“Growth in love comes from a place of absence, where the imagination is left to its own devices and creates you to be much more than reality would ever allow.”
― Jamie Weise
I thought of you a thousand times, especially when my father was alive. He had your eyes, your smile, your face. And when he talked about you, a longing filled his voice. His time with you was too short-lived, yet you still made quite the impact on a little boy’s heart even as a grew into a man that yearned for his mother’s love.
My father spoke of your beauty and grace. He smiled when he talked about your kindness and your gentle ways. Your son was proud of you. Although I often desired to meet you, more than anything, I longed that this little boy did not have to lose his mother.
My memories of my grandmother are few, and I wish I would have asked more questions, for my father did not often speak of his family. I wished I would have asked about her childhood, her schooling, her siblings and her parents, and his favorite memories of her. What were her favorite flowers? Her favorite time of the year? So many lost moments.
From what he told me, I know she went by the name of Catherine, and he also conveyed that her maiden name was frequently misspelled. It was most often spelled Nacker, instead of Knacker.
Near the River Rouge, in the township of Redford, Michigan, Florence Catherine Knacker was born on April 29, 1894. Her father, Frank Knacker, was an immigrant from Prussia (Germany), and her mother, Amy Andrews, was born in Farmington, Michigan.
Her parents had six children. The oldest Harriet was born on October 16, 1875. Charles Andrew, the oldest boy, arrived on July 8, 1877. On August 26, 1880, Clarence entered the world, and John appeared on May 1, 1881. Carrie made her entrance on December 7, 1883.
Her parents were farmers, and they grew potatoes and wheat, and the farm also included an apple orchard. According to a 1940 Federal Census record, Catherine went to school and completed the eighth grade. When she was fifteen, her parents divorced on March 3, 1911; her mother cited drunkenness for her reasons to end their marriage. Her father died six years later of pneumonia on May 27, 1917. On his death certificate, the information given claimed that he was a widower although Amy died at the age of eighty-one years on January 2, 1938.
On March 27, 1917, she married Wilson Gaylord Reeder at Highland Park, Michigan. He was a firefighter, and one record found stated she was a stenographer in 1929.
Their first child, Margaret Amy was born about 1919. In the 1920s, the family lived on Elm Road in Livonia, Michigan. Her mother Amy also lived with the family, and she was listed as widowed. Her husband Wilson at this time listed his job as a laborer. Billy Wilson was born on May 3, 1920, Hazel was born on September 16, 1923, Betty Jane was born on October 24, 1927, Harold Leroy was born on July 8, 1932, and Ralph Lawrence (Larry) was born on February 10, 1935. Most of the children were born in Plymouth, Michigan. In the 1940s, the family lived in 7 B Warren Road Route 2 in Plymouth. Wilson and Billy farmed the land that Wilson rented.
On August 5, 1942, Catherine died at Stockbridge from leukemia, leaving her heartbroken family behind. My grandmother was laid to rest at the Redford Cemetery in Redford, Michigan.
Her death troubled my father, and he worried that his children would also develop this disease. As children when we had bumps and bruises, he would carefully inspect and watch to make sure the injuries adequately healed.
Our Grandmother Catherine’s legacy has lived on through the tales of her children. Her gentle ways remembered, and her kindness registered upon our hearts.
“People are guests in our story, the same way we are guests in theirs. But we all meet each other for a reason because every person is a personal lesson waiting to be told.”
― lauren klarfeld
- “1900 United States Federal Census.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7602.
- “1910 United States Federal Census.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=7884.
- 1920 United States Federal Census.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2010, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=6061.
- “1940 United States Federal Census.” Ancestry, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2012, http://www.ancestry.com/cs/1940-census.
- “Michigan Birth, Marriage & Death.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2011, search.ancestry.com/Places/US/Michigan/Default.aspx?category=34.
- “Michigan, Death Records, 1867-1950.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2015, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60872.
- Rmhermen. “River Rouge.” River Rouge (Michigan), Wikimedia Commons, River Rouge at Henry Ford’s Fair Lane Estate, 10 June 2018, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:River_rouge_falls.jpg#/media/File:River_rouge_falls.jpg.
- U.S., Find A Grave Index, 1600s-Current, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=60525.
- “U.S., Social Security Death Index, 1935-2014.” U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, 1850-2010, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2015, search.ancestry.com/search/db.aspx?dbid=3693.