|BELOVED MOTHER AND WIFE WHO DIED TOO YOUNG|
|Marie's Children were her Joy |
ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Marie's husband, Ralph Witcraft, has provided the below information.
Marie Brockway was born 27 July 1913 in New Hartford, New York to Earl Thomas and Grace (Holdridge) Brockway. Her mother's name at birth was Emma Schalotta Lind, but the Lind family - immigrants from Sweden a few years prior to 1880 - were forced to give several of their children up for adoption. Emma Lind - born near Utica, was formally adopted by the Elon and Hannah (Parent) Holdridge family who lived in nearby Frankfort NY.
Marie's father, Earl Brockway, was not treated kindly by his parents, who were hypercritical of him and whom he could not please. He served as custodian of their Baptist Church in New Hartford, New York, during Marie's childhood. Marie had an older sister, Muriel, a younger brother, Earl, and a still younger sister, Jennie, now [in 1995] the only survivor with her two daughters and four grandchildren (of course my [Ralph's] children and grandchildren are also survivors of my wife's family.). My wife's paternal grandparents essentially controlled her family and, in my wife's view, treated Muriel as their favorite. They provided violin lessons to Muriel and paid her way through Syracuse University, where she was a math major.
After high school graduation from Utica Free Academy, Marie worked as a page in the Utica Public Library, at something like $20/month. After a few years her grandmother died and her grandfather, depressed, soon hanged himself. With their legacies, my wife's father bought a farm with which he proved unable to prosper and my wife took her share to finance her University of Chicago education, a tight squeeze for her. Muriel worked as a senior clerk of sorts in a Utica bank. Earl operated as a sort of middleman buying and selling produce between farmers and distributors on one side and retail stores and stands on the other, and getting into petty scrapes in the process. Jennie stayed with her parents for their lifetimes, helping to make a home for them, and still has their home near Deansboro, New York, although the rest of the farm is sold off. Her father became very difficult in his last years, a common concommitant of arteriosclerosis.
Marie's older sister, Muriel, suffered an episode either a seduction or rape, or combination of the two, which unsettled her mentally. She was erroneously convinced she was pregnant and eventually, and tragically, suicided on the New York Central tracks. My wife's brother died after an extended siege of cancer. An aunt suffered lupus for years and eventually died of it. The surviving sister, Jennie, widowed a number of years now, remains as cheeful and church-supportive as she is able with arthritis. She and her remaining family maintain a close relationship. She regularly cans literally hundreds of jars of jam, jellies, preserves and other fruits and relishes to donate for sale at the annual church bazaar.
Marie met her future husband, Ralph Witcraft, in 1936 on a blind date for a Phi Kappa Sigma fraternity house dance at the University of Chicago, where both were freshman students. They became engaged several years later - formally during the summer of 1939 - and she graduated in Home Economics on schedule, in June, 1940, specializing in dietetics, and was hired by the university as assistant manager of the men's residence hall (Burton/Judson halls) food facilities and concurrently, as manager of the Cloister Club, the cafeteria in the women's activity building, Ida Noyes Hall. She was paid $75/month!
In the Spring of 1941, Marie's fiancee Ralph was teaching at Dekalb High School when he received a draft notice that he was to be inducted for one year. They agreed on a wedding date of Friday, May 9th, 1941, just prior to his induction on June 9th. The wedding was performed in the evening in Ralph's new home in Rogers Park, after he finished his day's teaching at DeKalb. Marie's parents came and Ralph's sister and brother-in-law stood up for them. They had a weekend honeymoon, going to Turkey Run State Park in Indiana, after an overnight stopover at a Gary Hotel. Both were back on the job Monday morning. When Ralph came home from DeKalb at the close of the school year on Friday, June 6th, they had one weekend before his June 9th induction. As Ralph recalls, "Not a very happy time!" - at least as regards to finding time to spend with his wife.
|Marie in her Wedding Dress|
After a series of transfers and re-assignments, Ralph was eventually transferred back to Chicago in late 1942, where Marie was maintaining their apartment in the Rogers Park neighborhood. Within weeks of his return their first child, a daughter, was born on 6 Dec. 1942. After her birth, Marie never worked again for wages that Ralph can recall. Ralph continued working for his country the remainder of the War, and eventually ended up in Manilla waiting as part of a backup force for the invasion of Japan, Their second daughter, was born in October 1945 while Ralph was in Manilla - the news was sent by Red Cross wire, but didn't reach him until after a letter with the news from Marie reached him. They had been concerned about the pregnancy, in which their physician had diagnosed toxemia. A year or so earlier Marie had experienced a third month miscarriage, so the risk appeared real.
By 1947 another baby - a son - was on the way and their 3 room apartment in Rogers Park proved too confining. Since they had no automobile, Hazel, Marie's mother-in-law, provided transportation for Marie to look for a house to buy. They settled on a new house in a development in the far northwest side of Chicago at 7649 W. Norwood Street. It was of grayish English brick, one and a half stories with full basement, six rooms with one and 1/2 baths, gas fired gravity hot air furnace, no garage. The cost was $14,300 (too much according to Ralph's father).
They moved in at the end of July, 1947, before the family's only son was born on Columbus Day, and were living there when their last child, a girl, was born 16 June 1953. That is the home in which the family's children spent most of their growing years.
|Ralph and Marie with Their Growing Family|
Ralph notes that "I was fortunate to have as my wife a very accomplished woman. She was an excellent cook and homemaker, a fiercely dedicated mother, an outstanding seamstress, knit and crocheted beautifully; she excelled in board games and intellectual exercises and had a remarkable memory. She was outstanding in making anniversaries and holidays exciting family events. She was much more socially inclined than I: this was a source of such dissatisfaction as she found in me."
Unfortunately, Marie's health was not as good as her husband's. Her primary problems were of three types. She seemed to have some hormonal balance problems, she suffered from hay fever and other allergies, and she experienced chronic gall bladder problems.
By the early 1950's, several opportunities arose that offered Ralph a chance to transfer out of the Chicago area to another Navy facility on the west coast - or even to Hawaii. Marie was more than ready, indeed anxious to leave the Chicago region because she felt another climate could relieve her chronic hay fever which was shared, in varying degrees, by the family's children. The family therefore took a long triangular train trip from Chicago to Seattle, down to Los Angeles and Glendale (where Ralph's sister lived and not far from where his parents were), and back to Chicago.
Eventually Ralph selected a position as a Management Analysis Officer with the Navy in San Diego. The family then sold their house and drove out to San Diego in late 1965 to look for a house. Eventually they settled on a new home, in a small development, at 6225 Lake Leven Drive in San Diego, with their youngest child, Nancy, continuing school in San Diego in the eighth grade. By then their oldest daughter was independently employed, and second daughter was attending Northwestern University. Their son would live with them a few months before returning to Chicago.
In August, 1967, Marie and Ralph returned to Chicago for the marriage of their second daughter. That fall, Marie was suffering increased distress from her gall bladder problems, and the family arranged for surgery, at Grossmont Hospital in La Mesa, for removal of her gall bladder. They did not think that the elective surgery was particularly dangerous. However, she picked up an infection in the process which led to kidney failure and death within hours, on November 19, 1967. All the children were present at the funeral, as were Ralph's parents, his sister's family and many of Ralph's fellow employees. Interment was at El Camino Memorial Park, on a rainy dismal November day not unlike what the couple found when they first arrived in San Diego two years earlier.