Wednesday, December 21, 2011

712. On the passing of Mrs. Violet Doyle

In today's paper - or on the internet - you can read the obituary of one Mrs. Violet Doyle, 91, who died two days ago. The obit will tell you her occupation, that she was married to her husband for over 70 years, and that there are lots of family members left behind - besides her husband, children, and brothers and sisters, there are grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and a great-great grandchild. What it doesn't tell you is that she was my grandparents's neighbor, and thus mine, my brother's, and my mother's when I was growing up out on Whippoorwill Road in southern Jefferson County off South Park Road.

When my grandparents moved out to what was then (and remained so until 1994) a gravel lane off a new section of South Park Road, so new that it was still called New South Park Road, there were a few houses already erected on what was originally called Whippoorwill Lane but has come to be known as Whippoorwill Road. (Interestingly, most Google maps and other electronic media call it Whippoorwill Drive). Most the houses were built in the 1950s, a few in the 1960s, and one was moved in "over the barricade" in the 1970s from its previous location at Blue Lick Road and Maynard Avenue, in the path of the new Jefferson Freeway, now known, appropriately, as the Gene Snyder Freeway.

One of those earliest of homes along Whippoorwill belonged to a woodcrafter, or turner, named Foster Doyle and his wife, Violet, or Vi, both of whom were in the 30s at the time, the early 1950s. Vi worked "up in Okolona" as if it were miles and miles away as opposed to about a mile and a half at the local dentist's office, Dr. William G. Penny. Foster was known for the lathe that stood on the left side of his garage, where he worked out dowels and rods and, now and then, baseball bats for some of us kids. Mrs. Doyle, whose name was always pronounced as "Miz-Dull" by everyone who didn't call her Vi, which was most of us including my mother, was known as the lady who could cook most anything and was always offering up some dish to "take to your grandmother" or "down the street to Mrs. Rogers" or wherever.

The Doyle's lived at 9011, while we lived at 9012, which wasn't directly across the street as you might think, but one door over from directly across the street. My grandfather built the home in which I was raised, 9012, in the mid 1950s and other than the few years my mother was married to my father, she has lived in that home ever since. 9009 was directly across the street, the house belonging to the Kesler family. Mr. Doyle, whose name was properly pronounced with all the vowels, D-o-y-e-l, kept a fine yard and a fine house. Their house, in which was raised three children, one of whom, Jeannie, was my first babysitter, seemed a bit smaller than some of the others but the yard was majestic. Most of the yards along Whippoorwill are about 100 feet across and 220 feet deep, approximating a half-acre kingdom for their dwellers.

The Doyle's front yard was adorned with flowers, trees, and shrubs, all meticulously kept. For several years while a teenager, I cut their grass, usually making $4.00 and something to eat. Amazingly, after I moved away, Mr. Doyle returned to that chore and continued the yard work until past the age of 90.

The back yard was, for the most part, garden - lots of garden. I do not know what all the Doyle's raised, but it was a little of everything and a great deal of it made its way across the street to the Hockensmith and Noble household of five. And, all the years the Doyle's were there, the food kept coming. I especially remember pies - persimmons, pumpkin, cushaws, and other varieties. And there was the asparagus patch that Mr. Doyle began, telling me at the time that the good asparagus was five to seven years off, frankly an eternity for a young kid.

I cannot remember ever while growing up and for many years as an adult any time that Mrs. Doyle did not have food fresh from the garden, or fresh from the freezer, or fresh from the stove. She was a provider not only to her family but to her neighbors on all sides. It was all good.

As time took its toll, both Foster and Violet fell victim to old age in their late 80s, her moreso than he, as he survives as a man in his mid 90s, but in the frailiest of health. All of their children lived away for most of these years. After they both quit driving, my mother served as their chauffeur, taking them to the grocery, the doctor, and importantly, the polls. They each voted well into these final years. Mr. Doyle always allowed me to place yardsigns in their yard, which sort of surprised me given how well kept it was.

Finally, a few years ago, not many, maybe three, the Doyle's were moved away from Whippoorwill Road and into the home of their daughter, which I understand to be in Fern Creek. My mother visited a few times before Mrs. Doyle was re-settled into a nursing home where she remained until a few weeks before her death. Their home remained empty for most of that time. It was finally sold earlier this summer.

Mr. and Mrs. Doyle will always be remembered as good neighbors; good friends. Emerson wrote "The only reward of virtue is virtue; the only way to have a friend is to be one." These people were examples of Emerson's words. Rest in peace, Mrs. Doyle. And thanks for the meals.


Anonymous said...

Jeff, I think you about said it all. I know Vi was a good friend to my mom and dad as well. I don't recall her ever having an unkind word to say about anyone. That is rear now days. She and Floyd are missed very much in the old neighborhood. May she rest in peace. Peggy Priddy

Anonymous said...

Oops. I ment rare.

The Archives at Milepost 606


Louisville, Kentucky, United States
Never married, liberal Democrat, born in 1960, opinionated but generally pleasant, member of the Episcopal Church. Graduate of Prestonia Elementary, Durrett High, and Spalding University; the first two now-closed Jefferson County Public Schools, the latter a very small liberal arts college in downtown Louisville affiliated with the Roman Catholic Sisters of Charity of Nazareth. My vocation and avocation is politics. My favorite pastime is driving the backroads of Kentucky and southern Indiana, visiting small towns, political hangouts, courthouses, churches, and cemeteries. You are welcome to ride with me sometime.