Bessie Zulema Stull
Bessie was born in Viroqua, Wisconsin on April 18, 1911. She was born at home on a dairy farm owned by her parents, Maude and Edgar Stull. Her older brother was John, older sister Alice and later her younger sister was named Gladys. Bessie was part of a large extended family, all living in the immediate area. She spent many happy days visiting her loving grandparents who had a large dairy farm nearby. Most of her American ancestors are buried in the Liberty Pole Cemetery in Wisconsin, going back to the early 1800's.
Over a period of time, Bessie's home life became unbearable. Her father was an abusive alcoholic and frequently physically hurt Maude. The last attack resulted in Maud's hospitalization. Bessie was 15 at the time. According to Gladys (still living at the time of this writing), the children were so upset they actually discussed ways to murder their father! Other family members stepped in and decided it best to break up the family. The children were separated and Bessie was sent to St. Joseph, Missouri to live with an aunt. On her train ride to her new home, Bessie saw her first black person, a porter on the train. The kindly gentleman personally looked out for Bessie and she never forgot his kindness.
Things didn't work out for Bessie in Missouri. However she developed a lasting regard for her Uncle Fred who was a police officer. So much so, she named one of her sons Frederick. Bessie then went to Junction City, Kansas to work for a more distant aunt who owned the only hotel in town. Later Bessie went to work for the mayor of Junction City as the nanny of his children. This was a good move for Bessie as she finally found a home where she was really wanted.
Joe Rosenfield, Bessie's employer, held a poker game almost every Saturday night. Bessie said the very first time she saw the dashing and handsome Sergeant William Crismon it was love at first site. One evening a fellow player, the County Sheriff said, "Bill, that is the finest young lady I have seen in a long time. I notice there is an attraction between two of you. Bill, don't let her get away." Shortly thereafter William Crismon married Bessie Stull on March 28, 1928; William was 32 and Bessie was 16 years of age. They remained married for the remainder of their lives. Bessie's father, Ed Stull, died in 1937, the victim of an auto accident. Maude Stull died in 1948, we suspect from Alzheimer's disease.
Obviously not able to complete high school in Wisconsin, Bessie earned her High School Diploma in San Antonio at the age of 36. She was a homemaker until Sergeant Crismon retired from the US Army in 1943. Shortly thereafter Bessie began a new career as a credit manager for a jewelry store. She also served as an officer of the San Antonio Credit Women's Association. After she retired she became involved with her Baptist church. She taught bible school and was the church librarian. She received theology training in New Mexico. She met every challenge of life head on. A devout spiritual woman, she demonstrated strong moral values to her children. She was true to her husband and loved him until the end. While very strong willed, she did not compete with her husband. However, when the family was faced with difficult times, Bessie took command. For example, when Sergeant Crismon almost overnight was reassigned to another Army Post at the beginning of WWII, she immediately took command of the family. Bessie decided it was best to keep the family together during the uncertainty of war years. She loaded up the kids in the car and moved three times as Sergeant Crismon was transferred from Army Post to Post. The photo is Bessie in 1942 with children JoAnn, Bill, Bob, Mary, and Fred. What a strikingly pretty lady she was. No wonder she had such good looking kids! Check out the impish Freddie - look out!
Bessie Crismon taught her six children to look out for and love each other. Not a day goes by without one or more of her children thinking kind thoughts of Bessie Crismon and other siblings. In later life she developed Alzheimer's disease. Here is a photo taken when Bessie's six children last visited her. From left to right are: Bob, Mary, JoAnn, Bill, Fred, and Dave. During her final years she was lovingly cared for by JoAnn and her husband, Max.