Remembering Maxine

Maxine’s High School Photo (c 1929)

In addition to my great grandmother Goldie, this year also marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of my paternal great grandmother, Maxine Elizabeth (Davis) Smith (1912-1992). It also marks the 100th anniversary of her adoption, and 20th anniversary of her passing.

Maxine was born on January 25, 1912 in Portland, Oregon the only child of George Beeney (1890-1970) and Gladys Cook (1894-1957). George and Gladys’s marriage was not a happy one and it ended in divorce about a month after Maxine’s birth, with Maxine being put up for adoption. She was adopted by a couple that always wanted a child but up to that point did not have one of their own, William Davis (1876-1960) and his wife Mary “Linnie” Williams (1883-1968). They adopted Maxine on February 29, 1912.

In 1929, Maxine married Delmar C. Kernan (1908-1979) in Portland, Oregon. Together, they had two children, a son named William and a daughter named Deldalyn (or Del for short). Like her biological parents, Maxine and Delmar’s marriage wasn’t a happy one, and it ended in divorce in about 1948. In 1951, she married Oscar Smith (1902-1976), a World War II veteran who had also been previously married. After their marriage, they moved to Vancouver, Washington.

Weathered Copy of “Mr. Fixit’s Column”

Growing up, Maxine didn’t know she was adopted until she came across her adoption papers while helping her mother clean out a closet. Putting it aside in her mind, she didn’t think about it again until she was about 43 years old. Having little else than the name of her parents (George and Gladys Beeney), which William and Linnie told her, Maxine turned to the “Mr. Fixit’s Column” in the Oregon Journal, sending a letter containing what she knew about her biological parents and the circumstances of her adoption, leaving out specific names.

In the letter she stated that she had “wondered about the mother who had given her away, but it was not until she was married and had two babies of her own that she realized what that gift must have cost and wished she might find out who and where the mother was who had  made  such a  sacrifice.” Soon after its appearance in the Oregon Journal, Maxine was notified that her biological mother (Gladys), who was remarried with two children, had responded to the paper, and a meeting between them took place soon afterwards. By all accounts, the meeting was a “joyful reunion.”

Maxine (center), Gladys (right), and Linnie (left)

Wanting to meet her biological father, Maxine took the opportunity to ask questions and learned a few details about him, but Gladys did not keep in touch with him. From that point on, Maxine kept searching for her biological father, but never was able to find him or learn anything about his family. I suppose she didn’t know that he had left Oregon and returned to his home state of Ohio, where he died in 1970. Six years after his death, as irony would have it, she moved with her daughter and her family to Springfield, Ohio, which is about 86 miles away from where George had died and was buried in Newark, Ohio.

Maxine passed away from pneumonia in 1992 in Phoenix, Arizona. She was buried next to Oscar in Willamette National Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.

Happy (belated) 100th Birthday Great Grandma Maxine!

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