Saturday, April 5, 2014

E is for Ernest Oliver Rhea, my dad

I am half Yeakley and half Rhea so how can I do the letters of the alphabet without mentioning the Rhea side? I actually have a blog for the Rhea/McCollum side that has enough information to complete a family history.

One of the more interesting things about families is that spouses become another part of the family and it is hard to separate the two. My dad is a Rhea but after all those years, the distinction between family names blur and he was as much a Yeakley as my mom was a Rhea.

My dad, Ernest Oliver Rhea, was born in Billings, Montana on October 17, 1921. He was the youngest son of William Ogden Rhea and Mellie Farris. The three boys were raised in their earliest years on a farm bordering the Yellowstone River. My dad had lots of stories about living on the farm. When they were in Middle School, the family moved to town. My grandmother was an astute business person and bought land and houses so there was always rent coming in. My guess is that when they had enough money, moving to town suited her better.
My dad on the left and my uncle playing chess (about 1943) in the two story home my grandparents built in town. The upstairs was rented while the family lived in the lower level. That is the place I remember spending summers and holidays.

My dad attended school in Billings. My grandmother was big on education and all three of the boys were pushed to go to college. In 1942, my dad was at Michigan State University studying music. While there, he was also in the Michigan State Orchestra. However, life got in the way and he enlisted in the Army during World War II. His Army career consisted of administering tests for men who wanted to fly. While in the Army, he was stationed in Texas where he met my mother at a USO. Their first encounter was when he taught her to play chess.

They kept in touch and when he left the Army, he went to Colorado where my mother was employed as a Librarian at the Denver Public Library. They were engaged on Christmas Eve 1946. The next year, my dad and mom moved to Los Angeles where they were married on July 4, 1947. My dad had enrolled in USC and was studying accounting. The music career was left behind for a more lucrative profession.

After graduation, they moved to Bakersfield, California where my dad was employed by the Internal Revenue Service. In 1952, there were two big earthquakes in the area that stirred up the dust and released the spores for Valley Fever. It made my dad ill and they decided to move, ending up in La Puente, California.

For several years my dad made the 60 mile drive to Los Angeles for the job at the IRS and then decided to open his own accounting business. He did well and although we weren't rich, we were comfortable.

When he was older, he went back to playing the flute with the church orchestra. 

The love of music that he had as a child was reborn after he retired. My love of music comes from him and I also play the flute. We did duets all the time. 

When he passed away on February 10, 2006, I put the flute away. However, the love of music lives on. I am teaching my 13-yr-old and my husband to play the piano.


  1. What a great tribute to your dad. Maybe one day you'll find yourself able to pick up the flute again. Love the theme of this blog--I'm glad I ran across it! Happy A-Z!


  2. Loved the 1943 picture of the chess players. It reminded me of Radio Days, the movie.

  3. Dad's play a special part in our lives. I'm glad yours gave you the gift of music, and I'm really glad it lives on in your family :)

    MJ, A to Z Challenge Co-Host
    Writing Tips
    Effectively Human
    Lots of Crochet Stitches

  4. What a wonderful story, and tribute to your father. I'm glad to hear you are passing along your father's love of music. My father was a 'one-finger pianist' but it LOVED classical music.

    LuAnn Braley
    AJ's Hooligans @AtoZChallenge
    Back Porchervations

  5. A wonderful life story from beginning to end. Very well put together with special attention to important living life, children, music and passing on to the next generation. Thanks for your visits this first week of AtoZ. I appreciate your comments and have enjoyed your blog and theme very much.
    Sue at CollectInTexas Gal

  6. Never ceases to amaze me how many bloggers I've met with ties (no matter how distant) to both Michigan and Colorado. Your comment about the distinction of which side of the Rhea-Yeakleys your mom and dad belonged to struck a chord as I thought about how enmeshed my mom became in our Dad's side of the family. And how I get confused about my daughter-in-law/s father and mother - which side of the family owned the legendary family ranch near Montrose - because we've only them them in their joined family. Your research is fascinating.