Howdy doody everyone! I’ve been taking an “informal long weekend” after finishing a grueling Cardiology block on Munday (so grueling, in fact, that I spelled “Monday” that way the first time I typed it, and decided to leave it in for S&G). The nice thing is I’ll get a day off next week, thanks to Veterans Day – a day we celebrate all those who have served our country, and especially those who have given their lives.
Today’s featured person relates closely to that theme – a fantastic lady named Gertrude Janeway, who was born with the magnificent name Gertrude Grubb.
She first came to my attention when I was reading an awesome Cracked article about unusual comparisons from history, and saw this:
The last Civil War widow was alive when 50 Cent topped Forbes’ Richest Rappers list.
Considering the Civil War was from 1861-65, and 50 Cent was a chart topper when I was in high school in the early 2000’s, that factoid caught my eye.
So, I went on the computer*, and found out the truth:
Gertrude Grubb was a fine lady born in 1909 in Tennessee. When she was 16, she was courted by a 79-year-old Civil War veteran from the Union side named John Janeway. But it was totally cool and not creepy at all because Gertrude’s mother had a sense of propriety and forbade young Gert from marrying until age 18.
So when Gertrude turned 18, and John was 81, they probably convinced a dyslexic minister to marry them, thinking he was marrying two 81-year-olds and “dadgum, the women just keep lookin’ younger!” It’s understandable – if I were a minister and saw a marriage application like that, I’d think it must have been a typo and that two youngsters were swept away in the glory of young love (and hopefully not young divorce).
The two got married in 1927 in the middle of a dirt road, and moved into a log cabin in Blaine, Tennessee. As the wife of a Union soldier, Ms. Janeway received a $70 pension check every month from the VA. When John passed away in 1937 at the age of 91, Gertrude continued to live in the cabin until her death in 2003, aged 93. That $70 was worth a lot less in 2003 than in 1927, but Ms. Janeway (nee Grubb) is often used to illustrate the longevity considerations of pension commitments.
We’ve covered old people on the blog before, and also old governmental legacies (our first post ever, and “Returned” to the theme in this one), but never a government commitment that ended up lasting 140 years.
Here’s the wacky thing…. Gertrude wasn’t even the last living civil war widow!!!!
That title belongs to Maudie Hopkins (nee Maudie Cecilia Acklin), who died at age 93 in 2008. The Arkansas native married an 86-year-old Confederate veteran in 1934. However, Arkansas caught on to the practice of young ladies marrying old pensioners, and forbade Maudie from receiving a widow’s pension after her husband’s passing.
In any case, you gotta admire Gertrude for her long-term financial planning!
*Until the end of time, whenever I use the phrase “I went on the computer,” I will think of Vin Scully’s awesome musing on Troy Tulowitzki’s mullet, and mullet being a type of fish. The link to Vin’s musing is at the bottom of Rob’s classic Fish Wars! post, and is totally worth the 2 minutes!