Bill Ankrom was the second of three
children (an older sister Kathleen and a younger brother Harry) born to
Nora Mae and R. P. Ankrom. Everyone says Nora Mae was a lot like Wendy,
a bundle of fire in a tiny body. If possible, she was even fierier than
Wendy. Nora Mae once caught some men taking hickory nuts out of her
tree. They refused to leave until she pulled out the shot-gun and fired
into the branches.
Nora Mae was one of the younger of a
lot of Flannagan children. R. P. Ankrom took her out one evening. She
invited him in and within minutes (the story goes) had prepared a feast
for him. He decided then and there to marry her. R.P.’s father Hiley
had a dream of building a 1000 acre Ankrom farm in Noble County Ohio. As
part of this dream, he gave R. P. and Nora Mae a farm down the road from
his own as a wedding gift. The two houses were within view of each other
on two different hilltops. Eventually, this farm passed to Bill’s
sister Kathleen and her husband Francis when R. P. and Nora Mae retired
to the town of Barnesville. R. P. was a sheep farmer as well as a house
painter. He died in 1978 after a 10 year battle with skin cancer.
Wendy’s Mom told Wendy’s dad that she was pregnant on the way home
from R. P.’s funeral.
R. P.’s parents Hiley and Emmarita
(pronounced Emma-retty) lived on the family farm that Hiley and his
father had purchased. R. P. was born in the house. He had a lot of older
brothers who tried to play tricks on him. One night, they decided they
would hide in the attic and scare him after dark. R. P. got wind of the
plan and locked the attic door on his way to bed…with his brothers in
the attic. Another time R. P. told about chasing after a goose. The
goose had had enough and knocked R. P. onto the ground then proceeded to
pick off all of his buttons.
Bill quit school before graduation and
enlisted in the army. He was promptly shipped off to the frontlines of
the European theater, WWII. During the war, he fought in the Battle of
the Bulge and eventually ended up stationed in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia.
He and several other soldiers were billeted with an elderly Czech
couple. Although the G. I.s had the right to take over the house, they
treated the couple with great respect. In return, the wife made sure
they had the cleanest, best pressed uniforms in the entire town. The
couple had grown very thin over the years of the war, so Bill and his
comrades decided to fatten them up. Every day at mealtime, they ate
their portion, then got back in the end of the mess line to load up
plates for the couple. When it was time for the G. I.’s to return
home, the couple stood at their front gate to wave good-bye. The wife
cried so hard, she shook the picket fence.
Bill in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia
During the war, Bill eloped with Freda
Doris VanFossen. They went on to have two sons Brad and Randy
and three grandchildren Bradley, Wendy and Kim.
Bill eventually earned his G. E. D. and worked in a variety of jobs
including furnace installation and heavy equipment operation (he helped
build a lot of the interstate in Ohio). After Hiley and Emmarita passed
away in the late 1950s, Bill moved his family to the Ankrom farm where
he and Freda lived until 2002. Today they live in Caldwell, OH where
Bill has managed to make waves on the city counsel.
Freda was born to Serena and Harry VanFossen, one of 6 children. Freda
and her two closest sisters Hilma and Betty are still inseparable. When
Freda was a little girl, her mother had to leave for a few days. Freda
had to cook and made gravy that turned out more than a little lumpy.
When her mother got home she asked what they’d had for dinner. Her
little sister answered, “Freda made gravy and dumplings.” Freda went
on to become a renowned cook.
One night while she was in high
school, a carload of boys from Quakercity showed up. There was a very
handsome young G. I. among them. Later, Freda managed to arrange to sit
in the seat next to him. When they went around a curve, she somehow
ended up pressed right up against him. After they kissed, he didn’t
smoke another cigarette all the way home. They married the next year and
are still happily married 61 years later.
Freda spent the war years as a Western
Union employee in Washington, D. C. She was responsible for transcribing
casualty lists. All the girls in the office new who had significant
others in which units. Whenever casualty lists from Bill Ankrom’s unit
came in, someone else would check the list before Freda was allowed to
see it. After the war, Freda became a career lady, working as a Noble
County social worker. She worked with Sandy See, the mother of Wendy’s
best friend Andrea. Sandy debriefed Andrea before a visit to the Ankrom
farm once, “Now, you must be on your best manners. Mrs. Ankrom is a