Monday, July 15, 2013


I know it must be annoying to see that every posting starts with an apology for not writing more often.  A year ago, my mother passed away, and somehow it never seemed right to write again until I dealt with that.  Today, I finally created a memorial for my mom on Find a Grave.  I hope you will take the time to view it at Anna M Tolbert Tucker (1934-2012).  

Below is the biography I wrote for her:

It's been a year since my mom left us and in many ways it still doesn't seem real.  I often think of something that I want to tell her and it always takes a few seconds for me to remember that I can't just call her up anymore. 

On July 16, 2012, Anna M Tucker passed away suddenly after suffering from complications related to her long-time heart problems.  We knew it was only a matter of time, we just didn’t think the time would be so short.  Her doctors had told us that even if she followed his orders exactly, the most we could probably hope for was another year with her.  She had been to see the doctor just a month earlier and had been given the bad news that she would probably not survive another heart surgery, although she needed the operation urgently.  In 2003, they had replaced one of her heart valves with a mechanical one and that replacement was failing.  Just days after receiving that news, she was admitted to the Cleveland Clinic with severe symptoms.  They stabilized her and taught her how to take care of her heart condition better.  They then released her to a nursing home near where she lived in Painesville, OH, for temporary rehabilitation.  I had driven up to be with her and things were looking so hopeful for recovery that I was making plans to go home to North Carolina.  On Friday, July 13, when I went to visit her, the staff at the facility was making arrangements to have her examined at the local hospital because her ankles had swelled badly and she didn't seem to know where she was.  Overnight, her condition improved and she seemed her usual self by the next day.  My husband, John, had come up to be with both of us when he had heard she was being readmitted to the hospital.  On Sunday, they were talking about sending her back to rehab and she was joking with the nurses, making friends quickly as she always did.  As she was getting some personal care, we left her room for a while to give her some privacy.  When I returned a few minutes later, I found her room chaotic and her nurse in tears.  She had told the nurse, “I’m tired of this” and suddenly her blood pressure dropped drastically.  During the emergency, her heart stopped twice and they had put her on a respirator.  My brother and I decided to keep her on life support for a few hours to see if she would regain consciousness, but her heart was too weak and at 2:27 AM on Monday morning, she passed away without waking up again.

My mom was never sure exactly when she had been born, but she celebrated her birthday on August 28.  When I was growing up, Mom had told me that her parents died when she was little and that she had been raised by her grandfather.  It wasn’t until 1998 that I learned the truth about her childhood.  She had been born in the early 30s, the youngest of the four children of Mattie Tolbert and George Shrewsbury and she was named Avis.  But there was some question of my mother’s paternity and George had threatened Mattie and my mother.  Mattie ran off, leaving her children in the care of different relatives.  Mom was left with her grandfather and his second wife, William and Anna (Larwood) Tolbert on their farm near Pax, WV.  Mom was told that Mattie’s last words to her father were “I’ll see you on Judgment Day!”  After William died in 1939, Mattie came back to claim her daughter, but by then my mom was called Annie and she didn’t know her real mother, so Mattie went away and Mom stayed with Anna Tolbert until Anna passed away in 1949. They lived most of that time in Scarbro, WV.  After that, my mother went to live in Charleston, WV, with Anna Tolbert’s brother, Walter Larwood.  She would stay with him until she married.  Mom told everyone that Walter Larwood was her grandfather.  Somehow it seemed shameful to her that she knew so little about her own family.  That makes me sad.

My mom and dad met after Walter Larwood had moved to Washington, PA.  Mom had graduated from Trinity High School there and she was taking some business classes.  One of her classmates, my future Aunt Charlotte, introduced Mom to her brother, Jim Atkinson.  After he got out of the Army, they were married on April 20, 1957, in Ruff Creek, PA, at the Bethlehem Baptist Church where Walter Larwood’s son-in-law was the minister.  Dad went to work for Bell Telephone and this involved their moving to places all over Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Ohio, and Michigan for very temporary job assignments.  I was born in Pittsburgh in 1959, and my brother, Rick, was born 13 months later in Michigan.  Rick and I were still very small when Dad started working for Western Union and we moved to Cleveland.  A couple years later, we settled in Painesville, OH, where my mom lived until she died. 

In the late 60s, my parents separated and they divorced in 1970.  Soon after, my mother married again, this time to John Tucker.  She and John divorced in 1977 and I don’t think she ever seriously considered getting married again.  While she was still married, she began working at Kismet Products, a rubber factory in Painesville.  She retired from there in 1996.  After that, she continued to work part-time at several retail jobs.  Her last job was as a caregiver to Elizabeth Judd, a woman with Alzheimer’s disease.  After Mrs. Judd passed away, Mom finally retired for good.  In 2003, Mom had open-heart surgery to replace a faulty valve that the doctors said could have been caused by a congenital condition or it could have been damaged if she had ever contracted rheumatic fever as a child.  After recovering from the surgery, she later told me that she had 8 good years of health, until her heart problems returned.  Her doctors found it difficult to diagnose her new problems and it wasn’t until early 2012 that they finally discovered that her new valve had failed.  In the last years of her life, she also suffered from macular degeneration, but that never kept her from doing everything she wanted even though she was very frustrated by her deteriorating vision.

In 1997, I had become interested in genealogy and started researching my family history.  Mom didn’t like that.  In fact, she went so far as to tell my husband that he needed to find something else to keep me busy.  She was evasive when I asked her questions about her family, and the few names that she had given me kept leading to dead ends.  When I tracked down a woman who I knew of as my mom’s “Aunt” (in reality one of Walter Larwood’s daughters) and told Mom that I was sending her a letter, she revealed the truth—that Walter Larwood was not her relative by blood and that she didn’t know what happened to her mother or who her father really was.  She did know she had a brother named Howard Shrewsbury.  Once I could research without any preconceptions, I finally started making some progress.  I found Mattie in the census with her parents in Virginia and West Virginia, and learned that Howard Shrewsbury had died in 1984.  His obituary mentioned two sisters.  I created a genealogy website and in the summer of 2001, I got an email from Harry Church saying he thought he was my cousin.  We traded information and when I mentioned to him that my mom’s original name had been Avis, he knew we really were cousins.  His mom had told him all his life about her baby sister, Avis, who had been lost to them.  He said that when he was growing up, he would always look at any women who reminded him of his mother, Macie and wonder if she were his aunt.  Everyone was so excited that they had finally found “Avis” that a family reunion was arranged for Labor Day weekend of 2001 in Crab Orchard, WV, near Beckley.  My mom, my husband, and I got to meet tons of new relatives, including my mother’s sisters, Macie Church and Jane Rockel, with all their children and grandchildren.  It was such a happy occasion, and in the years following, my mother was so glad that she got a chance to know her sisters well!  There was a video piece on the local news about the reunion and an article in the newspaper about the sisters who were finally back together after 67 years!  The whole event brought my mom and me closer, too, and from then on, she was as excited as I was about every discovery I made about her family!
Her gravestone has not been placed yet, but it will contain a Memory Medallion where I have also created an online memorial:

The story is the same, but there are many pictures and a video I created for her memorial service which was held last November. 

She will be with me always!


  1. Really nice biography, Cherie. Sorry for your loss. Lost my mother nine years ago and I still can't believe it.

    1. Thanks Jackie! I don't think it matters how long ago it was, it will always feel like yesterday. How sad that you lost your mom when you were so young!


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