18 October 2020

Finding Trudie

 So, here’s an interesting thing.  My father and my wife’s father both had a first marriage that ended with the death of the wife.  My dad’s first marriage lasted 6 years, while my father-in-law’s not even 4 months.  This is a story about my dad’s first wife.

I have written many posts over on my other blog, Random Ramblins’ about Trudie.  My dad didn’t like to talk about her.  But then he never told me much about his life at all.  My older siblings knew more, but nobody really had much information on Trudie.  In fact, we didn’t even know her real name.  She was just Trudie. 

Trudie & Don Campbell
Trudie & Don. 1940's

Dad wore the ring from that marriage, and that was a bit of sore point to my mom.  Dad never let her buy him a ring even after he lost it doing yard work when I was young.  We searched the yard for that ring for years.  We even cut down the hedge where we were working when he lost it, but never found it.  I wonder if the folks that bought the house when mom sold it, dad had passed away by then, may have found it.  Guess we’ll never know.

One of the things in the back of my mind when I started doing genealogy was to see if I could find out more about Trudie.  I asked mom about her, but she was even more tight lipped than dad.  On one trip my family took to visit mom, I enlisted (more like cajoled) my wife into helping me go through all the boxes of papers and photos that were in the house and the detached garage.  I did find a newspaper clipping of my dad from the days he was married to Trudie.  It was from either the Burlington, NC newspaper or a newsletter from his employer, Fairchild AirMotive.  We knew he wasn’t in Burlington with my mom, so it had be with Trudie.  We also found my eldest sister’s baby book with several names of grandparents we didn’t know.

Trudie & Shep.  Possibly in Graham, NC
Trudie & Shep.  Possibly in Graham, NC

I didn’t pursue the quest into Trudie’s history very much until mom after died.  I then felt that anything I found wouldn’t upset the family.  My siblings and I knew about Trudie, so it wasn’t going to be a surprise.  My biggest concern was that I would find she had died in childbirth and that we had a half-sibling out there we didn’t know about.

Back in February 2019 I lucked out and found a death notice in the 11 July 1945 edition of the Altoona Tribune, but the spouse has the wrong middle initial, “J” instead of “S”.  Realizing that those letters can be easily confused depending on the handwriting, I felt a little intrigued.  The place of death was Washington, D.C. which fits with family history.  My parents met in DC, and the story was the marriage took place not long after my father was widowed.  I could also find a brief, and almost unreadable, obituary in the Evening Star dated 12 July 1945.  The Altoona obituary let me know that she was probably Catholic.

Washington Star Obituary
Washington Star Obituary

Altoona Tribune Obituary
Altoona Tribune Obituary

But I still didn’t have any marriage information.  Going back and searching I could find Don & Trudie in the 1940 census in Altoona, PA.  That gave me another check that I had the correct people.  I also knew that my dad’s mother owned a restaurant in Altoona about this time. 

Taking a wild chance, I emailed the Blair County (PA) Genealogy Society to see if they could help with any resources they had that were not online.  A wonderful volunteer, Patti, replied that she couldn’t find anything in their local books, but she noticed that a Father Thomas Kelly of St. Therese’s Catholic Church seemed to show up in a lot of the marriage write ups in the local newspaper.  She gave me a phone number to call as well.

Being one that really doesn’t care for phone calls, I searched them via that well-known search engine, and found that the church was still in operation and there was a contact email address.  Needless to say, I sent that email immediately.

The very next day I received a reply;

Dear Mr. Campbell, 

The marriage of Donald Sherwood Campbell and Mary Gertrude Lyman took place at St. Therese Parish, whether in the Church or at the Rectory is unknown.  Mary was a member of St. Leo's Parish, and received the permission from Fr. O'Connell for the marriage to take place at St. Therese.  The records shows that the couple received a dispensation for Mixed Religion.  And that indicates that Donald was still a Protestant at the time of the wedding.  Mary would have signed a document promising to raise any children Catholic to the best of their ability and that this marriage would not endanger her faith.  Father Kelley would have informed Donald that Mary made these promises.  

During the day of Bishop Guilfoyle, he was strict about non-Catholics marrying Catholics wanting the non-Catholics to convert.  However the Bishop seems to have signed the dispensation.  

Documents are sparse.  We have only the granted dispensations and the record in the registry.  I hope this helps.   If Donald became Catholic it was after his marriage.


Fr. D. Timothy Grimme


WOW!!!  I had found her!  Commence the genealogical happy dance!  Even better, Father Grimme mailed me paper copies of the documents. 

Trudie and Don's Marriage Record
Trudie and Don's Marriage Record

Only one thing left to find out.  Why did she die?  Here comes that died in childbirth fear again.  Sadly, it was basically kidney failure that killed her.  I think there was something in the central Pennsylvania air or water that messed with folks’ kidneys.  I have more family members with kidney problems than I think is normal.  But maybe it was the diet and lifestyle back then as well.

It surprised me a bit that Trudie was Catholic.  We may be of Scottish descent, but I believe my family is much more tolerant of religious beliefs than the Scottish kirk of the early modern times.  When I told my sisters and brother what I had found out, the eldest sister remembered dad telling her a story, that the first time he went to mass with Trudie he tripped over her when she knelt before the cross in the isle, as she exited the pew.  Having been raised Methodist, this was something entirely new to dear old pops.

This is was quite a bit of work over several years.  I'm rather proud to call this my first real genealogical dectective work! 


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1 comment:

  1. Congratulations! I know first hand how that makes you feel! 🍻