McCrabb: What 5 living generations have taught this Butler County family about motherhood

Her mother never cared for the holiday.

In fact, Virgie Burge “dreaded” Mother’s Day.

“Maybe it was a premonition,” said her daughter, Anita Hora.

Burge died in May 1987 and was buried on Mother’s Day.

“It just happened that way,” Hora said.

But now that same Butler County family with roots throughout the area has reason to celebrate Mother’s Day. When Vivian Grace Barber was born late last year, she became the family’s fifth generation member, all women. Anita Grace Hora is 94, and her great-great-granddaughter, named after her, is 6 months old.

The women recently gathered for a five-generation photo. Hora was there with her daughter, Bonnie Schmidt, 74; granddaughter, Robbin Blower, 49; great-granddaughter, Ashley Barber, 28, and great-great-granddaughter, Vivian.

And since today is Mother’s Day there’s no better time to celebrate this family’s good fortune.

Hora has eight children, 31 grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild. She has buried one granddaughter. Her husband of 70 years, James, died in 2017.

“We had a great life together,” she said. “Been blessed.”

She looks at least 10 years younger than her birth certificate. Living on a farm, raising eight children, including twins, avoiding junk food and soda, drinking tomato and grape juice and nibbling on weed roots — yes, that’s what she said — are reasons for her youthful appearance, she said.

On those late nights when pulling weeds out of the flower garden delayed her dinner, she ate a root or two.

“To me, a weed is a sin and you get rid of it,” she said with a hearty laugh.

Hora was born and raised in Carlisle, then moved to Farmersville with her husband. They lived on Chicken Bristle Road — I’m not making this up — where they farmed an extensive strawberry field. They sold the strawberries to Jungle Jim’s in Fairfield and Woody’s Market in West Carrollton.

Customers came from as far as Kentucky for the Chicken Bristle Brand strawberries.

Hora remembers when one of the workers, a young girl whose father was a local union executive, demanded more money to pick the strawberries. When told they couldn’t afford a raise, the girl and her friends walked out of the field and rode away on their bikes.

“Let’s strike and go home,” the girl told her friends.

That left the Horas in quite the jam.

The ripe strawberries had to be picked that day. So Hora called a Boy Scout troop in Middletown, and a little later, a bus load of scouts eager to work arrived. When the kids in the neighborhood saw a field full of scouts, they “came back the next day and nothing more was said,” Hora said.

As Hora and her daughter, Schmidt, sat in their house on Elk Creek Road, the more they reminisced, they more they discussed the importance of motherhood.

“To me,” Schmidt said, “being a mother is very special. It means love. It’s the greatest occupation to have. No kid comes with a manual. Every child is different. But you love them the same.”

Hora called Mother’s Day “a great, great honor. It takes a lot to take care of children to bring them up right. Mother’s Day is a credit to mothers. It takes a lot of encouragement from a mother and a father for children to grow up right.”

One year, Hora, then about 8, and her 9-year-old brother, decided they wanted to do something “special” for their mother on Mother’s Day. They decided to bake her a two-layer cake with seven-minute frosting. They made sure their mother stayed out of the kitchen.

It was a surprise alright.

The icing turned out watery, and the cake was about two inches thick.

A few minutes later, they presented their mother with her favorite dessert.

“She said it was such a good cake,” Hora said.

That was more than 85 years ago, and Hora often remembers her mother’s reaction.

“That cake wasn’t fit to eat,” she said. “But you couldn’t tell by what she said.”

There are days when it’s OK for parents to lie to their impressionable children. Obviously, Mother’s Day is one of them.

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