5. Going South
In 1881 a serious throat trouble developed, and Mrs. Bemis was taken south for the winter. She did not gain there, and the following year was sent to Colorado Springs. Slight hope was then given to her family of her living more than a few months, but the climate and the sunshine effected what had seemed impossible, and within a few years she was able to lead a comparatively normal life in the new home where she was happily settled. A house was rented for the family until 1885, when the one at 508 North Cascade Avenue was built. This was henceforth home to her and to all the family as long as she was there with her welcome for them, and it soon became a centre for a large number of friends who are rich in memories of the unfailing welcome and genuine hospitality so freely given them. These were not restricted to a limited number with tastes and outward circumstances that were comparatively alike, but were extended to a large circle that differed widely in both of these. The sincerity, genuineness, and simplicity of the lives of those that made this home created an atmosphere that was felt as soon as one entered it.
Many of the younger generation both within and without the family circle will have enduring memories of that house. Alan Gregg recalled in a few words childhood memories that were common to many; writing from his post in France he said: "Mrs. Bemis's death was a great surprise and shock, and the long time that elapsed between knowing of her illness and her death made me feel pretty far away. I remember her letting me play that music box to my heart's content, and the way she made Gregg laugh at an unexpected fall he took, instead of cry, better than anything else. She could also do nice things for you without spilling over into sentimentality."
Her grandchildren's recollections of her will be mostly in connection with events in their own homes, where her visits were looked for eagerly by those on the Atlantic coast and those on the Pacific, but happily some of them are old enough to remember and pass on to the others the impression made on them and on other children in the family connection, of the grandmother's great pleasure in being with them and her plans for their comfort and happiness. They recall the perfect housekeeping, where the wheels seemed to move easily and were always out of sight; the daintiness of all its appointments, which was shown too in the dress and personal adornments of her who made this home and of those who shared it with her. Here she welcomed many of her old friends and also new acquaintances with whom lasting friendships were formed; here the children gathered around them a fine group of congenial companions who became their lasting friends; here they grew to manhood and to womanhood; from thence they were all married, and hither they all returned many times, with wife, husbands, and their own sons and daughters for happy family reunions.
In this home the saddest as well as the most joyful experiences of her life came to her. The former were borne with the calmness and strength shown only by those with great capacity for suffering and great power of self-control. The hardest trial that she had ever known was at a time when she had little physical strength to meet it. After a year with the family in Colorado, the eldest son, Judson, was sent to a manual training school at St. Louis, Missouri, where there were many family friends. He was a lad of much promise, a great reader, with varied gifts and tastes. He had a very social nature and a warm interest in people, was noble in character, and deep in his affections. The separation was very hard for his mother, but it was met with the unselfishness she always showed when her children's interests were to be considered. She herself chose it, as she wanted him to have this special kind of training that could not be found nearer home. In the second year of his absence he was taken suddenly ill with pneumonia. His parents were summoned at once, and his father arrived before his death, but his mother could not reach St. Louis till some hours later. The loss of the little daughter Lucy, who had died in Newton of scarlet fever, was still fresh in her memory when the new sorrow came. This was borne wonderfully, but it changed all life for her as nothing else ever did. In 1904 came the third break in the family circle, when Mrs. Parsons with her beautiful little girl, Alice Loraine, nearly three years old, the first granddaughter in the family, was visiting her grandparents in Colorado Springs. No child could have been more tenderly loved and cared for than she, but nothing could avert the fatal illness that developed soon after their arrival.