Today, one hundred twenty-three years ago, in 1897, Grandpa Housler was born. Albert Earl Housler, youngest of three sons born to Charles Wesley Housler (1852-1934) and Clara Jane (Burrows) Housler (1876-1959). Born in the environs of the little village of Roulette in Potter County, Pennsylvania, he would spend most of his life across the county line in McKean County. He married Vernice Elizabeth (Hoke) Reinard (1897-1986) in Smethport, Pennsylvania, on 15 May 1929. After Vernice died in 1986, Bert lived another nine years, and died on 15 April 1995.
Years later, his daughter-in-law Sherry (Howell) Housler, was living with us and as we talked family history and genealogy one day, she shared with me what she had written in that time just before Bert died.
(I took this picture of Bert in 1985 when he was living with Max and Sherry.)
Even at 96 his size dominates the room as it always has since he was a youth and in his prime. There is no extra flesh on him so much as there is a relaxing of the muscles that stayed hard for so long. The room is not very big but no matter the dimensions, he fills it, not just in size but with strength of will.
He has been a man who has been singular in his needs and wants. How many times he told us of his father Charles. A man who could not stay in one place, but moved his family from town to town until moving to Hazel Hurst. Of his mother Clara, who finally said she would not be moved again. Of a house where they could settle, a place to have a garden, a job to go to every day and friends. After they had settled down and Albert, Claude and Joseph Carlysle had worked for a while, Claude and Joseph (Curly) enlisted in the army. It was the time of the First World War. Bert was the youngest and it became his lot to stay home and take care of his mother and father. He must have been about 17 at the time. Staying home filled a need Bert had to be in one place for a while. When the war was over his brothers came home. Bert then decided to look around a bit so he journeyed to Detroit and took a job working in a factory. It wasn’t home though so back he came to Hazel Hurst.
In the late 20’s Bert met the woman he would spend more than 50 with. Vernice was a warm, witty person and Bert loved a good joke. Vern was also a cook, supporting herself by working in restaurants, mostly baking. Out of this union came a son, Max. Someone to hunt and fish with. Someone to see them through their old age as Bert had his folks. This was all Bert asked out of life.
Albert was the provider and decision maker of his small family. His beliefs were few but he never wavered in them. A man told the truth, could give and keep his word with a handshake and took care of his own.
Now here we sit, the son, the son’s wife, and sometimes the grandchildren. All of us feel so inept at this. This watching life slowly leave this man who still has such a strong will. He shouldn’t be in this small room but in the woods, his keen eyes looking for a deer or in his yard keeping his bees.
Bert has had to quit reading books he enjoyed because his hands have lost their ability to feel and do not grasp objects as they used to. His eyes are now playing tricks on him. Sometimes, when having a small stroke, he sees things that aren’t even there. When we speak to him, he has trouble hearing what we say. He does seem to still have some sense of taste and smell. And he still loves to eat puddings and pies, although they never taste quite like Vern’s did,
Now he has to let others tend him and we have watched as his pride has taken a beating as more and more help has been needed. When we are there we help feed him, rub lotion into his dry papery skin, make make sure he has ice in his water, but most of all we listen. So many hours, so many days he lays waiting for us to come, to listen, to touch, to let him know that his life has counted and still counts to us. We can still share memories with him. When he forgets, we can remind him of things or places, maybe of people who have been important to us.
God willing we will be there to help ease his way out of the mountain of flesh that is slowly betraying him. Comfort to all of us is that he will be free from these feelings of uselessness and that he once again with the person who loved him so dear for so many years. She’ll meet him with a gleam in her eye, say something funny to him and hand in hand they will walk through time laughing.
Written by Sherry Housler, 1995