My mother's mother, Sylvia Redfield, great-grandmother to my daughter, mother of 7, grandmother to 14, great-grandmother to 15, died just before 8 a.m., Montana Time July 28, 2021, at a hospital in Glasgow, Mont., at age 95.
|Photo by Jennifer Ray Photography|
My mother Sylvia Redfield Elliott called me from the hospital.
She was diagnosed with cancer this spring, which is why I and mom took Athena Zelda Nebula Skye Sylvia Diana Fox Graham to Montana in June, so she could meet her namesake.
Grandma Sylvia told me four things when we embraced for the last time:
- "I'm happy you came"
- "I wish I had gotten to know Laura better" (she only met my wife once at Christmas in 2017 and once when when we went to pick up a table, when she was still pregnant.)
- "I'm happy I got to meet Athena"
- "Take care of that little girl"
She also said not to look at her because if she saw how I was crying, she would start crying too.
She was funny, always laughing when she told stories.
They met at the USO.
She never gave her number to anyone, but on her last day volunteering there, and my grandfather's first day visiting (he was a veteran of both the US Navy and the US Army, which is a story in itself), she gave him hers, figuring nothing would come of it.
|Athena met Sylvia for the first time in June and helped make wedding mints.|
He called so many times to ask her out the next day, she said, that her sister just told him to come over in person. They married Dec. 6, 1947.
|Frank and Sylvia with their first of seven children, Georgia.|
She loved literature and poetry, her favorite poet being Langston Hughes, which she said no one would expect given that she was a "little white girl growing up in the segregated South," but she said his work spoke to her. She gave me her hand-annotated "The Selected Poems of Langston Hughes," which she had re-read many times (she had bookmarks at "Sunday Morning Prophesy" "Freedom Train" and "I, Too"). This was a handwritten Hughes poem in the book:
She had an English degree, like me, from Bucknell University. She liked reading my poems and watching me perform slam poetry.
Over the years she sent me dozens of books on all sorts of topics and children's books for Athena.
The small town of Opheim, Mont., will be dedicating its library in her name.
Like Athena, she loved puddles.
May you never have to explain to a 3-year-old why you're crying.
December 14, 1925 - July 28, 2021
Sylvia Rebie Redfield was born to Rebie Sylvia (McElwee) and Frank (Schleif) Slife on December 14, 1925 in Atlanta, Georgia. She passed away July 28, 2021 at the age of 95, in Glasgow, Montana.
She grew up in Atlanta and graduated from Sylvan Girls High School.
She graduated from Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania with a major in history and political science and a minor in English.
She had always wanted to be a teacher and taught at a country school in Norcross, Georgia.
While volunteering at a USO she met Frank Redfield, Jr. who was in the Army at the time.
They dated while she was finishing college and were married December 6, 1947.
He moved the city girl to the country in 1948, and their first child was born in Glasgow in 1949.
Later in 1949 they moved back to Atlanta where Frank was a policeman and Sylvia was a housewife — adding four more children to the family.
In 1956, they made the permanent move back to Opheim to run the family farm.
They eventually added two more children.
In 1987, Frank and Sylvia became snowbirds, spending half the year in Chandler, Arizona.
|Grandma and her three sons, Myron, Les and Alan, from left.|
Sylvia moved back to Montana permanently in 2018 when her health started to decline, first living with her daughter, Lisa, and then with her son, Myron and Alice Redfield who were excellent caregivers.
Sylvia touched the lives of hundreds of children through her leadership in 4-H, Sunday school, Bible school, story hour, and as the favorite substitute teacher at Opheim School for many years.
She was an excellent cook and shared not only with her family, but also with friends, relatives, neighbors and lonely GIs from the Glasgow Air Force Base (home of the 476th Fighter Group, 4141st Strategic Wing, 326th Bombardment Squadron and 91st Bombardment Wing from 1957-1976) and Opheim Air Force Station (home of the 779th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron from 1951-1979).
Sylvia was a life-long learner and loved books. She always had a book in her hand or by her side and was often reading two or three books at a time.
She kept a record of the books she read and that total reached over 2,500 books.
She volunteered at the community library and worked in the school library and had her own library at home.
She donated books to the Opheim School library as memorials for community members who had passed away and has donated around 250 books.
She was thrilled to have the library dedicated to her memory.
She was a woman of faith and a Bible scholar and was very active in the United Methodist Church including being a lay pastor.
She was also a member of Eastern Star, WIFE, United Methodist Women and the American Legion Auxiliary.
She loved life and always had a smile or an encouraging word.
Survivors include her seven children: Georgia (Hank) Sheer, Lynn (Al) Cherry, Alan (Laurie) Redfield, Les (Lisa) Redfield, Sylvia Elliott, Myron (Alice) Redfield and Lisa (Marty) Thievin; 13 grandchildren [Jason, Zack, Jodie, Katie, Chase, Haylee, Tatum, Christopher Fox, Nicholas, J.T., Ryan, Logan and Cole]; 15 great-grandchildren and many nieces and nephews.
The library in Opheim, Montana, has been renamed in honor of my late grandmother, Sylvia Redfield, a lifelong bibliophile and one of the most well-read people I've ever known.