One of the most colorful ancestors I know of was my grand-aunt Gen. She is the topic of this week’s challenge “Colorful”.
Genevieve Elizabeth Murphy was born 6 August 1903 in Peoria. She was the oldest child of Edward R. and Katherine “Kitty” Hanauer Murphy. She was my grandfather’s sister. Edward, her brother, was born in 1906.
Gen received her 1st Communion on the 4th of January in 1911 at St. Mark's in Peoria and was confirmed there on the 1st of May in 1913. When Gen was almost eighteen years old, her youngest brother, Joe, was born (in 1921).
The 1920 Census indicates that Gen had attended school over the past year, so she must have attended high school.
Gen became an aunt for the first time in 1928 when my mother was born. She adored the new baby, and was close to my mother through-out her life. In 1930 Gen was listed as age twenty-six, living with her parents and working as a stenographer at a grain company (probably where her father was also working as a salesman). The 1930 Census indicates that Gen graduated from high school.
In 1940, Gen was living with her parents and was thirty-six years old. She was listed in the census as a secretary at a hotel. By 1948, Gen was listed as Promotional Director at the Pere Marquette Hotel. The war years are where the story begins to get colorful. After Gen died, my brother and father were clearing her things out and found letters from about 1941 to 1945 from many soldiers, thanking her for either showing them a good time or providing them with girls who showed them a good time. The letters seemed to indicate that Gen ran a “business” through the hotel! She was still the Promotional Director at the Hotel in 1951.
On the 14th of April in 1952, at the age of forty-nine, Gen married Wayne Matheny. Wayne was thirteen years younger than her and divorced. He was a radio personality in Peoria who went by the name of “Wayne West”.
She and Wayne purchased a lovely home in Peoria Heights and her parents lived in the upstairs of the home. Wayne moved into television on WMBD in Peoria and hosted several children’s shows and was active in both Peoria Players and Juvenile Theater. In 1958, Wayne lost his job and was “run out of town”.
Wayne and Gen moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where he was hired by KOLNtelevision and again, had several children’s shows there. In 1959, Gen’s father died. Her mother died in 1963. Sadly, her baby brother, Joe, also died in 1963. Gen had been quite close to Joe, so I am sure that it was a very difficult time for her.
I visited them several times as a child when they lived in Nebraska. They were very involved in the community and lived in an old gorgeous home.
While in Nebraska Gen and Wayne hosted many tours:
1963-a trip to Mexico
1965-a trip to Hawaii
1966-a trip to the West
1967-a trip to Europe
1969-a trip to Ireland and Scandinavia
Shortly after their last trip, Wayne was again “run out of town". In 1970, Wayne and Gen bought a motel in Oskaloosa, Iowa to run as their “retirement”. However, Wayne died the same year, so Gen sold the motel and moved back to Peoria.
She lived in various apartments in Peoria until she became unable to care forherself. She was placed in a retirement home and shortly after she was there, the home requested that my mother remove her, because she was so disruptive. Oh, I must have neglected to share about Gen’s personality! She was one of the most fun and interesting people I know to have been around. She was also one of the most awful people I know to be around. She had a temper that was known far and wide. It was nothing for her to hang up the phone in anger if she was ever confronted, or even felt like she might be confronted or disagreed with. The family still talks about wanting to “throw an Aunt Gen” when dealing with situations! Fights between her and my grandfather are epic stories in the family, ever since they were children.
So, anyway, my mother placed Gen in another retirement home and again, received a phone call asking her to take her out. My mom talked long and hard and convinced them to try a little longer. By this time, Gen was suffering from dementia and then seemed quite medicated, so that seems to be how she was allowed to remain there until she died in 1992.
Gen led a very colorful and interesting life, but seemed to be deep down one of the most miserable, unhappy persons I have ever known. She could be great fun, and we had very interesting conversations as I got older, but she had no tolerance for any slight perception of someone not agreeing with her.
It’s interesting that she lived with her parents almost her entire life and that she married a man who was gay (or perhaps bisexual) and he was a pedophile. I would sure like to know what all of Genevieve's issues were. Whatever they were, they sure made for a colorful woman!