Our friendship began before the wrecking ball hit her wonderful house. In fact, it began as soon as my office was moved from the old Court House, to the Hayes Building, a little north on Sandusky St. Her name was Georgia.
She and her husband lived next door to the Hayes Building, when my office was moved there in the summer of 2002. Often they were outside working in their yard and our friendship began when I walked past their house on my way to and from lunch every day.
We had short conversations about the weather but got to know each other better as the months passed. I told them about my having lived further north on that same street, and how I liked the swing on their front porch because it was just like the one on our porch while I was in high school.
And as the days passed, I learned more about their family and why they liked living on Sandusky Street, so close to the downtown area. One reason being the convenience of walking to the U.S. Store downtown. They also liked getting to sit on their front porch to watch the All-horse parade go past every year. She said she often had friends over to watch the parades with them.
Before the wrecking ball hit her lovely home, I had to be off work for medical reasons, and before I got back, her husband had died. What a sadness to imagine her alone in that big house. After her husband died, our friendship grew when she would call and say, “Kay, we must have tea.”
When she fixed tea, it was fit for royalty, with crystal glasses, china cups and linen tablecloth and napkins. Many times before the wrecking ball hit her lovely home, she and I discussed how every chair, picture, and lamp reminded her of the wonderful life she and her husband had in that house while their sons were growing up there.
When she called one day and urgently said, “Kay, we must have tea.”, I knew something was terribly wrong, and I needed to go over as soon as I could. She told me her house was sitting right in the exact spot they were going to build a new Court House, and her house would be demolished.
Soon after that, she invited my daughter and me to lunch, and we got to take a tour of all four floors of her home. I could never do justice to being able to convey how nice it was. It was three floors with a full basement which was filled with antiques that were family heirlooms.
I think she told me there were 27 chairs in the basement. I got the idea that these beautiful pieces of furniture had belonged to members of her extended family. The first and second floors were almost identical, with living rooms, dining rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, closets, etc. And the top floor, with the four dormers facing each direction, had a floor in the center that would rival any dance floor I’ve ever seen. And every room was furnished lovingly with antiques.
Nothing could be done to stop time, as the clocks ticked on, to the day the wrecking ball arrived. There were even pictures of her house in The Delaware Gazette as the walls were coming down. I had retired by then. And by then, she was living in a twin-single in a very nice location, and I went there to see her.
When I asked how she was getting along, she said, “I feel like I am sitting in a nice motel room, waiting for my family to come and take me home.” With that, my heart broke for her. It wasn’t too long until she had some health issues, and was having to have physical therapy. She was doing very well for being in her early 90s by then. She still called often and said, “Kay, we must have tea.” and I would go see her.
I have a ceramic sleigh she had given me for Christmas several years ago. I usually gave her something chocolate. The last day I got to spend with her, she seemed very well, except when she had a little trouble getting up and down.
When I got the call this past September that she had died, I knew I had lost a good friend. She had lived to be 97. I went to her calling hours and met her two sons and daughters-in-law, who had meant so much to her, as well as her three grandchildren she had talked about so lovingly over the years.
To them I was a total stranger, but to me, they were the faces that went with all the stories I had heard about them during the past 14 years while having tea. I wanted to talk to them about her, but there was no time. My only thought, as I left the funeral home, was that I would certainly miss answering my phone and hearing her say, “Kay, we must have tea.”
Kay E. Conklin is a retired Delaware County recorder who served four terms. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a degree in sociology and anthropology.