Lloyd Benjamin Lawton
Written by: Lori Rienhardt
March 13, 2023
My Dad’s name was Lloyd Benjamin Lawton. He was born in Pamelia, New York on August 27 1905. His family lived on the family dairy farm. When he was six, his family moved to Saskatchewan, Canada and then into Montana where they homesteaded. They returned to NYS when he was fourteen.
That same year he was driving a team of oxen and when he cracked a whip in the air over them, the top of the whip came back and hit him in the left eye causing him to lose sight in it. Later on when Dad was in his thirties, he developed an infection in that eye and had to have the eye removed to keep it from spreading to the other eye and possibly losing sight in that eye too.
Since he was 45 when I was born, I always knew him as having only one eye. In addition to helping raise a large family of 13 kids and running a family dairy farm, he also worked at jobs off the farm – at the paper plant and at the local GLF (better known in recent times as Agway). When Dad was working at the paper plant he had some friends who would send cookies home for me.
One day when I was three, I saw Dad come in the driveway and raced after him to see what kind of treats he brought home for me. Dad parked the truck, then decided he was too close to something so backed up a little. Somehow, he managed to run over my left hand. It was broken in seven places and mangled some, but good old Doc Thompson managed to put it back together and except for a few scars it was as good as new.
When hula hoops became popular in the 50s my two sisters each got one. They were too big for me, so Dad made me one out of black plastic hose. I felt special he would do that for me. Dad played the harmonica and accordion. He would get it out in the evenings sometimes and play away – he loved the old Stephen Foster songs and an old song called Little Brown Jug.
One day while in his 20s Dad and his cousin Ralph were tearing down an old barn and the barn collapsed. Ralph was killed. Ralph was married to my mother’s sister Grace and they had three little boys.
Dad always wore overalls. I never saw him in anything but overalls and a t-shirt. My Mom even buried him in overalls because that was the way he would look more natural. Dad had his first heart attack at the age of 53, he had a major stroke at the age of 61 and passed away at the age of 69 from a heart attack. I was 16 when Dad had that major stroke. When he came home from the hospital, he had a bed in the living room for a while so he wouldn’t have to go upstairs. Mom gave him a bell to ring if he needed anything. One time in the night I heard the bell ring loud and clear. But then I began to doubt myself- did I really hear that bell or was I dreaming? I didn’t want to wake my mother if it was just a dream, but I was scared of the dark and hated the idea of going downstairs. I gathered up all my courage and slowly crept downstairs and into the living room. There Dad lay with his arm stretched out and the bell lying across his hand. I called his name several times, but he didn’t answer. I went tearing back upstairs and into my mother’s room to let her know the bell had rung and Dad didn’t answer me. She went down, shook his shoulder and called his name. He woke up. I felt kind of foolish. But Dad said he had been dreaming about that bell and wondering if anyone would hear him. So, then I felt a little better – I had made Dad feel safer.
When I was married at 19, my dad was too Ill to go all the way to Syracuse to the wedding. I wanted to see him on my special day. So, after the reception, Rick and I drove to Ogdensburg, and I visited with Dad on my special day.
He loved to sit in the rocking chair by the kitchen window and watch what was going on in the world. Our family dog, Chucky, would often lie in his lap and watch out the window with him. Dad passed away exactly as he would have wanted to – in the barn doing farm chores. While reaching for the switch on the barn cleaner over his head, he had a heart attack. My brother, Fred, found him lying between two cows that never touched him the slightest bit.