Family stories: Elsie Belle Benham

My great-grandmother Elsie Belle Dumm was born in 1900 in the Columbus, Ohio area. This is a photo of her with her little sister, Myrtle, who was known as Mickey. I'm not sure of of the date, but I would guess 1905? The photo was taken at the Williams Studio, located at 527 1/2 N. High Street Columbus, Ohio.

Aren't they sweet?


This photo shows Elsie at eight months old. It was also taken at the Williams Studio.


After my great-grandfather passed away in 1958, my great-grandmother, who we call Nan in our family, moved to southern California. My aunt and grandmother also relocated there with their families. Here is a photo of Elsie and her granddaughters Sherri and Julie (my mother) at LAX. Look at that traveling suit!


I love these shots of Elsie that were taken in 1958. I see my mother and my grandmother in her face and posture.

The film was kodacolor from Kodak. That's my mother on the right.


Here's a photo of Elsie and Clyde, my great-grandfather, before he passed away.


This photo is Elsie and her second husband, Mr. Kent Benham. They met at church and moved into a mid-century home in Palos Verdes, California. My mother has very fond memories of her time with them in that house. It was sold after my great-grandmother's death in 1973, but we still drive by the house  every time we visit California. She chose to have her ashes spread over the Pacific Ocean, so a walk along the cliffs in Palos Verdes is the closest we can get to visiting her grave. It also happens to be one of our very favorite places in the world.


Although she passed away 10 years before I was born, I grew up surrounded by many of her things, and my grandmother and mother shared many stories about her. She loved her church and her family. She enjoyed shopping (apparently she had shoes and purses to match every outfit -- oh, I wish I had some of her purses!), her garden and cooking meals for her family. We bake her Christmas cookies every year. She drove a big Cadillac and loved to collect birds and books. I have a few of her ceramic birds and several of her books. She was old fashioned and extremely ladylike. She believed a lady wasn't dressed without her purse and that a wife should never let her husband see her looking less than perfect. She was definitely a Victorian lady at heart.

If Jonathan and I have a daughter some day, we have talked about naming her Elsie, after my nan and his great-grandmother. Both women were dearly loved by their grandchildren and are very much alive in our hearts.