A farming lifestyle and decades behind the counter at the family fishing store toughened Anna Faye Milvet.
But it also tempered a softer side to the rural mother of four who nursed raccoons, cows and family members back to health and built lasting relationships with customers who respectfully called her Bait Shop Granny.
Mrs. Milvet of Rea, Washington County, died Dec. 7. She was 91.
The daughter of the late Nathaniel Worthington Fowler and Anna Stewart Holmes, she graduated from Hickory High School in 1939, studied nursing and married her childhood sweetheart John Milvet Sr. in 1947.
Mrs. Milvet served as postmaster of the U.S. Post Office in Rea, co-managed the family dairy farm and raised four children in a lifestyle steeped in hunting, fishing, farming and living close to the land.
"Pheasant, rabbit, whatever you wanted, she said 'You shoot it, I'll cook it,' " said her son Mike of Avella. "She fished when she was younger and enjoyed cooking the fish we'd bring her."
From the 1960s through the early 1980s, Washington County purchased 3,500 acres for construction of a new county park that would be located in Cross Creek Township off Route 50 near Rea. When the real estate purchases ended, the Milvets' property bordered Cross Creek County Park, which includes a 258-acre impoundment stocked by the state Fish and Boat Commission with warm-water game fish such as bass, bluegills and crappies. Suddenly, the Milvet family was in the bait shop business.
"She was a farmer, she still had dairy cows, but from the time we opened Cross Creek's Original Bait and Tackle Shop until she started slowing down in the mid-2000s my mother worked with us," Mike Milvet said. "She was tough. Not mean, but firm."
Seeing an old woman behind the counter, he said, some customers would try to take advantage of her.
"Some people would leave live bait out in the sun all day. It would die, and they'd come back and want money back. I'm sure she was snookered here and there, but she was pretty good at figuring out the psychology of a lie and didn't take anything from anybody."
She attended Brooke Hills Methodist Church in Wellsburg, W.Va., and was assisted late in life by Community Care and Amedisys Hospice Care.
Mrs. Milvet's husband died in 1987. Besides her son, Mike, she's survived by another son, John Milvet II of Independence, Pa.; daughters Stella Dire and Carolyn Milvet, both of Avella; sisters Ruth Myrtle Stolkovich of Aliquippa and Edna Margaret Pepe of Follansbee, W.Va.; 11 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
Mrs. Milvet was interred Tuesday at St. Michael Cemetery in Avella.
John Hayes: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1991.