Long Valley John03/03/2023
Read Time:11 Minute, 30 Second
DARLENE DELORES FRACH
|When Darlene Dolores Frach was born on July 19, 1938, in Oregon City, Oregon, her father, Clarence, was 28, and her mother, Anna, was 22. She had three children with Robert Leland Bay and one child with Robert James Lawrence. She died on January 5, 2009, in Big Pine, California, at the age of 70.
That reads rather blandly, doesn’t it? That’s Ancestry.com’s way of telling a person’s life story. But then, that website didn’t know my mother like I did.
So I am going to tell you what I know and remember of her.
She was born to Clarence Frach and Anna Reynolds on July 19, 1938. Sometime between her birth and Feburary 1939, her mother and father had separated. This date is known because her father had remarried at that time. This 1940 Census shows her and her mother still living in Oregon, but in November 1942, on the 4th, her mother married Leonard Johnson in the state of Washington (though they still lived in Oregon, as shown on this other marriage document). From that point on, Darlene went by her step-fathers last name, thus she was known as Darlene Johnson. She had learned of her real fathers name, having met both her father and her half-brother at one time, and even after that, she still went by Johnson.
Not much is known about her school years in Oregon. This is her around 1953/54 (I think) – photo. Here she is in an Oregon school band uniform – photo (a side note about that clarinet she is holding – my oldest daughter ended up with it during her years of band in school, then my youngest daughter also ended up with it during her years in band). She had told us that during the summer of 1954, she had rode a Greyhound bus from Oregon to Bishop, CA by herself to meet up with her mother. It was at this point Darlene gained a few step-sisters and step-brothers, as her mother had married Warren “Bud” Smith. She never said how her mother got to Bishop, which one would assume was ahead of Darlene’s arrival. Nothing was said about who Darlene stayed with prior to the bus trip either. She attended her last two high school years at the Bishop Unified High School, and graduated in 1956 (the photo above is her 1955 Class photo). She was also a part of the Bishop High School Band.
After High School, she married Robert “Bob” Leland Bay. They made their home in Bishop, CA and had three children – Lucinda Gayle Bay (middle), David Lloyd Bay (right) and Kenneth William Bay (left). Not long after the birth of their first child in 1957 (Cindy), Darlene’s biological father, Clarence, passed away. Sometime between 1961 and 1964, she and Robert “Bob” Bay had divorced and she had met Robert “Bobby” Lawrence. They married and had one child in 1964 – Darrell. Then tragedy struck again… Bobby passed away in a car accident in Mariposa in Feburary, 1967.
Sometime prior to the following, Darlene worked at the Northern Inyo Hospital, where her mother worked. Between the passing of Bobby and 1968/69, Darlene, with 4 children she was raising alone, had gone on welfare. But she wasn’t satisfied with that, so in 1968/69, she began working for Inyo County in the Welfare Department (they did call it Welfare back then, not Social Services like today). She eventually moved up the ladder, getting promotions and placed in charge of projects, like the ISAWS program. She retired in 2001 from the County as the Deputy Director of Social Services after 32 years of service.
The summer of 1973 brought big change to the family, and this is where stories from me will come in.
We gained a huge new family member (note – the car he is sitting on is the station wagon I will discuss below). He was out by the bus stop minding his own business. My brother Kenneth was brave enough to approach him, and a bond was set. We named him Hannibal. He used to actually ride the school bus with us. The bus driver thought he was awesome and he rode up front in a seat all his own. He loved all the kids. But where was he going after he got off the bus at school? No one knew. So my mom decided to follow him one day, and discovered he had an additional family, but one without kids. My mom approached the family and told them what the scoop was. We found out his real name was Brute, but he stopped responding to that name and would respond to Hannibal only. The other family saw the bond he had with us kids, and decided he should be ours. Thanks to our mom, we got the best dog in the world! We had others, of course, but none were like this guy.
Darlene met Tilford “Snipe” Landis through a cousin of Bobby, my dad. They snuck off to Nevada in the middle of the night and got married, Nevada “quick” style. In other words, they eloped. My sister, Cindy, busted them when they returned. Not long after, we all moved to Big Pine, on the reservation just behind the Big Pine school. Tilford, like my father, was Native American. Along with him came three step-siblings – Darla, Tilford “Junior” and Gilbert “Duane”. So counting the original four of us, my mom now had an additional three kids to take care of in addition to maintaining her job with the County. The one huge benefit that came from living on the reservation came from my mother – learning about the Native way and learning what I could about my own father. She encouraged me to learn about him as much as possible (to back up a moment, prior to moving to Big Pine, some cousins from my dad’s side lived on the reservation in Bishop. They were the Cramers. My mom took me to visit them. This was my first exposure to that side of my family). In the summer of 1974, she allowed me to go visit with my paternal grandmother, who planned a trip for the two of us to go to Palo Alto and visit with my aunt. This was my second (aside from my grandmother, that is) exposure to my dad’s side of the family. I will always be grateful to my mother for being open minded enough to let me learn my heritage.
An additional two children joined the family in 1976 (I think it was ’76) – Howard and William Eddy. They were related to Tilford, and we took them in as sort-of “foster” kids. They lived with us for a couple of years. One memory of Bill that really stands out as far as my mother is concerned is this – Bill had been out partying and had came home. He tried to sneak out again, but my mom was not going to have any of that. She and Bill went around and around with him trying to get passed her. After an hour or so, my mom finally told him he could go. The key to this was that all of the bars and stores where alcohol were accessible were closed. Bill learned a hard lesson that night – Do NOT mess with my mom! Darlene treated each of us as equal as possible, whether we were her natural kids, step kids or foster kids. During all of this, I was the youngest, and the only one without a natural father to hang with, so she was both mom and dad to me. She ensured I was well taken care of, family wise. Not spoiled, mind you. Rather, educated in the ways of life – Work hard and respect others. Appreciate what came before you.
One time, Tilford had taken the family station wagon to Lone Pine on one of his drinking binges. She went down there, got the car and left him there. The muffler was missing from the car. Back then, those old station wagons had large V8 engines in them. Now use your imagination a bit – Imagine a woman with a station wagon full of kids hauling butt down the highway with no muffler, aka sounding like a beefed up hot rod.
My grandmother on my mom’s side had moved to Wyoming a couple of years earlier, but in the summer of 1976, she and I went on a road trip to go visit. While on the road, I read a book called “The Amytiville Horror”. My mom had already read it. Just as I finished the book and closed the cover, she pointed out something to me on the right side of the road. I looked, and freaked out – There sat a house that looked similar to the one in the book. She got a kick out of that. It was through her that I learned to love horror, science fiction and superheroes. She encouraged me to use my imagination. It was a good time for us.
It was due to the drinking of Tilford that my mom and he divorced in 1978. We remained in the home we were all a part of, and Tilford moved into his new Tribal house on the same property. My mom actually owned the trailer we lived in, and she wasn’t going to give it up, as it was given to her by her step-sister as a “wedding” gift (her step-brother also had his wedding in the trailer before we got it). She and I were the last two, as everyone else either graduated high school, moved out (the step-siblings) or were in trouble with the law. Summer of 1978, just after the separation, my mom rented our home out and we moved back to Bishop. During my Freshman year of school, my mom could tell I hated it, as I missed all of my friends from Big Pine. So she sacrificed one more time on my behalf – We moved back into the trailer in Big Pine.
That was, in my opinion, a good move for the both of us. She began dating again. She had friends over. I remember a Halloween party she threw. My second oldest brother, Kenneth, was home, and had a friend with him that stayed a short while with us. Anyways, the party was a success, as it wasn’t for me or my brother, but for her and her friends. Us kids were just a part of the crowd. It was fun, and I enjoyed seeing my mom happy, something that until that point, I never realized had been missing for her. So it was time for me to encourage her to go have more fun. She began going out and trusting me enough to be at home by myself. Not like I’d get into any trouble or anything… oh no! Not me! She gave me a royally needed kick in the butt so I’d finish school after she found out how I spent my “by-myself-time”. I ended up joining the Military after school.
In 1983, I gave my mom one of the greatest presents she ever got – her first grandchild. She received 3 additional grandkids after that, two more from me and one from my sister. She was one very proud grandma!
Sometime prior to 1992, Darlene met Larry Peckham. She and he “dated” up until around 2007. In 1992, she sold the trailer and bought a new one, moving it onto some land in town that she had purchased. This land was across the street from the Town Hall. She had the new place put at ground level. The reason behind the new trailer and ground level was because she hoped to have her mother come live with her (due to failing health), and the new trailer had doorways wide enough for wheelchairs. Unfortunately, that idea did not come to fruition. In 1994, her mother passed away in Arivaca, AZ. My oldest brother and I accompanied her to the funeral. Then in 1995, a major blow happened – Her second eldest son, my second old brother, had passed away. She was devastated. At her behest, my brother and I traveled to Paradise, CA to retrieve his body so he could be buried next to his paternal grandparents in Big Pine.
The next few years were pretty uneventful for her. As noted above, in 2001 she retired from the County. After retirement, she got into woodworking and other crafts.
In 2008, she was diagnosed with terminal cancer. She was told by the doctors she had around 6 months to live. But she’d have one more devastating thing prior to her own death. Her daughter, Cindy, came down from Alaska to visit with her prior to her passing. Cindy fell ill and had to be taken to Renown Medical in Reno, NV. She passed away the 18th of December, 2008. But Cindy gave Darlene one last gift – Darlene had been studying for Jehovah’s Witness, and wanted to get baptized. Given that Darlene was bedridden at this time, it seemed like it was not going to happen. Cindy got the ball rolling where it was arranged for some medical personnel to pick up Darlene and take her to the place to be baptized. One week after Cindy passed, the baptism took place. Cindy fulfilled Darlene’s last wish.
On January 9th, 2009, Darlene Frach, aka Johnson, aka Bay, aka Lawrence, aka Landis, passed away.
You are missed, mom. And loved.