Susie Jane Patrick (1889-1973)
|Susie, middle, with younger siblings|
|Susie with three of her children: L to R: Mildred, Frank, Geneva|
On December 6, 1906, at the age of 17, she married a young Cooter, Missouri man named Emery Brooks. She had 6 children, 5 girls and 1 boy. Only 4 of those children would live. One child, Mary Sue, is still living. (Please see "A Gentle Man" for info on Susie's children.)
Though they were a farming family, they lived in the town of Cooter on Main Street. There has been some talk that their farm house burned to the ground, so they were forced to live in town. From the photos, it can be told that Susie always made sure her children were clean and well-dressed. Susie was also neat, with her hair pulled back. She was a very attractive young woman, with the smooth skin and the dark and deep eyes inherited from her Cherokee ancestors.
Besides keeping house, Susie's role was disciplinarian, as her husband Emery was easy-going and soft-hearted. Her granddaughters remember her fondly, as kind, gentle, and a lady. Since Susie's husband died young, she was left to raise a small child, Mary Sue, all by herself. It is here that I find the most solidarity with her, as I am raising my own daughter almost entirely by myself.
I asked one of my dad's sisters how Susie provided for herself and her children without a husband in the 30's and 40's. This was what she said:
For a time, Susie worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy neighbor and took in washing and ironing to make a living. She always had a large garden and a lot of peach trees. Her pantry was always well stocked with canned vegetables and fruit. She raised a pig or two every year, had laying hens which provided eggs and fried chicken on Sunday. Her smokehouse contained salt- cured ham, bacon, and fatback.. She made her own lye soap which was used liberally to scrub clothes and kids alike. She lived frugally on a tiny pension and commodities such as cheese, evaporated milk, rice and beans were provided by the local government.
It is to her credit and hard work that her children were raised, educated and given a chance for a better life without the benefit of a husband and father. Susie did what she could for her children and still managed to lend a hand to sick and disabled neighbors.
From the photos, I can tell her children were always well taken care of. Soon after his father died, Charles joined the war effort and it was there he grew into a man. According to Mary Sue, Susie went to E. St. Louis, IL. and lived with Geneva and Chester and worked at the Christian Welfare Hospital to help get her through college. She only worked there about 18 months. Then she returned to Cooter, Mo, where she lived the rest of her life. When Mary Sue came of age, she married and became an elementary school teacher. She is now retired and lives with her husband in Illinois.
A memory from Mary Sue:
How well I remember [Mom Susie and Grandma Patrick] going
to the hen house gathering eggs and putting them in their aprons, also
the baby chickens to get them out of the nest so they could clean up the
egg shells and the old mother hen so protective of her babies. She would
squawk and peck and peck. Scared me!Mom Susie would pick up the apples and peaches as they fell a few each day and bring them in the house in her apron. She never let anything go to waste. She quickly turned them into preserves and apple butter. We also had a plum tree.
I remember her making pear preserves so rich and syrupy. She would keep
them in a stone churn and would dip them out by the bowlful and we
would have them for supper with hot biscuits and butter.
|Susie with daughters Geneva and Mary Sue|
|Susie's home in Cooter, Missouri taken in September, 1968|
|with her daughter Mary Sue and granddaughter|
I may have mentioned that I adored Grandma Susie. She was the epitome of the perfect role model for a young girl. Every summer, I spent two weeks with her. During that time she tried to teach me to sew, embroider and appreciate art and literature. She succeeded in the literature department but not sewing or needlepoint. Every summer she whipped out my pillow cases which had the outline of birds on them. My two cousins, Nancy and Leslie, were also there during those two weeks. They always completed embroidering two pillow cases each visit. However, I would thread the needle then stitch one or two stitches, then stare out the window...bored silly. I never finished one pillow case. I never even finished one bird's tail! Before Grandma died, she had separated her treasures and labeled them with the name of the person they were for. After her death, I received a neat package marked, "for Sheila". When I opened the package there were my two pillow cases with the partially finished bird tail. I could just see her smiling as she wrapped that package for me so carefully. I loved that woman but I DON'T DO needlework. I cherish my unfinished pillow cases.
From another of Susie's granddaughters:
Grandma Susie was one great lady. She planted seeds, nurtured them, encouraged all of us to work hard and make something of ourselves. She was a hard worker and she never asked us to do anything that she didn't do, too. When we worked in the field, she worked right along with us, plus cooking our breakfast, fixing lunch, patching our cotton sacks, and having us ready to be picked up and in the field by sun up.
|Susie, late in life|
Until the day she died, she remained a steadfast, loyal Methodist, working quietly behind the scenes to help others who were less fortunate than she. The Cooter Methodist Church honored her service to the community by declaring a "Susie Brooks Day."
|Susie, age 80, on the day the church honored her|
Susie passed away three years after this photo was taken, the day before Independence Day, 1973, five years before I would be born. Though I never knew her, in learning about her I have found quite a few similarities between us. We share a passion for service to the community, art, and literature. I, too, have a flowering peach tree in my yard, which my daughter and I planted last fall and I love to garden, though I'm sure she had a wealth of knowledge about gardening and running a household that I will never have. She knew about hard work, and suffered many tragedies. Though I, too, have had more than my share of loss, the pain of losing a child would be devastating. Susie lost two. Learning about Susie's hard life has made me realize how easy I've always had it. How I wish I could have known her.