Thank you for being here, my gram would be pleased that so many have come to be with the family.
A friend, Donna Edwards, in condolence said to me on facebook, "It's so hard to lose someone you love Kelly. I know she would want you to remember her in her happy times. This life was never meant to be permanent, and when they get to the end we need to let our loved ones go on.”
..They want us to be comforted, and Donna is right, Grams would love this gathering to be an uplifting event and for us to be happy when we remember her. So I am grateful for this opportunity to talk to you today about this great women, Bessie Marie Kersten Witt.
Gram grew up during the depression. Her father had been a carpenter and built their home and some others too, but during the depression they lost their home. One of the things he did to earn money to feed his family was play what gram called “his fiddle” at dance halls.
When people live through difficult times, some become bitter and selfish, but not gram. When she would discover someone was lacking something she tried to find a way to fill that need.
I remember visiting her many times and noticing that she had a different kitchen table or couch or even book shelves, always less nice than what she had before. I learned the reason was that she knew someone who needed those things and gave her’s away.
Thanksgiving and Christmas were pretty big events for gram. She would make sure everyone within her sphere of influence that she could, had a place to go to for dinner and would invite those that didn’t and expect them to come to her home.
We never knew who all would come for the holiday’s until just before but we always had a full house.
Thanksgivings she would would solicit what everyone's favorite pies were and make sure she had them on hand. I remember one year there were more pies than there were entrees.
Born: 29 September 1923, in Tonawanda, New York as Bessie Marie Kersten to parents, Fritz Franz Kersten and Nellie Elizabeth Bailey. She had an older sister Lois Nellie Kersten (married name Daugherty) and an older brother Alvin William Kersten.
Grams was married September 1947 to Dewey Henry Witt. They seemed like the quintessential couple, they did every thing together; skied, swam, camped, danced, and played chess. They had two children Kathy Marie Witt Baron and Mark Paul Witt.
Her grandchildren are Kelly Marie Baron Hamon, Lisa Marie Witt Sexton, and Christopher Witt. Her great grandchildren; Emma Marie Sexton, Sydney Julie Sexton, Victoria Eleanor Sexton, Travis Kimball Hamon, Bryan Andrew Hamon, Karri Danielle Hamon Mourtisen, Garrett William Hamon and Grant Stuart Hamon.
Her sister Lois was 4 years older than her, and Alvin just 1 year older. Lois being the eldest took the role of semi-mother at times which caused some friction. Alvin and gram, called the twins, were best of friends and got in to all kinds of trouble. When gram would talk about Alvin she would either have a glint of mischief or a tear in her eye.
She told me one day when Lois was being particularly motherly and scolding the two of them, they ran up into the attic; Lois was hot on their tails as they doubled back locking Lois in the attic.
For grams 80th birthday - Lois was asked to write down some memories about gram, she told me how as kids they lived in Tonawanda and there was an open sewer that their mother specifically told them not to play in or around.
One day they decided it just looked to tempting and played in the sewer and were surprised when they got back home and their mother knew exactly where they had been.
Aunt Lois also remembered gram loved visiting her own grandmother and loving to scrunch deep under the down blankets.
|Bessie and Lois|
as Young women
Her sister remembered gram making friends with a deaf/mute girl who lived in their neighborhood, Lois said that gram learned some sign language just to be able to communicate with her.
|Sisters and friends|
She loved reading her scriptures and mystery's, she loved the color pink, butterflies, helping people, traveling around looking at the country side, visiting with friends and she loved babies (she had a number of pictures of the babies of people she had just met–you could say of gram she never met a stranger): she loved holidays, education, math, spending time at the lake with her friends, Jesus Christ–she had an abiding faith in him, and her family.
She used to tell me “a person is lucky if they find just one best friend in life” I fortunately met and married mine. One of Grams best friends was Betty Goddell, who passed away some years ago. Betty and she met when both families lived in Newfane in a trailer court.
Betty’s son told me that when Betty and Gram were younger, that there was a very popular store in Lockport that they would shop at, but there wasn’t enough parking spots, so Gram would get out of the car while Betty drove around the block while Gram look for a car pulling out–then gram would rush over and hold the parking spot by standing in it. This was very productive but not always popular with other drivers.
Gram was a smart, strong and independent women. During her youth and young womanhood it was barely heard of a women attending college let alone studying math–well gram did.
She worked for some time in the engineering department at Bell Air Space. Bob Goodell remembers when his younger brother had troubles learning how to use the slide rule, even after his father showed him, so Betty called gram up and told her, gram had Betty send her son over to her house and she taught him how to use a slide rule. I remember she would help me with my math homework, interestingly I went on to become a math high school teacher.
One of the many lessons I learned from gram was how to make her famous dressing. which I continue to make every year.
It always reminds me of the times I spent with gram and my cousin Lisa making it. Gram would have us over to her house the night before Thanksgiving and Lisa and I were assigned a very important task, we were given a number of large bags of bread to break into small pieces and place in a big bowl.
The next day gram would sauté onions, celery and sausage. Next she would combine the veggies, meat and bread adding a couple of eggs – Here was the great lesson, we would mix all the ingredients together with our bare hands–She taught me that you have to get your hands dirty to make good food–-that’s how you put the love in it. That’s what made her food taste so good.
There are many things she taught me by example, love for education, how to be an independent women, how to show love and charity, love for her family and that strong faith in Jesus Christ and her Heavenly Father
In closing I would like to, allow her to speak to you about her faith and family:
For Christmas 1994, gram asked me what I would like as a gift - I asked for a personal letter, and this is it:
I know that gram loved all of her family like this.
And I know that my redeemer lives and that we will be reunited with our loved ones again free of the shackles and trials of this life. I say this in the name of our loving Savior Jesus Christ, amen