Katherine Clara Wirrig Smith – my paternal grandmother

Katherine Clara Wirrig Smith 1914 - 1984

Cecelia Pearl Bryant Wirrig’s oldest daughter was my grandmother, Katherine Clara Wirrig Smith.  Katherine was born April 9, 1914 in Piqua, Ohio.

According to my father, Katherine liked to go to dances on the roof top when she was young.  That is likely where she met my grandfather, James E. Smith.  Unbeknownst to Katherine, James suffered from mental illness.  She then suffered from the results of it throughout her married life.  My grandfather was in and out of jobs, and at one point served a year in jail for breaking and entering.  During that year, Katherine and her children moved in with her parents. Cecelia and William Wirrig, and she started working at the mill sewing underwear.

Grandma Smith with my oldest son - 1983.

It was piece-work and she never made a lot of money at it.  My sister remembers, “Grandma worked, and walked to work, every day of her life.  She worked at a place making less money per hour, even when I was sixteen, than I was making working at the Dairy Queen.”

Grandma loved her grandchildren and she used to like it when we brushed her hair.  She was a very religious person and had a lot of religious items in the house.  Her house was the old convent across the street from St. Boniface Church in Piqua, Ohio, and there were little holy water containers hanging beside each doorway.  She also had little statues of Mary and Jesus scattered about.

She liked to cook a lot and made large family meals on Sundays.  She also liked to garden, decorate cakes, sew, knit and crochet.    My Grandma Smith taught my father how to crochet to entertain himself once when he was ill as a child.  She taught me how to knit.

Rose afghan my grandmother was crocheting for herself and my mom finished after her death.
Rose detail from afghan.

When she died we found many unfinished needlework projects stashed away in a cupboard.  She was crocheting a large afghan for her bed when she died.  It had beautiful decorative roses on it and she was very excited about making it.  After she died, my mom collected the finished squares, then finished several more, and turned them into a cover for my parents’ bed at home.

See The Stitches We Leave Behind under the Series tab above for more links in this 10-part series.

21 thoughts on “Katherine Clara Wirrig Smith – my paternal grandmother”

    1. I spent a lot of time interviewing family members, many who are now deceased, to learn the history. I’ve always been grateful I did.

      In fact I took the photo of my son with my grandmother on one such fact-gathering visit.

  1. What a beautiful way to cebrate the life of your grandmother. She was a lovely woman.

    My maternal and my paternal grandmothers we’re precious to me. I have a photograph of my maternal grandmother taken when she was a young woman. I have one if my maternal great grandmother, also. They were both beautiful women. I was blessed to have spent many hours with my great grandmother when I was a child.

    Thank you for sharing such vivid detail about your grandmother. Blessings to you, Christine…

    1. I love the old photos. You can really see the person you knew as a grandmother as a young, vibrant, individual with hopes and dreams in the photos.

      I’m happy for you that you have many good memories of these important women.

  2. Christine I just loved this post.. Your Grandmother was a wonderful lady. loved her Crocheting work… I worked within a factory starting out as a machinist aged 15yrs working Piece work.. -hard work… 8 hours a day.. So I understand How Hard your Grandmother worked to keep her family, plus walking too and from work.. long lean days… But she I see brought her happiness to her family and her skills…
    Beautiful post.. ~Sue xx

  3. Loved this post! I can see you in your grandmother. When we went through my grandma’s attic after her death I found quilt blocks. Some had been pieced with heavy fabric I suspect once was part of some type of clothing, others were cotton with patterns from long ago. I treasure them and imagine her sitting by a window in her tiny house piecing them while a Saskatchewan blizzard raged outside.


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