Saturday, November 8, 2014

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: #42 Fayette Franklin Allee, Changed by a Rock

Let's play war! "Fate" Allee had turned eight on May 5, a few months before the snow that blanketed western Oklahoma, near Hammon. He and his siblings and cousins and friends built their forts and stockpiled snowballs as ammunition.

As the battle raged, young Fate popped up from behind the fort and caught a snowball in his face. Embedded in the snow was a rock that hit his left eye. I've never heard the details of what happened right after that. I think it's likely that his parents, Laura Pryor and Thomas Allee, tried to treat him, but soon had to seek medical attention from a doctor.

My grandfather, Fayette Franklin Allee, was very nearly blinded by that rock in the winter of 1913-1914. His life as an ordinary farm boy was over. A newspaper article in the Tucson Daily Citizen in 1970 reported:
During the next three years, the injury began to affect his right eye. Finally, the left eye was removed, but the damage to his good eye had been done.

Fate soon moved to Muskogee to attend boarding school at the Oklahoma School for the Blind. In addition to the subjects we all studied, he learned to read and write Braille and to compensate for his limited vision in all aspects of his life. He was trained in skills that used his hands. During high school he tuned pianos in the area around Muskogee to earn money to help pay his expenses. In some capacity, he stayed on at the school until 1929.

The Arizona State School for the Deaf and Blind was in need of teachers in 1929 and letters were sent to schools around the country. Fate was recommended by the Oklahoma staff and shortly thereafter moved to the Arizona school in Tucson.

His wife, my grandmother, wrote a letter about him to the Tucson newspapers and kept her drafts, which I now have. The bulk of this post consists of excerpts from those drafts.

Notepaper from Scholarship, quick drop page from Tribal, both from ClubScrap

In 1929, at age 24, he started teaching classes and supervising the boys (both deaf and blind) at night for the magnificent salary of $70 a month and room and board, which at that time was an excellent opportunity. There were two teachers in the department for the blind and about 10 or 11 students. There were about 50 students in the whole school. 

His parents had moved from Oklahoma to [Pueblo County] Colorado in 1926, but a couple of years before that the whole family had been baptized in a cow pond by a Baptist minister, except for the babies. He has (in 1970) two living sisters and three living bothers (and two dead). [All are now deceased in 2014.]

In 1934, he met his future wife [Leona Violet Crispen] when she brought her daughter, age five, to school for the first time. This tiny red-headed five-year-old soon won the heart of her arithmetic teacher and invited him to her home for Sunday dinner. In 1941, her match-making won out and her teacher and her mother were married [on December 20, in Lordsburg, New Mexico].

He has been a father-figure to hundreds of visually handicapped children in Arizona for three generations. Little five-year-olds have sat in hs lap when homesick and away from their parents for the first time. Others have learned to coordinate their hands by his patient, long-suffering help as they learned to cane chairs, weave rugs, weave baskets, do woodworking projects, lace leather objects, and many other lessons to help them perceive the world around them with their fingers.

Among his former students are many college graduates, lawyers, business men, administrators of programs for the blind, as well as homemakers. His present principal is one of his former students. He has taught reading, language, spelling, social studies, algebra, geometry, as well as the shop subjects with kindness, patience and gentleness these 40 years.

Although he has struggled to attain a great many University credits, he has never been able to accumulate a Bachelor's degree. Any university course is a hardship for this blind man, but he is noted for his patience and persistence. He is a calm, quiet man and all children adore him, send him Valentines and Christmas notes saying, "I love you." When they were grown and married, some have sent him the sweetest letters saying how grateful they are now that he was so patient with them and taught them so much.

Mr. Allee is an avid sports fan, enjoying football, baseball and basketball on radio and TV. In years gone by, he has worked with Boy Scouts as a Leader and conducted camps, cook-outs, and hikes in nearby Catalina Mountain sites. For many years he was chairman each year for the annual Rodeo Party or Picnic in the mountains.

He is a man of very few words, absolute integrity, dedication to his task, self-sacrificing, and accepting of all people and completely without guile, who gives of himself and between 10% and 15% of all he earns to Christian and charitable works.

After his retirement in June, 1970, Fate continued to teach adults through the Tucson Association for the Blind. One of the skills he taught was chair caning, which earned him features in the newspaper and even on TV. Over his lifetime he had two or three corneal transplants. His vision improved with each surgery and worsened with time. He was always legally blind and was never able to drive.

In 1995, Fayette and Leona Allee moved to a retirement community in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, near his former home in Muskogee. He died on December 2, 1997, and was buried in South Lawn Memorial Park in Tucson.

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