Children of Josephus Ral and L. Jeanne Garich Cleveland
Two and a half years later, when she was employed by the telephone company as an operator, she met Josephus Ral "Joe" Cleveland of OK. He was in Salem working for the construction crew that was building the new high school. On 12 Feb 1949 they were married in Morganfield, KY, because all the government offices in Illinois had closed down for Lincoln's Birthday. Before Joe's work in Salem was finished, their daughter, Vikki Lyn, was born 3 Mar 1951. Shortly afterward the small family moved back to Joe's home in Tulsa, OK. In Tulsa, Joe and Jeannie had two more children: a son Monte Ral, born 6 Dec 1954, and another daughter, Jonnie Marie, born 16 Feb 1956.
When Joe and Jeannie were divorced in 1960, Jeannie moved herself and her three children back to Salem, IL. There she began work as a payroll clerk with the Brown Shoe Company. At this time, she was also beginning a correspondence course in accounting. Eventually she left Brown Shoe Company to work as secretary and bookkeeper for her father, P.J. Garich, and brother, Ed Garich, at P.J.'s Machine Shop in Salem. All the while she was working to earn her degree in accounting.
Later she became affiliated with Wisniewski Bros. Music, which started as a small store in Salem and then grew to a chain of stores in Illinois and Missouri. There Jeannie worked her way up from bookkeeper to executive accountant and corporate secretary. She worked for Wisniewski Bros. Music until her retirement.
Jeannie passed away 20 August 1993 in St. Mary's Hospital, Centralia, IL, because of complications from emphysema. She is buried in Paradise Cemetery, Salem, IL.
My mother was absolutely the most important person in my life. I loved and respected her and treasured the close friendship that developed within our mother/daughter relationship. As a woman of tremendous strength, courage, and wisdom, she was a superlative role model who taught me the value of establishing goals for myself and then working hard to achieve these goals. |
She was a "self-made" woman who worked her way up from payroll clerk to executive accountant. Here was a woman who controlled millions of dollars in her position as comptroller and corporate secretary, who kept a chain of music stores running, and who had the power of hiring and firing--yet at home she preferred sweatsuits to power suits, and her greatest pastimes were playing Nintendo and watching stock car races, bowling, golf, and the Smurfs on television. If you had asked her about the greatest memory in her life, it would not have been one dealing with any spectacular business decision, though she made a lot of them. She would tell you that her fondest memory was the time she leaped onto the stage at a Tom Jones concert and kissed the Welsh singer before being led away by security guards...much to the mortification of her daughter who was also there. Mama really became a folk hero to the other older ladies in attendance that night!
Although my parents were divorced in 1960, and my father died in 1963, Mama continued to love being around the Clevelands just as they enjoyed having her around. As all of you know, Clevelands are well known for their warmth and devotion to family, and Mama so enjoyed being enfolded within the love surrounding us at the annual family homecomings. It was a tribute to both Mama and our family that a contingent of Clevelands in Oklahoma and Texas made the long trip to Salem just for Mama's funeral even though many of them were in poor health themselves.
Now, whenever I see a hot air balloon, I always remember the day Mama died.
My brother, sister, and I were staying with her around the clock in twelve-hour shifts because she was afraid to be left alone in the hospital. I was on my way to the hospital for my shift, about three hours early for my scheduled time because my sister had been having trouble with a nurse and needed reinforcement.
Traffic on 161 was heavier than usual because of the Balloon Fest, but I didn't mind overmuch since I was going in so early. The slow traffic gave me the opportunity to watch the sky filled with over two dozen hot air balloons. I was almost mesmerized by the sight of all those warm, vivid colors drifting so freely and so silently across the rosy blue sky that presaged the summer sunset.
Closer to town the traffic demanded more of my attention, however, as I had to concentrate on maneuvering my car around the Balloon Fest congestion in the park adjacent to the hospital.
As I entered the hospital, my thoughts were of relating what I had seen to Mama and Sister. And I wanted to give them a progress report on how we had been fixing, cleaning, and rearranging the livingroom in preparation for Mama's return home.
Though the door to Mama's room was closed, I walked in anyway. She was lying flat on her back, an unusual position for her because she couldn't breathe that way. Still, nothing tragic registered in my mind until a nurse grabbed me by the arm and pulled me out of the room before telling me how my mother had passed away from cardiac arrest just moments before.
My favorite picture of my mother and my father shows them smiling playfully at each other as they dance in the yard outside a cabin. Mama is barefooted; Daddy has one foot bare and the other booted. They look so very happy and carefree, so young and in love. With the ravages of emphysema behind her now, Mama must once again be dancing barefoot with Daddy, this time atop the clouds.
Although I miss her desperately, Mama will forever be in our hearts and in our memories. She left us a legacy of love and devotion, of dedication to doing useful work well, of working to turn dreams into reality. From her I learned to stand up for what I believe in, but not to be so inflexible that I cannot admit when I'm wrong. She lived as she wanted to live, and ultimately she died as she wanted to die...and she'll be missed so very, very much by family and friends...but mostly by her three children, who adored her.
My earliest recollection of my sister, Jeanne, was that our family nicknamed her Hayseed. I speculate that they called her this because she was just a little dried up slip of a thing with a head of hair that was not of good enough quality to be called straw....
[Several years later] I drove my mother to Tulsa and picked up my sister Jeanne and her three children. I did not get acquainted with my sister on the drive back to Salem because her three children were somewhat out-of-control and you could not hear yourself think let alone talk. The oldest [Vikki Lyn] as I remember was a real wide-eyed girl. I do not know if it was the glasses she wore or her eyes were really two inches in diameter. The boy [Monte] had the strangest habit. He would sit in his seat, rock his body forward, and slam it violently backwards, slamming it into the back of the seat. Jeanne later told me he did that because he was reverting back into her womb. She said she knew this from a book she had read concerning elephants.... Her youngest child, a daughter [Jonnie Marie], looked just like Jeanne except had extremely large thumbs. I remember her scrunched into the corner of the car with this huge thumb stuck in her face....
Over the last several years, I have infrequently stopped to visit Jeanne under the pretext of updating her on news of our mother. I knew her condition was deteriorating even though I would not admit that fact to my wife or children.... She died at a young age by today's standards. She might have been just 65 in years of age but with the hours she put in until she retired, I wonder if she averaged 5 hours of sleep a day during her work career. I think her body must have been 90. But that was the way she was. She had been that way all her life. She would get interested in a book and read it around the clock if she enjoyed it. If there was an accounting problem, she would stay with it like a bulldog and not let go until it was solved.... She was definitely one who would want quality of life, not quantity. I kidded her about her absorption with Kitendo or whatever you call it, but was thrilled that she had it as a challenge when her health would not let her have other outlets....
I always knew how much she had accomplished in her career, but it was a damn shame that I did not realize how well she had raised three children until she became ill and passed away. I witnessed her three children giving their love, attention, and care for her through her illness and saw how caring they were for each other after her death...
Within the cosmic silence
The heart of Heaven beats
In rhythm to forever
As souls long parted meet
Whenever moonlight peeks through
Clouds drifting in the night,
Ancestral smiles are touching us
With their supernal light.
There will be stars forever
To light eternity,
And we'll be reunited
Where love flows ceaselessly.
By Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland
c1990 All Rights Reserved
I know you had to leave me
When Jesus called you home,
And please do not feel sorry
For leaving me alone.
You left me with a family
To love me totally
And friends who truly are the best
And take good care of me.
You left me with the confidence
That I will be okay
Though I often miss you
And your *special mother* ways.
You left me with a surplus
Of love within my heart
To share with everyone who is
Of my life a part.
You left me with a mind that seeks
New knowledge every day
And a drive that's tempered by
An equal sense of play.
You left me with a warm home, too,
That's full of memories
With extra room for memories
That are yet to be.
You left me with directions
For how I may find you
When that time arrives at last
For God to call me, too.
So though you had to leave me, Ma,
I just want you to know
That I'm doing very well
Although I miss you so.
By Vikki L. Jeanne Cleveland
c1999 All Rights Reserved
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