Missing That Special Sister

I wrote this post on my personal blog twelve years ago. Now, it is December 8th again and still, we mourn the loss of someone who was so important to the fabric of our family.

Shannon Marie Hyle – A Special Sister

Two years ago on December 8, 2006, my youngest sister died unexpectedly at age 49.  Shannon Hyle was a special person, not just to her immediate family, but to all who knew her.  The church overflowed with bereft people on the day of her funeral.

Now it is two years later and our lives adjust to going on without Shannon.  It comforts us to think she can peer down and approve the progress we’ve made through our grief.  I’m sure she’s thrilled that her daughter, Diana, finished graduate school and is working as a librarian.  She’s equally thrilled to see her youngest, Samantha, succeeding in her second job and that she’s found a loving man to share her life with.

Here are tributes to Shannon written by various family members:

Carol Garriott –   Our Golden Girl …Remembering Shannon …Be Still and Listen

Virginia Allain –  I Am Missing You …A Poem for Shannon …A Happy Message From Shannon …

Gail Martin –  The Lady Bugs Are Back …

and from her friends:

Kevin Colebank – To Shannon Martin Hyle

Scott Lupo – Very Sad News

shannon Martin Hyle - a tribute

My album of photos of Shannon.

You can see Shannon’s own writings on the Our Echo site.  I particularly love her essays on books she loved, “Falling in Love among the Bookshelves,” “Life Without Georgette,” and “My Bookshelves.”   We found one of her writings after her death and posted it for her, Memories from Shannon.

Shannon loved using stamps to make delightful cards.  I found her cards that she posted on the SplitCoastStampers gallery online.  Use the search function and put in vcm3007 (Shannon’s username for the site).  She posted some of her paper bag scrapbooks there too.  She has 142 pages at the site with about 12 cards per page.

From Shannon Hyle's Stampin Up art

Art created by Shannon Hyle.

I created a tribute webpage for Shannon on Hubpages with more photos and memories.

If you have memories of Shannon that you’d like to share, please leave a comment or you can post them on the Our Echo website for Shannon’s friends and family to see.

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The Christmas that stays in my memory

Gail Lee Martin published this story on the Our Echo site originally:

The Christmas I remember most happened in 1958. Clyde had been released from the hospital in September, after a five-month stay, as the result of a car accident. He was getting around slowly on crutches but couldn’t go back to work yet.

Clyde Martin working in father-in-law Clarence McGhee's woodworking shop, Madison, KS 1959.

This photo actually shows Clyde Martin in 1959 in his father-in-law’s workshop, but we don’t have a 1958 photo of him.

We had six children, the youngest only six months old, who was born while Clyde was in the hospital, and no paycheck, so Christmas looked bleak. I was unable to even make the kids any homemade gifts because I was so busy keeping five children clean, fed and in school, and caring for the new baby. My husband helped all he could, but he had trouble getting around so he kept busy in the garage restoring old bicycles.

Friends and neighbors brought anything they could find that pertained to bikes. In those days we could drive down to the city dump and the caretaker would show us where he had sorted out bicycle parts. After finding what we needed we paid a small
fee to him for them.

My husband would spend hours either leaning on his crutches or perched on a tall stool and work on the bikes. In the process, he would scrape off all the old paint and sand the metal bare, before starting to rebuild a bike.

bicycle-in workshop pixabay

Photo from Pixabay of a rusty old bike

He redid several and was able to sell them for enough to buy new tires, tubes, seats and handlebar grips. By Christmas day he had a beautiful bicycle restored for each of our children, except of course the baby. They were all painted just like the new ones in the store windows. Even pinstriped. With five new bikes on the block, it was a good thing we lived next door to the school yard.

bicycle-wheels pixabay

You can read more of Gail’s stories on the Our Echo website.

Gail Martin’s ABC Christmas Countdown

Here’s some nostalgic reading for you for the month of December. Some pieces are written by Gail Lee Martin, and some are memories written by her daughters or sister. The ABCs make a countdown to the 25 days of Christmas. You can read a different story each day of the holiday month.

A – A Gift of Treasured Memories

B – Make a Santa Ornament from a Light BulbMake a Bleach Bottle Santa Face

C – Cindy’s Christmas Memories, A Christmas Song for ShannonChristmas Crafts with Gail Lee Martin, A Cardboard Play Kitchen for Christmas,

D – Decorate for Christmas the Old-Fashioned Way

E – Sell Nuts for EXTRA Holiday Income

F – Frugal Gift Wrapping Tips,

G – Giving Gifts on a Social Security Budget, The Christmas Gazebo

H – Hot Rod Christmas Cards,

I – Icicles

J –

K – Random Acts of Christmas Kindness

L – Letter to Santa, Have a Little House on the Prairie Christmas

M – McGhee Christmas Memories from C.J. Garriott,

N – Make Candy Nut ClustersMake Sugared Nuts, Mom Was Nutty Each December

O – Free Christmas Ornaments

P – Pine Cone Pixie Ornament to Make,

Q – The Christmas Quilt

R –  Remembering a Long Ago Christmas, The Rose Parade at New Years, Reuse and Recycle Old Christmas Cards

S – Second-Hand Christmas Tree, Star Made from a Paper Bag,

T – Tips for Late Christmas Cards, , Teddy Bear Tree, Make a Thrifty Christmas into a Merry Christmas

U – Unwrapping the Christmas Ornaments

V – Christmas Village Made of CardboardVintage Christmas Candy FiguresMake a Victorian Fan Christmas Ornament

W – Make a Candy Cane Wall Hanging,

X –

Y –

Z –

Unwrapping the Ornaments

As I unwrap the tissue around the first piece, I savor the moment of rediscovery. Here’s the reindeer my mother made of wooden clothespins. Its hand-drawn face always makes me smile. The next ornament, an old lead crystal pendant from a long-ago chandelier, was a flea market find. I love the way it gleams when the tree lights touch it.

reindeer xmas ornament made from wooden clothespins

One of the clothespin reindeers made by Gail Martin

I sit beside a stack of boxes containing my Christmas treasures. I’ll have hours of quiet pleasure taking the items out one-by-one and placing them on the holiday tree. Some people feel it’s a chore decorating the tree and house for Christmas. Now that I’m retired, I no longer have to rush through the process or squeeze it in between work and other commitments. Having time to luxuriate in memories makes the tree decorating a special time just for me. Each piece evokes a memory of a special person or time in my life.

Here are the folded German stars that my friend, Jaye, made for me when she lived on an island in the Casco Bay. I know that further down in the boxes I’ll find the angel she cut from heavy paper. I also love the sprightly elf she made from a pine cone and an acorn with a red scarf tied around its neck.


Jaye Rexford made this cute ornament

I pull the tissue away gently revealing one of my Australian finds. It’s a pottery silhouette of a kangaroo that reminds me of three years lived in Alice Springs. There’s another kangaroo lurking in here somewhere. It’s made of felt with a sprig of holly adding a holiday touch. I remember the Australians calling the holiday chrissy. They shortened so many words that way. Where is the koala? Oh, here it is.

Next, I reveal a glass star that I hang where it can twirl freely and catch the light. Then a glass icicle emerges. It’s a substitute for the plastic ones we had when I was little. The plastic ones glowed in the dark and when we became impatient waiting for night-time, we took them into a closet to see their purplish glow.

Here’s one of the many cat ornaments. This black and white one looks just like my Silly Kitten who lived with me in Ohio and Maryland. I named her for a favorite storybook, The Three Silly Kittens. The grey cat made of clay grins guiltily while holding a tiny ornament in his paw. That was Ashley who was always into mischief. I miss having a cat now that we travel so much. For now, I can remember all the great cats in my life when I see the clay and cloth and glass cat ornaments dangling from my tree. I don’t miss the way Ashley could un-decorate the tree almost as fast as I decorated it.

There are so many animals on the tree, including a white tin rabbit representing my years of rabbit raising in 4-H. The felt sheep reminds me of traveling in New Zealand and Scotland. The cardinals bring memories of my grandparents who introduced us to bird watching. This tiny deer made of shrink art plastic takes me back to craft projects at home. Mom introduced us to coloring and cutting and heating the plastic shapes. I should make more of those. I still have some of the plastic for it even though it is thirty years later.

The next box contains seashells. Each hangs by a thin gold cord and a sprinkle of glitter enhances the natural shapes. I purchased those last year to remind me of my library in South Texas. The last year that I was the director there, they decorated the tree with seashells like these. The seashells also remind me of our trips to coastal areas like the Great Barrier Reef and South Padre Island.

Here’s the box of cloth ornaments. It must be the librarian in me that categorizes the ornaments by type when I box them each January. I have lots of quilt designs to hang on the tree. Many are fabric, but some are brass. I’ve always loved old quilts and my grandmother made one for me when I married. These ornaments also relate to my years in the Baltimore Heritage Quilt Guild. I wrote their newsletter for several years, then organized the quilt show and finally served as president of the guild.

I find the crocheted snowflakes. They add a lacy touch of white to the dark green tree. Here are the snowflakes that Mom made from ribbons. Next, I unwrap the pleated Victorian fans that I made from wide ribbons edged in lace. My tree certainly is eclectic.
At last, I open the individual boxes with two 1940s ornaments. My mother had some like these and she cried when I broke one. It had belonged to her mother. I hang the fragile ornament at eye level on the tree. It’s older than I am.

1940s Christmas ornament

An ornament from the 1940s or 1950s.

Next, I add the sports ornaments that I found to match my husband’s interests. There’s a glass replica of a basketball, baseball and a football. The golf ball represents our three days a week on the golf course. Then I add our newest ornaments that represent our times in Maine and New Hampshire. That includes a moose made of birch bark.

My tree gets more and more crowded as the years pass. I can’t give anything up. Each has a special meaning to me. This year we found a bigger tree and I put a three-foot tree in the dining room as well. That one is totally decorated with tiny baskets. After taking basket making classes in the 1980s, I can’t resist a little one whenever I see it, now that I know how hard they are to make.

It isn’t finished, but I don’t mind returning tomorrow to the task. I don’t want to rush through the tree trimming. Placing each ornament takes time to find the best spot on the tree for that memory. Days later I’ll often move a few about to balance the tree or for better viewing. Memories are meant to be savored and for the month of December, these ornaments trigger many memories of people and places in my life.

(Memory piece by Virginia Allain from 2010)

The Christmas Quilt

My 1880s Silk Quilt by Virginia Allain

Over the past 40 years, I collected vintage quilts. Most of these were found at antique markets in Maryland and Pennsylvania. I haven’t added to the collection since moving to Florida.

A few years ago, I took one quilt to the Davenport Quilt show for appraisal. I opted for the quickie appraisal, not wishing to spend the $40 for the written one that would have included an estimate of value for the quilt.


An 1880s silk quilt in a poinsettia pattern (8-pointed star)

Here’s what I learned about it. The pattern is a star block. It appears to have been made from a grey silk dress as there are tucks in some of the pieces. Due to the iron content used in dyes for silk, those pieces are likely to suffer some disintegration over the years. A few small pieces show this with the silk shredding. The appraiser said there is nothing that can be done to prevent this since the harm was done at the time the fabric was made.

The red parts are not silk, but linen. The backing is a paisley that looks to be of 1880s vintage.

The batting is very thin and it is probable that this was never intended for use on a bed for warmth. More likely it was for show or for a lap robe.

Rather than being quilted, it is a tied quilt with red and green ribbons. The green ones have faded to a yellow over the last 130 years, but in a few places, the original color could be detected. With the red and green ribbons plus the poinsettia look of the stars, this might be a Christmas quilt.


A Letter to Santa

(Post by Virginia Allain)

For about 10 years I wrote a weekly newspaper column promoting the public library. I was the library director and it was a good opportunity to get our message out to the public.

I’m sure there are thousands of librarians out there right this minute trying to think of a topic for their December library column. Now they have not only the newspaper but their web page and Facebook fan page to write posts for. Below is my column that other libraries are welcome to adapt for their own local paper or library blog.

Don’t worry about sounding greedy. Santa is used to long wish lists.

Write a Christmas letter to Santa - librarians

What does a library want for Christmas? Write a letter to Santa with your requests.

A Librarian’s Letter to Santa

Dear Santa, the library has been really good this year. We will try to be even better next year. Please get us a Dial-a-Story for the children to call. It has a new story for each week of the year and only costs $1,500 for the equipment and tapes.

We need $9,000 more in donations for the Reading Is Fundamental project. Then we can give books to 7,000 at-risk children in our community. If we can raise that, the federal government will also give $38,000.

We’re really hoping to get a Youth Services Librarian this Christmas. We want one who will hold story times and start a junior Friends of the Library group. Please get us one with a Master’s degree in library science.

The library doesn’t have a chimney, so just leave the presents in the book return bin. Have a Merry Christmas.”

Christmas village library with lighted windows

My lighted library that I display at Christmas.

A Martin Family Thanksgiving

Ten years ago, Gail’s daughter Virginia wrote this memory of a long-ago Thanksgiving.

thanksgiving family photos

“Almost forty years ago. It’s hard to understand that so much time has passed. I look at the black and white photos. On the back of the photos, I’d written 1968 and the names of the people in the pictures. Of course, I knew their names without having to look on the back.

There’s Mom, looking so youthful. She would have been 44 then and years younger than I am now. She paused while removing the turkey and stuffing from the oven so I could snap this photo. She’s wearing the white sheath dress with the leaf pattern for the occasion.

Another shot shows Shannon, age 10, helping Dad fill the relish plate. There are olives, sweet gherkins, and cinnamon apple rings. Shannon looks so sweet in her jumper and a white blouse with a peter pan collar. Her black hair reflects the light and she’s wearing glasses. Her face is serious with the responsibility of helping with this holiday meal.

The round oak table is set with the white ironstone dishes. My grandparents gave that table to my father many years before. He ate at that table from childhood onward. Instead of a tablecloth, there are placemats. Beyond the big round table, a card table will accommodate the little ones. Even with the extra leaves in, the oak table couldn’t hold the expanding family.

The windows and curtains help me identify the house we lived in then. It was on North Emporia. The next summer we moved to State Street.

thanksgiving family photos

There’s a photo of me, looking much trimmer during those college years. All that walking across campus, I guess. In the photo, I’m setting out the desserts on the desk that was serving as a sideboard. I recognize Mom’s German chocolate cake. The four pies are probably rhubarb, pumpkin, cherry, and a pecan pie. Although the photo lacks color, my mind fills it in. I’m wearing olive green stretch pants, the kind with the stirrup, and an olive green paisley shirt. It looked good in the sixties.

There’s my older sister, Susan. She wears a navy maternity smock and there’s her son, Paul, just a toddler then. Peering into the shadowy background of the photo, I identify her husband, Ron. Only a few years after that, he died in a car accident. I wish I’d taken more photos.

Here he is again in the group photo of the family ready to sit down for the Thanksgiving feast. Larry and my sister, Cindy stand just beyond Ron. This was while they were dating and their marriage still a year away. Now their children are grown with families of their own. Next to them is Karen, who was still in high school. She’s wearing a polished cotton dress with wide cuffs that Mom made for her. Our brother, Owen, isn’t there. It’s the Vietnam War era and he’s away in the army.

The table is filled with serving bowls. I know their contents even though I can’t see the details in the photo. There is cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, deviled eggs, and stuffing. In later years, more favorites were added such as five-cup salad with the orange slices, whipped cream, bananas, maraschino cherries,and little marshmallows.

The next photo shows Mom and Dad as the meal finishes. The family always lingered around the table, telling stories and enjoying the company. Soon we put away the over-abundance of food for a few hours and cleared the table for card games. Nolo was a favorite and also Spoons. Later in the evening, the food reappeared for a buffet. Still sated from the earlier feast, everyone managed to nibble on their favorite dishes and squeeze in another piece of pie.

The final photo from that long ago day shows Mom and three of my sisters in the kitchen “washing up.” Actually, Mom was washing the dishes, Shannon drying them, Cindy putting them away. Karen brought the plates into the kitchen from the table.
I’m thankful that we had that time together and now I have the memories of those good times saved in these photos. Our lives have moved along. I live far away. We are older now. Marriages have come and gone. Health problems crop up. Shannon and Ron are gone.

Still, when that special Thursday in November comes around, I know my family will gather. They will eat turkey and sweet potatoes. They will share laughter and storytelling and card playing. The little ones help fill the relish plate. New toddlers sit at the children’s table. The women will clear the table and wash the dishes. There is still much to be thankful for.”

Comments from That Post on Our Echo:

What a great memory piece about a warm and loving family. I really enjoyed the way you used the photos as you told the story, and adding the part about what people were wearing was nice. Brought back memories of favorite outfits I had in the 60’s. Very nice writing. Nancy Kopp

Very nice! This piece has the feel of “remembering Manderley” from the novel Rebecca. (My memory tells me that Shannon’s jumper was red.) Karen Kolavalli

Hey, Virginia, your memories took me back as if it was yesterday. Almost like in the movie, “Fiddler on the Roof,” when he sang “Traditions.” The food is always great at Thanksgiving, but it truly is the getting together as a family and or with friends that make it so wonderful. After Larry and I married and moved out of state, coming home for Thanksgiving was always such a treat. Cynthia Jo Ross

I do have an earlier memory of a large family get together where we as little children set on a stairway with our plate on our knees. One child to a step all the way to the top. Cynthia Ross

I remember that one, too–I believe it was at Howard & Marge’s big house in Madison. Karen Kolavalli

Your story exudes a warm, familiar, family feeling. Yours was a family blessed. BJ Roan

Your story seems very similar to what I remember about the family gathering for Thanksgiving in 1988. I love the adds memories about the colors in the clothes and the description of the photos. K.D.

Oh Ginger, I read this through my tears. A wonderful, affectionate, joyous, nostalgic, heartbreaking memory of holiday dinners at my sister’s home, many of which are in my memories too. Carol J Garriott

Great memories from the black & white photos. Takes me back to last year when I posted my Thanksgiving memory “We Gave Thanks Prairie Style” where I added the pen & ink sketches that Shannon drew. Enjoyed your memories, Mom (Gail Lee Martin)