Doris Cavileer Ryder holds her great-grandson, James Somes, on a recent visit to Ryder's home in the Lower Bank section of Washington Township in Burlington County. Her family has lived there, on the banks of the Mullica River, for generations.

Photo provided by family

Doris Cavileer Ryder tried to leave her family, and her hometown of Lower Bank.

She married George Ryder, a Vermont boy, who came home on leave from the Army with Doris’ big brother, Donald Cavileer.

That was about 1950, and the two buddies had to walk the 7 miles from Egg Harbor City to Lower Bank, on the far side of the Mullica River in Washington Township, Burlington County. Family legend says Donald kept promising his friend that home was right around the bend. But Donald also warned that his sister, Doris, would never want to go out with Ryder.

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That turned out to be wrong, too, and “it wasn’t a real long courtship,” said nephew Barry Cavileer, 64, the unofficial historian of a family with centuries of roots in Lower Bank.

Unfortunately, it also wasn’t a real long marriage. By 1954, George Ryder was dead, of diseases he contracted in the service. And Doris was a widow at 24, the mother of Kathryn, 3, with another on the way.

“My father died in July, and I was born in October,” said Barbara Somes, 58, of Washington Township.

Doris took the girls to live in Vermont, in a home Ryder had built for his family, Somes said. But a few years later, Doris’ four brothers made her an offer: If she’d come back to Lower Bank, they’d build a house for her.

She took them up on the deal, and she lived in that little house until she died last month, at 82.

“It was a family thing,” said Margie Cavileer, the wife of Doris’ brother, Benji. “They wanted her down here where everybody could help with the kids.”

The trip home was an adventure.

Barry Cavileer — the son of another of Doris’ brothers, Cale — went to Vermont with his dad in Cale’s Edsel to drive the Ryders home.

“We must’ve looked like the ‘Beverly Hillbillies,’” Barry said — because Somes, then 5, insisted her three pet chickens had to come, too.

“The Edsel trunk wouldn’t close, so dad had to tie it down,” Barry said. “It was a very successful trip, though — one chicken laid an egg in the trunk.”

Back home, Doris settled in with her family. She taught Sunday school for years, and became a grandmother to five and great-grandmother to three. She had a 40-year relationship with Harry Herbert, who is “definitely” part of the family, Somes said, even if the two never got around to marrying.

Doris survived cancer at age 50, and survived her daughter Kathryn’s 2004 death, at just 52. But ovarian cancer killed Doris less than 3 months after it was discovered.

Somes said her mom knew she was “on borrowed time” for 32 years, “But I told her, ‘You lived to see your grandchildren and great-grandchildren.’”

A Life Lived appears Tuesdays and Saturdays.

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