Happy 100th Birthday, Suzanne Abbott Weible Ley
I was blessed to grow up in a town where I was only a short drive — or bike ride — from my grandparents.
It’s not so usual today, with families spread across the country, or, in some cases, the globe. But Dover, Ohio had been home to both sides of my family for better than 100 years, with the roots of the Leys stretching back to the next county over in the early 1800s, and the Weibles just south of Dover and its sister city, New Philadelphia, about a decade earlier than that.
It was important to my parents that we grew up knowing both sides of my family, and we sure did. Birthdays, grandparents days at school, rides to and from track and cross country and band practices, piano recitals, spelling bees, Thanksgivings, Christmases and vacations every year to the Carolinas — these were occasions made all the more memorable and sweet by sharing them with my grandparents, my mom’s parents, Bob and Sue Ley.
In fact, I shared the same elementary school, Dover Avenue, with both my mom and grandma Sue. She grew up just about two blocks east of our house right on Dover Avenue. And lived most of her married life within a mile of her childhood home and grade school.
But grandma was a lot closer than that. On the day I was born, June 2, 1976, — so the story goes — she just had a feeling and drove down to our house near Columbus, Ohio. When she and grandpa looked in the window and saw our dog, Shannon, but no mom and dad, they headed straight for Riverside Hospital.
They were there not long after I entered the world. And they were there for so many occasions during my childhood and young adulthood.
Once, when grandma was out hauling me somewhere and a car warning light went on, grade school me helpfully piped up, “Should we check in the manual, grandma?” She got a kick out of that.
Some of my first inklings of freedom as a kid was being able to bike to their house at the top of the hill on Parkview Drive. There, my cousins and brothers and I would play for hours in the pine trees bordering grandpa’s grapevine and apple trees, dubbing out hideouts Cousins’ Castle and the like. Grandma was always ready with a glass of Pepsi with ice to relax with in the shade of their patios. Over the years, the glass wore smooth and squeaky with their constant trips through the dishwasher.
When I was older, she was always ready to request a song or five from their living room piano. And always responded with enthusiastic applause.
We could walk into their house, day or night, and call out and be greeted by them.
She enjoyed sipping cold beers and talking about our adventures. She’d had several herself. She attended Miami University and Kent State University in Ohio — rare, in her generation — and worked in Columbus for the State of Ohio during World War II. She was also, I found out much later, an avid writer and, rumor had it, had authored a book of stories that was secreted away somewhere. They have not turned up.
We were blessed to share her 88 years, 63 of them married to my grandpa, Robert Earl Ley, Jr. But there are many times I wish I could walk right into their house again, pull up a chair, enjoy a Pepsi — or a cold beer — and hear her characteristic laugh.
As with my blog commemorating the 100th anniversary of my grandpa Don Foutz’s birth six years ago, I’m happy to be able to share so many great pictures of my Grandma Ley to celebrate her 100th. Even happier — so many of these photos have family in them, including me.
They’re a mark of how family was always at the center of my grandparents’ lives. They were blessed with a big one. Seems to me we should find a way to celebrate them both this year — Grandpa’s 100th is Sept. 30 — and get the gang back together again.
Sue Ley: 88 Years in Photographs
(Scroll to view the gallery below, or click any photo for a closeup slideshow.)
Sue Ley 100th Birthday Slideshow