When Stella Leigh-Anne Ramirez was born on Aug. 3, little did she know she would be coming into the world with a family of four other generations to greet her.
“Where do the years go? And look what all’s happened. Charles and I started something, didn’t we?” Donna Adell, Stella’s great-great-grandmother who is 81, said of she and her husband. The pair moved to Franklin County in 1958.
“At that time, he was teaching out in a two-room country school, Centropolis, and he had taught prior to that in Coffey County,” Donna Adell said. “But he didn’t like it, so he went to work for Town & Country for 22 years.”
For 30 years while living in Ottawa, Donna worked as a legal secretary for SRS, and has now been retired 17 years. She and Charles had three children together — Mark, Stan and Cindy. Now, she has nine grandchildren, 13 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.
“I’m a great-great grandma, and I still have a problem wrapping that around my head,” she said.
Donna’s son Mark, married Kris Adell, 58, who was born and raised in Pomona, in 1975. The two later divorced, but have four sons together. After traveling through work when they were young adults, Kris Adell settled back in Pomona. Their second child, Michael, is the father of 21-year-old Katelynn Ramirez, Pomona.
Ramirez is the mother of newborn Stella, who was born at Ransom Memorial Hospital. 1301 S. Main St., Ottawa, at 8 pounds, 9 ounces and 20 1/4 inches.
Having five generations of a family still living is rare, Donna Adell said of the legacy she helped create.
“Back in my day, I didn’t know but maybe one or two [generations], the grandparents,” she said. “I think it’s a great privilege and a joy now for these little ones to have — my goodness, we’ll get Stella confused — all these grandparents.”
The family has passed down through generations a emphasis on homecooking, and most prominently, canning foods.
“I took care of the kids, and I did a lot of canning and basic homemaking,” Kris Adell said. “We’ve always had a garden and [we] took that on from the older generation. The first time I ever had my first really big garden, I stood and cried and called my grandma, and said, ‘I didn’t even know how hard this really was,’ because the stuff doesn’t go away. It doesn’t quit.
“I think our thing is just working together as a family, and doing the things like cooking, and sewing, and providing, not just providing for the first generation, but the second, third, fourth and fifth.”
Marsha Alexander, 64, is Ramirez’s maternal grandmother and a great-grandmother to the newborn. Also a Pomona native, she said gardening is something not just on the paternal side.
“I was probably in my 20s when I started canning,” Alexander said. “I was never into it when I was a little girl, but I learned a lot from my mother-in-law. This year, it’s been an awful garden because it won’t stop, the garden’s just been growing like crazy.”
Recipes continuing through the generations include two types of relish, including a hamburger relish, and homemade salsa.
“One summer, when we had ... two teenage boys at home, and a house full of teenage boys all the time, we canned 90 pints of salsa,” Kris Adell said. “And everybody helped. They all can attest, even the ones that aren’t blood relatives. That’s how I got the name ‘Mama Kris,’ from all the boys.”
The cooking and canning tradition will hopefully continue through Ramirez, her grandmothers say. She attended Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Seattle, for two years, graduated in 2016 and moved back home.
“When she was a couple years old, I have a picture of her standing in a chair at our counter, and she’s peeling tomatoes,” Kris Adell said. “She’s always helped me in canning and cooking, pie-making. So that’s what we’ve been able to pass along is good homemaking, good food, canning and sewing.”
When she returned from culinary school, Ramirez was working for Wheatfields Bakery in Lawrence.
“I did want to open up a bakery, but I do want to focus on my family, and maybe do that down the road now,” she said.
Because family is so important, Ramirez also plans on staying in the Pomona area with her husband, Dominick Ramirez, and their daughter.
“We want to stay around here so [Stella] can know her family because I’ve been so lucky to have so many grandparents,” Ramirez said. “I want her to experience that.”