|Elizabeth S. Morrow Mayfield
Levinah Ellen Stewart was born on March 30, 1910, in a little house in New Castle, Pennsylvania, the oldest daughter of Olive May Badger and Joseph Sylvester Stewart, a mill worker. When Levinah was six, both of her parents died and she and her younger brother and sister were sent to various family households for upbringing. Life was hard for Levinah. She lived on a farm with relations who never quite saw her as one of their own. She worked long and hard for her keep. Her tales of making six pies before starting off to school, tearfully standing on a stool to wash mounds of dishes for farm hands and family, wearing black stockings so that coal dust couldn't be seen on them, suffering the indignities of being sprayed by a skunk and struggling through snow, passing threatening dogs and sinister country neighbors on long walks to and from school remind us of an era before packaged foods, dishwashers, washing machines, and kids with cars.
When her inheritance was used to pay medical expenses for her sixteen-year-old brother, Clair, who died after an injury, Levinah had to leave Slippery Rock State Teacher's College after two years and begin teaching in New Castle. She was the first in her class to get a job and she taught basic and supplementary reading, geography, and nature study for seven years. Then, one of her dreams came true. She married her high school sweetheart, Seth Cook Morrow, and went with him to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, where he was a Presbyterian minister at the first of the six churches he served. The others were in Pottsville, Pennsylvania; Cumberland, Maryland; Orange, New Jersey; Lansing, Michigan; and Delray Beach, Florida.
Seth Cook Morrow had a distinguished ministerial career, but it was not his career alone. It was a "their career" situation, for Levinah put so much of herself into her husband's work and life that there could never have been doubt that she was as much a part of his ministry as he was. It is this dedication of her life to making her husband a success that I honor her in the Plaza of Heroines.
Levinah Ellen Stewart Morrow is my mother, my dearest friend, my confidant, my support, and my strength. As a wife, she gave all these things to her husband, as well.
In every church that my father served, my mother stood with him at the back door on every single Sunday, shaking hands, her bright laugh and smile and warmth giving comfort and love to the people coming out the door. As my father aged, she was by his side reminding him of each person's name and connection. It may not sound exceptional, but those moments at the back door of the church were elegant instances of a woman devoting her life to someone she loved.
Mother was never chairperson of a committee at any church, never taking the glory from someone else. But, she did attend whatever there was for her to support. She did everything from baking as many mounds of cookies as those piles of dishes she did as a child to creating harmony and camaraderie at craft meetings that led to church bazaars and fund raisers. She gave endless dinner parties for countless couples clubs and young singles groups and teenager get-togethers and missionary show-and-tell assemblies. And all through these endeavors, she kept a good spirit and she knew everyone's name and, sometimes, when she looked so tired, she only sat down for a moment before thinking of something else that needed done for her husband, her family, or the church.
Then, there was keeping the peace at home. My father had a pattern that led up to Sunday sermons climaxing on Saturday when he roamed the house getting ready for the next day's "performance." He was pretty good. But she was magnificent. She'd take my brother and me by the hand and off we'd go to have lunch at The Little House, to window shop because we really couldn't afford to buy, to chat with a neighbor and to give my father the peace and quiet he needed to prepare. Every single week she did this for him. She gave him the house to himself.
In his later years, when my brother and I were gone, she was his pre-Sunday critic, reading and helping edit old sermons, playing audience and devil’s advocate helping him stay alert to the mission he and she had devised for themselves.
He built a great church, he preached brilliantly in high places, he raised a great deal of money, he was a genuine pastor and friend to people in every level of society, and she was there giving him her power to make him all he could be.
In the 1980s, my father developed Alzheimer’s disease. She saw him rattle apart, forgetting, stumbling, running away, desperate not to see what he knew was happening. It grew worse. He retired gracefully with my mother at his side and began the lonely path to oblivion that is the end result of the disease. She got high blood pressure, arthritis, sadness. It was not a victorious old age. But no one could have stayed on in the line of duty more than she. She didn't take trips; she didn't run away from the rankness and ugliness of the nursing home; she fought to see that he was taken care of and she fed him dinner every night no matter what until he died holding her hand.
My mother never earned a cent for all the work she did for the churches my father served. The only monetary reward she got was the “wedding money” people paid my father that he, in turn, gave to her. This she used to give things to my brother and me.
My mother is a happy person in 1994. She misses my father and wishes my brother and I didn’t live so far away, but she can live with her memories because she has no regrets. Hers is a life of surviving, loving, giving, enriching and being. There is no one richer than my mother; there is no one more loved; there is no one more at home with herself that the heroine of my life, Levinah Ellen Stewart Marrow.
Submitted on 3/6/94