Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Remembering Marie (Newton) Hallman

Hi Bill

This morning I woke up thinking about our Mom. Like our Father, she was a remarkable person, who took care of you and me as we were growing up, and also worked a full-time job while doing so. She also took care of Dad and endured the terror and pain of his health decline and his sudden death at a time when you and I were already out of the house and living far away from them.

Marie Newton grew up in a family that included her parents, Mary and William, and siblings, i.e., our Aunt Martha, Aunt Pauline, Aunt Helen, Uncle Oscar, and some others that I can’t recall. Therefore she had a much larger extended family than Dad’s extended family. You and I benefited from fairly regular visits with Grandmother Mary and those aunts and uncles, especially when we were very young. In addition to aunts and uncles, we had lots of cousins to play with. However, since you are eight years older than me, you probably associated with more of them than I did.

Marie Newton
Anyway, Marie had a wonderful childhood in Altoona and during high school she encountered a handsome young man named Jim who was one grade ahead of her in school. They quickly became an item and remained so until he died in 1969. As you know, they were completely in love with each other during their lives together, and they both shared their love with us. They also supported each other and shared their parental responsibilities. Although, Mom was clearly the caring and nurturing parent and Dad was clearly the caring, but masculine role model for us growing boys.

I can still remember Mom holding me on her lap whenever I was a sleepy little tike. I also remember how it felt when she held me and comforted me when I was suffering from a cold or some nasty scraped/injured knee, elbow, finger, toe, face, head, ear, shin, and (you name it on my body). She wasn’t any kind of physician or medical professional, but she always seemed to know how to make me feel better just be holding me.

In addition to being a Mom, she was also a “Working Mom” during most of my boyhood and through my high school, college and into my adult years. I believe she also worked while you were growing up. Of course, our father worked in the PRR (Pennsylvania Railroad) Car shops through most of our years at home until he had to retire due to health problems while I was in high school. At that point, Mom’s employment became important because Dad’s medical retirement income was not sufficient to support even the two of them.

Marie Hallman
Anyway, I believe Mom worked somewhere during your childhood and then eventually got a job in the drapery department at Gables, a large department store in downtown Altoona. During that time she learned a lot about draperies and being a department store sales clerk. In fact, she was eventually recruited, by someone from the JC Penny store in the new Logan Valley Mall, which was fairly close to our house. They offered her a job as the “Buyer” for their drapery department. Although they offered her a nice pay increase for that job, she told them that she did not want to endure the travel responsibilities that accompanied that buyer position. Dad was struggling with serious health problems during that time and she did not want to travel and leave him at home alone. Therefore, she turned down the “Buyer” job. However, the JC Penny recruiter convinced her to, take a full-time senior sales clerk position in their store, and she was pleased to accept that position.  It provided a raise in pay above what Gables provided and the JC Penny job was also much closer to home, which resulted in a much easier drive for her to get to work and back. Anyway, Mom worked at that JC Penny store for a long time, until she reached retirement age. Then she retired even though her JC Penny coworkers and supervisors begged her to stay.

You were out of the house and living in southeastern Pennsylvania during most of those years. I was in college at Pitt and then lived and worked in Philadelphia, Omaha, Cincinnati, and eventually South Dakota. I just couldn’t get a desirable job that provided an acceptable salary in the Altoona/Hollidaysburg area.

Unfortunately, when Dad died in 1969, Mom was devastated. They had a very loving relationship, and she needed help from us boys to get through Dad’s funeral. I know you and Jane quickly drove from your home near Philadelphia to help and support Mom. I was attending college at the University of Pittsburgh and I made arrangements for my roommates to notify my professors about my father’s death and that I would return to their classrooms as soon as possible. I didn’t have a car, but I rode the railroad home the next day. Mom was heartbroken and she needed lots of support from us. I was not able to provide much help to either Mom or you during that very sad time. I was devastated by Dad’s death. Somehow, we all got through that difficult time with help from family and friends. Of course, you and your family had to return to eastern Pennsylvania to resume jobs and school. However, I believe you stayed with Mom a few more days after I returned to Pittsburgh. At the time I thought it was important to get back to classes as soon as possible. Somehow Mom pulled herself together and returned to work, but her life was never the same without Dad. She needed him and struggled emotionally without him.

Marie and James Hallman

Luckily, Mom had her job and it was even more important that she continue working, both for the income and to keep her in touch with other people. I believe I visited her more often during that year after Dad’s death and I believe you and your family also visited her more often. It was difficult for her, but she continued her life and luckily, she still had some long-time friends who she socialized with her and she even did some traveling with them. Of course, she also had her sisters, Aunt Pauline (who visited her often) and Aunt Helen (who lived next door). Unfortunately, Aunt Helen’s husband (my Uncle John), had died a few years earlier.

I never did move back to the Altoona/Hollidaysburg area, but Pat and I (and eventually with our children) tried to visit her whenever possible. She and our Aunt Pauline actually traveled by train to visit us in Omaha, Nebraska and later in Brookings, South Dakota. The train delivered them to Omaha which was great when Pat and I lived in Omaha. However, I had to drive to Minneapolis to pick them up when they visited us in Brookings and then drive them to back to the train station in Minneapolis for their trip home to Pennsylvania. Luckily, Pat and I both like Minneapolis and we didn’t mind those little trips. Mom and my Aunt Pauline really enjoyed their visits with Pat and I and our daughter (Rayna) and son (Zeb). We also made a few trips back to Pennsylvania with Rayna and Zeb. We all have good memories about those visits.

As you know, Mom’s health declined during the last decade of her life. Eventually dementia took her ability to communicate with us and really anyone else. She had always been a woman who took care of herself and liked to socialize with family and friends. However, she lost those abilities and suffered a tragic lingering death. It is difficult for me to write about that time, but it was a relief for us (and, I believe, for her) when she died.

Mom and I 
I try not to remember those difficult times and let myself remember both Mom and Dad when they were young, strong and very happy to be together with each other and with us. I especially like to remember summers and vacations with them when I was a young boy and you were my big brother. Those were the best of times for the James and Marie Hallman family.



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