Sunday, February 16, 2014

Sentimental Sunday: Elizabeth "Lizzie" Wanda Guokas Johnson Sayers, 1901-1980

This is a picture of my maternal grandfather, Charles Peter Guokas Jr. (1903-1967), with his big sister, Elizabeth "Lizzie" Wanda Guokas Johnson Sayers (1901-1980).   Lizzie looks to be a young teenager here, and my grandfather looks like he's about age 12, so I think this photo was taken about 1915, probably at the family home at 1717 Shearn.

Lizzie was born February 1, 1901, in Texas, probably in Houston, and probably at the family's home at that time, 1314 Railroad.  She was the first of six children of Lithuanian immigrants Charles Peter Guokas Sr. (1863-1939) and his second wife, Elizabeth (Elžbieta) Banevich (Benevičiūtė, 1875-1929).  She was baptized on February 17, 1901 (along with her first cousin Adam Guokas, born the same day) at Annunciation Catholic Church in Houston.  She had her First Communion and Confirmation at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Houston.

Lizzie shows up on page 487 of the 1917 Morrison & Fourmy Houston City Directory as a "student Massey B[usiness] College."  The following year, she is on page 499 of the directory as "typist Harris County Abstract Co."  Both years, she is living in the family home at 1717 Shearn.

On August 23, 1919, Lizzie married Jesse Wayne Johnson (1900-1929).  According to his September 12, 1918, World War I draft registration card, Jesse lived just a few blocks away at 1613 Crockett, and was a clerk with the Sunset Central Railroad office in Houston.  This might have had something to do with how they met, as Lizzie's father was a fireman with the Houston & Texas Central Railroad.

According to Houston: Where Seventeen Railroads Meet the Sea (1913) by Jerome H. Farbar, pages 8-9:
Houston is the railroad center of the Southwest, seventeen railroads entering the city and making their terminus. Over one hundred passenger trains operate in and out of Houston daily. Houston is the largest railroad center and deep-water port combined in the South. Houston is general headquarters for the Sunset-Central Lines (Southern Pacific lines in Louisiana and Texas)... 
The only general office building of Southern Pacific Lines is at Houston—the nine-story, half-million dollar general offices of the Sunset-Central Lines. A modern half-million dollar hospital is maintained in Houston by the Southern Pacific. 
The shops of the Sunset-Central Lines and of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad are in Houston. Nearly 2,500 men are employed in the great shops of the Texas & New Orleans Railroad, and over 500 men in the shops of the Houston & Texas Central.

Lizzie and Jesse had three sons: Jesse Wayne Johnson Jr. (1920–2005), Ralph Sanford Johnson (1922–1997), and Kenneth Marvin Johnson (1926–1930). Kenneth died at age 3 and a half from encephalitis, likely following a childhood disease like measles or mumps, for which there was no vaccination in those days.

Kenneth's death occurred just a little over a year after the death of his father from tuberculosis.  According to his death certificate, Jesse Sr.'s tuberculosis had been of several years duration, and he was living at the home of his parents at the time of his death.  He is listed as married on the death certificate, but Lizzie is not listed as his wife, and Jesse's father was the informant. 

Lizzie then married Philip Edgar Sayers (1901-1972), on June 7, 1929.  Philip's father was the half-brother of Joseph Draper Sayers, who was governor of Texas from 1899 to 1903.   Philip was a Harris County Commissioner from at least 1951 to at least 1966, for Precinct 3.  Before that, he was manager of the Hardy Street Feed Store (1937-1940) and a poultryman (1930), the owner of a chicken farm.

Lizzie and Philip had two sons:  Thomas Green Sayers (1930–1991) and Philip Edgar Sayers Jr. (1932–2013). Lizzie's five sons made up almost half of my Guokas great-grandparents' grandchildren.

Although Lizzie and Philip were living on rural Westfield Road in the 1930 and 1940 Censuses (between Hardy Road and what became I-45), the family appeared to have another home as well.  Their residence is listed as 118 Fairview in Houston at Kenneth Johnson's death in May 1930 and in the 1937 city directory.  In 1942, they lived at 810 Avenue of Oaks.  In the 1951 city directory, they are residing at 911 Melbourne, and Philip is listed as the Precinct 3 County Commissioner.

By the time of Philip's death from lung cancer in May 1972, they lived at 16710 Waycreek Road in Houston, and this is also where Lizzie was living when she died on April 10, 1980, from respiratory and renal failure and colon cancer.  She outlived all her full siblings.  Lizzie had 11 grandchildren, at least 8 great-grandchildren, and at least 18 great-great-grandchildren.

I remember seeing Aunt Lizzie a few times while growing up, sometimes with Uncle Phil (such as at my grandfather's funeral), at various family events, such as my maternal aunt's silver jubilee as a nun in June 1974.

Lizzie, her husbands Philip Sayers and Jesse Johnson, and her son Kenneth Johnson are all buried in section 10 at the Rosewood Cemetery in Humble, Harris County, Texas.

© Amanda Pape - 2014 - click here to e-mail me.

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