known to the Isaly and Latham grandchildren as "Auntie,"
was born on November 24, 1892 in Circleville, Ohio,
the younger sister of Henrietta
Isaly, our grandmother.
mother, Blanche, died from typhoid fever when
Gramma and Auntie were very young; she had taken
care of the rest of the family as they suffered
through the illness before her.
father, Thomas J. "Papa" Abernethy,
an attorney in Pickaway County and later in Columbus,
raised Gramma and Auntie alone until he married
Nellie Cain, whom we knew as "Nanny."
about Papa here.
earned her B.A. in Fine Arts from The Ohio State
University and then went on to complete her Masters
in Fine Arts, an accomplishment that was quite
unusual for a woman in the early 1900's. She first
taught in the small town on Millersburg, and then
eventually ended up teaching Fine Arts at North
High School, where she taught for 45 years and
was affectionately known as "Miss A".
Auntie retired in 1964, at at the age of 72!
who never married, viewed her students as her
own children, and her caring, gentle ways became
her legacy. I was always amazed at the number
of students who continued to stay in touch with
Auntie long after she retired. Many of them visited
her at her retirement home, Wesley Glen, and they
themselves were elderly! Several of Auntie's students
went on to become famous in the field, including
Gordon Keith and cartoonist Roy Doty. When we
were young, Auntie patiently taught us how to
draw and paint, and often took us to her art room
at North High so that we coud play with clay.
one could see beauty quite the way Auntie could;
she saw the elegance of each petal of a flower,
the rich textures of a landscape, and even the
tiniest detail in a piece of blown glass. While
some of us would complain of a rainy day, Auntie
saw in it the beauty of nature refreshing the
earth and bringing even more vibrant colors to
it. She had the dreamlike qualities of a true
artist, and I know that she saw life a little
more ethereally than most do.
going to Auntie's house and having "brown
cows," the root beer floats she made? She
packed them with rich vanilla ice cream and we
loved the way the root beer foamed all over the
edges of the glass. I remember many warm summer
evenings when Anne and I played with the little
carved figurines that Auntie kept in her bookcases
by the fireplace, and drank our brown cows while
the grownups talked.
lifelong best friend, Evelyn Ross, who also was
single, lived next door to her, and the two of
them traveled the world together. Auntie made
sketches of the lovely places she visited and
then compiled them in personalized books for some
of us. She presented me with my "Auntie Book"
when I graduated from Ohio State in 1973; she
was 81 years old when she created that book! I
treasure it, with its full of hand-printed poetry
and watercolor paintings.
was a charter member of a women's teaching organization
called Delta Kappa Gamma, and I always took her
to her meetings because she just wouldn't miss
them! Aunt Betty was also a member. In 2004, the
group invited me to be a member, even though I
am not currently teaching, and I think it had
a lot to do with Auntie's longtime membership
in and love of Delta kappa Gamma. I was very proud
to wear her DKG pin at my initiation.
1992, we had a 100th birthday party for Auntie,
and many of the family members attended. She received
100 roses from a local florist, and we held a
reception at which more than 70 people wished
her Happy Birthday. I've never seen her so excited
and happy, surrounded by the ones she loved so
I always noticed about Auntie was that even when
her face was at rest, she appeared to be smiling.
Billy and Robby said she had "smiley wrinkles."
I told her that once ... "Auntie, you always
look happy. Even when you're just watching TV,
your face relaxes into a smile." Her reply
was, "Well, honey, that's the way it is,
I guess, when God blesses you with a beautiful
life." May we all live long enough to develop
smiley wrinkles from being happy!
passed away on January 23, 1994, at the age of
101, having brought much joy and beauty to other
people's lives through her love of and expression
of beauty in her own.
Ginny Rizzo Latham:
invited Roy Doty, since he lives in CT (Roy Doty
is one of Auntie's favorite art students, and
he went on to become a famous cartoonist) to come
to our house when Auntie visited us one summer.
He spent the whole afternoon talking to Auntie.
told us that if it weren't for Miss "A"
nothing would have happened to him. He said Auntie
was responsible for all of his success as a cartoonist.
Auntie was so happy and proud to see her old student.
He lives in Ridgefield, CT.
gave Tommy one of his books and signed it for
him right in front of his eyes with a picture
which took him seconds to draw! Tommy was shocked
how quickly he could draw! See
Roy Doty's Wikipedia entry here.
1974, Jack Nicklaus opened his new Muirfield Golf
Course, home of the Memorial
Tournament, in Dublin, Ohio. This was a HUGE
deal for everyone in the Columbus area!
vaguely knew Jack because Jack's wife, Barbara
Bash Nicklaus, had been a student of Auntie's
at North High school back in the 1950's, and Barbara
had stayed in touch with Auntie off and on since
her graduation. When the golf course opened, Auntie
and Evelyn Ross, Auntie's best friend and music
teacher at North High, decided to go check it
piled into Auntie's 1964 Chevy Bel Air, a car
that dwarfed Auntie's 5'1" frame, and headed
up to Dublin. Once they reached Muirfield, they
entered the grounds and began to look around.
Auntie was 82 years old at the time.
to Auntie, they saw these pretty little blacktop
roads that wound through the golf course, and
she thought they'd be able to see the different
fairways and greens best if they followed these
paths. They were terribly narrow, though, she
said, and she couldn't understand why they would
build this brand new golf course with such small
off they went, Auntie sitting on the edge of her
driver's seat, stiff as a board, barely able to
see between the metal dash and the top curve of
her steering wheel, carefully trying to navigate
these really narrow "roads." Soon they
came to a bridge over a pretty little stream and
Auntie said that she was very surprised that the
bridge had no railings and that it was barely
wide enough for her car! She stopped so that Evelyn
could get out and be her guide to cross the bridge.
Evelyn, standing on one side of the bridge, signaling
Auntie a little to the right and then to the left
-- to stop! To back up a little and then go to
the right ... Auntie told me that she was scared
to death she was going to drive off this bridge
into the stream, and that she was going to write
to the engineers who built it to tell them that
this was just NOT big enough for even a mid-size
car to traverse; in fact, what would a Cadillac
or other "rich person" car do, since
her car would barely fit on the bridge?
her horror when a security guard came running
toward them waving his arms and shouting. How
rude! It wasn't HER fault that they made the bridge
so daggone narrow! He didn't need to YELL at her!
guard told her to get off the bridge - to back
up and carefully drive back where she came from.
Auntie was furious at his nerve, but she backed
up off the bridge (quite a feat for Auntie, who
didn't care for backing up!) and got out of the
car. She walked over toward the security guard
and said, "I'll have you know that these
roads and bridges are ridiculously narrow. How
do you expect people to even drive on them? They
aren't even marked 'One Way.'!"
can probably imagine the look on the guard's face.
He said, "Ma'am ... you cannot drive on these
roads! You're going to have to leave ..."
and Auntie said that she was sorry to be rude,
but she interrupted him and said, "Look!
There's the sign that says Motorized Vehicles
Only." She pointed to her car and said, "This
is a motorized vehicle. And furthermore, I'll
have you know that I had Barbara Nicklaus in school
and that she was a fine pupil (Auntie always used
the word "pupil" instead of "student".)
You can call her and she will tell you that I
have every right to drive on this golf course,
and she would want me to."
took a lot to make Auntie mad, but she was really
angry about this rude security man telling her
to get off of Barbara Nicklaus' husband's golf
course!! The guard attempted to explain to her
that the "motorized vehicles" that the
sign referred to were GOLF CARTS, not cars, but
it just didn't seem to register with Auntie. This
episode happened in 1974, and Auntie lived twenty
year after that day. Know what? She never DID
understand what she had done to make that guard
mad! She continued to drive until she was 91,
leaving a trail of horrifed drivers pulled off
on the side of the road, wondering who was the
little white-haired lady driving down the middle
of the road?
you would like to write your memories of Auntie
them to me, I will post them here.