Our community has lost an American original. The grand lady of music, Ethel V. Jeffirs, has died.
A lifetime Plymouth resident, Ethel was 102-years-and ten-months-old when she died of natural causes in Miller’s Merry Manor, Plymouth, at 11:20 p.m. on Sunday, May 15, 2005.
Born north of LaPaz, Ind., on July 24, 1902, Ethel was the daughter of Robert C. and Dora A. Kunz McChesney.
She graduated as Valedictorian with the LaPaz High School class of 1920. “Of course,” she said laughing, in an interview three years ago, “ there were only three of us in the class and the other two were a little slow.”
After high school, Ethel worked at an insurance company in South Bend, living with an aunt during the week and coming home on the Indiana Motor Bus for weekends.
The driver and part-owner of the bus company was a young, handsome Edmund Jeffirs. “He made eyes at me in the rear view mirror,” Ethel said. They fell in love and married on June 14, 1928, in St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, Plymouth. Ed died on February 23, 1975.
She was a loving and caring mother and homemaker for their three children: Avalon, now deceased; Michael and Rita.
Ethel had a wonderful sense of humor and she and Jeff loved to entertain the neighborhood children. On the front porch of their large brick home on S. Michigan St. in Plymouth, the Jeffirs would host a Halloween party every year for the neighborhood children. Then on Memorial Day, everyone who marched in the parade to the cemetery would be invited to their home for lunch.
She was a fine musician in her younger days and at the age of 100, she started playing the mouth harp again. She kept her harmonica in a bedside drawer at Miller’s. She said she did that to increase her lung capacity which had been impaired by years of heavy smoking. “I long wanted to stop,” she said – which she did – after gall bladder surgery when she was 70 years old.
She always played the piano and for ten years – in the 1960s through the 1970s, she gave accordion lessons to as many as 60 students at the former Shemberger’s Music Store in downtown Plymouth. She had a great appreciation for all kinds of music and enjoyed Lawrence Welk and Myron Florin for many years.
As a performer, Ethel played her Cordovox accordion in a little band headed by Manferd Houghton. They performed polkas, waltzes, jazz — every kind of music.
A charter member of Delta Theta Tau sorority, Ethel was active in the group for many years. She loved to cook and was an expert bridge player, playing often until just a few years ago when her eyesight, due to macular degeneration, began to seriously fail. When she had partially lost some of her vision and was still living in her home, she would use a huge magnifying glass to see the oversized cards.
Ethel belonged to St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church since 1928 where she was a member of the Altar Rosary Society.
Her son, Michael J. and his wife, Beverly Jeffirs, Plymouth, and her daughter, Rita L. Jeffirs, Park Forest, Ill., survive her death along with 15 grandchildren, 38 great-grandchildren and five great-great-grandchildren.
Her grandchildren are Linda Holtzclaw, Elkhart; Edmund Weidner, Naples, Fla.; Charlon Gruber-Brown Lutz, Fla.; Marlene Minker, Hamlet; Michael Jeffirs, Greenwood, Ind.; Dana Corrigan, Westlake, Ohio; Christine Greig, Northville, Mich.; Douglas Jeffirs, Aurora, Ill.; Kent Jeffirs, Crown Point, Ind.; Matt Jeffirs, Lawrenceville, Georgia and Dan Weidner, Mark Jeffirs, Greg Jeffirs, Janis Holiday and Laura Kruyer, all of Plymouth.
She was preceded in death by her husband, her daughter, Avalon Rose (Weidner) Lesch and a grandson, Stephen P. Jeffirs.
Two brothers, Elmer and Glenn McChesney and a sister, Doris Rouch have also died.
Friends will be welcomed to celebrate the long and lovely life of Ethel Jeffirs from 4 to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17, 2005, in the Johnson-Danielson Funeral Home, 1100 N. Michigan St., Plymouth. A Rosary will be prayed at 4:30 p.m.
Friends may also call at the funeral home after 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 18, 2005, prior to the 11 a.m. funeral services in St. Michael Roman Catholic Church, 615 N. Center St., Plymouth. The Rev. Father William Kummer will officiate at the Mass of Christian Burial.
Burial will be in New Oakhill Cemetery by the side of her beloved husband.
Memorial gifts in Ethel’s memory may be made to St. Michael Church or School or to a charity of the donor’s choice.