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1915 Elizabeth 2016

Elizabeth Litwiller

February 14, 1915 — February 24, 2016

Carmen (Doris Elizabeth Sampson) Litwiller February 14 1915 – February 24 2016
For reasons of the luck of the draw I’ve been asked to write a bio of my grandmother, Carmen Litwiller, for her 100th birthday, Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2015.
How do you describe such a life? It defies words and yet I need to put them down. First I thought I’d write about all the changes she’s seen in technology & society over 100 years, then as her typical take charge self, she attempted to make me let her add her own stuff. So typical, but hmmm no! So speaking for her surviving child Ted, her grandchildren, Rick, Linda, Mike, Barbie, Teddy, Lisa & myself, Laura & all the grandchildren, 8 great grandchildren and 2 great-great grandchildren, with 2 more on the way (I wish I had space to name you all, she so treasures you), it was back off buttercup, we’ve got this. She also tried to commandeer her party – nope, you get to say whose invited, when and what you want, the rest is given for you. I think she sat in her chair wring her hands the entire time.
Carmen (Doris Carmen Elizabeth Sampson-None of us, including Grams, knew her given name was Doris) who will heretofore be referred to as Grams, since that is how everyone knows her now; was born in Seward, Nebraska on February 14, 1915. She and her two siblings (Anise and Richard) were raised on a farm in the middle of nowhere by her mom and dad (Rose Zimmerman Sampson & John Ambrose Sampson). She loves to regale us all with stories of her youth. Her sister Anise and her trying to kill their first chicken for family dinner; the phone they had to crank, speak to the operator (whom everyone knew) and ask for “Mildred” (the operator could hear the entire conversation), her mother’s beautiful long black hair.
She tells of how she held her mamma’s hand as the soldiers marched in the streets, celebrating VE day (the end of WWl). How she held her mama’s hand, not understanding the significance, as her mother went to vote for the very first time, after the passage of the 19th amendment (women’s suffrage) giving women the right to vote (a very long hard battle). She recalls how sick her mother became, finally succumbing to tuberculosis when she was a young girl. Her dad remarried but it wasn’t the best marriage as the girl was so young, however her half brothers became pretty important to her, especially David.
With her usual headstrong style, she married, Russell Allen Litwiller at 17, not realizing what she was getting into and soon had two children Theodore (Ted) & Patricia (Patty). There was a LOT of moving from state to state as grandpa was chasing jobs, living in trailers, one room apartments, shacks, whatever they could find – as soon as she settled in, Grandpa would find work in another state and move them again.
After Pearl Harbor, Grandpa was called to duty in California, as a civilian flight instructor at CalAero in Ontario, California yet another move, but this time it was permanent. Eventually they settled down and Grams worked as a Hostess/Manager at Harold’s Fine Dining in Fontana, California. Grandpa was in the Orchestra. The owners and many of the regular clientele grew to be great friends, some life long friends from there. Grams loved the glamour and getting dressed up. She finally got to have fun. Grandpa & his father, Ruben (Rube) Litwiller built a home, by themselves, in Fontana, California and that’s where they lived for quite awhile.
Uncle Ted married and had 2 kids Teddy and Lisa, then remarried the love of his life, Jeanne and added two more kids to the fold, Kari and Jeff. He’s a 6 time cancer survivor and just turned 82. We love them so much. My Uncle Ted and Aunt JeAnne (Margot) have a story themselves…wonderful.
Patty married & divorced several times had 5 kids Rick, Linda, Mike, Barbie and Me. She married an abuser and was killed under suspicious circumstances (His account of the incident made no sense to law enforcement, who believed he had killer her, either on purpose or accidently, but due to lack of evidence could not be charged) in1964. This never quit haunting Grams. She spoke of it often … I can only imagine what it would be like to lose your child, especially that way. (Since Barbie was our half sister, she had to live with him. This was something I don’t think anyone of us got over. To this day she is a very extra special part of our family, we didn’t get to enjoy her as part of our childhood.) However the four of us went to live with Grams and Grampa, to everyone’s disbelief. At 50 and 60, when the majority of people were winding down ready to retire, they took on 4 kids. We would normally have gone into foster care. Most of Grams friends told her she was crazy … in fact because of their age, almost no family court judge would have allowed them to be placed with grandparents (this was extremely rare, especially with 4 of us). By God’s grace (at least that’s the way I see it), the judge asked her if she wanted these 4 children? And she said, YES! And so, we were saved and kept together, ordinarily we would have been separated and put into foster care – we all remained wards of the court until we were 19... This just wasn’t done in the 60’s but Grams would have it no other way.
At some point, Grams put herself through business and accounting school at night and became an accountant, a career she practiced well into her 80’s. She really wanted to be a CPA and had all the skills to be one. But she told me she was absolutely horrible at tests – she froze every time and just could not get past it. So she satisfied herself with being an accountant, but was often told she should be a CPA. You never ever ever messed with Grams; she had a will of iron. You did things her way, the right way; right was right and wrong was wrong. At the time I was scared of her, but in retrospect I’m grateful for the values she instilled. In addition to working full time Grams was an active member in many organizations and had a circle of friends that were amazing.
She was involved in:
(CDA) Catholic Daughters of America (She served as Regent for 2 yrs) – still active!
(BPW) Business & Professional Women (Served as President 2 yrs Fontana Chapter retired)
(ASWA) American Society of Women Accountants (Vice President – doesn’t remember retired)
American Cancer Society – Fontana Chapter – Doesn’t remember when she retired
In addition to all of this, she managed to go to Hawaii I don’t know how many times, all expenses paid, with her friends. ; made it to baseball games and talent shows. My gosh it makes me exhausted just writing about it – if this were the end, she would still have lived a remarkable life – but it turns out that it was just the first half (a little over that)
After grandpa passed in July of 1980 (married 48 years); she sold the house and rented a little condo in Upland, where she still resides some 35 years later. All of her grandkids, including me on mom’s side, except Barbie, have lived with her at some point or tough patch in our lives. She’s been there – always trying to push us out of the nest but letting us stay as long as needed – even now.
About 10 years ago she made it to Ireland (a part of our heritage she was very proud of), with her brother David, he is such a character. The sad part about living to the age of 100 is watching while all your friends and family pass away, grow senile, have illnesses that are terminal – and finally have no friends that can relate to you, and wondering why God has seen fit to leave you on this earth alone…I remind her everyday that her legacy is right in front of her… 80 people are coming to her birthday party and it’s on Valentine’s day. All of them call her Grams (except a few) she has made new friends. Her family loves her and she is blessed to be loved by them all. She has the luxury of living at home, loves having my cats to entertain her and she still has all her marbles. I tell her every day to quit living in guilt and regret that is useless and a recipe for sadness and bitterness. Learn what you can from the mistakes of your past and then move on, because the only use for the past … is what can be learned from it. Live today and be grateful for it, and hope for tomorrow, remembering it’s promised to no man. Then I have to go back to my room and preach that sermon to myself in the mirror at least 100 times. I tell her that, not to preach, but to try to get her to the fond memories and the sweetness of the past, and then to what might lie ahead, so she remembers how precious and loved she still is, and that riches aren’t measured in money and things but in how you are loved and valued while you are alive – you cannot buy a true friend, nor devotion. She reminds me every day to keep getting up no matter how many times life knocks you down. She’s shown Linda and I what a can do spirit and stubborn streak a mile wide, can accomplish, by proving doctors (who gave her no hope at all, time and time again) so many times, how wrong they are about her recoveries; from broken hips, ankles…you name it. She’s had 4 falls in the time my husband and I have been here (about 3 years) 2 landed her in the hospital and in long term care for physical therapy. One time we woke up and she didn’t know who she was…overnight. It was frightening. After an ambulance ride and every test in the book, it turned out to be a UTI. I never knew something so simple could do that, but found it’s common in the elderly. Wow, thank God. After all these times we were told she won’t do this, will have to do that, oh she’s old she doesn’t know such and such. I knew darn well she did too and had to school staff a few times and tell them, to their shame in trying to get by with no work, she had all her faculties and don’t give me any of that elderly BS. They’d say no walker at home. I’d walk in her room and find her on her walker. You can’t keep a Litwiller down for long. To sum her up is impossible; to try to put her life in a sentence … it was hard enough to put it on these pages. She is a woman for the ages, a rock, some days I want to knock her out, but I always love her, will ever be grateful to her & am honored to be such a large part of her life at this great stage in her life. The love and relationship we have built together over this time, I wouldn’t trade for anything. She’s Grams! There’s no one else like her – and never will be – THERE IS NOT ONE OF US WHO HASN’T BENEFITED FROM HER KNOWLEDGE OR WIT – SHE MAY BE FLINTY, BUT SHE’S GOT A HEART OF GOLD. I KNOW I SPEAK FOR US ALL – AND WISH WE ALL HAD TIME TO PAY TRIBUTE… BUT OF ONE ACCORD I DO SAY THIS, WE ALL LOVE YOU SO MUCH GRAMS, HAPPY 100th BIRTHDAY! WOW YOU MADE IT! HOW DO WE FOLLOW THAT ACT?
Grams had a TIA (stroke) around Christmas Eve 2015 and was recuperating at Reche Canyon Convalescent Center. While there she contracted pneumonia. On an emergency basis she was transferred to Loma Linda and then Kaiser … we spoke to the doctors and made our wishes known, that we wanted her at home – in her own room, with her family and favorite cat, Dolly. We got her home and the doctor told us she had made a miraculous recovery – so true to who Grams is –We knew she felt better, when she started issuing orders. I had prayed to get her home, and then that she would make it to her 101st birthday. She did both. About a week later, she took a turn for the worse and on Feb 24, 2016, she went to paradise in her sleep, in her own room with her favorite cat right next to her. I can imagine no better way to live life nor leave from this world to the next, and I know for a fact, she was at last, ready to go. Wow, 101. She was sharp as a whip, right until the end. We will all miss her so much – it’s like the end of a dynasty – but she is where nothing can hurt her again – with everyone who was ever precious to her and with her precious Patty. She lives on in all of our hearts and no one can ever say she didn’t earn her spot or she was taken too soon. She left on her own terms right where she wanted to be. More an icon, almost immortal, but she would say … Just call me Grams, and give you a grin with a little bit of leprechaun in her eyes.
This is an addendum to an article that we had tried to get in the newspaper on her 100th birthday, but no matter how we tried, it was ignored – it was the only disappointment she had. So Linda promised her this would be done. Linda was and remains Grams’ greatest advocate, hero, paladin – the one who has always been there year after year, no matter what. She has had the most special relationship with Grams, and I believe should be writing this … but she asked me to use this story, because Grams had so wanted it in the paper. Thank you Linda for all your faithful care of our treasure, all these years, it will always be treasured.
Carmen (Doris) Elizabeth Sampson Litwiller – Born February 14, 1915 – Died February 24 – 1916
Donations can be made in her memory by contributing to Hospice Agencies, American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association.
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