Food, Fun and More

Mr. Cornell’s Hoe

I try to find a quiet moment during the holidays to reminisce about people in my past who have touched my heart. One memory goes back so far I’m not sure it is an original memory or one made up of stories I’ve heard and photographs I’ve seen through the years.
Mr. Cornell lived across the road and up a ways from our house. He was an “old” man when I was three or four. He was tall, thin as a rail and wore a baseball cap.
All the land around us had been his. The road that made a T at the end of our road was named for him. In his younger years, when his wife was alive and the children were home, he was a prosperous farmer. He donated much of his vegetable crop during the depression, to the school for lunches for the students. It was the only meal of the day for most of the children.
When the men returned from WWII, he sold lots of three acres apiece for $1.00 to the service men. My dad was one of those servicemen.

Mom & Dad resized
Dad had brought home a war bride from England. Mom didn’t know how to drive a car and had no friends or family here. She was isolated on our little road. Mr. Cornell soon taught her to garden in Michigan’s short growing season and gave her one of his extra hoes. He told her about our cold and snowy winter and explained the game of baseball. Many afternoons found them listening to a game on the radio. Mr. Cornell helped her adjust to life in a new country.
They were friends for years and when my brothers and I came along, he was our unofficial grandfather. I don’t ever remember him turning us away from his door and he often came down to our house for dinner.

Us Kids and Dad
Years after Mr. Cornell was gone my dad developed emphysema. Mom and dad sold their three acres and moved to northern Florida. The warm, humid air was easier for dad to breathe. Mom stayed thirty years after dad passed away.
Two years ago, at the age of eighty-eight, mom sold her house and moved back to Michigan. She’d asked if I wanted anything from the house before she closed the door for the last time. I said I’d like to have Mr. Cornell’s hoe. I’m a gardener and cherished its legacy. She never said anything again about the hoe and I thought it had been forgotten in the confusion of the move.
Mom passed away this fall after living ninety full and adventurous years. My brother Karl and I were cleaning out her apartment when I mentioned that I wished she’d brought Mr. Cornell’s hoe from the house in Florida. Karl opened her coat closet door, reached in and handed me Mr. Cornell’s hoe.


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