Sunday, June 6, 2010

Sentimental Sunday - My Grandmother's Loss (Part 2 of 3)

This is the second in a series of what will be three posts dedicated to the life and memory of my grandmother, Mary Davis Walker Hill Thomas. I began this series of posts after receiving copies of several articles from the Norfolk, VA Journal and Guide, which confirmed, and in some cases, revealed stories about my ancestors.  To read the initial post which explains how I came into possession of these articles, please click here. Part 1 
In writing this series, I hope to make amends with my grandmother's spirit.  I was 24 years old when she left us for her reward, and up to that point in my life, I didn't have the knowledge, nor the maturity, to empathize with what her life must have been like, after experiencing the loss of three husbands, and then, ultimately, living out her last 36 years as a widow.  Being a person who always reaches out and tries to understand and connect with others, I feel just awful for not knowing her better, seeing her more clearly, and/or loving her more dearly.  In my grown-up, intellectual mind, I know that really have no fault, especially since I was never told of her hardships; but the sentimental, emotionally-connected part of me is heavy-laden with a feeling of guilt, every time I think about how I distanced myself from this grandmother, in favor of my paternal one. Mary Thomas' outer-shell was deservedly hardened.  I imagine she must have lived each day that I knew her constantly protecting and shielding her heart from further pain.

Part II - Daniel Hill
Sometime after the (literally) crushing death of my grandmother's first husband, James Allen Walker, in 1923, she met Daniel Webster Hill.  I have no idea how they met, or how their relationship developed, but the article below - another of the nine sent to me by my genealogical benefactor, shows where it went.

  It seems that Mary had found love again.  She married my grandfather, Daniel W. Hill on July 11, 1926.  According to this article, the couple moved to Philadelphia  (another fact I never knew), but by the 1930 Census, they are back in Norfolk, living in the family home with my great-grandparents, Walter and Minerva Davis.  (Note:  By all accounts, and from what the records show, my grandmother, Mary, was the homeowner.  She purchased the home after the death of her first husband.  I presume she must have used whatever insurance money she received to buy the home.)

I know nothing about my maternal grandparent's marriage except that it happened, and that they had two children together; my uncle, Howell Webster, born in 1931 and my mother, Maryanne, in 1934.  However, this third article from the Journal & Guide at least hints at the fact that my grandmother may have been living a happy life.  She was already active in the church she was a member of, and funeralized in 53 years later. Her son was winning baby contests, and she would, just two months after this, conceive my mother with her husband, Daniel.

At some point, the happy days ended for Daniel and Mary. For whatever the reason(s), my grandfather  abandoned his wife and children when my mother was just four years old.  The family never saw or heard from him again, and I, in my 14 years of research, have been unable to track him down to find out where he went, or what happened to him.  In a recent interview with my uncle who only vaguely remembers having a father, he recalled Daniel Hill as being a "mean man".  My mother doesn't remember her father at all, and neither of them have a clue what he even looked like. 
So, for my grandmother, this was blow #2.  Another marriage dissipated, but for a completely different reason.  This time, she was left with two children to raise.  She'd just lost her father (in 1936), but thankfully, had her mother there to help her.  Though she was saddened by this loss, she was not broken.  Help (and another chance at love) was on the way.  Stay tuned for Part III...


  1. It is a sadness to think of the comfort and understanding we could have provided to our grandmother's but really we didn't know. We just didn't know. So, really we couldn't do more than we did.

    I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the story although already know from what you have written that it too will end sadly.

  2. Kristin, thanks so much for your comment and your readership. I really appreciate it, and I'm enjoying following your new blog. You're right - we didn't know. I have to keep reminding myself of that...lol.

    Thanks, again.

  3. Renate, I am pretty sure your grandmother felt your love, even though you don't think you showed it. In the early 20s we are finding our own way, and grandmother's know that. She is with you in spirit always. What is it with these men, when will they change?

  4. Thanks, Barbara. I don't know (about the men). I just don't know!

  5. To echo what Barbara said, I'm sure your grandmother remembered what it was like to be a young adult, and knew that in your "young adult" way you definitely loved her, and I'll bet she was certain that as time passed you would come to the realizations you have so eloquently expressed in this article.

  6. This is great reading,

    AND even better writing!

    Waiting anxiously for part 3