Treasured Memories: A glimpse into the past of Nelson and Shirley Stearns
By their daughter, June Stearns Butka
In reflection of the new year approaching, I find it important to remember our loved ones. Those with us and those who have gone before. Today’s post is in loving memory of my parents. My father, Nelson William Stearns, died 12 Aug 1988 and my mother, Shirley Beatrice Pease-Stearns, 28 Apr 2001 are deceased. In Christian beliefs they are in heaven at the side of their Lord. In Native American beliefs they moved on to the spirit world. Others believe they are buried in the ground for eternity. I believe they are in my heart guiding me through the journey of life. I feel their spirit, their energy and even occasionally smell their essence. My Dad always smelled of car grease and Mom like Lilly of the Valley’s.
Nelson and Shirley Stearns always spoke about the fact they would have had a “Bakers Dozen” of children if she didn’t miscarried four time trying for a boy to keep the family name going.
Nelson was an Auto Mechanic and by his own words “A Jack of all trade, a master of none.” Shirley was a Nurse’s Aide as well as helping Nelson with his service station in Pembroke, Merrimack, New Hampshire in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. Nelson and Shirley were baptized 29 July 1984 by Rev. Stephen Brewer, St. Saviour Pond Limerick, Maine. That same year they both passed their GED Exam becoming High School Graduates.
He died of heart attack after a long battle with Colon Cancer and Alzheimer’s. Thankfully he was dealing with Alzheimer’s, which helped him not remember the pain. She died from complications of Lymphatic Cancer after a long fight, both medically and spiritually. She spent her final months cutting out quilts squares for each of her grandchildren to be given on their wedding day. She also crocheted granny squares and attached a Bible verse to each one to be given out to those who attend her funeral. She dealt with her pain by working on her projects, planning her funeral arrangements and listening to her gospel music CD’s. She taught her family how to be “heaven found” with grace and composure.
INTEREST IN MUSIC
Nelson and Shirley were avid country music fans. You could find them singing with Shirley playing the guitar; Nelson played the spoons. The girls and Nelson Neal would join in on the singing and dancing. On occasion Nelson and Shirley would go to the Circle Nine Ranch Epsom, New Hampshire for yodeling contest. Maybe they would travel a little further to the Merrimack, New Hampshire to sing and dance at The Lone Star Ranch. A family friend, Gene Maltais of Rock -A- Billy fame, would join in the sing along.
Shirley made quilts by hand with lots of love and care. She made them for her children when they were married and for her church to raffle off. Shirley carried that tradition on by teaching her daughters and her granddaughters. Julia, a granddaughter, helped Shirley to make a Wedding Ring quilt that was given to June and Michael on their tenth anniversary. That same quilt was then passed on to June’s sister Susan when she married Christopher. Shirley was “heaven found” by that time. Both Julia and June felt Susan should have a wedding ring quilt made by her mom, Shirley. Tears of love were shared that day.
Nelson and Shirley had moved twenty one times between 1953-1969 and only four times from 1969 to 1988 when Nelson was “heaven found.” They had lived in five of the six New England states. Rhode Island did not become their home. Sometimes the moves were work related other times it was family related. Family and community support was a strong sense of duty and passion that Nelson and Shirley passed on to the next generation.
Another past time for Nelson and Shirley was playing Cards. Nelson and his family would camp at Carrie Lulu (Stearns) Perkins home in Sutton, Merrimack, New Hampshire, every summer. When fishing was done and night time had settled in, you could find them playing Canasta until the wee hours of the morning. Sometimes even the girls would join in. Those camping trips bring back the memories of baking in wood burning stoves, putting clothes through the ringer washer, chopping wood and outhouse duty. The only modern convenience Aunt Carrie had was electricity for lights only. You even had to pump from the well to get water for cooking. We would usually sneak to the brook for spring water to drink.
Reflections by June Stearns Butka