Blog post by Randi Richardson
Elizabeth Pauline “Betty” (Skirvin) Richardson, my mother-in-law, was born April 12, 1922, in Monroe County, Indiana, to Ross Monroe and Mary Elizabeth (Kleindorfer) Skirvin. She was the fourth child of six. Bob, the oldest, was born in 1916; John, the youngest, was in May 1926.
Six months after John’s birth, on November 20, 1926, Mary died unexpectedly at the home of her father, Martin Kleindorfer, six miles east of town where she was being cared for by her mother. She had not been well for nearly a month. Her official cause of death, according to her death record, was chronic interstitial nephritis with underlying myocardial degeneration. In layman’s terms, kidney disease with underlying heart disease.
Ross, an unskilled laborer who rented his home at 429 S. Dunn, was left with the care of Betty and her siblings ranging in age from ten years to six months. Raising a family as a single parent while working full time would be a challenge for anyone, and Ross quickly delegated the task to his parents, Abe and Mollie (Holmes) Skirvin who lived southeast of Bloomington in Salt Creek Township. Abe was in his 60s at the time and Mollie was just a year shy of 60 herself. Together they had raised seven children, all of whom had already left home.
On January 4, 1929, the Bloomington Evening World reported that “Mrs. Abe Skirvin and her six grandchildren were all down with flu last week.” This suggests that Ross still did not have custody of his kids, but not for long. On September 21, 1929, he married a divorcee with two young children, Leona (Goodman) Henderson, in Lawrence County and took four of his own children and the two stepchildren, Robert and Gerald, to live together in a blended household. John, age 4, and Katy Skirvin, remained with Abe and Mollie.
A month after Ross married, the stock market crashed beginning the greatest and longest economic recession in modern world history. This prompted Ross to leave Bloomington, move his brood to Salt Creek Township in Monroe County not too far from Abe and Mollie, and that is where he took up farming. Mollie, the census enumerator, recorded both her own family and that of Ross in Salt Creek Township in 1930.
Ross’s six children were all minors and unmarried when Ross died on November 19, 1934. It seems likely that John and Katy then returned to Abe and Mollie’s household, but that has not been proven. Mollie died in 1938 following an operation for a ruptured appendix. Among those who carried Mollie’s casket to her final resting place was her son-in-law, Kingrey Hawkins, Jackie Skirvin’s husband of less than a year, and Gerald and Robert Henderson, Ross’s stepchildren.
Did the five unmarried children of Ross Skirvin remain with their grandfather, Abe? We’ll never know because no one that knows is around to ask. Abe died in 1945, and by that time the only unmarried child of Ross was Katy who married in 1946. Leona, Ross’s widow, married a third and final time to Freeland Ray. She died in Lawrence County in 1972. Although the Skirvin children were never close with their stepsiblings, they remained in touch periodically until they were separated by death.