83 years to the day

Reunited at last

He was so very young — not yet 42 years old — leaving behind a wife and four children ranging in age from 14 down to seven.

She was quite old — only five months short of her 97th birthday. She had outlived her husband and three of her 12 children, and left behind grandchildren and great grandchildren by the score.

Two so very different people — and bound together by such ties.

Jasper Carlton Robertson was born 18 April 1871 in Honey Grove, Texas, and died 15 March 1912 in Hollister, Tillman County, Oklahoma.1 His obituary, in the Frederick newspaper read, in part:

Brother Robertson was a true man, in his business, in the church as well as in his home. He was loved by everybody and had no enemies. …

The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what he did here.2

And here, thanks to my dear cousin Mary Ann Thurmond, is the only known photograph of Jasper:

Jasper Carlton Robertson, 18 April 1871 - 15 March 1912

Jasper Carlton Robertson, 18 April 1871 – 15 March 1912

Opal (Robertson) Cottrell was born 21 August 1898 in Eagle Lake, Texas, and died 15 March 1995 in Charlottesville, Virginia.3 Her obituary was nowhere near as colorful as Jasper’s but did manage to say that she was “fondly known as ‘Mama Clay,’” and was “the matriarch of the Cottrell family.”4

And here’s what she looked like around the time she was the age Jasper was when he died:

Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, 21 August 1898 - 15 March 1995

Opal (Robertson) Cottrell, 21 August 1898 – 15 March 1995

Jasper Carlton Robertson.

Opal (Robertson) Cottrell.

Both of whom died on the 15th of March, 83 years apart.

Father and daughter.

My great grandfather and my grandmother.

Reunited 83 years to the day after they were parted.


  1. Oklahoma State Board of Health, death certificate 3065 (1912), Jasper C. Robertson; Bureau of Vital Statistics, Oklahoma City. And see interview with Opal Robertson Cottrell (Kents Store, VA), by Bobette Richardson, 1980s; copy of notes privately held by the author. Opal Cottrell was the grandmother of Bobette Richardson and the author.
  2. “J.C. Robertson Passes Away,” Frederick (OK) Press, 22 Mar 1912.
  3. Virginia Department of Health, Certificate of Death, state file no. 95-011808, Opal Robertson Cottrell (1995); Division of Vital Records, Richmond.
  4. “Cottrell,” obituary, The Central Virginian, Louisa, Va., 17 Mar 1995.
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10 Responses to 83 years to the day

  1. Patricia Moore says:

    Good looking people. Makes my heart ache.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      All of the Robertsons were good-looking folks, Patricia — I have one young Robertson cousin who is, quite frankly, movie star drop-down-dead gorgeous. And just as good on the inside as on the out. This 18th anniversary of my grandmother’s death makes our hearts ache too.

  2. Mary Ann Thurmond says:

    Your words brought tears to my eyes this morning, Judy. Just thinking of all of the family that I never knew, and so wish I had known. I think we have honored their lives well by “finding” them and bringing their lives to light again. And, through that process, we found each other. Knowing you and your family have added so much to my life.
    Love from your cousin,
    Mary Ann

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      And love right back at you, my dear! We have GOT to get together on one of my California trips this year…

      • Mary Ann Thurmond says:

        That’s a fabulous idea!! When and where will you be in California?

        • Judy G. Russell says:

          June 5-7 to the Southern California Genealogical Society’s Jamboree (with a possible Bay area day or two before the Jamboree), and November 1 to San Mateo County.

  3. Candice Vander Wilt says:

    I recently watched the movie “Monument’s Men” in which a particular line of dialogue pricked my heart and is surely every genealogist’s unspoken mantra: “You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their homes to the ground and somehow they’ll still find their way back. But if you destroy their history, you destroy their achievements, and it’s as if they never existed.”

    We who strive to record or even share our family’s history, I believe, have an inner compass leading us to ancestors waiting to be found with stories waiting to be told. Thank you for sharing your touching stories – this tender story of father and daughter and, a few weeks ago, Nettie’s remarkable journey – they do indeed exist! You are a master storyteller. Garrison Keillor, move over!

  4. Jennie says:

    What a wonderful story, oh the Ides of March. The date caught my eye, as that my maternal grandparents also died on that day, but their deaths were only 11 years apart and she was only 94.

    • Judy G. Russell says:

      Makes you wonder a little if the stress of remembering was a contributing factor for the second to go…

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