Berenice Enola Crabtree
October 30, 1915 - February 14, 2014
Berenice Enola Crabtree, 98 years of age, passed away of natural causes with family at her side on February 14, 2014 in Modesto. Berenice was born in Modesto California on October 30, 1915, the third child of Harvey William Rebman and Mary Rebecca Robinson Rebman. Her grandmother, Mary Fisher Kulp Rebman, an Old German Baptist, had moved with her family from Ohio to the Wood Colony in the first decade of the 20th century. Berenice's father was a general contractor who built the Modesto Hotel (built 1914, burned in1944), Modesto Junior College South Hall (built 1923), a home for a local doctor which later became the Elks Lodge on McHenry Avenue, along with many other local buildings.
She attended local schools including Modesto High School, Modesto Junior College and from there to Stanford University where she earned a Bachelor of Science from the School of Nursing (Class of 1937). She then returned to Modesto as a Registered Nurse.
After working in several local hospitals Berenice became the private duty nurse for Edith Vera Crabtree (a relative of the Warner Brothers of early Stanislaus County farming), the wife of Luther W. Crabtree, a Waterford area farmer who would later build the Town House Lodge at 16th and H in Modesto. He also later owned the McHenry Mansion which was sold by his estate to the Julio Gallo Foundation which donated it to the City of Modesto.
It happened that Berenice's private duty patient had a son who visited often (visiting the mother or the nurse? No one now knows for sure). His name was Albin Watson Crabtree. He was responsible for the family's Robert's Ferry area farming operation. On St. Patrick's Day Albin gave Berenice green colored carnations, an annual tradition that lasted for seven decades. Whether it was the flowers or his good looks, something clicked. They were married April 2, 1939 and had another 72 years together before Albin's death in 2011.
After a honeymoon to the 1939 San Francisco World's Fair at Treasure Island the happy couple moved into the Crabtree farmhouse near Robert's Ferry. It was a truly rural experience and must have been a bit of a shock to Berenice who was essentially a city girl and a Stanford graduate living for a time in San Francisco. The Crabtree farmhouse was built by Luther Crabtree in 1919 when he farmed with mules rather than tractors. In 1939 the only electricity was a farm generated DC system. It was not until the mid 1940s that the farm was upgraded to AC electrical power. Albin was farming dry land barley which in those days required an on site farm crew of at least half a dozen men at planting and harvest times. The farm wife had to cook three meals a day for the farm workers as well as taking care of children and the household. It must have been a huge adjustment for this city girl but no one ever heard her complain.
In addition to being a new farm wife and eventual mother, Berenice due to her medical knowledge and the lack of ready medical care in the rural community was the "go to" person for primary health advice, bedside care, and injections needed by neighbors. Her children recall a hypodermic needle and syringe being frequently sterilized in a pot of boiling water. Florence Nightingale would have been proud.
Eventually the Crabtree farm joined the 20th century. Berenice's father constructed a new bedroom wing when daughter Cathy was born and a new family room/kitchen just before the first TV set was acquired in 1955. The children all followed their father in attending Robert's Ferry Elementary and Oakdale High School.
After the children were grown Berenice returned to the nursing profession for several years and retained her RN license until shortly before her death.
In their retirement years Albin and Berenice went to many horseshoe tournaments. Albin had been a horseshoer from his youth and was in the Horseshoe Hall of Fame.
Berenice and Albin were born into the age of horse and buggy and transition to Model T. They together experienced the age of radio, home electricity, home phone service, World War II with its rations of commodities, television, moon landings, and the internet. Through her daughter-in-law, Janet, Berenice discovered computers. At first reluctantly but eventually enthusiastically she e-mailed her children and grandchildren with emoticons and pictures. She also regularly purchased items online with her credit card and checked the news at CNN.com.
Berenice and Albin were an exceptionally loving and devoted couple. This gift of love and respect was given to their children. Each grandchild and great grandchild was loved equally. She kept up to date on all their interests and activities, and was so proud of their accomplishments. She always made each one feel they were unique and special. She made personally designed birthday cakes for all. Her loving presence will be dearly missed.
Berenice participated in many of the activities which have defined the local community. She was a founding member of the Tri-W club in Waterford, serving for 67 years. The Tri-Ws are famous for their annual Strawberry Breakfast at which she worked for many years. Along with her husband Albin, she was a long time member of Community Baptist Church in Waterford. She also played bridge for 50 years with a group of women neighbors.
Berenice is preceded in death by her husband of 72 years Albin Watson Crabtree, her beloved son Dennis who died when a toddler, father Harvey Rebman, mother Mary Rebman, brother Robert Rebman, sisters Dorothy Rebman Robbins and Lucille Rebman Cochran. She is survived by her sister Shirlee Dahlstrom, her children Bob (Janet) Crabtree, Bill (June) Crabtree, Cathy (Rick) Crabtree Edson and her grandchildren Campbell Crabtree, John (Duncan) Crabtree-Ireland, Ellison (Dan) Crabtree Shearer, Webb (Maria) Crabtree, Jason (Jessica) Crabtree, Aaron Crabtree, Tara (Tobin) Richardson, Zak (Sarah) Edson and her great grandchildren Alexander and James Richardson, Nika and Anthony Edson, Emma and Giovanni Crabtree-Ireland, Henry Crabtree-Mansur, Vivian Shearer, Madeleine Crabtree and Aidan and Colin Crabtree.
At Berenice's request, a private family memorial was held on Saturday, February 22nd. Pastor Don Crooker officiated and Jeanne Kampen was the soloist.
The family wishes to thank Berenice's very special caregivers Misty Zepeda, Leneisha Rodgers, Sonia Valles, Rachel Snow, Christina Becerra, the staff at Bethel Retirement Home and the wonderful medical care provided by Robert A. Forester, M.D and Richard J. Heck M.D. at St Luke's Family Practice which was a true blessing and greatly appreciated.
Remembrances may be made to a
Published in the Modesto Bee from Feb. 23 to Feb. 24, 2014