Wednesday, January 6, 2016

My Grandmother - Rose Mayeur Womack

To continue with my genealogy posts, I chose to compile some facts about the life of my grandmother, Rose Mayeur Womack. Some of my readers will actually remember her, so might find this more interesting.

It's easier to write about my Grandma Rose than ancestors farther back, because I knew her well. And yet, when I start to tell her life story, I'm left with so many questions. I wish I had asked them all when she was alive, so I'd have the answers.

Rose was born in Le Havre, France, in 1901. She was the daughter of Ernest and Adeline Mayeur (nee Senechal). She was the baby of the family, with two older sisters and one older brother. Le Havre is a major port city in the upper Normandy region of France. It was also the city where artist, Claude Monet studied art.

When Rose was two years old, her father and brother, Charlemagne (Charley - Age 7),  boarded the vessel, S.S. La Bretagne, in Le Havre, and headed for America! They arrived at Ellis Island on February 10, 1903. The two went to Kansas, where Ernest began working in the coal mines. When Charley reached an acceptable age, he would follow his father's footsteps into the mines.

Adeline and the three girls remained in France for nearly two more years, and then set sail on the ship La Champagne, arriving at Ellis Island on January 2, 1905, just before Rose's fourth birthday. At last they were reunited with Ernest and Charley, in Cherokee County, Kansas, where Rose began attending school. Her mother died a year or two after their arrival in America. As a result of having no mother at home, Rose stopped attending school at a fairly young age -- family oral tradition says that she only completed third grade, however on the 1940 US Federal Census, she indicates she completed eighth grade.

Rose as a young girl - I think she was very pretty.

When Rose was 16 years old, she lost her brother, Charley, in a  tragic mining accident. Two members of her family had passed away since coming to America, leaving only Ernest and his three daughters.

At about 20 years old, Rose fell in love with a first generation American, whose parents were both from Scotland - Walter Elliot McIlwrath. He served in the US Army, during WW I, from 1917 to 1919. Then, on November 28, 1922, Rose and Walter were married, in Lamar, Missouri. The young couple soon made a big move, far away from their families on the plains of Kansas, to Oregon, where Walter began working at a logging camp.

Rose with Walter - True Love!

It was there, in Oregon, that their daughter, Margaret Constance (my mother) was born. But the bliss of this little family was soon shattered, when Walter was killed in a logging camp accident, at the young age of 30. Margaret was only 15 months old. Rose found herself a single mother living in a place far from her family. Many years later, Rose told Margaret that Walter had been the love of her life, and that she still grieved for him.

Walter, holding his daughter, Margaret

But, after losing her first true love, Rose did fall in love again, with a tall, lanky, kind and gentle man named Ivan Womack, who worked as a baker in the Oregon logging camps. They married on November 30, 1929. Though Ivan did not legally adopt Margaret, he raised her as his own daughter, and Margaret often said she couldn't have asked for a better "Pop." A year after they married, Rose and Ivan had a son, Ivan, whom everyone called "Bud". Margaret and Bud grew up in the Oregon logging camps in their younger years. Later, Ivan settled down and opened the first of several bakeries of his own, in Sweet Home, Oregon. Rose stood beside him, working long hours in the bakery. Besides working out front, she cleaned and helped out wherever needed in the back.

Rose and Ivan
Margaret and "Bud" about 1935

One of the bakeries that Rose and Ivan ran was in Beaverton, Oregon. The Beaverton Bakery still stands, and, according to oral family tradition,  is either the same bakery or an off-shoot of the one Ivan and Rose operated.

Rose, behind the counter at the bakery in Beaverton.

On November 13, 1942, at age 41 Rose became a U.S. citizen.

Sometime in the early '50s, the adventurous Ivan and his wife, Rose, moved to Alaska. The first Alaskan bakery they opened was in the tiny fishing village of Craig. Today Craig has about 1400 residents, but it was even smaller back in the '50s. From Craig, Rose followed Ivan to Ketchikan, Alaska, once again to open another bakery.

In the mid-50s, Ivan packed his rations and his geiger counter into a heavy backpack and joined the great Uranium prospecting rush. He and a buddy took off to the mountains, seeking their fortune in Uranium. According to  the, the uranium rush of 1949 and following years "was advertised as the largest rush, even larger than the gold rush! . . . The fever in uranium prospecting could be illustrated from the many magazine covers of the period."

The cover of one magazine among many, encouraging Uranium mining for hobbyists 

Ivan and his buddy didn't make a fortune, but they did meet with some frightening life-threatening adventures. Rose was never happier than to have him return home in one piece.

Next Ivan and Rose moved to Juneau, where they opened Ivan's Bakery, first on 9th or 10th Street, at the foot of the Douglas Bridge; they later moved to South Franklin Street.

In 1957 Rose's daughter, Margaret, her husband, Bob, and daughter, Linda, came to Juneau to help out, supposedly for about a year, because of some health issues that Ivan was having. But soon the decision was made to go ahead and sell the bakery to Bob and Margaret. Ivan continued working with Bob, even after the bakery relocated across the street, and Rose also continued working behind the counter in the bakery, now renamed, "Clark's Fine Foods" but more commonly known as "Clark's Bakery."

Ivan subsequently passed away, in 1964. For the second time, Rose was left a widow. She was an amazingly hard-working, industrious and sharp witted lady -- at times working in the bakery; sometimes at the local Ben Franklin Dime Store; occasionally at George's Gift Shop during the tourist season; and, for a while, operating a laundry known as the Washeteria. She also managed the Irwin Apartments in downtown Juneau for many years.

Rose stayed in Juneau, even after Bob and Margaret moved to Anchorage. Her son, Bud, and his family lived there, as did her granddaughter, Linda and her family. But she missed Margaret and Bob terribly, so eventually moved to Anchorage, into the Alaska Pioneer's Home, where she lived happily until her death in 1990, at 89 years old.

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