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Many of you have seen this family portrait of Theron Potter and Mary Ann Jefferson Healy with their children, taken c. 1887, the year after they moved to Minneapolis. This clear digital copy was recently sent to me by a Healy great-grandson, Charles Woodrich.
His mother, Phyllis Healy Woodrich, daughter of Charles Evans Healy and Nettie May Olds, had passed away in April eleven days shy of her 95th birthday. A couple of decades ago, she had typed up her childhood impressions of the people in this photo and affixed these to the back of the photo. They are a wonderful view of the Healy family in the 1920s as seen through the eyes of a young girl:
Aunt Alice was a pleasant lady who helped me with knitting on her front porch at Newton and Oliver (21st St.). She was married to Uncle Frank Johnston who was the exact image of a Dickens character – sunken eyes, bald, pale complexion – like Scrooge maybe. I shied away from him so I don’t know if he was as mean as he looked.
Charles was my father. I was 12 when he died and I don’t remember him very well but from all I hear he was a very jolly man and once sat on a wet sponge the entire evening thus making the people who put it there as a joke very uncomfortable as he didn’t acknowledge it was there. He was a potato broker and in those days there were no government subsidies. He went broke several times but my brothers told me that many years he was a millionaire. We always had a maid, moved to Arcola for the summer. He belonged to Lafayette and the Athletic club. All the relatives spoke well of him.
Dora married Percy Wood – nice as I remember. He sold fire engines for a living but only sold one in his lifetime. They were not well to do. They had 2 sons: Jim who married a woman who felt that her family was socially above everybody. She got polio and walked with difficulty after but she was very creative and made silk lampshades, lovely needlework. She didn’t like any of us except my mother. The other son was Granville who was a hydro*** ?. The hole in his head never closed so his head kept growing but his body didn’t keep up. He spent his life in a wheelchair and made rag-rugs. He was extremely good natured.
Lena I really liked her but didn’t know her too well. She had broken blood vessels on her face and was very good natured and happy.
Reginald married Aunt Marge. He borrowed a large amount of money from my father and never repaid it. Aunt Marge was cheery and very smart. They had two children: Ann Strothman and Barbara who was a war orphan from France and somehow never found her place – She always seemed unhappy. She eventually married (a cad) and ended up shooting herself some years later.
Erena married Joe White who was a handsome vain man, lived on the corner of Sheridan and 21st. He made marvelous molasses taffy. Eleanor, Dick and John were their children. Eleanor at 90 is the star of the family.
Birdie I don’t remember at all. She married a Hooker and moved to Calif.
Chester everybody said was awful. He married Lulu whom we all liked. He gave me the footstool in the living room when I was 6.
Bessie was the matriarch of the family and never lost her English accent. She terrorized everybody and was very mean to Mother. We always had to show up at her apartment before Christmas. I must say she did have a fascinating tree and always made lovely cookies for the children. She was secretary at St. Paul’s Church all her life. Never married but had a woman friend we called Aunt Jessie. I was 20 before I found out she wasn’t my real aunt.
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Note: Another child, Ernest Theron, born in Halifax in 1874, died in infancy.
We are indebted to Phyllis Woodrich for giving us this glimpse into Healy family life nearly a century ago. Thanks also to Charles Woodrich for passing this on.
As a footnote, I’d like to urge those of you who care about your family history to write notes on the back of family photos giving a who-why-when-where of their subjects, as did Phyllis Woodrich. So many old photos are discarded because no one knows who’s pictured. My father was very good about this and wrote similar comments about his aunts and uncles on the back of a family portrait from the early 1900s. Without these, the greats- and great-greats have no clue about the personalities and lives of their ancestors.
In Memoriam Phyllis Gertrude Healy Woodrich, April 25, 1920-April 14, 2015