Our Aunt Zelma:
Memories from 1944-1955
By Anne Zink Putnam (written January 2014)
Most of you didn’t get to know our Aunt Zelma Elizabeth Zink Logan. She died way too young – May 1955. Her youngest child, cousin Dave Logan, was still in high school, one year ahead of me. As we were blessed with several wonderful aunts, we cousins, rather unthinking, went on with our lives. Years later, my Mom talked about how her sister-in-law Zelma meant so much to her as a young bride and then as new mom, and how much she missed her. Now, I think of Aunt Zelma’s special talents and want to share her through my memories.
I have seen family pictures taken before my parents, John and Ruby, went to the northwest. But my memories start when we returned to the Animas Valley and Mom, Dad, Ida and I moved into an upstairs room at the Zink rock house. The Logans were still living there and planning to move to their farm up the road a quarter-mile or so in the spring. In those few months I remember being a pest to my cousin Dave, who was an important first grader, and remember my Aunt Zelma being in the main kitchen. She was warm and welcoming. I still think if I heard her laughter I would recognize it today, 70 years later.
Her house was always neatly organized and a wonderful place to visit. Of course I didn’t think about the fact that her kids were older, while my sibs and I were at our messiest and least helpful stages. She had a wonderful crocheted tablecloth on the dining room table and a shiny new blonde hardwood floor that her brother John, my Dad, had laid for her. I was also interested in the hand-operated water pump on her back porch. That must have been where she heated water and did the washing. When I visualize her at her house, I see her in a dress protected by an ample apron. She was traditional in being a good cook and in preserving food. She dried sweet corn by placing it on cheesecloth attached with clothespins to racks and branches outdoors in the sun. Every time I see sweet peas blooming, I remember how impressed I was with their sweet perfume in her backyard by the rock wall. She also had hollyhocks growing there. These features made such an impression because we only had sand boxes for little brothers’ play, dogs, cats, and cinders from the kitchen stove or furnace in our back yard. Our Dad kept his promise to help Mom with flower gardens and yard when the boys were older.
Aunt Zelma planted several golden sweet cherry trees in her orchard east of the house down by the Logan barn. She would have been so delighted with them a couple of years ago when they outdid themselves with a huge bumper crop. In that same orchard she had berries and probably some vegetables. All I remember from her garden were the gooseberries which Ida and I filched on our way back down the road after our piano lessons. Although I was a rather lazy piano student I still sought Aunt Zelma’s praise. After our lessons one warm fall day, we asked for some of her box elder bugs to take home and populate the bug city we were constructing on the outside stairs on the south side of our house. She kindly shared without signs of headshaking or eye rolling. She must have truly loved us, pills that we were.
Probably about 1952 she had a great Halloween costume party for Dave and some of us Valley kids. My costume was my Dad’s borrowed work shoes and bib overalls. I remember we had organized games, great goodies, and a fine time. I always thought whatever way Aunt Zelma did things was the best way. Even with my childish delight in her I didn’t realize what a really outstanding person she was for her day. Everyone looked up to her. She had graduated from Durango High School about 1921 and gone on to make a life for herself. She became a teacher, and a leader in her church, the Grange, her neighborhood. When her mother, Ida, died in 1926, I imagine she took on extra responsibilities with her younger siblings along with the activities of raising her own boys.
She was second-oldest and probably a great support for her father, John James Zink. I have seen a picture of her and a couple of young ladies in fashionable hats and coats, standing in front of an automobile. I think John James probably let her drive his fine new buggy. Later she may have taken on an even larger role as matriarch, mentor and guide in the extended family when the oldest brother, Leonard Zink, died.
Now, as I find myself a sort of matriarch in my family of origin, I think of her and wish we could visit. I miss her more now than at any time before. If I were able to ask her the tough life questions I know she would give compassionate and wise answers.