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Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Februaries of our Elizabeth

This is the Captured Moments column from the February 2010 issue of Shades the Magazine . . .


This Elizabeth Marilla Henry nee Smith (1912-1932) is the maternal grandma of the Keeper of this family history blog . . . the text from the article is copied below . . .

a few of elizabeth's februaries

What might have been
by Vickie Everhart

The Garden in Winter
I feel as if I had opened a book
and found roses of yesterday
sweet and fragrant between it's leaves.
~ L.M. Montgomery (1874-1942) ~

The Februaries of her life, there were not to be many of them. She arrived on this earth in the autumn of a Leap Year -- October of 1912. And she left this world less than 20 years later, near the beginning of yet another year in which February had 29 days.

The daughter who never knew her was blessed to inherit a photo collection documenting some of the days and events in Elizabeth's short life. At this time, it is believed that most of these treasured snapshots were captured by Elizabeth's older brother, Tom Smith (1904-1959).

Read along with me as we take a peak at what might have been a few of Elizabeth's Februaries. Most of these speculations are based on faded photos adhered to the black pages of an old photo album.


In February of 1913, four-month-old Elizabeth is napping peacefully in her pram while her self-employed parents, Eva and T.W.A. Smith, busily prepare for the annual Valentine's Day rush.

Baby Elizabeth had been an unexpected surpise, arriving eight years following the birth of her only sibling,Tom, and 39-year-old Eva sometimes finds herself staring in awe at the little dark-haired sleeping angel.

Eva is known throughout York County, Maine for her "artistic and handsome floral designs," and T.W.A. "has an unexcelled reputation for the excellence of his work" as "an experienced and practical horticulturist and landscape gardener."


It is a cold winter's day in Maine, and Elizabeth is seven years old when her ailing 53-year-old father takes his own life in February of 1920. The lengthy write-up in the local Biddeford newspaper reveals a surprising number of details about events leading up to his death. His funeral is held at the family home on the day following Valentine's Day, with burial at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco, Maine.


By February of 1927, 14-year-old Elizabeth is friends with Diantha, an "older" girl from the neighborhood who lost her mother in 1923. In later years, Diantha would recall about a young Elizabeth that, "She wore curls when we started to chum together. Her mother had to curl each one over her finger. I guess she had two layers of big fat thick bouncy curls."

Meanwhile, though their paths have not yet crossed, Elizabeth's future husband -- a 3rd-generation Texan -- has been a member of the U.S. Navy for less than a month, and is currently at the U.S. Naval Training Station at Hampton Roads, Virginia. One of his shipmates is Win Hooper from Maine who, unbeknownst to anyone involved, will be marrying Diantha in June of 1931.


Based on letters written by Diantha, it does appear that the Valentine's Day of 1928 came around very shortly before the young women met their future spouses. Diantha wrote that they first encountered Robert and Win when the shipmates were on spring leave in Maine visiting Win's sister. Robert's service record supports this timeline, as it indicates that he had a 12-day-leave beginning April 30, 1928.  


Proof of Elizabeth's residence as of Valentine's Day in 1929 has not yet been located, but it is suspected that she was already living in Lynn, Massachusetts, while Robert was still assigned to the USS Sturtevant. His service record shows he has a 14-day leave beginning July 6, and on the 8th day of July 1929, 16-year-old Elizabeth marries 24-year-old Robert Henry in Lynn. Their marriage license indicates they have a residence in Lynn, which is shared with Elizabeth's single brother, Tom, as well as their widowed mother, Eva.


By Valentine's Day 1930, Elizabeth has been married seven months, and is pregnant with her first child, a son, who will be born in May of this year. Robert is still in the Navy, but is given a five-day-leave shortly following the birth of his son, and then another 13-day-leave in August.

In February of 1931, 18-year-old Elizabeth enjoys the 1st and only Valentine's Day that she will share with her new baby boy and his Father. She makes note of this date on a page in Little Robert's baby book (a gift from Diantha).

Robert has been "home" (in Massachusetts) since the middle of January 1931, having been given an Honorable Discharge from the Navy after four years of service to his country. This was the 1st time the new little family had all actually lived together under one roof. Sadly, they will have only one short year of familial togetherness before the dark cloud of death settles over their home.

Winter, a lingering season,
is a time to gather golden moments,
embark upon a sentimental journey,
and enjoy every idle hour.
~ John Boswell ~


Elizabeth's new baby girl is two weeks old when Valentine's Day 1932 arrives, and in a perfect world, Elizabeth would be there holding her baby close, and kissing her rosy cheeks, and joyfully writing in the new baby book. But this happy scenario was not to be -- Elizabeth died 11 days prior to what would have been her 19th Valentine's Day. Her funeral is held in Lynn, with burial near her father at Laurel Hill Cemetery in Saco, Maine.

And for the season
it was winter . . .
~ William Bradford ~
Plymouth Plantation, 1640

And no one sees
A restless stranger through the morning stray
Across the sodden lawn, whose eyes
Are tired of weeping, in whose breast
A savage sun consumes its hidden day.
~ David Gascoyne (1916-2001) ~
Winter Garden

And in my mind
clematis climbs
and morning glories
do entwine.
Woodland phlox
and scarlet pinks
replace the frost
if I just blink.
My inner eye
sees past the snow
and in my mind
my garden grows.
~ Cheryl Magic-Lady ~
Winter Garden

Thomas Warren Alonzo Smith (1866-1920) and Eva May Brackett (1874-1936) are my great-grandparents. Their only daughter, Elizabeth Marilla Smith (1912-1932), married Robert E. Henry (1905-1976), and their baby girl is my Mom.


Terri said...

Awesome job as usual Vickie!
Such a sad story, we never realize how lucky we are to be able to know our parents. The collages were terrific too!

A rootdigger said...

I love how people can come up with such catchy small group of words that just stick in our memory cause they work together, so perfectly. ties that bind, shades of the departed .... Be not forgot

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