Saturday, February 14, 2015

Jesse J. Findley and Clara R. Findley

With today being Valentine's Day, I figured I would take this opportunity to share the love story of my favorite couple, my grandparents, Jesse and Clara Findley. I grew up with my grandparents, and they served as my role models for how a married relationship is supposed to be.

Me and my grandparents. I seem to be about five years old here.
Provided by Ryanne Cardenas.
I realized, though, even though my grandfather had once told me the story of how he met my grandmother, I had never asked my grandmother her side of the story. (The "story" I got from my grandfather consisting of only two sentences: "I met her at a grocery store. I was working there.")

Here's the more in-depth story I got out of my granny:

Jesse and Clara first met at Banner's Grocery Store, which was located in Duval County, Florida. Jesse was working as a bag boy and shelf stocker at the time. Clara, who was from North Carolina, was in town for the summer with her Mom and Aunt. Some of Clara's family, who were local to the area, were familiar with the bag boy at the local store. They got the two of them together on a fishing trip, and that was when the two "really got to know each other."

They saw each other several times over the summer. Clara told me about one time they went skating together. She said she didn't know what they were planning to do together, so she wore a skirt. When she realized what was on the agenda, she said, Jesse's family took her to Sears and bought her slacks to wear.

Clara left at the end of the summer to go back home. (Something about all of this makes me think of the song"Summer Lovin'" from Grease.) Jesse and Clara stayed in touch though. They called each other frequently.

Then, at the age of 16, Jesse approached his parents, Jesse Lee and Rosemary Findley, and requested they allow him to drop out of school and join the Coast Guard. They agreed and signed the required forms so he could enlist early.

This is a photo I took of a plaque hanging in my grandmother's living room.
This is a photo of Jesse Joe as a young man in the Coast Guard.
It is the youngest photo I have of him in uniform. Provided by Thomas Cardenas.
His first tour of duty was at New London, Connecticut. Contact with Jesse was slim at this point in his military career. After that tour ended, Jesse went back to his home in Florida. Clara visited him on occasion after he made it back home. Jesse's second tour, however, was in Alaska, and he was on a ship for 18 months. She said he wrote to her regularly. She thinks she still has some of the letters in her possession. I hope to get scans of these letters for future posts when I visit her next.

Jesse posing with the Block Island sign. Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas.
Clara said the two of them officially started "going steady" in 1959 or 1960. That would have made them both about 17. I asked when they got engaged, but she said she couldn't remember. I asked if she remembered how Jesse proposed, and she said, "Yeah. He gave me a ring." I feel like she's probably leaving a few of the details out, but it's rather hard to get personal information out of her, so I didn't push it.

She did tell me an interesting story about her engagement ring which I didn't know. She said her engagement ring had a 3/4 carat blue diamond that was (or perhaps is) 75 years old. I love antique jewelry, so this caught my attention. She told me I had seen her ring before, but I told her I couldn't remember it, and I definitely knew I hadn't heard the following story about her ring before.

When she told me the age of the diamond in her ring, I asked her if there was a story behind the stone since she made sure to mention the age of it. She said the stone was from Jesse's dad's dad's "Sunday ring." The ring had been passed down through the generations, first to Jesse's dad, and then finally to Jesse. She told me Jesse's dad never really wore the ring. Jesse, on the other hand, wore it from time to time. Then, when it came time to propose to Clara, Jesse decided to take the blue diamond out of the ring and put it in her engagement ring.

I love that story! I told her I want to see the ring again next time I visit her, especially now that I have heard this wonderful background information.

Nancy, Clara, David, and Jesse Findley. Seems to be taken about 1968.
Photo provided by Thomas Cardenas.
At the time of my grandfather's death, my grandparents had been married 37 years. They went through a lot together. Jesse spent 30 years in the Coast Guard, and Clara served as a devoted "Coast Guard wife." They moved several times during his time in the military. They even made it back to Alaska together.

This is a photo I took of a plaque hanging in Clara's living room.
It states she was the President of the Fort Macon Coast Guard Wives Club in 1978.
(They misspelled her last name.)
Getting to witness their relationship during the last decade and a half of my grandfather's life, I really got a chance to see what a loving and supportive marriage looks like. I'd be happy if my marriage ends up even half as great as theirs was.

  • Clara R. Findley, self
  • Jesse J. Findley, self
  • Photos taken by me are from June 2014
  • Other photos were provided by Thomas and Ryanne Cardenas

No comments:

Post a Comment