A mother for all generations
Islander Charlotte Richardson marks her 59th Mother's Day this weekend. She observes 60 years of marriage to her husband Victor in the fall. Turning 80 next month, Charlotte has much to celebrate this year.
For those who know her, Charlotte holds top place as beloved matriarch on the island. A key community player, she has always stepped up as a local volunteer, from library helper at Lawn Avenue School to Brownie troop leader. "We were surrounded by kids," Charlotte remembers when her own four children were young. "You name it; we volunteered for it - the 4H Club, the Girl Scouts."
She remembers her husband being around to help. "Victor worked on the ferry," she said. His rotating schedule allowed him to be off as much as a week at a time. Victor's fun-loving nature has continued to attract the children over the years, Charlotte recalls. "When we had our 50th wedding anniversary, Victor taught the grandkids how to make slingshots. They came back and told us all the trouble they got into with the slingshots," Charlotte said.
Charlotte moved to Jamestown in 1946, right after high school graduation. Her family had already moved down to the island, and she took the bus from Warren to Newport as soon as she graduated. "I got off the ferry thinking, what a rock!" Charlotte exclaimed. "I'm going to live here the rest of my life? I don't think so!" Not sure of the directions she had, Charlotte stood at the corner of Narragansett Avenue and stared up the street. Elm trees lined the main avenue, making a green tunnel effect. She heard a whistle blow, accenting the island's charm. Within five minutes of stepping off the ferry, Charlotte, much to her surprise, fell in love with Jamestown.
Charlotte went on to marry Victor, a native islander himself, and they moved into their new home in March of 1953. "The stairs weren't even in it," Charlotte recalls.
When their four daughters were young, Charlotte remembers, they would pick the tops of flowers off the stems and give them to her as presents. She floated them in water for display. "I wouldn't trade them for anything else," Charlotte said about the gifts of love.
"As the kids were growing up, I remember May Day," Charlotte smiles with the memories. "The kids used to dance around the Maypole. They used to wrap small ice cream containers with crepe paper, decorating it to look like a basket of flowers. It was great sport to leave the baskets, knocking on the door and running and hiding. Of course we pretended we were surprised when we answered the door!"
Now, Charlotte looks over four generations that have followed. Their family has outgrown the house that Victor and Charlotte built together. "There are 19 of us when we all are together," Charlotte said. The youngest, Pamela, was the only daughter to have children of her own. "She's the grandmother of all the great grandchildren. It took me ten years to get four grandkids, but it only took her four years," Charlotte said. Pamela reminded her that babies come faster when more than one mother is involved, she adds.
Charlotte counts down to her great grandchildren. In addition to four daughters, she names four granddaughters, three great granddaughters and one great grandson. "When our granddaughter moved on to our land, they were fifth and sixth generations."
Everyone in the family is within traveling distance, Charlotte happily reports. Daughter Gaylin is farthest away in Maine, but still only a few hours' drive from Jamestown. The children continue to be attentive, working in the yard, and doing chores around the house. And they still bring her flowers.
In recent years, Charlotte has helped cultivate the Conanicut Grange and the Friends of Jamestown Seniors. She continues to volunteer her time, but remembers her earlier springs and Mother's Days on the rock as if they were yesterday. "It seems like it whizzed by, when you look back on it," Charlotte said.