As we draw closer to the September 27th release of Days of You and Me, I’m sharing a series of personal love stories (from my family and friends). Today’s is very special.
Harry Thompson was born in Philadelphia in 1905. He was the second son of Jesse and Annie Murphy Thompson; Annie had been born in Ireland and immigrated with her family. Their oldest son, John, was just under a year when Harry was born.
During her pregnancy, Annie, who was only 25, was diagnosed with breast cancer, which was almost always fatal. Baby Harry was born covered in sores, apparently, and had to be carried on a pillow. He came into the world in July, and by December, Annie was dead.
Jesse raised his sons in a series of boarding houses in the city, with the help of a few friends. He never married again.
Harry left school and began working when he was fourteen years old. When he was eighteen, he met and married a woman and had a son, but the marriage didn’t last.
Meanwhile, on a farm in South Jersey, in June of 1911, a second daughter was born to Harry and Elinor Shute. This farm had been in the Shute family since David Shute bought the land from William Penn in the 17th century. Marian June was raised in a large family of eleven children, in a strict Methodist upbringing where cards and dancing were forbidden. She was close to her big sister Ida and her younger sister Evelyn.
In 1935, Marian took a job as a secretary in Philadelphia at an insurance company. It was the middle of the Depression, and jobs were scarce. While working there, she met a handsome young paralegal named Harry Thompson.
Harry was taken by Marian and enjoyed visiting her family’s farm, where he was welcome by her large family. Now, what did Harry Shute think about his daughter seeing a divorced father of one? We don’t know, but I can’t think he was thrilled.
Harry and Marian decided to get married, but at this point in the Depression, in this company, a married woman was not allowed to continue working. So they had to wed in secret, so that Marian could continue working.
On August 19, 1936–eighty years ago today–Harry and Marian, along with their two best friends, slipped down to Ocean City, NJ, where they were wed in the Baptist Church there. They kept their marriage a secret for at least a year!
Over the course of their marriage, they raised three children–Richard, Robert and Eleanor. They had seven grandchildren and a myriad of great-grandchildren.
Harry was an old-fashioned man who held the family to strict standards. The women did the cooking. No jars or containers were allowed on the dining table: everything had to be in a dish. His concession to helping was making the toast every morning at breakfast, manning the toaster which was alongside his chair at the head of the table.
Harry worked as a paralegal well into his 80’s. Although he kept retiring, he also kept going back to work. His second son joined his long-time law firm in 1979 as a lawyer and became a partner in that firm a few years later.
In the late eighties, the family noticed that Marian was becoming forgetful. Tragically, she was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease. But Harry did something no one had expected: he stepped up and refused to relinquish care of his wife to anyone else. Until her death in August of 1999, Harry cared for his Marian with love, patience and gentleness. It was a beautiful example to the entire family.
After her passing, Harry remained active with his yard work and gardening. He made chocolate chip cookies for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He told stories, and every Halloween, he hosted the big family gathering, calling ahead to order the pizza weeks in advance.
When he passed from this life in June of 2002, it was in peace, as he went to join his Marian.
This was the story of my Nana and Sa. Harry was called Sa by his grandchildren, thanks to me. He was a bit of a smart-ass, and when I was born, he told me, “Call me Sam.” I couldn’t say Sam, so I called him Sa, and Sa he remained.
When I was little, I remember Sa saying to Nana, as he had their whole life together, “Stick with me, sweetheart–you’ll wear diamonds!” She never did have a diamond–even her engagement ring was pearl–but he gave her a greater gift than that. His love and faithfulness was something I will never forget.
I miss them so much . . . in my kitchen is a tea cart that sat in their home all my life. Even I see it, I remember the love in which these two wonderful people raised me. Their home was the true home of my heart.
Come tell me YOUR love story. Go here and share your personal love story. You’ll be entered to win the contest: prize is a $50 gift card AND the chance to have your love story included in Days of You and Me. (Names and details can be changed at the discretion of the winner and the author.)