Written by Peggy Ann Rowe-Snyder, March 11, 2007
She was a hell raiser, an instigator, a motivator, and gem. Rough, tough, yet could be gentle as a lamb. As a child if you crossed her path you learned responsibility, and learned that a smack with a fly swatter was as good as “I love you.” She was a diamond in the rough that broke all the molds and turned out to be as bright as any one person could shine, maybe even just a tad bit shinier.
Alveta Lorene Rowe Gibboney passed away on March 10, 2007. She would have been 59 on her birthday. Like a shooting star, her life was brilliant and it burned out far too soon. Her lungs quit on her. Knowing that other folks could smoke and live to be 103, hurts, because when push comes to shove—that was probably the worst thing she ever did to herself.
She was wild in her days. Just a few days ago, She told me how she threw her bra onto a sign of a bar along with a collection of other bras in Southern California. She drank, she took a turn working in bars as a bartender and as a bouncer…yes, you read that right, the 5 foot 4 inch (or so) very petite lady was also quite strong you did as she she told you or she thumped you personally. As a niece that sunk in well, I never dreamed to tell her no, or even talk back until I was 40 years old.
She had the colorful mouth, the colorful language, and the tattoos to match–all from the bar era of her life. The woman talked like a sailor… Well, personally, I think she could probably make a sailor blush. And it wasn’t just curse words, the bar life and life with five brothers left her with a mind full of ornery stories, jokes, and other misc. oral paraphernalia.
She was born April 18th, 1948, the seventh child of Orvin Earl Rowe and Lily Marie McClaskey. She was the baby girl of the family and only one child of the seven is younger than she. Even though, she came later in the order of siblings, she still grew up knowing about life, responsibility and very hard work.
Her own father died while she was a teenager, 17 years old. She lived with brothers who tried to help her get her start in life. She lived with Alfred Lee “Bobo” Rowe for awhile, and she lived with brother, Alvin Cecil “Al” Rowe for a time.
During her journey she worked in canneries, bars, as a book keeper. And—for over twenty years she did hair. She was a beautician who owned, “Alveta’s Hair In the Country,” in Dickey Prairie outside of Molalla, Oregon.
She married three times, but Harold Myers Gibboney was, in her words, her “charm” and they were married 25 years—there is more than ample evidence to say that there was and is such a strong and loyal love in this relationship. The reader need not waste his or her time wondering. Harold gave her what she wanted, and she bragged… she told stories…. but in the end, there was a hug and a kiss… and everyone knew what it was all about. As long as I live, I’ll hear my uncle answer in his gentle, and laid back way to her proclamations, “Is that so…” or “You think so…” He gave her so much.
This Uncle of mine, Harold Gibboney, told a story two days ago. After Alveta and he got together, they decided to throw a party. All of her siblings were invited. She pulled him aside and told him….”There will be a fight, every time my brothers get together in one spot together, there is always a fight….” [ya, gotta know the Rowe’s…even playing got to be bloody!] My uncle said, “no, they respect me enough, there would be no fight.” He was right, there was no fight. But, this is the world she grew up in. She learned that the Gibboney’s let each family member go about their business, and yet were there when they needed each others help. At one time Uncle Harold had to explain to her, that just because they did not fight, did not mean they did not love each other. In our branch of the Rowe/McClaskey Line — Fighting was a normal part of life it still is equivalent to “I Love You.”
Aunt Alveta was a generous soul….you could have the shirt off her back if you needed it. On the flip side, if you wanted something of hers and it was worth something, if she was willing to give it up, you were going to pay for it. She taught responsibility. About a month ago, someone asked her why she didn’t just “give” a dog to someone. Her answer was quick and concise. “No one ever gave me a break, and I learned what I needed to learn. Hell No, I won’t give away that dog.”
If you were six years old and able bodied you could fill the wood bin by the fireplace as good as anyone could…. she was picking strawberries in the fields around Silverton, Oregon from a very young age herself. Hard work never hurt anyone.
The writer, me— niece, Peggy Ann Rowe Snyder.. am trying to stand apart from this sad moment, in order to give an impartial, and truthful glimpse into the life of an adored person– a personality with a kick. I am not able to do her justice, she was far more than I’ll be able to put down in words.
She was my Aunt Alveta, and she was there from my beginning and stayed until her end. She came to visit us, she rode our pony with us, collected teddy bears with us, played real rough with us, made us cry (Just like daddy), sent us birthday cards.. and I can tell you she never missed one year of my childhood.
When my father died I was 21 years old. My aunt got a bouquet of flowers in my sisters and my name. She took care of us, looked over us, taught us, and set a wonderful example for us. We could watch her and learn what the proper things to do were.
For every bit of 20 years she cared for her mother in her later years and until she passed. For the same amount of time she watched over and cared for her older epileptic sister, providing shelter, care, support and love.
Two years ago when I got my pacemaker, she was the only family member to offer to help me. She was sick by then. It was debatable who took care of whom. But, she drove from Oregon to California to take care of her niece, and she filled my home with flowers and other colorful and smelly things… and when we talked, I told her how afraid to die I was, and how I didn’t want to be alone, and she promised me that if she outlived me, I would not die alone.
When I heard she was dieing, I drove four hours to be with her, to make sure she would not be alone. I should have known she’d never be alone… every niece and nephew she had she’d participated in the raising started coming in. I was first on the scene from my side of the family, but no where near the last. It was a blessing and honor to stand back and watch the outpouring of love from the family members as they all said their good-byes.
Aunt Alveta could not have children of her own. A horse accident insured that. She has one adoptive daughter, Jessica Lorene Celina Lynn Gibboney. She has a young woman who was a foreign exchange student who considered her a mother. She has Uncle Harold’s children, grand children and great grandchildren to call her own. The nephews and nieces that she was second mother or father too surrounded her–she helped to raise many of us, we were her children. Her room was filled with folks who all loved her, and didn’t want her to go.
When I got there Friday, through a mask forcing air into her body she opened her eyes and saw me there. She said my name, and she said, “It’s time to go now. I’ve done my tour and it was a good one. I’ve said my prayers and I am not afraid to die. I’ve been talking to Grandma, and your dad, and Bo and Grandpa. It’s time. It can be ten minutes or three days, but it’s time.” I held her hand and asked her not to talk. My mind was still working on healing her so she could go home, I wanted her to rest. I wanted her to accept the love from me that she had given so freely to me over the years. “Don’t talk Aunt Alveta, let me just love you…. Rest….”
She is resting AND at home now, with God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the rest of her family that preceded her. She has left a legacy of love, and strength that very few people could come close to.
Thank God, she lived long enough to leave the mark on my life. Thank God she was around to help me learn who my father was and why he was. My life has been made so much more peaceful from having her insight, her love, her support. When no one else was there, this lady was ALWAYS there, no matter what.
If I am able to lend the support to the folks I love they need to know, that a good portion of how I learned, a good portion of me, came from her… I’m not quite as colorful. I’m not nearly as tough. I’m not at all even close to being that diamond in the rough. But, a good deal of who I am is because of the fact, that she loved me.
I will always love you, Aunt Alveta. Peg