STOW – Modern technology and the internet keep 90-year-old Arleen B. Shuman in personal contact with her family of 109 members scattered around the globe.
“I love the iPad, laptop and smartphone,” Shuman said. “It keeps me in touch with everyone in the family.”
Arleen, born Nov. 22, 1927, celebrated her 90th birthday with 69 members of her family at the Suffield Fellowship Church, where her son, Jim, is pastor.
During World War II, the former Arleen Cross and Ted Shuman attended Stow High School, which was then located on the southwest corner of Graham and Darrow roads. Ted graduated in 1943 and joined the U.S. Navy, serving aboard a submarine.
“He lied about his age,” Arleen said.
Arleen, who graduated in 1945 in a class of about 75 students, was a cheerleader, played the French horn in band and was a member of the debate team.
They married Jan. 18, 1946 in San Francisco and returned to Stow to build a home. They lived in the basement for three years before the house on Stow Road could be completed, Arleen said — and where she still resides.
“We couldn't get building materials after the war,” Arleen said.
Their nine children — Teddy, Becky, Jim, Jack, Pam, Tim, Tom, Cheri and Chellie — were all raised in Stow. In addition, Arleen has 30 grandchildren and 35 great-grandchildren.
Ted founded Shuman Plumbing & Heating in 1955 and retired in 1990. His sons, Jack and Tom, run the business located in Munroe Falls.
Ted died Nov. 27, 2015. They were charter members of Stow Alliance Church, where the funeral was conducted. Ted was buried at Silver Springs Cemetery.
When they began having marital problems, religion brought them together, Arleen said. They became born-again Christians, she in 1956 and he in 1958, and worked in Child Evangelism Fellowship of Summit County. They attended classes and learned how to teach five-day clubs in the summer and Bible clubs in homes and schools the rest of the year.
“Even though we always went to church and even taught Sunday school, we knew nothing of the real truth of the Bible and God's saving grace,” Arleen said. “This led to all nine of our children being trained to be summer missionaries and going on to Bible college in Canada and ministries overseas and locally.”
Ted and Arleen served on the board of C.E.F. for 40 years.
The Shumans traveled around the world, and Arleen has a large world map on the wall marked with all the places traveled to by family members. Teddy has been a missionary in Japan for 42 years and Becky has been a missionary in Austria for 36 years.
In addition, they have used a pamphlet for the past three years which lists everyone's birthday or anniversary on one of 31 days in a month so for at least one day a month, family members think and pray for that person. Some days are busier than others ranging from 2 to 7 people to think about.
Arleen remembers her 36th birthday on Nov. 22, 1963 when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Arleen was ironing and her two oldest daughters had been released early from Central Christian School in Kidron. They bought a bowl of milk glass as a present for her, which she still has.
“The 36th President, Lyndon B. Johnson, was sworn in on my 36th birthday,” Arleen said. “Everyone parked in front of the TV for the next three days.”
Arleen's journey to Stow, where roads were dirt and the water so hard, it turned clothing orange, began at Stan Hywet where F.A. Seiberling, co-founder of Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., lived with his family from 1915 to 1955.
Arleen's parents, Arlie and Marie Cross worked at Stan Hywet from 1915 to 1917. Arlie was head chauffeur and lived in the second floor apartment of the Carriage House; Marie was the chambermaid. In 1917 Arlie served in France during World War I and afterwards, they lived in Goodyear Heights and had six children. Arlie worked for the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. as a mechanic and then in the chemical plant.
Arleen said housing was so scarce, men from three different shifts would share the same bed, taking turns sleeping in “hot bedding” at their home.
Arleen's family moved to King Drive in Stow in 1928, and she lived there until she married Ted.
Entertainment was on the radio before television with The Greatest Story Ever Told, Ma Perkins and afternoon soap operas, she said. Nearly every home had a picture of President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the wall.
Arleen remembers liking Shirley Temple and having a doll of her from the Ben Franklin store. She said she wanted to learn to tap dance.
At Christmastime, Goodyear employees and their families went to the Goodyear Airship Hangar for a big party and the children were given presents, Arleen said.
She said she rode a streetcar in Akron to see Frank Sinatra at the Palace Theater and movies, “Gone With The Wind” and “The Wizard of Oz.”
The matriarch of the family, Arleen said her faith made the difference and her daughters agreed.
“When we grew up there was fighting and drinking, but because of the Lord, we don't have that,” Teddy said. “The focus is to get along and forgive any transgression.”
Becky said they were normal people with issues.
“But it was different when they got to know the Lord,” Becky said. “They learned a new way to live.”
And so with a little help from the internet and a lot of prayers, Arleen keeps her family of 109 members (and growing) together.