Friday, February 20, 2015

My Mother


My mother, Gladys Irene Thornton, was the eighth of nine children of Roy Clinton Thornton and Anna Mae Rouse. She was born January 1, 1927 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Gladys Thornton

Her siblings were:
  1. William Martin Thornton, born May 1, 1913 and died on November 26, 1957 at age 44 from a heart attack.
  2. Carl Roy Thornton, born January 30, 1915, and died on September 23, 1990 at age 75.
  3. Doris Lucille (Baby Doris) Thornton, born November 15, 1916, and died May 13, 1918 at age 18 months.
  4. Russell Claude Thornton, born August 19,1918, and died February 20, 1958 at age 39 of a heart attack.
  5. Virgil Franklin Thornton, born June 3, 1920, and died October 21, 1962 at age 42 from a heart attack.
  6. Kenneth George Thornton, born December 12, 1922, and died April 19, 1988 at age 65 from complications of heart surgery.
  7. Alta Neomi Thornton, born July 21, 1924, and died December 26, 2010 at age 86.
  8. Gladys Irene Thornton, born January 1, 1927, and died November 22, 2014 at age 87.
  9. "The baby" Thornton, born and died about April 1929.
I believe this is William, Baby Doris, and Roy Jr., taken sometime before May 1918 when Baby Doris passed away

Mom's brothers:  Virgil, Russell, and William (Bill) Thornton
In the 1930 U.S. Federal Census, the family was living at 1512 East Madison.  Her father, Roy, was a laborer at the Ford Plant. Today this address is hope to a transmission auto repair shop.  On one side of this residence, in 1930, resided her aunt and uncle, Irvin and Rose Thornton and their daughter, 2 year-old Barbara at 1516 East Madison and on the other side another aunt and uncle, Clifford and Berniece Thornton and their daughter LaVay and son Martin at 1504 East Madison. My mother always referred to this area of East Madison as "the acres" and as a young child can remember visiting her cousins in houses sitting next to each other.  Looking at the Polk County Assessor's page today, 85 years later, and 1500 is an empty lot owned by the Estate of Clifford E. Thornton with Sherri Thornton the title holder and 1504 is a residence, also owned by the Estate of Clifford R. Thornton with Cathy J. Thornton as the title holder, and 1516 is also a family home, sold in 1999 by an Edward Thornton. 

Gladys lost her father when she was ten years old. A newspaper article, found in the Des Moines Tribune on January 26, 1937, sheds some light on the circumstances of the family and his death. The article was titled "Gets First Job in Five Years--Then Dies on Way to Work":
Roy Thornton, 51, of 4118 Bowdoin St., started from his home Monday morning to go to work at his first job in five years. On his way to the job he suffered a heart attack. He died on his way to Broadlawns General Hospital. The job Thornton was to have started was at the Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Co., near East Fourteenth Street and Aurora Avenue. During the time Mr. Thornton has been out of work, the family has been supported by three sons. Billy has a WPA job, Roy, Jr., is in a CCC camp at Centerville and Russell is in a CCC camp at  Indianola. Besides these sons, Mr. Thornton is survived by  his widow and four other children, Virgil, Kenneth, Alta and Gladys.

My Grandfather
She would tell me the story years later that family up the road had provided him suitable clothing for the weather and were watching for him to walk by. When they never saw him, they went out looking and found him collapsed on the ground between the two houses. The position at Wood Brothers Threshing Machine Co. was secured for him by his brother Irvin, who also worked there.  This was during the Great Depression that had a worldwide economic depression began in 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s.

How her mother took care of the family is unknown, but I believe that the older boys did what they could to help their mother out.  I did find where an Ira H. Butler and she obtained a marriage license on March 2, 1940. I was never able to find where the marriage license had been returned and when I asked my mom about this she stated she didn't think they ever did marry.

The 1940 U.S. Federal Census, enumerated on April 1, 1940, did find Anna along with 26-year-old William, 21-year-old Russell, 19 year-old Virgil, 17 year-old Kenneth, 15-year-old Alta, and 13-year-old Gladys in the home of Ira Butler at 1707 East Walnut.  All the boys were working at various jobs. The situation in the Butler household was not a good one and the relationship had ended  by the end of 1941.

On August 9, 1943, at the age of 16 she married a young serviceman, Wrex Ival Hill, who was proudly serving his country during World War II. The  young couple had a daughter on October 25, 1943, my sister Sandra Lee Hill.  Wrex never did meet or see his daughter, and the couple never lived together, as he died on December 14, 1944 at the age of 21. Sometime after the birth of Sandy, my mother, grandmother, and sister moved into a house at 2721 SE 6th St.

When Sandy was only two, she became sick and was hospitalized. My mother was running to catch a bus to go visit Sandy in the hospital. A  young man who had just received his separation papers from the U.S. Navy on the bus saw her running and told the driver to stop. That gentleman was my father. A short time later, on November 9, 1945, the two married. They had three more children, Linda, Dennis, and myself.

Gladys and her sister Alta were always very close, but also very competitive with each other. In the end, though, I guess she got one up on her sister, though,  by living until 87. They talked on the phone multiple times during the day. After Alta's passing in 2010, Gladys became very lonely and her health started deteriorating. She continued to reside in the home Wesley and her purchased in 1949 and raised their four children until July 2013. First we moved her into an assisted living situation, which didn't work out the best, and by November 2013 we had moved  her into a care facility where she resided for another year until passing from lung cancer, COPD, and congestive heart failure.


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