Madie was a Hoot!
Small in stature but large in personality and character!! Born in
Valpariso, Indiana on May 23rd 1900. Her early
years were ones of traveling by train and stagecoach with her itinerate
minister Father who preached from town to town. On one such train
trip she remembers meeting Wild Bill Cody (Buffalo Bill) and getting to
sit on his lap, listening to his tails of adventure!
she was a typical preachers daughter who rebelled in the “Roaring
Twenties”. I remember a story she told of during that time
while dating one of the Hudson brothers (a son of J.L. Hudson of the
Hudson Motor Car Co.)
Chicago one nite, when during dinner at a fine restaurant, her date saw 3
men enter, pushed her to the floor and threw up their table in front of
them - as tommy gun fire sprayed around the room!
At 19 May’s first
husband James Leonard Terrell Sr. only stayed long enough to sire James Jr,
and then abandon them to support themselves. May was young
strong and resourceful. During the war years she worked in an
aircraft factory and helped support herself and small son by renting out
not only the rooms in her house, but also the davenport and porch day bed.
worked in a cookie factory where she later told of having what she thought
might be an allergy which made her nose itch, and she’d always rub it
getting powdered sugar on her face. She thought that might have been
the cause for the skin cancer she later developed, where she had to have
part of her nose removed. She later developed more cancer and
was a guiny pig for a double colostomy operation at a university in Los
Angeles around 1965. They must have done a good job for she lived
another 25 years with the daily grind of caring for this procedure.
I remember the first
time I met her … I was not quite 19, had heard lots of stories of
Grandma Madie not liking or getting along with Rick’s Dad’s wives, so
didn’t know what to expect. We went upstairs to her small
apartment in Sunland near Tujunga California, where my fiancé promptly
fell asleep on her couch leaving me to face Madie and Aunt Florence on my
own. One of the first things I remember her telling me was “Well if
you stay married long enough (as if she felt we wouldn’t!!) I’ll
give you the family silver.” “Wow” I thought “was this
like Fort Knox or what?” I wondered what she’d meant’.
Later I found it was just a partial box of Community Chest Coronation
flatware!! A wonderful treasure but hardly the Fort Knox she’d led
me to believe (or was that my wishful thinking ;-)
She married Ray
Swartley who died February 5, 1943 - the same night, in the same hospital
that my husband was born (in Glendale CA). She remembered going from
a room of death to a room of birth, and the doctor handing Ricky to her to
help console her pain. She later married Jack Wilson, a hard working
steam roller man for a paving company. They were together for ---
years until his death in ---
Madie was always
very good to both me, my husband and her great-grandson Ryan.
She made frequent visits to see us in her big ol Chrysler where her small
just over 5 foot frame could barely see over the steering wheel! She
spent her final years in a small apartment in Yucca Valley California,
near her son Dr. James Leonard Terrell. I called and asked a
local reporter to interview her for her 90th birthday -
attached is a copy of that article. Madie died on December 20th
in her sleep with Jim at her side.