He is barely three-years-old; she is barely 90. They are great friends, my son John and his Great-great Aunt Hallie. He’s not put off by the tremendous age difference, and so the fun begins. They play with stuffed animals, soldiers’ armor, take wheel chair rides, and have story-time. He loves his Aunt Hallie.
In the evening when she is finally settled into her bed for the night, he sheds his red cowboy boots, climbs up on the fence rails that are attached to either side of the hospital bed, and is ready to do some serious talkin’. He listens intently as she shares things of her heart, wisdom for living a good life, and has him repeat the lesson until she is sure he has it memorized. When she has given his hand a little squeeze, he knows it’s time to climb off the bed rails and let her get some sleep. With a wave and “g’night Aunt Hallie, I love you”, he’s off to other adventures.
One evening during John’s senior year of high school, he and I are talking about the wonderful memories he has of his Aunt Hallie. She had died when he was seven and now ten years later he wants to know more about her life. Pulling the dilapidated box from the closet, releasing the string that precariously holds it together, John and I reverently enter into the treasures of Hallie’s life. Time stands still as we examine the contents of the box.
He looks at artist sketches with his Aunt Hallie’s signature, and ponders aloud about her beautiful steady handwriting. He sees articles and accolades of her accomplishments over the course of her 94 years. He studies a pencil drawing of the face of her beautiful little daughter, Lucille, who died at age seven, and scans through news clippings regarding Buddy, her son – killed in WWII. He reads telegrams detailing the death, and sees calendar entries about the ensuing emotional pain.
These treasures in his hands become arrows to his heart. “Mom, they’re all gone. Who will remember the sacrifices?” Who will remember? Someone MUST remember.”
And so begins the journey to remember. The journey that has demanded my presence across Erie, Pennsylvania, Seattle, Washington, Ohio, Kentucky, Virginia, and Tennessee. When I’ve felt discouraged, tired, and wondered on occasion, “who cares”, my memory conjures up the voice of the burning question asked by a young man so many years ago, “Mom, who will remember…someone MUST!” And so the journey continues as I seek for details about this ordinary woman who lived an extraordinary life.
Hallie Beatrice Rogers (1892 – 1987) placed her beautiful signature on a measureable number of pieces of artwork during her lifetime. The secret of Hallie Rogers is not the number of signatures she has signed on her art work, but the ones indelibly written upon the hearts of thousands of people who have known her, and those who are yet to meet her through her art and writings.
Yes, Hallie Rogers; One Signature, Many Lives.
Read Chapter One