Lois Blythe, an Extraordinary Heritage of Love

An ordinary saint went home to heaven this week. Lois Larson Blythe looked like the Scandanavian she was: sturdy, strong-jawed, with busy hands and a firm will. She lived more than sixty years in the same community and was happy to be part of it. Her blue eyes could snap with humor, gentle with love, or flash a stern teacher-look that could make even a grown-up former student straighten in his seat.

The young preacher assisting at her memorial service remembered his first meeting with her. She was subbing for his regular teacher. He was five years old and had done something out of line. He felt a yank on his ear and looked up to see her looking down at him with “that” expression in her eye. She told him to mind his manners, and he obeyed immediately. But he knew she loved him.

Her husband Norman was the love of Lois’s life. When they married, she came to live on the Blythe family homestead in the Robe Valley. That’s where they raised their three children and spent most of their married life. When the valley men organized a volunteer fire department, Lois helped to organize a ladies’ auxiliary, the Robe Fire Belles and became a moving force in the fund raising activities that purchased much of the equipment needed for the fire department. She was a long-time member of the Granite Falls Christian and Missionary Alliance Church, where she was “Grandma Blythe” to the church’s children.  She was actively involved with the Granite Falls Historical Society and Granite’s beautiful new museum.

When she and Norman moved down the road to Granite Falls, Lois’s antique grand piano went along. She loved to sing and play the piano, and played for anyone who asked. She kept fresh-baked cookies on hand for the children and adults who stopped by to visit. She listened with her whole self, but when she spoke, people paid attention. Her nine grandchildren, always her pride and joy, knew Grandma was no one to fool with.

She planned her own memorial service, picking joyous, triumphant scripture passages and songs that beautifully expressed the faith she lived by. As she said of herself in her obituary, “Granite Falls is where she lived and heaven is now her home.” Lois Blythe might have been an ordinary type of saint, but she left an extraordinary heritage of love for others.

 Click for more about Lois’s piano: 

Tale of A Grand Piano

Growing up in the Robe valley back in the 1940s, we five Rawlins kids seldom felt the lack of nearby grandparents.

Instead, we had Verna and Will Blythe, cheerful neighbors who welcomed our frequent visits and invited us to call them “Aunt” and “Uncle.”

Sometimes Aunty Verna let us plink out tunes on the elegant, black piano that stood in a corner of their parlor. I never heard her play it so I assumed their daughter Helen had made music on it when she still lived at home. That piano seemed enormous. I often wondered about its history.

Helen had two cousins, Bob and Norman, who lived across the hay field. All three cousins married and raised families. I left Robe valley, never having visited in their homes. Norman and Lois Blythe moved to Granite Falls, where Norman died. Some years later, I went to visit Lois. There, filling much of her living room, was Aunty Verna’s ornately carved piano I’d last seen nearly fifty years earlier.

Lois told me its story. Her father-in-law, Fred Blythe, had two brothers. Their father died young and the oldest boy, our own “Uncle” Will, left school at age twelve to support his mom and siblings. In 1902, when Will was sixteen, he, his mother, ten-year-old Fred, and seven-year-old Rod moved by train from Michigan to Seattle. The piano had been a sixteenth birthday gift to his mother, Ella, in 1873. It also came on the train.

They removed the legs for transport by taking out the big wooden screws that fastened them to the body. The solid brass sounding board and the painted, hand-carved rosewood of the piano’s main section weighed close to 2000 pounds. Six men could barely carry it.

Lois knew that the train brought the piano as far as Hartford on the tracks of the old Monte Cristo-Everett railroad. From there it was hauled over the primitive road to Robe valley. Young Will built a home for the family, with the help of neighbors. The youngest son, Rod, learned to play the piano, but a few years later he went off to fight in WWI and died overseas.

Lois plays the beautiful old instrument now. Several years ago, when the lyre that holds the
pedals needed tightening, her son took it apart. He found a hand-carved space in the block beneath the lyre, and in it a key that locks the cover. Perhaps it was hidden there for safe-keeping when the piano arrived at its new home in the valley back in 1902 or 1903.

Attention to detail
was a hallmark of
the period.

The name in scrollwork on the front of the piano
reads RD Bullock, Jackson. The original rosewood
shows through the old paint.

The secret box is beneath the lyre.