The Life & Times of Helen Doumas 

 nee Lucy Jenelle Jennings  (1911 - 2005)




















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June 20, 2005   Lydia Avery Thomas Stevig, sister-in-law of Arthur Doumas, son of Jenelle/Helen

"Avery - Doumas Links"


My memories of Helen Doumas -- I first saw her back in 1950 or 51.  I was with my sister, Ruth, downtown on a hot summer day.  She said we had to go by the Mayflower Restaurant,  and I thought that was strange because it was in the middle of the afternoon.  Who needs to go to a restaurant that time of day, I thought.  She said Art is going to be there. I said, "Oh, that explains it."  Well, I was so impressed with his mother and the Mayflower Restaurant.  I had already met Art, and even though my approval was not considered, I very much approved of him.  Mrs. Doumas  was the hostess. She was very gracious to everyone and asked me if I would like a Coke and when she brought it, I reached for my billfold to pay.  "No, no", she said.  Now, that was a very positive impression for a teenager.  I thought she was such a pretty woman. The restaurant was cool and an oasis from the summer heat and hot sidewalks.  We sat in a booth and several friends of Art & Ruth were there.  They were a little older than I, and at that age that made a big difference.  I was very quiet and just taking in everything.  If my memory is correct, there were ceiling fans and there were plants in the window ledge and it was so cool, literally and figuratively. 


I remember taking friends to Kenmore and having her as our tour guide.  I remember admiring the sweaters and caps she knitted,  and admiring her herb garden.  She took me on a personal tour not many years ago.  She was an extraordinary lady.


I have other memories of going to 709 Hanover  --  one is when Art & Ruth, Bill, Chris and friends were there one evening, Mr. Doumas was playing Greek songs on the record player and dancing with us. I liked the music and the dancing and thought how fun it was. Then there was another time, I think when Art was home from VPI, we were all there and a flying squirrel got in the house.  We were convulsing with laughter because the squirrel was outwitting the guys, who were trying to get it out of the house.  They tried to hit it to the floor with the broom as it flew from the top of the draperies of one window to the other or to the chandelier.  They ended up throwing the broom at it as it flew back and forth.  I was worried that Mrs. Doumas would come home and find the entire dining room torn up.  They did get the best of the squirrel, but it took a long time.  I'll have to ask Bill if he remembers this.


I have been thinking about how the Doumas family and the Avery family were linked in so many ways.  To begin with there was the romance and marriage of  my sister Ruth and your Uncle Art.  They are the parents of my two nieces, Melissa and Lydia Kimberly ("Kim"), and of my nephew Charlie (Charles Arthur Doumas.)  They of course are very special to me.  Then there is the link between my deceased husband Ellsworth Linwood Thomas, Jr. (Buddy) who was a friend of both Art and Ruth which led to a romance between Buddy and me.  Buddy, was also a friend of John Allison, husband of Christine Doumas.  They shared the same type of career field -- Road Building.  John asked Buddy to come to Indianapolis to consider taking a position with the then company, Fleck, Quebe and Reid.  Buddy accepted the position, and we moved to Indianapolis in November of 1959 with our four-year old Ellsworth Linwood Thomas III, "Lin" and our almost two-year old Nolie (Vinola Elizabeth), and expected third child Matt (Matthew Avery) who was born in Indianapolis May 9, 1960. So we had many ties. Oh yes, there's another link.  My very good friend in high school, Ann Strickler married your Uncle Bill.  I introduced them as you may know.  And I was so glad to see you all at Bill's and Ann's 50th wedding anniversary and to see all of their children, Jennifer, Mark, and Beth and to see the grandchildren.



June 13, 2005   Steve Jennings - 45-year old nephew, son of Sam Jennings, brother of Jenelle/Helen


About 4-5 years ago, Aunt Jenelle's gardener, Herman Stanley, became ill and no longer could work her yard and gardens.  About the same time, I was helping my cousin, Mary Rangos Stram put in a garden and plant trees and bulbs in her yard.  Aunt Jenelle found out and asked Mary if I would be willing to be her gardener for awhile and get things back in shape.  I was reluctant at first, because I only had weekends and maybe a few weeknights to get my own things done.  After her persistence, I finally said I would at least come over and look at things.  After going over to her house, I fell in love with the place.  I stated doing one section of the yard at a time and got things looking pretty nice.  This makeover took about two summers of hard work.


I really enjoyed working in her yard because it was a beautiful and quiet place.  She was happy with the results, which made me happy as well.  We would talk awhile after I finished working.  My daughter, Stephanie, would come over sometimes and play the piano for her while we talked.


While growing up, I never saw my Aunt Jenelle very much.  I am very grateful that I had the opportunity to spend time with her in later years.  I have a few plants in my yard now, that Aunt Jenelle gave to me.  They will always remind me of her when they bloom every year.



June 4, 2005   Beth Doumas Smallridge, younger daughter

of Bill Doumas, who was the younger son of Jenelle/Helen


There are so many memories!


I was visiting Virginia in the summer of 2000 or 2001.  Grandma wanted me to help her in the garden.  Did I mention it was summertime?  The garden looked great to me, but she said it needed some rearranging.  I thought I’d be pulling weeds or something.  No, I was moving Boxwoods.  And I don’t mean from this part of the yard to another.  I mean moving Boxwoods 1 foot to the left, or six inches to the right!  It was so hot and muggy but I kept on!  Finally, when I thought I had reached my limit, Grandma said, “Now, put that shovel against that tree.  Go in the house and get 2 beers, and meet me in the gazebo.”  I did as I was told!


The last time I saw Grandma, we had been talking about me having a baby and she broke into song!  She sang several lullabies, one of which was Rock-a-by-baby.  I had never heard her sing but she was great and knew all the words!


In her most recent years, Grandma would reminisce about her siblings.  The story I remember hearing most often was about Ida May making mud pies and being so mad because no one would eat them!  Grandma would just laugh and laugh over that!


She would also tell the story of calling her great-grandson Forest, Forest-taki, for ‘little Forrest’ in Greek.  He would get so mad that that was NOT his name!  But she got a real kick out of it!


She also remembered her great-granddaughter Linnea saying to her, “You’re not my Grandma!”.  Grandma was confused for a moment until Linnea said, “You’re my GREAT Grandma!” and they both laughed and hugged!  Grandma loved telling that story!




June 2, 2005     Katie Rangos, younger daughter of

Ida May Jennings Rangos, who was a sister of Jenelle/Helen


"My Boss Visits Kenmore"


We all know how much working at Kenmore meant to my Aunt Jenelle.  How many years did she do so – 20!  My Mother sent so many people to Kenmore for tours over the years, so when Jenelle visited Mother, she always told her about the interesting people she had seen that day.


One afternoon, she was particularly excited about a tour she had given.  My boss, Peyton, and his daughter, Scarlett, and friend were on it.  They had driven down from Falls Church to sightsee in Fredericksburg and had taken me up on my suggestion to visit Kenmore.  This turned out to be fun for me because I got to hear about this from both my Aunt and Peyton.  It seemed they sized each other up which was very much like my Aunt and quite like Peyton.  I recently told Mary how she talked about the twinkle in Peyton’s eye and Mary said yes – she got that right!  Peyton truly enjoys life!  I did not know how much I appreciated this man until he retired about a year ago.  He is an extraordinary individual who will walk in a room, meet everyone, and walk out remembering their names.  On his desk, he had three rolodexes and counting.  So from him, I heard about “Mrs. Domose” (that is how he pronounced her name!)  He told me she gave a very thorough tour but perked up tremendously at the end when he introduced himself and daughter and told her he was my boss.  He said she was quite unhappy to be hear she had another tour (and no other guides were available) so did not have time to talk further!  Thank you Kenmore!




May 29, 2005     Melissa Avery Doumas Gowin DeBolt, older daughter of Art Doumas, older son of Jenelle/Helen


These are many snippets of memories of Melissa's.  Some when she was very, very young and living at 709.


"I remember a yellow brick house and tiled roof.  Was my first home.  Was 709 Hanover.  I was first-born grandchild and therefore the first grand-daughter.  I had a Demitasse cup and spoon and saucer.  I sat by the fireplace and had a cigar and sherry [with Grand-daddy?] in a little chair, when small.  I was all dressed up in a "glass dress" with a blanket.  I threw the blanket in the fire, and then went on to suck my thumb with a pillowcase.


I played house in the basement, which had a memorabilia of Doumas siblings and Jennings cousins.  I played in the basement where the piano was.  I walked on the stone walk outside.  I fell on my knees on the shale stepping stones in the backyard.  I cut my knee and bled very red - lots of blood.  everyone told me to ignore the wound, lest I fall in love with my blood.  I loved "red"!  I remember the garden; it had a strong fragrance I loved.  Used to love to see the sundial in the backyard.  I felt like a princess when I slept in Gramma's canopy bed.


I rode in the Cadillac often.  I tried to sit on the fold-down arm-rest so I could sit and look out of the windshield.  Gramma wore "Here's My Heart" Avon perfume.  Always loved the way she smelled.  I slid down the banister of the stairs, and just about wrecked my bottom doing so.  It hurt.  Gramma knitted a lot and made me beautiful dresses.  She would put "smocking" on the bodices of the dresses. 


Had a white Christmas in 1957.  The most breautiful Christmas tree I've ever seen.  Amy & John B. were there too.  Bubble lights and sugar bulbs were on the tree - lots of twinkling lights.  Christine curled Amy's hair and it stayed fixed.  Had special dinners in large diningroom.  Ate from fine china, and drank from Rosepoint crystal and real silver flatware. Blue Willow tableware was the everday dishes pattern.  Enjoyed dinners in the nook by cellar door.  Greek lemon chicken and cafe-style with candles.


There was a domed, 8-day clock on the mantle of fireplace and a statue of small dog was at the hearth.  A glider swing was on the large front porch.  It had statues of lions on the brick stairway to the front door.  Brick steps curved down to the apartment in the basement, with built-in bed and booth in the kitchen.  we liked to play waitress there.  I got to sleep in Gramma's bed, and take naps with Doondee in the afternoon.


Baby pictures were on the wall at the bottom of the stairway.  Christine is young girl, Uncle Bill and Dad as a baby and toddler.  Large mirror on the bureau at the foyer hall.  Candle-shaped light fixtures on wall going to upstairs.  House was very classy in its decor.  I saw Jennifer for the first time visiting Fredericksburg.  She was very small and new.  Susie Boxley "Doondee" and Uncle Bill were always here at the house.


My brother Charlie and I got a little table and chairs.  I went to the train station every weekend, and got ice cream from Doondee.  I found a bird egg.  It broke.  Had a yoke in it.  I loved hydrangeas, and loved to pick flowers, especially small roses.  I drank Retsina and Mavrodaphne wines.  Ate feta cheese and calamata olives.


Gramma got Baby Tim drunk at 8 mos. old.  Dickey Gowin & I had dinner and drinks at Uncle Carroll Jennings' Cellar Door.  I was 18 years old.  I visited her as often as Dickey and I could - going from Maryland to Fredericksburg.  Saw a lot of the Avery side of the family too."




May 29, 2005   from Mark Doumas, son of Bill Doumas,

who was the younger son of Jenelle/Helen


"I have many wonderful memories of my grandmother, Helen Doumas. Our road trip in the summer of 1973 stands out as one of the best. For several glorious weeks, grandmother joined us for a 5000 mile driving trip of the western USA. This was the summer that I learned to drive and grandmother taught Beth to tie her shoes, snap her fingers and whistle.

There were six of us on this trip: Bill, Ann, Jennifer (age 14), me (age 17), Beth (age 6) and grandmother (in her early 60's, but who's counting). We were driving a Plymouth Fury III and for the life of me, I can't figure out how we all fit in that car. I recall doing most of the driving and Dad would have been in the front passenger seat. Somehow, mom, Jennifer, Beth and grandmother were squeezed into the back seat. The trunk was crammed with suit cases and I believe there was a luggage carrier on the top of the car too. The car handled like a barge and we must have looked like a scene from a modern day "Grapes of Wrath".

We drove from Lake Jackson, west through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona  and in to California to see our Doumas cousins. Along the way, I remember a couple of funny things grandmother did. During a particularly long stretch of driving through Death Valley, we stopped to take care of "necessities". We found a rather forlorn old store that had seen better days selling souvenirs. There weren't any cars and the place was closed. Still, grandmother insisted that the call of nature was ringing loudly. We watched her disappear around the back of the building. In a few seconds she re-appeared, running full throttle for the car with a rather large dog in close pursuit. I never saw her move as fast as she did that day. The dog eventually broke off the chase and grandmother made it back to the car without further incident. We started discussing how to handle the call of nature and she told us she no longer needed to "go"!

Later that evening, we stopped for the night in Colton California.... just outside of Los Angeles. We had dinner at a small French restaurant. Meal orders were placed and the waiter left the traditional basket of dinner rolls at our table. We enjoyed a great dinner and in typical Helen fashion, I saw her dump all the extra dinner rolls into her ample purse just before the waiter came to clear the plates. The real surprise is what happened next. The waiter brought a huge bowl of fresh apples, oranges bananas and pears for dessert. We each ate one piece, leaving the bowl still mostly full of fruit. However, as we were walking out of the restaurant, I took a look back at our table and noticed that the fruit bowl was absolutely empty! I also noticed grandmother lugging a purse that was now bulging with the dinner rolls and the fruit. We enjoyed fresh fruit for the next several days!

I like to think that despite grandmother's lifelong pursuit of the finer things in life, she still carried a bit of her "country" upbringing. In that summer of '73 she showed us how to fight off dogs to take care of necessities and how to eat off the land."




May 21, 2005    Amy Allison, daughter of

Christine Doumas Conlin, daughter of Jenelle/Helen


"I have so many memories of Grandma [whom I called "Mee-Maw" for about the first 10 years of my life], that it would literally fill a volume, like those old record-books that one finds in old law libraries.  I spend many summers in Fredericksburg at 709 with Grandma.  I thought F'burg had only one climate since I mostly was there summers, when everything was in bloom and the mimosa trees and boxwood gave off their fragrances! But then I quickly learned they had winters just like Indiana when my family was there over Thanksgiving or Christmas. 


I remember that inside the house - it was very ornate and beautiful.  I learned when I got older that Grandma and Grand-daddy used to go to a lot of auctions, and acquired some beautiful pieces of furniture and decorative articles there.  I remember the "sun parlor" as it was called - had 1 or 2 model airplanes attached to the wall - either black or red or both in color.  I was deathly afraid of those planes.  I had a little rocking chair like Melissa did - but I think it ended up in Indiana.  I remember Melissa's, though - it was still at the house [I think] at my last visit.


Very young - I remember playing in the rose garden.  It had not grown to the magnificence that it was to become in the 1970's, 1980's and 1990's and early 2000's.  I remember my brother John and I digging in that garden one hot summer day, and actually unearthing some old musket ball shells !  It was really neat.  Many, many times during the summer, Grandma and I would pile into the Cadillac and got off to see Nancy Lee Reed, the Virvoses, Carroll Jennings, Rhodessa, Ida May - in the huge, equally ornate house of hers & Gus's -, John Kasamias' restaurants, Carroll's "The Cellar Door".  She and I gallavanted everywhere [as she called it].  I remember one night, she and I walked downtown to see the movie "Doctor Zhivago".  We walked home to 709.  It was LATE.  Things sure were different back in the 60's in Fredericksburg. 


I remember as I got older, I was an avid reader.  I would read my mother's books that SHE would read out of the glass bookcases in the livingroom.  I loved to open the doors and smell the mustiness of the old books.  I also would check books out of the library in Fredericksburg.  And read a lot of them.  Now, Grandma had a chaise-lounge in her bedroom.  I would lie/sit on it and read by the hour.  I would often have the air-conditioning running.  It was the only one that cooled the house at that time.  I would walk up Hanover to the then-store called Freeman's at the top of the hill where Little Page St. was.  I would by Sweet-Tarts and eat them while I was reading my books - until my tongue tingled. Grandma had a glass 3-sectioned dish with a sterling silver lid on it sitting in the livingroom. She ALWAYS kept those little individually-wrapped Hershey's [Krackle, Mr. Goodbar, dark & milk chocolate] candy-bars.  They were there for years.  Everybody who knew 709 knew of the stash in that candy-dish.


Being there for long stretches in the summer, I befriended the tenants in the apartments, at times - usually in the upstairs apartment since it was such a part of the people actually living in the "big house".  These tenants were [for the most part] really neat people.  The basement apartment kinda scared me at times, it was so dark and all the light came from the windows at the ground level.  But it was really well thought-out with all the built-in features.


When she and I got older, she used to take me shopping to some of the dress shops, and she would buy me some clothes for school.  Or she would make me some things, but not very often.  Our favorite was the "Fashion Plate" in downtown Fredericksburg.  Grandma still had a charge card there - and we had fun with it !  I believe my mother, Christine, shopped there when she was in high school.  Not sure. 


Then came the Herb Barn that Herman Stanley built.  Herman and I were fast friends.  We both loved to tinker with tools.  I dreamed of having a little house the size of her Herb Barn. I spent many hours helping Grandma in her herb/flower garden.  Mostly weeding and pruning the boxwood.  She did the planting and harvesting.  She had endurance 'way beyond my own when it came to working that garden.  I remember sometime in the early 1990's, she and I did a major cleaning out of "old stuff" and Quantico records and what-not from 709. The closets and corners were bulging, and I remember sitting Grandma down in the Powder Room, and bring her "a cool one" and going thru boxes and boxes of old receipts, fabrics, notes, patterns etc. etc. etc.  It was a 3 "cool-ones" project, and we were both giggling at the comedy the scene brought. 


The strongest and most poignant of memories of Grandma was a memory that continued through the years of my life in my summers spent with her.  She and I would sit on the back porch eating our dinner, some scrumptious meal she had whipped up - lamb chops, Greek lemon soup, chicken salad, were some of her specialties.  And she and I would talk about anything and everything.  For hours.  We could sit there for 2 and 3 hours talking.  Every night.  She and I had a very special bond.  I would coax her to talk about her childhood, her teen years, after she left home and came to work for Charlie Doumas, her to-be husband.  There was a storehouse of memories that she spilled out to me.  I was too mesmorized to write anything down.  The tape recorder didn't make it to 709 until sometime later, where I taught her to record tapes, and "talk" to me when I wasn't with her.  I would record a tape and mail it to her to hear my voice.  We were very, very close. 


In 1994, she and I went though the laborious task of inventorying everything at 709.  Art & Bill had really wanted this done, so I volunteered.  I always spent at least 2 weeks with her during the summers, even in my adult life.  As a teen - I would spend 2-8 weeks there in the summer.  We could only do a bit at a time, because she would tire, and just didn't want to be faced with the huge task.  But she and I did it. 


For the most part, my Grandmother raised me during my summers with her, and taught me about Southern elegance.  She taught me a lot of her own philosophies of Life, and I incorporated them into my own beliefs.  It was the bonding and the unusual capacity that we had with each other - to know what the other was thinking.  She was a wonderful spiritual advisor in my life.  I shall miss her deeply.  I grieve her absence in my life."





May 25, 2005  Brandii Doumas Talley, daughter of Charlie Doumas, oldest son of Authur Doumas, who was older son of Jenelle/Helen


"Well, this will be somewhat of a challenge for me only because I did not know Grandma Doumas all that well.  However, I do remember my trip out to Virginia when I was young, probably about 20+ years ago. 


I remember spending time with her at her house in Fredericksburg and how it was so beautiful and charming and loved the herb garden out back--in fact that is where our cousin Ryan took some of his first steps holding on to the garden hose, or so he thought.  Anyway, I remember she was a very caring and dedicated person who loved her community and especially loved educating you on the history of her would-be hometown. 


I remember visiting the museum where she volunteered and how everyone just loved to be around her.  She truly was a pillar of her community, I only wish I could have known her better and had gone back to see her again.  It was so nice when she came out 6-7 years ago with Grandpa [Art Doumas] and Sylvia when my brother Nick was married.  That was the last time we were able to spend time with her, it was short, but very rewarding.  I would like to send my regrets out to grandpa and his brother and sister [Art, Bill, Christine].  She will truly be missed and never forgotten. 


I will try and take a piece of her positive spirit and kind words with me throughout life as I journey into the future.  Again, deepest regards to all of the family as she will be missed by many of the lives she touched." 


Sincerely, Brandii Doumas Talley




May 23, 2005       from John Jennings son of

Addison deClifford Jennings, who was a brother of Jenelle/Helen


"Well, I thought for long enough. My greatest memory goes ‘way back into the mind of when I was a little boy. I had never seen the likes of a machine that you put ice in and turn the handle to crush it. One hung in Aunt Jenelle’s kitchen, on the left wall as you entered the kitchen.  I never asked what they used crushed ice for, but my feet always found their way into the kitchen for that handy tool. 


I am John, 51, son of Addison deClifford (Cliff). I was at the Jennings reunion at Ida Mae's house.  I look forward to seeing everyone soon.   Look forward to seeing all of you next month, meanwhile, memory permitting, I will write again, soon."




May 23, 2005   from Mary Jane Brown, daughter of

Rhodesa Jennings Peterson, who was a sister of Jenelle/Helen

"This is Mary Jane hope it is not to late. My memories aren't too many as times goes by but any way ---

My first memory goes all the way back to Christmas when I was 6 years old. Some where around midnight there was a knock on the door and it was Jenelle and her family. Santa Claus had been to see us by then, Butch was there that year he got his red fire engine so much fun. Bill got his Polaroid camera for Christmas that year boy was he taking the pictures I still have some of them.

My next memory is going to Stafford Way Side Park for the pig roast we all had a great time. One year we all went to Westmoreland Park and camped in little cabins. We also went to Cat Point Creek for weekends what fun when we were little. And who could forget all the good meals we had at 709 Hanover Street !"

"Hi Again
Just a note after I finished writing to you I realized Jenelle died the same day as my mother, Rhodessa. What a memory ! Bet they are all having a ball up there."

With my Love,
Mary Jane



May 17, 2005    Mary Rangos Stram, older daughter of

Ida May Jennings Rangos, who was a sister of Jenelle/Helen


"I am pressed to finish a contract deliverable before June 15. In any case, I am sending a digitized copy of a photo of the last 5 brothers and sisters taken at an event at mother's house. I hope this helps. If I think of anything else, I'll pass it along. " [This was the Jennings Reunion August 1990, I think]    Mary


Jenelle - Sam - Ida May - George Jr. - Geraldine