November 30, 2010

There's One in Every Family: The Life of the Party

We used to joke that we could never get a picture of Grandma with her mouth shut. She could talk your ear off, and about the time you snapped the shutter she’d say, “Don’t take my picture now, my hair’s a mess!” And boy, could she laugh. She’d have the whole room in stitches, look innocent for just a moment, then wink and burst out laughing as hard as the rest of us. And she would sing at the drop of a hat--preferably something with a little zest to it, like “Five foot two, eyes of blue, but oh what those five foot could do, has anybody seen my gal?”

Oh yes, Grandma could be the life of the party.

Nora Belle Eberhard was one of 18 children born to John Llewellyn Eberhard and Mary Madina Comfort. A set of twins died shortly after birth, but the other 16 Eberhard kids grew to adulthood. Nora made her appearance on March 16, 1910—just in time for the census taker making the rounds in Rushcreek Township, a rural community in Logan County, Ohio, near Bellfontaine. When she was four or five the family moved to a farm near Galena, Ohio. She recalled being told that she sang the whole way.

Llewellyn Eberhard was a dairy farmer. Growing up on the farm, there were always a lot of chores to be done, and never much money. Nora liked the house chores better than the barn chores, because the cows smelled so bad. She’d be the first to tell you they were just plain poor. She quit school after eighth grade to take a job in the Kilgore factory in Westerville, putting rivets on cap guns. Maybe she got her spunk from this hardscrabble start, but somehow I think she was just born with it.

Nora singing to great-granddaughter Sarah
Nora married a dashing young restaurant worker named Lloyd Ballenger on March 30, 1935, during the height of the Depression. Their first baby, Marilyn Sue, died in infancy—a recollection that still moved Nora to tears decades later. Their three other children grew up, married, and eventually gave them seven grandchildren. To us, Nora was Grandma, a white-haired bundle of energy who always had popsicles in the freezer, candy on the table, and a song to sing.

As we grew older, we found the real fun was egging her on to tell stories and jokes while we sat around the table at the family cottage at Buckeye Lake. Not that she needed much encouragement—a little something to drink and she’d be off and running. And heaven forbid if she got going at a party. She always wanted to stay to the very end.

And she did. She stayed with us until just shy of her 97th birthday, when her party finally came to a close on February 26, 2007. I still think of her, though, laughing and singing and telling a slightly risqué tale now and then. Here’s to you, Grandma, as you toasted us so many times: 
“May you live forever and I never die.”

(Written for the 100th edition Carnival of Genealogy, "There's One in Every Family." All rights reserved by author.)


  1. What a sweet tribute to your Grandmother! Where would be today without the love of our Grandmas?

  2. Welcome to the Carnival, Shelley! Lovely post about your Grandmother. I felt like I got to know her a little. It was a treat.

  3. Shelley, I really enjoy your blog so am awarding you the "Ancestor Approved Award." You can pick up the badge and find the details about the award at

  4. Thank you all! Grandma was quite a character and I sure miss her, especially here at the holidays. Linda, I am so honored! I feel like I'm among the most wonderful company I could imagine. Thanks for the warm welcome!

    1. Thanks, Shelley, for describing your grandma Nora Ballenger (my Aunt Nora). You describe her well. Yes, she was bold but nice, talkative, informative, and our family loved her. She was my mother's (Mildred) favorite sister. I remember visiting with her and Uncle Lloyd Ballenger (Uncle "Bal") in the 1950s and 1960s, and going to the cottage at Buckeye Lake, where Mother and Aunt Nora would play the piano and sing together. Thanks again, your "second cousin" Ron Gilliland


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