Grandma Rodgers, Surrogate Mother

George Austin (Sybil Sebastian's husband), Sibyl Gladys Bemis, & Harry Sebastian

George Austin (Sybil Sebastian’s husband), Sibyl Gladys Bemis, & Harry Sebastian

I would be remiss if I did not write about Grandma Rodgers, Sibyl Gladys Bemis.  Grandma Rodgers died on my Poppy’s birthday, 10 July 1979.  I was not quite four years old, and yet, I have memories of her.  She must have had quite a presence.  She was a white haired woman who always sat in my grandparents big red chair when she came to visit, which was not often.  I remember really loving her and her loving all the “grandkids” & “great-grandkids” in the family.


For years growing up I wondered who this Grandma was, how she was related to us.  Poppy and his sisters called her Mom, yet I knew she was not their mom because I knew she died when they were all very young.  I finally learned she was their aunt, who raised Poppy’s sisters, Betty and Sybil.  Yet still, she was some vague disconnected figure to me.  She was an aunt.  That’s all I knew.  If I guessed at anything, I would guess she was their father’s sister because they rarely talked about their mom and knew so little about her family.  Somehow I knew that wasn’t right, and one day long after I was old enough to figure it out, it dawned on me: she was Poppy’s mother’s sister!

Betty Jane Sebastian

Betty Jane Sebastian

Sybil Gladys Sebastian

Sybil Gladys Sebastian

When Shirley passed away in Dec 1927, Betty was 4 1/2, Harry was 3 1/2, and Sybil was only 9 months old.  At the 1930 census, they were all still together with their dad living next door to Grandma Rodgers, her husband Wallace, and their daughter Delores.  Shortly after that my grandfather went to stay with his father’s parents in North Carolina and the sisters went to live with the Rodgers.  He was back with his dad for the 1940 census, but his sister Sybil was living with the Rodgers in Shaker Heights where Wallace was the custodian of an apartment complex.

Sisters Betty and Sybil

Sisters Betty and Sybil

Grandma Rodgers raised my great-aunt Betty Jane Sebastian.  She married at the age of sixteen, divorced, then remarried, having two sons and a daugther. She also raised my great-aunt Sybil Gladys Sebastian who later married George Austin and had two daughters.

The family was separated when young but later shared many happy times together sharing dinner and playing cards.  Betty and Sybil always had a new joke to share every time we saw them.  The sisters lived together again the last years of their lives.

Betty and Harry on a Cleveland street

Betty and Harry on a Cleveland street


One thought on “Grandma Rodgers, Surrogate Mother

  1. […] also had a question about the spelling of Sibyl Gladys Bemis’ first name.  The usual spelling is Sybil and my mom was surprised to see it spelled differently.  […]

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