents’ large farmhouse until I was 3 ½. Life was very good on the farm, and I remember it as a time of joy and contentment. Before I go any further about myself, I would like to backtrack a bit to tell you about my parents and grandparents.
I’ll start with my Mother’s family. Her father, Utley Matthews was a young Canadian minister when my Mother’s mother, Ethel Hammond met him. You will see from his picture that he was very handsome. He was from one of the most beautiful parts of Canada, Prince Edward’s Island, and he was traveling through Canada and the US preaching. She fell for him in a big way and the rest is history, as they say. He stayed in New York State, and married her. They raised three children, held weekly religious services in their parlor, and farmed her parents’ farm for the rest of their lives. He was the first hero in my life, and I loved him dearly. he passed away when I was 10, and I was devastated.
My parents and my husband, Bill and I and our children took my parents’ motor home up to Prince Edward’s Island several summers ago. It is a windswept island in the north Atlantic known for potatoes and lobster fishing. It is breathtakingly beautifuI. I cried for Grandpa knowing that he had left that beautiful place as a very young man, and I believe he only returned once in his whole life for a brief visit.
Yet and still, I doubt he had a lot of regrets, because his and my grandmother’s lives were very blessed in Plattsburgh, New York, U.S.A.
My Parents' Wedding Portrait
Bill Crary and Ruth Matthews were in love before Bill enlisted in the Marine Corps right after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. The separation of World War II only reinforced their attachment to each other. They corresponded daily while Dad was in the South Pacific. As soon as he returned from the war they were married at the chapel at the Army Air Base in Plattsburgh, New York.
I have a wonderful psychic, Dianna O’Grady in Michigan who communicated with my parents recently. My Mom wouldn’t speak to Dianna – because Mom was very devout and very distrustful of psychics, but Dianna described her to me and it was Mom alright. She was very young and wearing very nice clothes, like a schoolteacher would be wearing. She and Daddy both said I was dwelling on things that were so unimportant. I don’t know yet what they meant.
Daddy in his friendly and forthcoming style was very happy to communicate with Dianna, and he looked very well. He was standing with his arm around my Uncle Bob’s shoulders smiling broadly, and they were wearing red and black checkered hunting shirts. Daddy was holding his hunting rifle. Daddy used to go hunting in the Adirondacks every year with his brother, Bob, but he rarely got any deer because he like to talk too much. His talking scared them all away.
Plattsburgh, New York 1946-1965
As soon as they were married, they moved to Cherry Point, North Carolina because Daddy had another year to finish in the Marine Corps. Mom got a job teaching fourth grade in Morehead City, North Carolina, and they lived in a boarding house there. Daddy always talked about the Sanitary Fish Market where they used to go to eat delicious seafood fresh from the ocean.
When they returned from North Carolina, they moved into an apartment in my Mother's parents' farmhouse on the Morrisonville Road which ran West out of Plattsburgh. I was born while they lived there, and they continued to stay there for the early part of my childhood. We moved a mile away when my brother, John was born in 1950.
My father took over his father's property further West on the same road just after my brother was born. He started a garage there, and remained self employed until my Mother retired. After Mom retired from teaching, they both decided to get out of the frigid North Country for the winters. That is when they started going to Florida for the coldest months. They rented in Fort Myers and in Naples, but then they finally bought a house in Naples on Cooper Drive.
But, I digress – let’s get back to the story about my life.
As I said before, we lived in an upstairs apartment in my maternal grandparents’ farmhouse for the first 3 1/2 years of my life. That was so wonderful, because my grandparents were typical in that they doted on me and spent a lot of time with me. My mother, Ruth Matthews Crary was not typical of her generation because my grandparents had insisted she get an education. She was a schoolteacher, and she taught at a one room country schoolhouse “down the Lane” as my family referred to Hammond Lane which ran north and south to the west of the farmhouse. I could actually see the school from the driveway of the farm, but I stayed at the farm with my grandparents while Mom taught.
If I woke up in the early, early morning, as young children do, my mother would often carry me downstairs to my grandparents’ room and plunk me into bed with them. They got up at some ungodly hour anyway, because Grandpa had cows to milk and Grandma had thousands of things to do. So I would spend the rest of the night between them in their warm bed and then I had the choice of going out to the barn with Grandpa or staying in the warm kitchen with Grandma and “helping” her make breakfast.
I remember the barn very vividly. The cows would all low their greetings to us as we came down the steps into their stable. They were all standing side by side in metal stantions like huge vertical safety pins that held their necks, but allowed them to lie down or stand. The ceiling was very low, and the whole stable was warmed by their body heat. Their breath was always very fresh. They were always so happy to see us, because we would feed them and then Grandpa would take away their milk which was starting to give them unpleasant pressure. I had a cow named Daisy – I’m sorry I know it’s corny – but when I was ten I got a horse named Trigger – what can I say?
Daisy was a Guernsey, which means she was gold and white and a very sturdy cow. I would help pass out the hay to the cows and dole out their rations of grain, and then Grandpa would lift me up onto Daisy’s back and I wouId ride my cow while Grandpa did the milking.
I learned as a child that you needed a mixture of cows in order to have a good tasting milk output – Grandpa Matthews didn’t have any Holsteins – the black and white cows, because they have the lowest butterfat content – we didn’t know about cholesterol then, just good tasting foods. He had Guernseys, Ayrshires – the red and white cows, and one Jersey – which looked like a deer. Jerseys are relativley small. They are the cows that farmers paint with the word COW in huge letters during hunting season. Jerseys have the highest butterfat in their milk, the Ayrshires and Guernseys have a little less. Holsteins have the highest milk production, but the lowest butterfat content. My other grandparents, my Dad'd folks Leslie and Mayfred Crary had a huge herd of Holsteins as well as 21 goats and several horses.
My parents and I always had cats, and often dogs at our house. We started out with a Great Dane when I was 4. Then we progressed to Cocker Spaniels, but my parents found them very hard to housebreak, so they switched to German Shepherds. Later they had St. Berhards. I loved all the animals we had at our house and on both grandparent farms, but I longed to have a horse. I believe I nagged my parents and grandparents for a horse every day of my life from the time I was 5 until I was 10. Then, my poor hassled Dad finally gave in and got me an old black and white pinto named Trigger – I warned you.
Lake Placid in the Adirondack Mountains of northern New York State isn’t
all that far from Plattsburgh. Lake Placid is a beautiful resort that attracts the creme de la creme of society to its shores.
There were a lot more wild animals in the days of my childhood in the Adirondacks before the acid rain took its toll. I can just remember a restaurant up in the mountains where Grandpa used to take me with a caged bear out in the parking lot. The bear begged for cookies and felt through the bars for stray crumbs with a paw as sensitive as a blind man's.
At dusk I could sit on our porch and watch little brown rabbits play in the garden, their tiny white tails flashing messages as they had a game of tag. Raccoons often caterwauled outside my bedroom window at night. They made a sound like nothing else on earth, a furious sound that resembled a cross between a cat fight and angry monkeys attacking each other in their mating frenzy. They often sent me running into Mom and Dad’s bed. One summer much later when Iwas already married and we were visiting my parents, raccoons managed to get into their attic. In the middle of the night it sounded like there were horses or cows running above the ceiling
While I was young, I found nothing boring as I rode ponies all day or went with Grandpa and his cowdog Boots to bring the cows back from pasture in the cool purple dusk. We watched barn swallows and bats as they swooped over our heads silhouetted against the sunset. It was a truly idyllic place for a young child. I had cherished my life in the country, but I found out as I got older that I longed for a life in the city. Many of my friends and I couldn't wait to grow up and go away to Albany or Syracuse or Rochester, and leave the boring North Country behind.
My Grandpa died when I was ten and a lot of good things ended with his death. I had been his adored grandchild and always basked in the glow of his boundless love, which was unconditional and bottomless, like most grandparents' love. All I had to do was appear and breath, and I was bathed in a warm shower of total approval.
Whenever he took me to a cattle auction or to the feed store he introduced me to his friends as if I were a deb at a Grosse Pointe cotillion. He had the quiet centered nature of a man who worked the land, and it rubbed off onto me. All he had to do was claim me as his granddaughter anyplace we went, and that was all anyone needed to know about me there.
Grandpa was always my rock, and his death left me totally bereft at the tender age of 10. Sometimes, when I see a tractor I think again of my grandpa on his John Deere tractor. When I was three, he sold his team of farm horses to get the down-payment, and I had watched in horror as two men loaded the old animals onto a truck. I always remembered the screams of fear as the horses scrambled into the bed of the truck for their first and no doubt last ride in a motor vehicle. I always wondered if they had the sense to feel betrayed, but Grandpa had no room for sentiment since he paid the bills. Sentiment was a luxury.
Later when I met Bill Jantz, he was the closest man I had ever met to my grandpa Matthews, and I grabbed onto him like a liferaft, marrying him when I was eighteen and relaxing into the safety of his arms.
My Boy Bill
My High School Graduation
Barbara Finch, Roy Mainger
My parents bought property on a peninsula called Cumberland Head just outside Plattsburgh in 1959 when I was only 12. Cumberland Head is on the Western shore of Lake Champlain in Northern New York State. It became our family’s big adventure. We named it Cedarcliff , which was an easy decision because the property is on a twenty foot cliff overlooking Lake Champlain, and the lot was covered with cedar trees so thick that you couldn’t walk through them.
[Cliffside over Lake Champlain] We had a summer place there while I was still at home, but after I got married and moved away to Detroit, my father began building a year around home at Cedarcliff. Daddy built the house over several years. Sometimes it seemed like it would never be finished, because he would finish a part of it and then take off building in another direction. It was a work in progress, and one of his dearest possessions. He even rebuilt the shoreline when nature started to tear it down, using the native slate and bag after bag of cement. Hard work was never a stranger to my Father. He was working on a building project at Cedarcliff the morning of his death. We considered having him buried with a hammer in his hand, but desided not to do it. All his hard work proved to be well worth it because of all the good times our family and friends had there over the years.
Bill and I drove the 600 miles to Plattsburgh several times a year when we were first married, and we often spent Christmas and summer holidays there. After our children were born we slowed down our visits a little, but we all looked forward to our trips back up to the North country. Both of my children have fond memories of their visits to Cedarcliff.
We [Pastel Drawing of Home at Cedarcliff by Anne Jantz]
My pastel drawing of Cedarcliff
Mr. & Mrs. William Jantz
September 11, 1965,
Turnpike Wesleyan Methodist Church, Plattsburgh, New York
Type your paragraph here.
My Darling Daddy, Francis William Crary
My Darling Grandmother,
Ethel Hammond Matthews
On her back porch. She always wore those cute little lace-up heeled type of shoes – she called them Cuban Heels. She’s in her housecoat here, but she always wore a dress. I never once saw her in a pair of pants. She worked from sunup to sundown – the consummate farm wife – and I believe she was truly happy with her life. She adored my grandfather with every cell in her body.
This woman never met a fruit or vegetable that she couldn’t freeze, can or pickle.
My Mother, Ruth was so beautiful, and so very, very gentle. She was very slow to anger and always said she would do anything to avoid a fight. Her parents, Utley Alfred Matthews and Ethel Hammond Matthews were very progressive for their generation and insisted that she get a college education. She attended Plattsburgh State Teachers College for the obligatory two years and then taught elementary school for 30 years.
Ruth taught second grade for most of her career at Beekmantown Central School. She taught several years at the bus garage in Beekmantown, and later transferred to the Cumberland Head elementary school when it was first built. She was a gentle, loving teacher. Many parents requested her for their children after she had taught their older children.
Ruth was a devout Christian even onto her dying day. I know because I was with her the day before her death in a hospital in North Carolina. She was in and out of consciousness by then, but she woke up and said very clearly “I believe in the Lord, Jesus Christ with all my heart.” She later opened her eyes and told me I was a very good woman. Those were some of the most important words I have heard in my life. She was a woman who walked the walk and not just talked the talk. My Mom probably set a record in North America for the number of pairs of little red mittens with tiny white snowmen on them that she knit for poor children in North Dakota.
My Dad was born in Pierpont, New York, a small town in the Adirondack Mountains near Canton in the north central part of New York State. He lived in that area until he was in his teens, and then his family moved to Plattsburgh. He didn't get to graduate from High School because he failed Latin, but he was a champion of education for the rest of his life. Daddy read constantly and always encouraged my brother and I to go to college and "Make something of ourselves."
I think that one of the things my Dad was proudest of in his life besides my mother was his enlistment in the Marine Corps. He enlisted the day after Pearl Harbor and served in the South Pacific until the end of the war. He was buried in his Marine Corps uniform. Two young marines came to his burial service and after it was over, they folded the flag in that inimitable tri-fold that widows and mothers dread yet revere so much, and then the youngest Marine handed it to my mother. She reached out for it ever so calmly and said "Thank you" to the him. He replied "Semper Fidelis, Ma'am."
I would have buckled at the knees at that point, but my mother never flinched. She commented to me later that she hadn’t shed a tear since Daddy’s death. That seemed to bother her, but her love for him was so profound that I think she didn’t dare to start crying for fear it would tear her apart. She came to live with us in Detroit after Daddy died, but she only lived for 7 months after he passed, and then he came for her and she left with him.
I truly believe that Lord Byron
wrote this poem about my Mother
My Beautiful Mother, Ruth Matthews Crary
Anne Jantz Designs