Rhema Anderson Fair, The Dynamo Who Inspired Me

Note: WELCOME all Fair cousins (and all fair cousins as well). I hope you’ll add your memories of Rhema and Earl and also hope you’ll poke around and find stuff about Daddy Guy Anderson, Vera Anderson, Telmar Anderson, and other ancestors we have in common. Make yourself known to me. Love to meet relatives. I’ll be sharing a recipe from Rhema in December.

Remembering Rhema Anderson Fair, (1901-1996), my aunt, she who made the gravy.

Rhema Anderson Fair

Rhema Anderson (Fair) in 1909, about 8 years old.

Rhema Anderson was the sour-looking little girl in the 1909 family picture.

Telmar and Rhema Anderson

Telmar and Rhema Anderson, Photo from the collection of Kenneth J Fair at Ancestry.com

In fact, she didn’t look very cheerful in other childhood pictures, like this one with her brother Telmar.



No wonder the little girl was a bit grouchy.  Her mother died when she was 2 years old. When her father, Guy Anderson remarried a year later, she was sent to live with Franklin Anderson, Guy’s uncle. And when Rhema was eleven, Frank Anderson’s wife Sarah  Jane died.

Although she had contact with her father, and briefly lived with him, she must have felt like something of an orphan. I hasten to add that Frank and his wife Sarah Jane who had no children of their own, made a warm home for the little girl. But maybe Rhema just wasn’t suited for farm and farm community life.

When she was 18, Rhema became Rhema Anderson Fair when she married Kenneth Earl Fair (1898-1994). They lived  on his family farm in Clark Township, Holmes County, Ohio. Earl, who had 3 years of college,  taught school in Clark, and that’s where my mother, Harriette Anderson, had her first teaching job.

While Rhema and Earl lived in Clark, they had two boys–their only children. Rhema’s affection for Franklin Anderson, the man who raised her, was expressed when she named her first son after him.

You can see in this picture how tiny Rhema was. Mother may be standing slightly uphill, but she was never more than 5’4″, so Rhema Anderson Fair is about five feet tall.

Rhema Anderson Fair and family

Harriette Anderson, Baby Richard (Dick) Fair held by Earl Fair, Frank Fair and Rhema Fair on farm in Clark, Ohio 1925

Some time around 1940, the Fair family moved to Kent, Ohio,  Rhema took a job at Kent State University  as a housemother at a dorm, and Earl finished his college education. (I assume he got free tuition since she worked at the University.) These two, who had always lived on a farm or in a small farming community, took to city life and the University milieu like they were made for it.

Earl went to work for one of the big rubber companies, and that’s where he worked until he retired, as Rhema climbed the administrative ladder at the University, winding up as head of Student Housing at Kent State University. She wasn’t just a good cook…it seemed to me was good at everything she touched.

She was intelligent and witty and cute, besides. She always had a beautiful home and she was one of my role models because like many of the women in our family, she had a career outside the home before it was a routine thing for women to do.

Rhema Anderson Fair at Kent State

Rhema Fair at Kent State unversity. Photo from the collection of Kennth J. Fair at Ancestry.com

Always smartly dressed, and coiffed, she seemed to be a whirlwind of activity, known for her high heels clicking down the hallways, carrying the  5″2″ powerhouse around the campus. Since I had the same small feet that Rhema had, she used to send me shoes she tired of from her enormous collection, and bred a shoe collecting mania in her niece.

I remember one time proudly showing her everything in my closet, and she oohed and aahed over each dress and blouse, although in retrospect, it was not a very impressive collection.  She sent me the BEST Christmas presents–always just perfect for me–a purse, a scarf–perfume. Maybe I was the girl she never had (she had two boys) and that’s why she enjoyed sharing girly fashion things with me.

Her sour look in her early pictures could not be further from the cheerful, laughing Aunt Rhema that I knew. I remember her as  always interested in the person she was talking to, focusing her soft brown eyes on yours sympathetically. As a teenager, I felt that she understood me better than most adults. And maybe she did, since she worked with young people all the time.

When she and Earl retired, they left the lovely home they had built in Kent and moved to northern Arkansas  where Earl could fish and swap yarns with the locals.  They later lived with their son Frank and his wife Ruth in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Earl credited his long life to smoking cigars and drinking bourbon and branch water, and Rhema credited hers to keeping up with Earl. Their younger son, Dick, who died in 1968, at 43, did not have any children, but Frank made up for that. Rhema and Earl were very proud of their large family of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

In December 1986 the family gathered in Pine Bluff for this picture.

Rhema Anderson Fair and family

Rhema and Earl Fair (Seated on gold chairs) and Family, Pine Bluff, Arkansas, Christmas 1986

Rhema wrote a chatty letter to her half-sister Harriette Kaser (my mother) along with the picture.

“How’s this for progeny.  We even look sort of ‘smirky?’ But really aren’t they a good looking bunch?….Earl and I just ‘muddle’ along–We are well considering Earl is 89 yrs old and I will be 86 in July…”

She told where all the grandchildren and great-grandchildren are living and working and talked about some minor medical issues. But, really, hearing that Earl was 89 and Rhema is 86 made me look at the picture again.  Really?? 89??

Rhema passed away in 1996 at the age of 96, two years after Earl, who also had lived to 96.  Those are some genes to have in the family tree.

Oh, one more thing. In that letter to my mother that came with the picture. Rhema, known for giving fancy dinner parties and hobnobbing with the University set, says “I just made mush.  Earl wants mush and sausage gravy for dinner.”  There’s that gravy again. You can take the girl and boy out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of their cooking.

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9 thoughts on “Rhema Anderson Fair, The Dynamo Who Inspired Me

  1. Bro

    Rhema was head of women’s housing at Kent State when I was there. I was invited to dinner on a fairly (no pun intended?) regular basis when a freshman at Kent State. Her house had a slightly Victorian air about it, was always spotless, and I liked hanging out in Earl’s den full of hunting prints, histories of the Golden West, and an impressive collection of historic guns, including a Kentucky flintlock rifle. His garage was full of fishing equipment. The food was, of course, always good home cooked fare (no pun intended?) and a welcome relief from dorm cafeteria’s “batch” cooking.

  2. Paula Price

    Gracious is the word that best describes Rhema. I have so many fond memories of both Rhema and Earl. You didn’t mention their Arkansas period. Here was sophisticated Rhema surrounded by some very colorful real mountain people. There was the “pig woman” who shot at anyone who came on her property. Then there was the old neighbor man who bathed in the lake and never washed dishes but just turned them over on the table. Like Rhema he was afraid of thunderstorms. When one came up he would hurry to the Fair’s house. He, (not so clean) and Rhema (spotless, neat as a pin) would hide in the basement together. There were many other great characters and Rhema was gracious to them all.
    She was a great cook. One time when we were visiting Arkansas she made roasted fresh killed rabbit for Wayne and I. It was delicious!

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Thanks so much for the additional Aunt Rhema stories. I have lots more pictures to share, so I guess I’ll have to do another “Fair” installment. Bro: I am in touch through Ancestry.com with a cousin–last name Kennet–I think it must be Kathie. But would love you to try to get the word out to the other Fair cousins.

  3. Joanna Fair

    This beautiful article brought tears to my eyes! I am one of Rhema Anderson Fair’s great-grandchildren — I’m dressed in all green in that 1986 family photo. I was blessed to know Great-Grandma and Great-Grandpa for over 20 years. I grew up in east Texas, so we were able to visit them a couple of times in Mountain Home, Arkansas (though I was tiny and don’t remember much!) and then many times when they lived with my grandparents (Frank and Ruth) in Pine Bluff. I loved playing pool with Great-Grandpa and eating Great-Grandma’s cookies and sugar waffles. Such dear, wonderful people.

  4. thomas fair

    It is such a delight to read your recollections of our family. Your vignettes of Grandma (Rhema) are spot-on. She could be a real hoot at times, and yet always prim and proper; a “class act” as they say. I remember your mom (“Aunt Harriett” to us) pretty well, even though we had limited contact. I must admit that when growing up the Anderson side of the family seemed somewhat mysterious to me, due to considerable gaps in our knowledge, such as: What became of Telmar? He had a very interesting name. What are its roots?

    I have been in Phoenix numerous times over the years, and always wanted to meet you, but somehow always missed the boat. I believe the last contact I had with your family was a telephone call with your mom when I was in Tucson on business. I remember her as a very lovely and caring person.

    Before Grandma passed away she asked me to videotape her oral account of our family history. She did not want it to be lost forever. She cared deeply for the family. Frank and I spent about four hours conversing with her. I am so glad we did, and captured it on a DVD. We have some old family photos we ought to share with you as well.

    1. Avatar photoVera Marie Badertscher Post author

      Tom!! So glad to hear from you! I’ll e-mail you with some more personal conversation, but I’m so happy to have you comment here. You know I would welcome an article on your recollections any time. Oh, that video tape is such a treasure. So much of this website is based on tapes my brother Bill and I made of my Mother and Dad recollecting things. Once I have made digital copies of all the photos of the Fair family, I want to share them with someone in the Fair family. We’ll talk in e-mail about that.

      Did you notice that I said the identification of the people in the big Stout-Anderson family picture came from a tape made by Rhema and Harriette? Did any of you ever see that picture or the tape?

      And the biggest question–do you remember Rhema’s raisin bars?

  5. Lisa (Brown) Shank

    I too have Anderson’s in my family tree. My great aunt Imogene Marie Moreland married John Val Anderson.
    I know very little about the Anderson’s, my great uncle John was born in Killbuck. Other than that I know very little!
    Is John Val Anderson by chance in your tree?

      1. Lisa (Brown) Shank

        John Val Anderson 1922-1992, his father was William C Anderson 1884-1963 and his mother was Pearl E Gray 1889-1944.
        I don’t have a whole lot about the family. John Val married my great Imogene Marie Moreland, Imogene was my grandfather’s sister.


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