Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Gust Doyle - Much Too Young

Had he lived past the age of 44 I would have known my grandfather, Gust Doyle. Though we would have lived in two states, two hours' drive apart, I'm certain we would have visited each other. But that's not the way it happened.

Gust was born in November, 1888, in Stoneboro, Mercer County, Pennsylvania, the second child and only son of William and Tressa (Froman) Doyle. They lived on a farm on Strawberry Hill, as it was known at that time. (It's Fredonia Road, now.)

The 1900 U.S. census tells me that William was a coal miner and owned a farm without a mortgage. Tressa was known as "Rose," and Gust was "August." Surprisingly, Gust, at age 11, had attended school 7 months of the year and was not employed elsewhere as some 11-year-olds of the time period were.

By 1910, Gust had become "Gus" and was a 21-year-old farm hand earning a wage. In December, 1911, he became a husband to Beulah Gerner. He became a father at the end of February, 1913. And in early April, 1913, he became a widower with an infant son, my father, to care for. Gust had lost not only Beulah, but also Lee's twin, Leila. That must have been a dark and difficult time in his life but he carried on with the help and support of his family. In April, 1916, he married again. He and his second wife began another family, with children born in 1919, 1921, 1924, 1926, and 1930. Gust worked in the coal mine and continued to operate the dairy farm.

Tressa, one of Gust's daughters by his second marriage, wrote that Gust "was an extremely good father. He enjoyed his family. When, one by one, we were old enough to help with the farm work we would help Dad, Pap [William] and your Dad [Lee]. I consider this as having been valuable quality time. We helped in the strawberry patch, hoed and weeded corn, helped harvest hay and oats. We were busy. It was good for us."

Gust became ill sometime in 1932 and it was determined that he had colon cancer. Tressa wrote, "On May 17th of 1933 he had colon surgery at Mercer Cottage Hospital, Mercer, Pa. He was the first person we knew of to have a colostomy. By the time he had surgery the cancer had spread to some of his vital organs. He was a bed patient the remainder of his life." He passed away on October 3, 1933, "in the living room of the farmhouse.... We had made it into a bedroom for him. His funeral was held in that room." He was buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Sandy Lake Township, Mercer County, Pennsylvania.

His passing affected so many people, not the least of which was my father. Tressa commented, "How I wish we could have had him longer. He was only 44 when he died – much [too] young."

My grandfather was born on this day 122 years ago. I'm looking forward to meeting him and thanking him for the good and wholesome life he lived while here on earth. Happy Birthday, Grampa Gust.


  1. Sigh. Definitely brought tears to my eyes. What a hard life and what a shame you didn't get to meet him. But, once again, how wonderful that you preserve these family memories.

  2. What a nice summary of his life.

  3. It's so sad to read about those whose lives were cut short, but at least he left behind people who loved and remembered him.

  4. What a great summary and yes, it was much too young. Happy Birthday, Gust!

  5. This is a touching tribute. Happy birthday to your grandfather.


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