They said "I do" and they did

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Love 
Week 7: Valentine's Day is this week, but that doesn't mean you have to focus on romantic love. Besides the ancestral love stories, you could share an ancestor who you love to research. Are there any "love" names in the family tree, like Lovie or Valentine?

Bill and Marguerite Donahue Maloney
This is the story of the genesis of a marriage—a marriage that took place in November 1950 and reached its half-century mark on the dawn of a new millennium. This is the story of how the marriage of Donald Maloney and Marguerite Donahue came to be.

The Future Couple 
Don was born September 10, 1926 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the fourth child of Marcella Downey and Thomas Maloney. His eldest sibling, seven-year old Paul, was thrilled to finally have a brother after contending with two sisters for half his life. Paul wanted his parents to name the new family member William, but they chose Donald Dennis instead. Paul ignored their choice and proceeded to call his new baby brother Bill, a practice cousins and siblings followed.

Just nine days before Bill was born, Colonel Lewis Brittin founded Northwest Airways. The Michigan corporation based itself at Speedway Flying Field—site of today’s Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport—beginning operations with two rented, open-cockpit planes—a Thomas Morse Scout and a Curtiss Oriole—to make mail runs from the Twin Cities to Chicago.

Other connections to Northwest later in Bill’s life would include taking his four oldest children to tour planes at Wold-Chamberlain Field in Minneapolis when they lived in Richfield, or lying on his back in the ditch with them to watch planes taking off and landing. In 1979, when Northwest began its transatlantic service to Europe, his third child, Rita, went to work for Northwest as a flight attendant where she still works today. Bill’s sixth child, Barb, followed her older sister as a flight attendant in 1990, but quit flying for them in 1995. And, in January 2000, the tenth child and baby of the family, Tom, became a Northwest pilot.

Bill spent the first decade of his life in Lake City, Minnesota where water skiing was invented in 1922 when Ralph Samuelson strapped on a pair of pine boards and took off behind a motorboat on Lake Pepin, the widest spot on the Mississippi River. During that time Lake City had a thriving clamming industry. Sometimes harvesting up to 400 pounds of shells per day, it provided pearls to two button factories.

Bill’s two older sisters and brother had been born in Hibbing where their father, Tom, was a steam shovel engineer for the mining industry. But hard times caused the mines to close, so Tom went to work for a contractor out of Shakopee, Minnesota, using his steam shovel engineering skills to cut Highway 61 through the rocks between Lake City and Wabasha, Minnesota.

In 1936, the Maloney family returned to the Iron Range in northern Minnesota when Tom was hired back by a mining company in Keewatin. That’s where Bill graduated from high school before joining the army.

Rite was born on June 5, 1929 at St. Joseph’s Hospital in St. Paul, Minnesota—the fourth child of Agnes Lavelle and John Donahue. She was only their second child to be born in a hospital; the first two had been born at home on the farm in Erin Prairie, a small Irish settlement just outside of New Richmond, Wisconsin. She was christened Winifred Marguerite Donahue at St. Patrick’s Church in Erin but, like most of her other siblings, she was called by her middle name. Some called her Rite; others called her Maggie.

Rite came into the world at the end of a prosperous decade just months before it came to a crashing halt with the stock market in October, which marked the beginning of the Great Depression. It was a time that took its toll on her family. Her father, John, lost his farm but, as with so many other economic victims of that period, the family came out of the Depression as survivors. John bought another farm in Erin Prairie from James Lavelle, his father-in-law, whose own father had homesteaded the land in 1855. John’s fifth child, Patrick, ran the family farm, renting it from his father from 1954 to 1958 before buying it. Pat’s son Terry has been running the farm since 2000.

Lean economic times didn’t prevent Rite from having a childhood rich with experience. She was surrounded with the security of a large, extended family that kept each other’s spirits high even when their bank accounts were low. She was also surrounded by wide-open spaces to explore with friends and cousins. They knew every nook and cranny of their own back-forty and often dreamed of the world beyond it. Sometimes, while smoking corn silk behind the barn, they contemplated their future and what their place in that world beyond would be when they grew up.

A Room of One’s Own, by Virginia Woolf, was published the year Rite was born, but it wasn’t something she grew up with. The birth of four more siblings—three brothers and a sister—made sharing a bedroom a necessity.

FM radio was also introduced the year she was born and, the very month she was born, Bell Laboratories held the first public demonstration of color television in New York, using images of roses and a United States flag. Since it wasn’t a time when people were snapping up, or even interested in, the latest technology, she grew up listening to shows like Ma Perkins, Baby Snooks, The Guiding Light, as well as talks by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during America's Golden Age of Radio.

Growing up, Rite was popular with town and country kids alike. She made her family her friends and her friends her family. It is a way of relating that she has continued throughout her life.

She graduated from New Richmond High School in 1948 and headed out into a world that was still in post-war celebration and on the cusp of returning prosperity.

The Meeting 
Following a stint in the army after high school as an MP stationed in Puerto Rico during World War II, Bill returned home and attended Duluth Business University before moving to Minneapolis to work for Warner Hardware. Rite finally got a room of her own when she moved in with her aunt and uncle, Bart and Ellen Sullivan Lavelle, and went to work as a stenographer for Grossman Chevrolet on East Lake Street, where she earned $75 a month.

The Lavelles’ home was on the corner of 36th Street and 36th Avenue in South Minneapolis. They never had children of their own but opened their home to nieces and nephews, extending the tradition to grand nieces and nephews their death.

Bart was a tall, handsome, dark-haired Irishman who was always quick to comment to the ladies about how good they were looking, even when he was just talking to them on the phone. Like Ozzie Nelson, no one was ever quite sure what he did for a living.

His wife, Ellen, a slightly-built woman with a deep smoker’s voice was a ticket agent at the St. Paul Union Train Depot. In her later years, she was affectionately called “Old Fish Lips” by grand nieces and nephews because of the wet, sloppy kisses she greeted them with each time she saw them. She was always the mysterious aunt. No one ever knew for sure how old she was and she would never tell, but the family speculated she was an “older” woman, meaning she was older than Bart.

After Bart and Ellen’s deaths, while cleaning out their home to put on the market, some of the mystery of Ellen’s life disappeared and deepened at the same time. Old Broadway playbills advertising New York productions that Ellen O’Sullivan appeared in were recovered from drawer in an old dresser. She had been an actress. But why did she leave that life to come to Minneapolis? The answer went to the grave with her.

Bill also had an aunt and uncle living in Minneapolis, near Lake Harriet. But he didn’t live with them. He rented a room in a boarding house in North Minneapolis for $6.00 a week and walked to work.

Despite the fact that both Rite and Bill were living in Minneapolis, they met in New Richmond. In 1949, Rite’s cousin, Connie Ryan, who grew up in Bayfield, Wisconsin and went to nursing school in Minneapolis was dating Bill’s cousin, Bob Town, who had been one of her patients at Glen Lake Hospital, just west of Minneapolis. She had met Bill and thought he would be a good match for Rite, so prior to a weekend summer visit to relatives in New Richmond, Connie cooked up a scheme with Bob’s brother, George, to arrange a meeting.

The plan was that George would drive from Minneapolis to New Richmond on Sunday, under the pretense of picking up Connie, who knew Rite would also be visiting New Richmond that weekend. It was up to George to convince Bill to keep him company for the drive. He did.

Rite remembers it was a hot day so the four of them went swimming. “George Town tried to drown me,” she said. “We were swimming at Pine Lake and he wouldn’t let me get close to the raft, so Bill pushed him in. He saved my life and that was it.”

Well, it wasn’t quite “it.” They didn’t start dating for a month. “He called me because he had friends coming from Duluth and he wanted to meet them for dinner, so he asked me to go out. I accepted and then, the day before, he called to let me know they weren’t coming and I didn’t have to go out with him. I said, ‘Well, I’ve saved my evening so we’re going out.’”

Their first date was dancing and dinner at a Minneapolis nightclub. She doesn’t remember which nightclub or what they ate. Perhaps they danced to Perry Como’s Some Enchanted Evening, one of 1949’s music hits. She does remember what she thought afterwards though. “I thought he was cool, but I wasn’t in love.”

They continued to date on a regular basis. Bill didn’t have a car so he would take the streetcar from North Minneapolis to pick up Rite in South Minneapolis. They would usually try to find something to do within walking distance of where she lived, but once in a while they would get on another streetcar and leave the neighborhood.

By the following summer, Bill had a 1950 black Chevrolet Club Coupe. In late August, he proposed to Rite. While they were driving up Minnehaha Avenue in Minneapolis, he offered her a stick of gum. When she reached for it, she saw a diamond ring glimmering through the gum package’s cellophane wrapper. She doesn’t remember the proposal but thinks they must have talked about marriage or he wouldn't have bought her a diamond.  

They were married three months later in St. Patrick’s Church
St. Patrick's Church, Erin Prairie, Wisconsin
in Erin where she had been baptized just 21 years earlier. Following the November 18 ceremony, the New Richmond news reported:

St. Patrick’s Church in Erin Prairie was the scene of a beautiful late fall wedding on Saturday, November 18, when Marguerite Donahue, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Donahue, became the bride of Donald Dennis Maloney, son of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Maloney of Keewatin, Minnesota. Reverend James A. Griffin performed the double ring ceremony. The altars were banked with huge bouquets of yellow and white mums.

 The bride, given in marriage by her father, wore a gown of white velvet, fashioned along princess lines, with a draped effect over the shoulders, caught up with clusters of pearls. The gown had long sleeves and a long fan-shaped train fell from the waistline. Her veil of imported silk tulle of fingertip length fell from a halo of heirloom lace adorned with pearls and orange blossoms. She carried a white prayer book upon which rested a deep purple orchid, with streamers of rosebuds.

Helen Donahue, sister of the bride, was maid of honor. Miss Harriet Towne, the groom’s cousin, was bridesmaid. Their gowns were identical in satin of evergreen shade. Their headdresses were halos of fresh button chrysanthemums in fall shades, and they carried large bouquets of the same flowers tied with gold satin.

Larry Maloney, brother of the groom, and Paul Donahue, brother of the bride, were attendants. Pat Donahue, brother of the bride, and George Towne, cousin of the groom, were ushers while Tom and Frank Donahue, also brothers of the bride, served on the altar.

Geraldine Donahue, the bride’s niece, was flower girl. She wore a rust color satin, floor-length dress with a matching bonnet and carried a miniature bouquet of pastel chrysanthemums. Johnnie Donahue, nephew of the bride, was ring bearer. He was dressed in wine-colored velvet corduroy and carried the rings on a white satin pillow.

Mr. and Mrs. Paula Murtha furnished the nuptial music.

The mothers of the bridal pair had corsages of orchids.

A reception was held immediately after the ceremony in the church parlors for about 150 relatives, friends and neighbors. The tables were beautifully decorated with fall shades of chrysanthemums. The three-tiered bridal cake and the groom’s cake, with frosted clusters of green and red grapes, were used as centerpieces.

For travel, the bride wore a tweed suit with brown accessories.

Upon their return home from their wedding trip to St. Louis, the couple will be at home in Minneapolis. The groom, a graduate of the Duluth Business University, is manager of a Warner Hardware store. The bride, an NRHS graduate in 1948, is employed as stenographer for Grossman Chevrolet in Minneapolis.

A number of showers and parties honored the bride just prior to her marriage.

Bill and Rite had ten children—six girls and four boys. Bill died in 2016, just two months short of his and Rite's 66th anniversary.


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