Andrew B. Duncan Death

Andrew B. Duncan was the son of David and Helen Lamb Barlass (spelled Barlis on this certificate) Duncan and grandson of our immigrant couple Thomas and Eliza Cation Duncan.  His middle initial may stand for Barlass, his mother’s maiden name.

Andrew was born in Wisconsin in 1873.  In 1900 he lived with his parents in Chicago.  By 1910 he had married (Helen) and was living in Denver with no occupation listed in the census.  They had a daughter, Gertrude, born in Colorado in 1911.  By 1920 they were living in Santa Monica, California.  Four years later he killed himself.  There’s more story here, but I don’t know it.
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The Sky and Tomorrow

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The unmarked graves of Thomas and Actea Duncan.

This post could go in several directions, but the one that tops everything for me is the effect an author can have on a reader.  It all began with a post I did four years ago about a distant cousin, Thomas W. Duncan who wrote a best-selling book in the 1940s.  And then a follow-up story I wrote on his unmarked grave in Las Cruces, New Mexico.

In the early 1980s Robert Barron, now a lawyer from Colorado Springs, Colorado, read Thomas Duncan’s last book, “The Sky and Tomorrow.”  The book had a strong inspirational effect on him.  Now more than 30 years later, he wanted to show his appreciation, if not to the author, perhaps to his children.  He made an internet search and found my blog posts.  Thwarted by learning that Thomas and his wife, Actea, had no children and then shocked that the Duncans were buried in unmarked graves, Robert shifted gears.  “This is not acceptable.”  And so a man who was affected by an author’s words, set out to have proper stones placed on the graves.  This is man of action, determined to resolve the issue.

It took several months of planning with the help of Peggy Wood, sexton at the Masonic Cemetery, to design and have the headstone set.  For the unveiling Robert traveled to Las Cruces from Colorado.  I met him there and we met Peggy finally after dozens of emails.  She assembled a group of book lovers, local historians, a genealogical society member, along with a local newspaper reporter, Steve Ramirez (his article here), and the paper’s photographer, Jett Loe.  Thomas and Actea Duncan now have beautifully honored graves.
duncan lcI was pleasantly surprised to have so many folks there for the ceremony.  Robert spoke eloquently about why he wanted the memorial placed.  It was a way of thanking Tom Duncan and it was closure for Robert.  The Las Cruces locals talked about early Las Cruces and perhaps why the Duncans ended up there.  It was fun to hear their stories.  It gave me a deeper understanding of the city – not so long ago there was very little development east of I-25.  Hard to imagine that now.
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We left the cemetery having honored Thomas and Actea Duncan.  We learned more about them and the town where they chose to live out their lives.  I was able to see a man, shocked at the lack of a proper stone for the grave of someone he cared about, set about to fix that.  It was inspiring to witness that resolution.  All because an author, Thomas W. Duncan, wrote words that inspired a young Robert Barron.

Afterword
Besides the satisfaction of seeing a monument on my distant relatives’ graves, meeting Robert and the Las Cruces folks, I was struck by the power of the internet and by a blog as small as mine.  It’s satisfying to have been a facilitator in Robert’s quest.

The lesson for me:  Write.  Put your thoughts and ideas and stories out into the universe.  It worked for Thomas Duncan and it worked for me.  It may not happen immediately on publication.  In fact, it probably won’t; it could be years.  Again that’s the strength of the internet.  We have no idea of the effect we can have.  This time it lead to a ‘proper goodbye.’

[The original stories were posted on my blog AlwaysBackroads.wordpress.com – it was before I had this genealogy blog.]

619 DeKalb Avenue

Mom (Harriet Duncan Claycomb) tried to write to her sister, Barb, every day when Barb was not feeling well.  From two of those letters I found this description of their childhood home, 619 DeKalb Ave, DeKalb, Illinois.  

“…Let’s go back to 619 DeKalb Avenue for a drop in.  The entrance to the open porch used to be on the front but when they glassed it in, they moved the steps to the driveway side.  Inside the front door was a cold register where we put wet boots and galoshes.  Was that register to just let in fresh air?  Next to it was the Victrola.  My favorite records were Stars and Stripes Forever, Beautiful Ohio, and Saxaphobia.  Next was the stairway with a bannister I loved to slide down.  Below that was the chest seat where we sat to put on boots—open the lid and there were rubbers, galoshes, and roller skates.  Next was that gloomy dark closet under the stairs.  Inside were card tables, carom board, golf clubs and tennis racquets.  Across from the closet door were originally coat hooks like the ones in cloak rooms at school.  They were removed when the phone was moved from the wall facing the kitchen to the hall wall opposite the closet.

619 DeKalb Avenue, DeKalb, Illinois.

619 DeKalb Avenue, DeKalb, Illinois.

I loved the sliding doors into the living room.  Sometimes the music case stood just inside on the left—it held all the Sherwood Music course they bought for Helen to become a concert pianist I think.  She did pretty well at that.

Around the wall were built-in benches on two sides.   They were oak and pretty and next to the bookcase.  Kind of handy to take out a book and sit right there to see if it was readable.  Then the big window facing Judd’s and then the piano.  Mother had all the new songs and kept most of them in the bench along with a hymnal and 101 Best Songs.  I remember Yes Sir That’s My Baby, The Song is Ended but the Melody Lingers On, Barney Google with his Goo Goo Googley Eyes, Dream Kisses, My Buddy, Just a Memory, Among My Souvenirs, and on and on.  When we had company, sometimes Mother would play and Helen would sing Alice Blue Gown and she was darling.  The sofa was opposite the piano and had a hot register between it and the dining room where we stood to dress many a chilly morning.

Inside the dining room on the left was the Morris chair, the radio with headphones and a window facing the street.  There was a buffet under the high window, the sewing machine next and then the china closet.  Why did we say ‘closet’?  Or was it cupboard?  Then the door to the pantry.  When we had adult company, we three would make blanket beds on the floor by the door going to the kitchen—it was a lark.  Our old dining room table was round like everybody’s but Florence got a bigger maple oblong one when she came.

Nothing unusual in the kitchen—stove, kitchen cabinet, wooden table and the sink.  Outside on the landing to the basement was the icebox with the dishpan underneath.  Then about four steps down to the back door.

How about going upstairs?  We’ll take the back stairway and stop at the landing to look out the window.  Who lives in Gunn’s house now?  Is there still a big garden in back with asparagus and much more?  On up to the hall and the linen closets facing us.  Big drawers.  I used to send for samples of anything there were coupons for in the magazines—had miniatures of everything from tea to mascara.  Then I started sending for movie stars’ pictures.  They always sent 9×12 glossies autographed.  So I took up one of those big drawers in the hall.  Don’t know what was in the other drawers but in the cupboards above were towels and sheets.  Turning left was the big bedroom with the knotty pine furniture and the little alcove bedroom beside, and a tiny closet.  It seems to me we changed room arrangements often so the only room with a name on it for me was across the hall “Grandma’s room.”  I know I had a turn in each of the others.  The closets in the two rooms on the attic door side had slant roofs and you couldn’t stand up where the slope went down.

Well, that was all very boring—let’s try the attic.  Narrow stairs with the light switch on the left.  Hot in summer, but nice in winter.  On nasty days we often played up there.  Boxes of books always fascinated me—I remember poring through “Everything a Man of 40 Should Know.”  I doubt if I was much better informed after reading that.  The front windows had flies in them.  Boxes of treasure like a photo album with dozens of beautiful lacy valentines glued in.  There was a black knit dress form, rather shapely.  Over center towards Judd’s side were the chests of clothes.  Fantastic old fashioned dress and hats and even a corset.  We dressed up many a day in those clothes.  Some days we planned plays that we would put on and charge 3 pins to get in.  Guess there weren’t any stage stars among us because we fell flat.  In the next corner towards the garage were “Grandma Oakland’s things”—hands off.  The last corner had junk like an old fan, pans, and a chipped enamel table.

Well, my dears, that was a fizzle, so I’ll go outside.  Across the front of the house was Bridal Wreath with Lilies of the Valley below.  Remember the skinny strips of cement back to the garage for the wheels to try to stay on?  There were lush peony bushes under the

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan on those "skinny strips of cement."

Harriet, Helen, and Barbara Duncan on those “skinny strips of cement.”

window where the sewing machine was inside.  The peonies were beautiful but usually were crawling with little black ants.  From the front porch to the sidewalk was a hedge that had tiny tart leaves—I always put a leaf on my town and nibbled it.

Behind the garage were currant bushes against the fence, then two cherry trees, then garden bordered by rhubarb.  We had a martin birdhouse in the center of the yard on a pole but I don’t remember any tenants for it.  Sometimes we played croquet in the back yard.

619 DeKalb Avenue in 1999.

619 DeKalb Avenue in 1999.

Huckins – Stephenson Link

Here’s a guest blog from my cousin, Jim McDaniels.  I appreciate having guest bloggers – thanks!  And I also like having family mementos returned to the closer branch of the family.

Grandpa Thomas Leroy ‘Roy’ Duncan married Florence Huckins Duncan (1890-1960) in 1931, grandpa’s second marriage. Our grandmother, Albie Oakland (1888-1927) and Roy were married in 1911 as described in Donna’s blog. The McDaniels family, Jim, Barbara (daughter of Roy Duncan), Jamie and Jerry, visited Roy and Florence in 1953. They were living with Edith Huckins Norris, Florence’s sister, in Rockford. A cool, big old house filled with art (shrunken head, swords, first edition books, etc.).

L-R: Unknown, Unknown, Edith Huckins Norris, Unknown, Florence Huckins Duncan, Thomas Leroy Duncan. Early 1950s?

L-R: Unknown, Unknown, Edith Huckins Norris, Unknown, Florence Huckins Duncan, Thomas Leroy Duncan. Early 1950s?

After Florence’s death grandpa married Marcella Rice and moved to Kings, Illinois to live in Marcella’s parents’ home (and maybe her grandparents’ home). In 1981 I visited them and Marcella showed me lots of stuff that grandpa had been saving for years. After grandpa died in 1983, Marcella sent me a box of cool stuff. Several items I could not identify. There was a box of WW1 letters was described earlier in Donna’s blog. There was a diary from around 1820 with Stephenson information. I did not recognize the name and I contacted our genealogy expert, Donna. Donna said there was a Stephenson somewhere in the Huckins tree.

I got the names and birth dates from the diary to give me a start. The Stacey Stephenson Roper tree (on Ancestry.com) identified the Stephenson’s beginning in 1579 in England and emigrating to Jamestown in 1640.  I was able to contact Stacey. She was a big help and very interested in genealogy.  The diary kept by Matthew James Stephenson (1778-1837) identified his children/dates. Tracing down from there Mary Delilah Stephenson (1851-1931) married Sewell Brainard Huckins (1852-1915) who were the parents of Florence, Edith and two brothers, Harold and Payson. Stacey now has the diary.

Nettie Patchen Duncan 1945 – Home Movies

I feel so fortunate to have home movies that include my great-grandmother, Nettie Patchen Duncan.  She was born in 1858.  This movie is from 1944 or 1945 so she is about 86 years old.  She died in 1949.
Once again, the quality is poor, but I’m still thrilled to have this record.  Nettie is the tall, white haired woman.  She’s sitting in the yard in Rockford, Illinois, with her daughter-in-law, Florence Duncan (my grandfather’s second wife).  The children are my older brother and sister, Tom and Jeanie.  The woman in uniform is my Aunt Helen – Nettie’s granddaughter.  Late in the clip is my grandfather, Thomas Leroy Duncan, Nettie’s son.

William Duncan Part 5 (Alderman Descendants)

In 1920 according to the Federal Census William Duncan Alderman’s widow Ida was living alone in Waterloo, next door to Jane Roebuck, probably her mother.

William and Ida’s son Edward died 11 February 1955, having never married.
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Ida Roebuck Alderman died 21 September 1955, age 87.
5 ida dc5 ida obit 1William and Ida’s daughter Lura married John W. Ritze 4 June 1913 in Waterloo.  They had two daughters, Marian and Gwen.  John died in 1971.  Lura Ritze lived to be 100 years old.  She died 23 October 1990 in Waterloo.

Partial obituary for John Ritze.

Partial obituary for John Ritze.

5 lura dc5 lura obitMarion Ritze (born 1915) married George David who died in 1948.  They had one daughter, Marilee, who had no children.  Marion married William (Bud) Eubank in 1950.  Marion died in 1982 and Bud died in 1984.*

Gwen Ritze (born 1918) married Erwin Petersen in 1938. He died in 1943. She married Bill Humenczuk in 1951. He died in 1998.  Gwen died in 2011 – her beautiful obituary is here.  She had one son, Bill Humenczuk, three grandchildren (John Humenczuk, David Humenczuk, Marie Denton) and two great grandchildren (Makaela and Levi Denton.)*

These are our original William Duncan’s (1838 -1863) descendants.

*These paragraphs and the link to Gwen’s obituary were generously provided by her son, Bill.  I am grateful to him and any others who help make this information accurate.  Thanks Bill!

Harriet Duncan In Her Own Words – Part 1

our baby book coverAlthough my almost infallible Mother wrote in my baby book that I was born in 1915, the truth is it was December second, 1914 that she gave birth to me at DeKalb Township Hospital where my paternal Grandmother [Nettie Patchen Duncan] was Superintendent.

 

 

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My next stay at that address was several years later to have my tonsils out.  Grandma was tall and stately in her starched white long dress uniform with a black ribbon round her neck — I think scissors hung from it but I don’t know why.

Dad, Mother, Helen and I, and later Barbara, lived at Fifth and Franklin [DeKalb, Illinois] in a yellow house with a railed front porch.  In the back yard we later had a huge wood box (we called it a piano box).  Our neighbor kids joined us to play in it.  I especially remember Frances Duffey who would later become my lifetime best-buddy, her sister Bertha who was Helen’s age, and Willis Pooler who to our disgust peed out of a knothole in our playhouse.

Back l-r: Helen Duncan, Bertha Duffey.  Front l-r: Harriet Duncan, Willis Pooler, Frances Duffey. 1919

Back l-r: Helen Duncan, Bertha Duffey. Front l-r: Harriet Duncan, Willis Pooler, Frances Duffey. 1919

619 DeKalb Avenue

619 DeKalb Avenue

There were three schools:  Ellwood, Glidden, and Haish.  We walked to Haish near Seventh Street.  I adored Kindergarten and was reluctant to leave when were to move to 619 De Kalb Avenue.  We were making family books in school and I had to rush to finish mine.  We chose magazine pictures of our family and all their elegant dream possessions.  My lovely teacher helped me so I could take it with me.

Helen Duncan below X on wall.

Helen Duncan below X on wall.

I started First Grade under Miss Neptune.  Clara Gunn next door was just starting kindergarten.  Sometime I walked with Annetta Schreck or Edith Olson.  Later we rollerskated to school.  My first invitation from a boy was when I was in the fourth grade;  Roland Ritzman asked me to go rollerskating with him.  We crossed arms and joined hands like iceskaters do and skated down College Avenue.  We were in Normal School then, the teacher training school for Northern Illinois State Teachers College.  Mrs. Nelson taught second grade and was nice, but we dreaded being promoted to third where “Miss Ross is cross” was the chant.  My favorite teacher was in fourth grade, Miss Ethel Shattuck.  She lived with her sister in Sycamore later and the sister was Frank’s step-grandmother, Grandma Ve.

American Steel Picnic.

American Steel Picnic.

Our family had lots of fun times.  Many, many picnics because in the summer American Steel where Dad worked went on daylight savings time and he worked 7 to 4.  We’d get ready to go at 4:05.  Sometimes we’d go nutting and fill bags with walnuts, hickory nuts, and my favorite, butternuts.  We usually went with Marshalls from Sycamore for nuts; they had two girls older than Helen and me:  Lois and Middy.  Their mother, Grace, died before our mother.  There were plenty of kids to play with — The Gunns, the Olsons, the Taylors, Ruth, Wesley and Winfield.  In winter we played king of the mountain at Olsons, Fox and Geese in our back yard.  Clara and made sloppy doll clothes, neither one of us was talented.  My favorite thing was dressing paperdolls with Annetta Schreck who was not only beautiful but very artistic and she helped me make exotic clothes for my family of dolls.  We kept them in magazine — one family to a book.  Summer evenings we gathered on the curb of the street and played some kind of forfeit game and Run Sheep Run and Red Light, Green Light.  We popped corn and made taffy and spent hours making May baskets and gathering wildflowers in the woods to put in the baskets.  We went to Sunday School and Church.  Mother sang in the choir.  One night Dad had the Men’s Club from the church come to our house.  They brought folding chairs and they all sang while Mother played.  I’ve always loved men’s voices and I remember the sound of their deep voices “There’s a church in the valley in the wildwood” actually it’s The Little Brown Church in the Vale.  Church suppers were held often and we made ourselves quite at home in the church, roaming and playing in all the rooms.  It was “our church” something I have never felt since then.

When I was nine or ten the Gunn’s next door spent the summer in Boise, Idaho as usual but this time they rented their house to the Andreas family with two year old Perry.  I learned later that Mr. Andreas was part of a ring of Chicago car thieves and was sent to prison.  One night my parents went to an Eastern Star meeting in St. Charles with Eunice and Wes Snyder.  Mother warned us to stay at home – not to leave the house.  Well, I was next door at Andreas’ when someone came and got me.  We came in the back door and up the steps to the kitchen.  There Mother sat on a kitchen chair and Doctor Rankin was sewing up cuts in her arm.  They had had a car accident.  Wes was driving and it was rainy.  They came over a hill and in front of them was an old touring car inching along and another car coming in the other direction.  The touring car was loaded with kids and rather than hit them, Wes steered into the ditch.  The car turned over and Mother was on the bottom with Dad on top and her arm through the window.  She had internal injuries and was never really well after that although she lived until I was 12 1/2.  My guilt was heavy — if I had been good and stayed home this would never have happened.  Dr. Rankin kept treating her and masseuse name Fannie Norris came regularly to try and massage away the pain.  Dad took her to Wesleyan Hospital in Chicago for several days and later to Mayo Brothers.  For my grade school graduation my Mother made me a dress by hand while she was in bed.  It was orchid and had a gold ribbon sash and ecru lace around the collar and cuffs and it hung soft and pretty.

While Mother was in bed we had some good talks.  She told me about menstruation and I was appalled to consider that atrocious scabs would follow — I always had scabs on my knees from skating or roughhousing.  Mother assured me there wouldn’t be any problem with that, but I wondered how else it would heal.

I do not remember my Grandpa Duncan; he may have died before I was born. [James Cation Duncan died in 1901.]  I loved my Grandpa Oakland.  He and Grandma lived on Somonauk Street in Sycamore. He died at a church supper;  they said a blood vessel burst in his head.  Grandma had to sell their home.  She rented an apartment on Linden Avenue in DeKalb later.  While Mother was sick she lived with us.  Then she moved out and went to Uncle Milo’s.  Grandma Duncan came to care for us.  She stayed until Dad and Florence Huckins were married.

Harriet, Grandma Nettie Duncan, Barbara, Helen, Roy Duncan.  After Albie's death.

Harriet, Grandma Nettie Duncan, Barbara, Helen, Roy Duncan. After Albie’s death.

In eighth grade eight of us girls formed a Bunco club — two table to play the dice game.  We always had fun, fancy-wrapped prizes.  In high school we changed it to auction bridge and enlarged it to 12 girls.  These girls plus four new friends remained close all through school.  My closest new friend was Frances Duffey and several years later Fran said her Mother claimed we were best friends when we both lived on Franklin Avenue.  Brought back some faded memories.

Fran and Harriet - best friends.

Fran and Harriet – best friends.

We were unusually close in high school and later — even dressed alike and were dubbed twins by some.  We were together most of the time — she vacationed with my family and I with hers.  They always went to Crystal Lake and camped in tents.  We swam and rowed and fished.  When  we were juniors and seniors we rented cottages at Lake Geneva with about ten other girls.  We were cheerleaders together and were on most of the girls’ athletic teams.

Young swimmers at Crystal Lake.

Young swimmers at Crystal Lake.

Mother’s early death was hardest on Barbara who was always Mama’s girl and quite shy.  [Albie Oakland Duncan died 20 June 1927, age 38.]  Helen and I wonder why we were not more helpful to her but we were wrapped up in our own selfish lives I guess.  After high school Helen went to Chicago for nurses training.  The next year I had to decide.  Fran knew what she wanted — to go to beauty school in Chicago.  I didn’t want to be a beautician.  Finally I took the course of least resistance and went to teachers college.  I was not equipped to be a teacher and luckily I got my diploma but no job.  A blessing to the children I might have blundered along with.  I applied at an insurance company and at Central Illinois Light and Power Company.  I got a job at the latter for something like

Frank Claycomb

Frank Claycomb

$61.00 a month.  Two weeks later they hired a new meter reader, Frank Claycomb.  Destiny on course.  I didn’t like him because all the other workers told me he wanted a date and was afraid to ask.  Meanwhile they were telling him I liked him and wished he would ask me out.  They were match-making because were the only young employees, but it backfired until he took me home from the company Christmas party.

I was going steady at the time with Cliff (Red) Cooper but began splitting my time.  Frank lived in Sycamore and had to hitchhike home after dates.  Sometimes he’d get a ride with a fellow who worked at the Power Company.  Then he had an opportunity to be a trainee at Anaconda Wire andCable in Hasting-on-Hudson, NY, so he moved East.

My room at home was cluttered with things dear to me.  Banners, posters, snapshot and ribbons on the wall.  Kewpie dolls and ceramic animals on my dresser.  I had a big drawer in the hall with all my 9×12 glossies of movie stars with their signatures — I was movie struck and we seldom missed a new show.  Magazines had coupons to send for free samples and I had a great collection of cosmetics which I treasured but seldom bothered using.  My mother was fairly full-bosomed and I didn’t wan them so tried to sleep with books on my nubile nubbins — pitifully naive and fruitless.  When I was 13 I had a boybob which as a new fashion.  Short skirts were in and flapper styles.  I had a cloche hat of white felt.  About third year high school, butterfly skirts were the big thing.  Fran and I had red and blue plaid matching ones.  Butterfly skirts were small at the belt but pleated to full circle at the bottom.  Eleanor and Helen Kientz had twin ones with red flannel blouses to go with them.  Darling!

Harriet, Barb, Helen, and Albie Duncan.

Harriet, Barb, Helen, and Albie Duncan.

Twice I lied to my father.  The first time was an evening when our family went to a concert at the college, a symphony orchestra.  The lady ahead of me had shiny fingernails.  It was the first time I had ever seen nail polish and I didn’t know what it was.  So I found that by licking each fast and repeating I could keep mine fairly shiny.  So much for the concert.  At home Mother asked how I like the music.  Dad who had sat next to me said, “All she did was lick her fingernails.”  “I did not!”  I stupidly replied and he gave me a swat on the behind as I went up the steps to bed.  Only time I remember being punished.

The other time I lied was when I was breaking up with a boyfriend at school.  We stayed after school and talked by the window on the landing between first and second floor.  We talked and argued and cried and I was late from school.  At dinner Dad said “I thought you were going to get a haircut after school.”  Trying to think fast I said, “I waited and waited by there was a line of people before me.”  He reminded me that this was Tuesday and barbershops were all closed on Tuesdays.  That was the end of that but I never forgot.

sinnissippi park[This is the only photo I have found of Albie Duncan laughing – obviously clowning at one of the many picnics.  That might be Grandpa Duncan with her – can’t quite identify him.]

Part 2 is here.

Bridal Showers 1936

hdc shower cardMom was the guest of honor at many bridal showers before her wedding.

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hdc coworkers shHer co-workers at the Central Illinois Light Company gave a combined shower and farewell party.

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hdc gmoms shThis society page entry was follow by a correction in the hostesses’ names – wouldn’t want to leave anyone out or give credit not earned.  I can imagine there was a call to the newspaper after the first article appeared.

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hdc girls shThis shower took place at the Fargo Hotel which still exists.  I’m considering staying at the Fargo on my next visit.

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hdc gmoms shHere Harriet’s aunts and grandmothers gave her a shower.

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And finally one hosted by her best friend, Frances Duffey.  There were ‘gifts of a personal nature’ – and I’m guessing lots of laughter.  Later when Fran was engaged, mom threw her a shower.  As best friends do.

 

 

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