Right, above, Lester's mom, Bessie (Riffle) Skinner McPherson
The Aftermath of a Tragedy
Bessie’s granddaughter Vicky also recalls that her mother Mildred told her that Bessie did odd jobs in the community to earn money to support the family. She did laundry in the community and frequently received produce such as butter, eggs and chickens in payment rather than in cash. Dale Barnett recalled that Bessie did domestic work for the widower Oley Ocheltree when he lived with his family in the former Rush home beside St. Michael’s Church. Mildred also told her daughter that the family subsisted on garden produce and an occasional squirrel, rabbit, or raccoon. Bessie also was fond of preparing what was called “leatherbritches,” which was made of rolled up cabbage leaves, fried in bacon grease. And of course, what woman of Orlando couldn’t make great home-made bread, and Bessie was no exception. Mildred also told her daughter Vicky that when the family had a beef or hog, every bit of the butchered animal was used for the family table, without exception. Regardless of Bessie’s ingenuity of finding and putting food on the table, life for a widow with a house full of children was a difficult proposition during the Depression when nearly every family was hustling for ways to put food on the table.
Left: Bessie and Bill McPherson with Bill's son Larry
Return to Orlando
When a 52 year old widow marries a 53 year widower with young children, it could be termed a marriage of convenience, but in the case of Bessie and Bill McPherson it was a union with true affection. They had a happy marriage of nearly twenty five years when Bill died in 1967. After Bill’s death, Bessie returned to Buffalo to live near her children where she died in 1970. Bessie and Bill are buried at the Orlando Cemetery.
Left: Bessie (Riffle) Skinner McPherson's obituary. (Click on it to enlarge it.)
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Lester Skinner, the little boy who went to Charley Knight’s Store for his mother for a can of sweet potatoes and a can of kraut, grew up in Orlando and as most Orlando boys have done for the past seventy-years, went away to find employment. Lester lived and worked in Paterson, New Jersey for most of his adult life. He died in Paterson in 1990 at age 72, survived by his wife Lucille, and four children.
Right: Bessie's sons Earl and Kenneth