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More Than Her Own Called Her ‘Grandma’

Fri., April 25, 1997

The book of Adams begins with Gertrude, who begat and begat and begat and whose children and children’s children begat until, 94 years later, Gertrude had 275 direct descendants.

No wonder everyone in St. Maries called her “Grandma.”

“There were 14 of us and we produced 62 or 63 grandchildren. They produced the rest,” says Dora Strand, Gertrude’s daughter. “There’re probably 20 more since the last count I heard.

“We have a family picnic every year in August and every year I say to someone, ‘Who the hell are you?”’

Gertrude died on Easter this year, just tuckered out after 73 years of mothering. She never backed away from the family she started. Until the end, Gertrude remembered everyone, maybe not in person but in the mail, every Christmas and birthday.

“She never wrote the dates down,” says Vicky Walsh, one of Gertrude’s granddaughters. “She knew them in her head, every single one.”

She sent every grandchild 50 cents or a dollar on birthdays and a Bible at graduation: white for girls; black for boys. This woman wasn’t rich; she lived on soup.

“I consider our family very lucky,” says Patsy Maier, another daughter.

Who knew the woman who stood just taller than her tomato vines would create an empire? Her mother and grandmother were only children.

But Gertrude’s strength came from caring for others. At first, her family’s needs fed her. Then, she found energy helping other families and children at Spokane’s Hutton Settlement.

After retirement, Gertrude dedicated herself to writing letters to kids from her church, baking bread and cookies for her neighborhood and remembering every milestone in her family.

By the time she died, many more than her 275 grandchildren and great-grandchildren called her grandma.

“She was special,” Patsy says. “I always figured if anyone went to heaven, it would be Mom.”

Hot under the collar

Complaints about dog owners in Kootenai County are as plentiful as fleas in July. One woman says she was working in her front yard when another woman allowed her leashed dog to relieve itself on her lawn. Bold and a bit uncouth, especially because the dog owner didn’t clean up the mess.

Another woman in Hayden says people don’t have to let their yards go to the dogs without a fight. She’s fought the five roaming St. Bernards next door for nearly four years.

She calls the county animal control officer, who picks up the dogs if he catches them. She also takes pictures of the dogs on her property, follows them to their home and takes pictures there and keeps a diary of dog activity.

“You have to get tough,” she says. She’s hoping her sleuthing will lead the county to charge the dogs’ owners with violating the leash law.

There’s a lot of howling out there over this one.

This one’s for you, Mom

No one has stayed more faithful to television’s soap king, “General Hospital,” than my mother. So she, and zillions of others, will be happy to know that Ned Ashton and Lois Cerullo Ashton, aka Wallace Kurth and Rena Sofer in real life, will tap their toes across the stage in North Idaho College’s Schuler Auditorium May 17.

They’ll join the Coeur d’Alene Summer Theatre for its 30th anniversary celebration show, “Broadway Showstoppers.” The $30 tickets include a dessert reception before the show. Will the “General Hospital” stars be there? Take a chance. Call 769-7780 for reservations.

Hidden talent

Who do you know whose talents deserve showcasing? Spotlight those folks for Cynthia Taggart, “Close to Home,” 608 Northwest Blvd., Suite 200, Coeur d’Alene 83814; fax to 765-7149; call 765-7128; or e-mail to

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo

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