by Cris Ritchie
Florence Combs Gross, 94, passed away on Monday, June 24 in Silver Spring, Maryland. She transitioned quickly and painlessly, with good friends at her side, and with an expression of contentment and expectation on her face.
She was born on August 18, 1918, in Viper to Curt and Cora Combs, and was one of four children, with siblings Grazia, Kellan, and Frances. Florence and Frances were twins and have always been very close. Florence had fond memories of growing up in the country on a hillside farm in Viper, near her grandfather’s store. She enjoyed canning vegetables from their garden and told endless tales of family life growing up in the mountains of southeastern Kentucky. After graduating from Viper High School, she went on to Lee’s College in Jackson, and then to Miami University near Dayton, Ohio, from which she holds graduate and post graduate degrees.
Florence had described herself as the “flirty” one of the twins. She was the one always getting the boys. But there was one boy in particular that really caught her attention. She met her future husband, James Ottis Gross, while at Lee’s. On evenings in the dorm foyer it wasn’t unusual to see Florence playing country fiddle while James Ottis sung and played guitar. They were married in Wolfe County 1940 and had 67 years together. They didn’t have children, but they were serious gardeners and farmers. He was a leader in the Masons and she in Eastern Star. They spent many Florida winters together in a Fifth wheeler RV escaping the cold in Lewisburg, Ohio, where they had three farms. Throughout the east and as far west as Nebraska and north to Canada they enjoyed hunting and fishing trips together.
She was proud of her career as an elementary school teacher. She shares this pride with her siblings, a family of educators. Florence was well-known and well-loved by many generations of young people coming through the Lewisburg, Ohio, elementary school. She also enjoyed accounting and was a successful self-taught investor in real estate, stocks, and municipal bonds.
Florence loved to sew, play gin rummy, and attend bluegrass festivals. She was always a cut-up who liked to laugh and sing and perhaps most importantly, she practiced her faith by example. She and James Ottis had long had a curiosity as to who God is and what He wants for us. They found answers to those questions and walked the walk at Gordon Methodist Church on the Dark/Preble county line.
James Ottis had passed on five years ago and the family is pleased at the thought of them reunited.
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