This week’s challenge was to write about an ancestor who is a lot like you. I have to turn it around a bit and write about an ancestor who I have striven to be like!
My grandmother, Mabel Linnea Seeber (who I called “Nanya”), gave me many gifts…she was full of fun and always laughing. When she and my grandfather took dance lessons, she always practiced her steps with me…I especially remember the cha-cha! She converted to Catholicism when she married Eddie Murphy, and remained a devout Catholic through-out her life, always sharing her faith with me. She was an avid reader and allowed me read her copy of To Kill a Mockingbird when it first came out. That has remained my all-time favorite book since that time! She shared her family stories with me creating in me an early desire to learn more about the family. She was always crafty and made many, many ceramics that she shared with the family and that I cherish today. She was very civic-minded, and although she did not have a high-school education, she was elected and served as Peoria County Treasurer for years back in the 1960’s.
The best gift that Nanya gave me was unconditional love. I was the oldest grandchild and she adored me. I spent one or two weekends a month with my grandparents until I went away to college, and even while in college, I sometimes came home to stay with them.
Fifteen years ago I became a grandmother for the first time, and I try to live up to the grandmother standard that she set…she was the very best.
Mabel L. Seeber was born in Peoria, Illinois on the 22nd of May in 1905 at 315 Merriman Street to Charles Oscar and Ida Olauson Seeber, immigrants from Sweden. She was their third child, with a sister Vera who was four years older than she and a brother, Rich, who was two years older than she was. Mabel’s father worked as a laborer and the family had little. One of the stories that my grandmother would share with me was her memory of going down to the corner tavern at the end of each day to carry home a bucket of beer for her father.
Mabel had another brother, Harry, born two years after she was, and a sister, Hazel, born four years after Mabel was born. By 1910, her father was listed as a woodworker and the family still lived on Merriman Street in Peoria. Mabel’s last sibling, Earl, was born in 1913, when Mabel was eight years old.
During the early 1920’s Mabel worked as a clerk at a couple of different stores. She was listed as a soda dispenser for a drug store in 1927, before she married. I don’t know how my grandparents met (one of those many questions I regret not asking), but I do know that Mabel eloped with Edward F. Murphy on the 15th of September in 1927 and took a train from Peoria to Pontiac Illinois and were married there by Fr. Edward Kelly. Mabel’s sister, Hazel, and a friend, Charles Becker, also went and were the witnesses for the marriage. Fr. Kelly had been a priest in Peoria for a number of years at St. Mark’s Parish, which is where my grandfather’s family attended, so I would guess that he was a friend to the family, had been transferred to Pontiac and that’s why my grandparents went there. They may have eloped because it was always said that my grandfather’s family felt that he had married “beneath” him…meaning that my grandmother came from the wrong side of the tracks, so to speak. My grandfather’s family lived up on the bluff and were well-to-do at that time. Mabel’s family lived “down below the hill” in the south side of the city. However, Mabel quickly won the family over, and they were close for all the years left.
Mabel and Eddie quickly became pregnant and their first child, my mother Patricia, was born to them on the 22nd of August in 1928. Their second child, Edward, was born in 1933.
I don’t know when but I believe that it was sometime in the early 1940’s Mabel became quite ill and was taken to Mayo Clinic where one of her kidneys was removed. My mother remembered it as a very stressful time and that they were not sure that Mabel would survive.
It doesn’t appear that Mabel worked outside the home until about 1948, when she was listed as the Deputy County Treasurer for Peoria County. She was forty-three years old and, at that time, it was fairly unusual for a woman to have a job with that kind of responsibility. She went on to become the County Treasurer and I have many memories of going to visit her at the County Courthouse during grade school and high school whenever I was downtown with my friends. Both of her sisters worked there for her, also.
Mabel became a grandmother for the first time in 1949. She had two baby pictures of me up wherever she lived until she died. I have them displayed in the same frames in my study now, reminding me always of her love.
Around 1955, Mabel and Eddie built their dream home on the Illinois River. It was a great place for family to gather. They had several acres and built a huge screened-in gazebo for family and friend gatherings. They also bought a big pontoon boat that would carry a lot of people. Holidays were great fun there.
Mabel was always surrounded by family and friends. As a cousin said, she was the glue of the family, bringing people together. She seemed to always find the best in people.
In 1972, Mabel and Eddie moved to Arizona for Eddie’s health. No one was surprised that some of her siblings went to live there also. I was newly married and missed her terribly. However, there were visits back and forth through-out the time she lived there, with them coming home to visit, or I would go out there with my husband, and soon made a couple of visits out there with my first child. Nanya was thrilled with my having her first great-grandchild. We were blessed to have her know all three of our children!
Mabel and Eddie were in Arizona for four years until Eddie died in 1976. Mabel then returned to Peoria to live and be with her children and grandchildren, and, of course, her siblings. In 1981 she was diagnosed with stomach cancer, had surgery and cheerfully went on with life. In 1984, Mabel moved to a retirement home and both of her sisters went there, also. It was always so wonderful to see how close they were to each other.
Sadly, Mabel’s stomach cancer returned near the end of 1985 and she died on the 26th of January in 1986. She was cheerful and smiling as she died, just as she lived her life.