Madeline “Mamie” McGee was my paternal Grandmother. As with the rest of my grandparents, she passed away before I was born. For whatever reason I have always felt very connected to her. The more I research, the more that is confirmed. She loved lilacs, has a little girl I can remember going with my Dad to her grave site and leaving them for her. To this day the smell of lilacs takes me back to that and is one of my favorite scents. When I turned 13 a dear friend of my mother gave me a set of china that had once belonged to her. The dishes are the most beautiful shade of light green, the teacups are the most delicate things small and almost impossibly thin. The outside that same beautiful shade of green and inside looks almost translucent.
Madeline Loretta McVay was born in the tiny Village of Lakewood, NY (Chautauqua County) on July 8, 1894 (122 yrs ago today!). Her parents were John and Margaret Ryan McVay. John McVay had been named Postmaster of Lakewood in April of 1890. Her brother William Wayne McVay was born in 1898, Uncle Wayne was the only member of my Dad’s family that I ever knew. Mamie and Wayne remained close throughout their lives. There was another brother, Charles who died at the age of 3 from typhoid. The McVay family, John and his brothers owned several businesses in Jamestown and the family lived in Lakewood, Busti, and Jamestown. 1899 was a particularly bad year for the family, Mamie’s brother Charles, her Grandmother, and her aunt all died. The Grandmother is still a bit of a mystery and while her gravestone says 1899 as her death year I have some conflicting information. Maybe the most crushing loss however was the death of Mamie’s father, John McVay. He died of Typhoid fever in September of 1899 at the age of 36. Her father and little brother are buried in Jamestown.
I had never known that I family in Jamestown, NY until I started researching. It is especially interesting because my husband’s family is from the Jamestown/Dunkirk area. In all the years we have been visiting I never knew that I had roots there as well. So I was blown away to learn that my Great-Grandfather and several members of his family are buried in a cemetery that we pass on every visit. The cemetery is close to our relatives home and their plots can be seen as we go by! They are buried not to far from my husband’s Grandfather. I had always enjoyed visiting the city but even more so now!
By 1900 Margaret, Mamie and Wayne moved to Warsaw, NY be closer to her Margaret’s family, The Ryan’s. Madeline and Wayne grew up and became a part of the Warsaw community. Mamie graduated from Warsaw High School in 1914 and was the class Treasurer. Mamie was a great history keeper. There is a journal from her high school graduating year in which she lists all of her classmates. Their class motto (Res non verba, things are not words) and poem are carefully written out by hand. She took 4 yrs of Latin and 3 of German. In her journal she says that Latin was her favorite study, mathematics and English her least favorite. She definitely passed her dislike of math onto to her granddaughter! She wrote an essay titled “The Spirit of Patriotism” and read it at her Graduation. Her journal is sort of a handwritten yearbook.
After graduation Mamie went to work for the County Clerk where she remained for several years. She and my grandfather knew each other in high school, he graduated the year before her. Her journal lists gifts she received from his family for graduation. My grandfather went to France during the First World War. I am not sure what took them so long but Norm and Mamie finally were married on October 17, 1923. I especially love this because my husband and I were married on October 7. Mamie was 29 when she was married – somewhat unusual for the time. They made their home with Mamie’s mother for a time in Warsaw. There are references in a couple of letters that I found that suggest that they had some trouble starting a family. My Dad was born in 1930 when Mamie was 36. A second son, William Wayne was born and died in 1934, he died at birth. She would have been 40 at the time.
When my dad was young the family moved to nearby Batavia, NY. My grandfather took a job at a bank there. As their mother’s became older at some point they both lived with Mamie, Norm and my Dad. My Grandmother was very social and she and my Grandpa had many friends in the community. They were also very involved in their church. My Grandfather died unexpectedly in 1952 at the age of 57 in their home. They had entertained friends to play cards earlier that night.
After his death she spent a lot of time with friends. From what I have always heard , she absolutely loved to play Bridge. They had a bridge club and played often. Even after her death they continued to get together. I can remember the bridge club coming over to our house to play. My parents would get out the card tables and set them with tablecloths and snacks. I remember thinking it was all very fancy. Mamie loved to read (she also passed this one down to me) and was absolutely terrified of bats and thunderstorms. She lived in an apartment that often was plagued with bats, she would call my Dad to come over and take care of them. My sister said she would hide on the attic stairs, reading waiting for my Dad. One night there was a terrible thunderstorm and she went to wait it out in the closet, she went in with her book. However she soon discovered she was not alone…there was a bat in the closet! She called my Dad, covered her head and read her book until the cavalry arrived!
She spent quite a bit of time with my siblings. My sister remembers spending time with her, she especially remembers Mamie making Peanut butter and butter sandwiches cut into 4’s. It was funny because when she told me that it brought back memories of my Dad making me the same thing! Peanut butter and butter sandwiches were one of my Dad’s favorite things. Mamie was a determined, strong person. She owned a car and got around all by herself. Her driving skills were somewhat questionable…one day while taking a corner too fast her passenger door flew open and my oldest brother landed on the curb! That was well before the days of seat belts!! My brothers were big baseball fans in the mid 1960’s she decided that they should see a proper game. My brave Grandmother took the boys on the train to New York City and took them to Yankee Stadium to see the Yankees play. She took them by herself – and my brothers could be a bit of a handful… I think it is safe to say that if she loved her son, she absolutely doted on his family. She sounds like a pretty cool Grandma!
Madeline McGee died on August 17, 1967, she called my father and said she didn’t feel well and she died 2 hrs later at the hospital she was 73 yrs old. Her funeral was at St. Mary’s Church in Batavia and she was buried next to her husband and infant son at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Warsaw. I will always wish that I had the opportunity to know her but even so I feel a connection with her. She was a person who lived life no matter what it threw her way. She didn’t live an entirely conventional life, but she certainly lived a full one. Sounds to me like something we can all respect and aspire to do.
(n.d.). Retrieved July 06, 2016, from http://person.ancestry.com/tree/71173302/person/34231770441/facts