Alice was born on June 17, 1907 in Buffalo, New York into a family that consisted of her parents and her older sister Evelyn. Her father sold tools, and her mother, a woman ahead of her time, operated her own business as a corseteer, driving her own car to visit women in their homes to fit them for their corsets.
It was a happy life the family lived together, living in the same house throughout Alice’s childhood, with routines of family togetherness. Following dinner, the family would retire upstairs to the library, where Evelyn and Alice would do their homework, while her father would read and her mother would do handwork. After finishing homework, an apple would be enjoyed from the storage barrel in the attic. Alice played the ukulele. She remembered her mother playing patriotic songs on a piano celebrating the end of World War I.
Following graduation from high school, Alice worked in a bank, where she developed a life long ability to handle money. It was there that Alice met Arthur, a star on a local semi-pro baseball team. Arthur was charmed by Alice, and persuaded to settle down at the age of 34 and give up his bachelor adventures — he had been for a time living an exotic life in Havana. Alice and Arthur were married on April 24, 1937 in a small family wedding surrounded by nieces and nephews. A honeymoon drive to Washington, DC to see the cherry blossoms turned instead into a blizzard, and the long drive back involved various detours because of flooding.
A year later Kathy was born, and five years later, in 1943, Jim was born.
During the blackouts imposed by World War II, Alice would feed her baby boy sequestered in the dim light of the bathroom. A visit by the local warden complaining about the bit of light shining through the bathroom window did little to deter Alice from her nocturnal rituals baby boy feedings in the bathroom. (She was a rather determined woman, not one to be deterred from her own, independent path.)
After working for a dozen years or so at the bank, Arthur worked for a small brokerage firm and for Bell Aircraft. For many years he sold Fleshman’s liquors.
Holidays included Alice and Arthur’s large extended family. In the summer time there were trips to an aunt’s compound of four cottages on Lake Eire. Christmas were highly festive and social occasions, and presumably exhausting as well, for Alice and Arthur would get little sleep on Christmas eve, putting up the tree and taking care of other Christmas details while the children slept. Alice, a wonderful baker, would produce Christmas cookies in abundance. At noon neighbors and relatives would drop by for a drink. Around 3:30 the family would sit down to the feast Alice had lovingly prepared, with a few bachelor uncles in attendance, rescued them from their solitary abodes. In the evening other relatives would drop by for dessert and coffee.
She served as Y mom at the local YMCA, pitching in to keep the place clean. She made fudge by the gallon for her local church bazaar, became renown for the beautiful, textured afghans she would weave for loved ones. She looked after Debbie the dog.
On Fridays the family would drive an hour to the little town of Gasport where Alice’s sister Evelyn lived with her husband Pete. They operated a drug store that also served as a greyhound bus terminal. Arthur would help Pete with counting the money, while Kathy and Jim got to operate the soda fountain, which always meant a Sunday of their own choosing at the end of the night. When the work was done the grown-ups would go out to dinner while Kathy and Jim hung out with their older cousins. These were good times — good memories.
Kathy and Paul were married in 1960, and Jim and Karen in 1964. Alice went back to work outside the home, taking a job in the office of a local department store. Unfortunately, in later years Arthur’s health declined as he came down with emphysema, forcing him to retire early. Alice would work into the afternoon, then come home and take care of Arthur. She made it possible for Arthur to stay at home through the final seven years of his life as his health deteriorated, until his death in December of 1969.
Alice continued to work after Arthur’s death. She would take extended trips to visit Kathy and Paul, and Jim and Karen, and the grandchildren. Early in the 1980s she moved from Amherst, the subrug of Buffalo she had lived in for so long, to move fifty miles north to Lockport where Evelyn and Pete were in an assisted living facility. She continued rooting for the Buffalo Sabres and the Buffalo Bills.
In 1986, her health deteriorating a bit, Alice moved here to Parsippany to live with Jim and Karen, and their children, Susan and Jeff, who were teenagers at the time. It was contented life Alice lived here, enjoying her family’s company, her steady diet of books and newspapers, her walks down the block, and her evening ritual of a nice relaxing Manhattan to unwind with before dinner. With the possible exception of the time she mistakenly baked her grandson Jeff’s sneakers, drying in the oven, it was a very amiable life.
She remained an independent, determined woman who endured to the end of her life, writing out her own checks and balancing her check book without a calculator well into her 90s. At the age of 88 she house sat for Kathy and Paul when they were off on an extended trip. It was winter time, and during that time there was an extended power outage, lasting four days. The absence of electricity didn’t phase her; she was content with blankets, flashlights and books, and adamant in her refusal to abandon ship when Mary Beth and Greg tried to get her to come stay at their house. She wasn’t having it, though she did accept a dinner invitation.
Alice was devoted to her family, happily attending all the graduations, weddings, and baptisms. She loved the kids, and could talk quietly with any of her grandchildren or grandchildren. She cared about people. There is a delightful image of Alice at her grandson Paul’s wedding reception, sitting side by side with Paul’s grandmother, a woman from Portugal who couldn’t speak a word of English, and she not a word of Portugese. They sat their contentedly together, holding each other’s hand, sharing a common delight in the frolicking of the children, part of their shared family.
When I would visit Alice her face would light up when she would talk of her family, her children, and grandchildren and great grandchildren. She was quite clear that it had been a wonderful life she had lived, full of much love and good times.
The day before Alice died, she told one of the aids at the nursing home that the angels had come to her during the night. Her time to leave this world had come, and she was ready and willing, her body having worn out. Her one regret was that she didn’t make it to 100 and a visit from Willard Scott and the Today Show.
She died on September 19, 2006.
Rev. Jeff Edwards, Parsippany United Methodist Church