Sunday, June 2, 2024

Health--Mary Louise VanGilder Wotherspoon

     Amy Johnson Crow has a 52 Ancestors Week blog challenge which I have decided to join.  I am hoping it may help me to pinpoint someone or something that I have researched and not blogged about on Flipside.  AND push me to blog about family each week in 2024.  Sometimes I get lazy. 😁  Let's see how well I keep up.

     Week # 23 (June 3-9) is Health. I decided to cover what was an unmentionable health topic that my paternal grandaunt, Mary Louise VanGilder Wotherspoon, suffered and died from in 1962.  

     Mary Louise, nicknamed "Bobs", was born on March 9, 1894 in Morgantown, West Virginia.  She was the oldest child of George Ethelbert VanGilder and Jessie Poole VanGilder.   

     Mary Louise's father died when she was ten.  Her mother decided to open a boarding house for West Virginia University students in their home to make ends meet financially.  Living in and helping her mother run a boarding house was a substantial portion of life for the four young VanGilder sisters.  

     When "Bobs" was seventeen, the family moved from the Morgantown area to a new steel mill town in Woodlawn, Beaver County, Pennsylvania.  Again, the VanGilder women were engaged in running a boarding house for the steel workers.

     Mary Louise returned to Morgantown to live and work between 1912-1914.  There are a couple of newspaper articles of her visiting her Aunt Sarah Louise Poole Pinyard "Aunt Pinny" in North Charleroi, Pennsylvania.


     There is also an article of Mary Louise and her Aunt Pinny vacationing in Atlantic City in 1914.  

     By 1920, the four VanGilder sisters and Mom, were living together in Pittsburgh.  Mary Louise was employed as a stenographer for an oil company in the city.  

     From the few stories I have heard about Aunt Bobs, she was a fun loving gal.  I was told she was a flapper during the 1920's and the picture postcard from Atlantic City certainly gives a nod to that.  She was the one who decided to embellish the surname VanGilder, changing it to VanGuilder.  

     My paternal grandmother must have been close to her oldest sister, Mary Louise, as she traveled to Fairmont, West Virginia to witness the marriage of my grandparents on June 5, 1920.  

     I imagine she may have met her future husband, Robert George Wotherspoon, through employment associations.  He was employed as a clerk at a steel mill. My paternal grandmother, once told me how handsome he was.  When visited Grams and Pop Pop in Florida in the mid 1960's, the widowed ladies gathered around him.


     On November 4, 1923, twenty-nine year old Mary Louise VanGilder married twenty-six year old Robert George Wotherspoon at a ceremony in her Aunt Anna Poole Davis' home in the neighborhood of Knoxville outside Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  

     Robert was the son of Robert Wotherspoon and Maryann Cadger.  He was born on October 24, 1897 in Whitaker, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.  Bob was a veteran of World War I having served with the Army stationed in the United States.

     Mary Louise and Bob did not have any children and I have not found any evidence that she was employed after marriage.  Bob was employed with an insurance company and by 1940 with Carnegie Steel Company.   

     Bob's niece lived with them in East Liberty in 1938.  There was an article in the newspaper regarding a fire that destroyed the apartment while Mary Louise and Ruth were inside.  They lived in nice apartments in the Squirrel Hill area of Pittsburgh, as shown on the 1940 and 1950 census reports, and Ruth also lived with them.

     Mary Louise had a health issue.  When it began and how she contracted it is unknown.  Perhaps the young niece was living with them to assist Mary Louise.  

     I have a photo of "Aunt Bobs" attending my Dad's graduation from medical school in 1945.  I was told she wore the wide brimmed hat to shade her face that was badly pock marked.  

     This photo was taken in the early 1950's at my paternal grandparents apartment.  My grandmother is the second from the right and her sister, Mary Louise is beside her.  Bob Wotherspoon is on the other side of my Grams.  

      My Aunt Faith remembered that her Mom, my Grams, would take a streetcar to Squirrel Hill weekly to care for her sister. Faith also took her baby daughter to visit.  

     For years I had no idea what Mary Louise was suffering from.  No one talked about it.  When the Pennsylvania death certificates for 1962 were released I finally got my answer; however, it actually provided more questions.  

     Mary Louise VanGilder Wotherspoon died on November 1, 1962 at age sixty-seven from tertiary syphilis.  

The Pittsburgh Press
Friday, November 2, 1962
page 41

         Mary Louise was buried in Homestead Cemetery near other Wotherspoon family members.  My grandparents had already retired to Florida.  

The Pittsburgh Press
Wednesday, November 19, 1975
page 87

     Bob Wotherspoon retired to Scottsdale, Arizona and died there on November 16, 1975.  He is also buried in Homestead Cemetery.  

      I do not believe that I ever met "Aunt Bobs".  She lived in the Pittsburgh area while I was growing up and I was fifteen when she died.  I find it odd that our paths never crossed.  

     Then there is the syphilis issue.  I am aware of how someone gets the disease and yet I wonder how this happened to my grandmother's sister.  Bob Wotherspoon never got it.  Was he a carrier?  

     I had heard that the Wotherspoon's were practicing Christian Scientists.  Penicillin was available in the mid 1940's.  They chose to not use it.  

     This is a story that I have waiting to write due to its sensitive nature.  All people involved are no long alive.  It is sad that this is the ending to a vibrant lady's life.  

Mary Louise VanGilder--Annual Swimsuit Edition


I WOULD LOVE TO HEAR FROM YOU. All comments are welcome; however, if they are inappropriate, they will not be published.    PLEASE post your e-mail in the comment section if you would like to network about a particular surname or topic. I will capture it for my use only and not include it when I publish your comment.
© 2024, copyright Linda Hughes Hiser

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