It is very sad to make this entry for Flo into Flo’s Follies as our beloved Flo passed away on June 26, 2020.
Those of you who have enjoyed following along with Flo down memory lane and through her present life can take solace in the fact that, as is evident in her blog, she lived a very full and event filled life. She was a true renaissance woman.
Flosfollies.com not only included some interesting and informative pieces but also provided the opportunity for Flo to share her remarkable legacy with her extensive family and many friends.
Flo followed a different path from the norm beginning at a very young age. Her determination helped her cope with circumstances of early life that could be considered appalling to many. As the 12th of 13 children born to Levi and Mary Etta Rockhold, Flo essentially brought herself up with limited supervision in a home with only older siblings, while her parents resided in another town. At 5 years of age she was the youngest sibling in that home.
As an adult looking back at this situation rather than living a life of resentment, Flo was able to rationalize that the situation offered her the opportunity to learn through experimentation, unbridled by restricting limits to which many women of her generation were subjected. Her natural talents and abilities emerged unstifled. It might be added that this hardship actually served to aid in the development of her exceptional emotional strength that saw her through a number of life’s challenges she faced down the road.
As a young child unsupervised she learned to swim alone in the icy cold waters of her father’s (L.G. Rockhold) stone quarry. Frightened by the knowledge of this fact as an adult she warned her own children who grew up within walking distance of that quarry to never go anywhere near it. That fear of drowning, although not intentional, probably is responsible for the fact that none of her children learned to swim until they became adults.
Flo was exceedingly clever and resourceful, such that not only did she survive this extraordinary upbringing but thrived. At a very young age Flo decided on her own to attend the church just down the street from her York Center, Ohio home. She caught the attention of the kind and caring women there who looked after her and bestowed upon her the sense of love of the human spirit that she passed on to others throughout her life.
Having grown into quite the beauty herself Flo was enamored by beautiful things. She taught herself to sew when she was barely a teen and made clothing for her siblings as well as for herself by designing and cutting out her own patterns. She created lovely party dresses, coats, skirts and jackets with all the detail of the latest fashions of the 30’s and 40’s. Later she designed and constructed elegant clothing for her 3 daughters, their doll babies, and later for her own dolls which she enjoyed collecting. Flo also was gifted as a hairstylist having cut and styled her own hair, as well as that of her sisters and her daughters.
Among her many talents included interior decorating which was first discovered in her early teens when she asked her father Levi for enough money to newly furnish the home in which she lived with her siblings, and which she herself maintained. She even bought fabric to make draperies for the home. Flo’s talent for interior design was always evident in the furnishing of the beautiful homes she owned during her lifetime.
As mentioned, quite the beauty, Flo took pleasure in this gift yet seemed even more interested in making both her surroundings and the people around her beautiful in appearance and in spirit. It is this spirited love of the beauty in all things, living and non-living, that drove Flo throughout her life and which inspired others. She took particular interest in people and their well-being, offering a fair approach to people’s dilemmas, a helping hand when needed, sound advice for those who requested it and compassion and patience when there simply was no advice to be given.
In high school, as one of the few siblings allowed to continue their education, Flo excelled academically graduating salutatorian of her senior class. She was very active in school with lead roles in plays, operettas, winning speech contests, and cheering on the basketball team. In further discovery of her natural artistic talents, Flo developed a unique brush stoke all her own and composed several exquisite paintings while in high school that she framed and displayed in her home throughout her life for her family to enjoy.
In addition as a teenager Flo was active in the family stone quarry business keeping the books, schedules and other records and serving as a sounding board for her father.
Flo was a gentle and compassionate soul who came to neighbors and family members’ aid at times of need. She empathized with others and would stop everything to offer a helping hand, feed their children, or fulfill household duties where needed. She made food for and gave assistance to others right up through her 97th year.
Having given birth to 3 daughters over a ten year span, Flo made a good home for them that she had not experienced herself as a child. An industrious woman, she and her husband Ralph purchased a dairy farm where she worked laboriously. That work included milking cows morning and night day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. She and Ralph worked the fields to provide feed and bedding for the cattle and did commercial farming as well for nearly 20 years.
Flo happily adopted many roles through those years as laborer, administrator, bookkeeper, mother, chef, seamstress and homemaker. She remained active with the church of her childhood and sought activities for her children that included such things as dance and piano lessons.
Flo had a love of adventure and took her children and her widowed mother on several automobile excursions on 2 lane highways sans city bypasses across the country, crossing the Mississippi River, the Great Plains to the Rocky Mountains. Trips included Western travels to Cheyenne, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park, the Bad Lands, Mount Rushmore, the Iowa Corn Palace, Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, Missouri as well as east to Gettysburg, PA, Washington, DC, Williamsburg, Jamestown, VA, and Virginia Beach.
Flo’s husband Ralph graciously sacrificed by tending to the farm during Flo’s travels knowing that the farm could not possibly be left unattended by both of them at the same time. With the couple’s ingenuity and fortitude and full on family involvement the farm was successful, providing the needs of the family and a nest egg for Flo as she became widowed in 1970 at the age of 47.
The loss of Ralph was an exceptionally tragic time. However, Flo’s amazing constitution took hold and within a few years her life took another turn when she entered into a relationship with a fun loving man from Pennsylvania who shared Flo’s love of people and adventure. The couple soon relocated to Nokomis, Florida where they fell in love with the sunny, lush beauty of the Southwest Florida coastline. Although that relationship lasted only a decade, when her husband chose to return to his family in Pennsylvania, the couple fully enjoyed travel, entertaining and dancing during those years together.
Flo’s amazing resilience was evident in her subsequent success in real estate. She achieved numerous accolades in salesmanship from Century 21 and later Caldwell Banker out of Venice, FL. Approaching with honesty and hustle, she loved showing properties and making sales which provided her the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and even the world, who traveled to Florida to make it their primary or vacation home. With her love of beauty, what better place than the beautiful Suncoast to assist people in finding and acquiring their dream home?!
At the age of 75 Flo lost her eldest daughter Carole, known by the family as Susie. This loss was extremely painful for Flo to endure. It was one from which she never really fully recovered, as how can one ever really recover from the loss of their child?
Although Flo continued to live in Florida, at this point in her life she made more and regular visits to Ohio where both of her surviving daughters lived. Her resilience faded when she subsequently developed septicemia from a staph infection. Her daughter Meredythe Wedding a registered nurse stopped everything and came to Florida to her rescue seeking the medical care that she needed.
With Meredythe’s care, she successfully recovered from that illness, and by the age of 81 Flo picked up a paint brush again and began painting portraits of family members. She took such delight in this endeavor which served as a catharsis and helped to revive her loving spirit once again, albeit forever dampened some by the loss of her daughter Susie.
Flo eventually moved back to Ohio at the age of 84 to be near her surviving children. There she enjoyed living in a beautiful condominium in Salem, Ohio which she furnished luxuriously. There she made new friends, continued to paint, cook meals and desserts for others. She welcomed her family into her front sunroom that she referred to as Flo’s Hilltop Restaurant where some of her finest meals were enjoyed by all, as Chef Flo so loved to cook!! Flo was blessed to be able to live near her family who were delighted in sharing holidays, birthdays and special events at her table.
When Flo turned 90 her youngest daughter Pam’s son-in-law Matthew Bender a computer specialist and web engineer designed and published this blog for her. Flo wrote her stories using a special writing app on her ipad. She learned to transfer her stories to an email, use her ipad to capture the image of old pictures or take original ones relevant to her stories and position them strategically to complete the composition. She then forwarded them on to Matthew to publish onto her blog. She continued to place memories, current events, pictures, recipes and much more in her inimitable and delightful style through her 97th birthday.
Nearing the age of 93 Flo moved in with Pam and her husband Tracy Drake when they moved to Sarasota FL in the fall of 2015. Flo continued to paint, cook, bake and share in the family events.
Flo maintained contact with the rest of her family members and loved ones, sending correspondence in carefully selected stationary purchased on Amazon that not only reflected her eye for beauty but also her playful nature. She loved and was supportive of her children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren as well as other family members, friends and neighbors.
It’s important to include Flo’s spunky ornery side in this blog entry as she had a charm and wit that was appreciated by all who knew her. Perceptive and intuitive, Flo could cut to the chase and pickup on the nuances missed by others, and often with a quick clever retort.
Flo adopted what she had previously called a “filthy habit” during some turbulent times in her mid 40s. She was probably in her mid 60’s when she was standing outside a grocery store smoking a cigarette, while her eldest daughter Susie visiting her at the time went inside to shop. A man approached and admonished her while staring at her cigarette, telling her she was going to orphan her children. She immediately responded with “I don’t expect to get out of this alive, do you?” to the surprise of her critic who abruptly walked away.
Another time when she had fallen in her late 80’s and although sustained no serious injury, she did suffer ghastly appearing contusions across her face. When approached by a passerby inquiring about what had happened to her without hesitation she retorted, “You should have seen the other guy!”
You know the phrase “some people can tell a joke and….”. Flo was a master at remembering and telling jokes to her dying day. She could bring her audience to tears with laughter. She loved to see people happy and wanted the best for others, even those who hurt her in her life – a truly admirable quality she possessed.
Flo did indeed have an amazing memory and remained mentally intact, witty and clever right to the end. She was still writing cards to people on the day that she died. Many have commented that receiving her cards would brighten their day. It truly delighted her soul to know that others were lifted by and appreciated the pictures on the front and recipient specific messages she hand wrote on the inside of those cards.
People gravitated to Flo in a way not experienced by many. They loved being around her, loved celebrating her. Flo will be sorely missed yet her spirit will live on in those who were blessed to know and love her.
Flo enjoyed a little Sutter Home wine in the evenings in her later years. She would be the first to offer up a toast to all of her loved ones in a final Farewell with an eternal wish of love, kindness, goodness, and laughter.
Goodbye sweet dear Flo. You will be sorely missed, but never, never forgotten. Your amazing love of life and tenacious spirit shall live on in all of us who had the special privilege of knowing you. We will always love you and will happily pass the spirit of your love of life and people onto others.