My maternal grandmother, Nora Ethel Waller, was born on July 23, 1912 in Astoria, Clatsop County, Oregon to James Allen Waller and Daisie Irene Calkins. She grew up in a large family; she had three older half siblings; Lillie May Stevens (1901-1988), Lawrence Llewellen Stevens (1904-1995), and Mary Frances “Tootie” Stevens (1907-2006). Nora was the oldest of her siblings; Verna Elizabeth (1914-1964), Edward Allen (1916-2013), Minerva “Minnie” (1919-2013), Virginia (1923 (living)), Betty Jean (1926-1971), and Lester Orville (1929-2007). Her father worked in the timber mills sharpening the saws. The family moved to Washington, settling along the shores of Lost Lake in Mason County near Shelton.
In 1926, the family was living in Elgin, Pierce County, Washington when her sister Virginia was born. She met Ernest Davis (Ernie) through her older brother, Lawrence. She was 14 years old and Ernie was 28. Her father objected to her dating at age 14 and especially dating a much older man. Her mother helped Nora disobey her father by allowing her to go on double dates with Lawrence and his girlfriend Lillie. Her father withdrew his objections and gave his legal written consent for his daughter to marry Ernie on August 3, 1927 in Bremerton, Washington.
Nora and Ernie were residing in Tacoma, Washington when their son was born on October 27, 1927; they named him Kenneth Ernest. Their second son, Wayne Lewis, was born on June 21, 1929 and my mother, Irene Nora, was born on April 7, 1932. The family had two houses, the main family home in NE Tacoma which remained in the family until 1965 and a house along the Pacific coast in Moclips, Washington. They went between the homes from 1930 to 1943.
In 1943, due to the increased tensions and military activity along the Pacific coastline, they returned to the safety of the NE Tacoma house. They never returned to the beach house. Both of my grandparents worked at the nearby Tacoma shipyard until the end of the war. After the war, Ernie worked at the shipyard as a longshoreman. Nora went on to work in women’s department stores.
They divorced in approximately 1945. My mother was 13 years old and she went before the family court judge during the custody phase of the proceedings. She was very close to Ernie and chose to live with him and her brothers. Gram Nora lived in the nearby downtown Tacoma. It was a bitter divorce.
Tragedy struck when Wayne was killed in a car accident on March 6, 1954 in Olympia, Washington. He left behind his young wife and his grieving father, mother, and sister. Not being able to locate Kenneth to notify him added to their grief. But even the deep grief of losing Wayne did not mend the bitterness between my grandparents. Ten years after the divorce, they would not stand next to each other in my parents’ wedding day pictures.
Gram was a talented self-taught seamstress. She worked in the nicer department stores as an alteration seamstress and as a custom milliner. Another talent was her ability to a suit in a storefront window, draft a pattern, and make the latest fashion pieces for herself. Her coordinated outfits consisting of a suit, matching hat, and purse made a beautiful and elegant statement. The inside of the garments were as beautiful finished as the outside. In her free time, she made intricate hand embroidery and needlework pieces.
She found love a second time and married Claude Ernest Tippie (1898-1993) in 1947 when she was 35 years old. Claude was a commercial baker, a proud and active member of the Baker’s Union, and a Shriner. His favorite nickname for my grandmother was “Honeybun”. Claude loved baking bread, playing cards, living in the city, taking care of his Honeybun and his “nip” every afternoon.
After retiring, Gram Nora began baking and decorating custom cakes. She specialized in wedding cakes but made hundreds of cakes for church events, weddings, and birthdays. She had this amazing ability to visual intricate designs and bring them to reality. Capable of working in multiple mediums, she truly was a renaissance artist.
Gram Nora generously shared her talents by teaching anyone who expressed an interest in learning a particular craft. She taught me how to sew at an early age, just as she had taught my mother. I learned couture sewing from her, every detail of the process executed with precision. My mother was a less patient person and taught me short cuts such as skipping basting and pinning. As a result, I have a great foundation of skills and shortcuts which I utilize in sewing and quilting.
She loved visiting our farm for an extended time whenever possible. Claude would indulge her wishes but after a couple of weeks, he would be ready to return to their apartment in the city. She remained a country girl at heart.
They travelled in their retirement years, especially via trains . They often visited relatives during their travels and came to California to visit me several times. Claude enjoyed sampling wines at the local wineries. Gram did not indulge in the wine but she loved the vineyards and the beautiful Californian architecture. Both of them enjoyed exploring the backroads of the California wine country.
In her later years, Gram had health issues. She had a series of strokes which made it necessary for them to move to a nice assisted living facility. She suffered one last stroke and passed away on February 19, 1992. Although in good health, Claude never recovered from losing his “Honeybun” and he joined her in eternity on February 23, 1993. They are laid to rest in a dual grave in the Tacoma Cemetary.