Florence Hazel Copenhaver's
As promised, here is
my grandmother's story!
In 1932, my father's mother, Florence H. Copenhaver, had given
birth to her 7th child in 17 years. She lived on a fairly large farm where cows were milked by hand, both the water source
and a toilet were located outside, and dishes were done in a dish pan. It follows that ALL family hand "clean up"
was done in a pan located on a bench on the back porch--with a larger, galvanized tub that could be brought in for occasional
bathing. Florence gardened, and canned, while the men farmed mostly with a plow horse. Household heat was provided by natural
gas heaters located in some rooms. Windows had screens or were just pushed up and held open with a stick in the summer.
And Florence developed a nagging cough!
In 1942 or
1944 when Florence's youngest child was 10 or 12, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and sent to Cresson Sanitarium located
more than 55 miles away--a huge distance for a woman leaving so many children. A sister Emma Brown would take care of the
household in her absence. Actually, Emma's daughter Nathal also was found to be positive for TB; and she, too, was sent
to Cresson. ( Florence's stay would stretch to 13 years; Nathal's treatment must have been shorter, because she gave
birth to a child in 1946. Both mother and baby returned home healthy sometime shortly after that date.)
My siblings and I are just now learning about life at Cresson Sanitarium. We are not aware of pictures that
were taken--if any-- or the number of visits made. WW II broke out and Florence's oldest, my father William T. Copenhaver,
became a private in the army, participating at least for the last year of that war.
After the war in 1948,
a discharged William T. married Waneta L. Bish at a chapel in Cresson so that Florence could experience the event. As confirmed
by the photographs sent with this email, all but one of Florence's children attended--as well as Harvey, the bridesmaid,
the best man, and the mother of the bride, Martha Bish. One of the happier moments at the Sanitarium!
Bill and Waneta soon started a family with four children born over the next five years. I was number "one",
born in 1949. My personal awareness of Florence's illness didn't develop until I was at least 12 and our family moved
back to the adjacent farmhouse, a mile or so from Florence and Harvey's farm.
I think our grandmother
returned home in 1955-1957, but that date can't be confirmed because the people who should have known are no longer living
or don't remember. Nonetheless, Florence returned to a house with running water, indoor plumbing, and a better heating
system. Pasteurization and formal marketing of milk from their cows as well as a tractor had been introduced.
But the changes didn't stop there.
The oldest daughters had married and started families. The youngest daughter Joy
had a job, and the youngest son Clair had entered the military. Additionally, Harvey's health was failing,
and he would die in 1956.
We remember grandma as quiet and content to talk or hold one of
us on her lap. She always had a handkerchief, frequently coughed a bit, and suffered from heart
disease herself. While our father Bill worked part time in the fields and visited often, for the
most part we visited only on occasion. (4 children in 5 years--busy life! And both Bill and Waneta
had full time jobs!)
Nonetheless, Florence lived until 1972--fifteen to seventeen years after her release
from Cresson Sanitarium--time she certainly would NOT have had if she had not been treated.
Louise A (Copenhaver) Gardner (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Melinda Sue (Mindy Copenhaver) Becerra
Chuck Felton Note 10-24-2017)
I received the following update from Louise Gardner in October 2017.
I have heard from someone named Cindy Bright who is in possession of Emma Brown's Bible. Emma was Florence's
sister who cared for her children while she was in the Cresson Sanatorium.
In this Bible there are three handwritten pages which record births, deaths, marriages, etc. At the top of
one page (shown at right) Cindy says it clearly says, "Florence came home to stay on December 21, 1952". The
last entry on that page confirms Florence's date of death on April 22, 1972.
The copies of the pages are difficult to read, but I feel we now have Florence's correct discharge date
in 1952. Her total stay at Cresson then was 10 to 12 years, depending on when she and Nathal Brown entered the
facility. I gave 1942 or 1944 as her entry dates. So her stay was more like 10 years, not the lengthier 13 years
as I had first estimated.
1932 Florence Copenhaver was 38 and the mother of six children ranging in age from 15 to 1. The family is shown
near the garden in front of their farmhouse in Redbank Township, Armstrong County near Oak Ridge, PA. My father is the
oldest son shown in the back. (Florence and husband Harvey’s first child Avanelle died at age four of burns received
by getting too close to an open flame of the gas range.) Other children pictured here are Vivian, and Arabelle in the back
and Joy, Clair, and June in the front.
1.5 Florence at home
in Redbank Township, Armstrong County before her illness. 1941
Found on other personal pages, this is a view of the Cresson facility seen on post cards. This was sent to son Bill in Czechoslovakia
during WW II.
3. Florence captioned this photo: “My bed was there beside the tree.”
4. Florence is the fourth person down…. on the right side of the table.
5. Florence in her gown on the wall. Summer of 1951.
6. Florence with three other patients on the steps of a building.
|Click on photo to see same Photo #24 on Lucy Knepp page.
7. L to R:
Edith, Coppy and Turner. In this photo taken at Cresson and provided on the Cresson Sanitarium Remembrance site by the
family of Lucy Knepp, Florence is the middle woman indicated as “Coppy", short for Copenhaver.
8. Florence . The date on this photo is 1951.
9. Florence in one of her robes in the
sitting area with the aquarium and palm at Cresson.
10. Taking in some fresh air, this picture
was sent home in 1948 to Bill who had returned from the war.
11. Florence with gray hair in 1949.
12. Florence on left with two friends in 1945
with snow in the background.
Florence marked (with the arrow) with two friends.
14. I have been told that I was taken to Cresson Sanatorium
as a toddler, but only shown to my grandmother through a window. Florence, nonetheless, apparently spent a lot
of time outside.
15. Florence is the second from the right
in this picture of a mixed group of visitors, patients, and nurses. Marked 1943.
16. Again in a mixed group, Florence is second
from the left in the back. The soldier in the front was visiting someone else in the group. 1943
On June 11, 1948, during Florence’s stay at Cresson, her son William married Waneta L. Bish at a Chapel in Cresson.
Pictured here on the day of the wedding with Florence is husband Harvey and Waneta’s mother Martha Bish. Florence
was near the end of her treatment—well enough to be outside with family, but not well enough yet to come home. (According to the San’s published Timeline, the use of streptomycin was begun in the facility
18. In this family
photo Florence is shown with her husband, the groom and his bride (my parents) and Florence’s other children. Arabelle
is in the back. Ruby Joy, Lillian June, and Clair with his wife Virginia are in the front.
19. My parents, Bill and Waneta Copenhaver
on their wedding day, June 11, 1948. The
arched window of Grace Chapel is visible on the left.
20. Rev. Lewis who married Florence’s
son Bill on June 11, 1948. The wedding occurred at the Cresson Grace Chapel according to the writing on the back
of the picture.
21. Shown here—approximately in 1955 when we believe Florence
came home—are four of her grandchildren. L to R:
(Willian D., Melinda Sue, Louise A. (me), and Dennis L. Copenhaver)
This 1961 or 1962 picture shows Florence with her sister Bessie back at her farm in Armstrong County. With them are
two grandsons: Joey Applegate and Billy Copenhaver.
23. Here with one of her brothers, Florence
returned to the farm on which she lived.
24. Shown in 1968, this is how my family best
remembered Grandma Copenhaver.
25. Florence is shown here with a great grandchild
and a birthday cake after her return. 1967
26. Florences' husband Harvey's 1942 Draft Registration Card
showing that she was listed as living in Cresson, undoubtedly meaning the Cresson TB Sanatorium.
Copenhaver's obituary and funeral announcement were published on April 24, 1972 in the Simpson's Leader-Times Newspaper
in Kittanning, Pa.
27. Obituary Announcement
Nathal Brown’s story begins with her mother Emma’s family. William Scott Brown and Adiline
(Hilliard) Brown lived in Wildcat, Clarion County Pa. and had 11 children of which Emma and Florence were two. From
1907-1909 both parents and six of their children died of Typhoid Fever (as did many other people in the area.) The deceased
Brown family are all buried in Middle Run Cemetery just outside of Fairmount City, PA, in unmarked graves. Left behind
and without parents, the two brothers Harvey and Clyde in time began their own families. Bessie was adopted by a Hepler
family and later married a Sheffler. Florence married Harvey Copenhaver, and Emma Joined her sister and brother-in-law
on the farm in Redbank Township, Armstong County.
By 1920, Florence had given birth to three children and was expecting the fourth, and Emma at age 18 gave birth to a daughter
Nathal. Emma and Nathal continued to live at the farm.
29. In this 1941 photo, Nathal is shown at age 20.
shortly after this photo was taken, both Nathal’s Aunt Florence and she were diagnosed with tuberculosis and entered
the Sanitarium at Cresson. Florence’s stay was to be lengthy as recorded in her Personal Story, spanning part of the
1940’s and a few years in the 1950’s.
Nathal’s illness improved much more quickly, and she entered the nursing
program at the San rather than returning home. She graduated from the nursing program in 1944.
30. A niece, Nathal Brown,
was the second (and only other) family member besides Florence to develop tuberculosis. Recovering quickly she became a Cresson
31. Pictured here in 1944 is the nurses'
graduating class taken at the San Recreation Hall. Nathal is the nurse in the back marked with the white arrow. Like many of the pictures, this photo was mailed to Florence’s son
Bill who had enlisted to fight in WW II in 1943.
32. Nathal is listed in the second column as one of those
graduating from the San Nursing Program in this June 26, 1944 newspaper article, probably from the Altoona Mirror newspaper.
Nathal on the left with a cigarette smoking patient and a second nurse. 1944
34. Nathal Mattis, by then a nurse, with
Florence in 1944.
In 1946 Nathal married Anthony J. Mattis and gave birth to a son Robert.
That marriage was unsuccessful and Nathal returned to the Copenhaver farm, where they made their home.
35. Nathal’s son Robert Mattis shortly after arriving in Clarion County.
Nathal, pictured here with her mother Emma and Florence’s youngest daughter Ruby Joy, continued to live at the
farm until her death in 1993.