The Heroines

Eva Nixon Tener

is honored with a Brick from Anne Welsbacher and Betty Welsbacher.

The older I get, the younger my grandmother gets. When my 4-year-old big brother painted brilliant art works on her kitchen walls, Eva Nixon Tener was a distant, tall woman, towering over us like a benevolent goddess of an ancient age.

When I was 10 or so, my grandmother was a great, grand housekeeper. She stocked her huge house with rows of cans and candies on secret shelves down stairwells, behind doorways, into pantries and kitchen corners; her attic was stuffed with hats and hatboxes, long dresses sewn together with tiny, jeweled stitches. She was ageless then, reaching back into those unfathomable decades before I joined her family.

In my teens, listening to her stories of Glen and her wicked punchlines when guests came to call, my grandmother turned into a well-bred woman at the height of her life. And when I married, at 29, Eva Tener - poof! - was not her real age of 82, but actually was in her 20's, long and lovely and bare (as dictated by the thoroughly modern fashions of the day), wearing the wedding dress she let me borrow for my day at the altar.

Now I am in my 40's, and my grandmother is a young wife, wiser than the doctors she fought on behalf of her shell-shocked husband. Now she is one of four contrary sisters, the daughter of the best loved man in town, a little girl playing the piano in Ohio.

She is everywhere, the texture in my family's coat of arms. Her wit is tempered by her manners; her discipline is always kind; she has values deep as a well, but judges no one harshly. She is clever and practical. She is stubborn as a goat. No one in my family has ever called her its one true Matriarch. Nobody ever had to. The title simply is, like the sky, like the grass under your feet. She stayed with us a long, long time, and is with us forever.
Submitted by Anne Welsbacher, granddaughter

She was one of four girls, born in 1898 to James and Florence Nixon in Peebles, Ohio; wife of Glen Tener (married in 1921), principal of the Shelby, Ohio High School; mother of Gladys Elizabeth (Betty, 1925) and Margaret Jane (1939); grandmother of Rick and Anne Welsbacher and Carolyn Staehle. She made me (Betty) a different little dress with matching panties for every day of the first month of first grade; in the second grade it was a long Valentine dress, and we reigned together as queens of the High School Sweetheart Ball. She made my wedding dress, and that of my closest friend; and when Anne married it was hers Eva Nixon Tener's that she proudly wore to the altar. She had made it, too, in 1921. At our ending, when she no longer remembered names or places or times but had lost none, none of her "self"ness, she honored me by calling me Florence her mother's name. She gave me the little sister I always wanted, and the amazing gift of unconditional love.
Submitted by Betty Welsbacher, daughter

My mother, Eva Nixon Tener, born in 1898, was a great cook. At Christmas she made huge quantities of cookies and candies, all stored on the cold, enclosed back porch until the gift baskets were assembled. (My sister Betty got that gene; I didn't.) There was always a Christmas mouse who was tolerated and not dispatched until the holidays were over, out of some sense of holiday charity.

And mother was a culinary innovator: scalloped oysters always appeared for holiday occasions (I ate the crackers, soaked in butter, heavy cream, and oyster liquor and avoided the revolting bivalves themselves.). A graham bread recipe is from her mother; a crab-tomato soup recipe from Betty's husband's aunt would have been novel for her time. And her fried chicken, for which we have no recipe, was beyond belief succulent and delicious every time. I have never been able to duplicate it.
Submitted by Margaret Jane Staehle, daughter

August 31, 1998