A Legacy of Strength – Shirley Marcilee (Kennison) Sannar

shirley-marcilee-kennison-sannar-1956

Grandma may be gone here on earth but when I think about her she is still on the Alaskan waters, in the galley of a small troller, The smell of coffee, the sound of rubber on the bottom of the cups and her laugh.
These words were “borrowed” from my cousin, Rodney. I will always remember Grandma in the kitchen making hot cocoa for us little ones and will forever hear her voice singing hymns at church on Sunday mornings.  Shirley Marcilee Kennison Sannar passed away March 3rd, 2011 leaving all who loved her with many happy memories.

Grandma was born July 4th of 1923 in the Wallowa Valley of northeastern Oregon.  She was the oldest of three children and had to grow up fast when her dad passed away when Grandma was only eleven.  After being the one sent, in the middle of the night, to fetch the doctor, Grandma spent the next years helping her Mom raise her younger brother and sister.

My grandparents met at a dance where Grandpa was to shy to approach the pretty girl, but instead asked a friend to ask her out for him.  Six months later, Toot and Shirley drove to Walla Walla, Washington to be married.  Grandpa says it was the hottest day of the year and his wedding outfit was a $5.00 wool suit that he had saved up to buy.   Back in Wallowa County, the happy couple moved in with Grandma’s mom for a few months.  Their first house together was a wall tent with a wooden floor.  Can you imagine?  A wall tent?  And in the bitter cold winters of Wallowa County?  My grandparents were strong, stubborn people their entire lives.

For the next few years, Grandma and Grandpa started a family, welcoming my Dad and Aunt Judy.   Work was scarce during the war and Grandpa worked all kinds of odd jobs.  Towards the end of the war he was drafted and served as a soldier oversea’s.  Once back in the states, Grandma and Grandpa moved to the logging camp of Starkey where Grandpa worked as a mechanic and my Aunt Kathleen joined the family.

Early in their marriage, my Grandma had told Grandpa that her job was to be his wife and the mother of his children.  That wherever he went, she would go.  So when Grandpa’s brother-in-law called from Alaska, telling him mechanics were needed, off they went.  Grandma made her new home in Ketchikan without a backwards glance.  Even though she was deathly afraid of the water, when Grandpa decided to buy a commercial fishing boat and make a living from the sea, Grandma tugged on her boots, pulled on her rain slicker and became the Skipper of that fishing boat.  For years, they trolled the Alaskan waters, making a good living and storing away many memories and stories to share with friends and family.

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When retirement time rolled around, Grandma and Grandpa moved back to Oregon but still craved adventure, so they packed up their motor home and headed to the desert every winter until just the last two when Grandma was having blood pressure issue’s and problems with her hip.  Even then, they kept the motor home and refused to park it at families, instead enjoying their time in an RV park with other year round residents.  Strong and stubborn.

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Grandma was a wonder in the kitchen.  I can still taste her delicious mincemeat pies from my childhood.  She loved to quilt and made beautiful handstitched quilts for each and everyone of us grandkids and even a few of the great-grands.  Grandma and Grandpa had a large garden every year, growing and canning their produce right up into their late 70’s.  We celebrated their 70th wedding anniversary with a camping trip and family picnic in the Blue Mountains of Oregon.

My family is full of strong women and Grandma was always right at the head of that line.  Such a wonderful legacy of strength and love she has left for her family.
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Pictured:  Front row – Shirley Sannar, Charles “Al” or “Toot” Sannar  – Back row – Paula Sannar Niziolek, Brittany Niziolek Sumpter, Noah Sumpter, Tom Sannar

(Shirley is my paternal grandmother. She is the mother of Thomas Alvin Sannar.)

“A favorite memory of my Grandma Sannar takes place in her kitchen.  Grandma is standing at her stove.  She has a wooden spoon in her hand and is using it to stir a steaming stainless steel pot full of hot cocoa.  My siblings, cousins and I are sitting around the table, expectantly waiting for Grandma to place those warm mugs of cocoa in front of us.  There is some chatter going on around me, but I’m a little tyke, only about four years of age and it has been a long day.  My family and I have just arrived in Alaska this evening after a long drive from Oregon through Canada and then a ferry ride from Prince Rupert to Ketchikan.  Even in memory I can still feel the foggy tiredness that is making my eyes droop and my families voices seem a bit far away. Grandma sets my brown cup in front of me and I take a sip.  Heavenly chocolate sweetness fills my mouth and the warmness seeps into my soul.  As I am tucked into my bed and snuggle down with my favorite blanket and soft pink cat, I know beyond any doubt that I am loved.  Sometimes hot cocoa can do that.” ~ Paula Sannar Niziolek
“I remember as a young girl riding to Ketchikan with my Grandma Sannar in her Volkswagen Bug. I gazed out the window seeing the rocks, trees & vegetation of a beautiful rain forest as her little car sped along. It was a rare sunny day. Up ahead we could glimpse the sparkling blue ocean peaking through majestic cedar trees.
Parking along Main Street we walked up the gray concrete sidewalk into Rex-Drug store filled with bright, colorful treasures. Each of us children got to choose chocolate or vanilla for our ice-cream cone. So sweet & delicious was this tasty treat!” ~ Stacey Sannar Roth
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