The man who was buried in two places

October 26, 2017

 By Julie Traynor

When he was a small boy on the farm in central Ohio, Frank and his friends learned a valuable lesson about, farm tools, knives, axes and sharp things in general. As farm boys, they knew above all that such things were not toys, and were to be handled with care.

Each had a valuable use and was to be respected. In the blink of an eye a serious accident could happen. It did to Frank.
Like all farm children Frank was no stranger to chores. One of his was to bring in kindling and firewood for the kitchen stove. Each day he carefully used the axe to splinter large pieces of wood into kindling. He filled the kitchen wood box. Frank learned early to respect the farm’s axes.

Frank attended the local one room school, where it was the job of all the boys attending to keep the wood box filled. During school hours, the older boys kept the pot-bellied heating stove stoked. If wood needed to be chopped the older boys did it during the noon break rather than after school. Chores waited at home.

On one cold and gray noon hour late in November the boys gathered at the woodpile. It was cold and they were anxious to be done with the wood chore and off to other things. The big boys manned the axe. They stood the logs on end, swung the axe down hard and split them. The smaller boys grabbed the pieces and carried them into the school.

Frank tests his new artificial leg.

Frank tests his new artificial leg.

Frank had the great misfortune to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Distracted for just an instant, the axe man brought the axe down, just off. The well honed blade of the axe did not hit squarely and glanced off the log. Momentum carried the swing through. The blade struck young Frank in the knee, delivering a severe and crippling blow. The teacher feared he would bleed to death in the school yard.

 Things were touch and go for a while. The wound was severe; muscle and tendon severed, bone broken and blood lost. A good country doctor saved the limb but made no promises. Most certainly he would walk with a limp.    

In 1901 Frank, his parents, two brothers and three year old sister moved from their home in Bloomdale, Ohio to a farm a mile south of Avondale. Frank’s father, George, worked at farming the rocky soil until a siege of illness in 1903 forced him to seek other employment. He worked several winters in the oil fields of Indiana and Illinois.  The then fourteen year old Frank, younger brothers Charlie and Noble and their mother managed the farm. This arrangement worked well for several years. When George was home, utilizing the piles of stone on the farm, he and the boys began constructing a cobblestone house for the family.  The rocky fruit of Hartwick would have a purpose at last.

Frank and his siblings attended a country school south of their home, incident and injury free, and later graduated from Evart High School. Frank also graduated from Evart Normal. This enabled him to teach in the county schools. This was also the beginning of his life’s work as a teacher.

Frank’s ‘bum knee’ pained him often. Long before antibiotics, it often flared with infection. He walked with a pronounced limp. The many tasks of farm work and stonemasonry required a great deal of stamina. Frank was no stranger to responsibility. Being the eldest he keenly felt the absence of his father.  George died in 1911, struck by illness while working in Illinois. He was brought home to Avondale and buried from the Methodist Church in a double plot at Cherry Grove Cemetery in August, 1911.

By 1916 Frank’s mother decided to leave the hard times at Avondale behind. Even with the help of her sons, the prospect of working the farm for years to come was more than she could bear. She sold the farm with the cobblestone house and moved to Evart for a time.
10-27-17 PostCards 02 Berry Children 1910ish Frank, Charles, Georgia, Noble
Frank taught in the local country schools and pursued a higher teaching certificate. He married and had a family. By the mid 1930’s Frank’s knee reached a crisis point. He made a pilgrimage to Ann Arbor and was advised to have it amputated, just above the knee. It was. When he recovered he was fitted with the basic wooden, artificial limb of the time. It was a heavy prosthesis which required him to throw it ahead from the hip, with each step. It gave him a rolling gait and exhausted him by the end of the day.

This was the Depression. Times were indeed hard. A surgery of this nature was expensive and Frank and his wife did what ever they could to save. After the surgery, Frank’s lower leg was embalmed, then sealed in the wooden box he had made for it. When Frank returned to Osceola County, he and his eldest son, George, named for his grandfather, but not to be confused with him, took the box and a spade and met the sexton at Avondale’s Cherry Hill Cemetery. They buried the leg next to the deceased George in the plot paid for and not used. The next summer Frank’s wife outlined the little leg grave with brick and planted petunias. She did the same for her father-in-law.

Frank eventually got a light-weight limb which finally eased his pain. When he died in 1949 he was buried in Greenwood Cemetery with his artificial limb, some eleven miles from his early departed lower leg.

Frank Berry pictured here with his grad class in 1913.

Frank Berry pictured here with his grad class in 1913.

Frank’s mother, not caring for life on the rocky farm, moved from Evart to Sullivan, Indiana, and later to Seminole, Oklahoma, where she died in 1932. Economically, she was buried there, more than a thousand miles from her husband, who rests in Avondale, next to a lower leg, economically and conveniently in her place.

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One Response to The man who was buried in two places

  1. Frank L. Berry Reply

    October 26, 2017 at 7:39 pm

    I was born after grandpa Berry’s death but I have visited the grave where his limb rests.
    I wish I had known my grandfather. My mother told me how much he was loved.

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