On May 7, 1902, a baby girl was born into the Miller household just outside Indianapolis, IN. It was a small farmhouse in a little town called Richmond and three year old brother, Martin, welcomed his new sister - Cora Thelma!
In an unheard of move for that day, the father abandoned the young mother and two small children before Cora could start school. So Mrs. Miller declared herself a laundress and began walking the five miles into Richmond daily; gathering and delivering clothes in order to support her children. Some of Cora's earliest memories revolved around playing in the "wash" drying on the clothesline.
Being on their own so much, she and Martin seemed to always be up to some sort of mischief. Once a neighbor who had been exceptionally unkind to their mother discovered his "outhouse" had mysteriously tumbled down the hillside during the night. He promptly approached Mrs. Miller while she was hanging out laundry in order to demand that her children be punished. The frail young mother was wearing her sun bonnet at the time and could only nod in agreement. (Time later revealed that it was actually Cora wearing the sun bonnet. And needless to say, Mom never found out! Smile.)
Cora adored her older brother and had no intention of being outdone by him. So their play was often rough and tumble. One summer day, she hit him in the forehead with a large board; he began to bleed profusely and she ran like the wind toward the safety of the chicken coop. Martin gathered his wits and began searching for her all around the farm.
Cora waited breathlessly for what seemed an eternity and finally bent down to sneak a peak through the knothole on the chicken coop door. She had no idea that Martin had already discovered her hiding place and had a sharp stick in hand ready to poke her fanny through the knothole on the door. Yes, he poked her right in the eye! And although medicine was primitive in that area, her eye was saved and they used the recovery time to play pirate - since she already had the eye patch. A small piece of the stick remained in her cornea throughout her life.
The owner of the first Model-T Ford in their area, came by their farm one day to show off his new purchase. The car was already filled but Cora really wanted a ride, so she stood on the running board and held onto the door. The car quickly gained speed, wind was whistling, trees were rushing past and the tough little girl got frightened. She jumped off the side of the car and broke her arm. But who wouldn't have been scared? That car was going twenty miles per hour!
She had to quit school after fourth grade in order to help with the laundry "business". But her mother insisted that she continue to read. And although her skills were limited she didn't let that stop her. Even as an adult, she continued to read the newspaper every day; just slowing long enough to spell words she didn't know.
Cora landed a job as a waitress in an Indianapolis Greek restaurant during the roaring twenties. (Oh the stories from that time!) There she met and married a handsome young patron named Buddy Tharp. They moved to his family's home in FL and tried to start their own family. Unfortunately, Cora was never able to conceive and her young husband felt no real need to be faithful to his vows.
Just before they divorced, a phone call came that altered Cora's life forever. A judge in their area who knew the Tharps wanted children had been contacted that night about an abandoned baby girl. Would they be interested in adopting her? Cora had only minutes to decide. She would often tell in later years that it was love at first sight. The baby literally became Cora's reason for living.
Cora worked long hours at the downtown department store, Bon Marche to support them. She was introduced to Christ by a friend after turning forty. And she became a woman with a kind heart; generous with everyone she encountered who was in need. When she grew older herself, Cora spent much of her free time visiting nursing homes to play her harmonica; purchasing and delivering groceries for shut-ins; volunteering at her church.
When Cora died in June of 1993, there were really very few people still around who knew her because she outlived most of her friends. Martin had been buried years before and her only other relatives were too old to make the journey from IN to FL for her memorial service.
So why is it important to write a little of her life story in this blog today?
Because Cora was my precious grandmother. The baby she saved from a life in foster care was my mom. And there you have it - the Rest of the Story! Smile.