I don't have a picture of Lily except for the one in my head. I was probably eight or nine when I first met her. She was a large black woman with a wonderful sense of humor. She babysat me a few times. We would play Chinese checkers and I recall arguing with her, in jest, that I had once beaten her at the game. If I had, though she denied it, it would have been a big deal to me because she always won.
Lilly tied both my Welty and Robb families together. Her daughter had been one of my Grandmother Welty's students. My Grandmother thought a lot of Lilly's daughter and she thought a lot of Lilly.
About the time my Grandfather retired from being the Kansas State Auditor in 1960 he was having a hard time taking care of his wife. My other Grandmother, Winona Robb, was suffering from Alzheimer's.
My Mother was hospitalized about the time I was in first grade and had to have a spinal fusion. Her back had gone out one morning as she made the bed. While she was laid up in Stormont Vail Hospital her mother appeared suddenly in her room to announce that Aunt Susie (my Grandfather's older sister) had found a new wife for George. As quickly as she appeared she disappeared with my bed ridden Mother unable to do anything but call for help to locate her.
Lilly was subsequently introduced to my Grandfather Robb through the good offices of my Grandmother Welty. Lilly and her family lived a Spartan life down by the railroad tracks. The kind of work she did for my Grandfather was pretty typical for "colored" women at this time. Even if she hadn't been a single woman her's would have been a hard life.
Lilly was very good company for my Grandfather and after my Grandmother's death she continued to take care of him. She was a Dodger's fan and the two of them would argue good naturedly about baseball among other things. I'm pretty sure that history and politics were also a part of their conversations.
Lilly and my Mother were about the same age and got along well. When my family moved to Minnesota in 1963 Lilly continued taking care of my Grandfather. She would enjoy bossing my Grandfather around. She often took out pen and paper and told him that it was time for him to write Georganne, my Mother.
Some years later Lilly got pregnant. The father was an employee at the local air force base. She was too embarrassed to face my Grandfather who she had grown to respect. Rather than face his disappointment she quit his employ. She later married the father of her new baby. His benefits as a government worker would cover her other children.
When my Mother visited Topeka as she did a couple times a year, alternating visits with her older Sister Mary Jane, Grandfather would always comment sadly that the ladies who were taking care of him were nice enough but they weren't Lilly. For one thing they followed Doctor's orders. Lilly, on the other hand, had quite happily cooked him a forbidden fried dinner every week.
When my Grandfather died in 1972 Lilly called my Mother. She had heard about his passing and wanted to share her condolences. She had missed my Grandfather as much as he had missed her. She told my Mother that every Halloween, after she had left my Grandfather's employ, she bundled up her children, and drove them to Grandfather's house to trick-or-treat. She just wanted to see my Grandfather from her car.