Willard and Jennie Walrath

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[Willard and Jennie Walrath]

WIllard and Jennie Walrath

Selma's parents, Willard and Jennie Walrath. Circa 1950.

Willard Walrath was born in Jasper, NY, on July 4, 1883. A family legend has it that because his birthday fell on the Fourth of July, he was once given a birthday cake which had firecrackers instead of candles. He was a foreman in the machine works of the Ingersoll-Rand Company in Painted Post, and operated a 48-acre farm in Gang Mills, NY, in his spare time. I remember childhood visits to the farm fondly. We kids would help with chores and invent games like jumping from the barn rafters into a pile of hay. It was there I learned that people raised what they ate, and in many cases had to slaughter it first. We had chicken, bacon, ham, and vegetables, all raised on the farm. Willard died on November 18, 1955.

Jennie was born Jennie Lynn Hayes on December 28, 1888. Jennie was named for a popular performer of that era, Jenny Lind. In her youth she wrote poetry which was published locally. She married Willard on June 14, 1912. One of their common interests was bowling, and another was square dancing. I remember as a child being trucked off to watch grandpa bowl or to square dance exhibitions. Jenny died in April, 1976, at the age of 87. She once made a bet with her bowling team that if she was still bowling at 80, she would bake them a cake. She was, and she did. It was a source of minor embarrassment to me in my teens to know that my bowling average was worse than both my mother's and my grandmother's.

Willard's parents were Oscar Walrath (1859-1933) and Mary Crosby. The Walrath family line traces back to Bavaria and Bellheim, Germany, to a man named Johann Adolph Walrath, who was born about 1686.

Jennie's parents were Benjamin Franklin Hayes (March 13, 1854 - May 7, 1943) and Merab Emmeline Rogers (December 19, 1862 - December 1, 1929). Benjamin Franklin Hayes was a preacher, who traveled from town to town in western New York State, delivering his church services and sermons to many different congregations. His distant ancestors were from England, as were his wife's. One genealogist reports that the Rogers line can be traced to Alfred the Great, Saxon king of England from 871 AD to 899 AD.

Benjamin called himself Frank B. Hayes for much of his adult life, possibly uncomfortable with his somewhat pretentious given name. He performed the wedding ceremony which united his granddaughter Selma with young Gene, in 1939, when he was 85 years old. He died in 1943 at age 89.