• • •  ELIZABETH BEATRICE ABERNETHY • • •
BIRTHDAY: November 24, 1892
Sister of Henrietta Isaly
Aunt of Betty Isaly, Bud Isaly, and Earl Isaly
Great-aunt of Tom Isaly, Chuck Isaly, Patty Isaly Withycombe, Ray Latham, Anne Latham Stiles, and Ellen Isaly Clark.
  
lizabeth Beatrice Abernethy, 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.

Their 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.

Their 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." Read about Papa here.

Auntie 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!

Auntie's Easter bonnet.Auntie, 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.

No 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.

Remember 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.

Auntie's 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.

Auntie 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.

Auntie and her 100 roses!In 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 dearly.

Back row: Earl, Shirley, Anne, Ellen, Patty, Ray, Jean, Tom. Front row: Billy, Robby, LaurenSomething 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!

Auntie 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.

From Ginny Rizzo Latham:

We 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.

He 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.

He 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.

n 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!

Auntie 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 out.

They 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.

According 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 roads.

So 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.

Picture 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?

Imagine 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!

The 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.'!"

You 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."

It 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?

If you would like to write your memories of Auntie and send them to me, I will post them here.

        Auntie's North High School Yearbook Photo - 1940's  
Happy Birthday, Auntie!
Ellen and Auntie - 1988
Auntie holding baby Billy - 1981