In Memoriam: Nellie Irene (Johnson) Fitzgerald

Johnson Leonard Virginia Nellie

A pic of the oldest Johnson kids — Leonard, Nellie and Virginia — about 1916.


Prayers and hugs for the family of Great Aunt Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald, who passed away on Thursday, Nov. 19, 2015.

Her house was always a site for extended family gatherings, full of stories and hugs and ample quantities of comfort food. She was the last surviving sibling in a family that numbered ten: seven brothers, three sisters. They knew hard times, hopping from house to house in the interval between wars. They knew personal tragedy in the loss of wives, brothers, daughters. They served their country and communities. They knit tightly with family and helped each other through.

I know Nellie was particularly proud of making it to 99. I know we all wish she had made it a lot longer than that. And we’re proudest of knowing her.

Below is a slide show of collected images from a life well-lived. And a copy of her obituary. Rest in peace, Aunt Nellie.

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Nellie Irene Fitzgerald, age 99, of Uhrichsville, O., passed away on Thursday, November 19, 2015, at Hennis Care Centre, following a lengthy illness.

Born September 4, 1916, at New Philadelphia, Nellie was the daughter of the late Charles and Viola (Palmer) Johnson.

Nellie was a homemaker and a member of the Uhrichsville First Presbyterian Church.  She was a 4-H advisor for 20 years, a Girl Scout Leader, volunteer at the Food Bank, Deacon of the First Presbyterian Church and a member of Homemaker of Union Township.

In addition to her parents, Nellie was preceded in death by her husband DeLoyce P. Fitzgerald, who passed away on June 28, 1985; a daughter Rosann Fitzgerald Kohler; two sisters and 7 brothers.

Nellie is survived by her son Jerry (Rose) Fitzgerald of Uhrichsville and daughter Sara Fitzgerald of Ocala, Florida; 4 grandchildren Pauline Kohler, Parrish (Sharon) Kohler, Katy Fitzgerald and Megan (Jason) McElory; 5 great grandchildren Amanda (Dustin) Martyn, Zachary Kohler, Josh Kohler, Emmitt McElory and Isaac McElroy; 2 great great grandchildren Harley Kohler and Bear Martyn.

Funeral services for Nellie will be held at 1 p.m., on Monday, November 23, 2015 at Uhrich-Hostettler English Funeral Home, Inc. in Uhrichsville with the Rev. Mark Unrue officiating. Burial will follow at Evergreen Burial Park in New Philadelphia.

Calling hours will be from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., (two hours prior to services) on Monday, November 23, 2015 at the funeral home.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Uhrichsville First Presbyterian Church, 633 N. Main St., Uhrichsville, O., 44683.

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Visit with Great Aunt Nellie | Repost

Colt Foutz Nellie Johnson Fitzgerald

Colt and his great aunt Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald at her home in March 2011.

Hugs & Hospitality in the Home of Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald

Great Aunt Nellie (Johnson) Fitzgerald passed away Nov. 19 at age 99. This post, from March 2011, recounts a visit.

I was once a quite enterprising reporter, so I should have known better.

Presented with the chance to spend an afternoon chatting with my Great Aunt Nellie, 94 years young as of last September, I fumbled around with my laptop, spent a good half hour busying my hands consuming trail bologna and deviled eggs and macaroni salad and the like, and utterly failed to pop open a notebook and record our winding conversation with anything more reliable than my own noggin.

Which will have to suffice.

We spent the day chatting in her home, site in the summertime of many a family gathering, afternoons filled with sunshine and pickup softball games and plenty of food and lemonade. There was snow on the ground this time, and a chill in the air. But the atmosphere inside was cozy.

Nellie still lives at home, with some assistance throughout the day, and frequent visits from her son, who lives just up the road a piece. She was also kept company, during our visit, by a former daughter-in-law (I think?) and a great-grandson. So the house was filled with conversation, and I found Nellie to be as delightfully frank, and sweet, and feisty, and fun as I remembered.

Johnson Leona Miller

My great-grandfather Charles Johnson’s first wife, Leona Miller, died shortly after they were married.

The Tragic Tale of Leona Miller Johnson

Nellie has some trouble getting around these days. She greeted us from her easy chair, and moved about the house with the aid of her “horse” — her walker.

We began our visit by flipping through old photos — everything I had stored up in my Family History Master folder on my computer. She confirmed some of the old relatives I was wondering about, including some beauties of my grandma Erma (Johnson) Foutz as a young teenager (see below), and chuckled at ones of herself shortly after her wedding to DeLoyce Fitzgerald and especially at one of her as a baby, posed with older sibs Leonard and Virginia.

“Oh,” she said (of the photo at the bottom of this post), “I forgot to wear my socks that day!”

Nellie’s house is decorated with scores of old photos and mementos. She was kind enough to have copies made for me of a portrait of my grandmother as a baby, and of my great-great grandparents Palmer (which I featured in yesterday’s post).

In her current bedroom hangs a very unique portrait — that of my great-grandfather (her father) Charles Johnson’s first wife.

Leona Miller and Charles married shortly after Valentine’s Day, 1907. She was 23; he was 20.

According to family lore, and retold by Nellie during our visit, Charles, a coal miner, came home one day, perhaps as early as the week they were married, and found Leona on her hands and knees, scarlet-faced, scrubbing the floor.

As he knelt down to tend to her, Leona collapsed. She died shortly after.

Charles returned to the home of his parents (as noted in the 1910 census), and wouldn’t remarry until 1911, when he wed a girl from nearby Dennison, my great-grandmother, Viola Palmer.

“When you think about it,” I knelt down to murmur in Nellie ear, “it’s a sad story, but without Leona dying, none of us would be here.”

“Oh,” Nellie said, the whisper of a grin on her face, “I don’t know.”

There’s not a lot we know about Leona beyond her fate and the image preserved above. According to the New Philadelphia cemeteries department, she is buried in the same plot as my great-great grandparents Clement and Anna Johnson, but I found no marker to indicate such during my stop at East Avenue/Evergreen the next day.

Erma Johnson Foutz

This picture of my grandma as a very young teenager was taken in 1933, when she was not yet 13. Scribbled on the back: “Camp Birch Creek, F-60, Dillon, Montana. C. 15-1 C.R.R.,” which we’ve determined was a WPA-era camp at which her brother Joe was spending the summer. Joe’s name was also written on this picture.

A Big Sister’s Take on a Boy’s Grandma

The part of me that deeply misses my grandma Erma since she passed away in 2000, and yearns to be able to visit her again, really felt fulfilled by seeing Aunt Nellie again.

I remember the time I’d seen her before, after the funeral of my grandma’s second husband, Max, hugging Nellie felt a lot like hugging grandma. And yeah, I miss that.

This time around, I was full of questions. Things I wished I had asked Grandma, growing up. Or had paid more attention to her answers.

Nellie confirmed the many addresses in New Phila her family called home over a period of 25 years. These moves were logged in war records, censuses, and the certificates recording three of her brothers’ untimely deaths.

I also wanted to hear about how my grandmother and grandfather met, if she could fill me in. I’d read in the article detailing their marriage announcement that grandma was a secretary in the offices of the steel mill, where my great-grandfather Foutz and two of his sons worked from way back. But my grandpa only joined the mill later on, after he’d spent years as a sales agent for the local Ford dealership.

So, how, I wondered, did a girl from New Phila end up mixing with a boy from crosstown Dover, and one some seven years her senior at that?

“Oh, your grandma got around pretty good in those days,” Nellie quipped.

“Oh, your grandma was beautiful,” one of her visitors gushed. “And a very nice lady.”

How can an enterprising reporter hold up, in the face of comments both sly and complimentary?

Palmer homestead Scio Ohio

Another view of the old Palmer homestead in Scio, Ohio as it appeared in March 2011.

Tracing the Tree Back — Johnson & Palmer Roots

Nellie was keenly interested in some of the stops on my genealogy tour, asking about the state of the Palmer homestead, where her mother grew up and generations of the family farmed before that.

She was more interested, though, in how my parents were doing, and my wife and kids. “They should come and see me,” she said. And who could argue?

The visit ended much too soon. And I felt, not for the first time, that I’d already crammed way too much into three short days. And felt the weight, in leaving, of not knowing how soon my path would wind back her way again.

But in the work of honoring our ancestors, there are still volumes rich with information to mine.

Nellie had shared with her daughter, Sara (who in turn helps spread the word and get the family tree in order on and, the tale of her grandfather, Thomas Johnson, a Civil War mule skinner who died on a march through Mississippi in 1864. And there is limited info to go on past that, but a definite location to dig into — Guernsey County, where the Johnsons seemed to have first set up shop in Ohio.

Other connections of the family to the great conflict between the states include that of Anna (Burkey) Johnson’s father, Joseph Burkey, a soldier in Company B of the 126th regiment of the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. Military records indicate he served from May 1864 through June 1865. I’ve visited his grave and snapped a picture there, but I’d love to hunt down a photo, and more info on his time in the war.

Meanwhile, Sara has traced the Palmer connection back through Harrison County farmfields and beyond, to the Balmers of 16th century Germany. A good, yawning gap of time to gape at, and wonder at all the ancestors — and their stories — in between.

Erma Foutz Miller Nellie Johnson Fitzgerald

Colt’s Grandma Erma and her older sister Nellie at his high school graduation, in 1994.

Johnson Leonard Virginia Nellie

A pic of the oldest Johnson kids — Leonard, Nellie and Virginia — about 1916.

Categories: Foutz, Johnson, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

In Good Countenance #12: Minnie (Hammersley) Ley

Irma Haines Chris Wiand Minnie Ley

Minnie (Hammersley) Ley: Vintage Visages

Greetings, family and familiars, on what would have been Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr.’s 97th birthday.

Been awhile, but the genealogy train keeps on chugging, with certain dedicated, extended relatives at the controls, making an unexpected stop every now and again. This is a dispatch from Mac and Brad Wilcox, distant cousins through the far-flung Ley line, and proprietors of the site Kin Connection.

Today’s treat? We finally get to pin down — or rather, gaze upon — a great-great-grandmother who remained the only ancestor of that generation for whom I hadn’t discovered a photo. And now we can see her for ourselves. Meet Great-Great-Grandma Minnie Eillene (Hammersley) Ley!

As Mac related in a recent email:

My brother Brad and I have about 3,000 photos and hundreds of documents done so far. Perhaps we are half-way.

We came across the attached photos yesterday that were in a  scrapbook maintained by my great aunt, Mary Ellen Wing (1891-1972).  She was responsible for saving many of the photos and documents that we are all now enjoying.  Mary, who wrote the identifications on these photos,  was the youngest child of Adeline Sperling, who in turn was the youngest child of Abraham and Catherine Sperling.

Unfortunately, neither photo was dated, but we have some educated guesses as to the details.

One photo is labeled “Irma- Uncle Chris -Minnie Ley”.  I am reasonably sure that the picture includes Christian Wiand (1844-1934), center; Minnie Eileen Hammersley Ley (1965-1929), at right; and Irma Haines Ley (1900-1945), daughter of Minnie Ley, at left.

I suspect this was taken in the back yard of the Wiand home at the corner of Main and High in Port Washington. The foliage indicates summer, probably mid-1920’s.

The other photo is labeled “Earl + sons + Uncle Chris”.  This photo also includes Christian Wiand and clearly was taken in the front yard of the Wiand house, since the house across the street, at the right edge of the photo, is still there, looking at Google maps.

I presume “Earl” is Robert Earl Ley (1883-1959), at left.  Robert Earl Ley Jr (1918-2008) is holding the baby, and Richard Earl Ley (1927-1933) is next to Christian Wiand. This photo looks like it was taken in spring before the trees leafed out.

One guess as to the baby, which I think is a girl, is Mary Ellen Ley (1931-2011),  daughter of Lester Ley and Daisy Nan Shively. Perhaps this was before/after her Christening, maybe in the Spring of 1932. Perhaps you can confirm this or set me right.

Earl Ley and Sons, Christian Wiand

Filling in the Family Foliage

I don’t know about you, but whenever I hear of a trove of forgotten photos, I burn to see what — more importantly, who — is in there.

Mac and brothers, remember, shared the goods on fourth great-grandparents Abraham and Catherine Sperling, as well as the crucial details and a breathtaking glimpse of third Great-Grandmother Hattie (Sperling) Hammersley Wiand. Two crucial discoveries there were the cause of death for Great-Great-Great Grandfather James Hammersley, taken during a tragic accident while working on the Erie Canal; and the story of her second husband, Christian Wiand, a successful Port Washington hardware merchant who grew into more than just a stepfather/stepgrandfather to later generations of Leys. He was truly a member of the family.

These and other photos reveal those gatherings in a way that invites you to step in.

For the first time — for me, anyway — we meet my great-grandfather Earl Ley’s sister, Irma (Ley) Haines, arm in arm with her mother and step-grandfather.

We again visit what I feel Mac has accurately pegged as the front yard of Chris’s place in Port Washington, though the criscrossing sidewalks and hard bricked corner of the place at first suggested to me a church. But maybe that’s the suggestion of the christening playing on my imagination.

I can’t say for certain, though the dates seem to line up right. My first inkling is that Grandpa Robert Earl Ley Jr., youthful in the above photo, could even have been holding his brother Dickie. For that to have been the case, though, we’d be looking at a photo from September 1927 (88 years ago!), and grandpa would be just 9. He looks older to me….

The only other photo I’ve seen of Dickie is the portrait below. So, if Mac is correct, this is another glimpse of father and sons, as well as a young relative. If the occasion is, indeed, Mary Ellen Ley’s christening in 1931 (I didn’t even have Mary Ellen in my working tree), then grandpa would be about 12-13, and Dickie around 4, which seems to fit the little boy in the photo.

So, still some gaps to fill in. But we’ve bridged a crucial gap missing from the collection of ancestral faces on our tree. Hello, dear Great-Great Grandmother Minnie Ley.

Ley Richard c. 1930

Richard “Dickie” Ley aboard a bicycle, early 1930s.

Categories: Ley, newsletter | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Happy Father’s Day, Family Guys!

Fred and Frederick Colt Foutz at the Cincinnati Zoo, 1970s.

Fred and Frederick Colt Foutz at the Cincinnati Zoo, 1970s.

Fred Foutz, Father in Action

Happy Dad’s Day, dads everywhere.

I am grateful to have grown up with and benefited from the stellar example of my own dad, Fred Foutz, who showed me what it means to be an active, involved, in a word dad of a dad.

With three little dudes of my own, I can appreciate even more how important it is to have a good man in sons’ lives, to raise good men of their own.

Anytime in the ’80s, you could find us with Dad in the backyard or on a walk to the park, playing soccer, riding bikes, flinging the frisbee, shooting hoop.

As we got older, throughout the ’90s, more often than not I’d be on a run with Dad, or sharing a burger, or chatting about finances or anything at all long into the night on a drive back and forth to college. And he was always handy with a van and tireless arms to tote my stuff from one apartment to the next.

Today, I share a deeper appreciation for the moments my dad was always about most — family time. Whether it’s at the beach, sipping a cold brew over a hot grill, vegging out in front of a classic flick or, increasingly, watching the endless zip of the next generation.

They can zip away, knowing they’re never far from the watchful — and admiring — eyes of a father.



Growing up, with Mom sometimes moonlighting at People’s Drugstore, Dad would be home to make us dinner and tuck us in.


An early (recurring) bedtime project of Dad’s was introducing Dan and me to Mark Twain and The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.



Vacations are always a favorite family event for Dad. Here, an early one, to Ocean City, Md.


Have bike…


… will travel, with DadPower (TM).


Happy Father’s Day, Dad!

Categories: Foutz, Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Moore’s Promotion for Fred Foutz, 1977

Janet and Fred Foutz, c. 1977.

Janet and Fred Foutz, c. 1977.

Promotion, Second Son for Fred Foutz

Next to your birthday, maybe there’s no better “me” day than earning a big raise or promotion at work.

Today, as we give Dad a nod for celebrating the 63rd Year of Fred, we rewind the clock 38 years to a newsworthy high point in the early Foutz household.

The Nov. 11, 1977 edition of Zanesville’s Times Recorder, um, records a step up for Dad at Moore’s Lumber and Building Supplies, otherwise known as the coolest company in Ohio to sport a winking fox logo (very impressive in my under-5 years…).

Moore's logo

As the Recorder reliably reports:

Moore’s Names Foutz An Assistant Manager

Moore’s Lumber and Building Materials announces appointment of Frederick Foutz as assistant branch manager of the retail store at 2413 Maple Ave.

The new promotion for Foutz, effective immediately, was announced by Moore’s distribution centers division operations manager, David E. Pomerleau; and Mid-Atlantic regional manager Thomas Scanlon.

Foutz has been employed by Moore’s chain since Nov. 1, 1976, when he was hired into Moore’s management training program here.

On Jan. 8, he was named night and Sunday manager of Newark, Moore’s store, leading up to his current promotion and transfer back to Zanesville.

Foutz is a native of Dover. He and his wife, Janet Ley Foutz, live on Gorsuch Rd. at Nashport, with their 15-month-old son, Colt. The Foutz are expecting a second child.

Foutz is a graduate of University of Cincinnati from which he holds a bachelor of arts degree in economics. He is an active member of the Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks.

Moore’s 79 lumber and building material store are established in 11 southeastern and middle America states.

In addition to Zanesville location, Moore’s serves the communities of Chillicothe, Delaware, Dover, Findlay, Lancaster, Lima, Mansfield, Marietta, Portsmouth and Wooster, with additional stores in the planning stage. Divisional executive offices are in Roanoke, Va.

Moore’s is part of Evans Products Co. (NYSE and PS), with headquarters in Portland, Ore.

Evans is a leading retailer of building materials, a producer of customized homes, a manufacturer of building products and specialty metal products. It also manufactures and leases railcars and truck trailers.

Moore’s — probably — doesn’t exist anymore. Aside from chilling accounts of “corporate carve-outs” and entrepreneurial vision maximizing corporate outcomes (excuse me) on investment sites, and factual info on Bloomberg business, the old Fox is far too hard to find on this little invention called the Internet to be a viable business in 2015.

But the Foutz family, of course, is still going strong. And the day after that Record article was published, doubled the number of uncommonly handsome sons by adding my little bro, Dan.

Not that the hometown Dover-New Phila Times-Reporter had the slightest inkling of that when they got around to reporting Fred Foutz’s promotion Nov. 29:

Frederick Foutz of Nashport, a native of Dover, has been named assistant manager of the Zanesville store of Moore’s Lumber and Building Materials, a division of Evans Products Co., which also has a store in Dover. He joined the company last year in Newark. Foutz is a graduate of the University of Cincinnati and a member of the Elks. He and his wife, the former Janet Ley, have one child.

Sorry, Dan. CONGRATS, DAD!

And… happy birthday!


An early Foutz family portrait: Fred, Janet and baby Colt, 1976.

An early Foutz family portrait: Fred, Janet and baby Colt, 1976.


Categories: Foutz, Milestones | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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