Caring for a senior parent can often lead to a stay in a rehabilitation center. There are many such centers in the Lee’s Summit area. They are full of wonderful folks who have lived full lives and have lots of stories to tell. As a matter of fact, these wonderful people are very anxious to share their stories.
I visited my mom everyday during her last rehab. I had the opportunity to eat some meals with her and the other folks in rebab. One of the ladies who always sat at my mother's table became a friend. This little lady is Helen Mace Haseltine. She is a tiny lady of 99 years and you could not find anyone more charming.
It was my pleasure to spend some time listening to the story of her life.
Helen was born on August 15, 1919 in Iberia, Mo. He father was William Mace and her mom was Maddie Ferguson. Her father owned a lumber business and a store. He also operated a farm of 160 acres. Unfortunately, the farm and business was lost in the Great Depression.
There were 4 children in the family — Helen was the youngest. As with most farms, there was a lot of work to be done. Helen’s mother milked a Jersey cow everyday. Helen got lots of hand-me downs as did other farm kids of the era. Times were tough during the Depression.
Helen loved to write and play outside just like other kids. She told me that on the day she was born was the first time a plane flew over Iberia.
When she was 7, her family moved to Springfield, Missouri. Her father worked for MFA. She remembers the USO dances. She loved to sit on her front porch as did many families during those times. She was working at a dime store when she met her husband. They dated for 2 years. She said it was love at first sight.
Her husband was drafted like many of the young men during WWII. He went into the Medical Corps and was stationed on a troop carrier in the Pacific theater.
As Helen was telling me about her life she mentioned that her husbands family had a large orchard in Springfield. We had a great conversation about orchards in general. I told her about the orchards in Lee’s Summit. I mentioned that in the 1870’s Lee’s Summit was called “Orchard City’. There were thousands of acres of orchards all over Lee’s Summit.
She mentioned that her grandfather, John Ferguson, had fought in the Civil War. He worked on the Mississippi River when he was a young man. He was eventually drafted into the Union Army and fought in the battles of Pea Ridge and Wilson’s Creek. Helen said that some Confederate soldiers stole his money or he would have fought for the South.
Mrs. Ferguson was from the South. Her uncle was an officer in the Confederate army. True love won out and the couple was married by a captain of a Confederate troop.
As Helen was telling me about her life she had a twinkle in her eye. She reminisced about watching her grandfather do the Highland Fling. Her grandmother, Dorcas cooked haggis and other traditional Scottish delicacies. She was well own for her Scottish shortbread.
John Ferguson was referred to as “Iberia’s Grand Old Gentleman”. He was much loved in his community of Iberia. I am sure her parents and her grandparents would be proud of Helen’s accomplishments. She is very active in her church community and had done a lot of good works during her time in Lee’s Summit.
That last thing I asked Helen was if she ever heard her grandfather Ferguson say “Hoot Man”. I heard that in a Scottish movie once. She just laughed at me with that cute twinkle in her eye and said and emphatic “No”.
Editor's Note: Kathy Smith writes about the people and histories of Lee's Summit, MO. A Lee's Summit resident and local historian, she serves as Executive Director of the Lee's Summit Historical Society and Lee's Summit History Museum as well as chair of the Lee's Summit Historic Preservation Commission. Views and opinions expressed in her columns do not necessarily reflect those of Link 2 Lee's Summit, it's employees, or any other guest contributors.