Celia May Griffin Provow

Honored by:Douglas M. Provow
Brick location:B:3  map

Celia May Griffin Provow faced so many hardships yet she refused to be defeated or to duck responsibility. She liked to teach and socialize. She looked for new challenges was not afraid of hard work and encouraged her children to do the same. She was exceptionally cheery people liked to talk with her and receive her letters and she wrote until the week she died at 93.

Celia was born in a log cabin in Ozark County, Missouri on April 27, 1891. When she was three she nearly burned to death and carried those scars for the rest of her life. She started the three month term of school in a log cabin at age six. The next year she moved with her family in a covered wagon some 500 miles to Rockcastle County, Kentucky and returned a year later the same way. She was the oldest of eleven children and had many chores. Each child was given a handful of wool to clean and card before going to bed. She was 21 before she graduated from the eighth grade by boarding at the county seat. She passed teachers exams but the County Supt discouraged her from teaching. Her father also discouraged her from attending high school -- she was to help her mother with the children. However her grandfather loaned her money and she attended Bakersfield High School in November 1912.

She started teaching in 1914 at her home school their first 8 month term that included her siblings. She taught for six years until she was married. One school had 67 students and some of them were married. She learned to drive a "Star" automobile and gave four minute speeches to sell Liberty Bonds. In 1919 she went to Florida with her father to buy land but two hurricanes discouraged them.

Celia married Herlie H. Provow at her home on Christmas 1920. They bought a 80 acre farm near Gamaliel Arkansas but it was marginal. Two years later she taught again which was unheard of for a married woman. They "adopted" a teenager for a year and their son Douglas was born when Celia was 33.

Though they paid for the Arkansas farm Herlie went to Iowa to husk corn as a farm laborer. Celia sold their belongings and followed him to Coburg, Iowa in 1924. In the next four years they moved five times and worked for four different people. Two more children were born Alice in 1925 and Charles in 1927. The week Charles was born the family had small pox was quarantined and the house fumigated. They purchased their first car a cow and a Maytag washer.

The next ten years they worked for a State Senator Homer Hush at Climax Montgomery County, Iowa. During the depression Celia converted yard goods into shirts dresses and children's clothes. Quilts were made washing and ironing taken in and janitor work provided to the local Methodist Church. She custom hatched eggs in two incubators at home and papered rooms at $1.00 per room. The last of her teeth were pulled in 1932 and she got false teeth The Arkansas farm was sold for a fraction of its original cost.

In 1936 Herlie got double smut Pneumonia and was in bed for 6 months. Her oldest son was in bed for 6 weeks. The next year Herlie lost his job. Celia operated a telephone exchange. A barn that contained their car a cow and house goods burned without insurance. Herlie tried to rent the following year but died. That fall Celia was in a car accident that broke her kneecap and was left a cripple. Her oldest son was 15.

Celia had $800 left after funeral expenses were paid in 1939. With that she made a down payment on a 160 acre farm south of College Springs Page Co Iowa. She borrowed $700 a year later for additional livestock and feed. She raised chickens add sold eggs to a "hatchery". She provided a place for an old man to stay during the winter when he could not find work and also turned down proposals from two others. Her children finished high school. In 1948 the last child left home for a job in radio repair. She sold most of the livestock to make the final payment on the farm. Later she added a bathroom to the house and a farm pond. She endured a fire that damaged the house and a storm that flattened the barn and built a replacement. She continued to manage the farm until she died in 1984.

In 1951 she started work as a domestic in Clarinda. Two years later she was a late night cook in "The Little Diner" there. She nursed her brother and sister in Missouri until they died of cancer. Then she cared for two neighbors for five years that had Alzheimer’s" and "retired" in 1963 at age 72.

In 1969 she broke an arm that never healed right and had a mini stroke two years later but continued to garden and drive. She took up fancy candy making ceramics cake decorating continued tatting collected for the Red Cross for 10 years and was a delegate to the American Legion. She made a new quilt for each of 9 grandchildren when they were married.

In 1980 she ahd to have hearing aids. Two years later a broken hip put her in a nursing home and though the bone didn't heal properly , she got out of the nursing home and stayed with her children a month at a time. Three cracked vertebra caused her to return but she continued to write and manage her affiars until she died.

She had four descendants that graduated from Iowa State University; a son Douglas and grandchild from each of her children: Sally Provow, Ronald Provow, and Gregory Van Fosson.