Fifty-five years ago today, a woman named Corrillie Spencer passed away when she was eighty-six years old. She was the second wife of Richard Allen Spencer (1881-1973), my great grandfather. Recently I have begun to research Corrillie’s life. She was known to my family and many others as “Aunt Rillie” and I had no idea the many trials Rillie had faced. The records have revealed a challenging life in which she outlived three husbands and at least one child. Here is what I have discovered of her story thus far.
One of the first rules of genealogy, long neglected by genealogists is to write down your own stories. On this German Unity Day, as falling leaves and temperatures finally reach Alabama, memories of my Year of Firsts, thirty (!) years ago flood my mind. But the beginning of the story, like so many tales, requires me to go back a year earlier when I was in the spring of my fourth year of undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri in Columbia. A wanderlust had invaded my soul at an early age, but financial and academic limitations made me believe I could not afford to study abroad during my undergraduate days. As I was talking to my advisor and German mentor, Dr. Dennis Mueller, I mentioned I had dreamed of going to Germany for many years. He looked at me rather quizzically and said simply “why don’t you?”