Connie Ross was recently deemed, “The Best Grandma a girl could ask for,” and, on her birthday nonetheless! That is, at least, according to a Facebook post by her granddaughter Stephanie [Conrad] Davis–and the rest of her family agrees.
I recently talked with Connie, Stephanie, and her daughters, Shelby and Ally, over a pancake birthday breakfast. The group shared with me their memories, laughter, and a few tears as they celebrated their much-loved grandmother.
Some of Connie’s best parenting advice is: “When you bring children into this world– love them and take care of them. They are your priority. After all, you have them for such a short time–make the most of it.” And, that is just what she has spent her life doing.
Shortly after moving to the Black Hills in 1964, Connie’s husband was involved in a tragic work-related accident, leaving her to raise their 5 children (all under the age of 9). Connie had no relatives in the area. But, the family’s pastor made one suggestion: “Wait one year before making any big decisions, especially about moving.” So, Connie and the children stayed put. As the year came to a close, the family knew this was their home and all wanted to stay. Connie recalls, “As it turns out, God was in all of it. He provided and walked with us the whole time. We could not have done it without Him.”
Almost forty-four years ago Connie married Ken Ross, and they still reside in the same house all these years later. Connie remembers, “After my first husband passed away my son asked if we had to get rid of his motorcycle. I said no; we could keep it. Over the years, the kids had a love for riding and fixing up that motorcycle in memory of their Dad.”
Connie continued, “We spent many years with a dirt track as our front yard–I can’t imagine what our neighbors must have thought.” From dirt tracks, to Easter egg hunts, to a giant moose head named Bullwinkle, the Ross’s house is a place everyone in their family loves to visit.
Stephanie jokingly warns us, “Don’t let Grandma fool you with her dirt track yard talk, she is a wonderful neighbor. I remember her table full of welcome packets. She needed everyone to feel welcome–and at home–in our community.” Connie worked for Rapid City’s New Neighbors Welcome Service, where she visited new members of our town. Other involvements that are near and dear to her heart include helping start Love Inc.’s Clothe-A-Kid program and delivering Meals on Wheels each week to senior citizens in need. Connie laughs, “Some of the people I deliver to are younger than me!”
Stephanie shares that the yard, once a dirt track, is now a beautiful landscape and flower garden. Her grandma has helped she and her sister, Beth Baker, transplant some of the flowers into their own yards. Shelby, Connie’s great-granddaughter, says with a smile, “Every spring when our flowers bloom, all we can think about is Grandma. Those flowers are a part of her, and they always remind us how much she loves us and how much we love her.” Her sister Ally enthusiastically nodded her head in agreement.
I asked Connie what she wants her grandkids and great grandkids to know above all else. She took a moment and then replied, “I want my kids, grandkids, and everyone else, for that matter to know that Jesus loves them! And, Grandma loves them too!”
When someone plants themselves into your life, and the lives of others around you, their legacy will bloom and live on in you for years to come. Connie’s life is a great example of this. The love she shares with her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and the community is evident with every word spoken at the breakfast table.
Putting the grand in grandparent may be just a normal part of Connie’s day, but the effect she has on those around her is greater than she will ever know.