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Lillian Fern "Mary" Strong (1897 - 1967)

Lillian Fern "Mary" Strong
(1897 - 1967)

My great-grandmother, Lillian Fern Strong, was born Sunday, 10 January 1897 in Hudsonville, Ottawa County, Michigan.  She was ninth of ten children born to Charles Frisbe Strong and Mary Lucy Wright.  Her siblings were Jessie Elizabeth Strong (1874 - 1968); Frank Charles Strong (1877 - 1948); Archie Leroy "Roy" Strong (1879 - 1931); Perlee Zeri Strong (1884 - 1956); William Earl Strong (1886 - 1900); Leo Ray Strong (1888 - 1888); Ethel Melissa Strong (1889 - 1985); Edwin "Ed" Floyd Strong (1893 - 1983); and Mildred May Strong (1902 - 1903).

Lillian loved the name "Mary".  Her mother was named Mary, she named her youngest daughter Mary, and went by the name herself.  In fact, she loved the name Mary so much, that when my parents and I visited her from out West when I was 6 months old, she wanted my parents to rename me.  But my mother gently told her that Miriam was a form of Mary, and that by my age, I was already used to my name.

Writing this AnceStory was easy, because my great-grandmother had already written her life story in 1964 in her Family Record book that she and my great-grandfather, John Martin Hoekstra, kept.  Here is her story; my editing is in brackets [  ].

|Lillian's Early Childhood | School Days | The Oregon Years |
 | Marriage and Motherhood | Illness |


"The first I can remember was when I was 3 years old.  We lived in a red small farmhouse outside White Cloud, [Newaygo County,] Michigan.  My brother Willie (12 years old) was bedridden with rheumatic fever.  I can remember him lying on our couch.  It was a very cold house and a cold winter.  Willie died very suddenly of a heart attack [March 31, 1900].

"We then moved to [a corner house on] Griggs [Street] in Grand Rapids [Kent County, Michigan].  On May 11 [1900], my mother had a baby girl, Mildred May.  From there in 1903, we lived on Cottage Grove Avenue near Plaster Creek.  I was 5 years old...Then we moved up on Alpine Avenue north of Grand Rapids; then on to Ross Well's aunt's house in Eastmanville [Newaygo County].  I celebrated my 6th birthday there; we were also there at Easter time.

"Then we moved into Frank Vande Gout's house on the same road in Eastmanville.  On a Sunday in [February] 1903, my baby sister, Mildred, almost 2 years old, died suddenly of pneumonia.  She was a frail, delicate, beautiful girl who had auburn ringlets and blue eyes - always very happy.

"I started my first days of school at the village school in Eastmanville.  Then we moved into Erne Rece's home, so I went to the Evergreen school.  Elsie Brough, age 23, was my teacher.  Later in 1905, she became my brother Perlee's wife."  Lillian's family moved around so much that she attended 15 schools in 10 years.  Most of this was due to her father's "itchy foot."

"...we moved to Grand Rapids again (in 1904), to the southeast corner of Madison and Burton.  It was a three-family, three-story home, painted yellow.  We lived in the south half of the house.  Bert Strong [a cousin], the Jarrel boys and the Higgins sisters lived in the big yellow house with us. Roy Strong, my brother, [had] married Alberta Higgins in 1900.  Jessie and Harley [sister and brother-in-law] lived across the street and ran 12 greenhouses, which they rented from a Mr. Brown.  We had a family group picture taken February 1905 in the yellow house because Jessie had to go to Ann Arbor to have an operation.  I was 8 years old.  I spent the summer of 1906 in Park Lake caring for Alberta Strong; then I came back to Griggs Street near Palace.

The Charles Strong Family, 1905
Seated, left to right: father Charles, Edwin, Lillian, mother Mary, Jessie
Standing, left to right: Frank, Roy, Ethel and Perlee

"In 1907, Ma, Pa, Frank, Ethel, Ed and I went to live on a company ranch in Oregon; Frank Strong was the director.  The ranch was a child's Eden after living in the city.  It had rambling roses, pink cabbage roses, and yellow tea roses on each side of the wooden path up to the house.  There were three sour cherry trees in the front yard and two big cedars.  There was a big cottonwood tree over the stile Frank built (it went over the fence and we got out of the buggy and stepped over it).  [The house] had a picket fence all around it.

"Then in November 1907, the company ranch house burned down.  Ma was sick in bed [bedridden from a stroke]."  Lillian's daughter Ruth (my grandmother) later related how the family rescued Lillian's mother by taking her out of the house on her mattress.  Each of them saved one precious item from the fire: Ethel saved her teaching certificate, Ed saved his suit of clothes, and Lillian saved her canary.  Lillian continues, "We lived in the old Snavely place where the rats ran and squealed in the walls all night.  It made my mother so nervous that Will Chapman [a cousin living nearby] said to bring her to Woodburn [Marion County, Oregon] so he could care for her.  Ethel, Ma and I went along.  Pa and Ed stayed and took care of the stock on the farm.

"Then we went to Glad Tidings [perhaps Gladstone?, Clackamas County], Oregon.  Ethel started teaching school up in Molalla [Clackamas County], Oregon.  Mrs. Hastie kept house for us for a while [this may have been Ethel's future mother-in-law].  It was a rainy cold winter.  Ed Strong almost shot me with his gun."  [I wish Lillian had explained that story!]

At some point, Lillian's family lived in Saskatchewan, Canada.  Her mother was a cook for a threshing crew, and they ended up living out a winter in a sod house with an underground barn.  One night a calf was born, and it was so cold that parts of his ears were frozen!  They kept the calf in the soddy with them until he was strong enough to live in the barn.

Lillian and her brother Ed used to write to penpals through a large Ohio newspaper.  They actually got to meet their penpals later, and Lillian got engaged to her penpal apparently while she was engaged to her future husband, John!

At some point, Lillian, Ed and their mother returned to Grand Rapids, Michigan but it is unclear as to whether her father did as well.  He may have stayed out West with her brother Frank.  Lillian married John Martin Hoekstra in Grand Rapids on 20 September 1916 at 1817 Horton Avenue, her mother's home.  She writes, "We lived with my mother and Ed for five months, then we went and stayed with John's folks at 1122 Hull Street (we shouldn't have gone there; we should have stayed at Burton Heights [Kent County] in Aunt Celia's house [her mother's sister]).  We bought a house at 940 Temple Street.  We saved up $100 to pay down.  We liked the house, but we were in an entirely Dutch neighborhood; I used to get so lonesome.

"It was there, in 1921, that I knew I was going to have Ruth (our first child).  She was born 16 January 1919.  We moved to 410 Woodlawn Avenue.  It was at that time I got acquainted with Mrs. Roosenroad.  She had a baby, Laura, younger than Ruth.  Then we went to Tacoma [Pierce County, Washington], where John's folks went.  We stayed with them a while and went down to Broadacres [the ranch in Oregon?] to Frank's house, July 4th, 1919.  We had a happy time.  Ethel was there, Ma and Frank and Pa.  They had a wonderful garden, cows, chickens, and milk.  My mother as always had a beautiful flower bed - and a hedge of sweet peas, which I picked every day.  Hope, our middle daughter, was born at 6315 South "G" Street, Tacoma, Washington on 26 November 1920.  She was a big baby (8 1/2 pounds).  I was sick all summer after she was born.

"In April 1921, my father, Charles F. Strong, died...we came back to Michigan in November 1922.  We saw all the Hoekstras and Strongs; they always did so much for us.  We stayed with Ed and [his wife] Vi near Grandville Avenue (Ruth was a naughty girl, so that is why we had a quarrel and left Grandma and Grandpa Hoekstra's house).

"We rented an upstairs [apartment] with five rooms and a toilet on the corner of Burton and Palace.  It was there that Mary Louise Hoekstra (our youngest) was born - at 10 a.m. on 5 June 1926.  She was a beautiful red-cheeked baby.  I got along fairly well until I got diphtheria.  I went to [Aunt] Reatha and [Uncle] Louis [Hoekstra]'s house one night, then came home.

"We had a new house built for us, by Grandpa Hoekstra and his son Louis at 1023 Gibson, S.E.  Everything was so new and clean.  I bought my first electric sewing machine at Wards, when Mary Lou was 18 months old, for $45.50.  I paid on time for it.  I made all the children's clothes and mine.  I also knitted sweaters, crocheted and tatted...

"John started working at the post office when Ruth was 6 years old [1925].  Louis and Grandpa built us another new house at 1835 Newark.  It was big and fine, only John had to sleep daytimes and it was so hard for me to keep the children quiet when he slept.  The bathroom was upstairs with no hot water for baths.  We had to carry it up with pails to take a bath...

"Then we bought a house from Lloyd Conrad at 100 Farnham Street, S.E.  There I met Mrs. Bobbitt, and Mrs. Barents and family.  I was sick a lot there with my nerves."  Then Lillian and John did a three-way house trade and ended up at 2144 Greenfield Avenue, S.W.  She continues, "We got acquainted with the DeRyke, Turner, Burkholder and Fribley families.  We lived on Greenfield Avenue 10 years.  I was sick almost all the time I was there.  I was in Butterworth Hospital the first time in October 1943.  Ruth, our 24-year-old daughter, had just gone to Junction City, Kansas to marry Bill Valk [who was stationed nearby in the U.S. Army during World War II].  She was home in a month and told us she was going to have a baby.

"I had trouble  with muscle spasms in my arms and was nervous with the neighbors yelling at their kids all the time.  That was the time in 1944 that the gravel pit on Byron Center Avenue opened up.  There was so much noise you couldn't hear yourself or hear each other in back yards.

"On 6 June 1946 , I came down very suddenly one night with Meniere's disease.  I was sick and dizzy for about 3 weeks.  Hope stayed home from work to take care of me."  For the next 21 years, Lillian battled this inner ear disease, which caused her at times to be bedridden due to extreme dizziness.  In 1960, she also developed a very rapid heartbeat, which medicine did not seem to help.

In 1947, John and Lillian had moved to 2710 Forest Grove Avenue, S.W., Wyoming Township, Kent County.  They attended South Wyoming Methodist Church.  On Sunday, 10 September 1967, Lillian died of pneumonia and a bleeding ulcer in Blodgett Memorial Hospital, Grand Rapids.  She was buried two days later in the Grandville-Wyoming Cemetery, Wyoming Township.  (obituary)


Ruth Lillian Hoekstra - my maternal grandmother

Hope Mildred Hoekstra was born 26 November 1920 in Tacoma, Pierce County, Washington.  She married Richard Vern Loveland (1921 - 1976) on 6 December 1949 in Silverdale, Kitsap County, Washington and had four children.  She died 10 July 1968 in Tacoma, where she had been a long-time resident, and was buried at Mount View Memorial Park in Pierce County.

Mary Louise "Mary Lou" Hoekstra was born 5 June 1923 in Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan.  She married John Peter Glashower, Jr. (1908 - 1997) on 26 January 1946 and had four children, including Alan Larry Glashower who died in infancy in 1947.  She was a resident of Cedar Springs, Kent County, Michigan for many years before moving to Punta Gorda, Charlotte County, Florida in 1977.  She died 15 May 1994 in Punta Gorda; her cremains were laid to rest 2 June 1994 in the same lot as those of her husband's and infant son at Grandville-Wyoming Cemetery, Wyoming Township, Kent County, Michigan.

More about my great-grandmother, Lillian Ferne "Mary" Strong, can be found in the upcoming AnceStories of her parents, Charles Frisbe Strong and Mary Lucy Wright, her husband John Martin Hoekstra, and their daughter Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.

Top photo of Lillian Ferne Strong taken 1898 in Gillett Studio, Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Original in possession of Miriam Midkiff.  Photo of Charles Strong family taken 1905 in Grand Rapids.  Photocopy in possession of Faith Robbins;   whereabouts of original are unknown.

Miriam Robbins Midkiff
created: 4 Jul 2003
updated: 13 Mar 2005

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Miriam Midkiff, 2003 - 2006