A few years ago, my mother-in-law had given my husband a photo of him and his siblings with his great grandmother, “Grandma Fish” My husband fondly remembers her sugar cookies and told me that she was in her 90s when she passed away. So when this week’s 52 Ancestors theme of “Live Long” came up, I immediately thought of her.
Velma Myrtle Kelsey was born on August 24, 1897 in the small, rural community of Springville, Vernon County, Wisconsin. Her parents were Flornty and Harriet “Hattie” (Van Dyke) Kelsey. William McKinley was beginning his first term as President that year. Three days before Velma’s birth, a gentleman named Ransom Olds in Lansing, Michigan was starting his automobile company, Oldsmobile.
Velma’s parents seemed to have bounced around a bit, living between Jefferson and Genoa in Vernon County, and briefly in Browning, Taylor County, Wisconsin.
Tragedy struck on Velma’s 13th birthday in 1910. Her mother, Hattie, died at the age of 28, leaving Velma, her father, and 6 other young siblings.
At some point, she met Roscoe Fish, who was from Sparta, Monroe County, Wisconsin. On March 10, 1919, she and Roscoe took a trip to Winona, Minnesota and were married by Samuel L. Parrish. Witnesses to the ceremony were Roscoe’s sister, Mary and her husband, Alex Paterson.
Roscoe and Velma settled down in Sparta, to start their family. They had 4 sons and 4 daughters. Three of their sons died when they were just infants. They eventually moved to a large home on Pine Street in Sparta, where Roscoe was employed by nearby Fort McCoy.
Roscoe and Velma were married for 29 years until tragedy struck once again. Roscoe suffered an aneurysm at the age of 59, and died on November 11, 1948.
Velma continued living on as a widow for 41 years. Over that time, she saw 32 grandchildren, 52 great-grandchildren and 3 great-great-grandchildren born. She also had to bear another loss, when her daughter, Phyllis, died in 1982.
Velma died March 13, 1989 at the age of 91. She is buried next to her husband, Roscoe in the Angelo Cemetery.
During her lifetime, she lived through the Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. She saw the Berlin Wall fall and saw Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon. William McKinley, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Woodrow Wilson, Warren Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Franklin Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush all served as President while she was alive. and although, she experienced so much heartbreak at the death of her mother, her children and her husband, she obviously experienced much joy and wonder to have lived as long as she did.