NEWFANE – Rosemary M. Miller says that she always had so many “extra kids” at her house while her own brood of 13 was growing up that she never knows when she picks up the telephone these days who might be calling and asking for “Mom.”
Now, at age 81, Miller lives in the same house she and her husband, John Sr., moved into in 1957. It was a cement block house that John Sr. took more than eight years to painstakingly cover with fieldstone, she recalled.
Her husband of 59 years died two years ago. She was at his side helping take care of him at home for most of the nine years of his illness.
Miller said the last time her entire family – children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – was together was when her husband passed away. But you can be sure they will all send her a card, pick up the phone or pay her a visit if they are nearby today to wish this most deserving woman a Happy Mother’s Day.
And she’ll probably get well wishes from a few “extra kids” as well.
Tell me about your family.
I have 13 children, 38 grandchildren and 31 great-grandchildren, with three more on the way this year. We have twins due in St. Louis and another great-grandchild due in Baltimore.
We had 13 children in 19 years, and they have 13 different personalities. We had seven boys and six girls. Half of the kids live around here, and the others live out of town, as far away as Arizona.
We’re a Navy family. My husband was in the Navy during the Korean War; our son Joseph was in the Navy for 20 years, and his daughter was in also; our son Michael was in 13 years; our son Wally was in four years; our son John Jr. was in for a while, too.
It’s unusual to see such big families these days.
Who can afford it now? But we just made do. My husband worked at Frontier Stone while he was in high school, then he went in the Navy, then he worked for Frontier Stone again. Then he worked for the Niagara County Water Department for 21 years.
We always had a big garden, and we’d get meat by the side, and we had a great big freezer on the back porch. We had chickens, and we had a milk machine. The deliveryman would pour it into the machine, and we’d take a three-gallon container and pull a lever, and that’s how we got our milk. None of the kids wanted to go grocery shopping with me – because you know, I like to talk.
What plans do you have for Mother’s Day?
They’re supposed to come and do my gardens for me this weekend. My kids and grandkids like to come and do my flower beds for me. I love roses. I’ll be going to my granddaughter’s graduation from UB Pharmacy School Saturday. Her husband graduated from pharmacy school last year. On Mother’s Day, everyone will just come and go here all day.
Do you see the little ones frequently?
I used to get my great-grandson Sam off the bus here at my house, but his dad’s work shift changed so he can be home with him now. His grandfather is my oldest son, John Jr., who lives here with me. My great-granddaughter Lydia gets dropped off here every day. She’s in kindergarten.
You’re used to taking care of people, aren’t you?
When my husband got so ill – he was sick for nine years, but he didn’t want anyone else to take care of him but me. Long ago, my mother-in-law lived here with us, then my mother for a while, then my husband’s uncle. He was here until he died at age 96 in 2008. I was taking care of him and my husband at the same time.
I don’t know where you would have found the time, but did you ever work outside the home?
Yes, I did. I cleaned offices for the Niagara County Highway Department for a while, and I helped take care of people in their homes. For a few years, I helped take care of kids here before they started school. Those kids are having kids of their own now.
You’ve also been very active in the Town of Newfane Historical Society.
I’ve been a member since 1980 and the financial secretary since the mid-’80s. I have also been the only secretary of the Niagara County Federation of Historical Societies.
Were you and your husband Newfane natives?
No, I was born and raised in Pendleton and went to Pendleton 7 [a one-room schoolhouse] and my husband was from Cambria and went to Cambria 6. We both lived on Campbell Boulevard and didn’t know each other, but our parents knew each other. We didn’t meet until I had graduated from Lockport High School and was on a bus to St. Joe’s Business School in Lockport, and he was on the bus going to Lockport High School.
We were 19 when we got married. We eloped when he was home on leave with the Navy [he served four years during the Korean War] because his father wouldn’t give him permission to marry me, and he had to be 21. I was 19 and didn’t need permission. But his father said, ‘No’ because he said it wouldn’t last. Later, my father-in-law and I became best buddies. Everyone thought I was a daughter and not a daughter-in-law.
A Navy doctor told me once I’d never have children, too. Don’t tell me I can’t do something!
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