52 Ancestors: #3 Myrtle Hazel ROOP 1906-1997

52ancestorsThis is my third installment for 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, a blogging challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow in her blog No Story Too Small. I’m still experimenting with different styles, this time using the storyline and timeline. I hope that you’ll  enjoy reading about the doors opening in brick walls on the paternal side of my family tree.

Grandma's passport picture for her trip to Europe in 1971
Myrtle Hazel (ROOP) DEMPSEY’s passport picture for her trip to Europe in 1971
Cathy with her Grandma
Cathy (me) with (my) Grandma

Myrtle Hazel ROOP was a wonderful wife, mother of 7, grandmother of 24, great-grandmother of 39, and great-great-grandmother of one. She was my Grandma. To others in the family she was Mother, Grandma Dempsey or MawMaw. I wasn’t as lucky as others in the family who grew up close to the Dempsey home and I don’t have as many memories of her as they do. We lived in Hopewell in 1968-1969 while Dad (Freddy) was in Thailand; I lived with her for about 9 months in 1976-1977 when I went to WV Tech; and we visited as often as possible when we were in the United States.

Cathy on one of Grandma's quilts.
Cathy (me) on one of Grandma’s quilts.

She made beautiful quilts and I’m the proud owner of three. I remember her going next door to the schoolhouse, after it was no longer used as a school, to meet with the ladies and work on quilts and braided rag rugs. She taught me to crochet and I still have the afghan that I worked on in the evenings while we watched TV together when I went to college.

She played the piano and I regret not taking the piano lessons she offered to pay for when I was living with her.

She was a wonderful cook. The smell that came from the kitchen on Sunday mornings when she would prepare fried chicken and keep it warm in the electric frying pan while she was at church is unforgettable. She was a member of Hopewell Baptist Church and of their Woman’s Mission Society. When she had company for dinner on Sundays I remember that the leftovers were placed on the kitchen table and covered with a table-cloth so that everyone could help themselves whenever they were hungry. I still love dipping cold chicken or other meat or a roll in cold gravy. Makes me hungry just thinking about it.

Once she made a sweet potato pie and passed it off as a pumpkin pie since her son Freddy wouldn’t eat sweet potatoes. He said it was the best pumpkin pie he’d ever eaten. He was teased a lot about this by his siblings.

Leland’s boys would always know when she made her famous Chocolate Covered Peanut Butter Logs. A granddaughter-in-law said, “….from the first time I met her she treated me like I had always been part of her family. Every time we had a gathering she would meet me at the door. Hug me and tell me to go get a peanut butter log before all the boys ate them all. She was a very sweet woman and I still miss her.”

Her youngest son said, “I miss my Mom’s bread pudding. No one else makes it like she did. I would love to have one of her clover leaf hot rolls and would enjoy a piece of her chocolate pie.” 

Letter written by Myrtle (Roop) Dempsey to the mother of her daughter-in-law. The last line of the first page was cut off and should read “much for the beautiful material”.

My maternal grandmother Marie Marcelle FOURNELLE kept a letter that Myrtle wrote to her in 1958. It is wonderful to be able to see her handwriting and “hear” what she writes.

From this letter, I know that she worked 5 days a week. She was retired from Wall’s Department Store in Ansted. Her youngest son said, “Mom worked at Wall’s Department Store so that she could afford to buy jeans and clothing for Leland and I to wear to school. She did this because Dad worked in the mines and they were out of work a lot of the time.”

Myrtle was born on 26 March 1906, a Monday, in Belva to Walter Farmer ROOP and Rebecca Jane CLONCH. She was their third child and first daughter. I was always confused about what county Belva is located in until I found that it is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in west Nicholas County and north Fayette County. Myrtle’s birth was registered in 1906 in the Nicholas County register, her name being listed only as “Murtle” without a middle name. Later in 1963, on her delayed certificate of birth, her place of birth was listed as Belva in Fayette County. Supporting evidence given for her birth were an affidavit by her father dated 1963, her 1942 Voter’s Permanent Registration Record, her 1955 WV Motor Vehicle Operator’s License #55620, and the 1920 census.

Myrtle, age 16, was the first of the ROOP children to marry. She married Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY on 20 January 1923. She turned 17 two months later. Myrtle’s father was a mine blacksmith at Gauley Mountain Coal Co. at the same time that Fred worked there. Myrtle and Fred were the parents of 7 children as discussed in Fred’s write-up.

In April 1940 when the census was taken Myrtle and her husband Fred were living in Jodie with 5 children. Lloyd was able to confirm that they moved to Victor to take care of Fred’s Mom and Dad in 1940. Fred bought out his brothers and sisters — Lloyd thinks that there was not so much a transfer of money but an agreement that he would inherit the house and property for taking care of his parents.

Myrtle most likely did not always have an easy time raising her children. Lloyd can remember that once her son Freddy and Jimmy Minter rode a bicycle down skating rink hill with Freddy on the handlebars; there was no weight on the rear wheel so they couldn’t stop when told to do so by the town police, Tom HALL. They were finally caught at the company store. Lloyd didn’t say what happened after this but they probably got off easy since Tom Hall was “family”. His wife Clara Dorris DEMPSEY, daughter of Elijah Lewis DEMPSEY and Octavia Dell INGRAM, was Fred Sr.’s first cousin.

Lloyd also reminisced about his own teen years, “After getting my Learner’s Permit, she would let me drive the 1948 Chevy with vacuum gear shift. Boy that was an exciting challenge! RAKE! RAKE!”

He shared this humorous anecdote: “Telemarketers were always calling Mom trying to sell her magazines. She became tired and aggravated with this: One day the telemarketer called trying to sell her a magazine – she listened to his sales speech and said “Mister, I don’t read”. He hung up and she was very proud of herself for chasing him off. She always smiled when she told this story.”

From the family bible, we know that Myrtle and Fred received Jesus and were baptized at Cavendish Hole on 19 February 1950. They had to break the ice to baptize them. They became members at Hopewell Baptist Church at Hopewell. Fred was also a deacon. Lloyd has a copy of his certificate of ordination. In 1963 Myrtle was one of the committee members in charge of arrangements for the Hopewell Baptist Church Homecoming. In 1967 she was the church clerk and, with Mrs. Ora LEGG, a teacher for the intermediate girls’ bible class. In 1968 she was the outgoing clerk and along with Mrs. Edna LEGG and Mrs. Mary BALLARD, Myrtle was named to transfer the church membership names to a recently purchased clerk’s book.

In the early 1960s, her husband Fred, brother-in-law Bill SKAGGS and son Lloyd built the house in Florida. Lloyd says his cousin Eugene Noble DEMPSEY may have helped some. The house was sold to a Henry HARRAH in late 60’s – approximately 67 or 68.

Upper right: Grave of General George S. Patton Jr. Upper left: Myrtle Dempsey with her daughter-in-law and granddaughter at the Luxembourg American Cemetery and Memorial in Hamm, Luxembourg. Lower left: Myrtle at The Mardasson Memorial (Battle of the Bulge) in Bastogne, Belgium, in front of the West Virginia section of the five-pointed American star. Lower right: Cathy and her Grandma with Vianden castle in the background.

Myrtle visited her son Freddy and his family in Royal Oaks (Torrejón AFB housing) in Madrid, Spain in May/June 1971. They took her to Luxembourg to meet Josette’s mother. She visited several sites with them while in Luxembourg.

Unfortunately, while she was in Luxembourg her father Walter F. ROOP died and she was not able to get a flight out to go home for the funeral. Since she could not go back in time she decided to stick to her planned trip, returning to Spain and then flew home on her scheduled flights.

Several years after her husband Fred’s death in 1975 she married Marvin Shirley BOLES (1908-1986) on 7 July 1980.

Myrtle Hazel ROOP’s grandchildren are now between 42 and 71 years old. We all had different relationships with her due to our age differences and the distance we lived from her. She wasn’t in Grandma mode yet when the older grandchildren were born as she was still raising her younger children. Her 7th child was born two years after the birth of the first grandchild.

Her oldest granddaughter shared this: “Grandma Dempsey was a real lady that I was proud to call my grandmother, but since I was the oldest grandchild, I didn’t have some of the same memories that you younger ones did. She was still a mother of two at home and working and didn’t really have the time to spend with some of us older grandchildren. I can’t remember doing things like some of you did, but I understand why it was that way. I do remember her sharing her quilting and crocheting with me. I wish I could have been more like her, a kind, caring and sweet spirit!”

Her youngest daughter-in-law shared this: “Myrtle was a very special lady and I was blessed to have her as my mother-in-law. She was very particular about her clothing and had to go every Saturday to the beauty shop. She always enjoyed getting all dressed up and going to church on Sunday. She was very faithful to God and her church. She dearly loved her family and each of you grandchildren were so very special to her. If she didn’t hear from some of you for a while, she would make a comment. You were each in her heart and prayers. She looked forward to visits from her family. Many times after family get-togethers, I would straighten up the house. She would ask me not to clean the sliding glass doors so she could see the grandchildren’s hand prints. She said it made her feel as if they were still with her. We all know how she enjoyed baking and having goodies when everyone came to visit.

I always felt as if Lloyd’s Mom was of royalty. She carried herself in such a proper manner. She always seemed so regal as she would sit in her chair in her later years looking so pretty and all dressed up, just in case someone would happen to come for a visit. She was a very gentle, loving person, yet confronted adversity with great strength through her faith in God. I marveled at the way she endured the death of her husband and children. The loss was great to her, yet she faced each day with determination to live life to it’s fullest and even though she was suffering internally, she continued to be a strong loving influence to her family. Yes, she was very dear to me and I admit the memories have brought a few tears. I spent many cherished moments with her as we had the privilege to help with her care. The blessing and privilege were mine. After all, my Mother-in-Law was one of earth’s angels.

In 1997 she was looking forward to having us visit her. It was our first visit since 1979. She had a stroke and was hospitalized before we got there. Lloyd believed that she was holding on just to see us. Although we knew what to expect it was heartbreaking. I can still see her lying in the hospital bed but I have more intense memories of her hugging me all the other times we visited her.

Myrtle H. Dempsey Boles, 91, of Victor, Fayette County, died Wednesday, 13 August 1997, in Ansted Health Care Center. She was buried on August 16th in Restlawn Memory Gardens, Victor, next to her first husband Fred R. Dempsey and her son MSgt Fred R. Dempsey.

© James Skaggs, used with permission.

1904 – Sib 1: Lacy Shelton ROOP was born in Feb 1904
1905 – Sib 2: Piercie ROOP was born 15 Mar 1905 and died 5 May 1905
1906 – “Murtle” ROOP was born 26 Mar 1906
1908 – Sib 4: James Henry ROOP was born 11 Feb 1908 (1908-1957)
1910 – Sib 5: Walter Gordon ROOP was born 9 Mar 1910 (1910-1984).
1913 – Sib 6: Edith Estelle “Edie” ROOP born 9 Jun 1913 (1913-2003), Myrtle’s only sister
1914 – World War I (begin) 28 Jun 1914
1918 – World War I (end) 11 Nov 1918
1919 – Sib 7: Alfred Lee ROOP (1919-1981) was born on 22 Aug 1919
1920 – On the 1920 census the family name was seen as ROOPE.
1923 – Myrtle ROOP and Fred DEMPSEY married
1927 – Sib 4: James Henry ROOP married 20 Aug 1927 Goldie M. WALKER (1908-1991)
1929 – Stock Market Crash 29 Oct 1929
1929 – Sib 6: Edith Estelle “Edie” ROOP md. 23 Dec 1929 James David RAMSEY (1907-2001)
1930 – Myrtle and Fred were living in Jodie with their daughters Thelma, Lois, and Leona
1931 – Sib 5: Walter Gordon ROOP married 18 Jul 1931 Ica Laurel CARR (1913-1993)
1932 – Sib 1: Lacy Shelton ROOP married 28 Mar 1932 Lulu Irene HAYS (1915-1992)
1937 – Sib 7: Alfred Lee ROOP Married 15 May 1937 Lorena Lea ELSWICK (1918-1992)
1939 – World War II (begin) 1 Sep 1939
1940 – Fred and Myrtle moved from Jodie to Victor with Thelma, Lois, Leona, Doyle and Freddy
1945 – World War II (end) 14 Aug 1945 (39)
1947 – Sib 6: Edith Estelle “Edie” ROOP divorced James D. RAMSEY and later (date unknown) married Albert HITE (spelling of surname is uncertain).
1950 – Mother: Rebecca Jane CLONCH died 3 Feb 1950
1951 – Myrtle received Jesus and was baptized
1961 – To the best of Lloyd’s knowledge, Fred retired when he 62, approximately 30 Oct
1960s – Had a home in Florida
1967 – Sib 6: Edith Estelle “Edie” ROOP married 4 Oct 1967 James David RAMSEY. They had been divorced 20 years earlier
1971 – Trip to Europe
1971 – Father: Walter Farmer ROOP died 1 Jun 1971
1975 – Sp 1: Fred Rothwell DEMPSEY died 3 Feb 1975
1980 – Myrtle Hazel ROOP married Sp 2: Marvin Shirley BOLES (1908-1986)
1986 – Sp 2: Marvin Shirley BOLES died 26 Sep 1986
1997 – Myrtle Hazel ROOP died 13 Aug 1997
2014 – Myrtle had 45 great-grandchildren and 30 great-great-grandchildren

© 2014, copyright Cathy Meder-Dempsey. All rights reserved.

Author: Cathy Meder-Dempsey

When I’m not doing genealogy and blogging, I spend time riding my racing bike with my husband through the wonderful Luxembourg countryside.

9 thoughts on “52 Ancestors: #3 Myrtle Hazel ROOP 1906-1997”

  1. What a blessing you have had family add their very real memories and impressions of her! You have all made her come to life, and that is a true gift to those 45 great grandchildren and 30 great great grandchildren (and the many who will continue to come) of hers


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