By Naomi Hatch
Fay Stratton celebrated her 99th birthday on Oct. 24 with a party at the Carriage House in Snowflake.
“They had a big cake,” Fay said. “It was wonderful, everybody sang Happy Birthday, and the day was full of visits and phone calls. It was just a really good day.
“It was a fun one and one that I wanted for a long time. Why, I don’t know; it’s come and it’s gone and onto the next.”
Fay was born in Pine to Frank and Lucinda Leavitt Randall. She was the ninth of 12 children and all of them have passed away except her sister Irma. who is 105.
Fay had three younger siblings, but they lost a baby sister, so she was the baby girl. “I was always considered the baby girl,” she said.
Pine was a very small LDS community. Her dad was bishop or in the bishopric for 35 years, and her mother was a midwife. Their home, located across from the school and the church, was always the gathering place.
“I had wonderful parents, they were really good to all the kids. It was a good life, good family,” she said, noting that her brothers and sisters always got along very, very well, and they thought so much of each other. “We always lived quite close, not too far away, where we could go and visit real often.”
Fay recalled that a group of friends spent Halloween night taking apart a horse-drawn buggy that belonged to her dad, then rebuilt it on top of the school.
“Another Halloween we went to all the places in Pine…opened all the gates and drove all the cattle down to the school yard and locked the gates,” she said, explaining that everyone had a cow they milked morning and night. “When people got up to milk the cow, they couldn’t find them.
“We had lots of fun. We never did do anything really bad.”
Even so, Fay recalled that she almost didn’t get to graduate because some of the students took the school teacher’s car. “We were always into mischief,” she said.
She had to have appendix surgery when she was in school and back in those days it was pretty serious.
“They said they didn’t want me going back to school that year, so I missed that one year,” she recalled. The next year there were only two students in eighth grade, so they decided it wasn’t worth hiring a teacher and put them both in high school as freshmen, “so I graduated with the class I started school with.”
Following her graduation from high school, Fay moved to Winslow, where she went to work for JC Penney. “It was a larger place with lots of young people,” she noted.
In Winslow she met Ralph Harris. They were married and had four children. Ralph was working for Whiting Bros. In 1955, he delivered Christmas gifts to the service stations in California. On the way home, he was killed in a car accident. He was 55.
Fay moved to Holbrook, where she went to work at Whiting Bros. for years and years, “until my kids were raised.”
“Mom sewed our prom dresses, they were beautiful,” said Marjory Austin, Fay’s daughter who was visiting from Scottsdale. She added that if anyone in Holbrook needed a place to stay, they were always welcome in their home. Her mom would even sew a prom dress for a young girl who didn’t have one.
Fay served in the Young Women’s program for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for many years and chaperoned school functions. “She was the one that everyone in school wanted to be the chaperone, because Mom was the fun mom,” said Marjory.
While living in Holbrook and raising her children, Stratton served in the Southwest Indian Mission for the LDS church. There wasn’t a mission home there yet, so the district meetings were held in Holbrook. “We would have wall to wall missionaries on the floor,” said Fay.
In Holbrook she met Lynn Stratton, who lived in Snowflake. She had dated him while in high school one summer when she visited her sister in Snowflake.
They were married in 1966. With her four children and his four children they had a family of eight. “We had a wonderful marriage,” she said.
They sold the house in Holbrook and in 1967 built a home in Snowflake that was just east of the downtown church. Lynn passed away in 2005.
She remembers the many trips they took with Lynn’s brother Lorum and his wife Beulah, and Kay and Zona Hatch. They each had a camper, and took trips to New York, Canada and Alaska, as well as many camping trips in the White Mountains.
Fay recalled that there were two things they liked to do; one was camping in the White Mountains in the fall and the other was going to Prescott for the softball tournaments every year.
These three couples grew gardens together and helped one another. “It was just an ideal spot for them,” said Marjory.
When they married, all the kids were grown except Lynn’s son Steve. Fay remembers one Halloween when she bought a lot of pumpkins to decorate the front yard. When they had served their purpose, she asked Steve to toss them in the trash barrel. He did, but he missed with several of them and seeds went everywhere. The next year they grew pumpkins and entered them in the Navajo County Fair, winning first prize in three size categories.
“The two families always melded very well,” said Fay. “I loved his family and he loved mine.” He was the only grandfather the grandkids knew, and “Grandpa Lynn was a special grandpa,” she said.
Marjory noted that in her Mom’s family she is known as the tonic, “She just comes and fixes it and accepts. She is a wonderful mother…
“She’s a wonderful cook…We really miss Mom’s cooking.”
Fay retired at the age of 62 from her job at Whiting Bros. and Lynn retired from the paper mill the following year.
“That was when we really started traveling with our friends. We traveled so many, many places in the United States,” she said. “The United States has so many wonderful places to go see.”
Fay’s son, Monty Harris, lives in Snowflake. “I lost two daughters (Marian Harris DeWitt and Kay Harris) last summer,” she said.
“What is astounding to me is I have 21 great-great grandchildren and they just keep a coming,” she said. They didn’t have an accurate count of grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but Fay noted, “The biggest part of them live in Arizona, so I get to see them often.”
“I had a wonderful life, sad at times, but joyful at times; a wonderful family; a wonderful stepfamily. So I had a very good life,” said Fay.
“I still enjoy life. I’m 99 and if go farther, I’ll just have to take it.”
Fay has lost her sight and so spends time listening to sports on the radio. She has always loved sports and listens to every game. She also listens to books, having been an avid reader.
Fay loves company, too, so if you would like to visit with her at the Carriage House, she would love to have you.