Lake County Ohio GenWeb

Ross Allen Greenwood 1886-1971

Contributed by Pamela Greenwood, granddaughter of Ross Allen and Katherine Lillis Greenwood, 18 July 2004.

Ross Allen Greenwood (1886-1971) was the youngest of four children born to Edward and Elma Greenwood. Both of his parents came from families who had long lived in the area of Harford, Pennsylvania. The earliest memory that he recounted was when he about seven years old. Sometime in the dead of winter his Mother became very ill. Ross was sent through the snow to fetch the village doctor. The snow was very deep but he trudged through the drifts, reached the doctor and returned home only to find that his Mother had died. This was clearly a traumatic event for the young boy.

Ross's father died shortly thereafter and the four children were adopted by various family members. Ross went to live with Uncle George and Grace Greenwood Stearns. This was apparently a fortunate adoption. Ross attended Harford High School and then spent one year (1908) at the Wyoming Seminary in Kingston, Pennsylvania in order to prepare for college. (Uncle George was superintendnet of schools.) Ross then attended the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and graduated in 1912. While attending college he worked as a streetcar conductor in Philadelphia, a door to door salesman for a candy company and at the Walker Gordon Farm in Plainesborough, New Jersey.

After graduation Ross went to Painesville, Ohio where a veterinarian was needed. He very shortly had a thriving practice for large animals (mostly farm animals in the area) and he continued to practice until the 1950's. On December 26, 1913 he married the only child of the village blacksmith and fire chief, Katherine Lillis Morgan. Ross lived with his new in-laws. Then they lived with him. They pooled their money to buy 521 Mentor Avenue, Painesville, Ohio.

Two years later the couple had their first child, Morgan Allen Greenwood on Dec. 20, 1915. A second son, Douglas Edward Greenwood was born Oct. 15, 1917. Shortly thereafter Ross enlisted in the Army as a veterinarian, without telling his wife of his intention. You can be sure this was not well received at home. He was commissioned a captain, and was shipped out to France to fight in WW I. His memories of the War focused on the horrible plight of the horses who were exposed to mustard gas from the trenches. He had one pleasant memory of visiting Versailles.

Returning home at the end of the war he contracted the deadly influenza on a troop ship and was hospitalized in Maryland. His wife and children visited him there. From this time forward he was diabetic. When he had recovered from the influenza he returned to Painesville and resumed his veterinary practice. He was one of the first in Painesville to have a car -- a black Model T which saw a lot of service in the surrounding counties as Ross visited ailing sheep and cows in labor and spavined horses. LeRoy Township was the furthest township and invariably those emergency telephone calls in the middle of the night came from LeRoy Township.

With his family now grown to four, Ross and his father in law purchased a large home at 521 Mentor Avenue in Painesville which had a barn in the back. This house was immediately adjacent to Lake Erie College for Girls. The home was then used as both a residence for the extended family and as a boarding home for long term boarders. Part of the barn was converted to house the office and operating room for Ross's animal patients and there were kennels for boarding dogs in the back. There was a shed in the back for TW Morgan's blacksmithing shop, a stable for young Morgan's pony (named Babe) and later for his horse (named Static). There were chickens and a vegetable garden which much later became a flower garden filled with roses and baby's breath and Easter lilies. In the front of the house there were two urns filled with geraniums in the summer. A reclining iron dog stood guard on the front lawn, just under the sign that read Ross A. Greenwood, Veterinarian. TW Morgan forged the sign.

This home is now (2001) on the National Register of Historic Homes. It is a classic Western Reserve house with a front and side porch, four bedrooms and a bath upstairs and a living, dining, kitchen and sun room downstairs. It also had a small office in the anti room of the kitchen and a downstairs bed and bath used by TW Morgan. Early on Nellie Cashel Morgan took up practical nursing with the Christian Scientists. She returned home only for holidays and special occasions. The house also has a full basement with the coal burning furnace, a washing machine and dryer and a mangle for ironing sheets. There were lots of shelves to keep preserved tomatoes, vegetables etc. from the family garden.

Ross was a thirty second degree Mason. He served on the local school board and took great pride in a letter written by the principal praising his service as a board member. Perhaps this was because his adopted father George Stearns had been such a strong advocate for education this praise was particularly gratifying for Ross.

In 1926 history repeated itself. Ross's older brother Lynn and his wife Minnie both died leaving 4 small children. Ross and Katherine adopted Marilyn Greenwood at the age of 9. She now became the youngest family member and the family's only daughter.

The Great Depression of the 1930's hit everyone in Painesville and the Greenwoods were no exception. With the chickens and the vegetable garden and barter with the farmers for Ross's veterinary services the family managed but at one time all Ross had was a twenty five cent piece which he offered to split with his young son Morgan who was at Hiram College in 1932. There were also many happy days spent on the "good old side porch" when the Lake Erie girls came to visit. Family routine dictated dinner was sharply at 6 but prior to that there was always a gin and tonic on the side porch. Ross shopped for the liquor because it would not have been proper for Katherine to do so.

Financial recovery came with the second World War. By then all the children had married and the two boys had joined the services. Morgan went to the Army Air Corp, Doug to the Navy. (Neither young men particularly enjoyed the service and neither saw action). TW Morgan took a night watchman's job and Katherine worked with the Red Cross. All three children married in the 1940's. Ross added commercial growing of lilies and peonies and baby's breath to his veterinarian practice.

In the summer of 1945 Morgan's young pregnant bride came to stay with the Painesville family. Morgan was still in the service, stationed in Laredo Texas and housing was hard to find. The war was clearly ending and Morgan would be discharged but his future plans were unsettled. It seemed best for Barbara to be with the family. "Pops" welcomed her with twinkling blue eyes and a ready smile, as did Katie. They all eagerly awaited the birth of the first grandchild and were delighted when Pamela made her appearance on September 1, 1945. The infant basked in the glow of great attention and affection for several months until her father was finally discharged in November, 1945 and then for another year and a half until he took a job in Livingston, New Jersey.

The infant's first word was " Baba", the moniker she had decided on for Ross. This name stuck and all subsequent grandchildren would call Ross "Baba". He was a wonderful doting grandfather and early established a ritual with young Pammy -- she would take the gold paper ring from his cigar and he would put it on her little finger. Then she would raise her foot and he would strike his wooden match on the bottom of her shoe. They never tired of this ritual. As she grew older he would take her on his visits to sick animals around the county. He would patiently answer her many "why" questions. It was a great love affair. From the time she was seven until the time of his death Pam would call or write her grandfather on Thanksgiving Day to tell him her pumpkin pie was better than his mince pie and he would respond by assuring her that his mince was better than her pumpkin. Childhood Christmases were always spent in Painesville as were many summer days.

Another family ritual of Ross's was the nightly winding of the grandfather's clock which stood in the sun room. Just before going to bed Ross would pull the long chain to rewind the clock and then climb the carpeted stairs to his bedroom. Every morning he would use a strop to sharpen his straight edge razor before shaving. As time passed his hair turned snow white and he had a large bald spot in the back. And his eyes kept sparkling and he kept giggling.

When Ross retired he and Katherine bought a winter home in Sarasota, Florida, as many in Painesville did. They spent several winters in the late 1960's there but never particularly enjoyed it and eventually gave it up. He suffered several strokes and lost the use of his left hand and was eventually confined to a wheelchair. He reduced his cigars to one a day but he never did give up his afternoon gin and tonic on the "good ole side porch".

See Morgan and Greenwood family photos here.

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Last updated 18 Jul 2004

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© 2004 Cynthia Turk. All rights reserved.