ALICE ESTHER WILLIAMS was an energetic, capable woman who dedicated her life to her children and grandchildren.
She was very proud of her high school graduation certificate...it was unusual for girls of her generation to attend high school, much less graduate.
After high school, she worked as a telephone operator for Bell Telephone in Syracuse (along side my other grandmother, Margaret Jane Meneilly). These were the days of long banks of telephone boards with cables to plug in when a call was made. Later, she worked at Keiffer & Sons hardware store as a bookkeeper. She was an accomplished seamstress, and made all clothes for her children and for me until I was 12. She also crocheted and knitted.
Left to right: Eugene, Helen (front), Alice (rear) & Adelaide Williams
Early in the 1900's when her children were young, she took up the art of china painting, taking lessons from a professor at Syracuse University. Her talent was distinctive with subtle shadings and graceful free-form flowers, fruit or fish. I have many of her pieces to hand down to my children.
At the outbreak of World War I, Alice Stevens volunteered at the American Red Cross on South Salina Street. She knitted stump socks, mittens, scarves and lap robes for the war effort. She was made Chairman of Production and for all the years I knew her would go to the Red Cross on Wednesdays to volunteer her time, counting, bundling and sending packages of knitted supplies for the war years, and afterwards to the VA hospitals or dependents of veterans. Her volunteer service at the Red Cross spanned 50 years.
When the first auto cars were available, Alice Stevens, all 4'11" of her, would gather together her children and their friends, and drive to Pennsylvania, the Adirondack Mountains, Jamestown NY, or some other destination. She had an indomitable spirit.
Left to right: Dorothy E. Stevens, Warren A. Stevens, Gordon W. Stevens, Alice (Williams) Stevens
She was a life-long member of the First English Lutheran Church, beginning with its location on South Salina Street, then moving to James Street in Syracuse. She always sat on the same pew on the right side of the chancel, about 5 rows from the front.
I spent every weekend with my grandparents from the time I was an infant until I was 16 years of age. My parents would go to the movies on Saturday evening, dropping me off at "Nanna" and "Gramp's" about four in the afternoon on Saturday, and coming for Sunday dinner and to pick me up. Nanna and I did a variety of things during these weekends. We colored, painted, cut out paper dolls, and made Valentines for the children in my class. She taught me to sew on her old White treadle sewing machine, to knit, to crochet, to embroider. We canned vegetables together, picked currants in her side yard on Cherry Road and made jelly from them. We went to baseball games with Gramp at McArthur Stadium with the Syracuse Chiefs--sometimes a double-header on Sunday afternoons. We saw the Ice Capades and the Scottish Games on Saturday nights. We spent countless hours rummaging through her treasures in the great, old-fashioned attic on Cherry Road. We read "Little Women," "Little Men" and "Jo's Boys" at bathtime. I spent every lunch hour at Nannas while in elementary school at Cherry Road in Westvale, since she lived across the street from the school. She made me Caramel Pudding for dessert, and all my other favorite things.
Unfortunately, my children didn't have much time to get to know Nanna. During the year of 1964 when my husband was in Vietnam, Scott and I spent time with Nanna, and she loved being a great-grandma. She died just three months after we moved to Rochester NY, and did have a chance to see and know Steven, although he was not quite three when she died at the age of 90.
I miss Nanna. She was my best friend.