52 Ancestors In 52 Weeks, 2018; week 3 prompt: Longevity.
Can longevity mean more than simply the years an individual lives? I think so. I see lives remembered long after individuals are gone, as, a sort of longevity, too.
I think longevity when my 3rd cousin once removed, Elsa (Fern) Walden, comes to mind — born on a Wednesday afternoon at “the Plummer place” around 5:30 p.m.1 May 24, 1922 Grand River Township, Livingston County, Missouri, USA2; died November 5, 2004 at Carle Foundation Hospital3, Urbana, Champaign County, Illinois, from a head injury due to a fall2) — Elsa was the daughter of one of my Greger-side kin, Bessie Opal Gray (November 11, 1887 Sidney, Champaign County, Illinois–October 17, 1975 Champaign, Champaign County, Illinois), & Elbert Earl Walden (February 2, 1885 Hale, Livingston County, Missouri–February 13, 1927 Chillicothe, Livingston County, Missouri).
Cousin Elsa first came to my attention when our mutual cousin and my fellow Greger-line genealogy researcher Larry G. Greger (1944-2007; rest in peace Larry, thank you &, I love you), son of Chester H. (Chet) Greger (1902–1975) & Juanita Fancher (1912–1988), sent me a copy of Elsa’s flat-out wonderful The Waldens on Old Grand River, 1910-1927. I could not believe the wealth of family data in her book. Right on page two I read:
~ 1906 ~
“Charlie [Charles Elmer, my 1st cousin three times removed] and Nanny [Nancy Jane (Sutton)] Greger had sold their property on the Douglas and Champaign County line in 1906, taken their two children, [Mary Ethel] Ethel and Chester [Larry G.’s father], and moved to Missouri where Charlie’s Uncle Jerome Greger [Jerome Walter (1841–1914), brother of my 2nd great-grandfather Emanuel H.] had settled.
“Charlie wrote to Grandma Gray [Metta Jewell (Leeds) Purcell Greger Gray], his stepmother, and to his sister, Suda ‘Sude’ (Greger) Gray [Suda Alice], encouraging them to follow. The Gray and Greger families had been friends in Clermont County, Ohio, as early as 1850. The various sons and daughters had followed each other in covered wagons across the grasslands of Indiana and Illinois, with one or two continuing into Missouri.
“Sude wanted to be near her brother, so Grandma Gray sold the farm south of Sidney, Illinois, and Frank [Francis Marion Cyrus (1864–1927)] and Sude Gray disposed of their farm north of Sidney and prepared to continue the westward migration, this time by rail.”1
The entire book details events in the lives of these collateral kin of mine, from flooding so bad that animals & furniture are described floating by, to an infant daughter accidentally suffocated by sleeping in her parents’ bed between them.
SEGUE: The Greger & Gray families were so close that they made for some meticulously careful genealogy sleuthing. As Larry G. once put it in an email to me aimed at helping sort out the convolutions, “Now comes the confusing part with Greataunt Suda Greger, when she married Francis Marion Cyrus Gray. When Metta [Leeds] married Davis Gray the father of Francis M. C. Gray who married Suda, Metta was Suda’s great cousin then became her stepmother and Suda married her stepbrother and became stepmother to Francis’ children who were Emanuel H. & Eliza Ellen Greger’s [<- my 2nd great-grandparents] great-grandchildren… This is enough to drive you crazy, but that’s how it is or was.” And down the rabbit hole I went, coming out the other side elucidated. END SEGUE
The more I read Elsa Walden’s wonderfully detailed family history of the Waldens on Grand River, the more interested I became in her. Googling, I learned that her colorful career had included a 1960 stint as Assistant Stage Manager and then Stage Manager for a Broadway stage production of “Bye Bye Birdie” featuring Dick Van Dyke.5 “The production was a Tony Award winning success in the 1960–61 season,” reads an (undated) UnderTheDuvetProductions blog post titled,”Broadway Flashback 1960: Tony Award Winning Bye Bye Birdie Starring Chita Rivera & Dick Van Dyke, Music by Charles Strouse; by Lisa Pacino.”6
In an earlier, 1957 Broadway production called “The Tunnel of Love,” Elsa was both understudy for another performer and, Assistant Stage Manager.5
Apparently as much of an Elsa Fern Walden fan as myself, and, then some, our mutual kin Anabeth Dollins has compiled extensive bio on Elsa. Dollins lists resume content for Elsa including items as varied as stenographer, legal correspondence clerk, & secretary to, actress &, writer of “three full-length plays for stage and two film scripts, plus shorter works.”4
Making her live long in my mind and those of other Greger-family genealogy researchers whose lines it covers, though, will always be Elsa’s The Waldens on Old Grand River, 1910-1927.
On April 9, 1998, the Villa Grove News included this: “Thanks for the generosity of another donor the Camargo Township District Library has improved its offerings to the public. Elsa Walden of Urbana, Illinois, a former resident of Villa Grove and a graduate of Villa Grove High School, donated the money to purchase a reader printer for the Genealogy Department.” That same year, Elsa Walden attained DAR membership.4
Rest in peace, cousin Elsa, and, thanks for the genealogy research help!
Elsa’s grave marker7 at Villa Grove Cemetery, Villa Grove, Douglas County, Illinois:
1 The Waldens on Old Grand River, 1910-1927, Elsa F. Walden, 1992.
2 Anabeth Dollins’ Penn State University personal page, “Genealogy,” at http://www.personal.psu.edu/axd2/genealogy/genWalden.html , accessed Jan. 21, 2018.
3 Champaign [IL] News-Gazette online, at www.news-gazette.com/story.cfm?Number=17084 , accessed Nov., 2004.
4 “Elsa Walden — her life : May 24, 1922 – November 5, 2004,” Anabeth Dollins, at http://www.personal.psu.edu/axd2/genealogy/WaldenElsa.html , accessed Jan. 21, 2018.
5 “Elsa Walden Broadway and Theatre Credits,” at https://www.broadwayworld.com/people/Elsa-Walden/ , accessed Jan., 2018.
6 “Under The Duvet Productions” WordPress blog post, at https://undertheduvetproductions.wordpress.com/2017/02/07/broadway-flashback-1960-tony-award-winning-bye-bye-birdie-starring-chita-rivera-dick-van-dyke-music-by-charles-strouse-by-lisa-pacino/ , accessed Jan. 21, 2018.
7 Photo of grave marker submitted to FindAGrave.com by “Tori;” see memorial (no. 86560004) at https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/86560004/elsie-f-walden ; accessed Jan. 21, 2018.