24 May 2010

Birthday Bio -- Pi's mother, Ida May Rees Arnold, born 24 May 1855 Ohio, died 15 June 1891 Ohio

Ida May Rees was the 2nd of three girls born to Elizabeth Rathmell and Benjamin Rees, a successful farmer at Rees Station near Groveport, Franklin County, Ohio (he served in the Ohio legislature). 



Ida May front left in both pictures

Her mother died at 31 when Ida May was five. Her father remarried and she was close to her half sisters.  Ida, like her mother, would die young leaving small children, including a five year old daughter, Grace, who would become our grandmother, Pi.

On New Year's Day 1879 Ida May married a school teacher, Charles Eber Arnold, who was born and raised on a farm nearby.  He was well over six feet tall, she was tiny.  He could hold an arm straight out, and she could walk under it.  I have a dress of hers in a trunk.  It is very small.  Charles, alas, was not bound for success, though my mother said when she met him the one time, she thought him very handsome.

The young couple had a son, Eber Thomas, born on 16 Nov 1879. He lived only 8 months.  They moved to Johnstown, Licking County Ohio where their 2nd child, Charles Garfield was born 17 March 1881, but husband Charles wanted to try his hand at sheep ranching in Kansas so the family headed west.  A daughter, Elizabeth was born 11 Feb 1884 somewhere in Kansas, perhaps in Fall River where they settled long enough to have two more children, Grace (our grandmother, Pi) born 11 March 1886, and Clyde born 1 April 1889.

clockwise from left: Elizabeth, Charles Garfield, Grace, and Clyde.

Not only did the sheep not thrive, but Ida May sickened and returned to Ohio where she died at the home of a sister on 15 June 1891.  The Eureka, Kansas newspaper, the Democratic Messenger noted on  July 3rd, page 2 column 6  "Mrs. C.E. Arnold died in Ohio." After her death, Charles put the children in and out of orphanages when he felt unable to care for them.


                                                                 Grace, "Pi"


Pi said the years in the orphanage were the happiest years of her childhood -- although her father taught her to read, he had a heavy hand, used her as a servant, didn't comb her hair, or provide her with shoes, baths, or regular meals.  Both her brothers ran away -- Clyde as a young teenager who was never seen again. Older brother Charles Garfield surfaced in Utah married to a beautiful Mormon woman,  Maud Winget, with whom he had four children before they divorced. He wrote a sad letter to her late in life regretting their parting.  Elizabeth died a tragic death just after WWII -- an impoverished woman living in a single occupancy hotel in Oakland, she believed her son was coming home from the War so she climbed the hills of San Francisco to watch for his ship.  She had been told that his ship sank near the Philippines just two weeks before the war ended, but she didn't believe he was lost.  Pi was eventually taken under the wing of one of her father's sisters (I think it was Ada Orilla Arnold) and entered the Miami Valley Nursing School where she completed a three year course to became a certified RN.

                                                         Pi, a proud RN

Charles Eber Arnold married a 2nd time after Ida May died but he had no more children.  The one time my mother and her siblings met their grandfather, it was after Pi and Grandad had returned from the Philippines.  Mom was about 13.  Charles was then living in Los Angeles (where he is buried) and working as an auto upholsterer.  He had no interest in knowing his daughter, Grace, or any of her children and they never saw him again.

Ida May Rees Arnold's young death changed everything.

          Charles Eber Arnold lived long but didn't thrive.

Ida May Rees Arnold is buried near Groveport in Walnut Hill Cemetery, Franklin County, Ohio. Her maternal grandparents, her daughter Elizabeth, and a plaque for Elizabeth's son lost in WWII are nearby.


  1. I love all of these old photos. Old time black and white photos are the best.

  2. I used to collect old photographs. It made me sad that they were for sale, all of those memories and family photos lost without anyone to claim them.


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