Lois E Hand
November 17, 1922 – February 18, 2021
Lois Estella Zehrung (Hand) was born on November 17, 1922, in Monroe, Michigan, to Hyne and Susan Zehrung. She spent most of her early childhood and young adult life in Cleveland, Ohio, and because Lois loved to tell stories to her children and grandchildren, many of her childhood memories have become a part of her legacy. No tribute to the life of this amazing woman would be complete without them. She often told her children and grandchildren about her little white dog Bunny who was captured by the dogcatcher and taken away. Since her parents could not afford the fee to have the dog returned, she never saw him again.
She also told them about a little neighbor boy named Junior who would come to her house early in the morning and call out “Wois…Wois” so that she would come out and play. He would be shooed away by her mother who would whisper, “Lois isn’t up yet. Come back later.” In telling the story, Lois would accentuate the whispering words of her mother. Junior would return later and be invited in for corn flakes.
Lois, Junior, and a little girl named Olive would sometimes dress their cat up in doll clothes and take it for a ride in a doll’s baby buggy. On other occasions, she and Junior would take a little red wagon and head several blocks to the butcher shop and purchase “cat meat” for a nickel.
And then there was Betty Lou. Apparently, there were two Betty Lou’s. One gained infamy from eating so many peanuts under a table at her parents’ party that a doctor had to be called, and the other from picking her nose so voraciously that she suffered a traumatic nosebleed. The story of the nose-picking Betty Lou was so indoctrinated into our psyches, that all Grandma needed to say was “Betty Lou” and her grandchildren would know they had been caught picking their noses.
Other memories, too precious not to mention, were her stories of visits from the “Monkey Man.” The “Monkey Man” was a traveling organ grinder who came to town with a small rhesus monkey. Perched on top of a barrel organ, carrying a little tin cup, and dressed in a little red cap, the monkey would hold out the tin cup and tip his hat whenever someone put a penny in.
Christmas was a special time for Lois, too. It was a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell illustration. They would visit her aunt in Delphos, Ohio. There was a canal behind the house that would freeze, so they would take a chair, tie it to the dog, and take a wild ride on the ice. She also recalled finding walnuts and oranges in her Christmas stocking – a real treat – for in those days, oranges in Cleveland were considered “exotic fruits” or “sunshine you could hold in your hand” to use Lois’s own words.
When Lois was five years old, she became a big sister to baby Ruth. Lois recalled the doctor coming to the house and going up the stairs carrying a black bag. She was led to believe that the baby was in that bag, thus alleviating any discussions that had to do with where babies came from. Lois grew up during the depression, but despite this, she maintained a positive outlook on life, reflecting thankfully that her father was employed.
Lois went to John Adams High School in Cleveland where she played the French horn. One of her fondest memories from that period in her life was the cross country trip she took with her high school band to play in California. Being the beauty that she was, Lois always seemed to make the front page of the local newspaper whenever the band was being featured.
At some point in her early adulthood, Lois lived on Euclid Avenue, a prestigious street in Cleveland. Regardless of when that transpired, it must have made an impression on her because later in life, after she was diagnosed with dementia, if someone asked her where she currently lived, she would often tell them it was Euclid Avenue.
After high school, Lois attended Bowling Green University in Ohio. Her goal was to become an elementary school teacher, but when funds were low she was forced to quit and pursue other interests.
In 1942 she began working for Greyhound Bus Lines in Cleveland. No one could move those big rigs around the city like Lois. Actually, she had an office job in the complaint department. She always was a good listener, and even better at diverting one’s attention to something else, an attribute she could use in the customer service department, as well as later in life, in the parenting department.
Not only was Lois beautiful, but she also had a phenomenal sense of style when it came to fashion and a figure to compliment those fashions. Along with this, Lois was witty and charming. There is no doubt that these qualities attracted the attention of one special, handsome man who captured her heart, none other than Bill Hand, a young Army private. They met at a VFW dance through mutual friends, and some might say it was love at first sight since they wasted little time before tying the knot.
They married on May 15, 1946. She continued to work for Greyhound until 1948, while Bill was away serving his country in Germany during the early part of their marriage.
Then on January 5, 1949, Lois’s life changed forever. She became a mother. Darrell Lee Hand was born to the happy couple. Lois took on the challenge and role of motherhood with love and dedication. In fact, she was so good at it, that over the next nine years, she gave birth to three more children, Candy, Penny, and Heidi, with each new child being more adorable than the one preceding it. She gave her daughters unique names due to her individuality and sense of humor, and she would often laugh about the remarks she would receive when calling out “Penny…Candy” when trying to find them in the grocery store.
Lois was a good mother. Not only was she loving and supportive, but she was also very protective. We always had to ride our bikes on the sidewalks, stay on our side of the street, and when the streetlights came on, the porchlight would flash letting us know that it was time to come in.
We gave our mother her fair share of grief, but she always took it in stride and continued to give us her undivided and selfless attention and affection. The days of motherhood flew by quickly, filled with thankless chores to do, runny noses to wipe, meals to cook, and broken hearts to mend, but through it all, Lois was there. And she always laughed at the funny things we would do and say. Little did we know, until later in her life, that so much of the sense of humor that we inherited, came from her.
It wasn’t until after our father’s death and we began spending more time with her alone that we realized the depth of her sense of humor and wit. On one occasion, after she had moved into the assisted living facility, we were sitting at the dining room table with her. There were little packets of butter in a small bowl. She picked up one of the tiny containers. It read “whipped butter.” She turned to us and said, “This butter must have been bad.” Immediately, my sister and I wondered how she knew that the butter was spoiled, but that wasn’t what she meant at all. One of us asked, “What do you mean the butter is bad?” She replied, “It was whipped.”
There was a spiritual side to Lois, too. While we were growing up, Lois taught us about God, Jesus, and what was in the Bible. We went to church and Sunday school, but she was not religious in the sense that it stifled her personality in any way. She was always the cool mom (not the one who had drinks with the other neighbor ladies), but the one who welcomed neighborhood kids into the yard and told them her stories, too. She liked the music of the decade – whatever decade it happened to be, including “Satisfaction” by the Rolling Stones and “Your Song” by Elton John.
In her early forties, Lois added another title to her prodigious fame – that of grandmother to Darrell’s daughters, Kristen and Heather. These grandbabies were welcomed into the fold and heard the stories that their father and aunts had heard before. There were new stories, too, about their father’s and aunts’ childhoods that she shared with them, along with stories about their dog Pierre.
Her daughters grew up and married. Candy stayed in Ohio, but eventually moved to Florida, while Penny and Heidi landed in Wyoming. Penny gave her two more grandchildren, Nicole and Jeremy; Heidi gave birth to Tara, Patrick, and Jill. Darrell rounded out the ensemble with a son named Aaron Jeremy (A.J.).
Bill and Lois continued to be a part of their children and grandchildren’s lives. There was always an empty bed, couch, or even living room floor to accommodate any and all guests in the family home whether they were living in a two bedroom condo or a three bedroom house. None were ever turned away from coming to sunny Sarasota, Florida, where the couple retired in the 1980s.
However, they did not stay sedentary in Sarasota. Bill began a career in real estate, and Lois went to work for Beall’s department store. She was a social butterfly and enjoyed the comradery of her co-workers. She was also quick to strike up conversations with strangers. When we were growing up, she could be sitting next to someone on a bench, usually waiting for one of us to come out of a store in the mall, and when we did come out, she would already know that stranger’s entire life story.
She and Bill frequently made trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming to hike and picnic in the national parks, attend graduations, but mostly just to spend quality time with their grandchildren. Lois loved Wyoming, and she and Bill continued their annual excursions out west well into their eighties when they celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary there. She even traveled there with Heidi in 2017 and attended Nicole’s bridal shower. They also frequented Walt Disney World with their grandchildren, creating an everlasting legacy there, as well.
During this period of time, Bill and Lois became great grandparents when their eldest grandchild Kristen became a mother to Samantha and Sabrina. Later Heather would have a daughter Destiny, making them great grandparents to three beautiful baby girls. But it didn’t stop there. In 2019 and 2020, Lois would become a great grandmother again when Reese and Parker were born to Penny’s daughter Nicole. And finally, even before the births of Reese and Parker, Lois held the title of being a great-great grandmother when Sabrina, Kristen’s daughter, gave birth to Natalie. Lois embraced her roles as wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother, great-great grandmother, and friend with love and happiness. She and Bill lived long and healthy lives well into their eighties and she – into her late nineties. Bill died four days short of their 70th wedding anniversary at the age of 88. Thankfully, family members and friends had celebrated with them four days before his passing in an early celebration of their anniversary.
Lois lived for four years and nine months after his death, spending the first year and nine months with Heidi and Phil, and then residing at Heron East for three years. She seemed to enjoy the community at the assisted living facility. Before Covid interrupted the lifestyle there, she seemed to enjoy sitting in the lobby, watching people go by, and engaging in light conversations. And even though she suffered from dementia, she was always kindhearted, easygoing, but most of all quick witted and candid. She always knew her children, grandchildren, and other relatives when they came to visit. And the people who took care of her always said how nice she was and how they enjoyed her sense of humor. Lois lived a quiet, unassuming, but full life for 98 years. She was full of love, laughter, kindness, and beauty. Even at ninety eight she was the most beautiful person I have ever known. She went to sleep sometime during the day on February 18, 2021, and passed away peacefully that afternoon. She always wore a smile and engaged everyone she met. She is survived by her four children, eight grandchildren, five great grandchildren, and one great-great grandchild. Her greatest legacy is the selfless love that she gave to her family. She is loved and will be missed, but her legacy will live on in the stories she told and in the memories her loved ones have of her. It is comforting to know that she is in the arms of Jesus, and in the company of friends and family, especially our dad, who went before her.