by Carol (Chrisman) (Bell) Ganzer
of Medford, Oregon, his daughter
A first version of this article appeared in Who’s Who of America’s Chrismans (1993), Scottsdale Family Treasures, Scottsdale, Arizona. It was revised & edited August 2003 by the author.
This information is being submitted by a daughter who remembers being lovingly and humorously referred to as “Precious Child”, by this giant of a man, her Dad, Lyle CHRISMAN.
Dad, (Lyle) was born near Scio, Oregon, at the family farm home and was described by my proud Grandmother as a beautiful male baby with a shock of shimmery black hair. Grandma later was horrified, when, upon seeing one of my Dad’s baby pictures, I asked, “Whose ugly child is this?” In truth, I was young and not accustomed to seeing male children in dresses, and I think the dress prompted the use of the inappropriate word “ugly”. I now possess that very picture and believe Dad to have truly been a “beautiful male child!”
Lyle was the 4th child of George Nelson CHRISMAN and Pearl Edith Baker. There were 4 sons and 5 daughters; two of the girls died in infancy (including one who was a twin.) The ancestors of George and Pearl immigrated to Oregon on the Oregon Trail and many settled in the state of Oregon. All of Lyle’s siblings settled and remained in Oregon throughout their lives. A list of the CHRISMAN Children include: 1- Ross Cecil CHRISMAN (deceased 1989); 2-Velma Irene (CHRISMAN) Limbeck, Scio, OR.,; 3-Sylvesta Lucille (CHRISMAN) Limbeck (deceased 1990); 4-Lyle Dale CHRISMAN (deceased 2003); 5-Nona Pearl CHRISMAN (died in infancy, 1914); 6-Gladys Norene (CHRISMAN) Porter, Stayton, OR., 7-Delbert Orville CHRISMAN (deceased 1999); 8-Leroy Merle CHRISMAN, Scio, OR.; 9-Leila Marie CHRISMAN (Leroy’s twin, died 1925.)
The CHRISMAN family farmed and I would not be surprised if Grandpa had preferred that some of the daughters had been sons instead, to serve as extra help on the farm... Grandpa George loved to breed/show poultry, especially turkeys, and possessed an impressive collection of high ranking ribbons. Grandpa George also spent considerable time as a jockey, so help on the farm was vital. Perhaps the need to continue the efficiency of the farm operation, especially with the limited equipment and machinery used at that time, brought out a latent talent possessed by all of the CHRISMAN males … an innate mechanical ability which each of them used later in their chosen careers as well.
Lyle married Blanche Walter on May 31, 1938, and they became the parents of three children: 1 – Leon Dale Chrisman, Sunnyvale, CA.; 2- Carol Marie (Chrisman) Bell-Ganzer, Medford, OR.; 3-Mary “Gayle” (Chrisman) Furlow-Cole, Portland, OR. Dad and Mom’s early years of marriage were spent in the Gilchrist-Crescent area while Dad worked for Brooks-Scanlon Lumber Company. After experiencing some health difficulties with Leon and Carol and having to make numerous trips to doctors in Eugene, followed by the birth of Mary Gayle, they relocated to the Willamette Valley. Our growing up years were spent on the family farm near Scio, Oregon, in the community known as “Riverview”. Dad wore a number of different hats as a resident of this community. He farmed, owned, operated and repaired his own logging truck and was the community “engineer”. When the little rural Riverview Community was allowed to join the Scio Cooperative Telephone Company, the telephone company did not have the manpower or material to run lines to all those who wished to hookup. Scio was 7 miles from our family farm and there were additional miles of cable needed just to reach the many families in our immediate area who sought phone service. So, Dad designed the system, searched until he found economical sources of materials, apportioned the cost of the materials among those joining, and then physically installed the phone lines and hookups with very little help.
Dad was very self-sufficient around the farm and house as well. When we needed another room added to the house, he just built it … he didn’t need an architect, a blueprint, an electrician, or plumber; he did it ALL himself! When a tractor was needed, but we didn’t have the funds to purchase a commercial John Deere, Dad just built his own tractor which we lovingly called “Homer”. Dad had driven logging trucks long enough to have a great deal of respect/love for truck transmissions. The 3-speed stick shift in the family automobile seemed “puny” to Dad so he installed a 4-speed truck transmission. This was the car (1936 Plymouth), which we all learned to drive almost as soon as we could ride a bicycle! Of course, we were only allowed to drive it on the farm property… we found the tractor and other farm equipment easy to handle with this background, while the car with the automatic transmission in high school driver training seemed purely boring!!!
Throughout much of Dad’s logging career, he drove trucks for other owners until he was able to purchase several of his own. By far Dad’s favorite logging truck, the Autocar, which seemed as large as a mountain, at least to his daughters, was bright red and white and emblazoned on the cab was the name “Hardly Able”, which couldn’t have been further from the truth! It was just Dad’s use of humor and sarcasm to show his pride in the truck and indicate that no job was too large or tough for his truck! My sister, Mary Gayle (“Gayle”), wrote a touching, humorous and colorful story about our Dad which was published (October 3, 1971) in the Eugene-Register Guard’s Emerald Empire Magazine section, titled, “Daddy Was a Logger”. The story relates some wonderful times she spent with Dad one summer at a logging site in Southern Oregon … and there are many incidents, which revolve around “Hardly Able”, through the eyes of a 10-year old who had the same respect for her Dad as he did for his truck. She thought (as I did too), that there wasn’t anything Dad couldn’t do!
Somewhere in the teen-age years, we called Dad the “Absolute Ruler”, since he was quick to make decisions without much discussion. The label “stuck” and as adults we continued the title’s use while attaching a lot of love and humor to it, often addressing his mail as such!
Eventually my brother, sister and I reached adulthood and left home to begin our own journeys in life. Dad and Mother were divorced and, Dad, upon leaving the farm, also changed careers. His mechanical skills were his “ace” again and he obtained millwright positions. He married Rose (Huff) Wiley in 1966 and helped her raise 4 of her 5 children.
Dad and “Rosie” eventually moved to Central Oregon and Dad became the foreman of a dude ranch between Tumalo and Sisters on the Deschutes River. The developer must have been able to sense what he had in this new foreman. It wasn’t long before Dad was not only managing the ranch, but building an irrigation system, repairing everything repairable, harvesting record breaking alfalfa crops and assisting in the development of a timeshare condominium project. During the years on the Deschutes River Ranch, my family visited Gramps and Rosie often to enjoy being in the country with all of its quiet beauty and freedom. It was here that Gramps taught my sons, Eric and Sean, to respect guns and the art of shooting. They began with the .22 rifle and eventually learned to shoot everything in Gramps’ gun collection. They often stood in awe when they looked at Gramps’ mounted deer rack which had won a rack width “spread” contest years earlier. They always had a great deal of respect and admiration for Gramps’ knowledge of hunting and firearms, and felt special when he joined them on hunting adventures. Much later during his college years, Eric qualified for and attended the Collegiate National Pistol Championships at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Many years later, after joining the Marines, Sean became certified as a Marine firearms instructor and was selected for the National Marine Reserve Shooting Team.
It was during the period of time on the ranch that Dad was found to have a cancerous colon tumor. After radiation treatment, the tumor was successfully removed. A couple of years later, additional bowel problems were apparent and after several days in the hospital, Dad ordered his doctor to open him up to correctly identify the problem. His words to the doctor were to the effect that he wanted to be opened up and if the doctor could fix it, to do so. Otherwise, he requested that the doctor sew him up and tell him what had taken place. He told the doctor he could handle whatever the outcome was … that he had had a good life and wasn’t fearful. The doctor was amazed with his attitude, followed Dad’s orders and promptly labeled him a “Tough Old Bird”. The surgery corrected the adhesions that had developed from the prior surgery and there was never again any discussion about the colon. But the “Tough Old Bird” label brought him great joy and delight the remainder of his life.
After several years on the Central Oregon ranch, Dad and Rosie decided to move back to the Valley. Dad’s ability to grow anything and everything was stifled by the short growing season at the higher altitude of Central Oregon. But the move didn’t take place until Dad had exhausted every possible means of continuing his love of growing things … when the automatic irrigation system he designed and installed for the family garden failed to ward off the summer killer frosts, Dad finally became discouraged enough to return to the milder Willamette Valley . Dad and Rosie settled in Philomath near Corvallis, Oregon … a lucky break for his grandson’s Eric and Sean, when they chose to attend Oregon State University in Corvallis. It was a special privilege spending time with Gramps, hunting and fishing, telling stories and fixing things! The mechanical ability displayed by both Eric and Sean is evidence that Gramps’ influence was great!
Business cards prepared by Leon, for his Dad’s retirement several years ago, aptly describe some of Dad’s many talents: Retired farmer, logger, truck driver, mechanic, millwright and ranch foreman; the best darned welder in Oregon and the best shot at a running buck in the Western States!
Having finally retired, Dad and Rosie remained near Philomath until after the grandsons, Eric and Sean Bell graduated from college in Corvallis. “Gramps”, as he was called by all the grandkids, also has 4 additional Grandchildren … a total of 5 boys and 1 girl. The other remarkable grandkids are: 1- Lonnie Dale Chrisman (the only CHRISMAN grandson) of San Jose, CA.; Lucinda Leanne CHRISMAN, Los Angeles, CA.; F. Bryant Furlow of Woodland, CA.; and Michael Forrest Furlow with the US Army.
From Philomath, Dad and Rosie eventually moved to Salem to a senior citizen apartment complex. Though they had scaled down their possessions and their energy had waned somewhat, Dad managed to confiscate enough yard space around their apartment to grow sufficient tomatoes to provide for most of his neighbors. He also kept us all supplied with onions and garlic, the size of which I have never seen since! Dad resided at this complex and remained very independent, including taking a bus to get his groceries, doing his own laundry and cooking for himself, until increasing health concerns and his age, caused his family significant worry. Finally, after realizing that my sister’s driving from Portland or myself driving from Medford, (our brother lives S. of SF in Sunnyvale, CA.,) for medical appointments, etc., was just too much on a regular basis, my sister and I moved Dad to Park Place, an assisted living facility in Beaverton near my Sister, Gayle. While still in Philomath, Dad and Rosie had acquired a tiny tea-cup poodle puppy which Dad promptly named “Foxie Lady”. When Dad moved to Park Place, Foxie became the star of the facility. Everyone stopped to meet the new resident with the adorable new “toy”. Dad seemed to really enjoy the attention he created while wearing his “TOB” (Tough Old Bird) cap and parading Foxie around in his fancy new burgundy walker complete with a basket for Foxie. They captivated the entire facility, including staff! Dad and Foxie made many friends at Park Place and it gave us much joy to see how much they truly loved and cared for him. He was one of their most popular residents and received many special favors and top-notch treatment from the entire staff.
In November of 2002, just after celebrating his 92nd birthday, Dad had a fall at Park Place and fractured his coccygeal vertebra. He was prescribed heavy doses of pain medication to mask the severe pain. This seemed like a reasonable thing to do until my sister realized that the powerful pain medication had caused Dad to hallucinate and lose his appetite. He began to lose weight quickly and by the time my sister convinced the Dr. to remove the pain medications, he had lost significant weight and strength. Since the human body in the reclining or seated position, places enormous pressure on the tailbone vertebrae, it was nearly impossible to totally heal Dad’s fractures. They improved but were painful until his passing. It was this event that eventually forced his move to Beaverton Rehab, where he was assisted with more nursing help. My sister was faithful and dedicated in taking care of Dad’s physical and emotional needs. She was there to see him twice a day; often fed him, provided him with his extra daily needs and brought Foxie Lady to spend time with him each day.
Finally my sister was worn out from holding a full-time job and visiting Dad twice a day and needed a vacation. She had become a grandmother for the first time in January, 2003, (another great-grandson for Gramps!) and needed some time off to go to Germany to meet this new member of our family. I insisted that she and Sam go and I would come to take over her daily routine to see that Dad’s needs were met. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, for me, as it was the last quality time I had with my Dad. We shared pictures and visited, though his strength was dwindling and he spent many hours napping. Foxie Lady was still joining him for her nap each afternoon and he was comforted by her presence. Dad was still able to enjoy a wheelchair ride so we explored some portion of the facility each day. His activities were now limited and he slowly lost some of his interest in reading, TV, and other activities that he had always thoroughly enjoyed. Dad was peaceful and still interested and curious about the world around him, as he transitioned into the final phase of his life. He just didn’t have the old stamina and could no longer get around without the wheelchair. He still loved hearing about his grandchildren and great grandchildren and viewing their pictures. He was interested in how each of us were spending our time, as well as what was happening in the world, but no longer spoke of things he “planned” to do. It was very heartbreaking to watch and I truly appreciate my sister’s continued dedication and loving concern for Dad through this difficult time.
My Sister continued the care and Foxie remained his faithful buddy until the end. Our “TOB” lapsed into a coma on July 18th and peacefully passed away the following morning, July 19, 2003.
Some additional personal memories of fun times with my Dad:
In my adult life, I experienced many good times visiting Dad & Rosie and spending weekends at the ranch on the Deschutes. It was such a treat to leave the city and spend time in the country with only the music of the dancing Deschutes River and the birds overhead! Dad and I used to walk and visit and he'd enthusiastically show me things he was doing around the ranch and I got to know a man I really didn't feel I had known real well since the time I had left the family home.. Gramps loved taking Eric and Sean to the field with the rock bank and teaching them to shoot. He was so proud that they became such good shots in very short time and I certainly attribute their interest, knowledge and expertise in guns, to Gramps. I had some special times with Dad at Philomath too. I was fortunate in that when I did come home from California and Arizona, I had a couple of weeks to spend with family and friends; I always spent several days of it with Dad. I've strolled through many gardens (vegetables & flowers) with him and was told about each plant and sometimes a tree graft. I always marveled in his engineering and creativity in designing peaceful means to chase away the birds and wildlife who were destroying his gardens. I always appreciated his peaceful approach to finding a solution to dealing with the wildlife and birds. And then there were the fishing trips which he prepared for weeks before my arrival. Eric and Sean always joined us, and in later years, were responsible for managing the boat & trailer and driving the truck. Dad had stuff strung around his living room for weeks getting the fishing gear ready and putting together the right lures and lines for the species he thought we might be catching. He was very scientific in his research about which fish were “biting” and “what” they were biting. He had to have the right bait, lure, weight of line, reel, etc., for that particular outing. It was always fascinating to listen to him describe how he was gearing up and why it was the right approach for the river, lake, fish, time of day, etc., that we were going to experience. He always loaded the line for me, and though I never caught a fish on my own, he could stand it no longer and on one of our last fishing trips he had something on the line before he handed it to me. I was later disappointed that in my excitement, we had forgotten to take my picture with the one and only fish I ever "caught"!
In the summer of 1990 Dad and Rosie came to Lancaster to visit her Mother and husband. Dad called me and wanted me to come and get him and bring him to Indian Wells where we were living, for the rest of the week. I thought it was a fine idea, so I drove up and got Dad, and he spent 5 days with us seeing the California desert. He was totally fascinated with the Palm Springs “wind farms” gathering energy and spent a couple of days thinking and questioning, how that process worked. From time to time, I sent him pictures and articles from our paper when something appeared about the wind chargers. And, typical of Dad, he continued to ask questions about this energy source; to study and ponder the future of “wind farms” for the rest of his life. During his visit to Indian Wells, we attended a wonderful outdoor art festival at LaQuinta which featured some pretty outlandish as well as professional and expensive art work. Dad was especially amused by the life-size human figures fashioned from nylon hose and stuffed and glamorized to look like people in various walks of life. He got a special kick out of having his picture taken with some pretty volumpous female replicas! Another delight was treating Dad to a date shake, a specialty of the desert. Everyone remembers Dad's "sweet tooth"! A date milk shake was the perfect solution. Dates are extremely sweet and no one loved ice cream more than Dad. This combination was as perfect as sweet gets. He enjoyed walking around the development where we lived and learning about the date and citrus trees, and golf courses, of which we had many. He was especially amazed at the lemon trees growing in our development where we picked lemons larger than grapefruit! Dad always had questions, was always curious, always loved to learn and I admired that about him. I guess I inherited some of that for I find myself always learning and "going to school".
We had some interesting birds in the desert at Indian Wells and later when we moved to Scottsdale, we had some even more unique Sonoran Desert birds. Dad and I used to "bird talk" on the phone when I called him weekly. We'd discuss the birds we were looking at or had seen recently. I finally got wise and bought each of us the same small, but complete, Audubon Bird Book. This was neat because we'd talk about a bird and Dad would say, "it's on page so and so" and I'd flip to that page in my book and we could really "bird talk" with the same information in front of us. He was fascinated to learn about the desert birds and always had questions for me. He was not only a “TOB”, but a wise old bird, for he never forgot what he had learned about a new bird variety. He was equally as interested in the Saguaro and other Cacti and unusual flora and fauna of the desert. Of course, these new interests always made for perfect Christmas material. Dad developed a personal library showing a wide variety of his interests!
When I moved back to Oregon in 1997, it was now possible to drive Dad down to Medford for a visit. I drove him down several times to spend a week and explore the Rogue Valley. He recalled his logging days in Southern Oregon and how much this part of the state had changed. As always, he was interested in everything around him; the pear orchards, the vineyards, and he was amazed at the growth of the valley, which he had remembered as a quiet, simple little valley. An added benefit of visiting Medford was the opportunity to see his grandson, Eric Bell’s children, his great-grandchildren. The two older great grandchildren, Joshua Sean and Haley Anne remember and treasure the time they spent with their “great-grandpa: Dad also had 7 additional great-grandchildren: two additional Bells: Benjamin Eric and Caleb Garrett all of Medford; Brianna Sierra CHRISMAN, Whitney Sequoia CHRISMAN, Ashley Mariah CHRISMAN and Lauren Savannah CHRISMAN of San Jose, CA., and Jack Ryan Furlow in Germany where his father (Dad’s grandson, Michael Furlow) is stationed with the US Army (2003). On one of Dad’s visits to Medford, another grandson, Lonnie CHRISMAN and his family visited at the same time. We were fortunate to have the opportunity for a photo session with Gramps and the 5 grandchildren in existence at that time.
On another of Dad’s visits to Medford, he indicated he was getting a little bored with his own cooking. We tried a few different and simple recipes, but the one that really caught his attention, was baking cornbread! Dad had always loved all kinds of grainy breads and the cornbread just seemed to be the right thing at the right time. Dad made all kinds of cornbread at my house and I sent him home with the recipe, baking pans and ingredients for baking at home. I might have guessed ……… he practically got into the baking business for baking and supplying cornbread all around the senior complex where he lived! The residents were delighted!
I feel so fortunate for the special times I had with my Dad in these later years. I was old enough to appreciate and treasure his wisdom. I had always been proud of his values and firm discipline. We often talked about how he had lived in the “best of times” and he felt the rest of us would go on to deal with many hard issues that he wouldn’t have to face. He was grateful that he had lived during this space of time and often said that he had lived a good life and was fortunate to have lived a long one too. Though he had fought off colon cancer, five heart bypasses, prostate and bone cancer, he never complained and continued to possess a positive and determined personality until he lapsed into a coma.
There will never be another “TOB” quite like my Dad. He was not only my Dad, but a treasured friend. No one will ever take his place and I’ll forever miss him greatly. Most of all, I’m thankful that He was MY Dad!!!!