James Styblo and Barbara Cepro grew up during a tense time in the Austria-Hungarian Empire. These two grew up in an area known as Bohemia. Although the area was never truly independent, the citizens often considered themselves to be Bohemians. This created tension during the late 1800s as the German population continued to increase (if you know history, part of Bohemia also goes by a German name–The Sudetanland).
Despite that tides of history, James and Barbara were married in the 1880s. Barbara was about 20. James was almost 30. They had four children between the years of 1890 and 1901. Mary. John. Agnes. Rose. By the time Barbara was pregnant with Rose, they likely knew that they could no longer stay in Bohemia. Whether it was the racial tension, poverty, or opportunity that brought them to the United States is something we do not know. What we do know is that the family of six made the trip together. James was 42. Barbara was 33. Mary was 11. John was 5. Agnes was 3. Rose was not yet a year. The year was 1901.
The family settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Three years later, Barbara gave birth to their final child–Josephine. The family of seven continued to live in Cleveland as the children got older. It’s hard to imagine how strange it must have been to watch the onset of World War One. The war took place in their old back yard only 13 years after they moved halfway around the world.
The children grew up and got married. Agnes, the middle child of the five, feel in love at the age of 24 to a man only three years her senior. His name was Orland Pearl Loomis. Orland was the oldest son out of eight children. His family could trace themselves back to before the American Revolution–so it’s likely he endured a lot of racist sentiment when, on November 9th, 1922 they married. They moved in together in the West-side of Cleveland–ready to start a life together.
On March 3rd, 1926, they gave birth to a daughter. They named her Eleanor May Loomis. Eleanor would be two when her younger brother–Leonard–was born. A year later, Ruth was born. The young family of three lived happily in Cleveland until a fateful day. Just four days after Christmas, at the age of five, Leonard Loomis died. They buried him on New Year’s Eve. Although Eleanor rarely talked about her brother, it’s easy to see how it turned her in a protective older sister and mother. Eleanor and her sister Ruth grew up together in the 1930s and 1940s.
While at the Rhodes High School in Cleveland, Eleanor took a liking to Architecture. In order to pursue this passion, she went to Ohio University at a strange time. The year was 1944 and the University was slim on men. Many had gone off to fight at the height of World War Two. In Eleanor’s second year at Ohio University, Germany surrendered. Many of the servicemen came home, they found themselves with newfound opportunity thanks to the GI Bill. One of those servicemen was Richard Oscar Netschke.
Richard and Eleanor met at Ohio University. They married in 1947 as Richard studied to be a Mechanical Engineer. Even after they were married, they continued to live on campus in the small housing provided for Veterans of the War. After graduating, they moved out to Euclid, Ohio. In 1955, they had their first child. Gregory. Two years later, Ruth was named after Eleanor’s sister. Eleanor was a housewife who raised her two children as her husband worked as a Mechanical Engineer.
On January 26, 1963, Richard was killed in a car accident. Ruth was 6. Greg was 8. Eleanor was 36. Eleanor went on to support her two children on her own (with the support of her family) for a few years. On November 19th, 1966, she remarried. She met Jack Ruseell Lytle at a single parents sky club. Jack was an engineer and divorcee. Together they lived on 12 acres of land outside of Cleveland, Ohio. As Ruth and Greg grew into young adults, Eleanor and Jack fulfilled their wish of living in the Rocky Mountains. When Jack retired, they moved in Estes Park, Colorado.
As Ruth finished high school, they found a plot of land available close to the Wyoming border–just outside of the town of Red Feather. The plot of land bordered Roosevelt National Park and had a beautiful view of the Rocky Mountains. As Ruth and Greg went on to start their own families, Jack built a tiny cabin on this plot of land. Eleanor and Jack lived in that tiny cabin as Jack built the house of his dreams. Eleanor and Jack would move into the house Jack built and live there for almost three decades. In that time, Eleanor watched her two children take on the world. She even became a grandmother four times over.
On February 15, 2005, after a nearly two year battle with colon cancer, Jack passed away surrounded by family in the care of Hospice Fort Collins, Colorado. It’s strange to think of how strong a woman Eleanor was. She lost her brother when she was just a child. She lost her husband shortly after they started a family. And she lost her second husband after almost 40 years together.
But the truth is, those struggles would look insignificant compared to the battle she would have to wage over the final decade of her life. When Jack passed, Eleanor continued to live in the Red Feather house alone. She spent her days hanging out when women who crafted and quilted just like her. She turned the entire downstairs of the house into a craft room full of supplies. It was a great environment for an artist.
The problem is: without the watchful eye of someone living with her, her Alzheimer’s developed without many alarm bells going off. It eventually advanced to the point that the family knew what they were dealing with. As the disease got worse, family started stepping up to support her. Being in great physical health, her Alzheimer’s developed slowly over the course of nearly a decade. Her family will also remember that time of her life as bittersweet–as she forgot who she was, we got to hear more and more about her past.
Eleanor May Loomis passed away on December 28th, 2015 in Greeley, Colorado surrounded by family. She is survived by her sister–Ruth, her two children–Gregory and Ruth, her four grandchildren–Devon, Wesley, Krista, and Richard, and her six great-grandchildren.