Eulogy for Myrtle Mae Hanna
Written by her youngest daughter, Jill Rowland
April 6, 2019
Maya Angelou said, “The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place we can go as we are and not be questioned.” We all yearn for that kind of home; Myrtle was no exception. For Myrtle, home was central to her life. As a child, her cherished home shaped her, and as an adult, she was a home maker. In this world, home was her favorite place to be and the main place from which she served and blessed others.
Myrtle’s love of home began on her family’s farm in Athens, Tennessee, where she was born in 1927. Her parents raised most of their own food and grew cotton and tobacco to sell. She was the fifth out of ten children, the oldest of whom was a sister, plus eight brothers. Being surrounded by boys influenced her personality; she was spunky, straightforward, resilient, and opinionated. She was no sissy and nobody’s fool. It was hard for her kids and grandkids to get away with anything because she already knew all the tricks! In fact, they nicknamed her after a flowering vine called “Creeping Myrtle” because of her uncanny knack for silently creeping up behind them just in time to see them doing something they weren’t supposed to do.
Myrtle’s time at home on the farm shaped her lifelong interests. Working in their garden developed her green thumb, and as an adult she loved to grow both vegetables and flowers. Her lasting preference for country music came from times spent listening to the Grand Ol’ Opry around the radio with her family.
Myrtle also developed her admirable work ethic on the farm. By the time she was old enough to reach the sink while standing on a chair, she was responsible for washing the dishes. To alleviate the drudgery, she would make the dishes sing and talk with each other. She also gathered eggs, picked cotton, churned butter, and milked the cows by hand, expertly squirting milk into barn cats’ open mouths when they begged.
Despite daily chores and ornery brothers, Myrtle had a happy childhood. She felt well loved by her parents and was thankful for her dad’s wise money management. Their debt-free farm provided a secure home and plenty of food to eat during the Great Depression when so many others were going homeless and hungry. And life wasn’t all chores; she and her siblings roamed the farm together, swam in their creek, and played lots of baseball.
Her teen years, sadly, were darkened by the military service of two older brothers sent to fight in World War II followed by the death of her mother when Myrtle was only seventeen. When she graduated from high school in 1945 and the war ended, she was ready for a new beginning.
This led to Myrtle’s first, treasured home as an independent adult. Some of Myrtle’s close childhood girlfriends had moved to Washington, D.C. in pursuit of good jobs, and they soon convinced her to join them there. The six girls lived together in a cute little cape cod, and Myrtle worked as a maintenance dispatcher for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. She remembered those carefree days fondly for the rest of her life. She excelled at work, and teammates on her office softball team called her “Old Slugger” due to her talent for hitting that had been honed over countless games with her brothers. She laughed and had fun with her roommates and jitterbugged on the weekends at dance ballrooms.
During this period, a young Marine from Lisbon, Ohio, named Richard Hanna walked into her life. When he first laid eyes on Myrtle, he thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen (and she thought he was pretty cute, too!). Six months later, they were married on October 24, 1947, a union that lasted 59 years. Their strengths and weaknesses balanced each other. She had lots of common sense and was more practical, while he was more of a kid at heart. In later years, she fed the grandchildren healthy, balanced meals, and he sugared them up on outings to get ice cream. He always called her “Myrt, Hon,” and they were dedicated to each other.
The newlyweds created their own loving home together as a couple. After Richard’s active duty in the Marines ended, he joined the Reserve and they moved to the Alliance area to start a trucking company. The next year, they welcomed their daughter, Patty, and he was called up to fight in the Korean War. In his absence, the new mother on her own used her keen business sense to successfully manage the company and eliminate its debt. Upon his return, Myrtle became a full-time stay-at-home mom, and they welcomed their son, Bruce, in 1953, followed by their mid-life surprise, Jill, fifteen years later.
Myrtle truly strove to be a home maker—to make a home for her husband and children that provided stability and comfort in an uncertain world. She succeeded. She was a hard worker who expressed her love for others largely through service. She showed her affection not only through hugs and saying, “I love you,” but also through her immaculately clean home that was guest-ready at all times, daily hot breakfasts before school, homemade dinners each evening, and impeccably washed and ironed clothing. She was a room mother at her children’s school for many years, helping with the class parties, and never missed an open house. When her kids were sick, there could not have been a more attentive nurse. She was a pro at making a cozy bed on the couch and bringing candy treats like Reese’s Cups home from the pharmacy to help make the medicine go down. She was always there for them.
Myrtle’s home was a safe haven for relatives and a welcoming place for friends. She was blessed with lasting friendships from childhood and beyond, such as with Jean Poto, Helen Greiner, Esther Ball Hamlin, Nancy and Dick Morris, Bea Sassaman, and Sheila Williamson. She warmly welcomed her kid’s friends, too, and Lisa Tennis, Jill’s dear childhood friend and next-door neighbor, remembers Myrtle as a second mother to her.
Guests to Myrtle’s home were blessed by her Southern hospitality, especially when it came to food. If you left her house hungry, you had nobody to blame but yourself! People reminisce about her Italian chicken, meatloaf, biscuits, banana pudding, chocolate cake, homemade jelly, and Sunday roast beef after church served with fluffy mashed potatoes and gravy (made from scratch, of course–canned gravy was a sacrilege to Myrtle!). When her adult kids left her house after a visit, often with a care package of leftovers in hand, she would stand at her door, waving good-bye and blowing them kisses until they were out of her sight.
Myrtle’s church home was here at Christ United Methodist, where she was a member for over six decades. In her younger years, she was active in adult Sunday school and a women’s circle. She was a believer who attended church regularly with her husband and children, and she made sure that her kids heard about Jesus. Jill remembers her mom carefully writing out the Lord’s Prayer by hand on a piece of notebook paper and helping her to memorize it. Myrtle took seriously the Bible verse (in Proverbs 22:6) telling parents to “Train up a child in the way he should go.”
Myrtle had a heart for helping other women in times of need. She cooked for elderly widows in her neighborhood and drove them to doctor’s appointments and to the grocery store. She also had a soft spot for new moms. When her neighbor and friend, Sheila, had her first baby and was feeling overwhelmed, Myrtle characteristically showed up with a tray heaped full of her famous Italian chicken, sides, and dessert, and later brought cheerful bouquets of flowers from her garden. The Bible says that “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms.” (1 Peter 4:10) Myrtle used her gifts of her home, her cooking, and her hospitality to bless others.
Myrtle’s older years brought an abundance of blessings, including her daughter-in-law, Joanie, and her son-in-law, Bill, together with her beloved grandkids, Jacob, John, Megan, and Sophie, and two great-granddaughters, Olive and Vivian. However, Myrtle had her share of sorrows. She survived breast cancer and heart surgeries and outlived all but two of her ten siblings. In 2007, the love of her life, Richard, died; in 2012, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; and in 2016, her dear granddaughter, Megan, passed away. These were profound losses for the entire family. Despite Myrtle’s dementia, however, she always remembered her loved ones, maintained a sweet demeanor, and could enjoy herself in the moment.
One thing that even grief and Alzheimer’s couldn’t rob from Myrtle was her mischievous love of laughter. One day while in the car with her daughters, Myrtle saw a sight that she had never seen before in her eighty-plus years: a man on a recumbent bicycle wearing a neon cyclist’s outfit with skin-tight shorts. Myrtle said, “Whaaaat in the world??? Would you just look at that?!” and burst into helpless laughter.
Due to the Alzheimer’s, Myrtle had to move to a care facility, but she missed her previous homes. She pined for “the old house” on Freedom Street and for her childhood farm in Tennessee, and she struggled constantly to understand where she was in time and space. No matter where she was, she repeatedly asked “Where is this place located?” When she was suffering in the hospital with the blood clots in her leg that led to her death, some of her last words, other than “I love you,” were “I can’t wait to go home.”
Now Myrtle’s deep desire to go home has been fulfilled. God plants this yearning for home in our hearts, and only being home with Him can ever fully satisfy it. Myrtle never again needs to ask where she is. She is in the arms of Jesus. As Billy Graham said, “My home is in Heaven; I am just traveling through this world.” Myrtle is truly home at last.
Obituary for Myrtle M. (Brock) Hanna
March 7, 1927 ~ March 28, 2019 (age 92)
Myrtle Mae (Brock) Hanna, age 92, a longtime citizen of Alliance who recently resided at Copeland Oaks in Sebring, passed away at 12:56 p.m., Thursday, March 28, 2019, at the Community Care Center of Alliance after a short illness.
She was born March 7, 1927, in Athens, Tennessee, to Horace A. and Ira A. (Lowry) Brock.
One of ten children, Myrtle was raised during the Great Depression on her family’s tobacco and cotton farm, where she learned the value of thrift and hard work. She graduated as a straight-A student from McMinn High School in 1945 before moving with friends to Washington, D.C. and working as a maintenance dispatcher for the Chesapeake and Potomac Telephone Company. On the weekends, Myrtle liked to jitterbug and socialize. She soon met the love of her life, Richard, a Marine from Lisbon, Ohio, who was stationed at Camp Lejeune. They were married on October 24, 1947.
The newlyweds moved to the Alliance area, where they established a trucking company and welcomed their daughter, Patty. When Richard was sent to fight with the Marine Corps Reserve in the Korean War, Myrtle used her talent for business to successfully manage the venture in his absence. Upon his return, she became a full-time homemaker for their family, which grew to include their son, Bruce, and their daughter, Jill.
A person of faith, Myrtle was a member of Christ United Methodist Church for over six decades and was active there in her younger years. Her other pursuits included growing vegetables and flowers, picking berries and making jam, cooking, visiting relatives in Tennessee, going for walks, and helping neighbors in need. Most of all, she enjoyed spending time with her family and close friends. Her Southern hospitality, delicious meals, common sense, mischievous laughter, and heartfelt hugs will be sorely missed.
Survivors include Myrtle’s two daughters, Patricia Eckert of Alliance and Jill (Bill) Rowland of Columbus; son, Bruce (Joan) Hanna of Manitowoc, Wisconsin; three grandchildren, Jacob Eckert of Alliance, Jon (Andrea) Hanna of Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and Sophie Rowland of Columbus; two great-grandchildren, Olive and Vivian Hanna of Oshkosh, Wisconsin; two brothers, Claude Brock of Leesburg, Georgia, and Fred (Melissa) Brock of Ruskin, Florida; dear friends, Jean Poto, Nancy and Dick Morris, and Sheila Williamson; and numerous nieces and nephews.
In addition to her parents, Myrtle was preceded in death by her husband of fifty-nine years, Richard C. Hanna; a sister, Daisy Shipley; six brothers, John, Doyle, Howard, Clifford, Henry, and Glen Brock; and a granddaughter, Megan Hanna.
Friends may call at Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, April 5, and at Christ United Methodist Church from 10:00 to 11:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 6. A funeral service will immediately follow at the church with Reverend John Partridge and Pastor Rick Sams officiating. Interment will be at Highland Memorial Park.
Memorial contributions may be made to Christ United Methodist Church, 470 East Broadway Street, Alliance, Ohio, 44601.
Arrangements are by Cassaday-Turkle-Christian Funeral Home, 75 S. Union Avenue, Alliance, Ohio, 44601.